OAKLAND -- Over 200 Oakland business owners who are fed up with crime in the city participated in a one-day strike Tuesday to bring attention to what they call lack of action from officials.
With fear of crime at an all-time high in Oakland, many residents were shocked to learn earlier this month that
On Tuesday, businesses across Oakland kept their doors closed as a protest of what they see as a lack of concern about safety coming from City Hall.
The anger over crime spilled out into Clay Street as members of Oakland's business community expressed their outrage over the lawlessness that has gripped the city in recent months. More than 200 businesses shut their doors between 10 a.m. and noon in protest.
An angry press conference was staged in front of Le Cheval Restaurant,
"People get robbed at all these businesses all around Oakland," said Yemeni Association President Ahmed Dobashi. "If you looked at Richmond, there is nothing like that! It's only Oakland! If there is something wrong in Oakland, they need to fix it, because it's really bad."
"Without basic safety, there is no business," said Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce leader Dr. Jennifer Tran. "Without basic safety, there is no community. Without safety, there is no city. Without basic safety, there is only chaos."
Just across the street, chaos has become business as usual for Raj Gotame, the owner of Annapurna Restaurant. He showed video of his business being broken into on Sunday.
"The door was broken. The glass was broken. The cash register was stolen. They have taken everything," said Gotame.
It wasn't the first time. Six months ago, his doors and windows were shattered three times in one week. He said when he calls police, it takes hours for them to show up.
Derreck Johnson owns a landmark in Jack London Square, the Home of Chicken and Waffles, where he said an entire party was recently robbed of their jewelry out on the sidewalk.
"We have to do something," Johnson said. "Because after 20 years of business, this is first time I'm ever shaking my head, like, 'Dude, is this even worth it if I stay open or not?' And I stay open because we employ people...and it's hard."
These were not wealthy, white people trying to protect their privilege, as some might have people believe. They were people of color, who understand the reality of police abuse, but are also the most frequent victims of crime.
"These are Black-owned businesses that are being vandalized and terrorized," said restaurant owner Nigel Jones. "And we're saying we need protection. So how do we do that in a balanced way? That's the argument we're having. And not this polarized, 'Oh, you can't do anything.'"
No one could say for sure what will work, but they insisted that what's being done now isn't. That's why Oakland letting so much money slip away the recent botched application for state funds to fight retail theft -- for whatever reason -- was such a powerful example to them of everything that's going wrong.
"Even if it was an accident, and they let that deadline pass. That says to me that they don't care," said community activist Alex U. Inn. "That there is no urgency with what's going on."
Some are calling for Mayor Sheng Thao to declare a state of emergency in the city. Two weeks ago, she dismissed that idea...
"I mean, let's just call it for what it is. It's just political theater," she said.
But what's occurring in Oakland is rapidly becoming a Greek tragedy. And the business owners say something has to happen soon, before the curtain comes down on all of them.
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