Police budget jeopardizes West Oakland Youth Center

from our coalition allies, Critical Resistance- Oakland:

In the news…
In Friday’s headlines, Oakland residents witnessed one more time how the City of Oakland’s twisted priorities could put its youth in jeopardy.  News broke that the West Oakland Youth Center—a project five years in the making and developed by youth and grassroots organizers—may not open due to lack of funding to operate the center and staff its programs.  The Mayor’s budget proposal assumes that Oakland cannot absorb these operating costs, amounting to roughly $340,000, while the city has had no problem throwing good money after bad in support of policing consultants and policies that continue to fail Oakland.  According to Councilperson Desley Brooks, “We’re talking about $340,000 for both programs combined out of a $1 billion budget. You can’t tell me that we can’t find $340,000 for our kids.”

Even as investments in policing continue to increase (totaling more than half of general fund expenditures), Oakland can’t seem to find less than one third of one percent of its budget to invest in safe spaces and quality programming for its youth.  According the KPIX news reporting on the issue, the Mayor’s budget “sacrifices costs for both youth programs [slated for the West Oakland Youth Center] in favor of putting more cops on the streets.”  These trade-offs should not surprise us.

In January, for instance, no belt tightening or shortfalls were predicted when the City Council agreed to extend Strategic Policy Partnership’s contract with the OPD to the tune of $250,000.  The City pursued the contract despite overwhelming opposition to the inclusion of William Bratton in the contract and insufficient support to suggest that any additional consultants to the OPD were even necessary, especially given the fact that Oakland is already paying the Frazier Group and independent monitors to stem the devastating harm that OPD cops continue to do to Oakland communities (Frazier was also just named OPD compliance director with a salary of $270,000).

To add insult to injury, after repeated assurances that Bratton would only play a minor role in the consultancy and minimal public presence, the Council and OPD have begun to refer to the contract as “The Bratton Contract,” and “the Bratton Group” indicating their complete lack of commitment to their word or respect for their own constituents.

So where do we go from here?
Policing fails Oakland.  Oakland continues to pay the social and economic costs of the legacy of the Riders, and feel the antagonism generated between community members and cops through policing projects such as gang injunctions, sweeps, raids, and stop and search. The impacts of investing in quick fix policing approaches rather than in the kinds of programs and services that have been proven to stabilize communities in the long term, such as community centers, illustrates a stubborn, blind dedication to misguided solutions.

Councilperson Libby Schaaf, for instance, continues to cling desperately to outmoded, police-heavy approaches despite clear, consistent messages from a wide range of Oakland residents about what they want instead.  In an email blast to her district residents on May 31, Schaaf herself reminds Oakland that when it comes to policing in our city “there are a plethora of dusty plans sitting on shelves” but then goes on to implore us to “stick to the plan”.

Although it’s been said over and over, it obviously bears repeating—Oakland cannot police its way out of poverty. No revolving cast of police chiefs, or board rooms full of consultants, or shelves full of policing plans will prevent policing from failing Oakland.  It’s high time that Oakland invests in its future by investing in its youth, its families, and its neighborhoods rather than continuing to invest in policies and practices that destabilize and separate our city.  As West Oakland Councilperson Lynette McElhaney stated, “Make no mistake about it we are going to spend money on these kids. We will either spend it in a proactive way, through youth centers and positive programming, or we will spend the money on arresting them, incarcerating them, putting them in juvenile hall or God forbid to treat them in emergency rooms because they’ve fallen victim to violence.”

Building community…from the ground up
Yet while the City makes desperate moves that destabilize and separate our city, every day we see the hard and true work of community members using all the resources they have available to build a better, healthier city.  The West Oakland Youth Center is not yet a dream deferred, it is a possibility.  All of us continue to build.  We’re coming off the heels of an amazing Malcolm X Jazz Festival, in its 13th year of bringing thousands of Oakland residents together in celebration, art, politics and education.  Next weekend, on June 8, the Stop the Injunctions Coalition will be having a Saturday workday in the thriving Community Garden at 28th and Foothill.  We look forward to planting possibilities together in what seems like an impossible time, continuing to grow into our vision of what Oakland can be.

Press Release: Coalition Says No to Occupy Injunctions

For Immediate Release—January 30, 2012

Coalition Says No to Occupy Injunctions

 Press Contact:  Isaac Ontiveros

Stop the Injunctions Coalition

Ph.  510-444-0484

Oakland—During a press conference and several interviews Sunday, both Mayor Jean Quan and Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said they would seek to target protesters with civil “stay away” orders in an attempt to keep them from participating in Occupy Oakland activities.  Oakland’s Stop the Injunctions Coalition (STIC) is calling the OPD Chief and Quan’s plan an overt attempt to expand the use of injunctions in Oakland despite the fact that the Oakland City Council voted to prevent the expansion of civil gang injunctions pending additional assessment.

 

Oakland has already spent over $1 million on two temporary injunctions in North Oakland and the Fruitvale, targeting the movement and associations of alleged gang members.  Oakland’s gang injunctions were met with sustained protest throughout the last eighteen months and have been widely condemned as ineffective, divisive, costly, and further institutionalizing police use of racial profiling.  The OPD’s own report on the North Oakland Injunction found it to be ineffective in preventing or addressing violent harm in that neighborhood.

