Category: Ferguson/Black Lives Matter

Community Wants Attorney General Kamala Harris to Investigate Officer-involved Killing

Family Demands Answers

Daughter of Demouria Hogg speaks to KTVU Channel 2.

Daughter of Demouria Hogg speaks to KTVU Channel 2.

 

By Ashley Chambers and Ken Epstein

Community members and the family of Demouria Hogg are calling on the Oakland Police Department and City of Oakland officials to release police-recorded videos that will reveal exactly what happened last Saturday

Demouria Hogg, 30,

Demouria Hogg, 30,

morning in the moment or two before one police officer fired a Taser and a rookie woman officer shot and killed the 30-year-old father of three.

Hogg’s 10-year-old daughter Damaria Hogg wants answers.

“What I wonder is, why did the police shoot him?” Damaria asked in an interview with KTVU Channel 2.

“I want my dad to know that I love him, and I want him to watch over me,” she said.

“He was a father to all of his kids,” said Tylena Livingston, Damaria’s mother. “He was asleep in his car. They could have prevented that. If they tased him, what did he get shot for?”

Teandra Butler, mother of Demouria Hogg Jr., said the hardest part was not being able to tell the children why their father is gone. She wants OPD to answer that question.

At about 7:30 last Saturday morning, Hogg was found asleep or unconscious in a BMW on the Lakeshore Avenue off-ramp of Highway 580. The Oakland Fire Department, instead of trying to awake him, called police when they noticed a gun on the front seat next to the man, according to police.

Over the next hour, police used bullhorns and shot at the car’s windows with beanbag projectiles, but he still did not wake up.

Finally, when he did wake up at about 8:40 a.m. – his car surrounded by about 12 officers – one officer fired a Taser, and he was shot and killed by a woman rookie officer.

OPD so far has not released any of the videos or offered an explanation of what happened in the few moments after Hogg woke up.

Libby Schaaf

Mayor Libby Schaaf

However, attorney Steven Betz, who represents the woman officer who killed Hogg, presented her version of events in an interview with the S.F. Chronicle.

When police used a crowbar to break a driver-side window, Hogg “reached over with his hands to the firearm,” and the officer fired her gun twice, according to the attorney.

Betz told the Chronicle his client “absolutely” acted appropriately and could not wait “until he has drawn (his gun) on them.” The officer “knows he’s going for a gun in an area where it is, he’s lunging for it and had been given multiple commands to comply, to surrender.”

kamala-harris

Attorney General Kamala Harris

Members of the public are looking for leadership from Mayor Libby Schaaf who has been a strong advocate for public safety and improved police-community relations. They want her to ensure that OPD provides full disclosure of what happened and the family gets the answers it wants.

As the family seeks answers, activist Cat Brooks says the community intends to hold the mayor, OPD and the city accountable.

“Mayor Schaaf and the City of Oakland have the opportunity to step up to the plate and show that they hear the community’s concerns…and honor that this family had their family member stolen from them,” said Brooks, chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee and a member of the Anti Police Terror Project.

“We intend to hold them accountable to do just that.”

Mayor Schaaf’s released a statement several days ago but did not respond to questions from the Post.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

The Anti Police Terror Project is demanding that the mayor, City and OPD immediately release the names of the officer(s) involved in the shooting and release the dash cam, officers’ body cam and all street surveillance videos of the entire event.

They also want the OPD to release the coroner’s and police reports to the family; and, immediately request that the Attorney General appoint an independent investigator to this case.

They want an independent investigation of the killing because they say Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s close ties to the local police department and her handling of other cases – including the Alan Blueford case in 2012 and the Black Friday 14 – call into question an investigation conducted by her office.

“We do not trust Nancy O’Malley to investigate the Oakland Police Department,” said Brooks, adding that she has “demonstrated racial bias.”

At press time, the District Attorney’s office said they are unable to provide details because the investigation is “active and ongoing.”

John Burris

John Burris

In a number of other officer-involved shootings, communities have requested involvement of the State Attorney General to oversee the work of the county district attorney.

Contacted by the Post, a spokesperson for Attorney General Kamala Harris responded: “This is an ongoing investigation. It is important for that process to conclude before we comment.”

City Attorney Barbara Parker was asked by the Post what she was doing to ensure the release of the shooting videos and that the police are fully accountable. Her office replied by email: “You should email (OPD Public Relations Officer) Johnna Watson re: officer’s name and video.”

