I debated whether or not to post some of these photos of last night’s protests in downtown Oakland. I was not able to make the May Day march to the Port of Oakland during the day, but wanted to show support, so I stopped by Frank Ogawa Plaza aka Oscar Grant Plaza after work for an evening gathering. What started out as (and for many people, continued to be) a very peaceful march down Broadway with chants of “Baltimore, we got your back!,” soon erupted into a fiery processional, smashing the windows of big banks, KFC and most of the car dealerships on Auto Row. I’ve had mixed feelings about the use of vandalism and violence in demonstrations, and standing in the center of last night’s activities called even more into question.
To be clear, I believe that in light of the loss of so many innocent lives, anger in any form is completely valid and I cannot judge how it is expressed when it is not my anger. (For a great perspective on this issue, read this: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/nonviolence-as-compliance/391640/.) In fact, I can’t think of a reaction that would begin to equal the weight of what has been lost with the murder of so many young black men by police officers. But when I watched a predominantly white crowd smash windows and spray paint anarchy signs and “All lives matter” on storefronts, I couldn’t help but wonder if some people weren’t co-opting the #Blacklivesmatter movement as an excuse to, well, tear shit up (I mean, look at our track record: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/11/white-people-rioting-for-no-reason.html)
I have to admit that the raw pain, anger and energy I felt last night was moving in a way I didn’t expect. It reminded me that revolution is a messy but necessary process. When the system itself is corrupt, revolution is the only answer. But show me a revolution that didn’t involve bloodshed. The dominant power wants to stay in power and they won’t give it up without a fight. I know fires and broken windows are scary, but they pale in comparison to lost lives and quite frankly, I can’t imagine anything scarier than being a black man in America right now. If only people got as up at arms about broken spines as they do about broken windows. #Blacklivesmatter #Baltimore
If you’re a photographer and you want to do something, check out: www.wecopwatch.org