OAKLAND — City officials, police and small-business owners shared heartfelt pleas Saturday to residents not to repeat violence that overwhelmed peaceful protests Friday.
At a press conference, Oakland interim police chief Susan Manheimer and city councilman Loren Taylor joined Mayor Libby Schaaf and several small-business owners in praising those who initially assembled to share their sadness and anger over the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“We will continue to facilitate demonstrations and provide and ensure safe spaces and safe places,” Manheimer said.
“Last night over 8,000 people came to Oakland, to take part in admittedly what started out as a peaceful demonstration. But it turned into something much more. What started out as peaceful later turned violent and destructive. And we cannot allow what happened last night to happen again.”
Manheimer said police arrested 17 people and detained 40 others, and were investigating other incidents including assault against an officer, and said investigators were working to identify 40 to 60 other looting suspects through surveillance-camera footage and other evidence.
She added that seventeen Oakland police officers, two Oakland firefighters, and seven officers from outside law-enforcement agencies who responded to a mutual-aid call late Friday were injured, and noted the night’s other tragic incident: “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the federal protective officers who were shot, one of whom passed away.”
— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) May 30, 2020
Taylor expressed his condolences to Floyd, as well as the officers attacked outside the federal building and the injured first responders.
“The rage, the emotion that we feel, I encourage everyone to channel that in a way that helps us to move forward, to really change and transform this system that is founded on institutional racism,” he said in part. “Lastly, I want to thank those who came out to demonstrate so fiercely, but peacefully. Yours is the model in the example that we should look up to. I am going to work with our city to continue to make the space for those peaceful yet forceful demonstrations, as we move forward, so that we can be in solidarity and really effect the change that we deserve.”
Jana Pastena, who manages the Chop Bar, Calavera and Tribune Tavern restaurants, said her husband Chris was attacked by would-be looters and vandals while defending the Tribune Tavern site. But she said she believed expression of anger didn’t require additional destruction.
“The people who are doing the destruction were not people from our community. What concerns me is that when these important demonstrations, these important protests, turn into riots, the message about justice for Mr. Floyd, and for other black people who lose their lives and custody, gets lost and turns into a message about looting,” she said. “So we ask that you please do not riot or loot tonight, so that we can focus on getting that justice for Mr Floyd, and getting justice for black people. And we don’t have to spend our time focusing on sweeping up broken glass.”
Feelmore Adult Gallery owner Nenna Joiner spoke movingly of her own experience, not only as a mainstay of the city’s Uptown district but her own memories of the Los Angeles riots after the Rodney King verdict in April 1992.
“Even though I stayed until 4 a.m. and not a stitch of pain was harmed on my business because I was there, it doesn’t mean that my soul is not in pain,” she said in part.
“COVID has hit everybody across this country, definitely in small businesses, especially in Oakland, that have been closed since probably March 16 […] This is an opportunity for us to be transformative in what we do and talk about the equity as we rebuild in a better future. So make love, not war, that’s what I’m about. I got a sex shop, I need y’all to buy some stuff.”
Schaaf noted the presence of city councilmembers Dan Kalb and Larry Reid, as well as Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce CEO Barbara Leslie and city department of race and equity director Darlene Flynn, before asking business and property owners affected by Friday’s protests to call the mayor’s office at 510-238-3141.
“We want to hear from you, because we are committed to doing everything we can to help this community recover, rebuild, come back to doing business,” Schaaf said. “This is hard right now with this virus. And that is why we want to extend special assistance to the businesses that have been harmed by last night’s unacceptable violence.”
The mayor closed by asking city residents to stay home.
“Protest and free speech is part of Oakland’s DNA. We are the birthplace of social justice movements here in Oakland, and we will always be proud of that,” she said. “But these vandals, these violent actors are using peaceful protesters as a shield to hide behind. That is not acceptable in our city. And that is the meaning of my request to stay home to stay safe, especially in this health crisis.”
Contact George Kelly at 408-859-5180.
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Author: George Kelly