Archive for August, 2015

Oakland’s Students Go Back to School

Flurry of activities sprout around city as families and educators prepare for opening day

Students received free backbacks and school supplies at the annual Attend and Achieve Rally at City Hall organized by Oakland Natives Give Back.

Students receive free backbacks and school supplies at the annual Attend and Achieve Rally at City Hall organized by Oakland Natives Give Back.

By Ken Epstein

With school set to start on Monday, families of Oakland’s 48,000 public school students are getting ready while the Oakland Unified School District’s 2,500 teachers are already back at school, holding meetings, arranging desks and preparing bulletin boards in their classrooms.

Parents who are looking for backpacks and school supplies for their children can check out the Attend and Achieve Back to School Rally, organized by Oakland Natives Give Back on Saturday, Aug. 22 at Oakland City Hall. Registration is from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

To register online, go to attendandachieve2SR2015@eventbrite.com.

Educator Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein reminded teachers in an article published on her Facebook page that in the midst of the flurry of activity inside and outside the classroom, teachers should not to lose sight of the significance of the first day and the first week for setting the tone for the whole school year.”

“The first day of school is the most optimistic of the school year for many students,” she said. “They are sure that it will be a better year than last; they will do well; avoid old mistakes; make new friends; and make mom happy.”

“Start off with an interesting, interactive activity on which every student can do well. Do not waste the spirit on an hour of rules,” she said, while emphasizing the importance of ground rules like “No put downs.”

Within the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), work has been continuing nonstop all summer – hiring new staff, conducting trainings for teachers and other employees and cleaning and repairing schools.

The district has hired 16 new principals, who have been receiving training in new curriculums and developing safety plans for all schools.

In the midst of a regional and national teacher shortage, OUSD is also struggling to hire credentialed teachers for every classroom to start on the first day of school rather than to rely on substitutes who by law must be replaced every 30 days.

As of Aug. 12, OUSD had 77 teacher vacancies, including 38 in elementary schools, 12 in middle schools and 23 in high schools.

Eight of the vacancies were in science, five in math, three in elementary bilingual education and 20 in special education.

To reduce the numbers of suspensions and expulsions, OUSD has developed Restorative Justice and Positive Behavior Support plans for every school.

District staff has also worked with school design teams on improvement plans for four Intensive Support Schools: Castlemont, Fremont and McClymonds High schools and Frick Middle School.

School redesign plans are scheduled to be implemented in Fall 2016.

School repair and renovation projects included $600,000 to remove portables from Bella Vista Elementary School, $2.5 million for kitchen and cafeteria fire repair at Claremont Middle School and $60,000 for bleachers and restroom upgrades at Fruitvale Elementary School.

The district moved ahead this summer on building a new $32 million central kitchen and commissary at the site of the now closed Marcus Foster School in West Oakland.

OUSD is also spending $440,000 to relocate administrative staff from Lakeview Elementary School and other sites to the district headquarters at 1000 Broadway.

In his opening of school statement to the community, Oakland Unified’s Supt. Antwan Wilson emphasized the district’s commitment to improve educational opportunities for special education students.

“For too many years, students with special needs, both in Oakland and around the country, have not been afforded the opportunities that many other students take for granted,” he wrote this week in an open letter to the school community.

“To be frank, these students have often been excluded: from rigorous and engaging classroom experiences; from events that bring students together, like prom and sporting events; even from their school’s graduation,” he said.

“That is the culture of the past, which separated students and divided them from their peers. In the Oakland Unified School District, we are moving away from this history of exclusion to a new era of inclusion.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 21, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Mainstream Media Still Finds It Hard to Find Good News to Report About Oakland

(Left to right) Karen Boyd, communications director, City of Oakland; Christin Ayers, general assignment reporter for KPIX Channel 5 News; Susan Mernit, CEO of the Center for Media Change; and Joe Garofoli, journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle.  Photo courtesy of Hank Masler.

(Left to right) Karen Boyd, communications director, City of Oakland; Christin Ayers, general assignment reporter for KPIX Channel 5 News; Susan Mernit, CEO of the Center for Media Change; and Joe Garofoli, journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Photo courtesy of Hank Masler.

By Conway Jones

Three members of the Bay Area media were  panelists at an event hosted by the East Bay Women in Business Roundtable to discuss the state of Oakland’s image in the media.
 
