OAKLAND (CBS SF) — City leaders on Saturday condemned violent protests overnight that left downtown Oakland in tatters, with more than 70 businesses vandalized, looted or both.
Police and businesses are gearing up in case protesters take to the streets again Saturday night.
“We want to make clear that this will not be tolerated,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf during a Saturday afternoon press conference. “Tonight we ask you to stay home.”
Friday night’s destruction was indiscriminate and crossed the line, Schaaf said. Downtown merchants with “Black-Owned” business signs, small shops in the city’s Chinatown District, as well as larger chain stores like Walgreens and Target, all suffered.
The protest over the death of George Floyd on Monday in Minneapolis at the hands of police drew an estimated 8,000 to Oakland. The event started out peacefully, the mayor said.
“Protest and free speech are part of Oakland’s DNA,” Schaaf said. “But these vandals, these violent actors are using peaceful protesters as a shield to hide behind.”
Car fires were set, rocks and Molotov cocktails thrown, storefronts shattered and shelves looted at businesses that are trying to recover from three months of shelter-in-place orders.
“This horror was visited on this same community that we are trying to lift up,” Schaaf said.
Police arrested 17 people and detained another 40 during melees. More arrests may come following investigations; a review of surveillance video may also identify some 40 to 60 looters, said Interim Police Chief Susan Manheimer.
17 Oakland officers, two Oakland firefighters and seven officers from outside agencies were injured, the chief said.
Manheimer offered condolences to the families of two federal security officers shot while standing at the Oakland federal building. One of the officers has died and the FBI is investigating, she said.
The chief promised a beefed-up law enforcement presence Saturday night and urged business owners who haven’t done so already to register their video cameras on the department’s website.
Jana and Chris Pastena, who own the Tribune Tavern and two other downtown restaurants, joined Schaaf in asking protesters to stay home.
“We ask that you please not riot and loot tonight,” Jana Pastena said. Several windows were broken at the Tribune Tavern on 13th Street and Chris Pastena was assaulted trying to fend off looters.
“This isn’t about glass. I think we all know that black lives are greater than some broken glass,” Jana Pastena said “I think we can be angry to our core about the death of Mr. Floyd and about the injustice black people suffer every day, and be incredibly angry about the destruction of our businesses.”
She added that “from our observation the people doing the damage weren’t from our community,” a sentiment aired by other business owners.
So far, police have not released the hometowns of those who were detained and arrested Friday night.
A national coalition of police unions that include three in the Bay Area, on Saturday condemned “criminal behavior disguised as protesting.”
“We spoke out strongly to voice our utter disgust with what was done to George Floyd,” the coalition said Saturday, referring to statements from the San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland Police Officers unions, along with the Los Angeles Police Protective League.
“George Floyd should be spending this weekend with his family and friends and enjoying his life. The fact that he’s not is wrong, and it is a stain on our profession that we must all collectively work to wash away. But the violence and destruction in our cities and our neighborhoods is not the answer. It must stop,” according to the coalition’s statement on Saturday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday said the state is watching extremist groups who may trying to exploit tensions.
“In California and across the country, there are indications that violent actors may be attempting to use these protests for their own agendas,” the governor said release Saturday. “We are closely monitoring organizing by violent extremist organizations ahead of tonight.”
Newsom said the death of a federal security guard gunned down Friday night in Oakland was “a moment of pain for our state and nation.” But he added, “No one should rush to conflate this heinous act with the protests last night. A federal investigation is underway, and we should let that process play out.”