Apologies in advance for the graphic images in this post, but their inclusion is key to understanding the brutality of what is said to have occurred at a Whole Foods in Oakland, CA, Thursday night. An everyday citizen, Zoe Marks, is actually the woman who blew the lid off the “horrific” incident that occurred at the Whole Foods near Lake Merritt. The Seattle native and African studies lecturer at Edinburgh University was visiting Oakland when she witness the assault she describe as such on Facebook:
In Oakland less than four hours and I just saw a young man violently assaulted by an armed security guard at Whole Foods – slammed repeatedly against concrete pillars, put in a chokehold, restrained, and suffocated until he was thrown face down on the pavement unconscious. The guard locked him out of the store despite the fact he was immobile. Not a single employee called the paramedics.
He was trying to buy groceries with his EBT card and ended up in a stretcher.
We spent an hour giving my written statement to the police, who were professional and polite. Does anyone know with whom and how we can share this story most justly and effectively? I’m sorry for more graphic images of violence against black citizens, but I was here and spoke to the victim (to keep him conscious), perpetrator, several bystanders, and cops. Armed private guards cannot be tolerated in our grocery stores and communities when this is what they do to paying customers. Whole Foods needs to be held accountable – security is NOT selective, it is collective.
Neither the security guard nor the man attacked have been identified. Police told a local CNN affiliate that the victim was taken to the hospital following the incident and is now in stable condition. As for the security guard, on Friday Whole Foods announced they’d fired the man responsible for the attack, but yesterday the grocery chain announced that they’ve also replaced the security firm which employed the guard, stating on Facebook:
Good morning Oakland, we’ve got another important update for you. It’s a long one:
While we don’t yet have the final results from the police investigation, we do have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for violence. As a result of the violent behavior of the security guard in our store, we are replacing this security firm in the store.
We are also working with all of the private security firms we contract with now to reiterate and reinforce our expectations that they abide by our code of conduct.
In addition, much of what’s been reported about this has alleged that the use of an EBT card had a role in the altercation. We want to clarify that EBT cards are readily accepted forms of payment at all Whole Foods Market stores. In fact, there’s no way or reason for a cashier to know if a customer is using an EBT card unless items not covered under EBT regulations are presented for payment, or the customer voluntarily displays the EBT to the cashier. And lastly, since our store opened we’ve worked hard to develop relationships with community organizations. In the coming days and weeks, we will reach out to these and other community partners to help us learn how we can continue to evolve our support for our diverse Oakland community.
Thanks for listening.
According to KQED News, in an interview Friday Marks said the incident seemed to begin when the man attacked had difficulty purchasing groceries with his EBT card. Though she said she didn’t hear the exchange that led to the violent aftermath captured, she did note, “He’d done nothing. He wasn’t aggressive. He wasn’t shouting. He had initiated no physical contact. … This was just someone who was trying to buy groceries.”
The incident is still under investigation by local police and Whole Foods.