In an interview with the Post, Civil rights attorney John Burris talked about some of his observations, based on his involvement in investigations of many police shootings.

“The police created the confrontation,” said Burris. “(Hogg) was not out looking for a confrontation. He did he not know the police were there. It seems wrong that a person could be asleep, and he wakes up and gets shot and killed.”

The question, he said, is whether police were in “imminent danger.” Another question is why the department would place a rookie at the car to hold the gun and make the decision to shoot, he said.

“The family has a right to see these videos, sooner rather than later,” Burris continued. “(Police) killed a person who was minding his own business. The family can look at the tapes to see if they corroborate what the police have said. “

The Anti Police Terror Project is holding a vigil for Demouria Hogg on Friday, June 12 at 6 p.m. at the site where he was killed by the gas station at the corner of Lakeshore and Lake Park avenues.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 12, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

Judge Thelton Henderson Will Monitor Investigations of Three OPD Shootings in 2015

Judge will also review Mayor Schaaf’s nighttime protest restrictions

Oakland protesters, May 23. Photo courtesy of the SF Chronicle/Leah Mills via AP.

Oakland protesters, May 23. Photo courtesy of the SF Chronicle/Leah Mills via AP.

 By Ken A. Epstein

Federal Judge Thelton Henderson is monitoring how the Oakland Police Department (OPD) is handling the investigations of three officer-involved shootings this year, including the killing this past weekend of Demouria Hogg, 30, of Hayward.

Judge Thelton Henderson

Judge Thelton Henderson

“We will closely monitor the (OPD) investigations and (internal review board) presentations on these incidents,” wrote Compliance Director Robert Warshaw in a report issued June 8 on the progress of police department reforms.

Warshaw was appointed by Judge Henderson to oversee Oakland’s efforts to comply with the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA), which requires the city to institute polices and practices that protect the constitutional rights of local residents.

Warshaw noted that prior to these shootings in 2015, OPD had not been involved in an officer-involved shooting for about for about two years.

Besides the killing of Hogg on Saturday at the Lakeshore off-ramp of Highway 580, two other incidents this year involved “mentally disturbed” suspects.

Barbara Parker

Barbara Parker

“In the first case, the officer’s two rounds missed the mentally disturbed subject, who retreated and surrendered; in the second case – which also involved a mentally disturbed suspect whose erratic behavior prompted calls to OPD – the officer’s round struck the subject, who is expected to survive.”

Pointing out a positive development, Warshaw wrote in the report that the department has found it can reduce shootings without reducing policing.

“In the last year, the department has demonstrated reductions in

uses of force without reducing the number of arrests or showing any other indications of what is sometimes referred to a ‘depolicing,’” he wrote.

Warshaw is also involved in discussions that are taking place in the wake of the city’s new policy that curtails nighttime protest marches.

“I have commended the department for its more thoughtful and cautious approach to crowd control in the past,” he said. “Recently, however, the city has begun interpreting its crowd control policy more broadly and has appeared to restrict the routes of nighttime marches following several protests that involved looting and serious destruction of public property.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent speak to members of the media. Photo by  Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Image.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent speak to members of the media. Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Image.

“I will continue to facilitate discussions between the department and local attorneys,” including representatives of the National Lawyers Guild, he said.

Another major issue raised by the report is that the court has begun to address the failure of city staff, including City Attorney Barbara Parker’s office, to adequately handle cases of officers who have been terminated for serious misconduct, resulting in loss of arbitrations and reinstatement of the officers.

Warshaw cited a recent report by a court-appointed investigator who found that Oakland’s “police discipline process is ‘broken,’ because, among other reasons, it fails to ‘deliver fair, consistent, and effective discipline.’”

The report quoted Judge Hendson, who wrote, “It is difficult to reach any conclusion other than that the city has been indifferent, at best, to whether its disciplinary decisions are upheld at arbitration.”

The report blames these failures on the “lack of accountability” of officials in both the OPD and Office of the City Attorney.

Warshaw commended the City Attorney’s recent involvement in resolving the court’s complaints.

“City Attorney (Parker) has become more engaged in matters relevant to the recent report about discipline and arbitration – as well as developments regarding crowd control policy…We look forward to a measure of collaboration with her and her office.”

In response Parker said in a statement that she had begun to address the problems in handling police discipline cases even before the court had begun its investigation.

