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Jan 9, 200906:49 PMBest Of Editor Picks

First-Person: Oakland Unrest

Jan 9, 2009 - 06:49 PM
First-Person: Oakland Unrest

Photography by Gregory Wild-Smith

I had ridden my bike home under the many helicopters, and had watched the riots on television. The media made it sound like everything was under control, “dying down” at 9 pm, and confined to eight blocks away. At around 10:30, I went outside into the courtyard to make a phone call when my neighbor ran by. He stopped and came up to me. Panicked, he said “They’re here.”

At 11:00 pm, my husband and I decided it was safe to go outside. The streets were completely silent and the air was filled with smoke. As we walked around, it felt more like an eerie zombie movie than the city I grew up in.


Fox Theater











The first thing we saw was the vandalism of the Fox Theater. The construction fences had been pulled down and the windows violently smashed in with bricks and rubble. As we walked by, all that we heard were chards of glass falling from the window panes. A neighbor of mine told me later that evening that he had witnessed the events, saying that the mob almost turned it’s anger towards the Arts Center, a children’s school. 













When we got to the corner, we saw how bad it was. Mailboxes, trash cans and even bikes littered the streets. Trash heaps had been thrown around and lit on fire, filling the air with smoke. 













The streets were full of broken glass from businesses such as Sears and the Uptown Bar.

















Flora, one of my favorite restaurants, was also one of the businesses to get their windows smashed in. According to Manager Sierra McGee, the Uptown area was hit at around 10:15-10:30 pm, when staff and dining patrons witnessed people throwing themselves up against their doors and breaking their windows using rocks, bricks and even their own elbows.


Fox Theater HQ












Next door, the angry crowd broke into the Fox Theater’s production offices and began using display elements and artifacts to hurl at businesses.


19th Street Bart











Police cars gridlocked around the 19th street BART station, intermixed with abandoned civilian vehicles.


I have lived in Oakland my whole life, and have seen so many people work so hard to transform it over the past few years, so it was heartbreaking to see Oakland’s own people destroying it’s small businesses, streets, and historical landmarks. Despite this shameful tragedy, I believe that the neighborhoods affected will continue to move forwards. The morning after the incidents, I watched people step over debris on their way to work. The Fox theater was being repaired by construction workers, and Flora was packed with laughing patrons as a glass repair van pulled up outside.



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