Category: Racial profiling

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)

Oakland Petition: Neighbors Should Not Be Racially Profiling Neighbors

 

Oakland community activist Ann Nomura and her family have begun a petition calling on the City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department (OPD) to stop posting on a popular social media site that is used by some residents to racially profile their neighbors.

Nextdoor.com, a website and app that bills itself as “the private (online) social network for your neighborhood,” is designed to allow neighbors to share information.

But the design of the Crime and Safety section promotes racial profiling, according to the petition, creating a space for fearful and anxious residents to report on the perceived threat of Black and Latino adults, teenagers and children that the residents see going into nearby houses or walking on the sidewalk.

“The City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department should stop all posting on Nextdoor.com until the software design flaws, which promote racial profiling on their social media platform, are corrected,” the petition says. “The company should also provide competent oversight and manage Moderators and Leads, so that their product is not used to promote profiling, bias, or hate toward neighbors of color.”

Police contribute postings to the website and monitor residents’ comments.

“Profiling causes real harm to children and families and creates fear and mistrust between neighbors,” according to the petition. “With the exception of unenforced anti-profiling guidelines, Nextdoor.com has taken no meaningful steps to resolve this problem.”

Nomura told the Post she is especially concerned that Mayor Libby Schaaf has made neighborhood crime prevention a major priority of her administration but has not spoken out against the actual threat to the community of neighbors racially profiling neighbors.

“We have Nextdoor.com and other social networking services that make profiling easier, and the city is tacitly approving these frightened responses that are actually just racial profiling,” said Nomura.

There is a feeling among some people that by reporting on what they see in the neighborhood, they are helping to stop crime and that they have the backing of the mayor and OPD, she said.

“What’s entirely absent is the mayor standing up and saying that this does harm,” said Nomura, who lives in the Dimond District of Oakland with her family.

Nomura said she has contacted Mayor Schaaf a half dozen times but has received no response. “Given how important and painful this has been for people in our district, it’s important for Libby to make a statement,” she said.

The petition is available on Change.org at www.change.org/p/oakland-mayor-libby-schaaf-ceo-nirav-tolia-stop-racial-profiling-on-nextdoor-com?

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