Op-Ed: Our Oakland, Our Solutions

Our Oakland, Our Solutions

by Rachel Herzing, Stop the Injunction Coalition

The North Oakland gang injunction has inspired controversy in the news – and in Oakland neighborhoods. A coalition of concerned Oakland residents has been working for the past six months to fight the controversial North Oakland gang injunction, and have recently unveiled a hotline, are planning a mural, and released a “know your rights” pocket guide. They also are also planning a “Community Reportback” for the next injunction court hearing, on October 14th.

Members of the Stop the Injunction Coalition object to the use of such a costly approach, especially when gang injunctions have not shown to have any measurable long-term impacts in other places where they have been imposed. In a period of a devastating budget deficit, the City of Oakland cannot afford to squander precious resources on such a shortsighted strategy.

Studies of gang injunctions in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oxnard, found that they did not reduce crime rate or prevent violence in the area. “Gang injunctions do not work because they do not address the root causes of violence, such as poverty and unemployment,” said a coalition organizer and lawyer, Jeff Landau.

In all cases studied, communities were not involved in decision-making related to imposing injunctions and may neighbors did not even know they were living in enjoined areas. “The decision to impose this injunction was not made by the community in North Oakland,” Landau says. “Many of North Oakland residents don’t even know it exists, and there is no mechanism in place for community input in the courtroom.”

Many North Oakland residents already face harassment and repression at the hands of OPD, and have experienced increased harassment due to the injunction. The heavy-handed policing measure has only exacerbated the violent history of police-community relations in Oakland.

As Lisa Nowlain, a North Oakland resident and coalition member explained, “Testimonials from people in neighborhoods where injunctions have been imposed reveal the fear, anxiety, and increased police harassment they feel as a result of the injunctions. In doing outreach we have heard similar sentiments in North Oakland.” Nowlain continued, “With the police shooting of Oscar Grant, III, and others across Oakland, we have no reason to trust the Oakland Police Department to respect people’s rights.”

Coalition members have responded to this fear by establishing a police abuse hotline. Oakland residents experiencing or witnessing police harassment or violence are encouraged to call the hotline number: 510.213.8135 or to email videos or photos to: injunctionhotline@gmail.com. By documenting cases of police harassment, residents aim to illustrate the harm that can be caused by increased police activity.

“There is no such thing as an evolved injunction – they always disproportionately affect Black and brown youth,” noted coalition member Margaret White, a mother and North Oakland native in reference to the city attorney’s claim that the injunction only targets known ‘gang members’. “Instead of more policing, we can choose to put money into education, youth and community centers, job creation, and affordable housing, all of which are proven to prevent violence.”

Oakland residents know that our neighborhoods are best served by our own solutions. Across the country, communities similar to ours have benefited by positive investments such as education, employment, and housing rather than by scare tactics such as profiling, curfews, and social isolation offered by the gang injunction.

The Stop the Injunction Coalition is currently mobilizing residents for an October 14 hearing to assess the impact the temporary injunction has had within the last six months. If it is put into place, the injunction will not have a scheduled end date. We encourage all Oakland residents who are invested in healthy stable communities to add their voices to this effort.

For more information about the Stop the Injunction Coalition, visit
http://www.stoptheinjunction.wordpress.com.