Dec 18, 2014

Zak Wear has had both a terrible and productive month.

This is how to turn lemons into lemonade.

A Richmond resident and key player in Tom Butt’s successful mayoral campaign, Wear launched an anti-bullying campaign this month targeting vandals and looters at protests. The inspiration for his latest campaign derives from a high-profile incident at a recent Berkeley protest during which he was assaulted for attempting to deter vandals.

On Dec. 10, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Justin Berton posted a Youtube video that apparently shows what happened right after the attack at the protest, which was related to police killings of unarmed black men. Wear was assaulted after trying to put out a Dumpster fire started by vandals at Telegraph and 21st, Berton reported. He was attacked by three masked men.

Despite losing two teeth in the assault, Wear stood his ground against the Dumpster vandals. The video shows a woman cussing angrily at him for his vigilance.

“This harms our ability to protest,” Wear told her and a small crowd.

(Beware, this video contains a lot of explicit language)

Following the attack, Butt’s top strategist rushed to Wear’s aid. Alex Knox, the mayor-elect’s campaign coordinator who has just been named director of community relations for the Richmond Mayor’s Office, started an online fundraiser for his colleague’s dental bills. The campaign exceeded its stated goal of raising $5,000.

They were not the only pearls of Knox’s fundraising effort. Through the fundraiser, Wear had the opportunity to make clear that, as he states, the recent “Black Lives Matter” protests are just and necessary and not to be confused with the small contingent of violent people who seek to hijack the message. Folks should stand up to all bullies, not just unlawful police but also violent vandals, Wear has stated.

“I’ve been working very hard to make this story in the press not be about how these are brutal protesters,” Wear said. “But instead there are a lot of amazing people out there, a lot of angels who are walking through the streets who should be trusted, who should be listened to, and who should be empowered.”

The message has continued to spread in news reports and on social media. The more than 100 people who donated to Wear’s fundraiser certainly got the message. Butt shared the campaign with his nearly 1,000 Facebook followers. As of this writing, the campaign had 232 Facebook shares. The Richmond Confidential, UC Berkeley’s progressive-leaning news publication and cheerleader for the Richmond Progressive Alliance, of which Wear is a member, jumped on the story.

In a KRON4 report posted two days ago, Wear seized another opportunity to spread the message, making the point that he opposes both “criminal” and “political” bullies.

“Absolutely I have gone back out and joined the protest again,” he said. “I think it’s very, very important that citizens remain engaged with simply the social change of this country.”

While two teeth were lost, zero opportunities were wasted in this campaign, including a prominent plug for the Richmond Progressive Alliance.

Displayed prominently in the background of the KRON4 video is a poster promoting the RPA, the group that backed Butt for mayor and includes current Mayor Gayle McLaughlin as a member. The poster conveniently states RPA’s name in full along with a protest picture and the headline, “Funding Violence Prevention.”

As they say, free advertising doesn’t come cheap. Clever strategy is involved. And as it appears by the people supporting him, Mayor-elect Butt will have little trouble in his first term turning political punches into opportunities.


  1. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for sharing your take on this. I think you by and large reported fairly. Here are a few thoughts, though:

    I made the choice of inviting KRON to the Bobby Bowens Progressive Center because I believe part of making the case for peace/non-violence is to tell stories of how citizens successfully organize for substantial change in their communities. Progressives were at the forefront of starting the Office of Neighborhood Safety. Residents organizing made the difference in a political environment that would otherwise say no. Many lives, mostly Black and Brown lives, were saved. Its of core relevance to the story, adds to the conversation, and not simply a “promotion of the brand.”

    Alex Knox and I go back to college. He and I are close friends. When he came out that night to help, it wasn’t as Tom Butt’s campaign manager, it was as my friend. While I’m very grateful that Tom shared my fundraiser, I’m surprised how much his name comes up in this story.

    Finally, and this is no fault to you because you don’t know, but the thank you video posted above was not intended for the general public to disseminate. Just friends/family/contributors.


    Z. Wear

    Zak Wear | Dec 19th, 2014
  2. Thanks for reading and for your nice comments Zak. Other folks in your position wouldn’t have been able to establish such a voice so quickly. And yours and Alex’s connection to Mayor-elect Tom Butt and the RPA make it a truly local story. I also thought it was a very interesting story. Again, thanks for your comments.

    Mike Aldax | Dec 19th, 2014
  3. I will second what Zach said in his comment, and also thank Mike not only for writing an informative story but for promoting me to the position of “top strategist”! I’ll let you know how that works out. Jokes aside i feel it is important to clarify that my role in supporting Zach in this incident had nothing to do with my position as Tom’s campaign or mayoral staff. Zach and i are old friends and my help was not derived from some opportunistic calculation of political strategy. The Mayor elect was not responsible for any aspect of this effort other than offering to get the word out about the fundraising.

    Again i appreciate you writing a piece that draws out the essence of what happened and whats important in this movement. I can’t say the same for your opportunistic and strategic article on the People’s Climate March in September but then again Big Oil is at a loss rhetorically when it comes to addressing climate change.

    Alex Knox | Dec 19th, 2014
  4. Alex, I also thank you for your comments. And I thank both of you for contributing more context to my story. You are flat out wrong on the Amtrak article though, and that’s unfortunate. And in the story above I did not intend for any offense to either of you. After I spent 24 hours at Occupy SF as a SF Examiner reporter, I got a lot of guff for what I wrote. I was a crime reporter and I wrote a cover story about the criminal element in the Justin Herman Plaza camp. I did so after receiving numerous reports about crimes in the camp, many that were going unreported. Zak’s story had a similar, interesting message: that it appears a majority of protesters are passionate people trying to be heard, but there’s a small contingent looking to hijack it for their own agenda. More than anything, I strive to find interesting local stories. I felt this qualified.

    Mike Aldax | Dec 19th, 2014

About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.