It’s been building for a while, this feeling that the world is ours. Hard to say exactly when it started, but we’ll just declare the summer of 2020 is when it cracked wide open, for everyone. There were protests, marching in the street, waiting for jury verdicts, but then there was also looting, lots of looting. In fact, there was way more looting than symbolic protests, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Originally published by The Transmetropolitan Review.
As we chronicled last year, there were no protests the night Joe Biden was elected president of the US. Even though he’s a rapist, racist, and lunatic just like Trump, no one took the streets to symbolically protest his election. Instead, hundreds of people got inside stolen cars and looted numerous businesses across the Bay Area. One person was killed during this looting spree, a young father named Jonathan Torres Ramirez who was shot by the Oakland Police Department, cut-down at the age of 20 while robbing an indoor weed-grow. At the time of this writing, not a single cop has been punished for this murder, at least not by the state.
Few people in the Bay Area remember Jonathan Torres Ramirez aside from his family and the thousands of others who risk their lives stealing from the wealthy. As 2020 passed into the memory hole and 2021 roared it’s beastly head, the diffuse looting continued week by week, month by month, gathering momentum and international headlines.
Millions of people across the world watched the infamous video of a man biking into a Walgreens, stealing hygiene products, and then coasting out, basically unobstructed. It’s not clear why this video went viral and not the one of a small mob looting the Louis Vuitton in Palo Alto on the afternoon of June 7, 2021. In this video, the security guard does nothing but film with his phone as people steal 100K worth of handbags just miles from the shiny Facebook global headquarters. No one was ever apprehended. This was the second such robbery that month in Palo Alto, and the pattern only continued across the Bay Area.
This crimewave wasn’t without consequences, often lethal. One tragic event took place on Fruitvale Avenue, just down the hill from the Oakland mayor’s cushy pad. For as yet unknown reasons, a white male FBI agent murdered 31 year-old Jonathan Cortez inside the Upstairs Underground corner store. He was buying a snack when the white FBI agent stormed in and executed him on September 13, 2021. Jonathan was well-liked and well-loved in the neighborhood, and his murder ratcheted up long-boiling tensions against law enforcement.
Another tragic incident occurred near Downtown Oakland, just off the freeway in a well-known Chevron gas station. A retired killer-cop, infamous for gunning down young men and now a weed entrepreneur, had just pulled into the station on October 21 when four young men tried to rob him. After the robbers had turned to run, the ex-OPD shot one of them in the back, killing him. Rather than question this psychopath’s reaction to being a punk-ass little mark, the state and media howled for the blood of the accomplices, eventually tracking them down in Sacramento and Houston. All of this created a lot of anger against OPD.
Meanwhile, years of being run over and shot at by fascists had taken its toll on US protest culture and 2021 saw very few marches on the Bay Area streets, none of them as militant as last summer’s. Instead, the power of the diffuse guerrilla army, the Great Sideshow Army, has grown exponentially as traditional protest culture retreats behind street barricades and armed self-defense, the only options when faced with lethal violence. From afar, it would appear that the long-feared civil conflict is already well underway, and it recently escalated after the verdict on Kyle Rittenhouse was televised across the US.
Biden publicly supported the jury’s decision that Rittenhouse gunned down two white antifascists in self-defense, a verdict with heavy and undeniable implications for US protest culture. Basically, it’s a green-light for fascists to invade targeted communities and shoot whoever takes the streets against them. On the day this reality was made clear, a massive crime wave spread across the Bay Area, more extensive and violent than last year’s.
It started on the night of Friday, November 19, 2021, just hours after the verdict was announced. First they hit Union Square, the tourist shopping district of San Francisco, and within minutes the Louis Vuitton had been cleared-out, along with the Yves Saint-Laurent, Burberry, and Bloomingdale’s, among other shops. Using stolen cars without plates, dozens of people got away with nearly a million dollars in merchandise, although nine people were arrested that night, all of them facing months or years in jail or prison. Meanwhile, across the bay in Oakland, the OPD erected barricades around the headquarters only to face a calm night and a minor street march to the Federal Building.
