More than 200 businesses in Oakland, California, announced participation in a city-wide strike to condemn a relentless crime wave.
The businesses, ranging from local shops to eateries, will shutter their doors for an entire day or temporarily close between 10 a.m. and noon to express frustration and demand for action, CBS News reported.
The strike directly responds to a staggering increase in violent incidents that has affected business owners and patrons. Many cite the exodus of customers from their establishments due to a sense of insecurity.
"If things don't turn around in Oakland, we will not be able to survive. It is just that grave at this point," Kevin Johnston, the owner of Portal, a gastropub overlooking Lake Merritt, told KTVU. "I'm going to be closed all day tomorrow. I'm going to lose money. But I've got to make the stand."
Johnston estimates that approximately half of his establishment's loyal patrons have stopped visiting as the restaurant has dealt with multiple burglaries and car break-ins involving staff and customers.
Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and an organizer of the strike, told Fox 2 KTVU: "If not, there will be more businesses that will close. So, we may sacrifice maybe one day, people may close the entire day, or maybe two hours, but that is a time when we have to say enough is enough," Fox Business reported.
"We need to get additional resources from the county sheriff, the California Highway Patrol, and the FBI. Crimes have gotten out of hand. All these repeat offenders keep targeting many businesses, but also people."
The strike follows recent criticism of Oakland leaders for missing a grant deadline that would have provided millions in state funding to combat organized retail theft. Oakland recently missed the grant deadline, while neighboring San Francisco received $17 million to address the same issue.
Multiple business owners pointed to the missed deadline and loss of funding as catalysts for participating in Tuesday's strike.
"Small businesses are the biggest employers of the city," said Chan. "We're creating jobs, paying business tax, sales tax, property tax, income tax. We're all paying for it. There should be resources supporting the business community."
In response to Tuesday's strike, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao released a statement on Monday, saying her office is addressing the issues.
"We welcomed the opportunity to meet with any business owner that wants to work on collective safety solutions alongside our office," she said in an email, according to CBS News.
"I have been personally meeting with dozens of small business groups to fund and support initiatives that deter crime and promote safe streets," said Thao, mentioning groups that included the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, African American Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Chinatown Improvement Council, Visit Oakland, and others.
Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.
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