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Oakland Business Owners Support Cause, Despite Damage From Jacob Blake Protest

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- After a night of marching against racial injustice in Oakland, on Thursday morning business owners were cleaning up damage left behind by protesters who turned destructive.

The protests were over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. Thursday morning, some people in downtown Oakland said they have mixed feelings about the damage.

A few business owners were surveying the damage and asking, "Why?"

More than a dozen 12-foot tall plate glass windows were shattered at the Whole Foods Market near Lake Merritt.

The damage added up to a pile of mixed emotions for Whole Foods employee Martin Harris as he cleaned up the broken glass.

"I'm torn, you know? Actually I'm torn," said Harris.

Harris said he was unsure what will happen to his hours and wages for the day, but he understands the anger expressed by the protesters.

"I'm conflicted as a worker, and just as a human and knowing people that need to work. You know, this shuts us down," explained Harris. "But as a black man in this country, seeing somebody get shot seven times in the back. Like, they don't even do that in the street."

The protest Wednesday night started around 8 p.m. with several dozen people gathered at Frank Ogawa Plaza to show solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin.

According to Oakland police, the group grew to 600 to 700 people. At OPD headquarters, protesters were told they had the right to peacefully assemble, but would be arrested for vandalism or any other criminal activity.

Some were carrying tools and began smashing storefronts. Most of the damage was along Clay Street, Lakeshore and Broadway.

Oakland police posted a video on Twitter showing damage at the Alameda County Superior Courthouse on Fallon, where protesters broke down the door and started a fire inside.

Oakland resident Sarena Perez lives nearby. She has been an activist for years.

"So when we see riots like this, we have to really ask ourselves, 'Why are people reacting this way? Why?" People are clearly hurting," said Perez. "And so I think it's important for all of us with more privilege to be able to reach down into the wells of our compassion and be able to stand in solidarity. And this would be a great time for you to come out and say, 'Hey, these lives are not mattering right now. Why don't I get on board with this movement and really show up in a way that honors my morals?'"

Several of the windows at the Mudlab Zero Waste Cafe and Grocery on Grand Avenue were smashed out. Co-owner Jill Holloway said despite the lost revenue and the headaches and cost of dealing with insurance, she's not angry.

"We support the protesters and in standing up for racial equality and racial equity and justice," said Holloway.

As far as the broken glass was concerned, Holloway said, "I mean, I understand why people are doing it. The anger and the frustration that people feel and why you know it comes to this sometimes."

When asked what he would want to tell the protesters, Whole Foods employee Harris said, "Nothing. The same message I got to anybody out here, man. You do what you got to do. You know, it's good to believe in something. Do whatever you think you have to do to make it in this world."

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