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Staff Editorial | Lake Merritt’s “new” rules, its response and community

Lake Merritt has become known for its community and events in the past few years. (Wikimedia Commons)
Lake Merritt has become known for its community and events in the past few years. (Wikimedia Commons)

On Sept. 27, a white Oakland resident called the Oakland Police Department on SambaFunk!, a group of Latinx and African-American drummers and dancers, for playing their drums and “disturbing” the peace at Lake Merritt at 7:30 p.m. The encounter ended in an altercation between the two parties and multiple citations against SambaFunk!.

Since then, signs were placed at the park that prohibit the use of “a musical instrument without a permit.” More of the park rules on the signs prohibit such things as loud music without a permit, barbeques and private groups of 25 people or more without a permit. The incident and its aftermath of signs has fueled protests and dialogue about racial tensions, policing and gentrification in Oakland, particularly at and around Lake Merritt. City officials have countered against this notion, saying that the signs are outdated and not reflective of the community that is being built in Oakland.

So what did The Campanil have to say about this?

In regards to the signs, it proves problematic for the Oakland community. Old or new, it takes away the fun and community of Lake Merritt. At the same time, the signs appear to play a role in gentrification, or enforcing ideas that do not make Lake Merritt a place to relax and have a good time.

While we know about the potential harm in disturbing the peace in neighborhoods, the fact that it happened does prove a point about keeping something that has been in Oakland longer than its issues with gentrification. This incident shows a clash between a tradition that has been occurring at Lake Merritt for a long time and Oakland’s tenants’ rights and laws for public spaces.

This moment with SambaFunk! is one of many representatives of the clash between culture, tradition and gentrification. From the events in Afrika Town in April to the noise complaints against Black churches in West Oakland, they all represent this clash that gentrification and “remaking Oakland” bring to the table. At the same time, the issue can be seen with intersectionalities of racial and class issues, two major roles that play into gentrification and this clash.

As members of Oakland’s community, we understand the responses of its citizens to support the drummers. We completely agree with the protests and discussions around this incident. Overall, we understand this incident’s aftermath.

As journalists and editors, we have to play a role in getting involved in our Oakland community. At the same time, our roles as people and residents of this community also help us get involved. With stories like these, we have to tell and play a part in public spaces. The space that is Lake Merritt should be one that is enjoyed, not enforced with harsh citations or questions on what we can do in a park.