Panel moderator Karen Boyd, Communications Director, City of Oakland, posed questions to the three-member panel concerning how the media decided what news to cover in Oakland, how reporters were assigned to cover it, and ultimately what news was reported.
 
Speakers were Christin Ayers, general assignment reporter for KPIX Channel 5 News; Joe Garofoli, journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle; and Susan Mernit, CEO of the Center for Media Change.
 
The consensus of the panelists was that there was good news happening in Oakland but that mainstream media tend to focus attention on what they call “hard” news, which emphasizes crime and conflict.
 
Ayers punctuated this point when she related her experience in trying to report on a recent $34 million set of grants that was given to Oakland by the San Francisco Foundation on behalf of an anonymous donor.
 
“The grant story was covered by KPIX online but that particular day, other news took precedence, and I was assigned to a different story, which was disappointing,” she said.
 
“There are days when I don’t know what the recipe is,”said Ayers.
 
Panel members agreed that Oakland’s image is being shaped by “absentee media owners” and by the editorial staff in these organizations who do not live in Oakland or have any vested stake in the community.
 
“The Hearst Corporation, a privately held American-based media conglomerate and owner of the San Francisco Chronicle, is based in New York,” said Joe Garofoli.
 
“Most of the people on the editorial staff who make the decisions on what news to cover and how to cover the news do not live in Oakland, nor do the reporters who cover and report this news,” he said.
 
Susan Mernit related a story about a shrine that had been built in her neighborhood that evolved into a central gathering place that uplifted the spirit and good will of that community.
 
Nothing was reported in the news about this, she said.
 
Karen Boyd, the City of Oakland’s Communications Director and moderator of the panel, was optimistic about how media coverage is trending. “Oakland is generating tremendous buzz, particularly in the national media. The Warriors winning season and parade, our lively arts scene and explosion of dining options are causing people to look at Oakland in a fresh and positive light. The work ahead remains—how do we tell the important stories of our neighborhoods, where people who have lived here for generations are contributing in important ways to the fabric of Oakland? Those are the stories that need to be told—locally and nationally.”
Courtesy of the Post News Group, August 21, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

“Creating Joyful and Effective Schools” – Educators to Speak at Oakland Post Salon

By Post Staff

This month’s Post Salon will feature a dialogue on the politics and practice of education. The speakers are three longtime educators in the East Bay.

Dr. Kimberly Mayfield

Dr. Kimberly Mayfield

The salon, titled “Three Passionate Educators Will Talk about Creating Joyful, Effective Education for Urban Students and Teachers While Confronting Current Destructive Educational Policies,” will take place 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23 at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, 410 14th St. in downtown Oakland.
The speakers will be:
Dr. Kimberly Mayfield, chair of the Education Department at Holy Names University, former Oakland teacher, author, president of the Oakland Berkeley chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA) and facilitator of a community task force that initiated one of the most effective teacher diversity programs in the country.

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein who has written two books about Oakland and received the 2013 Scholar-Activist Award from the Urban Affairs Association. She hosts a radio show on education and has presented internationally on issues of racism, social justice and effective teaching methodology.  Before becoming a college professor, she taught high school in Oakland.

Francisco Ortiz, a teacher in the Richmond School District and a graduate student at Holy Names University. Based on both personal and professional experience, he works on issues confronting Latino emergent-bilingual students who are being educated in a state with inadequate numbers of

Francisco Ortiz

Francisco Ortiz

Latino teachers.
The Post Salon is free, and donations are appreciated to cover the cost of the event.

Following the presentation, there will be time for discussion and an opportunity to mingle. Geoffrey’s bar will be open for anyone who wishes to buy drinks. People are invited to stay for Jazz at Geoffrey’s, which starts at 6 p.m.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, August 21, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

S.F. Latino Community Leader Rosario Anaya, 70

Rosario Anaya

Rosario Anaya

By Wade Woods

Former San Francisco School Board member and director of the Mission Language and Vocational School Executive Director Rosario Anaya died Aug. 5 of lung cancer. She was 70

During her 42-year administration at the school, thousands of primarily Spanish language immigrants gained the vocational skills necessary to compete in the workforce.

Born Oct. 7, 1944 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Anaya came to the United States in the early 1960s. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and a Master’s degree in Counseling and Psychology from the University of San Francisco.

