Friday, March 27, 2009
Meanwhile, Back in My World
This is what it feels like in Oakland today: Like it’s going to take divine intervention to turn things around.
I love Oakland, but it’s a rough time to be in the city. In January, BART police shot an unarmed man to death on the platform of the BART station closest to my house. Now a fugitive parolee has managed to kill four police officers single-handedly before dying in a standoff.
These killings took place around MacArthur Boulevard, a very long street that cuts through many neighborhoods, my own included. I haven’t gotten as far east as 75th Avenue on my walking tour yet, but yesterday I decided to jump ahead a little bit. I usually like to finish one neighborhood before moving on to another, but I wanted to see what was going on in this part of the town that has been in the news lately.
MacArthur Boulevard in Eastmont didn’t look all that different from the way it does near my house. There’s a big cemetery, which feels peaceful. But on the side streets, most yards have chain-link fences and big dogs.
The most remarkable aspect to the neighborhood right now is that there are several shrines set up to honor those who recently died. On two corners at the intersection of 75th and MacArthur there are floral tributes to the four officers. And on 75th Avenue, in front of an apartment building (I think the one where the suspect and the last two officers died) there is a memorial for the cop killer.
This disturbed me because I don’t see any way to paint this particular incident as an example of police brutality. Plus, the killer, with a long rap sheet and DNA evidence linking him to the rape of a 12-year-old girl, is a hard guy to feel sympathy for. Still, as the signs on the avenue attest, he was someone to somebody—quite a few people, actually. That gave me something to think about as I walked back toward my own, quieter strip of MacArthur.