Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, a former aide to Jerry Brown, is facing strong criticism over her handling of riots in Oakland this week. Because Oakland police allegedly delayed calling for help until roughly 15 minutes after a protest turned violent, Oakland’s Auto Row took a terrible beating on Friday night, with scores of vehicles’ windows smashed as well as the windows of banks and stores.
The protest started at 6:30 p.m. as a march to City Hall to protest supposed police brutality, with marchers shouting “Baltimore, we got your back!” in reference to the riots in Baltimore revolving around the death of Freddie Gray.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the spate of glass-breaking erupted around 8:30, but the police did not call for backup help until 8:44 p.m., according to police spokeswoman Johnna Watson. By the time added help arrived, the damage had been done.
Roughly twelve people were arrested; Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent called the damage “the worst that we have seen in recent years.” He admitted that the hundreds of demonstrators were “angrier than we expected,” and that the late call from police “minimized the effectiveness of our mutual-aid response.”
Mayor Schaaf, who had threatened before the march that Oakland would not tolerate violent behavior, said lamely, “We did not do as good of a job as we should have protecting property.”
Protesters in the march started getting unruly by setting trash can on fire and hurling bottles at buildings, as police trailed them, but by roughly 8:30, the crowd turned to shattering windows, including 50 new Hyundais at an Auto Row dealership, a Honda dealership, a Wells Fargo bank, a Citibank, and American Auto Upholstery and Glass. At one restaurant, thugs threw a steel divider through the window while customers ate.
Residents were furious with the city’s lack of leadership, and some were quoted by various media outlets as blaming Schaaf’s response–or lack thereof.
Schaaf held a news conference Saturday morning, intoning, “A very small group of people with rocks in their pockets and malice in their hearts disturbed what was otherwise a positive day in Oakland.” She called the rioters “cowardly people that use the cloak of night and large crowds to commit this type of vandalism.” Whent echoed, “We do tolerate marching. We do not tolerate vandalism. We do absolutely attempt to make every one of those arrests that we can.”
One marcher, Melissa Crosby, told Wall Street OTC, “I see it like a game of chess and if one day we can throw rocks at police, right or wrong, however you feel about it, then that’s a day we took a stand. And that, in my mind, to some extent, is a win against the system.”