Category: Ferguson/Black Lives Matter

“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

 

 

Black Students Demand School District Take Steps to Reduce Racism at Berkeley High

By Ken Epstein

In the wake of a racist, violent threat and a one-day walkout by most of the student body at Berkeley High School (BHS), the school’s Black Student Union is demanding that the school board and district administration act immediately to reduce the level of racism on campus, create a safe place at the school for African American students and enhance the teaching of African American studies.

Nebeyat Zekaryas

Nebeyat Zekaryas

The demands were presented to the board and Supt. Donald Evans at the Dec. 9 board meeting by Black Student Union (BSU) Co-Presidents Nebeyat Zekaryas and Alecia Harger.

Zekaryas told the board that the BSU is raising its demands “in light of the terroristic messages left on a Berkeley High computer on Nov. 4, 2015 and in light of the continued instances of systemic and interpersonal racism that plague our school.”

“We demand that history curriculum in grades K through 12 be amended to include Black history and an accurate view of colonialism … African history up to the present day, the history of the Black people in the Americas, including but not limited to enslavement, the civil rights movement and historically significant Black people outside of equality movements,” said Zekaryas.

Alecia Harger

Alecia Harger

“Black history (should) be taught as an important and relevant piece of world history rather than its own independent subject that is relegated to a semester of ethnic studies,” she said.

“It is insulting to condense all history of nonwhite people into an ethnic studies class,” she said. “It is essential that Black students are educated on this history in its entirety – Black students should not be expected to excel in an institution that gives us knowledge where we can only see our ancestors as slaves.”

The BSU is also demanding full funding for the Berkeley High’s African American Studies Department. “This funding (should) allow for the continuation and betterment of all currently running programs,” Zekaryas said.

BSU Co-President Harger told the board the BSU is demanding that the district create and fund a Black Resource Center on campus.

The Black Resource Center would be a location where Black students can congregate and (find) support for any issue that we may face,” said Harger.

“This center would become a permanent school fixture until Black students regularly have the same test scores and are graduating at the same rate as white students,” she said.

The BSU wants Berkeley Unified to create a committee to recruit and retain Black staff throughout the district.

“We demand that this committee include representatives of Berkeley elementary, middle and high schools, along with members of the Berkeley High BSU,” said Harger.

The BSU also wants the district to institute comprehensive racial sensitivity training for all Berkeley High faculty and staff, she said. “(The) training (should) be ongoing and not be limited to a single professional development day.”

“Black students cannot be expected to feel safe in our classrooms or on our campus if Berkeley High School staff is not equipped to discuss or handle issues of racism or racial bias.” said Harger.

The BSU wants the district administration to begin implementing the demands within the next three to six months and to receive an official response from Supt. Evans no later than Dec. 16.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, December 18, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

In Face of Community Pressure, D.A. Drops Case Against Black Friday 14

 

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley finally dropped criminal charges against the Black Friday 14 after a year of public pressure and several mass demonstrations.

The Black Lives Matter protestors had chained themselves to a BART train at the West Oakland station on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, last year to “draw attention to the war on Black lives in the Bay Area,” according to a statement released at the time by the group.

Instead of going through with the convictions, both parties agreed to a “restorative justice process” in which the activists acknowledged the impact of their actions to public transportation.

“We acknowledge that the BART protest on Friday Nov. 28, 2014 conveyed an important message,” said the statement that the 14 protesters agreed to sign. “The method in which it was carried out impacted the Bay Area and was a violation of the statue governing the safe and efficient operation of public transportation.”

The settlement was mediated by civil rights attorney Eva Paterson, president of Equal Justice Society, who had pushed hard for DA O’Malley to drop the charges and started a petition that was widely circulated.

Many observers were shocked that O’Malley refused to end seeking criminal convictions even after the BART board had decided not to press charges against the protestors.

As a result of her inaction, labor unions representing thousands of union workers across the Bay Area pulled their support for O’Malley, and the Alameda Labor Council decided against giving the district attorney an award she was supposed to receive.

The Pastors of Oakland also called for the charges to be dropped.

A number of demonstrations in the last few months have demanded that the district attorney drop the charges.

In November alone, there were three large protests leading up to the one-year anniversary of the Black Friday action. Union leaders occupied O’Malley’s office during a Fight for 15 minimum wage protest.

Cultural activist organizations building an altar for slain Blacks and 14 interfaith leaders were arrested after holding a sit-in at the Oakland courthouse.

“Our criminal case is over, but the war on Black lives remains,” Black Lives Matter’s Bay Area chapter said in a press release.

“On the shoulders of our ancestors and with support of Asians for Black Lives, Bay Area Solidarity Action Team, and broad coalition of legal, faith, labor, and social justice allies — we will keep fighting for all Black lives.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, December 10, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Racism in Berkeley Schools “Has Been Tolerated for Too Long,” Say Community Leaders

Berkeley High School students walked out of school Nov. 5 after a racist, terrorist threat was discovered on campus. Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area.

Berkeley High School students walked out of school Nov. 5 after a racist, terrorist threat was discovered on campus. Photo courtesy of NBC Bay Area.

By Ken Epstein

Tensions remain high at Berkeley High School in the wake of a student walkout sparked by the discovery in the school library of a written lynching threat against Black students.

Last Thursday’s walkout, which was supported by most of the school’s 3,000 students, drew national media attention. But Black students and community leaders are concerned that now that the immediate incident seems to be resolved, the district wants to go back to business as usual – ignoring the pattern of racist threats at the school and the ongoing discrimination and racial disparities that are plaguing the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD).

Mansour Id-Deen, Berkeley NAACP president.

Mansour Id-Deen, Berkeley NAACP president.

The district has announced that a 15-year old student has admitted responsibility for writing the terrorist threat on the school computer. However, school officials have not said what will be done to punish the student or what steps will be taken to reduce the level of hostility to Black students on campus.

BUSD is still undecided on what form the punishment should take, according to district spokesperson Mark Coplan, who said the punishment could range from restorative justice, which focuses on rehabilitating the perpetrator through community service, to expulsion.

The student’s punishment will be determined through a confidential process in order to protect the student’s identity.

Berkeley Schools Supt. Donald Evans

Berkeley Schools Supt. Donald Evans

Speaking at a press conference last Friday, members of the Berkeley NAACP and its youth council announced that they would not allow racial justice issues to be swept under the rug.

“I hope the school board understands how serious this is,” said Rayven Wilson, a NAACP Youth Council member. “The Black community sees this as a threat. This is not a joke. We need you to understand our pain is real.”

Moni Law, Youth Council advisor, pointed out that the latest threat follows two incidents at Berkeley High last year – a noose that was found hanging on a tree and racist comments that were printed in the school yearbook.

“This behavior has been tolerated (for) too long,” Law said.

In an interview with the Post, Berkeley NAACP President Mansour Id-Deen says he wants to work with the district to reduce the ongoing discrimination that impacts Black employees, students and parents in the school district.

Id-Deen said he has been meeting with teacher and classified employees who said they are facing discrimination and harassment at work.

“They have gone to the administration to get the issues resolved,” he said. “The administration, instead of assisting them, has retaliated against them in different ways.”

Id-Deen said he has been trying since June too meet with BUSD Supt. Donald Evans, but no meeting has ever been scheduled.

When the City of Berkeley faced similar issues, it agreed to hire an independent company to handle the employee complaints, he said. “We want them to provide an outside firm to investigate the allegations of employees and put forth solutions.”

Looking at student achievement, he said he was concerned that the data shows that Black students are not doing well in the district, but BUSD is “not doing anything to address that issue.”

Further, in the last six years, Black student enrollment has fallen from 40 percent to 19 percent districtwide, but 60 percent of the students who are suspended are Black, he said.

A number of community people are also concerned about the survival of the African American Studies Department at Berkeley High, which has not had a qualified teacher since the beginning of the school year.

“The Berkeley NAACP strongly encourages the board, in collaboration with the superintendent, to use your powers to fill the vacancy (in African American Studies),” Id-Deen wrote a letter to the superintendent and board, dated Oct. 30.

He said that a highly qualified African American studies teacher who retired from Berkeley High last year, Valarie Trahan, has volunteered to come back to teach the classes but has been ignored by the district.

Berkeley schools Supt. Evans, in a May 19 letter to Berkeley NAACP President Id-Deen, addressed the issues of alleged “unfair and discriminatory hiring and promotional practices within BUSD.”

“It is troubling to hear that some of BUSD staff have come to you with their concerns, as that indicates they may not have felt confident in our ability to resolve their concerns, “ wrote Evans.

“I look forward to hearing more from you on this matter,” he wrote. “This is a critical issue to address for the well-being of our staff and students.”

As of this week, President Id-Deen said Supt. Evans still has not contacted him to schedule a meeting.

Members of the Berkeley NAACP are urging people to come to the Berkeley school board meeting to call on the board to protect the the future of the Black Studies Department at Berkeley High.

The school board meeting will be held Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at 1231 Addison St. in Berkeley.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, 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)

Ferguson, Missouri Judge Throws Out Arrest Warrants; Local Activists Say Change in Oakland Courts Long Overdue

By Ken Epstein

A new municipal court judge in Ferguson, Mo. this week announced he was withdrawing all arrest warrants issued before Jan. 1, 2015, taking an action that should be duplicated and expanded by courts in Oakland and other cities across the country, according to local anti-mass incarceration and civil rights activists.

Appointed in June as municipal court judge of Ferguson, Mo,  i   Donald L. McCullin formerly served as circuit judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit  for September1999 to 2011, when he retired. Judge McCullin earned a law degree from St. Louis University Law School (SLU) where he has served on the Dean's Council. He is a member of the Missouri, Illinois, and California bars. Besides private practice, he served four years as managing attorney for the United Auto Workers Legal Services Program and 11 years with Anheuser-Busch Companies as Director of Diversity and Compliance. He served two terms as president of the Mound City Bar Association and Regional Director of the National Bar Association.

Appointed in June as municipal court judge of Ferguson, Mo, Donald L. McCullin formerly served as circuit judge of the 22nd Judicial Circuit from 1999 to 2011, when he retired. Judge McCullin earned a law degree from St. Louis University Law School (SLU) where he has served on the Dean’s Council. He is a member of the Missouri, Illinois, and California bars. Besides working in private practice, he served four years as managing attorney for the United Auto Workers Legal Services Program and 11 years with Anheuser-Busch Companies as director of Diversity and Compliance..

Many of the warrants were for unpaid fines or failure to appear in court for traffic violations.

“The Ferguson court took a significant step in trying to undo years and decades of a cycle of poverty and incarceration in that city, though it is certainly not all that needs to be done,” said Zachary Norris, executive director of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, which has been involved in campaigns against mass incarceration.

Under the court order issued by Ferguson Judge Donald McCullin on Aug. 24, the conditions of pre-trial release were modified, and defendants will be give new court dates along with alternative dispositions, such as payment plans, community service or commuting fines for people without money.

Zachary Norris, executive director of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Zachary Norris, executive director of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

“Many individuals whose license has been suspended will be able to obtain them and take advantage of the benefits of being able to drive,” said McCullin. “Moreover, defendants will not be (denied) pre-trial release because of inability to make bond.”

In addition, if arrest warrants were issued for a minor traffic violation, the defendants will not be incarcerated but instead released on their own recognizance.

All active warrants more than five years old will be withdrawn. In cases where a person’s driver’s license was suspended solely for failure to appear in court or pay a fine, the license will be reinstated pending final disposition.

The judge’s ruling is in part a response to a scathing Department of Justice report in March that found Ferguson’s police department and municipal court targeted low-income and minority residents with tickets and fines for minor offenses in order to raise revenue for the city.

According to the DOJ Report, more than 16,000 people, equal to 70 percent of Ferguson’s population, had outstanding arrest warrants at the end of last year.

While the judge’s action was a significant step forward, according to Norris of Ella Baker Center, the reform could not have been won without grassroots activism.

Walter Riley

Walter Riley

“It was a hard-fought victory that comes as a result of community struggle,” said Norris, who said the Organization for Black Struggle in the Saint Louis area made the withdrawal of warrants one of its central demands.

“The Organization for Black Struggle has been advocating for changing several of these policies that effectively result in debtors prison (for the poor),” he said.

The practice of issuing warrants amounts to a “money-making scheme” that is common in California, affecting as many as one out of six drivers, he said.

“Traffic courts drive inequality in California,” he said, referring to the case of one woman who had a $25 traffic ticket and as result of penalties, ultimately owed $2,900.

The woman lost her license and her job, ending up on public assistance, he said. “She was consigned to an unending cycle of poverty and incarceration.”

In Oakland, Norris continued, “We need to end the practice of suspending licenses for traffic tickets, taking away people’s way to continue with their jobs.”

The city also needs “deep and meaningful pretrial reform,” said Norris, noting that 75 percent of people in the Alameda County jail have been convicted of nothing.

“They are charged with something and can’t make bail,” which means they lose their jobs and have their family relationships disrupted, he said.

Local judges should take up the challenge to make these same reforms, said Oakland civil rights attorney and activist Walter Riley.

“Oakland judges need to look at this kind of example,” he said. “The judge in Ferguson has recognized some of the inequities and has taken the responsibility to do something about it.”

This cycle of arrests, fines and jailing are an element of mass incarceration, said Riley, the continuous adverse impact of the criminal justice system of people without money, particularly on African Americans.

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

 

Commentary: Police Who Kill Must Be Held Accountable

By Cat Brooks

In the early morning hours of June 6, Demouria Hogg, a Black man and father of three, was sleeping in his vehicle on the Lakeshore exit off the 580 Freeway.

Cat Brooks

Cat Brooks

Concerned that he might be injured, a community member called paramedics.

Upon arrival, paramedics saw a gun on the passenger seat and summoned police to the scene. Police spent over an hour attempting to wake Mr. Hogg. They shot beanbags at the car, deployed a loudspeaker, shone bright lights into the windows; he never so much as flinched.

Under these circumstances, a reasonable presumption would have been that Mr. Hogg was seriously injured and needed help. Instead, police broke the car window, and when Mr. Hogg woke with a start, they shot him.

He was awake less than a minute before being killed.

Two weeks ago, unarmed Richard Linyard was fleeing from police. He, too, wound up dead. OPD’s story is that he wedged himself between two “structures” and asphyxiated.

The family of Mr. Linyard is challenging OPD’s version of events and is demanding an independent autopsy.

Recently, at national conferences that were reported on local news, the Oakland Police Department and Mayor Libby Schaaf lauded OPD’s officer training, claiming improvements in officers interactions with community members.

Prior to Demouria’s murder, they publicly celebrated the fact that OPD hadn’t killed anyone in two years. But they failed to mention that in the first six months of 2015, over 100 complaints of police harassment, misconduct and abuse were reported by Oakland residents to the Community Police Review Board.

In addition, community members had been killed by other law enforcement agencies in Oakland while OPD officers stood by, such as in the cases of Jacorey Calhoun and Guadalupe Ochoa.

And the city leaders failed to mention their recent assault on Black women and children who were peacefully marching to demand an end to the war on the lives of Black women.

We were pushed, screamed at and snatched off the street. I personally had a police officers’ forearm on my throat until the third time I told him, “I can’t breathe”.

Following the murder of Demouria Hogg, the community demanded an independent investigation and release of the surveillance tapes to the family.

These demands continue to be ignored.

If OPD wants to inspire trust in the community, a good first step would be to respond to community demands. If OPD officers are positive they “followed procedure,” why are they afraid of an independent investigation?

Training is not enough.

The only way police officers will stop utilizing brute force and executions as a means to “enforce the law” with Black people is when they are held accountable through fair and transparent investigations by outside investigators.

Officers who profile, beat or murder citizens must be punished with terminations, suspensions without pay and imprisonment.

As it stands now, the officers of the Oakland Police Department, like officers in every police department across the country, know with certainty that as long as their victim is Black or Brown, their bosses, elected officials and the courts still believe that those lives don’t matter very much at all.

Cat Brooks is an actress, activist and founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project. She is co-chair of ONYX and a member of Black Lives Matter-Bay Area. She lives in West Oakland with her family. You can follower her on Twitter @CatsCommentary.

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

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)