Christopher Hitchens on Chris Thompson

Christopher Hitchens weighs in on about the police raid on Your Black Muslim Bakery following the assassination of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey, who was investigating the bakery’s finances. Hitchens points out that the link between the bakery’s leadership, particularly Yusef Bey and his family, and violent crime had previously been extensively reported by Chris Thompson in the East Bay Express starting in 2002. (See here and here and here.) Hitchens questions why local political leaders nevertheless continued to throw their support behind the bakery, writing:

“Now, again, I am just asking, but what if this racket had been named the White Christian or Aryan Nations Cookie Parlor? (Motto and mission statement: “Don’t F*** With Us.”) I think that Oakland’s mayor, Ron Dellums – who I was startled to find was still alive – would have joined a picket line around the store (as would I). The same would doubtless have been true of Rep. Barbara Lee, in whose district the YBMB was situated. But instead, in its role as a “community business,” the YBMB enjoyed warm support and endorsement from both the mayor and the congresswoman. And the guns for past and future slayings were inside the store.”

Thompson had raised similar concerns back in 2002 in an article headlined “How Official Oakland Kept the Bey Empire Going,” writing, “For two decades, ugly stories about the Beys have circulated throughout the city of Oakland, but no one in a position of power has spoken up about it. Instead, white and black leaders alike have embraced Bey as a pillar of the African-American community. Whether due to cowardice, ignorance, or Machiavellian realpolitik, government officials and media outlets have chosen inaction and silence – a choice with terrible ramifications for some Oakland residents.”

In particular, Thompson cited a framed, handwritten letter from state senator Don Perata to Yusef Bey, which was at that time displayed atop the pie case at the San Pablo bakery, stating “”The leadership you provide should be an inspiration to all concerned over the city’s future.”

Other examples Thompson cited in the 2002 Express article:

* Officials with the downtown Marriott Hotel and the Oakland Ice Center, both of which were built with city funds, have employed the Bey family’s security company Universal Distributors in spite of its apparent lack of a state-issued security license. Officials at the Port of Oakland even recommended the company as their top pick to provide security at Oakland International Airport.

* During the sentencing phase of Nedir Bey’s 1995 trial on charges that he beat and tortured a man, Bey produced letters of support from Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and City Councilmember Larry Reid.

* One year after Nedir Bey pleaded no contest in that trial, the city of Oakland lent him $1.1 million to start a home health care business. After the city complained that Bey misspent the funds on personal perks and overinflated salaries, Bey allegedly closed the business secretly and sold equipment pledged as collateral. Not one cent has ever been repaid.

* Even after losing this $1.1 million, the city of Oakland gave Nedir Bey $14,000 to finance his unsuccessful campaign to win a seat on the city council. Bey repeatedly has refused to explain how he spent the money – and may have violated campaign-finance regulations to get some of it.

Thompson even turned his scrutiny on the Express, pointing out that the paper ran a positive profile of Yusef Bey in 1994, referring to his “life devoted to the development of economic self-reliance for Oakland’s African-American community.”


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