A well-known anarchist author and bakery owner died last week following her own attempt to fight back from a daytime purse-snatching in a bank parking lot in Oakland, California.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we announce that Oakland baker, small business owner, social justice activist, and community member Jen Angel has been medically declared to have lost all brain function and will not regain consciousness,” according to a Feb. 9 statement posted to her Facebook page by family and friends. “Her official time of death was 5:48pm (PT).”
“We know Jen would not want to continue the cycle of harm by bringing state-sanctioned violence to those involved in her death or to other members of Oakland’s rich community,” friends and family wrote in a long statement of principles advising against punishing her killer. “As a long-time social movement activist and anarchist, Jen did not believe in state violence, carceral punishment, or incarceration as an effective or just solution to social violence and inequity.”
The initial robbery occurred on Feb. 6, in a Wells Fargo parking lot on Webster Street, the Oakland Police Department told reporters. The robbery happened less than a mile away from the popular Angel Cakes bakery she owned, where lines out the door are a constant feature, San Francisco-based ABC affiliate KGO-TV reported.
At around 12:30 p.m. that day, Angel was in her vehicle in the parking lot when another vehicle blocked her exit, the OPD said in an email. Then came the next part of the apparent ambush: a man broke Angel’s window and reached inside to grab her purse before running back to the getaway car.
Undaunted, Angel leaped out of her own vehicle and followed the man, taking hold of his vehicle to try and retrieve her purse. Unfortunately, the beloved baker was caught in the door of the fleeing vehicle and dragged some 50 feet before she fell, law enforcement said.
Angel suffered severe head trauma as a result. She was rushed to the nearby Highland Hospital Trauma Unit, where surgery was performed and she was eventually put in a medically induced coma. While the prognosis was grim, loved ones stayed in the hospital for days with Angel as she fought for her life, KGO-TV reported.
Angel Cakes was founded in 2008, the statement from the deceased woman’s loved ones notes. According to a GoFundMe to support her family and business, the bakery will stay open “supported by Jen’s estate, and staffed by the talented team that Jen built.”
The GoFundMe says it will also cover various expenses related to Angel’s medical care, living and travel expenses for her mother, and “household and related” expenses for Angel’s partner.
The fundraiser additionally warns that a “fake fundraiser for Jen [has appeared] on Indiegogo” and says that the scam is “sad, unfortunate, and not in the spirit of solidarity that Jen lived by.”
“We are really trying to orient towards her brilliant life, and that actually, she is not a person who would support the policing and imprisonment of the people who harmed her,” friend Emily Harris, who spent every day of the past week in the ICU with Angel until she passed, told KGO-TV. “Feels like absolutely an opportunity to stand in her values, and support the world that she wants. By actually showing that something different than actual policing and prosecution is possible, and is how we can have accountability.”
Police are, however, investigating the crime that led to Angel’s death.
“On February 9, 2023, the victim unfortunately succumbed to their injuries,” the OPD said. “Investigators from the OPD Homicide section have taken over the case. This is an ongoing investigation.”
Keen to the realities of how the state responds to such incidents, Angel’s family and friends insisted on an unconventional approach if law enforcement is successful in their efforts to apprehend the person or people responsible for her death.
The statement goes on, at length:
If the Oakland Police Department does make an arrest in this case, Jen’s values call for pursuing all available alternatives to traditional prosecution, such as restorative justice. Jen’s community ask that the media respect this request and carry forward the story of her life with celebration and clarity about the world she aimed to build. Please do not use Jen’s life legacy of care and community to further inflame narratives of fear, hatred, and vengeance. Jen would not want to advance putting public resources into policing, incarceration, or other state violence that perpetuates the cycles of violence that resulted in this tragedy.
The concept of restorative justice is broad, but in certain anarchist understandings, is meant to facilitate the guilty party’s remorse while compensating the victim or their survivors, and repair past harms while eschewing typical trappings of the legal system like prison time.
No arrests have been made so far.
“Jen believed in a world where everyone has the ability to live a dignified and joyful life and worked toward an ecologically sustainable and deeply participatory society in which all people have access to the things they need, decisions are made by those most directly affected by them, and all people are free and equal,” the statement goes on. “Per Jen’s wishes, her organs will be donated, and her committed medical team has informed the family that those organs will serve to lengthen and improve the lives of up to 70 people.”
Police directly responded to the request from Angel’s family and friends.
“The Oakland Police Department respects the wishes of the victims family,” a spokesperson told reporters. “However, we do have a legal obligation to conduct a thorough investigation and forward the findings to the District Attorneys office.”