The Siege of Highland Avenue


Military lockdowns like the one described in this article have become commonplace across the city of Oakland, California, with one ending with the murder of an unarmed black man named Jacorey Calhoun just days after this publication.


On the morning of July 8th, 2014, dozens of OPD officers locked down the entire block between E. 24th and E. 25th Street. They were looking for two car-jacking subjects who had fled from a stolen car and barricaded themselves inside different buildings. The media referred to this neighborhood as Highland Park, demonstrating their ignorance of local geography. The neighborhood is called the Dubbs or the 20’s, and refers to every street from E. 20th to the 580 freeway, with 23rd Avenue acting as its heart. But on the TV and internet broadcasts, it suddenly became Highland Park.


The night before, a 59 year old man was on his phone on the hill above Grand Lake Theater, relaxing in his nice car, when a 16 and a 17 year old suddenly were standing beside his window, pointing pistols at him. The two young men relieved the old man of his Mercedes and drove off into the night. It is unknown what these two did that evening, but at 10:30 the next morning, they were spotted by an OPD cruiser. The two took off in the Mercedes, stopping along E. 24th Street and then bolting in different directions. The officer called for back up, and soon 20 cruisers had created a three block perimeter around the car.


An OPD helicopter began circling at a low altitude over the neighborhood. Fontana Hill, 17, had barricaded himself into an apartment complex on E. 24th. Quinn Edwards, 16, was crawling through the bushes, undetected by the police. Around noon, the SWAT team arrived in an armored personnel carrier and surrounded the apartment complex. A SWAT sniper team commandeered the roof of a two story house on E. 25th Street, giving them a view of then entire valley. Hill waited them out for hours while the neighborhood began gathering at the different perimeter blockades. An ABC7 news helicopter soon joined the OPD in circling the air. On the ground, the press congregated near various police blockades, taking pictures and waiting with their video cameras for something sensational.


After four hours of holding out, a shirtless Fontana Hill surrendered to the heavily armed military force and was taken to a nearby cruiser and taken downtown. The SWAT team, dressed in camouflage fatigues and wielding assault rifles, then began to march down the street. There were fourteen of these men, accompanied by two police dogs. They went wherever they pleased, barging into backyard after backyard, disregarding the feelings of everyone on the block. The media reported that nearby homes were evacuated, but this author saw only occupied homes being surrounded and searched. In several cases, residents frantically pleaded with the police to move on. All the while, the SWAT snipers above them pointed their rifles at every open window and bush that the ground team approached. But after nearly an hour of searching a dozen houses, the SWAT team gave up their search.


It is unclear what happened next, but eventually Quinn Edwards was apprehended. The media claims he surrendered, although there are conflicting accounts as to where he did this. The Mercury claims he was found in the same apartment complex Hill was in. Both were ultimately taken downtown and before being shipped to Santa Rita. On July 16th, both young men were charged with armed carjacking and armed second-degree robbery. Both will be charged as adults.


In the case of this robbery, the stolen Mercedes was returned to the owner and no one was physically injured. Nevertheless, the state is going to seek heavy retribution and will attempt to make an example of these two. Rather than allow them to enter juvenile hall after sentencing, the state wants to throw them into prison and try them as adults. In the week between June 2nd and June 8th, the OPD reported 91 car thefts within the city limits. It would seem that Fontana Hill and Quinn Edwards are some of the few to be caught. Their next court date is July 22nd, before this issue goes to print.


The entire siege of Highland Avenue was undertaken in order to return a car to its owner and capture two young men bold enough to steal from the rich. The forty armed men and women assigned to capture them were mobilized for one cause: private property Unfortunately, such military lockdowns are common in Oakland and most long time residents have seen them play out year after year, growing numb to their occurrence. In near-by Stockon, where many Oakland residents are fleeing and being displaced too, police recently went on a high speed chase after two bank robbers took several hostages. After chasing the car through three towns, police opened fire killing not only the robbers but a hostage as well and injuring more. All this took place in a residential neighborhood. As police train, act, and operate more and more like a military unit, so to do the populations they try and suppress look like colonial regimes. To become resigned to such a reality is to become resigned to military occupation, a state we must not fall into. To fight the OPD occupations of our neighborhoods, we offer three simple steps for a basic resistance to these lockdowns.


1: – Surround The Perimeter

If the police succeed in establishing a perimeter in your neighborhood, get all of your friends and neighbors to surround that perimeter. Do not lot anything enter and leave the scene, and create a scene of disorder at the margins of the occupation.


2: – Film,-Text-Call

If you are caught within the perimeter or are nearby a police assault, film everything you can. If you are able to seen live Tweets or internet updates of the situation, do so as much possible. Call your friends and tell them to spread the words and images as far as possible.


3: – Tell Them To Leave

From every direction, tell the police they must leave, regardless of the situation. Do not let them feel welcome. Be as loud as possible. Grab a sheet and write slogans : “PIGS GO HOME!” Hold it up for everyone to see. If enough people want the police tanks and snipers out of their neighborhood, they will get them out. We can only encourage them. Stay safe, stay free.