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Christian Radio Station Quells Violence after Mehserle Verdict

Although I still haven’t sleuthed out the origins of “Oscar Grant Radio,” the mobile radio station that offered up a voice for citizens on the streets of Oakland following the Johannes Mehserle verdict on Thursday, today I learned about another station that was live on the street in order to both discourage violence and offer a public forum for those frustrated with the decision in the killing of Oscar Grant on a BART platform.

Christian AM radio station KFAX (1100 am) broadcast the show “Issues After Dark” from in front of a Christian bookstore at Franklin and 17th Street in downtown Oakland in the hours following the verdict. According to a report on KGO-TV (which can be viewed online), as the night wore on, the hosts of the radio show appealed to violent protesters and looters, even encouraging some of them to reconsider their actions. A few of the looters actually brought some of the stolen items to DJs, who planned to return them to the store from which they were taken.  KFAX will hold another live remote broadcast on the day that Mehserle is sentenced. DJ Dion Evans stated in the piece,

“‘I know we influenced people last night because there were people who came out there angry with agendas and because they came to 17th and Franklin where we were, they never made it anywhere else,’ said Evans.

People still broke windows and looted stores, like the Foot Locker on Broadway, but the radio hosts said they were happy it wasn’t worse and point out they even confronted the looters…

‘The funny thing about the difference that we made was that it didn’t require that much effort. It just required people to get off the sidelines,’ said radio host Charles Cole.”

To me, this is a great example of how local, terrestrial radio still plays a vital role for communities. When tensions run high, radio really can help connect people together and allow voices to be heard. It’s an incredible testament that these DJs actually helped to stop looters in their tracks and an important reminder that Thursday night’s protests in Oakland were full of peaceful and productive participants, despite media reports to the contrary.

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