“Frustration, Disappointment, Disgust” Emeryville Community Reacts to City’s May 30 Looting

6 mins read

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since our city experienced a wave of orchestrated looting in the wake of protests over the Minneapolis Police killing of George Floyd. Much of Emeryville remains pockmarked with plywood covering broken windows scattered around all four shopping centers and small businesses along San Pablo Avenue.

Its been a time for Emeryville residents to do a bit of self-reflection, to assess why this happened to our city, listen to other perspectives and determine where we go from here.

Black & White Liquor was among the businesses on San Pablo Avenue that suffered from the looting.
Black & White Liquors was among the businesses on San Pablo Ave that was looted on May 30.

But what happened in Emeryville was different than the civil unrest experienced in other parts of the area and country. By all accounts, this wasn’t a spontaneous act fueled by a mix of anger and opportunism, but more like a tactical operation conducted by criminal rings. “They have scouts. They have caravans of cars,” recently retired EPD Chief Jennifer Tejada told the International Business Times. “We had upwards of 1,000 people doing that.”

Still, some consider looting “an act of protest” and the expression of rage of a generation that has been historically repressed and subjected to institutional or “systemic” racism. Some have justified this looting as a form of reappropriation and deserved. This Daily Kos story attempted to distinguish the difference between protesters and the looting that occurred.

Twitter Reaction: A Reckoning for Our City?

Some of the loudest, angriest voices were not surprisingly on Twitter known for its professional trolls, divisive commentary and fostering political echo chambers.

Some of the most retweeted comments pointed out Emeryville’s 1924 Ohlone Shellmound destruction, our city’s affinity for “big box” retail and willful participation in capitalism as justification for this looting. That this was a form of “reckoning” for Emeryville’s past and current sins.

“Emeryville is a neoliberal hellscape of big box corporations that go there for the tax break” described Twitter user Allie L. who is a co-chair of the East Bay DSA (Democratic Socialists of America). Another verified user even asked the looters to “grab her some AirPods at Bay Street.”

One POC voice who identified herself as a resident of Emeryville, expressed fear during the looting and that this was not an act of protest but “people are literally just breaking into businesses.” The user was shouted down by other Twitter users and ended up deleting her tweet and clarifying her stance.



Small Business Reaction: Where was the Warning?

While most of the looting was centered around our city’s four shopping centers, small businesses, particularly around San Pablo Avenue, were not spared.

Some businesses expressed dismay of the city’s lack of warning provided. The E’ville Eye was alerted to online chatter about the threat the night prior and was provided a resident tip around 1 p.m. from a property management company. We quickly disseminated the threat through our combined social media channels of nearly 7,000 users. The City did not issue a formal alert until nearly two hours later.

Shops on the San Pablo Strip remain pockmarked with plywood from the May 30 looting.
The carnage did not spare a row of black-owned businesses on San Pablo Avenue including Touch of Soul, Emeryville Tax and Open Up Cutz.

“Thank you for being one of the first places to inform us of the “protest,” noted one proprietor that reached out to us. “[We] were able to get a game plan together in time to get to the shop about 8pm and we defended our shop all night until about 2 a.m. The entire [plaza] was looted and vandalized except our place because we showed a very strong ‘force’ if you will to the looters. Thank you for alerting us hours before the landlord did. You helped us save our business.”

Another business owner described being smoke-bombed out of her office forcing her to flee. “They sprayed the whole office with the sulfuric fire extinguisher repellant after they smoke bombed me out of my office.“

While some businesses were critical of EPD’s response to the situation, others applauded their “restraint” as the situation could have rapidly escalated. Despite at least two incidents involving gunfire, there was no loss of life reported during the chaotic evening. There were only six arrests made.

Local Politician Reaction: ‘A Distraction’

Members of our city council reacted in real-time via Twitter. Councilmember Bauters dismissed the looting of his city as a “distraction” and Councilmember Medina expressed empathy for those “protesting out of pain or anger.”


2020 Mayor Christian Patz mostly evaded condemning or distinguishing the looters from the protest activity when pressed in this interview by KTVU that evening. “This is a just a sign of the frustration that people are having and the challenges…” he said. In fact, Patz did not refer to the incident at “looting” in his letter to the community but instead that these businesses “experienced vandalism, break-ins and thefts.”

