Category: Ferguson/Black Lives Matter

Berkeley City Council Approves Investigation of December Protests, Bans Tear Gas, Baton Strikes

March to Berkeley City Council meeting. Photo by Judith Scherr

March to Berkeley City Council meeting. Photo by Judith Scherr

By Judith Scherr

Two months after Berkeley police injured peaceful protesters with batons, tear gas and projectiles, some 150 activists led by Berkeley High, Berkeley City College and UC Berkeley Black student unions, took the Black Lives Matter message to the streets Tuesday, marching from the Cal Campus to the city council meeting at Old City Hall.

Moni Law, beaten by police Dec. 6, speaks at meeting. Photo by Judith Scherr

Moni Law, beaten by police Dec. 6, speaks at meeting. Photo by Judith Scherr

The council got the message.

In a series of unanimous votes, the council approved a temporary ban on police use of tear gas, projectiles and over-the-shoulder baton swings for crowd control; asked the Police Review Commission to review both specific tactics used by police at the December protests and general crowd control orders; directed the city manager to write policy for police cameras; and affirmed Berkeley support for national Ferguson Action demands.

“This is what democracy looks like – when the people of Berkeley come out on the streets and demand their elected representatives take action,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, speaking at a rally at Old City Hall before the meeting.  Arreguin authored most the policies the council approved later.

Also addressing the rally, Berkeley High senior Kadijah  Means talked about “what militarization looks like in our community.”

“ It’s not just about tear gas or AK 47s,” she said. “It’s about militarization as a mind set. It’s about cops believing we’re not all part of the same community. Because if they thought they were part of the community, we wouldn’t have the unjust deaths that we do.”

Kadijah Means, from the Berkeley High Black Student Union, speaks at rally. Photo by Judith Scherr

Kadijah Means, from the Berkeley High Black Student Union, speaks at rally. Photo by Judith Scherr

Inside the council chambers, several dozen speakers lined up to urge council approval of measures to hold police accountable for their actions at the December demonstrations protesting police immunity in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York.

“’I found myself, a Black woman, targeted by officers,’” said Associated Students of the University of California Senator Madison Gordon, reading a letter from an unnamed friend.

“’I found myself bearing the brunt of a beating of a baton across my chest and torso…I was gassed and fell to the ground coughing….The system that promised to protect me, had failed me so horribly and for what?  A peaceful demonstration to display my discontent for this system that continues to display violence and criminal acts on my people every day.’”

Andrea Pritchett from Copwatch said she had requested police operational plans for the demonstrations, but much of the response was blacked out.

“The police department is saying they redacted certain parts of the plan for security procedures,” Pritchett said. “They contain ‘intelligence information.’ My friends, that’s what a militarized police department does.”

Councilman Max Anderson speaks at Rally. Photo by Judith Scherr

Councilman Max Anderson speaks at Rally. Photo by Judith Scherr

Chamber of Commerce CEO Poly Armstrong, one of three speakers urging opposition to the measures, asked the council not to take crowd control tools away from police were they faced with another “civic uproar.”

“As the voice for business in Berkeley, Berkeley businesses would feel extremely uncertain if there were no way for police to protect the people of Berkeley and their businesses downtown,” she said.

The police chief was absent, though he generally attends council meetings when police matters are discussed. City Manager Christine Daniel told the Post he wasn’t asked to attend because he wasn’t required to give a report.

A police spokesperson told this reporter in December that aggressive police tactics responded appropriately to protesters, some of whom had thrown objects such as bottles at police. However, one public speaker called this “collective punishment.”

A unanimous council approved asking the city manager to write a plan within three months for implementation of police body and vehicle cameras, although some public speakers had expressed skepticism. In a recent Emeryville police shooting, the officer’s body camera was off and in the case of Eric Garner, the police officer who choked him was not indicted even though the choking was caught on camera.

The council unanimously affirmed the Ferguson demands that include strict limits on transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement and repurposing funds for alternatives to incarceration.

The council unanimously approved the Police Review Commission conducting an independent review of the December protests and a general review of related crowd control policies, with councilmembers underscoring the PRC needs to use its power to subpoena documents and testimony.

And the council approved the interim ban – to be re-evaluated after the independent review — on police use of tear gas, projectiles and certain baton strikes when dealing with mostly peaceful protesters.

Addressing the young people at the meeting, Councilmember Max Anderson said, “You’re part of a struggle along a continuum. You’re part of an effort to ensure the basic principles of this country are upheld.