“Before the Court ordered its investigation, I conducted my own internal review of my office’s handling of police arbitration cases when issues came to my attention including the timing of assignments of attorneys to police arbitrations,” said Parker in a statement released in April.

“We recognize police discipline has been a difficult issue for the city over the years. We agree with many of the investigator’s recommendations, a number of which we implemented or addressed prior to the Court’s investigation.”

On Wednesday night, protesters marched without a permit in defiance of Schaaf’s restrictions. No police showed up, and no one was arrested.

Despite the inconsistent enforcement, the Mayor’s Office told the Post the city’s policy remains unchanged.

The city “has not banned nighttime protests…(or) imposed a curfew. Consistent with our existing policy, we are simply implementing time, place and manner provisions to better protect public safety and prevent vandalism and violence.”

“Marcher on roadways without permits may be subject to citation or arrest.”

“An OPD officer who issues permits told the media recently he could not remember ever having issued a permit for a nighttime protest.

“This gives the impression that the mayor and the city attorney are opting to use selective enforcement when it suits their needs,” said Post Publisher Paul Cobb, who intends to sponsor a nighttime march for jobs for the formerly incarcerated and youth – without a permit.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 12, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Commentary: Oakland Needs a Department to Address Institutionalized Injustice

By Kitty Kelly Epstein

Two-thirds of the people who live in Oakland are not white and Oakland has a long history of struggle for racial justice.

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Yet the situation of most whites is quite different from the situation of many Latinos, African-Americans, Asians and indigenous people.  In fact, Oakland has the seventh worst income inequality of any major city in the country. (Statistics on wealth gaps for Asians and indigenous groups are not available from those doing these calculations.)

We need to put changing this at the center of the city’s efforts. In the one place where we have some real power, local government, we need to say that we understand institutional racism still exists and we want to do something about it – officially

It won’t be easy. The whole country is full of policies that uphold racism, but there is a lot more we could do if we focused and strategized, especially on the policies and practices that produce the racial wealth gap.

We need a city Department of Race and Equity because the racial wealth gap in the U.S. is 13 to 1 between the median white and the median African-American family and 10 to 1 between the median white and the median Latino family.

These gaps in wealth and income result from a national history of overt and covert racial discrimination – slavery, U.S. seizure of Mexican land, share-cropping, red-lining; English-only policies; bracero programs; immigration policies and a thousand other events and policies.

And these gaps contribute to housing, health, and policing inequities as well. Here are just a few current local specifics which a department of Race and Equity might look into:

African Americans are 28 percent of the Oakland population. Yet they were hired for only 5 percent of the hours on city-funded construction projects last year;

Latinos are 41 percent of Oakland students, but only 13 percent of its teachers. A city department would, of course, need to work collaboratively with the school district if it were to help in rectifying this imbalance.

Oakland is lauded for multi-cultural music and art. Yet city support for minority-owned venues is often lacking;

Oakland has lots of new fancy restaurants, but not many Black or Latino or Asian folk earn the fancy tips at the front-end of these houses.

Some city departments seem to have many employees of every ethnicity. Yet the department that plans the city’s economic future seems to be overwhelmingly white.

The last “disparity study” commissioned by the city showed statistically significant underutilization of “minority” owned and women owned firms in both construction and professional services contracts.   There was also a significant underutilization of Asian, Latino, and African-American firms in construction sub-contracts.

Non-white contractors have reported a good-old-boys network, difficulty in receiving information on the bid process, difficulty in obtaining financing, and other issues.

Oakland is blessed with dozens of activist and non-profit organizations that work on these issues, but we often feel that we are fighting a multiple-headed beast, winning in one place, only to lose again when someone forgets that a new policy or procedure is supposed to be in place.

We need an official department in city government that is responsible for caring whether two-thirds of the residents receive the same economic, political, and social benefits as the other third.

We need a Department of Race and Equity

Kitty Kelly Epstein, PhD is author of “Organizing to Change a City” (2012), Peter Lang, and host of Education Today on KPFA 94.1 FM.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Protesters Shut Down Council Meeting , Demand Affordable Housing Not Luxury Apartments

Jos Healey was one of the spekers on the bullhorn when protesters  shut down the City Council meeting Tuesday. Photo by Ken Epstein

Jos Healey was one of the speakers on a bullhorn Tuesday when protesters shut down the City Council meeting. Photo by Ken Epstein

 By Ken Epstein

Oakland City Council chambers became ground zero for protests against gentrification and displacement this week as young activists chained themselves together to keep the City Council meeting from taking place, instead holding a rally for several hours in the chambers to voice their anger and frustration with the city’s leadership.