Some residents were critical of our local officials for not outright condemning the actions of the looters. “Even though it goes without saying, perhaps a slight comment that looting is wrong while also a distraction?” noted one commenter in reaction to Bauters’ tweet. “This is Twitter after all– it doesn’t hurt to communicate a bit more clearly, even if it is somewhat obvious.”

“I heard you defending the looters of the Emeryville mall – how dare you. You should be ashamed,” noted another commenter in reaction to one of Patz’ facebook posts.

Others praised our council for prioritizing “people over property.”

Pleasanton Weekly columnist Tim Hunt was probably the most critical of our Emeryville officials. “[Patz] took pains to assert the right to protest and the need to change without any condemnation of the criminals looting his city’s businesses.”

Hunt commended Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern for being the “adult in the room” for his decision to call a countywide curfew to deter further looting. Councilmember Medina later took a jab at Ahern via Twitter for apparently implementing this curfew amid her city being looted saying she would work to unseat him in 2022. “I got $$ to give any reasonably progressive candidate who will challenge ALCO Sheriff in ’22. I will host a fundraiser, help w/ endorsements + organize voter outreach. As we watch injustice erupt let’s remember we have plenty we can do here.”

Councilmember Dianne Martinez was the only local leader that defended our city being ravaged or expressed any empathy for local residents, businesses or their employees (folx is considered a more inclusive, gender-neutral term of the term “folks”).

Some news organizations like The L.A. Times have moved away from using the word “looting“ as they argue it can have a racial connotation.

Councilmember Scott Donahue does not maintain an active social media presence.

Residents Reaction: Anger, Sadness, Violation, Empathy

The resident reaction was a mixture of sadness, anger and empathy. There seemed to be a large disparity between members of the Emeryville Community and those of neighbors in Oakland and Berkeley that were less impacted.

“It’s obvious we all feel anger, dismay, frustration. Our world is now too fragile to tolerate any more injustice and Inequality — That has to stop,“ noted one Nextdoor commenter from an Emeryville Neighborhood. “But directing more anger and judgment at each other is not the solution.”

“Angry. Frustrated. Hopeless.” noted “Kenya” who also identified herself as an Emeryville resident “As a Black woman living in Emeryville, A bay area native and mother to young black men, I grew up thinking I can be and do anything. I grew up in the most diverse, liberal beautiful city. But there is no hope right now. The fear I have for my black child, for my black husband will never be understood. The anger I hear about looting, protesting, only reminds me that of this.”

Many expressed the opinion that since these businesses were presumably insured, that the impacts from this event would not be felt longterm.


Tough Road Ahead for Local Businesses

Businesses, already ailing from being forced to close for an extended period due to the pandemic, now have the additional burden of fixing the destruction suffered. Despite being closed for many months, they’ll also be faced with our city’s annual CPI-based minimum wage increase to $16.86 adding to Emeryville already highest in the nation minimum wage.

The economic damage could further erode our city’s sales tax revenues already projected to have a nearly two million annual shortfall over the next two budget cycles. Our city is already approaching a dozen confirmed business closures with more likely on the way.

In response to the damage, the City Of Emeryville approved a Resolution re-appropriating $200,000 from the Façade Improvement Program to a “Local Business Recovery Program.”

Feature Image of Metro PCS: Nick Sebastian, Worldwide Communications

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. I watched a video that night taken from a helicopter, about half an hour of footage of looting and taking goods to cars. Have you investigated whether police ever watched the videos? Identified people or license plates? This would be a safe way to hold looters accountable, maybe retrieve some goods, and avoid anyone getting hurt. It would have been tragic had anyone been shot that night, and made sense to avoid that possibility.

    • I understand that the former Chief Had a plan in place that gave responsibility to some of her detectives to review all available video footage for license plate information of looters and to follow up with charging them with using a car in the commission of a crime – I heard they have made several cases using this tactic.

