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You Tell Us: Stop the fear – Oakland will be just fine

on July 1, 2010

Soon we will all know the fate of Johannes Mehserle.  He will be convicted or acquitted as the jury sees fit.  We will also know whether this prompts people to lawfully and peacefully protest the verdict, as they have the right to do under our Constitution, or if they engage in unlawful riots, harm innocent people, and destroy private property.  If it is the latter, our police department will handle it because that is what they do.

One thing for sure is that Oakland’s 420,000 residents will go on with their lives in the days following the trial, the verdict, and whatever protests that may occur.  They will continue to live peaceful and productive lives, working, playing, raising their families, and enjoying one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.

Even if the dire forecasts of violence prove true, will that be the story of Oakland?  No, that will be the story of a small segment of our population who commit crimes and engage in unlawful conduct whether it is hot or cold, sunny or raining, night or day, with or without an excuse or justification. If violence occurs, like before, it will also be the story of outside anarchists from our neighboring professional protestor incubation cities. And again, our police department and the other 99.95 percent of the residents and business people of this city will handle it because that is what we do.

It is always wise to acknowledge potential danger and take steps to protect ourselves.  But the frenzy of reports about chaos and lawlessness has risen to the point where it seems to encourage the trouble we all hope will not occur.

The killing of Oscar Grant was a tragedy to be sure. So, too, is the apparent surrender to the inevitability of violence and lawlessness in our city. I am sick and tired of non-stop stories that suggest that everyone in the city is afraid. It is not true.

It is time for all of us to stand together and show leadership. We are grown-ups and we are in charge. Here is the message:

“We will honor the right of people to express their support or displeasure with whatever verdict comes out of the jury. At the same time, we will protect the residents and businesses of this great city.  Violence will not be tolerated and if it occurs, those who are responsible will face stiff consequences.”

The sun will rise tomorrow and all the days that follow. Oakland’s 420,000 residents and the businesses that invest in this city will be fine. We have resources and the will to make sure that public safety is maintained.

It is one thing to be on guard and prepare for problems. It is quite another to run scared. Stop the fear-mongering. ­ Oakland will be just fine.


Gregory McConnell is the president and CEO of Oakland’s Jobs and Housing Coalition.


You Tell Us is Oakland North’s new community Op-Ed page, featuring opinion pieces submitted by readers on Oakland-related topics. Have something to say? Send essays of 500-1,000 words to We’d love to hear from you!

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  1. […] People « You Tell Us: Stop the fear – Oakland will be just fine […]

  2. Chris Weidenbach on July 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Good message, Gregory. Oaklanders who are concerned about potential riots ought to plan to get to Ogawa Plaza promptly after the verdict and participate in the demonstration. We can be the demonstrators, rather than fearing the demonstrators. I plan to be there, lawfully, humanely, sensibly, and with the utmost seriousness. Let’s make it a peaceful demonstration, by ourselves. –And yes, if some people get stupid, let’s not let that side-story overwhelm the story of a community standing together to look out for one another.

  3. Jenni on July 2, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    I agree with the message about stopping the fearmongering. Sure, take reasonable precautions, but we are all citizens of Oakland.

  4. Tim Anderson on July 9, 2010 at 10:18 am

    And we are all fine! The thousands of peaceful protesters downtown couldn’t be incited by the roaming band of hooligans or the media. I love the people of Oakland!!!

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