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Caltrans is perhaps the largest and most high profile evictor of homeless encampments in California. According to “The Mile Marker: A Caltrans Performance Report” – the organization’s quarterly progress report – Caltrans estimated that it spent $10.04 million cleaning up homeless encampments in fiscal year ending 2017. Obviously, Caltrans should be impacted by Martin v. Boise, because it restricts the conditions under which evictions can be made.
In his essay titled, “San Francisco, You’ll Miss Your Tech Bros If They Flee,” Bloomberg opinion columnist Noah Smith warns that the tech bubble is a victim of outsiders’ antipathy towards techies. The essay suggests that it is more important that San Francisco retain its tech bubble than its long time and native residents. Smith argues that San Francisco will miss the tech bros if they flee. But San Francisco is already missing its long time and native residents. Many native and long-time residents miss San Francisco as well.
California Penal Code 422.55 defines “hate crime” as a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of the victim’s disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. There are multiple state hate crime laws that provide enhanced penalties for violating the rights of people in one of those protected groups. Recently, acts of violence against the homeless have been caught on tape and circulated on the media. They show that cities like San Francisco and Oakland should enact their own local laws adding their homeless citizens to that list of protected groups.
Oakland’s gentrification was supposed to benefit all Oakland residents; instead, gentrification displaced many of Oakland’s most vulnerable citizens. Oakland’s gentrification may be failing because no one made plans for the displacement of the displaced people. So they live in homeless encampments visible throughout the city. Seeing these encampments, alongside the gentrifiers’ displays of privilege, highlights the inequality of Oakland’s gentrification.
Land and housing is a humane right for All; not a privilege and a way to reap more profits for the monied interests! As WE see it, these latest efforts to “re-develop” and “gentrify” our cities – from San Francisco to Oakland, Harlem to Chicago and beyond – are a continuation of the centuries-long horrific wars of mass genocide perpetrated by European capitalism, European (white) nationalism and the false doctrines of European (white) “superiority” and racist terrorism.
Most of the citizens living in Oakland's homeless encampments are African Americans born and raised in Oakland. Gentrification displaced them from housing in their own hometown. On Dec. 2, 2016, 36 members and friends of Oakland’s warehouse community died while partying in the Ghost Ship warehouse. In contrast with the people in the encampments, most were not African American or born nor raised in Oakland. According to the Oakland Council, those people who died partying in the warehouse, not the people in the encampment, have become “a symbol of Oakland’s affordability crisis.”
Oakland needs the motto “Love Life” as a way of spreading brotherly-sisterly love to everyone. To put it differently, “love thy neighbor,” even if you live in a luxury apartment and your neighbor lives in an encampment. Oakland had a visible homeless community even before people started calling it the “new” Oakland. Treating people like trash and clearing homeless encampments are acts of violence because they violate someone’s humanity – no matter what excuse is used to justify it.
The Land Action 4 are four people who were arrested after actively reclaiming neglected property. I was made aware of this case by housing activist Tim Killings, who organizes around housing rights in Oakland. I conversed with one of the members of the Land Action 4, Patrick Xu, about their case, their beliefs, human rights and the history of reclaiming property internationally. Check out Patrick Xu in his own words, and support the dropping of charges for the Land Action 4.
At a time that the Department of Justice is calling the citing, arresting and forced displacement of homeless people for sleeping cruel and unusual punishment, new data from the SFPD indicates that it is fully engaged in this practice: Homeless people received 11,920 citations for resting in public space in 2014. A total of 13,390 citations were given to homeless people for anti-homeless “offenses.”