Oakland to hold First Friday Event Despite Last Months Shooting
Oakland leaders plan to go ahead with another First Friday event later this week despite concerns that were raised by a shooting at the last popular downtown monthly event on Feb. 1 that left one person dead and three others wounded.
Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who represents the Uptown district where the event has occurred for about six years, said today that there was "a robust discussion" about suspending the monthly gatherings but ultimately it was decided to continue them, although on a smaller scale.
"There's a sense of taking it back to its roots" and focusing on the arts and art vendors who are showcasing their wares, McElhaney said. She said that even before city officials decided to downsize the event a bit they expected the crowd this Friday to be smaller than previous events because of safety concerns following the shooting at the last event.
First Friday, which draws crowds of up to 20,000 people to the Uptown district the first Friday of every month, is an offshoot of Art Murmur, a gallery walk that occurs earlier on the same night.
McElhaney said the decision to continue the events but on a smaller scale was made by consensus after she and Mayor Jean Quan organized a series of meetings that included members of the Oakland First Fridays, community, Art Murmur organizers, local residents and neighborhood business owners.
Quan said in a statement that the meetings resulted in a working relationship "that preserves the organic, community-grown spirit of Oakland First Fridays while tackling a collective responsibility to keep everyone safe at this growing Oakland mainstay."
Quan said, "They are treasured locally-grown events, a social and creative engine and a big reason why Oakland was recently named among the 12 best 'art places' in the country."
But the feel-good atmosphere at the event was shattered when 18-year-old Kiante Campbell of Oakland was fatally shot in the 2000 block of Telegraph Avenue at about 10:50 p.m. on Feb. 1, shortly after that evening's First Friday event had ended.
Quan said the event this Friday will end at 9 p.m., one hour earlier than normal, and its footprint will be shortened so that it only takes place along Telegraph Avenue from West Grand Avenue to 27th Street.
Previous events extended all the way to 16th Street. Quan also said public drinking of alcohol won't be allowed and art galleries within the immediate vicinity also will suspend alcohol service on Friday.
The mayor said the programming and performances on Friday "will be united around themes of unity, diversity, healing and peace" and there will be two long moments of silence.
McElhaney said what she described as the "unregulated consumption of alcohol on the street" has been a problem at recent First Friday events.
She said the drinking has been "a unanimous concern of all groups" involved in the recent series of meetings because it has "changed the climate of the event significantly."
McElhaney said the event this Friday "is really dedicated to peace and Kiante Campbell and all victims of homicide."
She said she hopes it will "celebrate the best of what we are and show that we are grappling with gun-related violence."
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