The ruling class of the Bay Area was thrown into a panic by this brazen attack on Union Square, especially after the high-profile Getty wedding where the family’s oil wealth was openly displayed to the peons. Trembling in their boots, the authorities turned Union Square into a fortress that night, complete with a police observation tower and barricades, but obviously no one was dumb enough to hit the same spot twice. Everyone just shifted their attention inland. The next night, Saturday, November 20, the guerrilla army hit Oakland, and they hit it hard after the OPD killed a car thief during a shootout that afternoon.
There was a giant sideshow on MacArthur in Deep East Oakland while people hit indoor weed-grows near the airport and West Oakland, making off with tens of thousands of dollars in product. Unfortunately, some sort of conflict led to a shootout between crews, leaving one person wounded by gunfire outside one of the looted indoor weed-grows.
Thankfully, this person lived to see another day, unlike the car thief murdered by OPD that afternoon. It was likely this thief was preparing for a night of looting, and he died after a gun battle with the cops that took place in the upscale Rockridge neighborhood during the holiday shopping season. There is little information on this person, and their murder has been all but covered up, another victim in this low-level guerrilla war against capitalism.
While all of this was going on, dozens of people in stolen cars raided the Nordstrom’s in unguarded Walnut Creek, speeding off with 200K in merchandise. Three people were arrested out there, an 18 year-old from Oakland and two 30 year-olds from San Francisco. Away from all of this, other crews hit a high-end pharmacy near the Oakland/Piedmont border, also making off with thousands in pharmaceuticals.
The crimewave continued the next day, November 21, this time travelling south to Hayward where dozens of people raided a jewelry store in the Southland Mall. The action continued even further south in San Jose where a high-end Lululemon was pillaged. In a surprise twist, crews hit Oakland again, this time descending on the Walgreen’s on High Street before fleeing on the nearby freeway. On the opposite end of town, another crew robbed a weed-grow near the airport, this time getting into a gun-battle with the security, who chose to risk their lives to defend their boss’s property. One person was wounded in this battle, although little is known about their condition, let alone their name.
Later that Sunday, a celebratory sideshow took place at the corner of 14th and Peralta in West Oakland, the famous corner where the show Blindspotting recently filmed its first season. In this spectacular representation of Oakland, the sideshow is openly celebrated as an expression of joy amid an otherwise bleak reality, and it was no different on the night of November 20, although unlike the television show, an OPD helicopter arrived to chase everyone away. No matter how many times it circled, the sideshow continued to burn rubber, and to make matters clear, someone shot a firework mortar at the helicopter, chasing it away.
The crimewave continued the next day, from Pleasanton in the south to San Leandro in the north, but the most serious incident occurred in Deep East Oakland. Another crew robbed a weed grow on MacArthur, but this time when the OPD showed up, one of the crew sprayed a police cruiser with bullets before getting away in their stolen vehicle. This was quite the message to the police, especially after everything you’ve just read, and if anything, the attack was downplayed by the media for fear of emboldening others.
We could continue this linear narrative, given the crimewave still hasn’t ended, nor will it, at least until capitalism is destroyed. For example, we could write about the robbing of an Apple Store on November 24, this time far to the north in Santa Rosa. We could go on for pages about how this is also happening in the Los Angeles and Chicago metropolitan areas, but we will wrap it up here, with the implications clear. This anti-political crimewave is now being politicized by the California governor and the media, with the mayor of Oakland calling for more police and the San Francisco DA promising to prosecute the nine arrested in his jurisdiction. This is what the breakdown of modern capitalism looks like, and on the weekend of the Rittenhouse verdict, a guerrilla army truly struck fear into the collapsing order.
Remember Kids, No Face, No Plates, No Case!
Let 10, 100, 1000 Bonnot Gangs Blossom!
Long Live Anarchy!