I’ve always been a post traumatic stress syndrome kind of a chica. I’m cool, level headed and keep it together until a few days later. The events that have unfolded in the last 13 days have been unjust, surreal and have made me frustrated for so many different reasons and on so many different levels. My nerves and thoughts on what is happening here in Oakland have not had a chance to rest, let alone settle down.
What happened in the chaotic moments in the early morning hours of January 1, 2009 on the train platform at the Fruitvale Bart station has changed my fair city. The untimely death of a young man from what I can tell with no justified cause has affected so many lives in a ripple effect that will not just go away nor should it. I am at a loss as to why this case has been mishandled by the very people who need to keep the public safe.
Public Safety in Oakland is a topic I can write about from an entirely different angle. I participated in a panel on November 5, 2008 as the merchant representative to review resumes and give recommendations to Mayor Dellums as to who should be our next Public Safety Director. A position that still remains unfilled and whose leadership we could have used in this New Year. It’s interesting to note that most of the panel’s discussions revolved around concerns for how this leader would interact with the constituents, use community policing to reduce crime in commercial districts and how natural disaster services could be better coordinated. The subject of man-made disasters did not come up.
One week ago today, that was exactly what we had on our hands. Bart officials treated the killing of an unarmed person like it was any other officer related shooting. No investigation, no public apologies, the officer involved had not even been interviewed. People with feelings regarding the incident had nothing and then the officer responsible resigned. The frustration and anger felt by many was justified. Yet, to see a planned peaceful protest erupt into violence was really surprising. Splinter groups with agendas not related to the situation came out to cause destruction to small business owners, buildings and vehicles having no involvement or blame. Many of the residents of DTO had to find a safe way home and many were left unable to do so for hours. An ugly mess solving nothing and only proving that violence is not the answer to anything.
The City of Oakland, Oakland Police Department, merchants and the residents of Oakland were then pulled in. Many of us are fiercely protective of our city and our lives deeply affected by this loss of life. Justice still has not been served and is moving very slowly. The former police officer who is responsible for this has finally been arrested in Nevada. The protests scheduled today will hopefully be peaceful and constructive. It’s time for all of us to settle down and do the work of building a community that cares abut everyone in our city. Oakland needs to be a place where living, working or passing through does not have a dark and ominous reputation. We need our officials to step forward and lead us in this journey. We live in very uncertain times with our economy, politics and our personal lives in varying states of chaos.
My post-traumatic stress syndrome may not get to kick in anytime soon and perhaps that’s for the best. I have no time to fall apart emotionally, there too much work to be done. It is my hope that the citizens of Oakland will regroup, pull together and make this a safe place for everyone. Those hired and appointed to protect and to serve us must be accountable and we need to demand that. My request to you is to pay attention and get involved. There are neighborhood groups, merchant associations, non-profits seeking volunteers and small indie businesses who need your support. Be part of the solution, together we can make this happen.