At the close of a public hearing on the proposed city budget for next year, but before the city council meeting could get underway, activists entered the well area behind the low barrier between the council dais and the public.

Some chained themselves together, standing in a line below the shocked council members. Others produced a bullhorn and began speaking about their issues and invited others to speak.

Many members of the audience stood, chanted and shouted in solidarity with the protesters. Police made no moves to intervene, but police and security attempted to keep more people from entering the chambers.

While people spoke, a projector flashed the group’s issues on an overhead screen:

“You can fight city hall,” “Development without displacement;” “A people’s budget, not a policing budget;” and “Public service, not lip service,” the projected signs said.

The focus of the protest was the seeming willingness of most council members to vote Tuesday night to approve the sale of a one-acre, city-owned parcel on East 12th Street across from Lake Merritt to build a 24-story luxury apartment building.

The proposed building includes no affordable housing and will have a median rent of $3,150 for a one-bedroom apartment, making the units affordable only to households that make $120,000 or more a year, according to activists who say the median household income in Eastlake around the proposed building is $38,363.

The coalition against the high rise is led by a neighborhood group, Eastlake United for Justice and includes Causa Justa/Just Cause, East Bay Housing Organizations, Black Seed, SEIU 1021, Oakland Rising, and the Oakland Tenants Union.

Calling for public land to be used only for affordable housing and other public needs, the groups are concerned that the development will lead to displacement of working class residents on the east side of Lake Merritt, as well as the development’s inadequate community engagement process.

At a rally in front of City Hall before the council meeting, members of Eastlake United for Justice and others spoke about their concerns.

Huan Bao Yu spoke at a rally in front of Oakland City Hall Tuesday opposing the E. 12th Street highrise. Mari Rose Taruc held the bulllhorn. Photo by Ken Ken

Huan Bao Yu speaks at a rally in front of Oakland City Hall Tuesday opposing the E. 12th Street highrise. Mari Rose Taruc held the bulllhorn. Photo by Ken Epstein.

“We are here because there are people in there (City Hall) who are trying to sell out our land,” said Josh Healey, also part of the Eastlake group.

“We’ve been here to talk to the mayor and city council, and they haven’t been hearing us,” he said.

Mari Rose Taruc, also of the Eastlake neighborhood group, said, “Oakland is 62 percent renters. We don’t want luxury condos at Eastlake. We want affordable housing.”

Asked Huan Bao Yu, a senior citizens speaking for Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), “Who is (this development) for? “Is it for us? No, it’s to kick us out.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Commentary: Longshore Union Shut Down Port of Oakland to Protest Police Killings

Members of Longshore union ILWU Local 10 and community members march  on May Day, May 1,, from the Port of Oakland to  the Oscar Grant Plaza at Oakland City Hall to protest police murders of Black and Brown people across the country. Photo courtesy of Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography.

Longshore union ILWU Local 10 and community members march on May Day, May 1, from the Port of Oakland to Oscar Grant Plaza at Oakland City Hall to protest police murders of Black and Brown people across the country. Photo courtesy of Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography.

 

 By Stacey Rodgers

Stacey Rodgers

Stacey Rodgers

On Friday, May 1 – International Workers Day, about 2,000 people came together to march and protest the unjust murders of mainly Black and Brown people in the U.S. at the hands of police.

The event, “Labor Against Police Terror,” drew labor unions and community groups to the Port of Oakland.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 led the day of action marching from the Port of Oakland to Oscar Grant Plaza (at Oakland City Hall).

Thus us the first time in U.S history that a labor union had initiated a protest against the police.

ILWU has a long and proud history of participating in actions against social injustice, starting with its formation during the San Francisco strike of 1934 where two workers were killed by police.

Other actions have included anti-apartheid actions against South Africa, shutting down the Port of Oakland in 2010 in support of justice for Oscar Grant, and protest of Israeli Zim ships.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was made an honorary member of Local 10 just six months before his death.

The impetus behind the May Day 2015 action was the murder of Walter Scott in Charleston, South Carolina.

Scott was related to several Charleston longshoremen of the International Longshoreman Association (ILA) Local 1422.  ILA Local 1422 and ILWU Local 10 have a strong history of solidarity.

