A small but determined group of people protested at the Whole Foods Market near Lake Merritt Thursday evening over the alleged beating of a black customer by an armed security guard a week ago.
About 20 people chanted slogans and held signs outside the store at 230 Bay Place and about 20 others chanted inside the store and disrupted customers who were in checkout lines.
Several Oakland police officers watched the noisy protest inside the store but didn’t do anything.
Protesters urged customers to boycott Whole Foods, shouting slogans such as, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Racist Stores Have Got To Go!” and held signs such as, “Black Lives Matter.”
According to witnesses, at about 9:30 p.m. last Thursday night the customer was trying to buy groceries with an EBT card, which is used to distribute food stamp benefits, when he got into a confrontation with a security guard who allegedly slammed him against concrete pillars before choking and restraining him and throwing him face down on the pavement.
According to Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, who has been hired to represent the customer, he lay unconscious in a pool of his own blood for a time and suffered a concussion, a facial fracture and lacerations which required emergency surgery and stitches.
Whole Foods spokeswoman Beth Krauss said the customer had allegedly made physical contact with a store employee when the guard intervened.
After the incident, Whole Foods dismissed the security guard and the firm he worked for and hired a new firm, A.G.S. Security of Concord.
Burris described the customer as a black man in his mid-20s from the Bay Area, but said the man wants to remain anonymous at this time because he suffered significant injuries and is concentrating on recovering from them.
Burris said the customer shopped frequently at Whole Foods and “was not physically assaultive in any way and wasn’t trying to steal” but was simply trying to buy food with an EBT card.
Burris said witnesses have told him:
“There was a dispute over the method of payment and there was an effort to remove the customer and the security guard bum-rushed him.”
Burris said he thinks Oakland police, who are still investigating the incident, should seek assault charges against the security guard.
Burris said the customer “is recovering slowly and isn’t doing very well” now but he expects the man to fully recover eventually.