Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oakland Riots - Photos

Shortly after sundown yesterday a large group of protesters marched down International from the Fruitvale BART station, where Oscar Grant was shot last week, to the Lake Merritt BART station. It was there that the protest quickly escalated into a riot. 

The first police vehicle to arrive was overcome by the protesters. One man threw a rock through the windshield, a dozen others jumped on the hood and rocked the vehicle in a failed attempt to overturn it. A dumpster was set ablaze and pushed into the front of the vehicle.

As riot police responded they were pelted with glass bottles and other debris. Tear gas was fired into the mob, forcing them to disperse. Many fled into Chinatown to regroup less than thirty minutes later near City Hall, leaving in their wake overturned garbage cans and newspaper stands. 

The largest stand-off of the night occurred near the intersection of 14th and Webster. Riot police surrounded the mob on three sides. Dozens of police vehicles blocked traffic and attempted to hold off protesters trying to join the mob. 

While some protesters shouted, "There is no looting going on, we're just mad!" others continued to throw newspaper stands into the street, set garbage cans on fire, and smash in windshields and store fronts. Several protesters laid down in front of the police lines, mimicking the position Grant was in when he was shot, on their bellies with their hands behind their backs.

An unmarked police vehicle approached one side of the intersection, and the driver could be heard over a megaphone beginning a ten minute countdown demanding that the rioters disperse. The mob only grew in number and intensity. As the riot police closed in, many protesters ran down 14th street. Others attempted to stand their ground but were forced backward with hard shoves and billy club jabs. When police attempted to grab noncompliant protesters there was a scramble, and several people were trampled. At least two members of the media were attacked by rioters. A cameraman from channel 7 news had his camera broken and was reportedly bleeding from the head. A cameraman from channel 5 news was punched in the chest and was experiencing difficulty breathing. 

Reporter Ken Epstein of the Oakland Post was in his 12th story office writing a story about the injustice of Grant's death when he heard commotion on the street and looked down to see his own vehicle engulfed in flames. He stated that while it was disappointing to see such a thing occur, he understood the anger being expressed by the protesters.

Once things settled down Mayor Dellums came out of city hall and walked a few blocks with a large crowd of protesters and media, answering questions and urging them to stand down and end the violence. 

A small news conference was held by officer Jeff Thomason at the Oakland Police Department's administrative offices. He stated that as of 9:30pm only 15 arrests had been made, 14 adults and one minor, for charges including assault on an officer, vandalism, and failure to disperse.

Shortly after the press conference protesters began to riot once again in front of City Hall's doors and police appeared to change strategies, arresting dozens more rather than continuing to disperse the crowds.