by Dave Welsh
Oakland – On Black Friday 2014, following the police murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, 14 Black activists chained themselves together on a BART transit platform “to prevent trains from moving at the West Oakland station, in response to the seemingly unending war against Black communities.” The 14, a majority of them women, faced criminal charges.
Now, after a year-long campaign by the Black Friday14 and a broad coalition of allies, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has dropped all the charges.
“Our criminal case is over, but the war on Black lives remains,” said a statement issued by Black Lives Matter Bay Area. “There can be no business as usual while young Black men and women … are murdered with impunity by police officers, security guards and vigilantes. The police remain an occupying force in our communities. Black bodies are not only over-policed and over-incarcerated, we are also underpaid, overworked and priced out of communities we’ve lived in our entire lives.”
Union leaders tie together labor and Black struggles
Labor took several key actions in advance of the DA’s decision. In May, the Alameda Labor Council canceled a plan to honor Nancy O’Malley at its annual dinner, citing her handling of the BF14 case. A BART workers union showed up at a BART hearing to support the BF14.
Then on Nov. 10, as part of a nationwide Fight for $15 action and in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, 14 labor leaders held a sit-in at the DA’s office, demanding she drop the charges against the BF14.
Labor took several key actions in advance of the DA’s decision.
The labor leaders, including the president of the California Labor Federation and key officers of nine unions representing service workers, university employees, teachers and hotel workers issued the following statement:
“Half of Black workers make under $15 an hour and our members are people of color who face a crisis of inequality and displacement as well as police violence and injustice from the courts. We know that economic justice and racial justice are inseparable. And we honor the actions of the Black Friday 14 as part of a long tradition of fighting for dignity in the civil rights and labor movements …
“While the charges are dropped, the movement continues,” the labor statement went on, “and continued injustices – from Chicago, to Minneapolis, to the latest police killing in San Francisco – will keep calling us to action. As leaders of the labor movement, we reaffirm our commitment to our workers, to Black workers, to Black people and to standing for the freedom side.”
Dave Welsh, a retired letter carrier and delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, is an organizer with the Community-Labor Coalition to Save the People’s Post Office and writes on many issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.