Monday, July 12, 2010

Oakland: charge white outside agitators instigating riot

Like many in the Bay Area, I was worried about a possible riot in Oakland when the verdict came out in the trial of the Bay Area Rapid Transit officer who killed the young African-American Oscar Grant. There had been riots the previous year over this case, and as Zombie documented, some communists and anarchists were seeking to use the verdict to promote a riot.

Well, the verdict came out last Thursday night and we only had a mini-riot. And the really good news is the police caught the white communists and anarchists who were trying to instigate rioting. These were young white people from outside of Oakland who were coming into Oakland to incite the local African-American youths to violence. Matier and Ross are reporting today:

Throw the book: Oakland City Attorney John Russo says he's exploring suing some of the dozens of "outside agitators" who came looking for trouble in downtown Oakland after Thursday's verdict in the Johannes Mehserle trial.

"I want to throw the book at them, and see if we can hold them civilly liable for some of the city's cost," Russo said Friday.

He says he'll talk about the idea first with District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, who must decide whether to file criminal charges against the 78 people arrested Thursday night.

At the very least, Russo said he'd like to get a stay-away order to keep some of the troublemakers from returning to the city.

"People have the complete right to protest," he said. "But that is different than using the tragedy to act out your own personal psychodrama.

"I wouldn't even dignify these clowns with the name 'anarchists,' because that would suggest they actually had a philosophy," Russo said.

"I just can't follow how a bunch of young white people come into a city that is two-thirds people of color and start trashing it because they are supposedly mad about racism," he said. "Why don't they wear swastikas and be skinheads?"

Some of these whites had even painted their faces black:

One group tore through the metal gate protecting a Footlocker shoe store on Broadway near 14th Street, shattered a window and emptied the shelves. Soon there were shoe boxes on the street.

Afterward, the group moved across the street and smashed a window at the Far East National Bank building and rampaged inside. Graffiti was sprayed on the bank wall reading "Riot for Oscar." Up and down Broadway within the police lines, skirmishes broke out between officers and small groups of protesters, some wearing black face paint.

Rioters ran down the street with officers in pursuit, and some were tackled as other protesters tossed debris at the police. The BART stations at 12th and 19th streets were closed down at times to avoid problems, and at one point officers used smoke bombs to disperse crowds.

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said the people causing trouble did not seem to be Oakland residents bent on voicing displeasure at the Mehserle verdict. He described them as outsiders "who are almost professional people who go into crowds like this and cause problems."