The latest in a series of protests over a mural inside a community space committed to social justice ended peacefully Sunday.
Reem's California is a bakery that opened last spring to serve breads, pastries and coffee, just as it had to farmers markets and other pop-up spaces in recent years. Seeking to model values reflective of Oakland's social-justice community, it sought to pay living wages, hire from marginalized communities and use natural, local or regional ingredients.
On Sunday, a rare day the bakery's schedule was open, it held a private event for Sunaina Maira, an Asian-American studies professor at UC Davis, who had published a new book about boycotting Israeli academic institutions.
About 30 people gathered to stand in a line in Fruitvale Village, and although they were aware of the event, their focus was the mural of Rasmea Odeh, which continues to draw unwelcome attention.
Odeh, a Jordanian and former American citizen of Palestinian origin and a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was convicted by Israeli courts for a role in the deaths of two Hebrew University students in 1969, Edward Joffee and Leon Kanner. Some Arab and Muslim community members maintain that Odeh's confession to a role was coerced.
"In Oakland, a community devastated by violence, this kind of glorification of terror and violence is just inappropriate, so we're here to express our dissatisfaction," said El Cerrito resident Faith Meltzer.
"This is about hate in our community, the normalization of violence in our community — and that's why were here."
Meltzer, who said her group called themselves Oakland United Against Hate, called the mural anti-Jewish. About 15 people from a variety of local social-justice groups, including Arab Resource and Organizing Center spokeswoman Lara Kiswani, stood mostly silent outside in support of the bakery.
"We're here to celebrate Reem's as an institution that also celebrates that kind of work (like Maira's book) and defend Reem's from attacks that've been coming on a regular basis. So we have a security team prepared to make sure that no one is harmed," Kiswani said.
The development of the team, whose members have trained in de-escalation techniques, has helped shield the bakery in the wake of several protests last summer, Kiswani said.
"We saw this as indicative of this political moment — the attacks on Arabs and Muslims, on an Arab woman-owned bakery — and someone who's very proud of her identity puts it at the forefront of her process and practice. For that reason, she's had a huge amount of support, and a lot of people come to her defense," Kiswani said. "As a result, the protests sort of diminished."