OK so this is a bit of citizen outrage and plain old disgust with my former profession all rolled into one. A bunch of guys get into fights on BART (the train system in the Bay Area) on News Years along with a bunch of other folks. Police stop the train in Oakland and the BART police attempt to intervene and break it all up. In the course of detaining some of those involved a BART policeman discharges his gun and kills a suspect. That of course is most unfortunate and nasty. No one deserves that. It remains to be seen whether it was accidental or he had intent to harm. (the officer has resigned, lawsuits filed, press conferences held)
A variety of people took pictures and video of the incident and of course that spread like wildfire. So the media felt it had to make this into a big deal. And I mean a very big deal. One station is trumpeting that the video had been watched bazzilion times or something, like that was a good thing. They have just perverted the justice of this case and they think they are heros.
Then along come the do gooders. The organizers. Let’s have a protest to make sure this gets investigated. Things get out of hand, the organizers of the protest never saw it coming. Oh man. The helicopters hovering overhead, the cops in riot gear, the salacious news reporters slathering into their mics. So Oakland gets trashed byt the mob. The organizer of the protest tells the media yesterday that he cried when things got out of hand. Of for crying out loud. Would somebody buy these guys a friggin clue?
The night of the protest the city was inundated by the hovering whine of four TV station helicopters following the mob as they marched around Oakland. Lots of jet fuel wasted on that night of noise and news. It went on for hours. I live a couple miles away but I can only imagine the thoughts of those who live near the scene who had to endure those destruction on the ground and the noise from above.
So the other night I did something I never do. I was looking for a football game on the radio while driving and stopped on the talk radio station. The guy (who I almost never agree with) took the words right out of my mouth. “Why does this have to be a story? Why do I need to know this? It has no impact on me or my life. Unless of course I am captured fighting on BART at 2am.” But the media needed something wild and they ran with this. The horror. Man shot dead in Oakland.
So everyone gets all riled up, organizers rally, lawyers sue, talking heads speculate on TV. Now here is where I am going to have to quote another journalist who said it better than me:
Chip Johnson of the SF Chronicle (hope he doesn’t mind the quote):
I don’t get it – on several levels.
If the death of a young black man is such an appalling event, and one that requires an immediate – and apparently visceral – response, where were the Berkeley revolutionaries and the San Francisco activists when 124 people, the vast majority of them young black men, were gunned down on the streets of Oakland last year? What about the 127 homicides in the city in 2007? What about a botched robbery in which a 10-year-old boy was paralyzed from the waist down, most likely for the rest of his life, while taking a piano lesson?
Apparently, the scores of young black men murdered in Oakland year after year – most often by other black men – does not warrant the same level of outrage as one black man shot by a law enforcement officer.
It’s pretty clear to anyone who’s seen the videotaped shooting that something went terribly wrong and that if Mehserle’s actions were deliberate, he is looking at the prospect of spending a lifetime in prison for it.
Separately, Grant’s family filed a $25 million claim against the transit agency.
Justice moves slowly, and in Oakland, some crime victims are never made whole while too many perpetrators are never caught to answer for their crimes.
But the combination of endless violent crimes and a government that can offer no effective response has taken a disproportionately large toll on law-abiding Oakland residents, and the prospect of importing trouble from outside the city limits is more than anyone can take.
If there is a sense that Oakland residents disapprove of Wednesday night’s actions downtown, it’s because there isn’t another city in the nation whose residents are more at wit’s end when it comes to efforts to reduce crime and make neighborhoods safer.
Oakland folks are dog-tired of street madness, worn out by violence, and simply no longer have a tolerance for anyone who comes for the sole purpose of trashing their city.
For the Bay Area’s professional protester industry, it was an opportunity to hold a meaningful demonstration in the Bay Area’s Second City. For Oakland residents, it was yet another example of watching people, in a fit of rage, tear down what they had worked so hard to build up.
A rider boycott would have struck the transit agency’s board of directors in a much more direct way than street guerrilla theater outside one of its stations followed by an assault on the city.
Protesters missed their intended targets this time and wound up beating up the wrong entity instead.
Don’t worry about it. At least once a month some poor, innocent soul in Oakland gets caught up and hurt – or killed – in random violence. We’re used to it – and thanks so much for dropping by.
That was my big thought. Why do none of these community do gooders come out and protest the daily onslaught of violence in our community, the innocent lives that get caught in the cross fire. But they come out in full voice when the cops are involved. Now I am no right winger. But I cannot believe how little is done in the community to actually quell the real violence in the city. More cops are put on the street but more cops do not stop the murders. Not in my book.
On another note I also saw that one of the local TV stations was bleating about how one of their camera guys got punched and suffered a cut on his face. He got hit from behind. Sorry about that dude but man up. Some of my best friends in the biz have suffered far worse and they never went on TV to whine. I have had collegues that were shot, blown up by bombs and captured by the enemy in Iraq. They all dealt with it but they didn’t make a big deal about it. I had my brush with violence at the hands of an Iraqi official who smacked me up side the head. Just deal with it.