It's become quite clear to me just who might be responsible for the recent vandalism during protests in downtown Oakland, specifically for the smashing of windows at numerous businesses:
That's right. It's the Crystal Mafia, The Window Widow Maker, The Silicate Cabal, deploying operatives disguised as anarchists and random thugs to break windows -- big windows, big expensive floor-to-ceiling, custom-tinted, plate-glass windows -- in a transparent effort to reap the substantial financial benefits of replacement costs. Windex might have something to do with it too.
OK, I'm just kidding. Please, real glass companies, unionized glaziers and Windex, please don't come after me with your putty knives, squeegees, squirt bottles and those big rubber suction-cup claw things.
But you have to admit it's a more logical explanation than the senseless violence against all these innocent daylight-enablers, perpetrated by those with a distorted view of the world who believe that leaving a restaurant or coffee shop with a storefront full of glistening sharp shards somehow makes a difference.
A huge pane
Even before the violence and vandalism that broke out downtown last weekend and beyond following the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, the Oakland Tribune offices at 20th and Broadway and many businesses in the area have been hit several times in the past month -- apparently just for the heck of it. Even last Wednesday night when all was quiet downtown protest-wise, somebody took out a huge window in our conference room, breaking clear through, which is unusual. Typically the glass just cracks like safety class, leaving a crystalline effect as might be viewed from inside a snowflake or a piece of rock candy. It's kind of beautiful.
But there's really nothing pretty about it. Graffiti, burned cars, overturned trash cans and of course smashed windows -- it's all happened so many times in downtown Oakland in recent years I can't even count. Occupy. The Oscar Grant killing. The Johannes Mehserle verdict. More Occupy. The Raiders winning or losing. Usually losing. More Occupy. Dew falling on the lawn in front of City Hall.
There was one time a few years ago when a transformer blew and the power went out downtown for about 15 minutes in the middle of a work day, and people started looting. Fifteen minutes! Middle of the day! And people were smashing things and running into stores and grabbing whatever they could.
It's times like this when I love to quote "The Simpsons" Mayor Quimby: "Can't we go a day in this town without a riot?"
Break the cliché
More protests about the Zimmerman verdict are planned for the weekend, and who knows what will happen. Buildings, hide your windows. Cars, drive over to Walnut Creek.
Protests are valid and important. Riotous violence is not. It's a fusion of foolishness and misguided ideals and sometimes just plain crimes of opportunity -- a chance to break stuff under cover of crowd and night sky. Each incident is a stab in the back to our community. A sense of turmoil that refracts all around, from business owners to residents, dulling the image of our really cool town.
So, to the people who do this -- who I'm sure read this column religiously -- this is a fragile game you're playing. Even if you don't get caught, don't you realize you've become a joke? People make fun of you because you're so cliché. You wear bandannas -- where do you get them, Walmart? Costco? Gucci? Way to be anti-establishment -- then you "splinter off" from the main demonstrations to make your mayhem. Whatever your point is, if you in fact have one, it is completely lost in the morning water-cooler wash of ridicule.
Take a look in the mirror. Don't break it, but look at it. Examine your motives, look yourself in the eye and say, "Today, I am not going to compensate for my own personal shattered dreams by smashing things. Today, if I have a legitimate beef, I am not going to be boring. Instead, I will put my big-boy pants on and try something new and creative. Maybe something like, oh, talking to people, or starting an online movement, or even marching in a protest -- but tempered with a sense of humanity and respect for my neighbors."
Or not. But whether you do it or the community forces you to, it's time to draw the curtains on this stuff.
Contact Angela Hill at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter @giveemhill.