She dedicated her life to service to the community, particularly the immigrant community in San Francisco.

Rosario Anaya shown standing next to Jesse Jackson at a Latinos for Jackson rally during his campaign for president in 1988. Photo courtesy of the SF Latino Historical Society.

Rosario Anaya shown standing next to Jesse Jackson at a Latinos for Jackson rally during his campaign for president in 1988. Photo courtesy of the SF Latino Historical Society.

As head of the Mission Language and Vocational School, she was a tireless fighter helping many immigrant families gain the skills necessary to succeed. Appointed by former Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2010, she served on the San Francisco Redevelopment Commission to help build needed affordable housing for local residents.

Originally appointed to the San Francisco Board of Education by Mayor George Moscone, she became the first Latin American woman elected to public office in San Francisco history and served on the school board for 12 years.

She served on several boards and committees throughout her career and has been recognized for her dedicated service, including by the Mexican government and most notably received the Order of Francisco de Miranda Medallion from the president of the Republic of Venezuela.

A champion in the fight for justice, she never missed a César Chavez breakfast, always donating her school’s meeting hall and having the event catered by her beloved Culinary Academy, which she tried so hard over the years to turn into a restaurant.

In lieu of gifts, the family is asking for donations to be sent to the Rosario Anaya Scholarship Fund for Latinos and Latinas in the Mission, 2929 19th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, August 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Commentary: Practice Restorative Justice to Shut Down Mass Incarceration

Students in restorative Justice program

By Troy Williams

According to the American Civil Liberties Union the school-to-prison pipeline is a name for the policies and practices that push our nation’s schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.”

Students tracked into prison from an early age when they attend schools with inadequate resources, overcrowded classrooms, a lack of qualified teachers, insufficient funding for counselors, zero tolerance, and reliance to handle classroom discipline for teachers.

Fania Davis operates a restorative justice program for students in the Oakland Unified School District. Photos courtesy of Yes! Magazine.

Fania Davis operates a restorative justice program for students in the Oakland Unified School District. Photos courtesy of Yes! Magazine.

But there is hope.

For a successful alternative, look at restorative justice programs that are being practiced in Oakland and other cities.

For years Fania Davis, co-founder and executive director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), has been a pioneer in the restorative justice process teaching Oakland children how to communicate their emotions and respond to wrong doing in a way that doesn’t harm themselves or the community.

On Sunday, July 19, RJOY held a fundraiser. I watched nearly a dozen boys and girls sat in a circle with actor and activist Danny Glover, discussing the impact of trauma in their lives.

With nearly 100 adults watching, the young participants expressed fears of having to live in a community surrounded by violence.

“Someone got shot on the street I walk down everyday, one young person.

“The other day I was beat up, stomped out and knocked unconscious by grown men,” said another boy.

“I need a job so I don’t wind up on the street,” a third youth said.

I was impressed by their ability to identify their emotions and communicate them. But I was even more impressed by their resolve to rise above the violence and be of support to each other.

I wish I had their strength, resolve, and insight when I was their age.

The group was lead by a young woman who presented like a seasoned facilitator. Another young lady seemed to play the role of big sister to the group. Several young men expressed how valuable her advice was and that her ability to be a good listener had helped them through a particular traumatic event.

Restorative Justice is rooted in the practice of indigenous cultures that sought to repair harm by inviting the people affected by crime to dialogue together.

Attention is given to community safety, the victim’s needs, as well as opportunities for accountability and growth for the offender.

Based on this event alone, it is clear that Restorative Justice is a model that works and needs to be expanded throughout the community.

But for those of you who need statistical data, here is an example.

At present, seven out of 10 people who parole return to prison within the first three years. But   Restorative Justice programs reverse the percentages. Seven out of 10 participants stay out of prison.

So the answer is clear: if you want to shut the prisons industrial complex, down then practice restorative justice.

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, August 15, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Prison Leader Hugo “Yogi” Pinell Killed

By Jaron Epstein

Hugo Yogi Pinell, born March 10, 1945 in Nicaragua and one of Black Panther George Jackson’s closest comrades, was killed Wednesday in New Folsom Prison near Sacramento.