 

“The Mayor and OPD’s proposal to use injunctions or stay away orders against organizers is disturbing in many different ways,” says Rachel Herzing of the Stop the Injunctions Coalition. “They are openly targeting and criminalizing the political activity of Oakland residents.  They are proposing using a police tool that has been repeatedly debunked and that the city council has specifically voted against expanding.  What’s more, they are proposing that the notoriously violent OPD, which is on the brink of federal receivership, be given yet another tool to expand their powers against this city’s residents.”

 

In opposing the North Oakland and Fruitvale injunctions, STIC has continuously highlighted the affects of police violence on communities of color in Oakland as well as the disparities between police spending and education, sustainable housing, and healthcare spending.  “The discontent around jobs, budget cuts, housing, and healthcare that are being amplified worldwide by the Occupy movement have been at the core of demands that marginalized communities have been making for generations” says Maisha Quint, STIC member and cultural worker at Eastside Arts Alliance. “Instead of addressing the roots of the situation, the Mayor and OPD once again are trying to police their way out of the problem.  This has not worked historically, and it certainly won’t work now.”

###

 

 

Isaac Ontiveros

Communications Director

 

Critical Resistance

1904 Franklin St #504

Oakland CA 94612

510.444.0484

510.444.2177 (fax)

510.517.6612 (cell)

isaac@criticalresistance.org

 

City cuts social services and community jobs, while policing funds remained untouched and police actions unaccountable

How are recent Oakland financial news and city spending trade-offs connected to policing and injunctions?  When the City talks about solutions, it repeatedly puts the money behind policing, gang injunctions and other ineffective policies, while only paying lip service to real social spending and community-based services.

This month our City is making some major financial decisions that hard-hit Oakland residents, employees and communities.  Last week the mayor’s office announced that anywhere from 160 to 400 workers would be laid-off January 31st and that more than 2,500 have received pink slips. The extraordinary financial burden that OPD demands from the city, however, remained untouched: the City is still funding gang injunctions in North and East Oakland and is launching the 100-block public safety plan, ostensibly designed to target areas in the city with the highest rates of violent crime.

According to Police Chief Howard Jordan, the 100-block plan does not rely soley on increased patrols or added officers, but also shifts some of the burden to other city agencies.   The City says it also prioritizes the blocks for street repair projects, nuisance abatements and social programs. However, the city hasn’t named what those social programs are or how they are being received by the communities living in the 100-block area.  It appears that the City is only willing to put money behind policing when it talks about “solutions.”

Oaklandofficials have said that the 100-block plan, which was introduced on October 15, combines police suppression and increased collaboration with other law enforcement agencies such as the Alameda County Sheriff’s office.  STIC is deeply troubled by this: suppression tactics, which include gang injunctions and curfews, are part of a long history of racialized and violent policing that have claimed the lives of poor people and people of color living inOakland.  Further, suppression policing tactics have proved incredibly expensive for the city financially; Oakland has spent well over one million dollars (as of last October) litigating the temporary North Oakland and Fruitvale gang injunctions and, over the last ten years, has paid out more than $57 million dollars for claims, settlements and lawsuits related to Oakland Police Department actions and abuse.  Most recently in October 2011, Oakland made a $1.7million settlement payment to the family of Jerry Amaro after he was fatally beaten by the OPD.

Stop the Injunctions Coalition continues to voice loud and clear that the City must prioritize resources for things that actually bring safety to our communities, like jobs and community services, not policing.

These cuts are another example of politicians saying that the City will address public safety with a more diversified approach than policing, yet cutting funding to the diverse structure that it takes to create a healthy city. Parks and Recreation and Public Works amongst other Community and Economic Development departments will be the most heavily effected by the loss of Redevelopment money.  The Mayor and the City Council are ignoring the obvious connections between increased social services, including better access to job training and employment for those who are on probation and parole, and public safety.  Everytime there’s another shooting, members of the Council invariably bring up more parole beats, injunctions and curfews when its clear that this is notOaklandresidents want nor what will help stem the violence in our communities.

The Council and the Mayor have been repeatedly called upon by the Stop the Injunctions Coalition and other community-based organizations to take a pro-active step to a healthier city budget by de-funding gang injunctions inOaklandand to shift those resources instead to both social services and violence prevention programs. Despite the lack of political will to push injunctions forward on the part of the City Council, the City Attorney’s Office continues to use city money in the ongoing litigation of the Fruitvale injunction, which could stretch on for months.  The movement continues to build however, as we talk with each other about what real solutions look like, enact them everyday and become more connected to continue the struggle.

Visit us at the North Oakland Phat Beets market on Saturdays to talk about building the movement, connecting with ally organizations and neighbors who want to push the City to end the ineffective and costly injunctions once and for all.

STIC at Phat Beets

Sat Jan 28 11am-2pm

Sat Feb 11 12pm-2pm

Sat Feb 25 10-2pm.