“We’ve arrived at a point where an inordinate amount of power resides with the police department and their representatives; we arrived at this because we believed they would always have our best interests to protect and serve the general public. That hasn’t borne itself out. And you’re response is appropriate, courageous and has to be ongoing.”

Courtesy of the Berkeley Post, February 14, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City Council and Mayor Pledge Actions to Reduce Systemic Racial Injustice

District Attorney O’Malley Speaks at Council Meeting

By Ken Epstein

The Oakland City Council this week continued to come to grips with issues raised at a recent public hearing “on racial inequality within the economic and criminal justice systems.”

Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan

Recommended by Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, the discussion was placed on the agenda to allow councilmembers to continue their discussions on concrete policy

changes they want to implement in the wake of the public hearing on Saturday, Jan. 24 that addressed the loss of Black lives and impact of violence on the community.

The hearing was planned in consultation with a number of activists.

In an interview with the Post this week, Mayor Libby Schaaf praised the council and McElhaney for their leadership on these issues.

“I intend to work with the council to implement the recommendations that come from their deliberations. I think these public discussions are very healthy for the city.”

 

Alameda County D.A. Nancy O’Malley speaks at Oakland City Council Meeting.

Councilmembers Abel Guillen and Annie Campbell Washington said they wanted to work with Councilmember Desley Books, who is pushing to establish a Department of Race and Equity in the city.

“It’ a piece of work I’d like to get heavily involved in,” said Campbell Washington. The existence of such a department would encourage the city council at every meeting to look at issues from the point view of race and equity, she said.

Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, Dan Kalb and Guillen are calling for the Oakland Police Department to hire more local residents and ensure that the new hires are more reflective of the composition of Oakland communities.

Over 1,000 Oakland residents have applied for OPD jobs in the last three years, said Kaplan, and only 35 have been accepted.

Kaplan also urged the council and city staff to move ahead with a “disparity” study, called for by City Charter and already funded by the council.

Noel Gallo

Noel Gallo

The previous study found that city grants and contracts were going to “white men and that women-owned and minority-owned businesses were dramatically underrepresented.”

“(The study) is about five years overdue at this point,” she said.

Kaplan also criticized “differential outcomes in prosecutions.”

“Black people get longer sentences (when they are) prosecuted for the same offenses,” Kaplan said. “That includes demonstrators (who face) differential enforcement. I want to ask that (issue) be looked at as well.”

Speaking at the meeting, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley disagreed with comments about racial disparities in prosecutions.

“I’m very data driven, (and) nothing has shown up to be true about that (allegation),” she said.

Libby Schaaf

Libby Schaaf

However, she said the “dialogue that is being raised up is very significant, and it is a moment that we should not let pass us by.”  Her office wants to look at “what we can do to empower young people who find themselves on the other side of the law.”

More diversion programs that create education and job opportunities for youth are a necessity, she said.

In addition, O’Malley said her office has formed a working group on “fair and equitable policing and prosecution (that will) look at our practices.”

Both Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Dan Kalb have committed themselves to working on proposal submitted by the Coalition for Police Accountability to place on the November 2016 ballot an independent civilian oversight panel that would have the power to investigate and discipline police misconduct.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney

In addition to coordinating the various efforts of some of the councilmembers, McElhaney said she is working to establish a “citizens’ human rights commission, (as) an ongoing way for the community to stay involved.”

McElhaney told the Post she is also working to revive the joint city-school district Education Partnership Committee, which will examine ways to dismantle the “school to prison pipeline.”

Mayor Schaaf told the Post that she was excited to meet with Rev. Jesse Jackson to support his work “to uncover the outrageous disparity and lack of minority hiring” in the tech industry.

“We have a chance to apply pressure to oppose the lack of diversity and to correct it,” she said.

Annie Campbell Washington. Photo Courtesy East Bay Express.

Annie Campbell Washington. Photo Courtesy East Bay Express.

She said that she wants to fully implement community policing in Oakland, which means that the public should have full access to the footage produced by police body cameras.

Mayor Schaaf also wants police to walk beats and get to know community members.

“I want to emphasize that I want them getting out of their cars,” she said.

Post publisher Paul Cobb said he hopes the City Council Ethics Commission would examine the role of the City Attorney’s office for its role in not helping the city speed up its implementation of federal Judge Thelton Henderson’s orders to improve OPD.

