Two people wearing black hoodies and black face masks hurled five rocks through the windows of Kilovolt, a newly established coffee shop on Mandela Parkway at 1 a.m. on Thursday, breaking several windows, scratching countertops, and damaging the coffee brewing machine.
The vandalism occurred just a few hours after the Oakland Planning Commission approved the West Oakland Specific Plan (WOSP), a controversial redevelopment plan, with a vote of 4-2.
Prior to the meeting, protesters opposed to WOSP marched from DeFremery Park, according to an article published in a anarchist publication, Fireworks. Some demonstrators tried to block the entrance of the meeting, while others used the public comments period to discuss gentrification and rising rents.
Ethan Ashley, the owner of Kilovolt, strongly believes there is a connection between the vandalism and the WOSP protesters. During the rally and march, fliers titled “Spread the Struggle Against Gentrification” distributed among the crowd called specifically for vandalism.
“Oakland is becoming unrecognizable. Fight back. Vandalize development and gentrifying businesses.” These were some of the phrases printed on the fliers that feature a giant hand clawing at a map of West Oakland (oddly resembling old Nazi Propoganda poster, as reported by the East Bay Express).
No one has come forward to take responsibility for the vandalism. Ashley has spoken with the police but doesn’t believe much can be done to find those responsible.
The extent of the damage adds up to $1000 since the internal damage is minimal and the window company across the street offered to help replace the broken glass.
This is not the first time Kilovolt has been vandalized since opening in late April.
Within the first two weeks of opening, someone spray painted ‘Eat Shit Yuppies‘ on the exterior of Kilovolt and poured glue in the locks. Someone seems to have come forward to take credit for that specific act in a comment on IndieBay.
Kilovolt has kept their doors open through both acts of vandalism.
“It was important for me to not close,” Ashley says. “I don’t want to let people attack my business with their cowardly act of vandalism.”
Just Cause was also at the rally held at Oakland’s Planning Commission on Wednesday night and has been an outspoken opponent of the WOSP, but Communication Director of Just Cause, Adam Gold, says they don’t know who is responsible for the damage.
“We do think there is a kind of a weird dynamic going on where there are people who are new to the neighborhood, [who] don’t even live in the neighborhood — a lot of white folks that are politically active,” Gold says. “They are using random tactics to fight against gentrification. We are trying to promote a strategic and effective way to stop displacement.”
With just a few weeks before WOSP goes before the Oakland City Council, Just Cause plans to continue to try to get more affordable housing and protection for renters written into both WOSP and into Oakland law, Gold says.
WOSP, which was originally drafted in 2011, will go in front of Oakland’s City Council in July.
In the meantime, Ashley says Kilovolt is busy, with a line out the door, for which he credits the publicity that the vandalism brought the cafe.