Community mourns slain editor, protests violence
By Angela Hill, Chauncey Bailey Project
OAKLAND — In the downtown parking lot where journalist Chauncey Bailey was shot and killed Thursday, several local ministers, community leaders and representatives from the Nation of Islam gathered Saturday morning to honor Bailey — and to mobilize.
They said they were fed up with the ongoing violence in Oakland — including three more homicides that occurred Friday night — and planned to go door-to-door to find witnesses to Bailey’s murder. They hope to erase the notion of “snitch” in the community, which often prevents witnesses of crimes from coming forward to assist police investigations.
“There’s this whole notion of not wanting to be labeled a snitch, and fear of retribution. We need to turn this on its head,” Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks told the group of about 50 people, standing near the growing collection of flowers, stuffed animals, candles and notes that had been placed at the scene of Bailey’s death.
“We’re going to do this — not just for Chauncey’s murder — but for all the homicides in Oakland,” Brooks said. “We want to go out and support people and let them know it’s OK to come forward. That they’re not standing alone. That we stand with them.”
Organizers had planned the event before receiving word that a suspect in Bailey’s slaying had been arrested and confessed to police late Friday night. A 19-year-old handyman at Your Black Muslim Bakery was formally booked on suspicion of murder Saturday. He was taken into custody Friday when police raided the bakery and affiliated homes and businesses as part of a two-month investigation into the organization.
Bailey, 57, was ambushed and shot as he walked along 14th Street near Alice Street on his way to work as editor of the Oakland Post newspaper Thursday morning.
Despite the arrest, the group of community leaders continued with their plan of walking door-to-door along 14th Street, searching for witnesses to the shooting.
“Police still need the evidence,” Brooks said. “It’s not just about an arrest, but a conviction. And police need the evidence to be sure there is justice.”
Oakland police Lt. Johnny Davis Jr. attended the event and said the department supports this community effort.
“I can understand why people are afraid to come forward, afraid of retribution,” he said. “So it’s great that they’re trying to help us in investigations. We’re out here today to lend support to this effort, see it is done safely and help in any way we can.”
Minister Keith Muhammad, representing the Nation of Islam, said he and his associates offered condolences to Bailey’s family and also support the street-level effort to bring peace to Oakland’s neighborhoods. He said he had known Bailey for more than 10 years, and had often participated in discussions on Bailey’s cable TV news show.
“We had great respect for Chauncey Bailey’s use of the pen to share truth with the community,” Muhammad said. “Even when there were areas of disagreement, we were brothers enough to wrestle through those issues. We offer condolences for Chauncey’s family from the honorable Louis Farrakhan and all the Nation of Islam. Condolences as well as to the Bey family, some of whom, but not all, are being accused in this situation. There is deep pain being experienced in that family, too.”
Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said he hoped people of the Muslim faith would not be “branded” because of the incident and the apparent connection to Your Black Muslim Bakery.
“The Nation of Islam has been an integral part of our community, and there is no connection at all with what took place and the Nation of Islam,” Carson said. “We stand shoulder to shoulder in wanting to stop this violence.”
The community group hopes anyone with additional information on Bailey’s murder or other crimes in Oakland will call police at 510-238-3821 or Crime Stoppers of Oakland at 510-238-6946.