OAKLAND (KPIX) — It’s a weekly tradition. Every Sunday bike shop owner Najari Smith’s non-profit Rich City Rides gathers people of all ages for a social bicycle ride.
In six years there have been over 300 rides but the one on August 3 was unlike any other.
“This was a devastating end to something that was really beautiful and healing from its beginning,” says Smith.
The ride had just ended at Oakland’s First Friday street fair. Najari was riding with his boombox when an Oakland police officer approached him and grabbed his handlebars.
“The officer asked me to walk with him over to his car and when I walked over to the car he immediately handcuffed me,” says Smith. “He said I was being detained for sound amplification.”
An Oakland Police Department statement said Smith was “impeding traffic” and “refused to provide identification or any information that would assist the officers in identifying him.”
Smith says he complied with all orders and showed two forms of identification, but he was arrested and spent two days at Santa Rita before making bail.
“When I learned about it I was aghast,” says Richmond’s Mayor Tom Butt. “How could they throw a guy in jail for the weekend for running a boom box around on his bicycle?”
Mayor Butt says he knows Smith well.
“He’s really a productive force for young people in Richmond,” he says and believes all signs point to racial profiling.
After gathering the facts, Mayor Butt drafted a letter to Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley asking they review the arrest.
On Monday, the District Attorney’s office announced Smith will not face charges.
“I still feel cautious and I think I have reason to be,” says Smith.
He told KPIX he believes Oakland police need more training and he hopes to have a conversation with them.
“I hate to think that I was being profiled but the past history of OPD only says that I was.”