Who Is 'Oakland Riots'?
About three weeks ago, a Twitter account called "oaklandriots" mysteriously popped up and quickly built a following of several hundred users. The page's design featured a policeman in riot gear, and the content of account -- news stories about potential violence following the trial -- suggested that the creator was ready to rumble.
One of the first stories featured on the Twitter page was an announcement posted on Indybay.org. "Courts are not where we win victories, streets are!" it said.
But it turns out that Mr. Oakland Riots would rather you stay off the streets -- and respect the courts. After all, he's a lawyer. The account was created by Kevin Thomason, a tech-savvy attorney from "deep east Oakland." Like most Oaklanders, Thomason is actually petrified by the the idea of riots -- but not for the usual reasons. He wants to make sure that, should mayhem hit the streets, he can get home in time to care for his dogs -- Sam (German Shepherd) and Blanca (Dogo Argentino).
"I have two dogs that are like my kids," Thomason told SF Weekly. "I don't want them to get stuck without food and water."
Three weeks ago, he became concerned about the riots and what they might mean for getting to and from work (and his dogs). He does the marketing for a small law firm in downtown San Francisco, and usually rides a motorcycle to work. He wanted to know immediately if it looked like rioters might shut down routes to Oakland.
Ideally, he wanted to receive a text message alert. But when he couldn't figure out how to make that happen, he used his technology background to create an alert system for himself via Twitter. First he used the Google search function to collect all stories related to Oscar Grant or Johannes Mehserle or Oakland riots in an RSS feed.
"Then I took that feed, ran it through twitterfeed.com, and linked it to my Twitter account," he said. Presto. He had created a log of everything going on with the trial and possible riot situation.
Thomason had no intention of amassing followers, but now that he has them, he wants to educate them about what riots really look like. (He witnessed the Oscar Grant riots in 2009, and believes the media failed to relay the extent of the damage.) If violence does erupt, he plans to feed and walk his dogs, then ride into the heart of the chaos to take photographs, which he will post on the feed.
"I just really hope that nothing happens," he said. "I love Oakland. Most of the people in Oakland are good, decent people. All a riot does is destroy Oakland's infrastructure and its reputation on a national stage."
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