    • Seems like you care more about best buy’s profit margin than black peoples lives. Maybe reflect on your propensity to be a mouthpiece for EPD in the way you value property over black and brown peoples safety. Enclosed is a picture of you and other neoliberals licking the boots of Emeryville pigs
      😝 👢

      • 2 points:

        1. Any intimation that POC are systematically victimized for anything, in Northern California, is hyperbole, as well as being incendiary, dangerous and if not ceased, after having it explained to you, is ultimately evil!

        2. When businesses are looted and destroyed, and the self imagined political luminaries stand down law enforcement and allow the riots to proceed, unchallenged, businesses either leave altogether, or simply lock their doors and close shop.

        No one in their right mind would invest their life’s work in a city in which political luminaries make it plain that no law enforcement protection from looting and rioting will be forthcoming, despite their having payed taxes for funding of: exactly THAT!

        Not only does that lead to job losses, but it also leads to a significant decrease in municipal income. When municipal income drops, suddenly, other things often, magically, go on the chopping block.

        HERE is a partial list of those other things that will likely go, POOF:

        after school programs.
        free lunch programs
        senior center funding
        city provided college scholarships for low income
        early childhood education
        first time home buyers program

        Would you like more?
        I have a long list!

      • See: Statement on the retraction of “Officer characteristics and racial disparities in fatal officer-involved shootings” by Joseph Cesario and David J. Johnson from Michigan State University and University of Maryland at College Park July 6, 2020

        The study showed:

        Black suspects are disproportionately killed by black officers. But this isn’t as odd as it seems, because some parts of the country have higher black populations than others. In those places, both suspects and officers are more likely to be black.

        The study addresses this by statistically controlling for the demographics of homicide victims in each county where a shooting happened — and the correlation between officer and suspect race disappears. In other words, someone shot by the police is more likely to be black if the area has a lot of black homicide, but not if the police officer involved happened to be white. This is inconsistent with the idea that white cops are killing black suspects out of anti-black racism.

        Black cops might disproportionately patrol black neighborhoods even within counties. If this is the case, black suspects and black officers might encounter each other more — above and beyond what’s accounted for in the statistical controls — which could cancel out the effects of white cops’ racism. To put it differently, black cops could shoot black suspects simply because they encounter a lot of black suspects, while white cops could shoot black suspects out of racism. And if these two phenomena occurred to roughly the same degree, the study would indicate that black and white cops are about equally likely to shoot black suspects.

  2. Been inside Guitar Center many times finding supplies for my ukulele class. Seeing it empty gave a real sense of scale to the looting. What business owner can ever recover from a loss like that?

      • Insurance won’t begin to cover all the losses and won’t reverse the disrespect done to these businesses. Employees (many of witch are (honest,hard working) minorities) will be laid off and eagerly anticipated promotions will be postponed.

    • Businesses pass the cost of the deductible and higher premiums onto the consumer in areas with high crime. Or they move.

  3. Ha! The minimum wage needs to be HIGHER, regardless of statutes so the owners can lure poor people, possibly to their or their families’ deaths, to serve a bunch of greedy and wealthy ingrates.

  4. Medina may go down as the most useless politician this city has ever seen and that is a low bar among these 5.

    • She does strike me as the biggest tool of the five. She knows nothing of how a city works and for the remaining four they couldn’t manage their way out of a wet paper bag, but the fine people of emeryvile will re-elect them without thinking twice.

      • But “I’m here to support you from my position of power any way I can.” inspired the looters to demolish the tax base.

  5. Do most of the businesses not have insurance that covers theft & destruction of property? I’d appreciate some insight there from you, Rob, as you speak to local business owners.

    • Wether or not anyone had insurance is irrelevant. It was a complete failure of the local pd and government. Insurance rates will skyrocket and the level of disrespect to these business (that had nothing to do with anything
      that caused these looters/losers to be “upset” in the first place) is completely unacceptable. Imagine all the hard working employees and managers (Many of witch are minorities) that were eagerly awaiting to get back to work after the quarantine rattled there schedules. Only to find out there places of business (Witch some people consider there second homes) were looted, trashed And vandalized. This was not the first crime spree in Emeryville and sadly won’t be the last. The local authorities need to be much better prepared to combat this chaos

    • What does Best Buy have to do with any of this and furthermore last time I checked they had a very diverse staff. Many of these honest , hard working people (Many of witch are minorities)will lose there jobs and or much deserved promotions as a result of the looting and riots directed at these business that last time I checked had nothing to do with anything related to why people are upset in the first place.

