Oakland businesses clean up after violent protests and vandalism

OAKLAND — Mike Issa couldn’t believe the “gift” last night’s looters left behind in his ransacked Jitters & Shakes coffee shop at 21st and Webster streets in downtown Oakland.

“You know what I say to the people who did this?” he asked, slapping a cracked cell phone on his counter. “I say, I have this phone here that you left when you smashed my store. That’s a gift you’ve given me. Thank you for doing that. I can’t wait to give this to the police.”

Issa was one of dozens of downtown business owners who arrived at work to find shattered windows, stolen goods and spray-painted obscenities after Thursday night’s protests against the involuntary manslaughter verdict for the BART police officer in the 2009 killing of Oscar Grant.

Demonstrations, which began with peaceful speakouts near City Hall, turned into spates of violence after nightfall when about 200 agitators broke off from the calm protests and got into scuffles with a virtual army of police officers from multiple agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, Hayward police, East Bay Regional Parks police and Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies.

Early Friday, Oakland police reported 83 arrests were made during the night. Authorities said it was too soon to estimate the damage to local businesses.

Most of the broken windows and graffiti appeared to be along Broadway from 14th to 22nd streets, and on Webster from 21st to Grand Avenue. But shattered windows were reported as far north as Oakland Acura on 27th and Harrison streets.

“There’s glass everywhere,” said Tyler Eklund, manager of the 24-Hour Fitness on Webster and 21st, where one plate glass window was completely gone and others had gaping holes. Maintenance people were putting up caution tape up and sweeping up shards of glass.

“We lost five big windows,” Eklund said. “They threw rocks, and somebody said they used baseball bats. I have no idea how much that will cost. I’m keeping the
gym closed probably all day, until I get more people in here to clean this up.”

As people began coming to work in the financial district about 8 a.m., they walked along the sidewalks, pointing at all the damage — a broken window here, a spray-painted “Kill the pigs!” there — much like tourists observing points of interest.

“Unbelievable,” one woman uttered. “This is so stupid.”

“Wow,” another man said. “And here I thought Oakland was crappy before.”

Nearly every bank along that stretch of Webster and Franklin was damaged in one way or another. The ATM at the Wells Fargo on Franklin had been broken into, and windows were smashed at City National Bank on Webster, with “Gimme your $” and “Riot!” painted on one side of the building.

“This building lost 10 windows,” said a maintenance man boarding up a broken window on the bank.

Over on Broadway, windows were broken at Sears, Green shipping service, Ozumo restaurant, Oaksterdam University and Foot Locker, which lost nearly all of its inventory to looting. Crews were power washing graffiti off the BART stairs at 19th. JD Jewlery’s metal security gate had been ripped off its bolts, as if a Jaws of Life device had pulled it apart. All the glass cases were smashed and paperwork strewn about the shop.

Graffiti, most which contained unprintable obscenities, seemed to be far more prevalent than at the first series of riots following Grant’s shooting in January 2009. And the messages were far more detailed, clearly taking some time to write.

“My future has been looted tonight. Take it back!” one message read. Others said, “Oakland is our amusement park tonight,” and “Say no to work! Yes to looting.”

Issa’s coffee shop, which has been open for about a year and a half, not only lost windows, but lots of merchandise too.

“They came in here and ransacked,” he said. “Look at these shelves. They’re all empty. They took the chips, the juices, the cereal. They even took the ice cream and threw it on the ground inside and out.”

Customers offered their support. “I’m so sorry this happened,” one woman told Issa. “I’ll definitely buy lots of coffee, to help pay for the windows.”

Issa said he has insurance but is unsure if all the damaged will be covered. In the meantime, he praised Oakland police for their assistance during the night.

“OPD is good. Fabulous,” he said. “They were there for me last night. They let me in at 11 o’clock. They helped me put all the chairs from outside into the window there. I’m proud of them.

“I don’t understand this,” he said. “What did we do to the people who did this? We even had pictures of Oscar Grant in my windows.”

“This wasn’t about Oscar Grant,” one man said. “I bet if you’d asked the people who did this, they wouldn’t even know who he was.”

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