Courtesy of the Oaland Post, February 7, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Black Friday 14 Supporters Call on District Attorney O’Malley to Drop Charges

Statement from D.A.’s Office: ” “Any time a crime victim suffers a loss, the offender must be ordered to pay restitution for that loss.”

Ronnisha Johnson speaks Wednesday to supporters of Black Friday 14 in front of Alameda County Superior Court at 661 Washington St. in Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Ronnisha Johnson speaks Wednesday to supporters of Black Friday 14 in front of Alameda County Superior Court at 661 Washington St. in Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ashley Chambers

Fourteen protesters were in court this week facing a misdemeanor charge and $70,000 in restitution for shutting down BART service on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, as part of the national movement opposing police killings of unarmed African Americans.

As Black Friday 14 activists sat in the courtroom Wednesday morning, several hundred supporters rallied outside the courthouse demanding that District Attorney Nancy O’Malley drop the call for restitution and the trespassing charge.

The activists are challenging the constitutionality of California Penal Code 369i, which prohibits conduct that interferes with transit operations. They and their attorneys are arguing that the law “criminalizes the most innocent behavior” within a BART station and gives police “unfettered discretion to impose charges on disfavored transit users.”

Oakland Civil rights lawyer Walter Riley, who represents the protesters, presented this argument to the judge. If the judge agrees with the motion, the case would be dismissed.

Alameda County D.A. Nancy O'Malley speaks  at Oakland City Council Meeting

Alameda County D.A. Nancy O’Malley speaks at Oakland City Council Meeting

The motion calls for the court “to dismiss this case because the statute itself is being challenged for being unconstitutional,” said Riley outside the Alameda County courthouse on Washington Street in Oakland.

The motion cites the case of Morse v. BART (Feb. 11, 2014) in which a court found: “The lack of a specific intent requirement coupled with [BART] defendants’ interpretation of Section 369i would appear to make much of the innocent conduct one witnesses at a public transit station a crime under the Penal Code.”

Judge Yolanda Northridge is expected to make a written ruling soon. She did not refer to the $70,000 restitution fee.

However, Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Mike Nieto read a statement on Wednesday representing the District Attorney’s position on restitution:

“Any time a crime victim suffers a loss, the offender must be ordered to pay restitution for that loss. A victim’s right to a criminal restitution order stems from Article I, Section 28 B of the California Constitution.

“Restitution orders are to be imposed for the full amount of the victims economic loss. These economic losses must be actual losses and not based upon speculation. We have not received any evidence or other supporting documentation for actual economic losses in these cases.”

If the judge denies their motion, the protesters are scheduled to go back to court on March 18. They are asking for community members to support the demand for the charge and restitution to be dropped.

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

 

Oakland City Leaders Pledge to Address Issues of Black Lives Matter Movement

By Ken Epstein

Many Oakland residents are saying that the City Council’s public hearing on critical issues that impact African Americans in Oakland is a good first step.

Photo courtesy of  Photo: Pen Harshaw.

Photo courtesy of Pen Harshaw.

Held last Saturday in City Hall chambers, the packed five-and-a-half hour meeting did not result directly in policy proposals. But it did lay out a call for collective action by councilmembers and city staff on key concerns that a number of them are already working individually to address.

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney convened the special hearing on Saturday, Jan. 24, along with Council President Pro Tem Larry Reid.

In an email to community leaders, McElhaney discussed the significance of the hearing.

“The City Council had never undertaken a comprehensive examination of the issues that impact Black lives as we did this past Saturday,” she said.

Lynette McElhaney

Lynette McElhaney

“I want to let you know that thus far, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback,” McElhaney continued. “Our primary audience – the council members and senior administration – felt that they received comprehensive information and a framework through which to direct their efforts.”

McElhaney said she considers this moment to be an unprecedented opportunity for Oakland to take the lead in dealing with these issues.

“To my knowledge, this was the first time that protesters for any cause were given a welcome mat to bring their grievances directly to the policymakers,” she said.” This is a considerable success for the activists who have sought redress for their grievances.”

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Rebecca Kaplan. Photo courtesy sfgate.

Speaking at the hearing, Congresswoman Barbara Lee talked about legislation that Congress can potentially pass, calling on people in Oakland to help create the “street heat” that can make Congressional action a possibility.

