Tag Archives: Oscar Grant

#KRON4SUCKS and Twitter rocks

9 Jul

I know I’m supposed to be taking a break from blogging, but along with just about everyone in Oakland, last night has made me think a lot. To express everything I’m feeling and thinking here would be next to impossible, and even if it was possible, I just don’t have the time or energy to fully express myself and I’m sure others will be telling the stories of last night much more eloquently.

But I did want to write about how I kept up with the events of last night. From the moment I heard that the Mehserle verdict was going to be released, I tuned into Twitter, and that was the last thing I looked at before going to bed last night. For a few hours in between, I watched local TV news coverage, mostly KRON 4, as it was the only station that had uninterrupted coverage.

And I have to say, the coverage on Twitter vs KRON 4 was like night and day. On Twitter, tweets were by and large thoughtful and reflective, sometimes humorous or angry, and often incredibly informative. It was easy to keep up with the minute by minute action on Twitter. To everyone who shared their feelings or information last night on Twitter – thanks! It really helped me keep perspective on the evening.

KRON also did a decent job with the informative aspect – they always shared what was going on – but they were generally totally unthoughtful and were downright disrespectful at many points.

Their coverage finally made me so angry that I turned the TV off because I couldn’t take them treating the looting as a spectator sport and constantly dissing the police, the protesters, and Oakland simultaneously. They made it seem like the looting of Foot Locker was the biggest tragedy ever, except that maybe to them the bigger tragedy was that the police weren’t saving all the shoes and instead were holding their ground in keeping the protesters in one area (which seemed like a pretty smart strategy given last year).

As many people expressed on Twitter last night and this morning, #KRON4SUCKS. So next time you need thoughtful news, tune into Twitter. If you still haven’t started an account because you think it will take up too much time, know that you don’t have to keep up constantly or even every day. I sometimes don’t check in for days or just check in while I’m waiting for the bus. It’s totally worth the small time commitment to be able to keep up with important news or find out about events. I’d mention all the people to follow, but there are too many that I wouldn’t know where to start. Feel free to check out the list of who I follow to get started.

And if you have thoughts you’d like to share on the Mehserle verdict or last night’s protests, please share them as comments below.

Blogging hiatus

2 Jul

I’ve known for the last several weeks that my life was becoming too busy to keep up with, and though I was in a bit of denial about it, I probably knew that blogging would have to be sacrificed eventually. I’ve finally hit that point – I’m going on a blogging hiatus, at least until after my wedding, on August 7th. I might post something here and there (particularly an update about my new neighborhood), but mostly I won’t be writing here.

I might have made the decision to pause blogging sooner, but there’s just so much to write about these days and I had a hard time coming to terms with not being able to cover some of these incredibly important issues. I haven’t gotten to write anything about the Oakland budget and negotiations with the police union or about the equally important but less high-profile AC Transit negotiations with their unions. I wasn’t able to share my joy here on Wednesday when Rebecca Kaplan announced her run for Mayor (though I did get to share that excitement with many of you at her party Wednesday night). I won’t be able to write about the Oakland Airport Connector, which BART has once again revived after the FTA put it on life support. And maybe most difficult for me, I won’t get to continue the weekly events listing, which I’ve recently started to realize many people read and some people (including myself) somewhat depend on.

So during my hiatus, I invite readers to submit a guest post. It’s really easy – just check out any of the past guest posts to see how wide-ranging they’ve been. As long as your post is about Oakland and is factually based, I’d be happy to post it, even if I don’t agree with it. You can email me at oaklandbecks at gmail dot com or use the contact page to get more details. I’d especially love it if someone was willing to put together the events listing, whether it be weekly or even for just one week, and I’d be happy to point you to the resources I use to compile it.

But before starting my hiatus, I do need to weigh in on the one thing that seems to be on just about every Oaklander’s mind right now – the trial of Johannes Mehserle, the death of Oscar Grant, and the expected repercussions of various verdict possibilities. I can understand the level of emotion over the killing of Oscar Grant and why so many want to see justice served and will be deeply hurt if they feel it is not. But a repeat of what happened a year and a half ago will not create justice. I’m fully supportive of protest and non-violent civil disobedience; in fact, I’ve practiced it multiple times. But as this excellent video from Youth Uprising (that V Smoothe posted yesterday) expresses, violence is not justice:

If you are looking for an outlet to express your emotion following the verdict, Youth Uprising and Urban Peace Movement are “Violence is Not Justice” community event on the day the verdict comes down. Join them at 5pm at Youth UpRising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94605.

