Protesters damage Obama Oakland office

Demian Bulwa – S. F. Chronicle
Saturday, August 4, 2012

Protesters smashed a large window at President Obama’s re-election campaign office in downtown Oakland late Friday night, tore down a nearby fence and vandalized cars, according to police, witnesses and video footage.

Staffers and volunteers were inside the Organizing for America office at 1714 Telegraph Ave. when it was vandalized after 9 p.m., but no one was hurt, said a staffer who declined to be identified. The office is a joint effort of the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

When the window was broken, well over 100 people had joined what began as a rally against the city’s handling of growing crowds at the first-Friday-of-the-month event called Art Murmur, a gallery crawl centered in the Uptown arts district from 6 to 9 p.m.

Protesters – who included Occupy Oakland activists – said the city was cracking down on vendors and performers who came into the neighborhood during the gallery crawl without permits. Until June, the galleries had closed down a block of 23rd Street, but the approach got too expensive and hectic.

Danielle Fox, who directs Art Murmur and owns a gallery called Slate Contemporary, said of the vandalism: “It’s very unfortunate and we’re very concerned, because our commitment is that when people come to visit the galleries, they should have a safe and positive cultural experience.”

City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente said the frequency of vandalism at downtown protests was “unacceptable” and hurt restaurants and other businesses.

“It’s continuing to be bad publicity for us and the merchants trying to revitalize downtown,” he said. “Art Murmur is something that is getting bigger and becoming a destination for people. Obviously, this is something that is not good for the city.”

The vandalism happened a little more than a day after someone damaged two Oakland police cars near City Hall and attempted to break a window at a police station early Thursday.

A group calling itself the East Bay Uncontrollables said it was responsible for the attack and called it a reaction to a federal investigation into anarchist activity.

Lauren Smith, a 30-year-old activist, said the goal of Friday’s demonstration was to “create a space where people could have their social gatherings without asking permission from the city and the police department.”

She said she was not at the rally but watched it live online. She said she did not agree with vandalizing cars, but that the window-smashing at the campaign office was justified.

“People feel betrayed by Obama. … I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before now,” she said. “Oakland is a place where people are really struggling. When the pressure is released just a little bit, you see people go after those things that they see as responsible for the conditions.”