      • It’s just you, anyone who defends senseless looting is a fool and on a much deeper level, the stolen merchandise will serve as a reminder of the self hatred the looters have for themselves every time they see it if they don’t all shoot each other arguing over the loot. I love all my fellow human beings and have the utmost respect for some of the injustices that have plague the minorities communities. One of my favorite quotes is “nobody’s free, until everybody is free” so true. Any person with common sense must/should know that. Just like any person with common sense should know that completely senseless looting and vandalism that is directed at completely random unrelated parties is never justifiable.

    • From 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black murder victims were killed by other African Americans. Apparently “Black Lives Matter” only in certain cases.

      From 1976 to 2014, it is estimated that 198,288 African Americans died nationwide at the hands of black killers. That’s 5,218 deaths per year on average, roughly 19 times the annual number of deaths of African Americans in confrontations with police. Additionally, studies show about 50% of police shootings have been considered “suicide by cop.”

      According to the US Department of Justice, African Americans accounted for 52.5% of all homicide offenders from 1980 to 2008, with Whites 45.3% and “Other” 2.2%. Therefore, the offending rate for African Americans was almost 8 times higher than Whites, and the victim rate 6 times higher. Most homicides were intraracial, with 84% of White victims killed by Whites, and 93% of African American victims were killed by African Americans.

    • The problem was in Minneapolis, or in Atlanta, not in Emeryville, or Oakland!
      I’ll buy you a ONE WAY TICKET to either Minneapolis, or Atlanta, so you can get to the source of what you falsely claim ails you. No one here has done a single wrong thing to you. check your special privilege! man up! come out and say it. own it proudly! u hate white ppl, plain and simple. RACIST!!!

      • The wrongful deaths of unarmed African-Americans in custody have been on the decline, is far less than the number of police murdered per year, less than the number of white suspects killed, and proportionally fewer, in terms of percentages of those arrested by police, than other racial groups.

        In rare interracial violence, blacks are five times more likely to attack whites than vice versa. There is a tragic war against young, black males—over 7,000 murdered per year—but it is an urban genocide of sort perpetrated in liberal cities, governed by liberal mayors and governors, and overseen by liberal police chiefs. The shooters are overwhelmingly other black males.

  6. 1. The average business pays between $1,000 and $3,000 per million dollars of personal property coverage. Most pay under $1,000 annually, with an average of $742.

    2. when law enforcement is relieved of it’s testicles, by political luminaries, the insurance companies may well point their finger at the municipality that failed to utilize law enforcement assets, and counter sue the city.
    I think it’ll be tied up in multiple courts, for many years, reaching an initial judgement, and then going through appeals.

    It’s interesting, that the criminals never touched TRADER JOES, or Pak n Save.

    My guess is that the upstanding citizens, who looted and destroyed the Emeryville commercial district, get their food, with which they sustain their lives, at Emeryville Trader Joes and Pak n Save.

    By now, all the stolen merchandise has been sold to other fine upstanding citizens, who, I’m sure, had no idea that they were purchasing stolen merchandise….no idea whatsoever!!

    It’s almost as if these predations may well have been carefully planned. Was the looting and rioting actually outrage over the killing of a helpless George Floyd, 2000 miles away? With Chauvin arrested, and the other 3 fired and eventually charged as well, and the prosecution turned over to the well placed Keith Ellison, attorney General of Minnesota?


    • Notice the criminals do not target book stores? Who needs a free book when schools and celebrity Reverends have indoctrinated inner city youth to hate a country millions of people want to immigrate to. The young people shown in the looting videos continue to reinforce their reputations for violence and disregard for other peoples property.
      Meanwhile, Emeryville city councilor lying dog faced pony soldiers continue to bite the hands that feed them. #DefundCityCouncil – each are paid over $25,000 / year to help us – not hurt us.

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