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The Oakland Riots

Short version, because I just woke up: a transit police officer shot an unarmed man in the back at point blank range as he was being held face down on the floor in Oakland early on New Year’s Day. Overnight, west Oakland finally went up, probably triggered by 1) all the mealymouthing around the shooting from the authorities 2) while everyone else was watching the fucking video of the guy being killed and 3) probably also the news that the shooting officer has resigned and is reportedly refusing to cooperate with investigators. And that no-one seems overly bothered by same.

So I just woke up, and the first thing I see is a link Laurenn sent me, to the Flickr set of a guy who went out there with a camera last night.

Naturally, what’s actually being trashed in this riot are people’s cars and "mom’n’pop" corner stores. All of whom are obviously The Man in Oaktown these days.


Published in photography researchmaterial


  1. steve o mac steve o mac

    wow this is something ive not heard about, i guess the world news isnt interested atm what with all the crap going down in the midle east.

  2. “Naturally, what’s actually being trashed in this riot are people’s cars and “mom’n’pop” corner stores.” Yep. I am not even going into history.

  3. Ian Ian

    Pretty big news over here; the video of the shooting is hard to watch from all sides. Looks like the cop thought he was drawing and firing his taser, because he’s damn surprised when he puts a round through the guy, as are the five or so cops around him.

  4. Peter Peter


    I read the article too and shook my head with sadness at the rioters who displayed a “Hey, I didn’t take your life so my vandalism is morally justified” attitude.

  5. Seth Seth

    Unfortunately your typical rioter is too ignorant to know who is fucking them, or how they’re being fucked. They’re kinda like hagfish, blindly flailing around with rage tentacles, and feeding on the nearest convenient corpse. Still, education’s not even much of an answer over here. You go to school and wise up, and then they’ve got you over a barrel with thousands of dollars in loans. We’re all screwed, any way ya look at it.

  6. Ross Ross

    Yeah, I bet he though it was his tazer, you know given his tazer was on the other side of his belt and because plastic tazers feel just like and weigh just as much as metal pistols.

    Furthermore, riots, even though sparked by events such as this shooting, are at their base the result of political and economic unrest and are, as Martin Luther King said, the “language of the unheard”.

    The people of Oakland are tired of being ignored! I understand the ignorance of destroying the property of the innocent. It could be argued, first, that no one is innocent as we have all be complacent with the status quo. Since, we live in a democratic project, in a very real sense; we get the government and society we deserve! Secondly, and metaphorically, it is things and property that American society most treasures, accordingly, if one wanted to symbolically show ones frustration and anger towards the American and capitalist way of life the destruction of propriety–the true commodity and treasure–seems the best non-violent demonstration of that anger! Remember things don’t have real autonomy so violence, as defined as the exertion of force with the intent to injure or kill, does not apply to inanimate and synthetic things. In other words, things cannot be injured or killed as they do not have real life and thus violence so defined does not apply to them.

  7. This is really sickening. I work where this happened and have frequented these businesses. They indeed are all mom’n’pop places, owned/run by minorities and immigrants–hard working, extremely nice people. I understand the anger about the shooting and particularly the official ass-dragging, but there’s no justification for victimizing these good people.

  8. Frank Frank

    I live a few blocks away from where this went down. Had helicopters circling the neighborhood all night. Late into the night a car exploded, rattling windows. What am embarrassing display. Interesting aside, several of the people quoted in the news articles are from Berkeley and San Francisco. You know what, go destroy your own neighborhood, not mine, assholes.

  9. I’ve frequented a lot of these businesses. They’re indeed all mom’n’pop places, owned/run by immigrants and minorities. Extremely nice, hard-working people. There’s no way to justify victimizing these good people.

  10. RiotersAreMorons RiotersAreMorons

    These rioters are a bunch of ignorant morons. Its funny that they think its ok to go loot and burn everything because someone got shot. Go ahead and act like a bunch of savages, it only makes the police more jumpy. Garuntee if the kid had been white there wouldnt be idiots rioting in the streets. People need to settle down.

  11. Mollygirl Mollygirl

    Thanks for picking this up Warren. I live right in the middle of it and it feels surreal that none of the major news sites are covering it. As of right now (1pm the day after the protest/riot) there are still police in the streets and helicopters hovering overhead. The BART commission is expected to make a statement sometime today, and there are concerns that it will spark more destruction.