Both locals are predominantly Black and have supported each other in actions throughout the years.

In addition, Local 10 has suffered its share of police terror.  In 2012, Jerimiah Moore was killed by Vallejo police, and last year Pedie Perez was killed by Richmond police. Both are families of longshoremen.

During April’s Local 10 executive board meeting, a motion was made to support the Charleston longshoremen in whatever action they choose to seek justice for Walter Scott.

A amendment to the motion was made that ILWU Local 10 hold its monthly stop work meeting on May 1, effectively shutting down the Port of Oakland and march and protest the senseless murders of mainly Black and Brown people by police.

The motion passed at the general membership meeting two days later.

With two weeks to plan and implement the march, the call went out to other unions and community groups. The response was far better than expected.

Several unions joined in solidarity, as did various community groups in and around Oakland.

The rally started at Berth 62 at the port.

The march, led by the Local 10 drill team, began at 10 a.m. wound through the Acorn community of West Oakland and ended with a rally at Oscar Grant Plaza.

The goal of the protest was to call attention to the onslaught of police killings and demand that that killings must stop and those responsible be held accountable.

ILWU recognizes its role in the community and knows that when labor disrupts commerce, the 1% will listen and act when their bottom line is affected or threatened.

Workers, union and non-union alike, must come together to take the lead in these actions and exert their rank and file power and not rest upon elected officials.

For far too long the labor community has been silent on these issues and now is the time to renew our role in making things better.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

 Stacey Rodgers is a member of the ILWU Local 10 Executive Board.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2015 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

UC Berkeley Black Students Face “State of Emergency”

The Black Student Union led a blockade of a UC Berkeley campus cafe on Dec. 4 in solidarity with the nationwide Black Lives Matters movement. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz

The Black Student Union led a blockade of a UC Berkeley campus cafe on Dec. 4 in solidarity with the nationwide Black Lives Matters movement. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz

By Rasheed Shabazz

Rasheed-Haas-headshotBlack students at UC Berkeley, saying they are facing isolation, alienation and oppression, are demanding the university’s administrators implement major changes to address the hostile campus climate at the nation’s most prestigious public university.

Following years of dwindling Black enrollment numbers and multiple surveys suggesting Black students are subject to racism on campus, the Black Student Union released a list of demands to Chancellor Nick Dirks.

“Black students, staff, and faculty on UC Berkeley’s campus are in a state of emergency requiring immediate attention,” said Gabrielle Shuman, co-chair of political affairs for the Black Student Union (BSU).

Black student leaders first met with Chancellor Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele to demand changes on Feb. 13.

The demands include the creation of a resource center, increased staffing for recruitment and retention of Black students, two Black psychologists, advisors for Black student athletes and recruitment of more Black graduate students and faculty.

Students have demanded the creation of a resource center named after Mississippi human rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. The symbolic demand that received the most media attention is the renaming of Barrows Hall after former political prisoner Assata Shakur, currently living in exile in Cuba.

Admissions and enrollment of Black undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley is abysmal. Currently, a little more than three percent of UC Berkeley students are Black.

The BSU has called for the hiring of staff in the admissions office to recruit Black students, as well as doubling the budget for the Getting into Graduate School (GIGS) program, a program to increase enrollment of underrepresented groups.

The few Black students attending the campus report the highest levels of disrespect, stereotypes and an anti-Black campus climate, according to multiple surveys. Black staff and faculty also report similar disrespect.

Nearly half of Black students have reported being disrespected due to their race, according to the surveys.

After a cardboard effigy was found hanged at Sather Gate before a December Black Lives Matter protest, Chancellor Dirks first pledged to work with Black students.

An anonymous queer, Black and people of color collective later took credit for the political artwork. For many Black students, the incident echoed a 2012 incident when a fraternity’s Halloween display included the mock lynching of a zombie.

In a response to student demands, Dirks said the treatment that Black students report is deplorable.

“Too many students have told us about being excluded from study groups, ignored during class discussions, verbally harassed at parties and social events, and feeling, in a general sense, vulnerable, isolated, and invisible,” Dirks said in a letter to the BSU following a trip to Asia. “This is something we deplore.”

Chancellor Dirks said he plans to develop “a major campus initiative” to increase Black staff, faculty and student numbers, but students are skeptical.

