Broken in Oakland

January 9, 2009

I rarely have occasion to walk around the streets of downtown Oakland, mostly because there isn’t a whole lot there. It’s a stretch of office buildings that all feel like they were ripped off the set of Mad Men, complete with elevators that actually have working Door Close buttons. Well, more accurately, it’s a stretch of vacant lots, punctuated with the occasional inhabited office building. It’s kind of depressing – were it more densely populated, I could see it being kind of cool to work in an area that looks like I imagine New York did in the ’60s, but whenever I’ve been there it has looked like a ghost town.

So it was rather unusual that the one time I’ve had to go to downtown Oakland happened to be the day after the BART-shooting-protest-turned-riot. Honestly, though, I had a hard time telling exactly what was due to last night’s events.


I wish I had been there, if only to see how the protest became violent. I can certainly understand how frustration and anger lead to the desire to smash and destroy, but it’s totally stupid to go about demolishing your own hood. That’ll teach them, all right. Next time the rioters ought to bus over to Piedmont and loot the A.G. Ferrari, at least.

Interestingly enough, SFGate notes that several of the “mob” were affiliated with Revolution Books over in Berkeley:

The core group of the mob appeared to be about 40 people, several of whom were with Revolution Books, a Berkeley bookstore. A man distributed the “Revolution” newspaper – whose tagline is “voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, U.S.A.” – as he shouted “This whole damn system is guilty!”

I’ve been there a couple times – there’s a lot of amazing reading material there – but I can’t imagine them to be the kind of guys who go around breaking stuff.

I’m sure there’s a game idea here. Something about replicating the influence of the mob mentality, perhaps. Maybe I’ll think more about it later.

pat m.



  1. i think its so tragic. whatever argument the protest had intended to put forth got buried by the riot when it got violent.

    nobody will take it seriously now. and good people, people who would have sympathized with the kid that got shot, minority shop owners, for example, the same people whose livelihoods got vandalized that night, will think twice about supporting this cause and speaking out against police brutality when the opportunity arises.

    seeing collective action and awareness makes me feel good. i’m happy when folks around me pay attention and urge their friends and family to pay attention when bad shit goes down. but i don’t like it, i feel uncomfortable, when what is supposed to positive, creative, and transformative ends up destructive. i think that hurts everyone.

  2. Living just around the corner from where the riots went down, I can confirm that the primary starters were not Oakland natives- but “Revolutionary-chic” types in fashionable faux bandoliers and black masks.

    After a lot of us began pointing out in the local media about this, there was a counter-attempt with fliers about “POC youth of Oakland Rise Up!”… all using othering language that pretty much finalized that these folks were not Oakland natives.

    All that aside, if you find yourself out this way again sometime, let’s meet up and geek on games.

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