OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A news conference hosted by the owner of Everett & Jones Barbeque in Oakland’s Jack London Square to discuss concerns about a nearby warehouse space erupted into a shouting match Wednesday morning.
Restaurant owner Dorothy King had invited members of the media to gather at 126 Broadway at 10 a.m. Wednesday to bring attention to the potential fire hazards associated with an adjacent building at 411 Second St.
• Continuing Coverage: Deadly Oakland Warehouse Fire
“I know for a fact there’s only one way in or one way out,” King said Tuesday. “You can come on Friday and Saturday night and the lines are around the corner.”
An establishment known as The Salt Lick is listed at 411 Second St., according to Google Maps, where it is described as a “place of worship.” The Salt Lick’s Facebook page describes it as an arts and entertainment venue.
King and local business owner Geoffrey Pete, the proprietor of Oakland music venue Geoffrey’s Inner Circle were scheduled to speak at the press conference after a moment of remembrance for the victims of the Ghost Ship fire.
Several local artists who were on hand for the event decided they needed to speak their minds as well.
“You all are on a witch hunt, okay? You all need to cool that s–t, okay? We’re still grieving for our friends,” one agitated man shouted. “Our friends aren’t even in the ground yet!”
Dorothy King’s daughter was confronted by another local artist as she spoke about her concerns regarding the venue around the corner from her restaurant.
“Every single artist involved thinks that this is wrong and they’re calling you snitches and saying this is a witch hunt,” said the man.
“I would rather be a snitch and save lives than be quiet as a mouse!” King’s daughter retorted.
King’s daughter insisted that the Ghost Ship fire had brought awareness about underground venues and safety concerns.
“I’ve seen what can happen. More lives could be lost. Are we trying to save lives? We’re trying to save live!” she said.
“You keep making the same point and not addressing mine,” the artist maintained. “If you had just talked to the people there and told them to stop having parties…”
“Ok, well that didn’t happen. This is what happened. We’re standing behind you,” replied King’s daughter. “We will march and fight for you and your community, just like we do for the homeless and Black Lives Matter. We are for the arts.”
The artists said they did not live or work at the warehouse but were speaking on behalf of those who did.
Warehouses like the Ghost Ship have been under intense scrutiny across the Bay Area and especially in Oakland since the fatal fire on December 2 that left 36 people dead.
The artists who interrupted the press conference said that King should have spoken to them directly about her concerns rather than calling a news conference. The artists accused King of trying to capitalize on the tragedy.
But before the group of artists disrupted the press event, King told the gathered media that she was an artist herself and called on city leaders to work with the artists to create safe and affordable places for them to live.
“I think that this press conference, what I’m hoping come out of it is that the city would come in and help,” said King. “Not shut it down but help them regulate it.”
One man who said he lives at the Salt Lick told KPIX 5 that King is wrong about the number of exits the space has, pointing out that there is a fire escape at one second-floor window and a number of other exit points.