SF Gate: Protests and peace give Oakland business owners relief

 Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle - Thousands gather in Frank Ogawa Plaza for a rally held after the Women's March in Oakland. Local businesses applauded the daytime protest as the right way to do things in Oakland.

Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle - Thousands gather in Frank Ogawa Plaza for a rally held after the Women's March in Oakland. Local businesses applauded the daytime protest as the right way to do things in Oakland.

Some 100,000 people descended on the streets of Oakland to protest over the weekend, but no storefronts were shattered, and no assaults were reported, and no trashcan fires were lit.

For downtown Oakland’s business-owners, many of them mom-and-pop operations, Saturday’s daytime Women’s March brought a welcome respite from the looters and self-described anarchists who have a habit of disrupting otherwise peaceful protests, smashing the same storefronts over and over, spraying graffiti on walls used to the treatment.

Even during Friday’s rowdier protest of President Trump’s inauguration — in which a small, but determined band of protesters clashed on occasion with police by nightfall long after the day’s larger, and peaceful, march had subsided, resulting in three arrests — the damage was minimal.

Two of the arrests were for minor vandalism, and the third for obstructing a police officer, said Officer Marco Marquez, a spokesman for the Oakland Police Department.

Owners of businesses on and near Broadway near Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, which abuts Oakland’s City Hall, said they did lose money with wary would-be customers avoiding the scene entirely. But the toll often tends to be worse.

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On Friday night, Oakland Police officers wearing riot gear prevented a group of about 50 vocal protesters from marching down Broadway — a crackdown that Steve Snider, executive directors of the Downtown Oakland Association, credited with saving storefronts that have been smashed one too many times before.

“I think we’re going in the right direction” Snider said. “Oakland’s always going to be the center of this protest activity, and most of us want it to be without vandalism or violence.”

Snider and other business owners are quick to mention that they support the rights — and more often than not, the causes — of marchers. They’re just asking for more enforcement on those who use the crowds as cover for mayhem.

Maria Alderete, the owner of Luka’s Taproom & Lounge at West Grand Avenue and Broadway, had braced herself for the weekend. In the past, dating back at least to the protests that roiled Oakland following the shooting by police of Oscar Grant in 2009, her bar has had at least five windows bashed in, she said. And one of her managers was assaulted in one of the more recent election protests, she said.

This time around, on Friday, she said she thought police did a “really good job of containing the crowd,” adding that it took a letter she sent before the weekend to Mayor Libby Schaaf and incoming Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick calling downtown businesses the “local punching bag.”

City officials worked with downtown businesses especially this weekend to help them prepare for the protests, Alderete said, suggesting they haul in flower pots that could be used as projectiles, as well as other preemptive measures.

Saturday, however, there was no need for any of it, as thousands of people filled Oakland’s streets with pink and chants protecting women’s rights.

Though the nationally coordinated march, with so-called sister marches in San Francisco and all over the country, wasn’t technically a repudiation of President Trump, marchers in Oakland made the connection on their own, wielding signs that said “Dump Trump.”

Alderete and Snider said they both joined in Saturday’s march, calling it an example of how to protest the right way, adding that its daytime scheduling was a plus for warding off would-be dissidents lurking in the crowd.

“The whole dinner-and-a-riot concept just doesn’t work,” Alderete said, adding that the Women’s March “certainly did” work.

Though Alderete said she lost about 45 percent of her normal Friday night revenue, things “evened out” with Saturday’s swell in business from peaceful protesters. That normally doesn’t happen, she said. She was lucky, she said.

“Well, I guess the next protest is tax day,” Alderete said. “So, we’ll see.”

Michael Bodley is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: mbodley@sfchronicle.com