Community pitches in to keep Oakland calm

July 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Despite scattered violence and dozens of arrests on Thursday night, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums is praising his police officers and the city's response to the Mehserle verdict. He says the situation could have been much worse.

"Oakland demonstrated that it is a city, a community of people who have character and they showed that character last night," said Dellums.

Some 60 businesses in downtown Oakland were damaged in last night's unrest. People spent the day removing graffiti and sweeping up broken glass. At Jitters and Shakes coffee shop, the owner is wondering how he'll pay for eight new windows. Loyal customers stopped by to help and dropped off donations.

Right next door, Grandlakes Scooter was untouched. Banks were a popular target -- six of them were hit on Webster and 20th streets. Some store owners believe the looting was a crime of opportunity for people who didn't really care about the verdict.

However, there were people who tried to prevent the looting and in a couple of cases, talked the looters into giving back what they stole. The people ABC7 spoke with believe they made a difference. Two of those people were radio hosts for a Christian radio show. Many callers wanted to talk about Thursday's events.

On Friday night, they had never had as many callers waiting to speak at the beginning of their show. While the hosts of "Issues After Dark" said people are still angry about the verdict, some people seem to be shifting toward acceptance.

"The initial response is 'I'm upset about the verdict,' but now they're at a point where they're saying, 'Hey, this has never happened. An officer was convicted of killing somebody,'" said radio host Dion Evans.

The show's hosts moved their show to the streets of Oakland early Thursday night in the hopes of discouraging violence. They wanted to give people a place to vent their frustrations.

"I know we influenced people last night because there were people who came out there angry with agendas and because they came to 17th and Franklin where we were, they never made it anywhere else," said Evans.

People still broke windows and looted stores, like the Foot Locker on Broadway, but the radio hosts said they were happy it wasn't worse and point out they even confronted the looters.

"I was able to stop a few people throughout the night and challenge them on that and we actually had some people who looted drop their goods off at the table with us," said Evans.

The radio hosts plan to take the shoes and belts back to Foot Locker next week.

"The funny thing about the difference that we made was that it didn't require that much effort. It just required people to get off the sidelines," said radio host Charles Cole.

They broadcasted their show in front of the Western Christian Bookstore. The owner there decided to stay open despite the threat of violence. Workers at the bookstore said they were discouraged by the crimes committed last night, but they're glad they stayed open.

"It definitely discouraged some people from doing other activities and allowed them to use their voices instead of their hands," said Afiya Wilkerson from the Western Christian Bookstore.

Workers at the bookstore and at the radio station felt so good about the impact they had, they plan to do it all again on the day Mehserle is sentenced.

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