Oakland Sideshows: Should They Be Legal?

What do you get when you mix car stunts, youth culture, and Oakland? Sideshows! Sideshows have become big in Oakland, where drivers will block major intersections to perform car stunts like donuts and figure eights, while large crowds gather to watch. But here’s the catch-- they can be real dangerous and because of that they are totally illegal. And chances are in some way or another there’s a clash between youth and car culture and cops near you too. In Oakland, they are creating a huge divide in the community, where many supporters say sideshows are part of Oakland culture and are calling for legal safe venues. While many opponents view sideshows as a dangerous public nuisance and are calling for harsher legal penalties. So students in the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs program at Oakland Military Institute in Oakland, California are asking: what should Oakland do about sideshows? And chances are there’s a clash between youth, car culture and cops near you too.

What are sideshows in Oakland?

In Oakland California sideshows are events where drivers perform car stunts like donuts and figure eights, as large crowds gather to watch. They often block major intersections, bridges or highways.

Are Sideshows in Oakland dangerous?

Sideshows in Oakland can be dangerous. Sometimes drivers doing stunts can lose control of their cars and hit people in the crowds. Additionally, crowds can get rowdy and fights can break out, and guns get pulled. When police are called to the scene-- sometimes there can be car chases and there have been reports of tear gas.

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What are the arguments for legalizing sideshows and creating safe venues for car stunts?

Many people feel that sideshows are an important part of Oakland culture and should not be criminalized. If legal safe venues were created, then the number of dangerous illegal sideshows would decrease. It would also create a business opportunity for Oakland. Instead of spending money on policing these illegal events, the city could charge admission fees to legal safe venues which would generate income, and provide economic opportunity to the drivers.

SOURCES

ABC7: 3 Killed in Sideshow Crash in Oakland

SF Chronicle: Person Injured in Fall From Highway Ramp During Crokett Sideshow

ABC30: Richmond Police Officer Hit By Car While Trying to Breakup Sideshow

KQED: Make Sideshows an Opportunity in Oakland, Not a Problem

NY Times: The Idea of Decriminalizing Oakland ‘Sideshows’

CNN: Six Figure Job: Stunt Drivers