photo copyright by Oakland North
by Anthony Beron
As Mack freshman Desiree Gamble embarked on an exciting stroll and party night at First Friday, trotting off the AC Transit bus near Telegraph, it seemed to be a normal, festive night. The music was loud and the street vendors, out en masse, were selling a variety of hats, T-shirts and CDs.
But within minutes, the seemingly smooth and charismatic night went haywire. A confrontation on Telegraph and 20th led to the fatal shooting of Oakland high school student Kiante Campbell, 18. Three people were left wounded and many, including students at McClymonds, were emotionally distraught.
“After I had got off the bus, I heard the sound of gun shots coming from Art Murmur; then I went home right afterwards,” Gamble said. Others ran, too.
As a result of the shooting and bad publicity for the event and for Oakland, the city is planning to reign in the festivities on March 1, the next First Friday. Neon green shirts with “Respect My City” will be sold and given away to teens who sign a peace pledge, in an anti-violence campaign.
Will McClymonds students flock to First Friday after the violence? “I’m definitely going again,” said sophomore William Gray, who was at 17th and Broadway leaving Youth Radio before the shooting.
“We go to talk to girls,” he said, describing the scene as friendly, where East Oakland teens can meet West Oakland teens in what is usually a ‘neutral’ environment.
“Downtown is usually a neutral area because nobody owns it,” he said, “except the Oakland police.”
On March 1, the focus will be on art and healing, with a moment of silence in memory of Campbell. Fewer city blocks will be closed to traffic and there will be more security and no public drinking allowed, Sean Maher, mayor Jean Quan’s communications manager told reporters after a meeting. “It’s going to be a smaller and more low key event.” The event usually attracts about 10,000 to 15,000 people and has been a boon to Oakland’s economy.
The idea of adding police for an event like First Friday has angered some community leaders, who criticized the idea of taking police away from neighborhoods, where people also need protection and security.
A memorial service was held for Campbell on Febuary 7. Donald Parks, 19, was charged with six counts of assault with a semi-automatic firearm and one count each of carrying a concealed weapon and carrying a loaded firearm.