The boarding up of a city
The rest of this essay consists of photos showing what downtown Oakland looks like on the verge of a riot.
In some areas of downtown, entire city blocks are boarded up.
Big retailers with lootable merchandise are among the most nervous. The largest stores had to cover up (at great expense) long façades ahead of time, while still trying to run their businesses normally.
In case you might think that these stores are boarded up not because they fear a riot but instead because they’re actually out of business … you can see here that the Men’s Wearhouse in the above photo is still open to customers, behind the plywood façade.
In fact all sorts of storefronts which at first glance look “out of business” are actually still open as normal…
…but are hunkered down behind anti-riot measures.
Everyone’s affected, from banks…
…to health spas…
…and office buildings.
…and national chains.
Not all the anti-riot measures were equally effective. This building was so big, the owners settled for just covering the bottom halves of the lower windows.
And this cash-strapped barbershop had to make do with cardboard instead of plywood.
I found it interesting that the adjacent barbershop still had up signs apparently left over from the aftermath of 9/11, when many immigrant-owned businesses placed patriotic signs in their windows to defuse the anti-foreigner violence which never materialized despite numerous predictions in the media. Hopefully the cardboard won’t stay up as long as the “Proud to be American” poster, and hopefully this current threat of rioting and violence will also never materialize.
In fact, many businesses, particularly in Oakland’s Chinatown (which is adjacent to downtown), are attempting to use mass psychology to sidestep the rioters and looters, by not using plywood but instead placing Oscar Grant posters on their façades and windows. The intent seems to be to convince the rioters that the business is sympathetic to their cause, and thus ought to be immune to looting. Will it work? If not, the smell of durian should drive the rioters away.
Another tactic to avoid the wrath of the crowd is to adorn businesses with posters pleading for peace and nonviolence.
“We’re on your side! Please don’t smash up our restaurant!”
This Chinatown restaurant is taking no chances and trying both tactics simultaneously — Oscar posters and plywood at the ready, in case Oscar doesn’t work.
Even the city government has put up signs pleading with the rioters — or so it seems. Actually, these pleas have been up for quite some time and are just there on general principle, and have nothing to do with the riot specifically.
As documented in my previous report, nearby Lake Merritt was recently festooned with bloodthirsty graffiti calling for the death of Jonannes Mehserle, his child…
…and other police officers.
Meanwhile, over in Berkeley, overtly inflammatory posters have been plastered on fences and construction sites, trying to not only foment a riot over Oscar Grant but also turn it into an immigration riot as well.
These stickers have also cropped up around Berkeley, showing the logo of the Berkeley Police (and/or the UC Police, both of which are seven-pointed stars) transformed into a pig’s face. Anti-police sentiment is high around here!
Back in Oakland, the wall of one entire building was covered with anarchist poster art and a gigantic Oscar.
The “mural” featured a nearly life-sized rendition of riot cops and a burning car.
Not to worry, though — Sunny Relax!
There were so many Oscar Grant posters on so many windows, after a while it was like a game of Where’s Waldo? Can you spot the four Oscars in this scene?
In the middle of all this, I encountered the Cannabis Cruiser…
…which you can take to have an Oscar-themed Happy Burrito.
Oscar and Obama — together at last.
The last six pictures are presented without captions: Scenes from a boarded-up city, awaiting its grim fate: