Category: Police-Public Safety

“Unite Against Hate,” Say East Bay Leaders

East Bay leaders speak at a press conference Tuesday, prolcaiming that local communities are united against against hatred and bigotry and committed to nonviolence. Left to Right: Supervisor Keith Carson, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond and Assemblyman Rob Bonta. Photo by Ken Epstein.

 

By Ken Epstein

Congresswoman Barbara and other East Bay political leaders held a press conference at Berkley City Hall Tuesday to condemn hatred, bigotry and violence as local communities prepare for white supremacists rallies planned for Saturday in San Francisco and Sunday in Berkeley.

“President Trump has emboldened white nationalists, but we must hold steadfast to our progressive values as a community, regardless of the challenges,” said Congresswoman Lee.

“We cannot allow anyone, certainly not the president, to roll back the clock on progress. We must stand united against hate,” she said.

Growing up in the South, she said, “I have seen the kind of world these demonstrators want to create.”

Joining Congresswoman Lee at the press conference were Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and District Attorney Nancy O´Malley.

Some protesters are planning to confront the white supremacists in downtown Berkeley. Others are calling for a rally, supported by labor, faith-based organizations and Democratic clubs, in another part of Berkeley to demonstrate the Bay Area’s commitment to oppose racist terrorism.

Berkeley Mayor Arreguín urged people not to to confront the white supremacists.

He underscored the city´s support for free speech for all points of view but drew a distinction between those who want to express themselves and those who come to town seek to terrorize the community.

“We are working to keep our public safe,” he said. “We are not going to allow bigotry and hate in our community.”

Organizers of the rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley claim they are not white supremacists, but according to Mayor Arreguín the discussion on social media about the events indicates otherwise.

Senator Skinner announced she is introducing a bill to strengthen California´s anti-hate crime laws calling on local, state and federal law enforcement to treat white supremacists as terrorists and direct law enforcement to use all available options to prosecute members of these groups.

“If their intention is to terrorize our communities, it makes sense to prosecute them as terrorists,” she said.

Local branches of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement distinguishing between free speech and marching with guns and other weapons with the intent to commitment violence.

“Thee ACLU of California fully supports the freedom of speech and expression, as well as the freedom to peacefully assemble,” the statement from directors ACLU’s Northern California, Southern California and San Diego chapters says.

“If white supremacists march into our towns armed to the teeth and with the intent to harm people, they are not engaging in activity protected by the United States Constitution. The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.”

A large coalition of groups and individuals is holding a “Bay Area Rally Against Hate,” which is not organized to physically confront the white supremacists.

According to the rally announcement, “fascists and white supremacists are meeting in Berkeley to try to intimidate us and incite violence. We’re meeting near UC Berkeley campus, blocks away and on the other side of the downtown, to speak to each other about the world we want. Join us, bring snacks, bring signs.”

The rally, hosted by Unite for Freedom Right Wing Violence in the Bay Area, will be held Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Crescent Lawn, Oxford and Addison streets at UC Berkeley.

Published August, 25, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Bay Area Protests Against White Supremacy, in Solidarity with Charlottesville

Rep. Barbara Lee calls on president to remove bigoted White House aides

 

A protester in San Francisco on Sunday carries a photo Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed by a white supremacist who drove his car into counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” march last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, has been honored as a martyr who “wanted to put down hate.” Photo courtesy of ABC7.

A protester in San Francisco on Sunday carries a photo Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed by a white supremacist who drove his car into counter-protesters at the “Unite the Right” march last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant, has been honored as a martyr who “wanted to put down hate.” Photo courtesy of ABC7.

 

By Post Staff

Protests last took place across the Bay Area over the weekend in response to the killing of an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, part of a nationwide upsurge of anger against the resurgence of white supremacists and Nazis and President Trump´s support for bigotry.

Protests were held Saturday and Sunday in Oakland. The Saturday march was called, “Charlottesville We Got Your Back, Bay Area United Against White Supremacy.” Among the signs marchers carried were ones that read, “White Silence Equals Violence” and “Call it what it is. White supremacy.”

Oakland’s Sunday evening protest was held in front of City Hall, “for unity and (to make) a firm stance against white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism and hate,” according to a Facebook calendar page.

A march was also held in Berkeley, and candlelight vigils were scheduled at City Hall in San Francisco, the Contra Costa County Courthouse in Martinez, Adobe Park in Castro Valley and Poinsett Park in El Cerrito.

In the South Bay, protests were scheduled Sunday at San Jose City Hall, Mountain View’s Gateway Park, at Lake Elizabeth in Fremont, at the Morgan Hill Community & Cultural Center and at the Santa Cruz Clock Tower.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, along with the “Quad Caucus,” sent a letter this week to President Trump demanding he immediately remove white supremacists Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller from the White House.

Issuing the statement were Congresswoman Lee and leadership of the Congressional Quad-Caucus, composed of chairs of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

“The white supremacists who descended upon Charlottesville have brought vile racism, hatred and bigotry to the forefront of our political discourse once again,” said Congresswoman Lee. “We cannot address the dangerous spread of white supremacy in America without honestly examining its influence on the Oval Office.

“President Trump has elevated hate and discrimination to the highest levels of our government. From the Muslim Ban, to raids on immigrant communities, a ban on transgender Americans serving in our military, attempts to revive the failed war on drugs and an all-out assault on civil and human rights, the influence of the alt-right is clear in the Trump Administration’s policy agenda.

“Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller have long embraced the views of white supremacists, white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. These prejudiced ideologies have no place in the highest office in our land. I urge President Trump to remove (them) from the White House without delay.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Michelle Lujan Grisham said:

“It is shameful that Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, who each have ties to extremist and white nationalist ideological groups and leaders, are serving as President Trump’s top advisors.

“Extremists groups have used their presence in the White House to legitimize their divisive and violent rhetoric, ideology, and actions. They should have no role in creating national policy or pushing their twisted political agenda.”

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

New Citizens’ Police Commission Could Become Among Strongest in Nation

 OccupyOaklandStrikePolice

 

By Post Staff

A selection panel made its final choices this week for the city’s new citizens’ police commission, established by an overwhelming vote in November, which will have significant power to investigate and punish police misconduct and help set policies for the Oakland Police Department.

Four commissioners were picked Monday by the selection panel. Three additional members were appointed by Mayor Libby Schaaf. Two alternates, one picked by Mayor Schaaf and one selected by the panel, were also named.

Edwin Prather

Edwin Prather

Originally, almost 150 Oakland residents applied to be on the commission. The selection panel ultimately interviewed 28 finalists.

A number of observers have argued that Oakland’s police commission, which has the power to fire the police chief and recommend a pool of finalists to replace the chief, could end up being one of the strongest in the nation.

According to Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability, “The selection panel was absolutely stunned” that so many applications were turned in, including 50 that came in on the last day.

The members of the panel had a huge amount of work  sorting through the applications and contacting references, she said. “(But) I think they came out with an absolutely great group of people. I think they did a fabulous job.”

The idea of utilizing a selection panel composed mostly of residents, not politicians, to pick the members of police commission “has never been done before” anywhere in the nation, she said.

Once the City Council comes back from recess in September, it will have to vote on confirming the commissioners, giving the public a chance to weigh in, she said.

Regina Jackson

Regina Jackson

The City of Oakland also has to hire two positions that were budgeted to staff the work of the commission.

“I think by October the police commission should be ready to start work,” said Grinage.

Panel appointees:

Mubarak Ahmad works for AC Transit. He coaches little league baseball and is a basketball coach for Montera Middle School.  He is the father of six children and six grandchildren.

Jose Dorado, an Oakland native, runs a tax and bookkeeping business in the Frutivale District. He is the longtime leader of Maxwell Park Neighborhood Council, which works on public safety issues. He also served on the Measure Y oversight committee.

Jose Dorado

Jose Dorado

Ginale Harris lives in East Oakland. She currently works as a San Francisco deputy court clerk. She has worked as a probation and parole advocate helping formerly incarcerated people. In 2012, she served on SFPD Chief Greg Suhr’s violence prevention committee.

Mike Nisperos, who was raised in Oakland, has served as an Alameda County prosecutor and an associate in the John Burris law firm handling police misconduct cases. He authored the Oakland Mayor’s 2001 Public Safety Plan. He has been arrested by OPD four times.

Alternate Maureen Benson is a 17-year Oakland resident. She has worked as an Oakland teacher and principal.

Mayoral appointees:

Edwin Prather is an attorney in San Francisco. He has worked with the Asian Law Caucus and for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Thomas Smith serves as the political action chair of the Oakland NAACP. He previously worked as a management consultant for McKinsey and Company. He helped set up a charter school in Massachusetts and was on the board of a charter school in Oakland.

Regina Jackson serves as president and CEO of the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC).
Alternate Andrea Dooley is an attorney and an arbitrator who has worked at Kaiser Permanente.

Published August 17, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Opinion: Violence Against Students by Oakland Schools’ Staff Must Stop

Fremont_Walkout

 

By Jorge Lerma

Jorge Lerma

Jorge Lerma

A disturbing new video has surfaced showing security guards at Fremont High in Oakland roughing up and handcuffing a student in the school’s office.

The school district is saying the Jan. 8 video may not show what it seems to show. The district says the 16-year-old student was acting strangely, was a danger to himself and had to be restrained.

But what we see in the video is a Latino student acting calmly and trying to walk out of the office door when he was manhandled by a School Security Officer who began hitting him and pushed him into a room, where they were joined by several other officers. A few moments later, we see the young man being taken out of the side room in handcuffs.

This is not a new occurrence for Fremont High and the Oakland Unified School District. A school security camera last year recorded a Latino student also being beaten up by security guards at Fremont High in the main office.

Earlier at Oakland High School, a camera caught a security guard attacking a student in a wheelchair.

Scene of video of Fremont High School's office where school security officer had a confrontation with student. Screen shot courtesy of KGO-TV.

Scene of video of Fremont High School’s office where school security officer had a confrontation with student. Screen shot courtesy of KGO-TV.

As a lifelong educator, Oakland resident and community activist, I think it is fair to say that a systemic, endemic problem exists in Oakland Unified. The videos are capturing Latino students, often special education students, being brutalized – not out of the public eye in the parking lot or behind the gym – but in the main office of the school.

And from what we witness in the videos, nobody intervened to stop the assaults.

This kind of behavior may be shocking news to people in our community, but you can be sure the students at our schools know about it and many have experienced it.

If this kind of violence is condoned against our children, we would have to be naïve to believe the school system enforces a respectful, humane educational environment in the classrooms and that all of our students – especially our special educational students – are given opportunities to be successful.

Of course, there are many decent and humane teachers, administrators and security officers who love their students and dedicate their lives to education.

But do they have the power to change this system? Do they have the ability to intervene when our students are brutalized by those in authority?

Do those with the experience and the humanity have the opportunity to select and train the inexperienced teachers, administrators and consultants who at present troop through our schools for six months, a year or two years without a clue about our students and the complex multicultural diversity of student needs in our community.

Last year, after the last incident at Fremont, the Latino Education Network (LEN), of which I am member, submitted a list of questions and concerns to the district, but we never received a response.

The concerns were:

School Security Officers (SSOs) lack leadership and high professional standards;

A lot is expected of the SSOs in terms of stopping violence and maintaining safety at a school site, but they lack training in issues of how to work with students with learning disabilities, cultural and language differences, and angry or upset students.

The security force is not diverse, or multicultural in its makeup, or have enough bilingual personnel to help students in a crisis;

The security force lacks proportional Latinos and Spanish speaking officers in its ranks and in the leadership from the superintendent’s cabinet to the program operations.

The district administration talks in speeches, and press releases about “Equity and Redesign” of schools, and though the words are bold, the reality is that our children are suffering, living in the margins and are often excluded from the benefits of the mainstream academic programs.

At this point, I think it is clear that the school security force should be temporarily disbanded and totally reorganized.

A group of parents, students and community activists (especially high school students and members of youth organizations) should be established – not handpicked by administrative staff – to create guidelines and oversee the creation of a new “Peace keepers “security force that protects and supports students and are integrated into the academic programs of the district, not just Fremont High School alone, but throughout the district.

 

Reprinted from the Oakland Post, January 29, 2016 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

 

 

Community Protesters: Amid Housing Crisis, Why is Council Funding More Police?

Community member's protested at last Tuesday's City Council to spend money on more police instead of dealing with Oakland's housing crisis. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

Community members protested at last Tuesday’s City Council  meeting against the council members decision to spend money on more police instead of dealing with Oakland’s housing crisis. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina

The Oakland City Council voted Tuesday evening to accept a controversial $1.875 million federal grant from the US Department of Justice that would pay 18 percent of the cost of hiring 15 additional Oakland police officers over three years.

The grant requires the city to “match” the federal funds by spending an additional $10.25 million from its general funds in order to receive the $1.875 million.

According to a city report, most of the city money will be appropriated from future budgetary cycles, taking $6.5 million from the 2017-2019 budget.

Speaking at the council meeting, Oakland Police Deputy Chief David Downing said that receiving the grant is a cheaper way of increasing staff to better do community policing.

“Nothing is better than having a walking officer on the street with direct contact with the community each and every day,” he said.

City councilmembers in support of the resolution cited increased crime and robberies in Oakland as reasons they were voting to fund hiring the 15 new officers.

But dozens of community members and housing rights activists filled City Hall to speak out against the resolution, claiming that the Oakland Police Department is already overfunded—receiving nearly half the city’s budget—and that the extra spending flies in the face of Oakland’s housing and displacement crisis.

“Police do not stop the cause of crime,” said one Oakland resident at the council meeting. “Increase people’s dignity, their sense of self-worth, their ability to attend schools, have a warm meal with their families. Good housing is a deterrent to crime.”

Other community members referred to how under-resourced and under-funded the city’s Rent Adjustment program and other anti-eviction services are, making them barely enforceable.

“We can’t spend millions of dollars on 15 officers when 1,000 residents are being displaced per month,” said Ramiro Montoya, a member of East Bay Housing Organizations.

“I experience crime in my neighborhood daily and understand that more cops in the street is not the solution. We need more services for people to improve their lives,” said Montoya.

Desley Brooks was the only councilmember to vote against the resolution, questioning why the council was not as proactive about funding housing solutions amid a housing crisis.

“We keep talking about a housing crisis and the city puts no money towards actually addressing it,” said Brooks.

“And who pays $10 million to get $1.8 million? That’s just bad math,” she said.

“Here’s proof that there’s money and, if there’s truly a housing crisis, we’re choosing not to fund it,” said Brooks. “The council isn’t being honest if they’re saying that they are concerned about a housing crisis.”

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan was also skeptical about the city’s willingness to spend millions on hiring new police after being told for months that there was not enough funding for enforcement of tenants’ rights laws and having to scrape to fund the Housing Equity Roadmap earlier this year.

Kaplan noted that the resolution was really a budgetary adoption as opposed to a grant match.

“It feels procedurally weird to me that $10 million is to be adopted entirely outside the budgetary process,” said Kaplan. She ultimately abstained from the vote.

After the public comments section of the agenda item, attendees dropped red painted dollars of “blood money” from the balconies in protest of the resolution.

“The health of a city is about public safety. and that relies on services and people’s access to decent affordable housing, access to income and to food,” said Robbie Clark of Causa Justa: Just Cause.

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

 

 

Anger Grows in Wake of Police Killing of Mario Woods

Video reveals six officers shot man with knife up against the wall

Demonstrators hold signs demanding Justice for Woods and Chief Suhr's ouster outside of a crowded police commission hearing inside city hall Wednesday. Photo courtesy of AP.

Demonstrators hold signs demanding Justice for Woods and Chief Suhr’s ouster outside of a crowded police commission hearing inside city hall Wednesday. Photo courtesy of AP.

By Tulio Ospina

Hundreds of protestors crowded into a San Francisco police commission meeting at City Hall Wednesday night, demanding the firing of SF police Chief Greg Suhr and calling for officers involved in the shooting death of Mario Woods to be charged with murder.

Woods, a 26-year-old Black man, was killed by police last Wednesday in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunter’s Point, a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Multiple videos captured by bystanders show Woods, a stabbing suspect, cornered against the wall of a building holding what police say is a knife and surrounded by six officers, who all have their guns drawn and pointed at him.

As Woods attempted to walk away from the group of officers, one moved to block his path and the officers fired their weapons at close range while he was still leaning against the wall, ultimately killing him at the scene.

The officers fired at least 15 times. Several bystanders say Woods was experiencing a mental breakdown.

Since his death, Bayview residents and activists from around the Bay Area have held various actions, protesting the officers’ failure to de-escalate the situation, racist policing in a city whose Black population has dwindled to three percent and Chief Suhr’s apparent lack of truthfulness in his defense of the shooting.

The day after the shooting, hundreds of community members attended a candlelight vigil at the site where Woods was killed and held a protest on the streets with specific demands.

The demands include firing all officers who discharged their weapons and charging them with murder, that San Francisco pay for a federal and independent investigation into Woods’ death and the firing of Chief Suhr “for failure to effectively do his job.”

After watching the shooting video, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee released a statement saying what he saw was “very upsetting” and “raised a number of questions,” pushing for the police department to implement more training.

Meanwhile, Chief Suhr is claiming that had the officers been equipped with Tasers, they would not have shot Woods to death while he was wielding a knife.

On Friday, residents packed a town hall meeting hosted by SFPD where they heard Suhr justify Woods’ death, saying the officer feared for his life and for the safety of bystanders when he fired his gun.

Residents responded to Suhr’s explanation with jeers of disbelief.

“(Attorney General) Kamala Harris is going to have to step in and oversee this investigation because these people (the police department) will not investigate themselves,” said Minister Christopher Muhammad at the town hall meeting.

“These officers shouldn’t get paid vacation. That’s the quickest way to get a vacation is to shoot a brother. These officers must be charged with murder,” said Muhammad.

Monday night, the San Francisco NAACP also held a crowded meeting at Third Baptist Church to address the latest officer-involved shooting in San Francisco where many compared the shooting to a firing squad execution.

At City Hall on Wednesday, community members say they were barred from entering the main chambers and forced to wait outside the room where they chanted loud enough to be heard inside the meeting.

Since the shooting video’s release, several activist organizations have come out against Woods’ death and police response to their actions.

An open letter from several immigrant rights groups, including Causa Justa: Just Cause, Centro Legal de la Raza, Asian Law Caucus and National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said, “We are outraged by the killing of 26-year-old Mario Woods in the Bayview District last week.”

“Further, we are profoundly troubled by the apparent lack of transparency and truthfulness in police accounts to date of the shooting,” said the letter.

The letter mentions an analysis of the shooting video done by KQED, which contradicts claims by Chief Suhr that officers opened fire only after Woods made a threatening movement towards the officer with his arm.

A joint statement endorsed by the Black Student Union at the University of San Francisco (USF), La Raza Law Students Association and the Black Law Student Association at USF also called the killing of Mario Woods “unlawful.”

This use of unnecessary lethal force, and subsequent denial of fault by the San Francisco Police Department, epitomizes the failure of American policing that has become the spotlight of protest in communities around the country,” said the statement.

The office of civil rights attorney John Burris, which represented the family Oscar Grant’s family, will be representing the family of Mario Woods.

The officer-involved shooting has gained national media attention, with prominent New York Daily News reporter and activist Shaun King writing a sobering article about Woods’ killing.

“Robert Lewis Dear, the Planned Parenthood shooter (who is white), was arrested without even being punched,” writes King. “He allegedly shot five officers, killed one, killed a young mother and killed an Iraq war veteran. Police, though, found a way to take him into custody alive.”

“While many white mass murderers, like (Charleston shooter) Dylann Roof and Robert Lewis Dear, are taken alive by police, Mario Woods was shot down by cops who appeared to just want the situation to be over with,” he writes.

John Burris has created a website on the shooting death of Mario Woods which is at viewed at http://johnburrislegal.com/justice4mar

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 11, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Steps Out for Faith with a Joyful Noise

The city of Oakland has long been considered the citadel for progressive civil rights and political movements involving activism for racial and social inclusion and equity.

 In response to neighbors’ complaints about the loud sounds of music coming from churches, ministers and churches called for a public demonstration of respect for its churches instead of using the police and fines to punish their congregations.

More than 30 pastors stood in solidarity with Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. They were joined by city and county officials along with the SambaFunk! drummers, church choirs, gospel soloists and Black Arts groups.

True to its radical and revolutionary roots, Oakland is redefining respect for religion. Ministers called for the city to declare itself, to be a sanctuary city for its sanctuaries.

The First Amendment and religious freedom were embraced by a coalition that included the Oakland NAACP, the Post News Group, Baptists, Methodists, Muslims, Mormons, COGICs, AME, Catholics, the Black Arts Movement, Soul of Oakland, Oakland Private Industry Council, Pastors of Oakland, Baptist Ministers Union, Seventh-day Adventists and many others.

The event took place Saturday, Nov. 7 in front of the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church on Adeline Street in West Oakland. It was the response to a city noise complaint against Pleasant Grove that kicked off the current solidarity movement.

Speaking at the event, Amos Brown of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco said his church has faced similar attempts to silence worship.

He told the crowd that earlier this year “two rogue cops” entered his church one afternoon to tell parishioners to quiet down during a service, where a gumbo band was playing in honor of a church member who had passed away.

But he told the police: “We are going to sing, we are going to shout. We’re going to let nobody tell us to shut up.”

The arts community and the religious community are coming together, said Theo Williams of the SambaFunk! drummers, who performed at the event.

“We came here to stand with you in solidarity,” he said. “This is monumental.”

Said Mayor Libby Schaaf, who spoke after Theo Williams, “This city has some strong roots, and these roots are in our faith community and our arts community.”

“My city has some SambaFunk!,” she said.

City Councilmember and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, who is a rabbi, urged people to raise their voice and sing out in praise.

“It is a miracle that we are still here to sing praises,” said Kaplan, referring to the holocausts faced by Black people during the Middle Passage, Jews during World War II and indigenous people in the United States during the Trail of Tears.

“We give thanks that we have survived to this day,” she said. “Let us use this as a force to unite.”

Bishop Joseph Simmons of Greater St. Paul Baptist Church praised church and community members who have spoken up about attacks on the right to worship.

“I want to thank the people who complained because your complaints made us stand up,” he said.

Rev. Ray Williams of Morning Star Baptist Church said people have to stand up to forces that want to push them out of the city.

“We used to steal away to Jesus to worship,” he said. “(But) we aren’t going to steal away anymore. We’re here to take back what gentrification has taken away from us.”

“We need our council members to have the courage to challenge chase bank for reneging on it’s promise to Oakland,” said Post publisher Paul Cobb.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 13, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Racist Threat at Berkeley High School Sparks Outage, Students Walk Out

Berkeley High School students walked out of classes and rallied at UC Berkeley to protest a racist, terrorist threat. Photo courtesy of Eric Panzer

Berkeley High School students walked out of classes and rallied at UC Berkeley to protest a racist, terrorist threat. Photo courtesy of Eric Panzer

By Ken Epstein

Berkeley High School students walked out of classes, rallied on campus and marched to UC Berkeley yesterday in the wake of news that a racist threat calling for the lynching of Black people was discovered at the school.

Protesters held signs that read: “Black Lives Matter,” “Yup I’m Black,” and “We will not be silent,” among others.

A tweet from one student said, “This happened at our school! When will we as Black Students feel safe?”

A parent tweeted: “Today, my kid texted me that he walked out of class, and I’m proud.”

Berkeley High students rally at UC Berkeley. Photo courtesy of ABC7

Berkeley High students rally at UC Berkeley. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

The racist posting was found by campus security officers Wednesday at about 12:30 p.m. on a computer in the school library.

Written in all capital letters, the post, said: “F**k All the N****rs in the World,” and, “KKK Forever Public Lynching December 9th 2015.”

BHS Principal Sam Pasarow sent an email to the BHS community at 10:24 p.m. Wednesday night notifying the school community about the incident.

“A hateful and racist message was discovered on one of the library computers, containing threatening language toward African Americans,” he said. “The administration is looking into who posted this message, and I urge students, staff, parents and guardians to please contact the school.”

Berkeley High students rally. Photo courtesy aura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group via AP.

Berkeley High students rally. Photo courtesy of A. Oda/Bay Area News Group via AP.

Pasarow called the incident “a hate crime” and assured the community “that we are giving this investigation the utmost attention, as well as involving the Berkeley Police Department.”

According to BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan, the screenshot was left open on a computer as a displayed image and that there was no hacking involved to change the actual website’s contents.

Students and community members called on the school and district administrators to address the threat of racist violence and accused the district of weak responses to several racist incidents at Berkeley High in the past year.

A statement released Wednesday by Berkeley High Black Student Union said, “We are disgusted by this act of terror … The safety of Black students has been explicitly threatened, and (we) demand that this is addressed immediately by the Berkeley High administration and Berkeley Police Department.”

“In the past, acts of terror committed against the Black student body have been ignored such as the racist statement written into last year’s yearbook and the noose that was found on campus (in Oct. 2014).”

“We will not allow this to be trivialized like these other horrific instances.”

A number of the students were critical of the district’s response to the incident. “This incident happened at 12:30, and I didn’t hear about it till 10:30pm?!,” said one student at the protest who was live tweeting.

According to Berkeley HIgh Principal Sam Pasarow, A 15-year-old student has admitted to posting a racist message that prompted a large student walkout at Berkeley High School. The Oakland Tribune reports Friday (http://bayareane.ws/1NTQHtO ) that the student likely will be turned over to juvenile probation for any charges, a student confessed Thursday and is aware of the fear caused by the racist message.

According to Berkeley High Principal Sam Pasarow, a 15-year-old student has admitted to posting the racist message that prompted the  student walkout. Tthe student likely will be turned over to juvenile probation for any charges.

Said another: “Time and time again the Black community has been threatened, oppressed, and I’m sick and tired. A email is not sufficient.”

The Berkeley NAACP issued a statement calling on the district to launch a serious investigation.

“BUSD must secure all video of the area where this sick picture was posted to identify and punish the perpetrator(s) of this uncivil illogical act,” the statement said. “We need to hear back from the BUSD administration as to (their) investigation plan.”

According to Berkeley NAACP President Mansour Id-Deen, he has been trying for several months to meet BUSD Supt. Donald Evans to discuss allegations of widespread racial discrimination in the district against Black students and employees. But the superintendent has failed to schedule the meeting.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, November 5, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

The National Lawyers Guild Honors Local Attorney Walter Riley

The National Lawyers Guild honored Oakland civil rights attorney Walter Riley at its annual Law for the People Convention, which was held recently in Oakland at the Marriott Oakland City Center.

Walter Riley

Walter Riley

Riley, who received the Law for the People Award at the convention held Oct. 21-25, was one of eight members and friends of the guild who were recognized for exemplary work and activism that speak to the guild’s mission of human rights over property interests.

Riley grew up in Durham, North Carolina where he experienced first-hand the injustice of the Jim Crow South. His response was to become a young civil rights activist and has continued his activism ever since.

Following years as an organizer, Riley moved back to the Bay Area to become a lawyer.

He is a member of multiple organizations including the National Lawyers Guild and serves on the boards of Global Exchange, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, Berkeley Jazz School, and is co-chair of the John George Democratic Club.

He serves on the legal defense teams representing fellow Law for the People Award recipients, the Black Friday 14 and Trayvon 2.

The Black Friday 14 consists of Black, Bay Area social justice organizers and community leaders who responded to Ferguson’s Call for National Action against police brutality and state violence after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

On Nov. 28, 2014, the Black Friday 14 chained themselves to two BART trains at West Oakland Station, stopping operations for under two hours.

This action drew public attention to the existing systemic and institutionalized racism. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office filed trespass charges against the Black Friday 14. BART initially demanded a restitution of $70,000 but after receiving intense pressure, the BART Board of Directors dropped this demand.

The Black Friday 14 continue to fight their charges with representation from fellow Walter Riley among others,

The Black Friday 14 are: Cat Brooks, Rheema Calloway, Robbie Clark, Mollie Costello, Nigel Le’Jon Evans-Brim, Celeste Faison, Alicia Garza, Devonte Jackson, Ronnisha Ann Johnson, Karissa Lewis, Vanessa Moses, Nell Myhand, Neva Walker, and Laila Sapphira Williams. Their legal team consists of Walter Riley, Aliya Karmali, Hasmik Geghamyan, Zoe Polk and Leigh Johnson.

