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Oakland Baker and Activist Jen Angel Dies After Being Injured During a Violent Robbery

Jen Angel, a local activist and the owner and baker of Angel Cakes, believed in a world that was safer and fairer for all

Jen Angel, founder of Angel Cakes.
Angel Cakes
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

Jen Angel, owner and operator of Oakland bakery Angel Cakes, died on February 9 due to injuries sustained in a violent robbery. Angel was known not only as a maker of outstanding pies and treats, but also as a longtime organizer of the Anarchist Book Fair and a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The East Bay activist, writer, anarchist, and entrepreneur was declared to have lost all brain function by her medical team at Highland Hospital in Oakland on February 9. She was 48 years old.

In a statement on a GoFundMe launched to raise funds for medical costs, Angel’s family says that because of her political beliefs, they do not feel she would have wanted to see the people who attacked her prosecuted with a crime. Restorative justice, a framework Angel supported, is based on the idea that victims and perpetrators of harm should arbitrate and mediate to determine appropriate atonement and amendment, rather than defaulting to traditional forms of punishment including incarceration. In the statement, the family asks supporters to not “advance putting public resources into policing, incarceration, or other state violence that perpetuates the cycles of violence that resulted in this tragedy.”

Angel was attacked and injured on February 6 as she was running errands in her car in Oakland. Two thieves blocked her car’s way out of a Wells Fargo parking lot and reached into her vehicle, stealing her property through the window. Angel gave chase on foot and in the ensuing scuffle her clothing got stuck in the thieves’ car door. The San Francisco Chronicle reports she was dragged more than 50 feet and sustained serious injuries to her brain.

As of Friday, February 10, Oakland police say the perpetrators — who are known to the department — have not been apprehended. Emily Harris, a close friend of Angel’s and member of the National Advisory Board for the Prison Creative Arts Project, told the Chronicle she thinks Jen would understand the instinct to want to incarcerate the attackers. “But we know that if the people who cause her harm are sent to jail, all we’re doing is perpetuating more harm,” Harris said.

Angel Cakes took over the former T.J.’s Gingerbread house in 2016, eight years after Angel began her business selling cupcakes to friends and family throughout the East Bay. “I’m excited for customers to be able to try the more unusual flavors, like grapefruit miso, one at a time,” Angel told Eater at the time of her opening.