“Black people have been oppressed by this university since its creation,” student government candidate Alana Banks, an Oakland native and BSU member and current. “The fact that we have to come up with demands for long-overdue support, to us, is a testament of our condition,” she said.

Students later met with Steele and Gibor Basri, vice-chancellor of equity and inclusion, on March 6, according to the BSU, but he did not respond before their deadline. When Dirks did, BSU said he did not address each of their demands, including the call to rename Barrows Hall.

In December, the BSU blockaded a campus café for four-and-a-half hours after the non-indictment of the police officers who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Black students have also been active in the recent “Black Brunch” protests in Oakland and Berkeley and hint the possibility of direct action if their demands are not met.

“We will persevere until Black students get what we need and deserve,” said Shuman.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 3, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

State of Black Oakland (SOBO) Holds “People’s Assembly”

State of Black Oakland, March 28. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

State of Black Oakland, March 28. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

By Rasheed Shabazz

Hundreds of Black activists, educators, entrepreneurs, healers and artists convened last weekend for “a People’s Assembly” to discuss and strategize solutions to improve life for Black Oakland.

The enthusiastic daylong “State of Black Oakland (SOBO) gathering was held Saturday, March 28 at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland.

The assembly was a “listening space” where a coalition of Black-led organizations called on attendees to discuss what needs to be done to improve the lives of f Black people in the city.

Over a quarter of Oakland’s Black population left the city since 2000. Organizers wanted to bring Black people together to build on Oakland’s unique contributions to the Black Power Movement.

“It’s really important to remember that Oakland was the epicenter of the Black Power Movement on the West Coast,” said Liz Derias, co-convener of SOBO and an organizer of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

One of the discussion circles at the State of Black Oakland, which was held at Geoffrey's Inner Circle on March 28. Ovr 500 peeople attended the day, according to event organizers, to discussion solutins to the challenges facing Black residents of Oakland. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

One of the discussion circles at the State of Black Oakland, which was held at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle on March 28. Over 500 peeople attended the day, according to event organizers, to discuss solutions to the challenges facing Black residents of Oakland. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

The legacy of the Black Panther Party and other Black “do-for-self” organizations was evoked throughout the day.

“We say Black Lives Matter, but we have to have some Black Power to enforce it,” said Community Ready Corps (CRC) Founder Tur-Ha Ak. The assembly focused on CRC’s Nine Areas of Self-Determination: economics, politics, education, health, family, media, art, traditions and ways, and self-defense.

The common thread between all of the areas was Black self-determination.

During three facilitated sessions, attendees joined smaller discussion-circles to talk about solutions in the nine areas. Within the circles, participants discussed their experience within that area and explained what “self-determination” looked like within that context, and shared potential solutions.

In the area of economics, attendees talked about past and possible solutions, such as a Black business listing, food and housing cooperatives, changes in Black consumer spending and workforce training for the tech economy.

The media session, facilitated by Cat Brooks, co-chair of the ONYX Organizing Committee, discussed the need to challenge negative images of Black people in media and the need for Black ownership of media outlets and cultural spaces.

The self-defense session focused on broadening the notion of what self-defense means. “Self-defense is not only individual or physical, but it is collective and connects to all the other areas”, Ak said.

Participants discussed the need for Black people to protect themselves from what CRC defines as “primary predators”  – white supremacy – and “secondary perpetrators” – so-called ‘Black-on-Black crime’.

Organizers noted that this first “State of Black Oakland” builds on a history of collective convening of Black people in the Bay Area to assess the status of Black folk.

During the 1970s, annual “State of the Race” conferences regularly convened in the Bay Area following the 1974 Pan-African Congress in Tanzania.

Reflecting on SOBO, Oba T’Shaka, professor emeritus of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, said, “It’s very positive. It builds on the Black Lives Matters Movement and is pulling in people from different walks of life.” He added, “The democratic way has been consistent with our culture.”

Organizers see this assembly as part of a process to develop a Black “People’s Agenda.” Event organizers did street outreach in the weeks ahead of the event to get input from Oakland residents. The plan is to host two more assemblies this summer, in West Oakland and East Oakland, analyze the information within the nine areas, and develop an agenda.

SOBO was organized by a coalition of organizations, including Eastside Arts Alliance, Black Organizing Project, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, African American Studies at Merritt College, Onyx Organizing Committee, the Community Ready Corps, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Race for the Times.

