Oakland leaders weigh in on violence in Baltimore

Outside observers might be quick to say that the riots are the result of simple criminal behavior, but what we found is that the reasons for it are much more complex and widespread.

Baltimore has been tearing itself apart.

"Are we living in America? Or is this some foreign country," asked Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church.

Some observers have dismissed the rioters as thugs, or even animals. But Oakland community leaders say that doesn't even come close to explaining the riots.

"Baltimore is a typical example of the black community being fed up with being at the bottom of the totem pole," said Bishop Jackson.

At his church, Jackson shared a bleak perspective on the destructive behavior and the people engaging in it.

"The only thing this country really understands is violence. I'm sorry to say it like that, but it's true."

Olis Simmons runs Youth Uprising in East Oakland.

"We're in trouble. And the riots are a sign of the trouble that we're in," she said.

Simmons added that the anger that's motivating the rioters comes from a place that many Americans, especially ones with privilege, simply don't understand. She said they don't get the hunger that others feel.

"There's no prospect for food. There's no food at my house; there's no food at anybody's house that I know," said Simmons. "And I don't have any money to buy any. And you're eating! I'm going to want what's on your plate. And that's human nature."

Stanley Cox, who is better known as Oakland rapper Mistah FAB, offered a another take.

"How long can you expect a victim to just accept being a victim until he starts victimizing?" asked Cox. "To write off those acts as thuggery and criminality is to delegitimize black rage."

Three Oakland leaders with different perspectives; but they all have similar opinions about what's happening in Baltimore and how it could, even will, happen here.

"Not only here, but in all other inner cities around America," says Cox.

"I think it could happen because the same ingredients, the same things exist in the African American community today," added Bishop Jackson. "And that's across America. And it's systemic. The problem is systemic."

"We treat people of color like third class citizens. No education, poor housing stock, no early childhood, no stores, no banks, no jobs," says Olis Simmons.

None of those Oakland leaders supports the violence in Baltimore. And as the President indicated, one danger of that kind of behavior is that the message can be lost in the chaos.