Oakland liquor stores under siege
A MAN was caught on a surveillance camera at San Pablo Market and Liquor in West Oakland as he broke glass refrigerator doors with metal bars.
The men warned the store clerks to stop selling alcohol to African Americans, but they also knocked over display racks containing bread and other food items. Then, almost as quickly as they arrived, they all filed out and headed to another West Oakland liquor store, New York Market at Market and 35th streets, where they did the same thing.
Although the men did not identify themselves as Black Muslims or members of the Nation of Islam, police suspect that's who was behind the attacks, based on the attackers' attire.
"There was no warning. They never came in before," Saleh said Thursday morning.
He had cleaned up the broken glass, but a pool of liquid still dripped from inside the taped-up refrigerator cases, and the entire floor inside the bright corner store was sticky.
Abdul Saleh owner of San Pablo Liquor store in Oakland shows bottles of liquor broken by the Black Muslims on Wednesday night.
cognac were on the floor, waiting for someone to rinse them off and make sure they weren't broken.
"It makes me nervous. It's scary. They say, 'We will be back.' If the city of Oakland can't protect us, or a security guard, what can they do with 12 or 13 people? I'm worried for my employees. I'm worried for my son's safety and my own safety. I am supporting two families from this place, 30 people."
At New York Market, a busy corner store that offers fortified beer and wine but no hard liquor, the owner, Tony, who just took control of the store three months ago and did not want to use his last name, said the group was targeting alcohol when it should be after drugs.
"Before they talk about alcohol, they should talk about all the drugs and heroin on the street," he said.
His cousin was minding the store when the men came in at 11:40 p.m. At one point, his cousin reached for a shotgun behind the counter, but the men took it away from him, Tony said.
"I'm not worried. Let them come back," he said. "I'm not chokin' nobody, telling them to buy alcohol."
He might not be worried, but other market owners are.
One owner, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal, said he was scared, and he compared what happened to a terrorist attack.
"It's worse than al-Qaida," he said. "They run into people's stores like that, anything can happen. Somebody is going to get hurt. When that happens, you don't know what your reaction is going to be. It's like somebody running into your house.
"We have to protect ourselves by any means necessary. If the police don't protect us, who will help us? They could do that to every store."
Representatives from Oakland's Black Muslim community did not return a phone call about the incident.
Oakland's Deputy Chief Howard Jordan said police are very concerned and have ordered extra patrols in the area to try to protect the stores.
Jordan said they are investigating the incidents as hate crimes because most of the stores are owned and operated by Arabs or Arab Americans, and the suspects are telling them not to sell liquor to African Americans.
"It's vandalism and terrorism," he said. "We're characterizing it as a hate crime and actively pursuing all leads."
Jordan said the department is concerned about how widespread the attacks could become, especially with the large number of liquor stores in East and West Oakland, most located within African-American communities. The suspects did not attempt to hide their identities.
"We don't know if more are planned or this was an isolated incident," Jordan said. "We are looking at all the possibilities. If there are any trends, our intelligence units will track it nationwide."
He said he also is worried about people getting hurt or killed in an attempt to protect themselves and their property.
"We're not going to tell (the store owners) to arm themselves, but if it happens, it's a big concern," Jordan said. "We could have victims all over Oakland."
Anyone with information about the attacks is asked to call police at (510) 238-3426 or (510) 238-6946. A reward of up to $2,000 is being offered in each case.