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On Sept. 4, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that cities may not punish homeless people for sleeping outside in public spaces if they do not have access to shelter elsewhere. The case – Martin v. City of Boise – started way back in 2009, when six current and formerly homeless residents of Boise, Idaho, sued the city for giving citations to people who were sleeping outside. The lawsuit rested on the notion that these citations violated the Eighth Amendment rights of Boise’s homeless residents, amounting to cruel and unusual punishment.
Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotels, traditionally available to those on fixed or very low incomes, are being marketed to new arrivals and tech industry workers, exacerbating the housing crisis and exploding the homeless population in Oakland. Hundreds of rooms have been lost in the last year at the Sutter, Travelers and other SRO hotels. The extractive model of financial speculation has reached into every form of housing in the SF Bay Area, and homelessness has risen exponentially.
On Nov. 21, 150 Oakland youth, clean air activists, workers and labor leaders announced a boycott on Phil Tagami’s Rotunda Building in response to Tagami’s lawsuit against the City of Oakland. Tagami is suing to overturn the popular ban on the handling and storing of coal, so that he can continue with his controversial plan to ship coal through the Oakland Army Base. Oakland communities are responding to Tagami’s attempt to force dangerous, dirty coal dust on the people of Oakland by asking local businesses and organizations to boycott the Rotunda Building.
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.
City leaders announced the “New Oakland” as if to say it was no longer a “Black city.” As Oakland became more attractive to outsiders, housing costs rose and more African Americans were displaced. Oakland was voted one of the country’s “coolest cities,” but today, Oakland’s homeless people have been displaced into visible encampments located throughout the gentrified areas. They are mainly African Americans displaced by the city’s gentrification.
On Friday, Sept. 23, 2016, the first Oakland police officer in our “crisis of corruption” went to court. Brian J. Bunton, who allegedly abused his power as an officer of the law was arraigned on several charges, including felony obstruction of justice and misdemeanor engaging in an act of prostitution. As we finally move forward in the continuing saga of abuse of power by police officials, the question looms, does obstruction of justice really matter? Is obstruction of justice a “victimless crime?”
On Monday, June 27, the Oakland City Council voted to approve an ordinance that would ban coal from being handled and stored in the City of Oakland, including a resolution to apply the ordinance to the proposed Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal. The council will hold a second vote on that ordinance at their July 19 meeting. Community members and advocacy groups applauded the council’s action.
Oakland City Council President Lynette McElhaney discusses the most recent sex scandal sweeping OPD and other Bay Area law enforcement agencies, where over two dozen officers and agents had sex or inappropriate dealings with the same underage girl. Councilwoman McElhaney equates sex work with slavery. She also stresses the need for the community to help organizations that support women and girls who have been abused by the sex industry.
“I am worried about our drum teacher at Deecolonize Academy, Uncle Val, who, like Master Frohm and so many more, should not have been forced to leave our neighborhood,” said Tiburcio Garcia and Kimo Umu from Deecolonize Academy, who spoke at a recent Oakland City Council meeting which dealt with a proclamation for the powerful Love Life movement and an eviction moratorium.
The politics, color and income of Oakland is changing rapidly, similar to what happened over in San Francisco, where the population went from 16 percent Black in the 1970s to 3 percent Black and shrinking today. Oakland, like many other largely Black cities, is being plagued by gentrification. Instead of suffering in silence, Timothy Killings, a member of the Northern California People’s Housing Union, invites you to join the collective this Saturday, 12-3 p.m., at the Quilombo Community Center, 2313 San Pablo in West Oakland. Food and child care will be provided and all are invited.
August Wilson is considered one of America’s greatest playwrights, and the work that comprises The American Century Cycle, one of the outstanding achievements of the modern theater, is performed across the globe. But only Oakland’s premiere North American African theater company has performed the entire Cycle in chronological order. The Lower Bottom Playaz close the cycle with the timely production of the only play in the cycle that is told from the lens of developers. Wilson’s Hill District in Pittsburgh, Penn., and Oakland, Calif., 2015 hold a lot of common ground. “Radio Golf” continues through Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, 2 p.m., at the Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway, Oakland.
My name is Dorsey Nunn. I’m with All of Us or None and executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. I’m sitting back there waiting for (agenda) Item No. 3 (a new jail for San Francisco), and while I’m waiting for it I’m listening to the testimony for Item No. 1 (hiring more police officers). And I can’t help but ask the question: “How much racism needs to be practiced for us to determine that we don’t need this jail?” Hours of powerful testimony on June 18 before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee were capped off by Dorsey Nunn – and the crowd erupted in cheers.
On July 29, the Oakland City Council surprised observers by postponing a final vote on the West Oakland Specific Plan (WOSP) without setting a new date. WOSP is a massive redevelopment scheme spearheaded by some wealthy investors planning to gentrify the old Oakland Army Base and major portions of West Oakland that are cynically being called Opportunity Sites, and at first reading on July 15, the City Council voted 7-0 to approve it, with only Desley Brooks abstaining.
Jason “Shake” Anderson is a real progressive community leader who is running for mayor of Oakland in November, because he, like most of us, is tired of the electoral musical chairs charade that is recorded as Oakland’s local elections. With incumbent Mayor Jean Quan re-running, and her leading contender, Dan Siegel, being the law partner of her campaign treasurer, you can see why the residents of Oakland would be corruption-conscious throughout the electoral process.
Oakland had three acting police chiefs in five days last week, and on Thursday, the police department’s controversial consultant, William Bratton, released his six-page report which criticized OPD’s top brass. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan then announced that Oakland would spend $30,000 on a headhunter’s nationwide search for a permanent chief.
Instead of throwing another quarter million dollars away on a gimmick, the City of Oakland should turn to its own Bay Area neighbors in Richmond to see what they’re doing right and why their homicide and violent crime rates have so radically dropped. I imagine that Richmond’s crime fighting team would consult with Oakland’s at little or no cost, considering the mutual benefit of reducing crime in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Hundreds of Oakland residents turned out to voice their opinions about the City Council hiring William Bratton as a $250,000 a year consultant to help bring down an escalating crime rate. They accuse him of instituting “stop and frisk,” a program that they say is the blue print for racial profiling. Bratton’s background suggests there may be a lot more to be concerned about than stop and frisk.
Oakland’s mayor, chief of police, and city manager announced their intentions to contract with William Bratton as a consultant to the Oakland Police Department. Oakland has become the epicenter of anti-brutality campaigns, so those who want the brutality to continue are bringing in their big guns. Join the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition and allies on Tuesday, Jan. 15, to tell the Oakland City Council that we reject Bill Bratton and his racist, fascist policies. Meet up at 5:00 for a rally with the meeting at 5:30.
On Sept. 18, many people in the Bay Area came together to support one family’s struggle for justice. Hundreds of supporters joined Jerilynn and Adam Blueford and many of their relatives as they confronted Oakland City Council to demand that it pressure the police department to investigate the death of their son, Alan.
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