“We’ve got to stop this (police violence). It’s time for this to change,” said Lee, calling attention to a bill before Congress that would make it more difficult for district attorneys to use “secret grand jury hearings” to exonerate police accused of killing civilians; and another bill that would stop giving military arms to police departments, “to keep the weapons of war off our streets.”

In an interview with the Oakland Post after the hearing, Councilmember Dan Kalb said he will be working with Alameda County officials to assure that state funds for reentry programs reach the formerly incarcerated for whom they are intended.

Dan Kalb

Dan Kalb

He also said he would work with the citywide police accountability coalition to develop a measure to create a civilian police oversight commission in Oakland, somewhat like what already exists in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“I want to work on something (now) so that we will be ready to put a measure on the ballot (for the next election),” Kalb said. “I think other council members feel the same way.”

Councilmember-at-large Rebecca Kaplan said, “California continues to lead the world in prison spending and destroys lives, families and communities, without adequately funding real prevention and re-entry services.”

“(Therefore), we have work to do,” she said, calling for the city to adopt policies “to hire more Oakland residents and a more diverse group to our police force. We need to stop arresting and prosecuting people for minor nonsense and end the disparities in sentencing, and the costly war on drugs.”

Photo courtesy of Laura Ming Wong.

Photo courtesy of Laura Ming Wong.

In addition, she said, “We need to take seriously our job creation efforts and the non-profits who administer programs that create jobs, provide economic access and work force training. There’s been a long history in Oakland, and throughout the nation, of destroying black-owned business.”

Kaplan said the city should move ahead on conducting a “legally required disparity study, and take action to make sure local minority-owned businesses get a fair shot at contracts and jobs, and that we truly build a future that values Black lives.”

New Councilmember Abel Guillen said he will be looking at ways to address racial profiling in Oakland, “the

Abel Guillen

Abel Guillen

disproportionate numbers of African Americans and Latinos who are stopped by police.”

In addition he said that as the city hires more police, “We have to make sure that those people that we hire are reflective of the local community.”

The council’s discussion of the issues and proposals for council action will continue at the Feb. 3 City Council meeting.

Next Week, Part II, City Leaders Respond to Issues of  Black Lives Matter Movement

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 31, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Community, Black Friday 14 Tell City Council: “The People Have Had Enough”

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 as Cat Brooks spoke at 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.

 

By Ashley Chambers and Ken Epstein

Oakland has the chance to become a model for cities across the country on how city government can effectively respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to activists and City Councilmembers.

In a special City Council hearing on Saturday, Jan. 24, community members addressed elected officials demanding that they prioritize concerns of the community, including a stop to racial profiling and police violence, an end to marginalizing of communities of color in jobs and economic development and a halt to the gentrification that is

Regineé Hightower from the Black Organizing Project,

Regineé Hightower from the Black Organizing Project,

displacing so many low-income Oakland residents.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing and one of the Black Friday 14 activists facing charges for shutting down BART on the day after Thanksgiving, was the first speaker, standing at the podium flanked by a number of other members of the Black Friday 14.

“The people have had enough. There is a righteous anger that has swept the country,” said Brooks. “We don’t have to apologize for that anger or any of the responses to it.”

She reminded city officials: “This is a national movement, and it is not going (away). It is picking up steam, growing every day.

Speaking to the possibilities facing the movement in Oakland, she said, “We have an amazing opportunity before us to be a model for the rest of the country,” she said.

Oakland Chief of Police Sean Whent speaks at hearing“There must be a specific accepting and addressing of the crimes against the people. We are demanding accountability and community control of every step of this process,” she said.

Pastor Michael McBride, who has been on the frontlines of the Black Lives Matter movement and stood with activists in Ferguson, MO, spoke about the need for government action to “heal our communities” and “restore the public trust.”

“Our executive leadership in this city and county must remove the structuralized racism that pervades the City of Oakland, the police department, and the Oakland Unified School District,” said McBride. “Our clergy must face head-on the complicity and apathy that characterizes our congregations and religious institutions.”

Although the Oakland Police Department has gone for the last 20 months without an officer-involved shooting, McBride added, “We must admit that the history of unconstitutional policing is part of our social memory and identity as a city and still requires much healing and reform.”

Speaking on a panel, Oakland Police Department (OPD) Chief Sean Whent said, “We have made significant changes, (but) I don’t know if it were not for the lawsuit (that put OPD under federal court oversight), if it would have changed. We are absolutely committed to policing that is constitutional and progressive and seen as legitimate by the people who (the department) serves. “

Pastor Michael McBride

Pastor Michael McBride

“We can build a (better) relationship long term, and we can all live in a safer community,” Whent said.

