Police Arrest 78 in Oakland Following Mehserle Verdict
Arrests are made on 14th Street at Broadway in downtown Oakland after a looting at the nearby Foot Locker on Thursday.
San Francisco Chronicle via YellowBrix
July 10, 2010
OAKLAND — Three-quarters of the 78 people arrested in Thursday’s riot in Oakland came from outside the city, Police Chief Anthony Batts said Friday.
But it was Oakland’s residents and business owners – like Steven Suzio – who were left to pay the price.
The pawnshop owner paid $2,000 Friday morning to repair two broken windows and a smashed-in door at his Oakland Coin & Jewelry Exchange shop.
“I can understand everybody’s being upset with the verdict,” Suzio, 62, said as a glass installer pounded out repairs at his Broadway Street store. “But there’s no reason to take it out on the local businesses.”
The raucous protests started hours after a jury convicted former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of passenger Oscar Grant. The jury rejected the more serious options of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.
Demonstrators damaged 100 downtown businesses. They sprayed anti-police graffiti on storefronts, broke windows, stole merchandise, set trash bins on fire and clashed with police officers from 15 Bay Area law-enforcement agencies.
Protesters were arrested on suspicion of such crimes as resisting arrest, burglary, vandalism and assaulting a police officer.
At a news conference Friday, Batts displayed spray cans, Molotov cocktails, gas containers and a bat that the chief said were used by “anarchists.” Police headquarters was hit by a Molotov cocktail early in the protest, Batts said.
“There’s a time that we have to say that people coming from outside that impact our city, our town, the place that we live, that we work, that we play in, needs to stop,” Batts said. A lot of bad press
The chief said it is “unacceptable” for nonresidents to come to the city and damage “businesses that are struggling themselves,” including small mom-and-pop stores without insurance. “That’s not how you express your pain in the city.”
Suzio agreed, saying, “Oakland’s been getting a lot of bad press lately.” Yet, “it’s not really the people of Oakland” who were responsible for the unrest, he said.
“I hope it doesn’t happen again,” Suzio said, adding he wished future demonstrations could be held at the Oakland Coliseum or “a field or someplace like that where it could be controlled.”
The bulk of the damage took place as darkness fell after 8:30 p.m. Thursday within a six-block area near City Hall. Protesters sprayed phrases such as “Kill all cops!” “Riot for Oscar” and “Say no to work, yes to looting” on buildings.
Protesters tore the metal gate protecting a Foot Locker shoe store at 1430 Broadway and looted the shelves. The group moved across the street and smashed a window at the Far East National Bank and rampaged inside.
A jewelry store, an ink-cartridge recycling store, a beauty-supply shop, the Sears store and several other banks were among the businesses where protesters broke windows and stole merchandise.
Rioters also damaged a window at the Subway store at 14th and Broadway. “It’s not right. It’s very wrong to do this,” said manager Vijaya Burathoki.
The Whole Foods Market on Bay Place near Harrison Street, about 15 blocks from City Hall, had a glass door smashed.
Protesters also set fire to two trash bins outside Oaksterdam University, which trains students on how to grow marijuana.
Grace Lee, 27, the owner of Grace Beauty Supply near the corner of 17th Street and Broadway, said “tons of people” broke into her store through the window to steal hair extensions and other expensive merchandise. Lee said she later watched the attack on her store’s surveillance camera.
“I’m upset. People walked in here and police could not stop them. I don’t know what to do,” Lee said. Knew what they wanted
Lee said she believed those responsible for the looting weren’t actually protesting the verdict.
“I feel like they were familiar with the store. They knew what they wanted,” Lee said. “I don’t think it was people doing the demonstration. I feel like it was more like they waited for something to happen so they could do their own stuff.”
Beeline Glass of Hayward sent all four of its trucks Friday for glass-replacement duty, with crews making repairs at five downtown stores.
“I love business, but not this way,” said employee Rusty Jamison, 24, of Hayward as he worked to replace glass at the Foot Locker store. “I don’t think this should have gone down like this.”
Mayor Ron Dellums said the majority of the 1,000 or so protesters who took to the streets had exercised their First Amendment rights in a peaceful way.
“I am incredibly, extraordinarily, unwaveringly proud of the character displayed by this community,” he said Friday. “Oakland demonstrated that it is a city, it is a community of people who have character, and they showed that character last night.”
Asked why police didn’t move immediately at times to quell looters, Batts said his officers had been overrun by protesters earlier in the evening as they tried to remove two men trying to block an AC Transit bus from passing.
“You just cannot run into a crowd,” the chief said.
At the same time, Batts said he made a “purposeful decision” not to allow the protests to expand throughout the city.
“I wanted to confine it to a small area, to allow people to do exactly that, to have their rights, but at the same time not let this city be overrun or impacted,” Batts said.
Dellums said he did not want a police force that was “oppressive” or “militaristic,” at the risk of squelching people’s right to protest. As for the violence Thursday night, the mayor said, “Some people will exploit that openness.”
Batts noted that some police on duty Thursday night were among the 80 “young officers” scheduled to be laid off Monday because of the city’s budget problems. They “stood tall” and remained professional despite being spat on and pelted by rocks and bottles, knowing that “in two to three days, they’re losing their jobs,” the chief said.