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Oakland Police Make Effort To Shut Down Destructive Sideshows

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- Over 50 extra police officers are being deployed across the city of Oakland on Sunday evening as part of a new zero-tolerance approach to destructive sideshows.

The officers will be out citing and towing the cars of reckless drivers.

During a sideshow last weekend, one in which participants set a semi-truck and an AC Transit bus on fire, officers said they heard dozens of rounds of gunfire as a thousand people packed the intersection of 42nd Ave. and International Blvd.

Oakland Police Officers Increase Presence To Stop Sideshows (CBS)
Extra Oakland police officers roll out on motorcycles in an effort to stifle sideshows (CBS)

"We have a large group of people from outside the city of Oakland, from as far away as Sacramento, Stockton and other cities who come here specifically to, essentially, illegal activity. It's not even sideshow, but absolutely unlawful activity," said Captain Randy Wingate of the Oakland Police Department.

Police said the side show last weekend was one of the most destructive and violent sideshows in Oakland history. They said stopping the illegal car shows is now a top priority across the city.

Last week, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf announced the formation of a task force to look at other ways to cut down on side show activity. One option is installing big planters or some type of bumps on the road in  intersections known for sideshows.

The sideshow culture of Oakland hasn't always been this way, but officials say that the culture has changed and has become increasingly more violent.

"There's a difference between what sideshow means to people, and what it historically was...and what it has become," said Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff's Department.

In the 1980's, sideshows wouldn't take over intersections like they do now. They were often in empty parking lots with people just showing off their cars.

"What sideshow has become is a completely lawless event that's going to result in serious injury or death to people if we do not stop it," said Kelly.

Yakpasua Zazaboi, who makes documentaries about sideshows, is raising money to take sideshows out of the streets of Oakland and into controlled venues where people will buy tickets to see them, much like monster truck shows.

"There is an alternative venue. There's a huge, huge swatch of concrete and surface area called the parking lot at the Oakland Coliseum. Let's not fool ourselves into thinking there's no space for this," said Zazaboi.

When asked why he thought that the move hasn't happened already, Zazaboi said it was "because of politics."

"Most of the people that come out to sideshows come to have fun. They come to see each other as a social type of an event. If you get a couple of bad actors out there that are wrecking it for the majority of people, you go after the bad actors. But don't criminalize the entire culture," said Zazaboi.

Oakland city councilmember Noel Gallo, who represents the area impacted by last weekend's sideshow, is also attributing a lot of the damage at sideshows to the out-of-towners who have been coming to the city.

"I don't need some characters coming from outside of Oakland and those that are coming to Oakland to do some stupid things in my streets," said Gallo.

RELATED: Taking Back Their Streets; Makeshift Cleanup Crew Bags Up Oakland Sideshow Trash

Gallo was also upset when he heard Warriors star Stephen Curry is releasing a new colorway of his Curry 6 signature shoe called the "Sideshow Colorway."

"The only one they're hurting, they're not hurting Steph Curry, they're hurting me, my family, and my neighbors. If Steph Curry really wants to do that, take them to where he lives, and I guarantee you they won't even let them get close," said Gallo.

In a statement promoting the new shoe, Curry said, "I was determined to bring my love of cars and pay homage to the "sideshow" culture here--the spectacle that it is-- that's all Oakland. I wanted to bring that story to life and pay respects to the car lovers out there."

Police impounded a motorcycle that they said was doing stunts on an East Oakland street. They arrested the driver right after.

"Driving erratic, driving on the sidewalk, driving at high speeds, not obeying traffic laws," said Felicia Aisthorpe of OPD.

So far this Easter weekend, there have been no reports of any sideshows, likely indicating that the increased police presence has worked for the time being.

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