According to the Oakland Tribune, last Wednesday, a number of men in black suits, white shirts and bow ties vandalized two liquor stores in West Oakland. Starting with San Pablo Market and Liquor, they apparently asked if the proprietors were Muslim before arguing that they shouldn't be selling liquor and then destroying the store. The assailants proceeded around the corner to New York Market and caused further damage. On Monday, New York Market went up in flames.

All of the perpetrators were caught on tape, and due to their distinctive attire, followers of the Nation of Islam or Yusuf Bey's 'Family' were suspected by Oakland authorities. Bey's organization, which popularly operates out of the Your Black Muslim Bakery on San Pablo Avenue, has a history of secrecy and violence, recently lost a scion, and are no longer tied to the Nation of Islam.

Why do we mention our personal experience? Because we've shopped at both the Bey family's bakery (where the delicious baked goods are locally produced, refined-sugar and preservative free) and the San Pablo Market and Liquor during our years in Oakland. Not that we're concerned for our personal safety, necessarily, but we always felt that it was small businesses such as those that were the strongest weaves in the fabric of a community. While alcohol is certainly a scourge among addicts, we doubt localized violence is a solution to the larger, more systemic problem of poverty in Oakland, and worry about the hidden motives of the attackers.