Newly elected Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and her police chief Sean Whent admitted in a press conference Saturday that they weren't exactly prepared for the level of destruction that was wrought around downtown and particularly on Broadway/Auto Row during Friday's May Day protests and subsequent mayhem. As the Chronicle reports, Schaaf admitted to reporters and business owners, "we did not do as good of a job as we should have protecting property," and Whent said that the roving band of vandals turned out to be "angrier than we expected." As a result, the Oakland PD didn't call for backup officers from neighboring jurisdictions until far too late, at 8:44 p.m., after some of the worst destruction had already begun.
Police arrested 12 people for various offenses, including vandalism and refusing to disperse, and they say that using surveillance footage they may still make more arrests.
But this isn't much of a comfort to the business owners who are still cleaning up, including a Hyundai dealership that had 62 vehicles smashed, and one set on fire you can hear and sort of see some of that destruction happening in this Twitter video below posted by Occupy Oakland.
It seems kind of crazy, actually, that the OPD was caught by surprise by this given the recent history of protest days in Oakland which have, basically by tradition at this point, always devolved into petty vandalism and sometimes looting after dark. The inspiration of the recent riots in Baltimore, and the death of Freddie Gray, only further fueled the mayhem.
Schaaf likely did not want to be criticized, as her predecessor Jean Quan was during the outset of the Occupy protests, for mishandling events like these, trying to squash protest, and being too heavy-handed with the police response. But in doing the opposite, she ends up in a damned-if-you-don't situation with Oakland residents and property owners who feel like the initial hands-off approach on Friday was the doing of City Hall.
As ABC 7 reports in the segment below, Schaaf said the vandals were "cowardly people who use the cloak of night, and large crowds, to commit this type of vandalism." Also, you can see footage of the Hyundai that was burned completely, and the dealership owner saying that there was at least a half million dollars in damage.
It's also unfortunate because, as with the Ferguson-related protests that happened in Oakland in December, the arrests, vandalism and property damage end up dominating the news coverage, rather than the message that was being expressed by the majority of the protesters who weren't committing any crimes.