Sideshows are the collective name for various informal, often automobile-based activities. Cars including scrapers, perform stunts like “doing donuts” (skidding in tight, controlled circles), bouncing up and down (inherited from lowrider culture), or ghostriding. Most infamously, (possibly since YouTube became the de facto clearinghouse for sideshow videos) the trend has been toward ever-greater public disruption via more coordinated activities, such as sideshows held on I-880 near the Coliseum or on the Bay Bridge’s lower deck.

As a visible outgrowth of prison culture, an element common to all sideshows is demonstrating defiance to authority (the “F*** Tha Police” angle). Thus, the more reckless and dangerous, the better. This is essential to understanding the phenomenon, and why sideshows must be illegal by nature. [questionable premise and conclusion - citation needed]

not sure i agree with this prison part, but would love to hear more. defiance of authority, sure. fuck the police, also sure. showing off something counter culture in a testosterone fueled/aggressive way doesn't necessarily = prison culture. -gk

By providing a momentary spectacle for onlookers sideshows also represent a homegrown, D.I.Y celebration of Oakland counter culture. While not unique to Oakland, they originated (Wikipedia claims at Eastmont Mall needs verification) and seem to predominate here, often with bad results like shootings, police involvement, arrests and serious injury and/or death.

Musicians associated with sideshows include Keak da Sneak, Richie Rich and E-40, though no self-respecting sideshow could ever be considered proper without the ubiquitous $ir Too $hort blasting outta somebody’s trunk. (That is a damn given.)

A proposed 2005 City Council ordinance (Anyone know which one?) would have made spectators vulnerable to criminal charges.

On June 3, 2013 OPD held a press conference and said they'd be focusing renewed attention on sideshows. (see this article)

Sideshow type footage circa 1920s shows the Oakland Motorcycle Club event

Sideshows gone bad:

  • 2013-10-05: A man shot in the back at a sideshow at 106 and MacArthur
  • 2013-09-21: A fight and possibly people shot at a sideshow at the Port
  • 2013-06-28: a shooting occurred at a sideshow in the 4000 block of Alameda and a man was shot in the stomach
  • 2013-05-31: a shooting occurred placing a 25-year-old woman on life support, and wounding 2 men when a party bus tried to drive through a sideshow at 106th and MacArthur Boulevard.
  • 2013-03-20: 2-year-old Oakland resident Corey Abrams sustained a broken neck after his mother's car was rear-ended during a sideshow on I-880.
  • 2013-01-28: A sideshow shut down I-880 at 4 PM near the Oakland Coliseum; videos went viral.
  • 2011-05-30: 2 dead, 1 injured at a sideshow at 88th and International Blvd.
  • 2009-10-17: 3 dead, 3 injured at a sideshow at MacArthur Boulevard and 100th Avenue.
  • 2009-10-11: A man was killed at a sideshow at 4300 Foothill Blvd.
  • 2009-07-23: A teenager was shot and killed at a sideshow at 90th and Bancroft.


Alternatives to Sideshows

In 2005, Desley Brooks proposed alternatives to sideshows. See BDP and Mosaic for nonspecific details. Reid thought that was ridiculous. She used the San Diego ordinance as an idea. (First mention seems to be 2003)

In 2009, Ron Dellums also said it might be possible to make sideshows legal and safe (also here)

Laws about sideshows

  • 2005 ordinance (BDP)

Jean Quan's February 27, 2014 newsletter said the following about sideshows:

"Sideshows" and Media Coverage

Recently, we [who is "we"?] have been getting questions about sideshows because a local station strung together splices of YouTube videos, most of them  a year old, that appeared to show County Sheriff and CHP vehicles leaving the scene of a sideshow in Oakland and labeling it "the Wild, Wild West." We now know that some footage was filmed in San Francisco, not Oakland, but the editing is confusing.  So the Sheriff, CHP and OPD are trying to obtain the original videos, dates and times, so they can report on law enforcement response to these incidents from several locations. 

  What is happening with sideshows in Oakland?

  • Several years ago, multiple sideshows on every weekend night were common.  Joint work by OPD and CHP have reduced them significantly with penalties such as tickets and towing cars. 
  • Work on bumpouts (narrowing lanes), red light cameras and speed bumps on long streets in the city has reduced sideshows in commercial and residential areas. The worst sideshows are now predominantly occurring in our industrial areas.
  • Sideshows now and in the past usually involve a majority of young adults in their twenties, most of them from out of town.
  • Recently a young woman was killed when her car struck a light pole in the Port area.  The City and Port have increased policing and are considering cameras and other physical barriers to prevent drag racing and sideshows.  

How can you help stop sideshows?

  • If you get texts, tweets or other social media information about upcoming sideshows, you can share them with the CHP or Oakland Police.
  • If you see sideshow activities, you can report them to CHP or Oakland Police immediately via 911.
  • If you have photos or videos of sideshows in Oakland, you can share them with CHP or OPD.
  • Discourage your friends and children from participating as drivers, passengers or spectators.  Fines and towing can cost over $1,400.  More importantly, running red lights, drag racing or stunts can injure not only the participants, but innocent bystanders, drivers and pedestrians as well.

Links and References