The Trayvon 2, Hannibal Shakur (Lamar Caldwell) and Tanzeen R. Doha, are non-white, Muslim men who were charged by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office in connection with a July 15, 2013 protest of George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict in the murder of Trayvon Martin.

The District Attorney’s office charged both defendants with felony vandalism despite no evidence they engaged in such conduct. The DA finally dropped the charges for lack of evidence.

Doha has worked actively on questions of race, religion, and colonialism both as a graduate student in the US and as a political organizer in Bangladesh. Shakur was very active in the protests around Oscar Grant’s 2009 murder by police, and continues to work for Black autonomy and self-determination in various collectives in the Bay Area.

The Trayvon 2 legal team consisted of Riley, Gabriela Lopez, and Nadia Kayyali.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, October 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Oakland Anti-Displacement Coalition Says “Speak Out to Stay Put!”

Carroll Fife (top left), a co-founder of the Oakland Alliance, spoke at a workshop on developing an anti-displacement electoral strategy Oct. 17 "Speak Out to Stay Put!"forum in Oakland. Photo b Ken Epstien

Carroll Fife (top left), a co-founder of the Oakland Alliance, spoke at a workshop on developing an anti-displacement electoral strategy Oct. 17 “Speak Out to Stay Put!”forum in Oakland. Photo b Ken Epstien

By Ken A. Epstein

Local organizations took a big step forward last weekend in their efforts to coalesce the growing movement to impact the market-driven wave of displacement that is pushing out local residents and small businesses, fueling criminalization of young people and adults and suppressing Oaklanders’ cultural expression in the parks and churches.

About 500 people squeezed into the West Oakland Youth Center last Saturday for an event called “Speak Out to Stay Put! An Oakland-wide Anti-Displacement Forum,” hosted by over a dozen organizations and endorsed by over 20 groups.

Groups that helped put on the event included: Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Causa Justa: Just Cause (CJJC), California Nurses Association (CNA), Community Planning Leaders (CPL), East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), East Bay Organizing Committee (EBOC), Oakland Alliance, Oakland Tenants Union (OTU), SEIU 1021 and Women’s Economic Agenda Project (WEAP).

Robbie Clark

Robbie Clark

 The purpose of the forum was enhance connections between the groups that are working against displacement and to deepen the understanding of the complex connections between various aspects of displacement and the variety solutions that organizations that groups are supporting.

“We wanted to come together to unite a lot of the forces who are in motion against gentrification, people who are involved in their neighborhoods or working on a variety of development plans and policies,” said Robbie Clark, regional housing rights campaign lead organizer at Causa Justa, in an interview with the Post.

“We want to broaden how people look at displacement, look at the factors that play into gentrification, plug people into additional ways to fight displacement and expand the strategies they can use,” said Clark

 The day’s workshop topics indicate the breath of the concerns: climate change and displacement, community land trusts for public control of city-owned land, the poor people’s movement to fight homelessness, police brutality and gentrification, the fight for jobs and decent wages for Oaklanders, promoting tenant rights and how to elect public officials who are accountable to residents.

 Clark pointed out an aspect of gentrification that so far have not received much attention are the explosive commercial rental increases that are pushing out small businesses and nonprofits that provide services to residents.

“These small businesses and nonprofits are all part of the neighborhood fabric that holds communities together – businesses and services that people utilize are being threatened,” said Clark.

One of the speakers at the workshop on elections and voting was Carroll Fife, a co-founder the Oakland Alliance, a citywide organization that formed about a year ago.

 Fife said her experience working in Dan Siegel’s mayoral campaign last year showed her, “There is a lot of energy that is untapped in this city – (but) we have to put egos aside. There are lots of organizations that are doing work in silos,” unconnected to each other.

She said the Oakland Alliance is trying to find ways groups can work together, not in interests of one organization, but “for what is good for everyone in the city.”

Dan Siegel, an Oakland civil rights attorney, said that voting is a component of building peoples’ power.

“An electoral strategy by itself will not make change,” but the movement needs to select and elect leaders who will be accountable to the community and the promises they make when they running for office, said Siegel.

“(At present), we see people who say they are going to do this or they are going to do that, but (once elected) they don’t do it,” said Siegel. “Oakland has a city council that has completely checked out on housing.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, Oct. 22, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)