 

ALL Out to City Hall: Tuesday October 25th

Last week on on October 4th, we successfully blocked City Council from expanding gang injunctions to Deep East and West Oakland and from hastily imposing youth curfews and anti-loitering laws. City Council has moved this suppression policing package to the Public Safety Committee, which will meet on Tuesday, October 25th. It’s up to us to stop them.  

Time and time again, we show up to City Hall & show City Council what real people power in Oakland is. Each time we mobilize we get even stronger. We are so close to a victory that will no doubt seriously shift power in our city, so that we can build the city we want & need.

Please come out to the Public Safety Committee meeting & tell council:

We cannot police our way out of poverty!

Our Oakland, Our Solutions!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 25TH

5:30PM

OAKLAND CITY HALL – 14TH & BROADWAY

What Gang Injunctions Look Like: Police Repression of Individuals, Communities, and Neighborhoods

To date, grassroots organizing and legal defense has successfully held at bay another harmful California gang injunction from being enacted below the radar of intense public scrutiny in Oakland. Despite being incredibly out-funded by the once-powerful City Attorney and the Oakland Police Department, community-based opposition has already won several key victories: waiving fees of close to $1000 that defendants would have had to pay to appear in court, forcing the OPD and City Attorney’s office to report to the City Council on the costs of gang injunctions (close to $1 million spent so far), and winning the right for each named individual to defend themselves in court. Six months after its initial filing, the proposed Fruitvale/San Antonio injunction, which was expected to pass quickly and quietly like the North Oakland injunction, has not been approved.

Unsurprisingly, the strength of community opposition has been met by the City Attorney and OPD with escalated repression tactics aimed at discouraging named individuals from defending themselves in court or on the streets. Of the two defendants who have testified so far in the case, Abel Manzo lost his job after his coworkers were harassed with repeated police visits and subpoenas. The other, Javier Quintero, is currently locked up in San Quentin prison on a “parole violation” related to meeting with a co-defendant and their lawyer.

If the Oakland gang injunction case has anything to teach us, it is as a fairly predictable case study on the design, intentions, and impacts of police suppression tactics. Gang injunctions are part of a long history of racialized and violent policing that regularly claims the lives of poor people and people of color in Oakland. In the face of this daily reality, the City Attorney’s office mounted an aggressive public relations campaign claiming that Oakland’s gang injunction is somehow different from the rest and that gang injunctions do not lead to racial profiling. We know from our own experiences that this is a clear and dangerous lie. Despite the fact that the City Attorney claims that the power to determine who is enjoined or not rests in the hands of the courts, enforcement of these gang injunctions (stopping, detaining and arresting individuals) relies on the police visually identifying young men of color. This guarantees, and provides legal justification for, a dramatic increase in police harassment of young men of color in the so-called “safety zones.”  In the case of Javier’s arrest—the car he was riding in was pulled over for playing loud music at 6pm on a Friday night.  One wonders if young white men in the affluent Rockridge neighborhood would be subject to the same kind of policing.

As with gang injunctions in other cities, Oakland’s two injunctions were filed in low-income neighborhoods that border higher-income neighborhoods with higher property rates.  As has been seen in other highly policed “border” areas, we can expect these tactics to raise the profile of the police and push criminalized communities off the street—paving the way for gentrification. Indeed, cover for the Oakland police department and city attorney’s office—both vying for financial and political power when the city is facing a $26 million budget shortfall and is spending 40% of its 2011 budget on OPD and the City Attorney’s office when Parks and Rec and Libraries only get 4% respectively—was provided by business and property owners who would financially benefit from the gentrification of nearby streets through increased policing (mainly through the power they exert in Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils).

The individuals named on the North Oakland and Fruitvale injunctions are subject to restrictions similar to parole conditions that are responsible for sending approximately 50,000 people to prison in California on technical violations every year.  These same conditions, combined with targeted political repression, have sent Javier to jail for a minimum of 30 days and maybe up to a year, for sitting in a car with a friend and co-defendant. Others, such as Yancey Young, an individual named in the North Oakland injunction have been subject to similar repression. These repression tactics have been used in the cases of individuals who have taken up a more active role in the movement against gang injunctions in Oakland through speaking to the press, attending events and becoming more public figures. This is testimony to the fact that our grassroots efforts are winning; putting the City Attorney, OPD, and pro-gentrification forces on the defensive (albeit with violent consequences for those targeted by repression). With a third, as yet unspecified injunction on the horizon, it is paramount that we keep up the fight.

Winning the fight against gang injunctions depends on the participation of people who are named on the injunction and their families.  The state is doing everything it can to prohibit this participation.  We must meet them, and beat them, at every step. Here is how you can support Javier, Abel, Yancey and the rest of the gang injunction defendants:

1. Pack City Hall! Tuesday May 3rd, 5pm, 14th and Broadway. Show City Council that you oppose the Oakland Gang Injunctions!

2. Pack the Courtroom! Friday May 6th, 1pm Press Conference, 2pm Final Arguments in Phase 1 of court hearings on the Fruitvale injunction, 1225 Fallon, Dept

3. Free Javier! Call Inspector General Bruce Montross at 800-700-5952 to demand an investigation into the arrest and detention of Javier Quintero.