Jogger caught on camera tossed homeless man’s belongings into lake: ‘It was spilling everywhere’
A jogger in Oakland has been caught on camera trashing a homeless man’s belongings in the latest viral incident to spark debate about gentrification and racism in California.
Video spread on social media over the weekend showing the jogger rifling through a local homeless man’s possessions in a public park, dumping blankets into a lake and carrying property to a nearby trash can as a group of onlookers tried to stop him.
“I’m picking up trash, what do you want me to do? Look at this,” the man said in the video, which was captured by JJ Harris, an Oakland film-maker and photographer. “It’s disgusting.”
In an interview Monday, Harris said: “I was just completely taken aback … This is a homeless man’s stuff – a guy who is always peaceful, never causing trouble, always giving you a smile. That he would do this to another human being, the lack of compassion is astonishing.”
The episode happened at Lake Merritt, a popular Bay Area park and the site of another recent viral video of a white woman calling police on two black men barbecuing. That woman, who became known internationally as “BBQ Becky”, was the latest in a series of examples of white people calling law enforcement on African Americans going about their daily lives and harassing people of color with racist rants.
The jogger, who is white and was wearing large headphones, mostly ignored other park-goers who said they knew the homeless man and that he had long stayed in that spot. Supporters, who have raised nearly $2,000 for the man since the Friday incident, identified him as Drew.
Harris, who lives near the lake and frequently hangs out in this section of the park, said he had often seen the homeless man there and that he kept his possessions in order.
“His stuff is in the corner, not blocking the walkway,” Harris said, adding that he had decided to start filming when he realized the jogger was trashing someone’s belongings. “I see somebody just throwing huge amounts of blankets into the lake. I was just shocked.”
In the video, the jogger says “it smells” after one person tries to stop him. The footage also shows the man kicking the belongings and tossing then around, and when someone asks him why he threw stuff into the lake, he responds: “That was an accident.”
The video, however, showed a large pile of stuff floating in the water. Onlookers said the man was spreading his belongings around, making more of a mess.
The Oakland police department said it was investigating the incident.
People have since been donating blankets, food, clothes and other items to Drew, according to Harris.
Kenzie Smith, a lifelong Oaklander and one of the men barbecuing in last month’s viral incident, has been coordinating fundraising. Smith said he hopes the donations would help with basic necessities, along with healthcare and eventually housing.
“This happened in the community and it was the community who responded to quickly,” Smith said in an email. “It shows Drew that people do care.”
Oakland, located across the bay from San Francisco, is an historically black city suffering through a major housing and homelessness crisis amid rapid gentrification and displacement. The video emerged days after a man in a suit was caught on camera kicking a person lying on a sidewalk in San Francisco.
“It just feels like this is the direction Oakland is going,” said Harris. “People are going to need to step up.”