Hugo "Yogi" Pinell

Hugo “Yogi” Pinell

Pinell was well known as a member of the San Quentin Six, who along with Willie Tate, Johnny Larry Spain, David Johnson, Fleeta Drumgo and Luis Talamantez, was accused of participating in an August 21, 1971 escape attempt that left six people dead, including George Jackson.

According to Pinell’s attorney Keith Wattley, “The threat of harm to him has been well known by prison officials.”

He added that Pinell had been the target of “long-standing threats,” but said he could not elaborate.

The Post spoke to civil rights attorney Anne Weills, another of the lawyers who represented Pinell, who spoke of the significance of his life and the date of his death.

“This marked the third year anniversary of inmates in the short corridor coming together to publish the agreement to end hostilities,” she said, explaining that the   agreement called for an end to all violence and hostility between different groups of prisoners throughout California, beginning Oct. 10, 2012.

“The fact is that this is Black August, which signifies the struggle Black inmates have faced since the murder of George Jackson in 1971,” said Weills.

“It’s a tragedy for the unity that the men in the short corridor have been building since the agreement,” she said. “The unity amongst prisoners threatens (prison officials) directly.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Third Police Shooting Death During Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Administration

Protesters rallied at 27th St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland on Wednesday following the OPD shooting of a 24-year old man. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

Protesters rallied at 27th St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland on Wednesday following the OPD shooting of a 24-year old man. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

By Ashley Chambers

Oakland police officers shot and killed a 24-year old man Wednesday evening after a car chase.

The man who was killed was named Nathaniel Wilks.

Police report that the man was allegedly involved in an armed robbery in East Oakland. Police chased his car to West Oakland, where he crashed and tried to carjack another driver.

According to OPD spokeswoman Johnna Watson, the man was armed with a gun. There was confrontation between officers and the young man before the three officers opened fire.

However, activists who interviewed witnesses say there was no confrontation between police and the young man. At least some of the witnesses, say he was shot in the back, according to the activists.

The young man did not fire or attempt to fire at police, according to these reports.

One eyewitness said the young man was in the process of surrendering and saying, “Ok, Ok, Ok” to officers when he was shot, according to a statement released by the Anti Police Terror Project.

A group of protesters gathered Wednesday night at 27th St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland, close to where the young man was shot, to protest the OPD shooting. The demonstrators marched through the city and occupied Interstate 980, blocking traffic near the 27th St. off-ramp.

“We demand that OPD and law enforcement agencies across the country employ every available tactic and strategy to NOT kill our community members even if they have, or are suspected of committing a crime,” according to the Anti Police Terror Project.

Since Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration began in January, OPD officers have shot and killed three people: on June 6 and Aug. 3 and Wednesday’s shooting.

Mayor Schaaf released a statement, saying, “Given what is at stake, as a community we have an obligation to acknowledge and work to correct the wrongs of the past and the legacy they have left behind.”

“At the same time, we must resist the urge to judge every new set of circumstances on anything other than the facts at hand,” she said.

The Anti Police Terror Project will hold a vigil for the young man and all Black lives stolen by police terror on Friday, Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 27th St.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Post News Group Reporter Tulio Ospina Arrested in Ferguson on Anniversary of Mike Brown’s Death

Ferguson protestors express their anger at St. Louis County police on the one-year anniversary of Mike Brown's death. Rick Wilking/Reuters.

Ferguson protestors express their anger at St. Louis County police on the one-year anniversary of Mike Brown’s death. Rick Wilking/Reuters.

By Tulio Ospina

Post intern Tulio Ospina was in Ferguson, Mo. this week where he was filming for a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement and reporting for the Post News Group on the one-year anniversary of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, which sparked an international movement that is still going strong today.

 Ospina says he was arrested in an illegal sweep on Monday, Aug. 10 that caught up 150 people across St. Louis County.

As my fellow arrestees and I shuffled into the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri, my most pressing thought was the removal of my plastic cuffs which had been tightly zip-tied to my wrists for over six hours.

Tulio Ospina after his release from St. Louis County jail.

Tulio Ospina after his release from St. Louis County jail

The 63 of us were only now arriving at the St. Louis County Jail to be booked for the night after being jumped around to different locations all evening. It was a little past midnight and I tried not to think about how slowly the hours were dragging by.

As a member of the press and cinematographer, I was tasked with documenting the various actions and demands of grassroots organizations along with the responses of police to their acts of civil disobedience.