If you’d like to keep up with me during my blogging hiatus, follow me on Twitter @OaklandBecks. If you haven’t joined Twitter, this would be a good time to do so, as it will likely be one of the best places to keep up with verdict and protest news.

The Blogoaksphere in 2009: The Biggest Stories

2 Jan

You’re probably wondering what happened to the three-part series I promised about the blogoaksphere in 2009. Well, I was initially hoping to get this post up on the 31st, but it turned out to be a much bigger project than I had realized. There were hundreds of blog posts to pour through and many of the big stories of 2009 were heavy and filled with emotion. I pushed on and finally finished the post yesterday evening, but when I hit publish, I received an error message and my many hours of work over several days disappeared. I have no idea how this happened because WordPress automatically saves drafts as you write, and I’ve never lost more than 10 minutes of work in the past.

Unfortunately, there’s no way I’m going to be able to recreate that post. It took an immense amount of energy and time to write, and I just am not up to doing all that research and writing again.

But I’m not looking for sympathy here; I’m looking for help. Something that happened this past year, which I had not seen as much in previous years, is that big stories emerged in the blogoaksphere. In some cases, a couple bloggers would pick up the story and then many more would join in (like the Uptown parking lot fight), and in others, everyone jumped in at once (like the shooting of four Oakland police officers). What amazed me is how many different perspectives were shared on issues and how much these perspectives filled in the gaps of reporting in the mainstream media.

Here is the list of what I thought were the biggest blogoaksphere stories of 2009.

  • Riots in response to the killing of Oscar Grant (January)
  • The Oakland Airport Connector boondoggle (February-December)
  • Tragic shooting of four Oakland police officers (March)
  • Stopping the Uptown parking lot (March-May)
  • The abrupt closure of the Parkway (March, ongoing)
  • The parking rebellion & its aftermath (June, ongoing)
  • New restaurants opening & thriving throughout Oakland (Yearlong)

Since I’m not going to be able to fill in the dozens of links and excerpts that I originally compiled, I’m asking you for some help. You’re a blog reader and probably remember some posts written about these stories. Post links, excerpts, or just thoughts on these stories (or other stories) in the comments below. If you’re a blogger, feel free to post links to your own blog posts about these stories.

I’ll get this started by posting an excerpt to one of my favorite blog posts of the year, “Thoughts on a fractured city” at City Homestead, which reflected on the killing of Oscar Grants and the riots that ensued in downtown Oakland:

The shooting and its aftermath disturb me deeply on so many levels. There are countless layers to it: fear in its many forms, anger, prejudices and quick judgments, weighty decisions with life-altering consequences. We may never know exactly what was going through that officer’s mind in those early morning hours. Although the many videos make it clear to me that there was no need to fire, those of us watching on YouTube have the benefit of hindsight. We’re not standing inside that scene, weighing our options, uncertain. That’s not to say the officer is any less accountable for his actions, as we each live our lives by the decisions we make in the instant. It’s only to say that we may never know what emotions ran through his mind as he made that choice or in the moments afterwards.

I never expected what followed, though. The protests and vigils made sense, of course: BART’s leadership was remiss in their initial response to this tragedy, I think, and in the months to come, the agency will probably dissect these days one by one, trying to determine what might have been done differently. And given that the shooting happened in Oakland and BART’s headquarters are here, it was only logical that gatherings should be here as well. But the riots stunned me. How can the destruction of our neighborhoods possibly further the cause in any way? What’s worse is that the riots do not even seem to have been wholly Oakland-grown—many of the media reports and images profile young people from San Francisco and Berkeley and places farther afield attacking OPD cruisers, torching dumpsters, smashing windows. “I feel like Oakland should make some noise,” one protester from San Francisco told a reporter. “This is how we need to fight back.” And of the Oaklander whose small business had just had its windows smashed: “She should be glad she just lost her business and not her life.” This is the way to fight back? Is the killing of a young black male truly avenged by the destruction of black-owned businesses—and in someone else’s city, no less?

