Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that a BART police officer shot a young man named Oscar Grant on New Year’s day at Oakland’s Fruitvale BART station.  The event was videotaped by several witnesses with cell phone cameras and one clearly shows the police officer shooting Grant in the back while he is in a prone position almost “execution” style.  The video is pretty incriminating to say the least.  Last night, protests against the shooting turned violent with demonstrators smashing storefronts and cars, setting several cars ablaze and blocking streets in downtown Oakland.

It would be hyperbole to call what happened last night a riot, but this did remind me of the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles.  The scary thing is that the Oakland violence happened *before* the officer that shot the kid has been even investigated or brought to justice.  In contrast, the King riots occurred after the officers involved in the King beating were acquitted in a court of law.  I think that civil unrest in Oakland will go from bad to worse unless the city acts quickly to investigate and castigate the injustice.  Violence fills a vacuum.

The sad thing is that just like in Los Angeles, the protesters vandalized businesses that are part of the community, some of which were black owned, and have nothing to do with the BART police.  The BART police is ultimately the power structure responsible for the shooting and it is not associated with the Oakland Police or beholden to the city of Oakland in any way.  If protesters analyzed the situation carefully, they would have sought out BART police cars and burned them all to hell.  Unfortunately, the mob mentality is not that smart.  Sad.

Update: Here are Thomas Hawk’s photos of the violence in Oakland last night
Update: Story of the unrest reaches CNN front page, called a “riot” nationally


  1. The definition of riot can be debated but regardless, the people were out of control last night. I agree that the longer the criminal process takes on the BART police officer, the people are going to become more active in their protests.

    #1 by Mayor of Concord — January 8, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

  2. one thing that doesnt make sense to me and makes me want to “riot” is that the officer has not been arrested. why isnt he in custody? i dont understand how is it okay to shoot someone and then just go home. why hasnt he given a statement? why havent we heard from the other BART officers that were there?

    so if i want to kill someone, i should just join the police force first.

    after moving here from indiana, i thought i was coming to a more progressive area of the country. but i honestly dont think this would have happened in my hometown. the bay area population is desperately lacking respect for one another.

    #2 by deka — January 8, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

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