What I witnessed and experienced was both awe-inspiring and harrowing.

Married couple Brittany Ferrell and Alexis Templeton reflect a young generation of warriors risking their lives as they pit themselves against a notoriously violent police department.

They are both in their mid-20s and have dedicated their lives to obliterating racist police terror and empowering their local communities.

As co-founders of a grassroots organization in Ferguson called Millennial Activists United, they helped organize the shutting down of an interstate highway on Monday that blocked traffic for 20 minutes.

This was where we were arrested.

As the group of protestors was returning to their parked cars in a parking lot off the highway—following police orders to disperse—they suddenly found themselves ambushed as officers charged at the scattered crowd and arrested every single person present.

Many were unnecessarily tackled, dragged on the ground and hauled out of their vehicles despite having been ordered to leave and complying. This was 12 hours after St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared a state of emergency.

It is clear to me that one year after the killing of Michael Brown, after the youth-led Ferguson uprising that caught world’s attention and after the scathing Department of Justice report on oppressive policing and ticketing methods, St. Louis County is uninterested in change.

What has changed from when we witnessed the wholesale abusive treatment of innocent protestors, pedestrians and members of the press?

Back then, the world watched as a monstrous militarized police force terrorized unarmed civilians.

Now, we can see that law enforcement has chosen to take illegal preemptive methods to avoid another public embarrassment by sweeping as many people off the street as possible to ensure there be no news stories to tell.

As I sat in the sterile St. Louis County Jail at three o’clock in the morning, I met Cece, a 12-year-old girl seated on the plastic bench across from me.

Cece told me she was arrested while crossing the street in Ferguson in compliance to police orders to disperse. “I told them I was 12 years old so that they wouldn’t slam me on the ground,” she said.

The bored and jaded look on her face as she sat in jail said it all.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Police Must Seek Ways to Avoid Deadly Force, Says Federal Monitor

Black and Latino motorists and pedestrians stopped and searched at higher rates

Photo courtey of the Eastbay Express

Photo courtey of the Eastbay Express

By Ken Epstein

Independent Monitor Robert Warshaw, federal Judge Thelton Henderson’s representative in Oakland, is putting a spotlight on police shootings in cases that may be “by the book” and “legally defensible” but result in injuries and death that could have been avoided.

“Any use of deadly force should serve as an opportunity to look beyond the customary questions of policy compliance and legal justification. The department should consider whether the use of that level of force might have been avoidable – even when the application of that force is consistent with departmental policy,” said Warshaw in his latest update on oversight of the Oakland Police Department, which has been ongoing for 12 years.

“Taking seriously the question of whether deadly force could have been avoided is recognition of the value of all human life, and it is a way for the department to not only reflect that principle but also to practice it,” he said.

“The loss of life itself demands this higher level of questioning.”

Warshaw is talking in the report about a central issue that is being raised by protesters across the country, said  Rashidah Grinage of the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability.

“The deaths of Eric Garner, (Water Scott) in South Carolina and other places did not have to happen,” she said. “If police policy says otherwise, then policy has to change.” she said.

Police departments have to ask themselves not just whether a shooting can be defended legally but whether it could have been avoided, Grinage said.

“Police policy and general orders combined with a certain amount of officer discretion produces a lethal combination, allowing officers to act in ways that are not fair or racially just.”

Warshaw’s report also published citywide police stop data for June 2014 to June 2015, which included 27,492 vehicle stops and 7,059 pedestrian stops.

Fifty-five percent of the vehicle stops involved African Americans, and they were searched in 23 percent of the cases. However the percent of searches that resulted in finding something was 32 percent, the lowest for any racial group.

Sixty-eight percent of the pedestrian stops involved African Americans, and they were searched in 48 percent of the cases. Searches resulted in finding something 26 percent of the time, compared with 20 percent for whites and 26 percent for Asians.

Nineteen percent of vehicle stops involved Latinos, the second highest percentage after African Americans. Police searches resulted in recovering something in 40 percent of the cases.

Pedestrian stops for Latinos were second most prevalent – 14 percent of the total. Police searches recovered something in 25 percent of the cases.

“Assessments covering the past several reporting periods have verified the presence of sufficient cause for the searches in a high percentage of the cases,” said Warshaw.

