To protest Alameda Police, residents danced in the streets

Hundreds marched and danced on Sunday afternoon in Alameda to protest the police department's arrest last month of a black man who was dancing in the street. PHOTO/Steven Tavares

For some Alamedans, the absurdity of a black man being arrested by local police for dancing and exercising in the street called for a healthy dose of mockery towards law enforcement’s actions.

Hundreds of Alamedans danced to Prince, Whitney Houston, and other songs on Sunday afternoon to protest the May 23 arrest of Alameda resident Mali Watkins for merely dancing and exercising on Central Avenue near Chestnut Street. Neighbors told police that Watkins regularly exercises in the area.

Four Alameda police officers subdued Watkins by taking him down to the ground as he protested their actions. A video of the incident created by a resident later went viral on several Alameda social networks. Watkins was later cited for resisting arrest and some Alameda officials have called on police to rescind the ticket.

After Alameda Police released body-camera footage of the arrest, the reaction from the public was swift and a dance party was quickly organized.

With a DJ in tow and protesters encouraged to bring their own tunes, hundreds of Alamedans danced in the streets from the Alameda Theatre on Central Avenue towards Chestnut Street and turned on Santa Clara Avenue to the Alameda Police Station on the corner of Oak Street and Lincoln Avenue.

The large gathering chanted “Black Lives Matter,” while some placed handmade signs calling for the end of police brutality and racism in America on the front steps of the police station. But they mostly danced as the late evening shadows fell on the island city.