A family’s weekend barbecue outing at a popular East Bay spot had the potential of turning seriously ugly.
Police were called in because of a dispute about where people can set up their charcoal grills.
“This is exactly what is the problem with Oakland today. This lady wants to sit here and call the police on them for having a barbeque at the lake as if this is not normal,” said Michelle Snider.
Snider used her cellphone to record the woman you see on the video who called Oakland police because she said “it is illegal to have a charcoal grill in the park here.”
The incident happened a couple of weeks ago at Lake Merritt in Oakland.
Snider’s husband Kenzie Smith says he and a friend were setting up for a weekend cookout like they have done for decades with their families when he says they were approached by the woman in the video.
“She said that we were trespassing, we were not welcome, and then she turned back around and said, ‘ya’ll going to jail,'” said Smith.
“I think we need to question the policies that made this woman think woman feel she had the right to harass people,” said Snider.
According to an official Oakland Park and Rec map of Lake Merritt, there are six designated barbecue locations, three stationary charcoal locations, and three non-charcoal portable grill locations.
Smith and Snider were charcoal grilling in a non-charcoal grilling location.
“I have seen people barbecue with charcoal for years,” said Smith.
It’s against the rules, but is it a crime?
“I think it is really incumbent on all of us that when we call police, it is for emergency purposes,” said Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney.
McElhaney suggests other options instead of calling the police in this situation.
“I want to encourage people to know when to call the police, when to raise a question of regulations with the city council, maybe there is a passive way to reach out to us,” McElhaney added.
Oakland mayoral candidate Cat Brooks looks at the situation from a different angle.
“When you engage law enforcement in these kinds of things you are opening the door for things to go very wrong, the potential for arrests like in Philadelphia with those two black men or worse physical assault or death and I don’t believe in this day and age that white folks don’t know that,” said Brooks.
However, this case did not get out of hand.
Oakland police did arrive and both parties claimed they were being harassed.
Officers took a police report.
No citations were given and no arrests were made.
Smith was allowed to continue his weekend family barbecue by the lake like he says since he was a child.
“Honestly I want some kind of awareness. We need to be able to talk about this in an open forum,” said Smith.
And if that happens, it could be the beginning of building a better community.