    I was in the street with a camera for most of the destruction, and I can say this: only 10-20 people were actually doing any breaking or burning, out of maybe 300-400 people present. Most of the vandalism was from young men who seemed giddy on the defiance of police authority. I can sympathize, but their actions were far from justified. My neighborhood is full of lower middle class people, mostly minorities. These are not people who can shrug off a destroyed storefront or a ruined car. It could be devastating for them.

    The cops bear their own share of blame for escalating a relatively contained protest into a multi-block destruction zone. As for the actual shooter, there are major problems with the taser theory and the accidental discharge theory, but we won’t know anything for certain unless the police actually investigate. Who knows if that will happen.

  12. Its easy to judge from the outside – AND NOTHING can justify destroying your own community, turning neighbors into victims. But try to understand that its not uncommon for a black man in Cali to be abused, beaten and even killed in a confrontation with the cops and the cops get away with it. But once in a while some cop blatantly crosses the line and there’s a video of it for everyone to see. It can’t be covered up or explained away, and it sets off all the tension that builds in that community.
    This will happen anywhere in the world where a single impoverished group feels oppressed, lives in fear, and gets that extra push. They’re just looking for an excuse to lash out and don’t care who gets in the way.
    I’m not excusing it at all, I’m just saying as long as these conditions exist it can happen anywhere. Any form of Mass Hysteria is not based on ignorance but tension giving in to a complete lack of self restraint. It is the worse side of us all.
    As to the “if the kid had been white” comment – the idiots in Boston(mostly white college students, supposedly educated not ignorant” riot over Red Sox games. The riot police in Boston then used non lethal weapons they weren’t trained to use to subdue the crowd and murdered an unarmed girl. Which they got away with, called it an accident and no one rioted for her.
    I think its better the community rise up about an unjust murder, than the outcome of a sports event (this goes to the football hooligans as well).
    Would there have been this much coverage of the murder if there weren’t riots?

  13. j j

    Thanks for the coverage, Warren.

    The rally at Fruitvale Station was a very different scene from the vandalism that happened later. More than 2000 people heard speeches, chanted along, and were angry but not violent. Many of the speakers talked about marching but being respectful to the community they were going to pass through.

    The march went North towards Downtown, but it didn’t go to West Oakland. I just wish the story was the big turn out for the protest, not the vandalism that happened hours later.

  14. Ted Ted

    I was at the protest before it turned into a riot. While I was also angry about the random vandalism, I have to ask: are any of you who also live here actually lifting a finger to pressure BART Police through more legitimate means? Please, please, help us actually DO something about this. Otherwise, we are basically leaving this up to reactionary teenagers and an unwilling authority to sort it out for us. If BART administration and Officer Mehserle get to walk for this, it’s just one more slide in the wrong direction.

  15. kon kon

    This reminds me of the similar situation in Athens, Greece. An unarmed teenager gets shot and killed by a cop and riots erupt, with rioters destroying banks, big franchises along with smaller businesses. This has gone on for several weeks. Recently unknown people used a kalashnikov and shoot at a parked, empty riot police bus and a couple of weeks afterwards throw a grenade and use the same gun directly towards patrolling riot police, severely wounding one riot police (officer/guy/pig/thug). And since rioters and squatters tend to not carry guns, this is very strange and makes everyone explain it as a police set-up so that they can regain public sympathy. Everyone that is, except the mainstream mass media who were quick to blame anarchists, terrorists etc.

  16. Peter Peter

    I was talking with a friend who lives in Oakland the other day. She mentioned that the footage of the shooting came to light only because the woman who shot the video on her cellphone sent it to local television station KTVU. The amateur filmmaker felt that her footage belonged to the people. My friend swore that she was going to learn how to use the video function on her cell phone in case she ran across a similar situation. At that moment, I flashed back to the “cell phone is PyrE” sequence from “Crooked Little Vein.”

  17. Amanda Amanda

    What adds to this disturbing news is seeing that this specific protester is operating on an anti-pastry platform. The inverted “e” on his sign is indicative of his haste to take to the streets and co-opt the protester’s original message. He is ready, however, to firebomb the fuck out of some bakeries.

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