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This jogger was caught throwing a homeless man's belongings into a lake. The community wasn't having it

First it was #BBQBecky, this time it's #JoggerJoe. Either way, residents of Oakland, California aren't happy about it...

Posted: Jun 15, 2018 4:06 AM
Updated: Jun 15, 2018 4:06 AM

First it was #BBQBecky, this time it's #JoggerJoe. Either way, residents of Oakland, California aren't happy about it.

Last week, a jogger was caught on video in Oakland throwing away a homeless man's possessions. In the days since the video went viral, more than $12,000 has been raised to help the man get back on his feet.

Witnesses say the jogger threw the homeless man's blankets and clothes into Lake Merritt, and footage shows the him throwing the man's belongings into a trash can.

The video sparked outrage on social media and inspired community members to unite just weeks after a white woman called the police on a group of black men having a barbecue at the same lake. Both events have fueled an ongoing conversation about race, gentrification and homelessness in the Bay Area and around the nation.

Trash is relative

The original video, taken Friday evening, shows a shirtless jogger in a backwards cap rifling through a homeless man's possessions while he is away as others try to convince him to stop.

"I'm picking up trash, what do you want me to do?" the man says in the video. "It was going everywhere."

The camera pans to show what appear to be clothes and blankets floating in Lake Merritt. When onlookers press him, the man says: "That was an accident."

The video was filmed by JJ Harris, an Oakland resident who said police officers showed up only after the man jogged away. Harris walks past the encampment nearly every day, and says he was shocked by the jogger's actions but is proud of the community for coming together to help the homeless man.

"Everybody is busy kind of getting by, but the only way that we can really change and turn the tables is to help each other and stand by our communities. And this is a great example of that," Harris told CNN.

Mary Gilg, the deputy director of the Homeless Action Center in Oakland, said the term "trash" is relative.

"What looks like trash to us might not be trash to the person to (whom) it belongs," she told CNN.

"Trash," she says, might include important papers, notices about housing and benefits, and identification papers like a birth certificate that are difficult to replace.

"People need those things to access social services and housing opportunities," Gilg said. "When those things get thrown away, it's another roadblock to getting out of homelessness."

An outpouring of support for the victim

Kenzie Smith, one of the men who says he was racially profiled while barbecuing at Lake Merritt last month, set up a GoFundMe page for the homeless man, Drew.

The page, which posted an original goal of raising $3,000, has received more than $12,000 for clothing, shoes, food, bedding and other items to replace what the jogger allegedly threw into the lake.

According to Smith's post, Drew has lived at Lake Merritt for a long time.

"Like the thousands of other people in the Bay Area without homes, Drew is one of our neighbors," Smith wrote. "We're disgusted that someone thought it was OK to treat Drew this way and want to show him through our care that what happened to him is unacceptable."

The fundraiser was set up to help Drew with supplies like clothes and food, but due to the overwhelming support, Harris says he and Smith now have bigger dreams for Drew.

"It's gotten to the point now where we are reaching out to local organizations to leverage this and set him up with health services and get him housing," Harris said.

Since the videos were posted, people have given Drew clothes and blankets to replace what the jogger destroyed. Harris said the event has had a large impact on the community and that seeing how people have come together to help the homeless since has made him proud.

"It has been phenomenal to see the community step up and making a stand and really being vocal and saying this kind of treatment of other people will not be tolerated here," he said.

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