For more information about SOBO, visit Facebook.com/sobo2015 or email stateofblackoakland@yahoo.com.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 3, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

New City Report on Protest Arrests Raises Ferguson-like Concerns

Standing at the podium during the City Council's public hearing were (L to R): Karissa Lewis, Black Radical Farmer, Black Friday 14; Robbie Clark, Black Friday 14, Black Lives Matter; Mollie Costello, Black Friday 14, Alan Blueford Center for Justice; Nell Myhand, Black Friday 14; and Cat Brooks, ONYX, Black Power Network, Black Friday 14. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Standing at the podium during a recent public hearing at City Hall  were (L to R): Karissa Lewis, Black Radical Farmer, Black Friday 14; Robbie Clark, Black Friday 14, Black Lives Matter; Mollie Costello, Black Friday 14, Alan Blueford Center for Justice; Nell Myhand, Black Friday 14; and Cat Brooks, ONYX, Black Power Network, Black Friday 14. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ashley Chambers

A new city report highlighting how Oakland police responded to protests in the city last year – sparked by the failure to indict police officers in killings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement around the country – has raised concerns of Oakland residents.

According to the report recently released to the public by the Oakland Police Department (OPD), 23 protests took place between Nov. 24 and Dec.31 last year, resulting in 116 arrests and 230 citations issued.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s office has charged 14 protesters from cases reported by OPD, which is nearly half of the charges against protesters in Alameda County during the same time period. There are still ongoing investigations.

As of March 24, 2015, “We have charged 39 individuals from cases brought to us by Oakland PD, Berkeley PD, BART PD, CHP Oakland and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office with incident dates between Nov. 24 and Dec. 31,” said Rebecca Richardson, Communications and Publications manager at the D.A.’s office, in an email to the Post.

This number also includes the 14 Black Friday protesters who shut down service at the West Oakland BART station on Nov. 28, 2014.

Community members are questioning why the report does not provide a breakdown of arrests, citations and charges based on race.

“I hope we go back to this issue to talk about some of the inequities that happened during those demonstrations,” an Oakland resident said at a recent City Council meeting.

“One of the questions I get about this from constituents is, where are the police to fight crime when they’re being redeployed to demonstrations,” said Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan. She also suggested that the city “look at bringing civil enforcement actions against those who engage in destruction…so that we can sue them civilly for the costs” of the damage they’ve caused.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee and one of the Black Friday 14, agrees that “For that report to mean something or to be able to be utilized by community, it would need to be disaggregated by race.”

“What I’m betting that we’re going to find is that the vast majority of folks that had charges actually brought against them were people of color,” Brooks said.

“If you look at the Black Friday 14, an all-Black planned and executed action – we are being prosecuted, and they’re refusing to drop the charges and pushing the issue,” Brooks continued.

“Whereas, we knew before this report that there were protesters who utilized a diversity of tactics that resulted in property damage etc., who were also white, who are being released with a slap on the wrist,” she said.

“It just continues the conversation about the racial disparity and inequity in Oakland,” Brooks said.

The concerns of local business owners were also raised at the City Council meeting, including those whose establishments were damaged during protests. One of the cases reported by OPD involved an individual charged with vandalism, the report shows.

“What this shows is that there were a couple dozen criminals who committed violent acts against either fellow residents or small businesses and were arrested, and some will be prosecuted,” said Councilmember Dan Kalb.

He continued: “That’s how it should be, in contrast to the 97 or 98 percent of legitimate protesters who were marching passionately with a very righteous and very important message to share. I just want to highlight that dichotomy because it’s very important that we continue to acknowledge that.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Support Grows for City of Oakland Department to Address Racial Inequality

By Ashley Chambers

A number of community leaders are speaking out in support of a new city department designed to decrease inequities and racial barriers in city policies and operations, such as housing, development contracts, employment, and education.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

The proposal to create a Department of Race and Equity in the City of Oakland, developed and led by Councilwoman Desley Brooks and supported by several councilmembers, seeks t address some of the main issues are frequently being raised by Oakland residents: gentrification and the lack of affordable housing, jobs at city-funded projects and access to city contacts, environmental and air quality, as well as other health conditions in minority and disenfranchised communities.

“We think about gentrification and displacement, and we think about the role that the city plays in perpetuating the invasive class remake of our city,” said Robbie Clark, housing rights organizer with Causa Justa: Just Cause.

“We know that a department like this is at the core of the types of change that we need to see on a local level to stop that tide of displacement and to stop gentrification from continuing to happen,” Clark said.

