It made the top headlines on CNN last night; a riot broke out in Oakland after a peaceful protest was taking place at a BART station (Fruitvale). The protest was being staged over the January 1 shooting of Oscar Grant by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Oscar Grant died from the shooting.
The rioting took place in downtown Oakland, and involved crowds busting in store fronts, burning cars, rioting. The police came out in riot gear. The mayor, Ron Dullums came out, on his own, with a bull horn, asking the people to remain peaceful. He marched to the front of the steps at City Hall and took some questions. Utterly unscripted and raw, I also found this image by Thomas Hawk (on Flickr) of the mayor. A man deep in thought, in a moment of true humanity.
Tonight the family of Oscar Grant has also come out, asking that the violence stop. Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson said today at a press conference, "You're hurting people who have nothing to do with the situation. You're vandalizing their property, hurting their cars and breaking their windows. Please just stop it, please."
It is hard to put any of this situation into context, for me, for the Bay Area, for those of you who live outside the region. I thought a lot about the incident as I rode BART home tonight. I ride BART at least two times a day, often more, and often to Oakland for business. I have friends who live and work in Oakland. Many of those who work in Oakland were "evacuated" at 2pm in fear that there would be more protests, and possibly rioting this evening.
How do we live with this kind of fear? The kind of fear that makes people angry, and rise up, and become violent? We all know of the raw emotion that can come from a tragedy, from oppression, of feeling down trodden and hopeless. I know the economy is bad, and I know people feel lost. But how does that kind of fear translate to such violence?
My prayer is that there will be peace. I pray that somehow the message is understood, while we all feel for the untimely loss of this man, a father, a family person, a church goer, it does not make it right to continue violence.
What we need is peace, love, and more peace. This is my prayer for the family and the community tonight. That everyone can focus on finding a better way to address this injustice, to show their outrage, and to find justice. And that in the toughest times we can find a way to live together bravely, strongly, and with love.