There Was Vengeance in their Eyes as their Voices Pierced the Silence, The City Smelled of Chaos and the News Reported Riot (Riot Riot Riot!)

I have started to write this post a few times now, but every time I deleted it, unpublished because I thought, “I am not qualified to comment on these events.”  Somehow, today, I feel compelled to comment for just that reason.  I am not qualified.  And more than likely, neither are you.  And most assuredly, They were not.

I’m referring to the riots that occurred last Wednesday, in Oakland, CA, in response to the fatal shooting of a man, which took place in the very early hours of New Year’s Day, on the platform of the Fruitvale BART station.  I’m not qualified to comment on these events because I wasn’t there.  I didn’t see what happened first hand, in fact I’ve only seen one grainy cell phone video.  I haven’t gone through any kind of police training.  I’m not qualified to comment.

Here’s what I do know from news reports and media coverage.  The victim and several other “men” were riding BART home after celebrating New Year’s Eve in San Francisco when an argument erupted on the train.  One eye witness account I read said, “There was a lot of verbal arguing, jockeying between the two groups of men.”  BART Police removed the men from the train (as they should do) to deal with the situation.  The video I saw had no audio, but it shows three or four young men “cuffed” and sitting on the floor on the edge of the platform.  Despite being cuffed they still are seen being physically confrontational and do appear to be speaking vehemently to the officers.  And at some point, one of the men, Oscar Grant, was lying face down on the platform and one of the officers shot him, in the back at close range.

What I know is, this is a terrible thing.  It’s tragic for Mr. Grant’s family, for his young daughter who will grow up without a father.  It is also, very likely, tragic for the officer who shot him, who by witness’s accounts was visibly shaken after the fact.  If, as I think is likely, this shooting was an accident, the officer will have to live with the guilt of having taken another man’s life, for the rest of his existence.  And if it was not an accident, he’ll have to live with the shame as well.

What I know is, there are investigations underway.  BART is conducting an investigation as is the Alameda County District Attorney’s office.

What I know is, you never comment on an on-going investigation.

What I know is, demonstrating and protesting and least of all, rioting, will not bring Mr. Grant back to life.

I have observed in the days since the riots that just about everyone has something to say, some sort of an opinion on the subject.  Many of the people have had considerable anger and contempt in their voices as they make their opinions known, as if somehow these events have been a personal affront to them, some kind of personal attack on their lives and their families.  I find this vitriol suspect.  I find it unreasonable and unwarranted.

I am just as saddened as the next person by the events that took place on the platform that night.  And I want justice to be served, just as much as the next guy.  I guess the difference is, I am mature enough, to admit that at this moment, I do not know what justice would be.  I may never know what justice would be.  I admit to my ignorance, and knowing I have such ignorance on the subject, I leave it in the hands of the legal officials to determine what should happen next.

I believe that there was a lot going on that night.  I know that there was stuff happening before the one grainy cell phone video began that no one will ever know about.  I find it easy to believe that Mr. Grant and his friends were being disruptive and difficult.  And I believe that there are any number of explanations as to what happened and why.  I do not suggest that it is OK.  I do not suggest that the whole thing be swept under the rug and forgotten about, but I do not think it is up to the general public to make a determination about what did happen that night, or what should happen next.

And so, when I heard about the rioting that happened, I can’t help but question (and yes, maybe judge).  What was the point?  What did you hope to accomplish?  What DID you accomplish?  Now that you’ve done this, how are you any better than the boys on the train that night or the cop who shot one of them?

What was the point? Can anyone actually answer this?  The event started out as a “Peaceful Protest” at the BART station where the shooting took place.  Certainly a “Peaceful Protest” is better than an all out riot, but really, what was it going to accomplish?  Unfortunately, the man is dead and your “Peaceful Protest” isn’t going to bring him back.  Unsvelt Girl Who Runs told me, “They were protesting the way the investigation is being handled.”  OK, so now we, the random citizens of the city know better than the legal officials how this thing should be handled?  I think not.  If I knew so much on that subject, I’d be in that job.  What was the point?

What did you hope to accomplish? Did you expect to have an impact on the investigation?  Did you expect there to be a change in the circumstances because you waved a sign?  Was anyone even listening?  Whether you were part of a “Peaceful Protest” or part of the rioters, their is only one reason that I can come up with for the event, to attempt to turn the tide on this investigation.  To try and bully or intimidate someone, somewhere into doing more to the officer who pulled the trigger than “investigate”.  There is a word that is used to refer to people who try to use fear and intimidation to get what they want.  We call them Terrorists, and each and every one of you who participated in the events of last Wednesday night are just that.  Terrorists.  So again I ask, what did you hope to accomplish?

What DID you accomplish? You clearly didn’t intimidate anyone…  Not anyone who can get you what you want anyway.  You probably intimidated the people whose cars you set on fire.  You probably intimidated the business owners of whose shops and restaurants you smashed the windows.  I don’t really imagine those people can further your cause though, and I seriously doubt that you’ve “won them over.”  So what did you accomplish?  Destruction of private property.  Unlawful assembly.  For many of you, resisting arrest.  That’s at least three laws you’ve broken right there.  They maybe lesser violations than murder or even manslaughter but violations they are, nonetheless.  So, what did you accomplish?

And finally, Now that you’ve done this, how are you any better than the boys on the train that night, or the cop who shot one of them? You’ve broken the law, you’ve created a civil disturbance, you’ve damaged other peoples property, and let’s just hope that those business owners had insurance to pay for what you’ve done, because if they don’t and they have to repair the damages out of pocket, well…. In these difficult financial times, you may have set them back much more than just the cost of a broken window.  So, Now that you’ve done this, how are you any better than the boys on the train that night, or the cop who shot one of them?

Now, I have entertained the idea that somehow you’ve done us a favor.  Wouldn’t it be nice if, somehow, as a result of your actions, the economy turns around?  The significant out lay of cash to repair the damage you caused, then trickles down, to the workers doing the repairs, who then need to eat lunch, who then go to the restaurants where they repaired the windows and the owners then do increased business and, etc., etc., etc.

Of course we know that is not likely, however there is one good thing that did come out of this.  On Thursday morning, the BART Board of Directors had a meeting at the BART headquarters which happens to be a block away from my office.  In fact there is no other structure, just a park, between my office window and that building and I can see it clearly.  What I can also see clearly is the park below.  The BART Board of Directors, in all their wisdom, decided to invite the public to come and voice their opinions at this meeting.

It started at around 10:00 with the sound of police sirens out side.  I looked out my window in time to see nine police vehicles fly up the street toward the building where the BART headquarters are housed.  No noticeable results came of that and soon they had moved on.  Half an hour after that I looked outside again to notice that the intersections all around the BART building were closed and officers were redirecting traffic.  And then I looked down at the street closer to my office to see that there was a parade of police vehicles congregating on the street outside my building.  At the time that I looked, I counted no less than thirty-two motorcycles, black and whites, unmarked cars and SUVs lined up along the street with the officers poised and ready for trouble.

At 12:30, the one good thing to come out of all this happened.  At 12:30, word came down from “Senior Leadership” that we were encouraged to go home.

So, for that at least, I thank you, you wacked out, ignorant, ne’erdowells.  From the bottom of my cold, dead heart, I thank you!

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