Twenty-eight percent of Oakland’s population is African American and 25 percent Latino.

According to Grinage, people have to ask themselves why the police are “stopping African Americans more and getting less.”

“What is the decision making behind these stops? What accounts for a greater number of them with a lower recovery rate?”

At present, residents who are on probation or parole are generally subject to stop and search. “If that’s the assumption, maybe that’s a really poor decision,” she said.

Grinage said the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability is currently meeting with city councilmembers and is doing research on a proposition for an independent police oversight commission that will go on the ballot for November 2016.

She said that the coalition will ask the council to vote next June to put the proposal on the ballot.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 14, 2015 (postnewgroup.com)

Nurses Back Bernie Sanders for President

Candidate calls for an end to racism and mass incarceration and for jobs and free education

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke Monday, Aug. 10 at a rally at the headquarters of National Nurses United (NNU), where he received the union's endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination. Standing next to Sanders is Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president. Photo by Ken Epstien.

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke Monday, Aug. 10 at a rally in Oakland at the headquarters of National Nurses United (NNU), where he received the union’s endorsement for the Democratic presidential nomination. Standing next to Sanders is Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president. Photo by Ken Epstien.

 By Ken Epstein

Senator Bernie Sanders was in Oakland this week, where he won the endorsement of the 185,000-member National Nurses Union (NNU), adding serious momentum to his low-budget, grassroots campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination that is becoming an ever more serious challenge to frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Sanders spoke Monday to a wildly enthusiastic crowd at the downtown Oakland national headquarters of the NNU.

“I have spent my career fighting for something that I consider to be a human right. That human right is health care. And let me say loudly and clearly – health care is a right of all people, not a privilege,” said Sanders.

“The time has come for us to end the international embarrassment of the United States of America, our great country, being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all people as a right,” he said. “And together – with your help – we are going to end that embarrassment.”

He called for raising taxes on bankers, financiers and corporations.

“Not only would a tax on Wall Street speculation provide us with the revenue that we need to make a college education tuition free, it would also reduce speculation and encourage Wall Street to invest in the job-creating productive economy,” said Sanders.

As hundreds listened to and cheered his remarks in Oakland, groups of nurses around the country watched him live on television monitors and asked the candidate questions.

The union is composed mostly of women, registered nurses. Over the years, the organization has gained a reputation for tough and politically savvy organizing and has captured national attention in battles over the future of corporate healthcare and the inadequate medical industry response to the Ebola threat.

Sanders also denounced racism and mass incarceration and called for good paying jobs and free education at all public universities to allow people to enter the middle class – to end economic disparities.

Black Lives Matter and other activists have criticized Sanders for his lack of a program to end racial injustice, and he elaborated his position at the nurses’ rally.

“When we talk about creating a new America, it is to end racism,” he said, adding that Sandra Bland would not have been dragged out of her car and arrested in Texas if she had been white.

“Shamefully, the U.S. has more people in jail than any other country on earth,” he said, and the rate of incarceration “is disproportionately higher for African Americans and Hispanics.”

“We need a criminal justice justice system (in which) police departments do not look like military occupiers,” he said. “We need police officers to wear cameras. When a police officer commits a crime, that officer must be held accountable.”

“We need to end (mandatory) minimum sentencing for nonviolent crimes,” he continued.

“When people go to jail, we need to provide a path back into society,” said Sanders. “You’re not going to have that when people leave jail without jobs, without education and in some cases, without the mental health counseling they need.”

“If you check my record, there is no candidate running for president of the United States who will be stronger fighting institutional racism and in reforming a broken criminal justice system – period,” he said.

Last Saturday, 15,000 people turned out to hear Sanders speak in Seattle. About 28,000 attended a rally Sunday in Portland, and 27,500 stood in a line that stretched for blocks to hear him speak Monday night at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of NNU, explained why her union decided to endorse Sanders and throw the weight of thousands of the NNU’s grassroots activists into his campaign.

“He says what he means, and that is reflected in his work,” she said. “Nurses know Senator Sanders is a warrior.”

In response to those who might have expected a union with a large number of women leaders to back Hillary Clinton for president, DeMoro said, “I’d love to break the glass ceiling, but we ‘d love more to break the stranglehold of the billionaire class.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, August 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)