Vigil shines light on a divided Oakland

March 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
All of Oakland is still reeling from Saturday's shootings, but this tragedy reveals a community divided. As the vigil continues at the sight of the tragedy, residents, clergy and a sociologist weigh in on the future of Oakland.

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Inside Oakland's City Hall there's still a line to sign condolence books. The police officer shootings seem to represent a defining moment for Oakland.

"I'm not giving up on Oakland. This city is too beautiful to give up on," says Arnel Ryan, an Oakland resident.

The sidewalk tributes at the scene of the violent shoot-out continue to grow.

"Everybody has to feel it. I don't care what they say. You have to feel it. This is a sad day for Oakland," says another Oakland resident.

But at a smaller memorial across the street honoring the gunman, Lovelle Mixon, there are no words of sympathy for the police.

"There are more people who look at police with a jaundiced eye than we would like to think," says Harry Edwards, Ph.D., a sociologist.

Sociologist Dr. Edwards says a culture of crime has taken over segments of the city, created by a mixture of circumstances.

"This is a direct result of what's happened economically and in terms of the educational structure in that community where you have in some instances you have a 50-percent dropout rate among young black men, very, very few jobs for people at that skill level, and virtually no programs," says Dr. Edwards.

What Dr. Edwards describes is a long standing tension that have made some reluctant to openly support the police.

There is a man in this neighborhood who performed CPR on one of the fallen motorcycle officers. ABC7's Carolyn Tyler spoke with him, but he was afraid to go on camera, even if we shielded his identity. He said "You don't know what would happen if people know I helped the police."

The day after the shootings Bishop Ernestine Reems Dickerson told her East Oakland congregation she appreciates the Oakland Police Department. On Tuesday she says she recognizes everyone may not agree, but hopes the tragedy serves as a wake-up call.

"The message is there's some anger. Some serious anger here and we need to look at it on both sides. Be honest with ourselves and deal with it," says Bishop Dickerson, from the Center of Hope Community Church.

She's optimistic, but not everyone is.

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