"Just a few ticks short of panic." That's how a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle described the mass exodus of workers from Oakland yesterday when word came down that the Mehserle trial verdict would be read at 4 p.m.
I'd say he got that description spot on. I was at 11th and Broadway. At about 2:45, we got the notification from the landlord that the jury had reached a decision and that it would be announced between 4:30 and 5. A quick check of various news sources had us realizing that it was, in fact, going to happen at 4.
It felt much like right after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. Only it wasn't in reaction to the damage caused by the earthquake or how we stood under doorways as items fell and the 26-story office building I was in swayed and a crack opened and closed to the outside.
No, this feeling was one of fear of the damage that might be caused in the future. It was the fear of being stuck in Oakland if the verdict wasn't deemed "correct" by the people who hold the power in situations like that. Who are those people? The kind who like to congregate where protests happen but who aren't really vested in any way to the protesters or the issue being protested.
Looters. Criminals. Assholes. Low-lifes. Scumbags who take advantage of a situation to "get what's theirs" or "to show the Man."
By 3:02, I was on my way down the packed elevator into the packed garage onto the packed surface streets onto the packed freeway to get the hell out of Oakland.
It felt a lot like when we fled the destruction caused by the earthquake and the fires. Only I was fleeing something that couldn't be seen, and I was hoping I'd be gone before anything could happen.
[Photo courtesy Michael Macor, San Francisco Chronicle.]