California

‘Straight-up cruel.’ Jogger throws homeless man’s clothes into Oakland lake, witnesses say

A woman jogs around Lake Merritt in 2016.  Online videos of a  jogger tearing apart a homeless man’s camp Friday beside the Oakland, Calif., lake - including tossing some of the man’s blankets and clothes into the water - have sparked an outcry.
A woman jogs around Lake Merritt in 2016. Online videos of a jogger tearing apart a homeless man’s camp Friday beside the Oakland, Calif., lake - including tossing some of the man’s blankets and clothes into the water - have sparked an outcry. The Associated Press file

A jogger in shorts and a backwards baseball cap rifles through a homeless man’s camp, kicking and throwing around the man’s belongings as bystanders plead with him to stop.

“Sir, I think you should stop,” one woman says in a video posted online of the incident, which took place at 6:30 p.m. Friday beside Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland, Calif.

“What are you doing with his stuff, bro?” asks another bystander. The homeless man does not appear to be present at the time.

“I’m not taking any of it,” the jogger replies. “He can pick it up. I’m cleaning up the trash.”

A woman points out that he threw some of the man’s belongings into the lake — the video shows blankets and other items floating in the water — but the jogger claims it was an accident. The woman responds that she watched him drag it over and toss it in.

The jogger, who has not been identified, then hauls some of the homeless man’s belongings to a trash can before bystanders say he put on his headphones and jogged away.

John Harris, who shot one of the videos, told KNTV that police told him afterward the jogger could potentially only be fined for littering because the homeless man’s belongings are legally considered debris.

"This is ridiculous that these are the kind of people who are living in Oakland now,” Harris wrote on Facebook, where he posted his video. “Please share. This bro needs to go down."

His video has been shared more than 2,300 times.

"I think it's morally reprehensible and straight-up cruel what this guy is doing," Kristin Gallup, who also caught part of the incident on video, told The San Francisco Chronicle.

"This whole incident is a pretty succinct manifestation of so many of Oakland's current issues — racism, gentrification, white privilege, male privilege, hatred towards poor and homeless people, lack of resources due to funds not being allocated properly, lack of consequences for unjustifiably bullying of homeless people, and sheer apathy towards their predicaments,” she told the publication.

Some nearby residents responding to the video posted by Harris praised the jogger, however.

"If I see him I will thank him for helping clean up the trash these homeless are leaving behind," one wrote.

“Would any of you be this okay on the sidewalk in front of your home? Am I allowed to pile up junk on any part of the Lake I please?” asked another, who conceded the jogger went about his clean-up “in the wrong way.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland told KPIX that while she understood the frustrations of some residents, the jogger’s actions were “not appropriate.”

“It’s not appropriate to take someone’s belongings, it’s not appropriate to trash our beautiful Lake Merritt,” Schaaf told the station.

Now some residents are trying to help the homeless man by replacing some of his lost belongings.

"Since I posted the video, it's gotten a really positive response from the community," Harris told the Chronicle. "You know, the community is really stepping up to help this guy out....It's kind of reviving my hope in the goodness of the people in my community.”

The incident follows one in May at Lake Merritt in which a woman called police to report an African American family barbecuing at the park, reported KRON. The incident, in which the woman claimed the family was breaking park rules about charcoal barbecues, sparked a national debate about “barbecuing while black.”

  Comments