Column: Undercurrents: If They Held an Oakland Event and 30 Got Arrested... by: J. Douglas Allen Taylor
Suppose you heard the news that there were, say, 30 arrests at last weekend’s Dias De Los Muertos celebration in Oakland’s Fruitvale District. There weren’t actually 30 arrests at last weekend’s Dias De Los Muertos celebration, not even any reports of the kinds of problems that might lead to such arrests, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s pretend that there were.
How long do you think it would take before local newspapers, television reporters, Oakland City Councilmembers, somebody in the mayor’s office, and various community leaders would call for something to be done—either severe police restrictions on the event, or outright closing it down?
But let’s not limit the speculation to the Latino-based Los Muertos. Oakland police have been more than eager to try to shut down any Oakland gatherings where there was even the potential for trouble, much less actual arrests. So you would be willing to bet—wouldn’t you?—that an ongoing event that regularly had more than 30 arrests each time it took place would have little, if any, chance of continuing its run in the City of Oakland.
The clever ones amongst you are already saying “not necessarily,” even if you don’t know where we’re actually going with this.
Anyways, we learned last week that there is an ongoing Oakland event that regularly gets away with more than 30 arrests each time it is held, with politicians, police, and the press well aware of the situation, but turning a blind eye.
In an Oct. 27 column entitled “Are Rowdy Fans Sinking Raiders?,” San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius reveals that according to Oakland Police Lt. David Kozicki, the OPD “was probably making 70 arrests per game in years past” at Oakland Raiders games. Mr. Neivus contends that “things are looking up,” however, since the lieutenant says that “now we are down to half of that.” Half of 70 arrests per game is 35 arrests per game, by my unofficial count.
The issue is being noticed by more people than Mr. Nevius.
After 38 people were arrested at the Raiders-Chiefs game in Oakland in September—compared to only three people arrested at a Chiefs-Jets game earlier in the month in Kansas City—reporter Greg Reeves of the Kansas City Star said that OPD Special Events Coordinator Sgt. Tom Hogenmiller told him the problem comes from what Hogenmiller called “one-game wonders that show up and think that to be a Raider fan you’re supposed to act crazy and disrupt other people’s enjoyment. … These are the [people] that come and think they can get stupid. Drink too much. They just act like idiots. Those are the ones that seem to eventually get in trouble.”
The arrests are so commonplace that they have even become running jokes among the Raider fans. In speculating in advance how the Raiders would fare—on the field—against the Chiefs in that same September game, the writer of the Raiders Blog in the Contra Costa Times asked, rhetorically, “Can the Raiders sustain their high-octane offense over a full game this week? Will Chiefs quarterback Trent Green get so much as a grass stain on his jersey? Will the Raiders secondary commit more penalties than it makes tackles? Will the first arrest of the evening come in the Black Hole or in the Kansas City backfield? [my emphasis added].”
(For those of you who don’t follow these things, the “Black Hole” is what Raider fans call the part of the stadium where the most outrageously-dressed fans set up camp during the games. It’s important to note, however, that while Black Hole participants tend to dress up in violent-looking costumes, make a lot of noise, and get the attention of the television cameras, the drunken rowdiness at the stadium is not centered there, but in other parts of the stadium.)
I am not certain if any statistics are kept, or disseminated, on exactly what types of offenses lead to these Raider game arrests. My guess is that no small number of them are for public drunkenness. But there have also been well-publicized incidents in the past of violent assaults on property and on the fans of other teams (Nevius himself recounts the time his own car was vandalized at a game). And, in fact, it is the threat of assaults that has led Oakland Raiders fans to get a reputation around the league and around the nation for celebrating the thug life.
During a national broadcast back east of a Raider game at the Coliseum some years ago, an announcer said that a player was probably going to be assessed a $50 fine by the league for throwing the ball up into the stands during a touchdown celebration. “Heck, for $50, I’d go up in the stands and get the ball back myself!” the second announcer laughed. The first announcer paused a moment, thought about it, and said evenly “Not in those stands.”
That was during the years when the Raiders were first here, before they moved to Los Angeles, and during the period when ticket prices were low enough that many of the fans at the game were actually from Oakland. But since the Raiders returned from Los Angeles 10 years ago, game prices consistently rank in the top three in the league. In 1993, those prices averaged more than $60 apiece, more than a notion for lots of folks in the Fruitvale or West Oakland. And so these days, my guess is that fans actually attending Raider games are more likely to be from the more affluent areas outside of the city—Livermore, Concord, Pleasanton, Hayward, and so forth. A few years ago, Oakland had a rash of people coming in from just such areas dumping truckloads of trash on our streets and in convenient alleyways, presumably using the “moral” justification of the movie gangster Zaluchi, who told his fellow Mafia dons in the Godfather that he intended to keep the drug traffic out of his own neighborhood and restrict it to “the dark people—the colored. They’re animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.”
I’m only guessing, but maybe some Raider fans from outside of the city think it’s OK to come to Oakland and act up at a Raider game—get drunk and assault people, for example—because, after all, that’s what people do in Oakland. Isn’t it? But since we aren’t being told where the arrestees are coming from, we don’t know if this is one of the causes of the problem.
Meanwhile, Mr. Nevius of the Chronicle says that after all these years, the Oakland Raiders management is finally getting the message. Lt. Kozicki, whose duties include both coordinating Coliseum security and suppressing Oakland’s sideshows, interestingly enough, told him that “recently the Raider management has been taking an active role in fan behavior,” And Mr. Nevius quotes Alameda County Board of Supervisors chairperson Gail Steele as saying “I think it is an issue and I think the Raiders are concerned about it. I know for a fact that they are trying to work on it.’’
Does that mean that in order to discourage excessive drinking at the Coliseum, Oakland police are going to begin to make “Operation Impact”-type stops of “random” vehicles leaving the Coliseum on game day and make all of the occupants get out while they check everybody’s ID, smell breaths, and do a visual check on the seats and floorboards for anything that they can charge somebody with? Or is that only allowed while stopping young African-Americans and Latinos along the International Boulevard and MacArthur Boulevard corridors?
In any event, it is interesting to wonder if this type of activity-widespread arrests happening regularly at an ongoing public event-would be tolerated in Oakland so long for any other group than people attending Oakland Raiders games. And if it wouldn’t, then why has it been tolerated for the Raiders?