Student Regineé Hightower, with the Black Organizing Project, talked about ending the “school to prison pipeline.”

“We don’t have enough teachers who reflect our community,” Hightower said. “There is too much investment of police in schools. We don’t want police in our schools at all.”

Karissa Lewis, one of the Black Friday 14, said, “I think that everybody on this panel (and city councilmembers) can be doing their part to look at how they are criminalizing young Black and Brown folks…We all have a part to play in shifting the way that police criminalize us.”

Referring to the people in the movement, Lewis said, “We are going to be in the streets until folks are ready to confront the issue around the war on Black folks.”

Robbie Clark, a member of the Black Friday 14, said: “We have to be clear about what it means when we’re talking about Black Lives Matter. We’re talking about all Black lives – Black women, queer lives and formerly incarcerated lives.”

“When we talk about state-sanctioned violence, it’s also about what (violence) looks like economically, state-sanctioned economic violence.”

She also said that racism included the way that rents are raised illegally and Oakland residents are pushed out of their homes through gentrification.

“The gang injunctions…and increased policing in an area are part of the displacing of Black people from Oakland,” Clark said. “(These issues) are all interrelated and connected.”

“We need to continue to make sure community residents are part of the dialogue and decisions, especially when we talk about economic development,” Clark said.

Rashidah Grinage of PUEBLO praised the activists in the streets. “Without your work, we wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

Grinage said that despite a succession of mayors, city administrators and police chiefs, OPD remained impervious to change for over a decade.

To guarantee that there is oversight, she said, the city needs an independent civilian police review commission with power to discipline officers and whose rulings are not reversible by arbitration.

In addition, the commission must be instituted by a charter amendment so that it cannot be undone “by future councils or future mayors,” she said.

The discussion of these issues will continue at the City Council meeting Feb. 3.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Supporters of Black Friday Protesters Demand That BART Drop All Charges

Supporters of the BART 14 are pushed out of the Jan. 22 board meeting after the unfurl a banner at the beginniing of the meeting saying "We stand with the Black Friday 15. Drop the charges. Photo by Ken Epstein

Supporters of the BART 14 chant and hold up a banner at the beginniing of the Jan. 22 BART board meeting that says,  “We stand with the Black Friday 15. Drop the charges.” Photo by Ken Epstein

By Ashley Chambers

Protesters who took over the West Oakland BART station and shut down the trains on Black Friday received an outpouring of support on Thursday as the community members rallied outside the BART Board meeting demanding that the transit agency drop all charges against them

The “Black Friday 14” protesters are facing misdemeanors and a $70,000 restitution fee for shutting down service at the West Oakland BART station for several hours on Nov. 28.

They chained themselves together to a train car handrail to disrupt “business as usual” on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Their action was in solidarity with Ferguson and New York, where two unarmed Black men were killed at the hands of police officers. Both officers were not indicted in the deaths.

Supporters of the Black Friday 14 unfurl a banner at the beginning of the Jan. 22 BART board meeting.

Supporters of the Black Friday 14 unfurl a banner at the beginning of the BART board meeting.

BART General Manager Grace Crunican has expressed an “interest in community service as an element of restitution,” as a possible way to drop the restitution penalty, according to a statement released b BART earlier this month.

However, the protesters attended the BART Board meeting Thursday to call on the directors to rescind the “ransom” and drop charges against them.

“BART needs to pick what side of justice they want to be on, the righteous side or the side that prosecutes students, women, farmers, people who contribute to the Oakland community for standing up and demanding that the war on Black lives comes to an end,” said Cat Brooks, one of the 14 protesters and co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee, speaking in an interview with the Oakland Post.

Many local organizations including the Third World Resistance Coalition are standing in solidarity with the Black Friday 14 and demanding that BART drop all charges.

Organizations like Movement Generation, Youth Together, and The BlackOut Collective took to social media to show their solidarity with the 14 charged protesters, posting photos of individuals and groups of people holding signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “I Stand with the #BlackFriday14.”

The Berkeley City Council this week unanimously passed a resolution urging the BART Board of Directors to “withdraw their criminal complaint against the 14 protesters” and to “suspend the restitution.”

