On this warm October afternoon, 30 people have gathered for a shield building party in West Oakland’s Lil Bobby Hutton Park. They kneel on a tarp splotched with spray-paint and glitter, stenciling slogans onto two–by–four-foot plywood rectangles with rounded corners that have been buzz-sawed in batches of three. The shields are hefty, but are easily carried with one arm through the straps that are being attached to each one after it’s painted, along with a strip of foam to protect the forearm of someone carrying it for hours.
The shields are a project of the Oakland Builders Collective, a volunteer crew that has spent the past few months making 500 shields for protesters to use to protect themselves. So far, the collective has provided custom-made shields to more than 10 activist groups in 5 Bay Area cities. Even with the help of dozens of volunteers like those who have come out today, it is “already beyond capacity,” says Forrest Schmidt, one of the group’s founders.