After a work session that went on longer than I could stand, I pulled away from equations, blogs, and my computer to venture over to Van Cleef's Cafe for a glass of wine over jazz Tuesday night.
After one cocktail I was ready to head back home. But as I walked out the door, my friend, Peter Van Cleef, who owns Van Cleef's Cafe -- check the last name -- said "Hey, the night's young, don't go. Besides, I got something to tell you. Jerry's innocent of those charges. I was with him when it happened. He said nothing racist to anyone, at least nothing like what's going to be reported by that woman."
Peter then continued to recount their steps, as he was with Mayor Brown, a couple of Oakland Police representatives, and a man that Van Cleef claimed was the doorman at 1015 Folsom. "We walked with Jerry. I was with him the whole way. Nothing like that happened. Yes, Jerry did say something to them, but nothing like that at all."
Frankly, I side with Peter on this one, though I wasn't there. It's not like Jerry to be that way at all. He may have his faults, but being openly insulting and racist in or outside of a bar is not one of them.
My educated guess is that the women didn't get the kind of sympathetic response they wanted from Jerry, probably because their behavior was not defensable, and so turned any little thing he said or they immagined he said into something that was removed from reality and to help them build a case to protect themselves.
Moreover, they came from "17" -- a bar -- and even if they weren't drunk, were drinking. Plus, they were already angry, which means their judgment was blocked. I still don't know what happened to cause the women to be thrown out of 17 to begin with.
Still, the timing's not the best for Mayor Brown, who's running for Attorney General of California. But he's doing this right at a time when he's still the head guy in town and Oakland's crime rate is increasing and in areas where it's not common, like Lake Merritt. Plus, Jerry's rather elitist personality has rubbed many an Oaklander the wrong way. Take this comment from a couple I met later that night: "Jerry Brown. I hope he gets what's coming to him. He's really a disappointment (as Mayor)."
Indeed, it's this approach that can be seen by some as racist, when Jerry doesn't mean to be. But I'll be willing to bet that Jerry told the young African American women something in brief expressing his displeasure with their behavior, and that undoubtedly touched off everything else.
(If you're wondering what Jerry's being accused of, the full Oakland Tribune account is below. I don't link to the Tribune's web pages because their archives are terrible, and the links don't last long.)
Jerry Brown under investigation after alleged altercation outside club By Heather MacDonald - STAFF WRITER, OAKLAND TRIBUNE
OAKLAND - Mayor Jerry Brown is being investigated on suspicion of vandalism after two women accused him of breaking a cell phone and making racist statements early Sunday morning outside @17th, a downtown nightclub.
Brown, who is running for state attorney general and is embroiled in a tough primary fight against Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, said Tuesday through his spokesman the allegations are ``absolutely not true.''
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office, rather than the Oakland Police Department, is investigating to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
District Attorney Tom Orloff said it is too early to tell how long the investigation will take.
After attending a briefing at police headquarters for officers who were just beginning their shifts, Brown went with officers to three clubs that have been the subject of numerous complaints, including @17th, near Telegraph Avenue and 17th Street, said Gil Duran, the mayor's spokesman.
The incident began about 1:30 a.m. when security guards removed Rochelle Evans from the club for allegedly being over intoxicated. Her sister, Latrenia Delonge of Newark, and their friend Ayesha Wilson of Manteca left with her. All three are African American.
Outside the popular night spot, two groups of girls were yelling and fighting. Delonge said she got too close to the melee and was struck in the eye with a shoe by another woman.
While she was attending to Evans and Delonge, Wilson said she asked an Oakland police officer for help in calling an ambulance and making a report. As she spoke to him, she said she heard someone behind her say, ``That's what you get for being here,'' and turned around to see who was speaking.
Wilson said the mayor identified himself, and the two exchanged words before she went back to Delonge, who was bleeding and struggling for breath. Delonge has asthma, she said.
As Wilson helped her friend, Delonge said she heard more derogatory remarks - including something about ``you people'' - and turned around to see the mayor standing nearby.
Although she said she could not be sure the mayor said it, Wilson said she took out her cell phone and began using it to record the mayor, while telling him she could not believe he said those things. Wilson told police the mayor reached out and grabbed the flip phone, which she was holding in her right hand, and ``squeezed really hard,'' cracking the phone's plastic casing and its exterior screen. ``I was afraid,'' Wilson said, adding she had not been drinking Saturday night.
Wilson said the mayor did not injure her and the phone still works.
Duran said the mayor entered the club to get a sense of its atmosphere, and when he exited he attempted to mediate the ongoing altercation.
The mayor did not make any inappropriate statements and did not vandalize anyone's cell phone, Duran said, but has instructed Police Chief Wayne Tucker to conduct a full investigation of the incident. Brown declined to discuss the matter directly. Duran said it did not merit his time.
Quincy Krashna, @17th general manager, who was outside the club at the time of the incident, said the three women complained to the mayor the security guards had been too rough when they ejected Evans. The women were belligerent toward the mayor, and did not allow him to respond to their complaints, Krashna said. The mayor did not say anything untoward to the women, nor did he raise his hand or snatch anything from them, Krashna said.
An officer on duty when Delonge and Wilson made the report Sunday evening saw the phone video and said nothing could be heard - and only an unidentifiable hand could be seen on the recording.