She continues, reflecting on all the positive things that Oakland has to offer and ending by explaining why we continue to live here:

To the world: we are not trapped here in this city; we have chosen to be here. We are here not because it is the only place we can afford living, but because it is the only place we can imagine living. I believe in this city, in its vast potential and its vibrant communities—and I love it, with all its imperfections. As a community, we will work through the anger and the violence, unearthing the very roots of it. Then, together, we will rebuild trust across the city and create from the fragments a single unified community. There’s a long road ahead, but I have faith that it is one that the people of this city will travel together.

It is Oakland, after all.

Exactly. So please join in below and share some of your favorite posts of the year on these big stories, be they inspiring, funny, informative, or simply enjoyable. It would be a huge New Years gift to me and would help me forgive WordPress for eating all of my work.

More destruction, more businesses to support

15 Jan

Earlier this week, I felt very concerned about the Oscar Grant protest that was to take place last night. Though I knew the organizers meant well and would attempt to keep the peace, a smaller faction of protesters was distributing this flyer, featuring an image of a brick breaking through a window.

I got so worried that I emailed the flyer to Council Members Nadel and Kaplan, as well as the Mayor’s office. I would have emailed it directly to the Oakland Police Department, but, of course, there’ s no email address to be found on their website.

I received responses from all three offices almost immediately. Nancy Nadel promised to forward it to OPD. Rebecca Kaplan forwarded me a message from the protest organizers that explained how they were training hundreds of volunteers to provide security for the protest. The Mayor’s office responded, promising that they were working closely with OPD and the protest organizers to ensure that there would not be a repeat of the destruction that happened last week.

So I started to think – maybe it’s going to be different. Maybe OPD learned from their mistakes and would be able to stop destruction before it started or at least before it became widespread. I left my office at 6pm and saw police everywhere, and not just randomly walking around. They clearly were in a pre-planned formation, blocking off certain streets.

I walked over to Radio and felt pretty safe, though I did keep watching the clock, still having some apprehension that when the planned protest ended at 7:00, chaos would follow. And unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. A small fringe group refused to leave the 14th and Broadway intersection and moved into City Center, where they smashed many windows with all sorts of objects.

I heard about this happening and sat tight at Radio until it had calmed down enough that I felt safe to walk to the bus stop. I actually didn’t realize how bad it had been until I turned on the news when I got home and saw the widespread destruction.

With some help, today I updated the list of businesses that were vandalized on January 7th, adding the businesses that were hit last night. It’s a bit overwhelming to see just how extensive the list is and how geographically widespread the businesses are.

I hope you will join the effort to support these businesses. You can visit them anytime, or you can join the group on Yelp that is organizing an outing tomorrow (Friday night). Also, Oakland merchants are joining together this Saturday, the 17th, to support businesses on 17th Street. The street will be closed to car traffic and it sounds like it will be a fun afternoon.

Support downtown Oakland businesses that were vandalized

12 Jan

ichi-japonThanks to everyone who helped compile the list of Oakland businesses that were vandalized last Wednesday, January 7th. I hope you will join me in supporting these businesses in the coming weeks. Many of these businesses still had boards over there windows on Friday, but they’re open so don’t let that deter you.

The list is compiled below as well as mapped out on Google Maps. Please let me know if there are any businesses missing, and I’ll add them to the list.

UPDATE: I’ve now updated the list and map with businesses that were hit on January 14th.


Independent Stores

  • Beauty Center – 501 14th Street #125 (City Center)
  • Change Hair Studio – 374 17th Street
  • City Bloom – 500 12th Street (City Center)
  • Creative African Braids – 339 14th Street
  • Fashion & Art Revival – 371 17th Street
  • Greg’s Barbershop – 306 14th Street
  • Hair by Margret – 373 17th Street
  • Le Magic Cleaners – 1706 Franklin Street
  • Mimi’s Beauty Supply – 350 17th Street
  • Mimi’s Custom Design – 366 17th Street
  • News City Plus – 417 14th Street
  • Patrick & Co – 1820 Franklin St
  • Pedicure Shop – 389 15th Street
  • Psychic Reader – 376 17th Street
  • Psychic Reality – 1630 Webster Street
  • Satisfied Nails – 389 15th Street
  • Shoe Repair – 312 17th Street
  • Showcase Wigs – 372 17th Street
  • Temple Tattoo – 384 17th Street
  • Top Notch Hair Designs – 389 17th Street
  • Unique Braids – 386 17th Street
  • Yoon’s Pharmacy – 337 14th Street