The department would answer directly to the City Administrator and would be implemented as soon as December of this year – if approved by the City Council.

The department would provide education and technical support to city staff and elected officials to address systemic racism in city operations “with a focus on how the city does business, including human resources, contracting, access, funding and decision-making,” according to the proposal.

“The city spends enormous amounts of money on development in Oakland. Twenty-eight percent of the people who live in this city are African American, yet they get only five percent of the hours on those jobs,” said Kitty Kelly Epstein, an education professor and member of OaklandWorks.

“What happens when you don’t have anything specifically devoted to dealing with an issue as major and primary and hurtful as racism in this society is, people get afraid to bring it up,” Kelly Epstein said.

“If we do the work of actually allocating and designating a department to that work, then people won’t be shut down when they want to bring up the fact that there is great inequity,” she said.

There is the notion that there are two Oaklands, residents have said: one has access to minor investment from the city, declining jobs and parks and schools that are closing operating limited resources. The other Oakland has access to better schools, parks, greater investments that benefit the community and more responsive government.

Imagine East Oakland’s Havenscourt neighborhood compared to the Glenview. Some neighborhoods require a bus ride or long drive to complete such daily tasks as grocery shopping or going to the bank.

“There’s no way that a city should be able to develop, do any type of business and not represent the citizens that live right there,” said Esther with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE). “It’s time for all of us to step up, be responsible and understand that we need to start leading with our hearts before our pockets.”

“There is an urgency with respect to people of color being able to have equal participation in this city,” said Councilwoman Brooks.

In response to inquiries of how much it will cost to operate this new department, Brooks said, “Think of the costs that communities have suffered for far too long not being able to participate fully in the government that they pay into. When do they get that return in dividends?”

“We will have to look like we have looked for other things that have been unbudgeted and find a way to make this happen. I would hope that we don’t just look at the dollars and cents, but we will look at truly moving a full community forward,” said Brooks.

Some of the organizations supporting the Department of Race and Equity are Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), East Bay Asian Youth Center (EBAYC), East Oakland Building Healthy Communities, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), ONYX Organizing Committee, and People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).

The proposal will go to the City Council on March 31.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City of Oakland Considering New Department to Address Racial Inequality

By Ashley Chambers

In the wake of protests and national actions against the discriminatory treatment of people of color by law enforcement, the City of Oakland is looking at a proposal to establish a Department of Race and Equity that would ensure “fair and just” treatment by and city and in the community.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

Councilmember Desley Brooks developed the proposal and is leading the efforts t to create the department, which would report directly to the City Administrator.

If approved by the City Council this month, Oakland would be one of few U.S. cities with their own racial equity departments.

Cities that have already set up such departments include Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN; and Madison, WI.

The city report notes that Oakland remains a city where minorities are a majority. “Today, approximately one in two students in Oakland’s public schools are students of color,” according to the report.

As minority communities continue to grow, the Department of Race and Equity would ensure that city policies reflect fairness for all residents and that people of color gain equitable access to opportunities such as contracts in economic development projects, education, the justice system, housing, employment and job training.

In order to achieve racial equity in city government, it is important to “move beyond ‘services’ and focus on changing policies, institutions, and structures” to close the racial gap, according to Julie Nelson, director of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, an expert who was consulted in the development of the proposal.

Nelson was formerly director of Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights, which has been around for decades. She recently presented a report, “Tools and Strategies for Government to Advance Racial Equity,” at Oakland’s Life and Enrichment Committee.

“Whether it’s public works, housing…there are opportunities to advance racial equity. It needs to be integrated into the routine operations of the city. That won’t happen without intentional planning,” Nelson said in an interview with the Post.

During her presentation, she said cities must be proactive in addressing inequities with clear goals and objectives, and develop successful tools to implement racial equity strategies.

Ten years ago, the Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative was created to address specifically institutionalized racism in city government. Looking at policies that perpetuated access for communities of color, Nelson says the numbers now are higher than they were before the initiative was passed.

Oakland could become a city that is on the forefront in addressing racial inequality by ensuring that city policies and programs reflect fairness for all residents. If approved, the department would be implemented as soon as December of this year.

The potential costs and staffing requirements of the department so far have not been specified.

The Life Enrichment Committee will hear another report on the Department of Race and Equity on March 24.The City Council is expected to vote on the proposal on March 31.

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 6, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)