I walked home through what I am told was a riot scene last night. Fortunately this was a bit of an exaggeration. Moderate civil unrest describes it better. Still, I have to say that I deeply resent having to do this.
Here is what happened:
On New Years day, at two in the morning, a BART police officer shot an unarmed man in the back while the latter was lying on the ground. As far as I’m concerned, this is all that really needs to be known. If it was an accident, it is the result of either inadequate staff stretched too thin or professional incompetence on the part of the officer. If intentional, it reflects cowardice of epic proportion if not utter contempt for human life and the community the officer was sworn to protect.
The news report takes a particular angle that manages to avoid the real issues behind the unrest. This is in no sense an isolated incident. Both BART police and OPD have demonstrated, over years if not decades, that they view citizens as targets, particularly the ones with brown skin. Living here, this is as obvious as a train delay that BART takes fifteen minutes to announce.
My issue is this: I have to live here too. When things like this happen, I become a convenient screen onto which people can project their frustration. This is simple human psychology. I do not appreciate potentially having a bullseye painted on my back due to the actions of criminally inept public servants.
If Alameda District Attorney Tom Orloff does not prosecute the officer in question to the full extent of the law, he should not be re-elected next term. In his place should be a candidate that will address the utter contempt in which OPD and BART police hold the citizens of Oakland and the repercussions of said. Assuming that a person with actual democratic values ever runs for District Attorney, a proposition about which I have little confidence.
In any case, I will not forget this come election time, and will do what I can to make sure it is remembered.