  • Bagel St. Café – 501 14th Street (City Center)
  • Colonial Donuts – 1636 Franklin Street
  • Espresso Café – 409 14th Street
  • Flora – 1900 Telegraph Ave
  • Henry’s Gallery Cafe – 1700 Franklin Street
  • IB Hoagies – 1601 San Pablo Ave
  • Ichi Japon – 382 17th Street
  • *Maly Donut & Burger – 144 14th Street (Maly Donut & Burger did not sustain physical damage but two of the employees were beat up.)
  • *Pho 84 – 354 17th Street (Pho 84 did not sustain physical damage because its employees formed a human chain in front of the restaurant and protected it through the night.)
  • Pure Natural Café – 376 17th Street
  • Take it Easy Thai – 351 17th Street

Entertainment Venues

  • The Fox Theater – 1807 Telegraph Avenue
  • The Uptown Nightclub – 1928 Telegraph Avenue

Professional Offices

  • Accident Case Experts – 1701 Harrison Street
  • Center For Elders Independence – 510 17th Street
  • Disability Access Advocacy Law Office – 310 17th Street
  • Haley Law Offices – 1633 San Pablo
  • Turner Construction Offices – 1912 Telegraph Ave
  • Komorous Towey Architects – 315 14th Street

Chain Stores

  • Club One – 1200 Clay Street (City Center)
  • GNC – 501 14th St #27 (City Center)
  • Jamba Juice – 500 12th Street (City Center)
  • McDonald’s – 1330 Jackson Street
  • Quizno’s – 1200 Clay St #150 (City Center)
  • Radio Shack – 501 14th St (City Center)
  • Sears – 1955 Broadway
  • Wells Fargo – 1221 Broadway (City Center)

Help me support Oakland business that were vandalized

9 Jan

UPDATE: The compiled list can be found here.

As we all know by now, many small businesses were attacked on Wednesday night in the midst of the protest that turned violent on the streets of downtown Oakland. Walking through downtown yesterday morning made be both sad and angry. There was glass everywhere, burnt debris in the street, garbage cans still tipped over, and store owners surveying the damage.

But now it’s time to come together as a community to try to make things right again. We need to support these locally owned businesses that have already been struggling through this difficult economy and now have to deal with this additional economic and emotional hurdle.

So here’s my plan. I want to create a list of all the businesses that were vandalized and then publicize this list widely to encourage Oaklanders to shop at these stores and eat at these restaurants. But I can’t do this myself – I need your help.

In the comments section below please list any businesses that you know were hit on Wednesday night. If you can, provide an address or street location. On Monday, I’ll post the full list in a separate post and will ask you to help out once again by patronizing these businesses.

We cannot reverse the killing of Oscar Grant. We cannot reverse the real damage and the emotional scars wrought by Wednesday night’s attacks. What we can do is come together to support our community. Thank you for any help you can provide with this project.

Oakland in Upheaval: Perspective from a Protester

8 Jan

UPDATE: I’m starting a list of Oakland businesses that were vandalized on Wednesday and will publicize this list next week. Please help me with this list.

Last night was a difficult one for me and I’m sure for many Oaklanders who stood by as we saw our downtown being attacked. A friend of mine, Santiago Wechsler, attended and documented the protest. Here is his story:

I’m not sure if you are all familiar with the BART shooting that occurred early new year’s day when a BART Police officer shot 22-year old Oscar Grant after responding to a report of fighting in the train. Well, a few days later a video of the incident went viral due to Karina Vargas who made it available to the public by posting it on YouTube and making it available for download. Other videos appeared after, and the videos resulted to be quite and explosive spark. Here’s one video, be warned because at the very least you’ll see a very tragic event. You will see Grant on the ground with an officer’s knee on his head, then suddenly you’ll see that an officer standing over him pull out his gun and shoot Grant in the back. You will also see all the officers jumped back in surprise, and the shooter, 27 year-old Johannes Mehserle, also seems to be surprised, he also jumps back, looks at his partner, looks at the body, and after a few seconds of inaction, in what seems to be stupor, they proceed to, according to witnesses at the scene, take the handcuffs off of Grant. A man in the background seems to protest as they do that.

Regardless of what really happened, whether Mr. Mehserle meant to pull out his taser rather than his gun, the fact remains that this video triggered widespread anger within the community. It is such a source of unspoken frustrations. Coupled with the announcement that the DA had not pressed charges, and that Mehserle quit his job with the BART Police to avoid being forced to make a statement, it set off a tornado of anger through the streets of Oakland.

It all started peacefully enough at the Fruitvale BART station. Several people spoke including the family of Grant. There were mothers with children and several young teenagers, many holding hand made signs.

It was a solemn affair, I saw a woman at the verge of tears standing next to me as speakers told their stories of lost loved-ones to police fire. And once in a while the crowd would chant “fuck the police”.

I got there around 4:30, and at around 5:20 a group with their own loudspeaker started chanting that we should march. They pressed on for several minutes, finally leaving as a group around 5:45. Most people stayed at the station, including myself staying until the end, around 6:15.

So I grabbed my bike and headed north on International with the intention of going to Berkeley, but as I got closer to downtown Oakland I saw several helicopters hovering over the Laney College area, so I headed that way. I caught up with the protesters on 10th street headed north. Things were different this time, there was zero police presence at the Fruitvale BART, but there were dozens of police cars with their lights on around this area. They were already stopping traffic and driving against the direction of traffic at fast speeds headed somewhere. We continued on 10th, but suddenly the crowd stopped at Madison.

There were a couple of police officers standing next to their cruiser which they positioned perpendicular to the road in order to stop traffic on Madison St. The crowd quickly turned towards the cops, little by little they became more violent, and started throwing trash at them. A guy right in front of me was the first to hit the car, kick it hard, and I immediately grabbed him back, reacting in fear of the line he was crossing. But it was all over. Right as he was threatening to kick my ass some one else threw an object at the windshield and others started stomping on the car. So I just stepped back and looked at what was going on. Check out the videos below, you’ll see for yourself, but it was a crazy sight. It was thrilling and sinful almost to see those people destroy that police car. After a few minutes the police shot off some tear gas and the crowd split. This happened a little before 6:41.

The crowd regrouped around Broadway, finally settling at 14th and Broadway a little after 7pm. This time we were surrounded on three sides by police in riot gear. We stayed there for a while. Many angry people were yelling at the cops, in particular a young girl caught my eye, she couldn’t have been older than 13, but she was going right up the cops faces and yelling the most elaborate obscenities I have ever heard in my life. People were venting their fury, I just hope it had some sort of therapeutic effect. Trash cans were set on fire and toppled over the street. A few minutes later, a little after 7:50, the police started to make their move. They rammed the protesters, grabbing some people to arrest. The protesters were forced south on 14th street, and they wreaked havoc along the way, smashing car windows, store fronts and setting a couple of cars on fire.

I saw a couple that while  closing down a diner on 14th, a group of young hooligans stormed into their store and made a mother of a mess in a few seconds. The hooligans left quickly, but the couple stayed inside hiding somewhere until a few minutes later a young man armed with a baseball bat came to get them, I assume he was their son. The young man was so angry, yelling at the top of his lungs asking who had done this. Of course by then the culprits were gone, and his screams served for nothing more than to break my heart a little. The violence continued but the crowd splintered into different factions, and all that was left was a cat and mouse game with the police around downtown for a few minutes.

I decided to go to 12th Street because there was a new car burning over there, I had to go around a long way because the police had it mostly blocked off. It was definitely a smaller group there, and it may have been that these were the only people causing the destruction from the beginning. Suddenly and I don’t understand why, a group of the street agitators turned against other protesters, they targeted a group of hipsters on their bikes that were mostly standing by. They tried to steal a guy’s bike and when he resisted they punched him in the face. I told them to calm down, but as soon as I opened my mouth I had a group of pretty angry faces looking at me so I left in a hurry, it was already around 9 at this point.

Here are some pictures I took. Best I could do with my iPhone while trying not to get my ass beat. Also it’s my first time using flickr and I don’t know how to put them in order yet.

I just wanted to share the experience because it was fascinating to witness this sort of event first hand. I was running on adrenaline the entire time, and I was too enthralled to leave, I wanted to see every detail.