The resolution also notes that “most protesters who have disrupted traffic or public transit service have merely been cited and released or charged with minor infractions.” It says the prosecution BART is seeking on the Black Friday 14 “could have a chilling effect for those who wish to exercise their First Amendment Rights to free speech.”

A similar resolution is expected to come before the Oakland City Council.

Brooks says the Black Friday 14 are going to “continue to engage the community around supporting the right to assemble and protest.”

The protesters are scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 4. They are asking the community to come support them at the Alameda County.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 25, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

#BlackLivesMatter Movement Raises Demands at Oakland City Council Hearing

The community marched for Black Lives Matter during the Jobs and Economy March to reclaim Martin Luther King's legacy on Monday, Jan. 19 in East Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein.

The community marched for Black Lives Matter during the Jobs and Economy March to reclaim Martin Luther King’s legacy on Monday, Jan. 19 in East Oakland. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Post Staff

In response to police abuse and violence in the City of Oakland, the Anti Police Terror Project is making its demands for an end to what they call” a war on Black lives” and  are sending the message that “Black Lives Matter.”

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

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

The project is a coalition of over 20 local organizations, including the Onyx Organizing Committee, Workers World, the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, Healthy Hoodz, Young Oakland, Asians for Black Lives, Black Out Collective and Black Brunch.

The Onyx Organizing Committee convened the coalition to create a sustainable, replicable model across the country to combat police terrorism.

“This came out of the desire to get off the defense, to stop feeling like we were chasing dead bodies,” said Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

“This is an epidemic,” she said.

“As the movement grows, the conversation on the war on Blacks lives (is expanding) to talk about all the ways this is a war on Black lives including economic violence, physical violence, psychological violence and educational violence,” Brooks continued.

The movement’s demands are not based on the work of a few individuals but are the result of the collective anger and experiences of many people and organizations, she said.

“They are based on the community’s expertise of actively living in these streets,” Brooks said.

In an interview Thursday with the Post, she said that the movement’s demands would be raised Saturday at the City Council’s public meeting about #BlackLivesMatter.

She said organizers do not want to see a “dog and pony show” but were expecting that their demands would to be directly responded to and that action would be taken quickly after the meeting.

Among the demands are:

* Drop the charges and rescind the “ransom” against the Black Friday 14 protesters;

* Make Oakland the Sanctuary City it is supposed to be and provide amnesty for all immigrants;

* Stop to all abuse and violence against LGBTQ people committed by law enforcement;

* Locally, the Oakland Police Department receives 69 percent of the city budget and nationally, the police receive 51 percent of the budget. These funds should be redistributed for co-ops whose purpose will be to improve the quality of life for oppressed nationalities by building schools, grocery stores, medical facilities and create living wage jobs with benefits;

* Assure the right to peacefully protest. The streets belong to the people;

* Stop profiling, targeting, stopping, frisking and killing Black and Brown families;.

* A community review board should have true jurisdiction over the Oakland Police Department;

* The  police should get out of our schools;

* A complete overhaul of the Police Bill of Rights;

* Police officers receive leave WITHOUT pay when under investigation for a questionable shooting.  Killer cops should be fired;

* Protect the rights of all people to vote, especially disenfranchised populations like those on parole and probation;

* Abolish practices that continue to penalize people returning home from prisons and instead create “welcome home” packages that include housing, jobs, educational opportunities and counseling;

* Create a taskforce comprised of the most impacted community members to devise alternative plans to imprisonment.**

 With respect to development and employment in the proposed Coliseum City Project:

* Decision-making by residents of East Oakland on the plan for Coliseum City and surrounding areas;

* A hiring policy that ensures that jobs go to Blacks and Latinos in proportion to the percentages of these groups living in East Oakland, including jobs for the disenfranchised who are on probation and parole – even for violent offenses;

* No displacement of local small businesses and expanded opportunities for minority businesses;

All housing developed with city funds should be affordable to Oakland families living at the median income;

* Conduct a Health Impact Assessment that lays out how many Oakland residents will be displaced as a result of the Coliseum City Development and other undesirable outcomes;

* And, commit to providing living-wage jobs with benefits to all employees of the Coliseum City project, from the janitor to the retail clerk.
* Several Oakland pastors said they will ask the city to stop the practice of using 32 percent of job Training funds for city staff overhead and redirect the money to job programs serving youth and the unemployed.

*A number of community members and leaders also have told the Post that they plan to attend the City Council hearing to raise their concerns and suggest proposals for change.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 24, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Berkeley Meeting Addresses Prejudice

Hearing calls for end to “normalization of Blacks being treated like second-class citizens”

Barbra White, Berkeley NAACP, speaks at community meeting. Photos by Judith Scherr.

Barbra White, Berkeley NAACP, speaks at community forum. Photos by Judith Scherr.

By Judith Scherr

More than 250 residents, lawmakers and academics spent five hours Saturday at a forum exploring what Barbara White of the Berkeley NAACP called “the normalization of Blacks being treated like second-class citizens in America and Berkeley.”

john powell is a law professor and director of Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley

john powell, law professor and director of Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley

The stated agenda topic for the town-hall style City Council meeting at the Ed Roberts campus was “police-community relations,” but, as Councilmember Kriss Worthington said, the issue at hand was broader: “Prejudice and discrimination and racism — right here in Berkeley.”

john. a. powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley, laid out the problem. “When we talk about segregation, we’re not simply talking about separating people based on phenotype,” he said. “We’re talking about separating people from life opportunities.”

Many of the more than 50 public speakers did address police-community relations, criticizing Berkeley police tactics at Dec. 6 demonstrations protesting the grand jury decisions against indicting white police officers responsible for the deaths of unarmed Black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at meeting on police-community relations.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee speaks at meeting on police-community relations.

Zach Malitz said he was protesting peacefully when police used tear gas and beat him and fellow demonstrators. Moni Law, injured by a police baton, said she’d filed a complaint with the Police Review Commission and urged others to do so.

“We saw militarized police responding in Ferguson,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. “A similar thing happened in Berkeley.”

Others took the question of community-police relations beyond recent demonstrations, criticizing Berkeley police for random stops of African Americans.

Richie Smith, an African American elder, described her experience. “I had one officer that was upset with me because each time he turned the corner in the neighborhood, he saw me,” Smith said, explaining that she picks up trash along Adeline Street near her home once or twice every day.

“He wanted to know what was I doing so often on the street, (and I said), ‘I live here. My taxes pay your salary.’”

A group representing disabled people picketed outside the meeting to raise consciousness about problematic relations between police and disabled Black people, subject to both racism and misunderstanding by police.

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond speaks at Berkeley meeting

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond speaks at Berkeley meeting

According to the group’s spokesperson Nomy Lamm, police sometimes mistake actions of deaf and mentally ill people for those of a non-compliant person and believe physically disabled pedestrians are drunk.

Solutions proposed included Rep. Barbara Lee’s call to end the transfer of military weapons to communities.

Residents proposed instituting a 24-hour team of health professionals to respond to mental health crises rather than police, body cameras for police, a moratorium on police use of tear gas and over-the-head baton strikes for crowd control, community policing and community control of police. Speakers also cited the need for jobs, affordable housing and equitable education.

The day’s discussion was one “this country has never really had in a meaningful way,” Councilmember Max Anderson said. “Our efforts as citizens to engage in the activities that strengthen democracy cannot relent at this point.”

The City Council will discuss police reform proposals Jan. 27 and Feb. 10.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, January 24, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Bay Area Groups Call for 96 Hours of Action to “Reclaim King’s Legacy”

“Jobs and Economy” march on Monday from Fruitvale BART to Oakland Coliseum

Martin Luther King Jr. Arrested.

Hundreds of people from more than two-dozen groups associated with the Anti-Police Terror Project (APTP) will join thousands around the country in 96 hours of action over the Martin Luther King Weekend, Jan. 16-19.

In response to a call from Ferguson Action, organizers seek to reclaim Dr. King’s legacy and radical stance against poverty and all forms of violence.

The weekend’s events will culminate in a Jobs and Economy March for the People on Monday, Jan. 19, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Fruitvale BART Station, Oscar Grant Plaza, and ending at the Oakland Coliseum, where a massive Coliseum City development project is planned.

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

Coliseum City Entertainment District (rendering)

The project, which has yet to be approved, is proposed to include development of up to three sports stadiums, market-rate condominiums, hotels and an entertainment complex in the heart of East Oakland.

As planned, it would wipe out the city’s only business park.

The concerns of many Oakland residents, specifically people of color, are that they could be displaced or otherwise negatively impacted. The protesters are questioning why the city would support a project unless it provides jobs, housing and community development for Oakland residents.

“We march to demand an end to economic violence, police violence, educational violence and psychological violence that is perpetrated without consequence in our communities ” according to a statement by the APTP.

Proposed Coliseum City

Proposed Coliseum City

The group is also demanding that the Coliseum City project include: 1) Decision-making by residents of East Oakland on the plans for Coliseum City and surrounding areas; 2) A hiring policy ensuring that jobs go to Blacks and Latinos in proportion to the percentages of these groups living in East Oakland and including jobs for the disenfranchised who are on probation and parole; 3) No displacement of local small businesses and expanded opportunities for minority businesses; and 4) All housing developed with city funds should be affordable to Oakland families at the median income.

“We have seen the Black population of urban communities shrink all over the country,” the call for the protest said. “In Oakland the African-American population has shrunk from 49 percent to 27 percent. We want to stop the policies that have led to this shrinkage and turn it around so that African-Americans are able to live and thrive in this city.”

The APTP is a coalition of over 20 groups, including the Onyx Organizing Committee, Workers World, the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, Healthy Hoodz, Young Oakland, Asians for Black Lives, Black Out Collective, Black Brunch, and CRC

For more information, go to www.postnewsgroup.com.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, January 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

“I Am Black, I Am Jewish, and My Life Matters.”

Kim Carter Martinez spoke at the #BlackLivesMatter Hanukkah demonstration Dec. 16 in San Francisco. Photo by Gabrielle Lurie.

By Kim Carter Martinez

 
My name is Kim. I am Black, I am Jewish, and my life matters. For the last few months, our country has seen a movement growing from a wave of protests against the police and vigilante law enforcement killings of unarmed Black men.

As a country we have struggled with talking about the issues of police brutality and racism — individual racism, and the systemic and institutionalized racism that Black and Brown people in our country fall victim to on a daily basis.

In America, a black person is killed by the police or by vigilante law enforcement every 28 hours. #BlackLivesMatter, the movement that arose out of the outrage over these killings, describes itself as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise … [an affirmation of black folks’] contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”Hanukkah march

Over and over again, I’ve heard people in the Jewish community talk about #BlackLivesMatter as if the violence and racism toward people of color is happening to an outside group we are not a part of.

It’s happening to “them,” and we can only show solidarity to this group in certain ways because it is a group to which we do not belong.

Many Jews post on Facebook or Twitter showing their solidarity for the cause. Some attend rallies and marches to show their solidarity for the cause.

Many talk with their friends and watch comedy television with quasi-political pundits who talk about #BlackLivesMatter.

We do everything we can to align ourselves with the cause and show our solidarity — except at the same time we continue to ignore the fact that, according to several estimates, there are tens of thousands of Black Jewish Americans for whom the issues of police brutality and institutional and systemic racism are an everyday reality.

These are not just Black issues, these are also Jewish issues, and we cannot continue to count them as something separate. Doing so erases the identity of people like me, who are both Black and Jewish.

We are moved by our Jewish teachings of tikkun olam (heal the world) and tzedek, tzedek, tirdof  (justice, justice you shall pursue). Yet how can we, as a Jewish people, truly heal the world and pursue justice when we continue to not include Jews of color in leadership roles in our work fighting racism and police brutality in America?

Are we really healing the world and pursuing justice if we ignore the racism that Jews of color have to endure? Organizations must make a concerted outreach effort to Jews of color if they want to have an authentic campaign of solidarity with the issues of all people of color.

Recently I attended a #BlackLivesMatter action in San Francisco, held on the first night of Hanukkah. I was honored to be the emcee, and disappointed to see only a handful of Jews of color among the participants. Why were they left out? Jews of color must be at the forefront of these movements.

I was happy to see J. and other Jewish newspapers carry the story of the Hanukkah action with some prominence. But I also was disappointed to see no quotes or pictures of Jews of color. Why were they left out?

Our stories of racism and discrimination inside and outside the Jewish community must be lifted up and heard. We must welcome Jews of color to tell their stories of racial discrimination in our organized Jewish community, such as synagogues, federations, social groups and Jewish nonprofits. We must not just listen to the stories of racism that Jews of color have endured, we must stand up to it and act, because these are not just Black or Brown issues, they are Jewish issues. And all Jewish people matter.

Kim Carter Martinez is a campaign coordinator for a public employee labor union. She served on the regional council of Bend the Arc and lives in Oakland. This article was reprinted from jweekly.com

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