Oakland businesses vandalized by rioters

January 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Fires set in the streets and angry crowds left hundreds of businesses and cars vandalized in Oakland Wednesday night. The protest was in response to the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by a BART police officer on New Year's Day.

Oakland police say they have not seen anything like Wednesday night's protest since January of 2003 when there was a large riot after the Oakland Raiders' loss in the Super Bowl. Many of the department's current officers have never experienced these types of riots.

The city's mayor, Ron Dellums, begged his constituents not to let anything like this happen again.

"We cannot exploit other people's pain in order to inflict damage," said Mayor Dellums.

With that, Mayor Dellums made his plea for no more violence, one day after a peaceful protest turned chaotic and damaged more than 300 businesses.

"It's not about beating up somebody's windshield. What does that have to do with justice?" said Mayor Dellums.

"That's ignorance. You don't riot to make change," said Jamaurae Birdee, one of 105 protesters arrested Wednesday night, he says, before things turned ugly and a splinter group started vandalizing cars and businesses. "Cars being set on fire, businesses being broken into. They're not the problem. The police are the problem."

Adama Jalo owns one of the businesses that was damaged.

"We are the small businesses. We are not the ones that should be punished because we didn't do nothing wrong," said Jalo.

Police Chief Wayne Tucker defended the actions of his force, who some have criticized as being unprepared.

"Quite frankly, we were very prepared. We started calling in additional people as early as five o'clock yesterday," said Chief Tucker.

Many of those on the front lines Wednesday night were newly-hired officers.

"We've hired a lot of new people here and a lot of our officers who are out on the street have less than two years experience. To make over 105 arrests and squash that situation last night, we're very proud of that," said Jeff Thomaso with the Oakland Police Department.

Oakland gift shop owner Tracey Friley worries it is going to happen again. Her front windows survived the chaos. But going forward she is not taking any chances.

"I have people coming to put boards up now, just as a precaution, because I don't want to deal with it," said Friley.

The Economic Development Department in Oakland is offering to help business owners with repairs.

The police response, as is standard procedure, will be studied and reviewed.

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