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July 09, 2010

Oakland: The Day After the Mehserle-Grant Verdict

Posted in: Civil rights

Some photos from downtown Oakland earlier today, hours after the riots partially inspired by the involuntary manslaughter verdict against BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in the death of Oscar Grant:

Several businesses had boarded up their windows as a precaution before the verdict was announced, and/or put up posters in support of Grant as a possible talisman against harm.

Even many that did not survived unscathed, though — the several blocks where the rioters ran rampant were more bruised than broken by the violence.  Still, a significant amount of damage was readily visible…

Of the establishments that were attacked, jewelry stores and pawnshops were among the primary targets — suggesting either that they’re symbols of oppression I hadn’t realized previously, or that some of the rioters were more interested in scoring free stuff than protesting injustice.

The venerable downtown Sears department store was a more traditional object of the crowd’s anger, as were a couple of banks on the other side of the street.

As I said, though, the overall level of damage was far lower than many people feared — the City Center mall at the heart of downtown Oakland seemed more or less unaffected, as did the City Hall and other government buildings just a block to the north.  (The police presence was probably strongest in these areas, inevitably leaving the neighboring blocks more vulnerable.)

In fact, one reason it was hard to tell just how many buildings and businesses had suffered from Thursday night’s outbreak of violence was that dozens had already been shuttered — due not to fear, but rather the chronic urban poverty of the area, amplified by the economic downturn of the last two years.

You could make a strong case that the latter have caused downtown Oakland more suffering than any pack of rioters could hope to inflict.


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