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Bay Area Officials Condemn Texas Abortion Restrictions, U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

Bay Area and state officials lambasted both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas state government after the high court declined to approve an emergency petition to stop a Texas law banning abortions six weeks or more after conception.

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Law Books/Clarisse Meyer Via Unsplash

Bay Area and state officials lambasted both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas state government after the high court declined to approve an emergency petition to stop a Texas law banning abortions six weeks or more after conception.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law, Senate Bill 8, in May, but it went into effect September 1 at 12:01 a.m. local time.
Late that night, the court issued a 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s three liberal justices in the minority, declining to rule on the petition, which was filed by Texas abortion clinics.
The court could still strike the law down in the coming days as unconstitutional, but abortion rights activists expressed skepticism that the court would do so after letting the law go into effect in the first place.
The law effectively overwrites the precedent set in 1973 by the court’s ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade by preventing pregnant people from seeking an abortion after their sixth week of pregnancy, a time when many people are not yet even aware that they are pregnant.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, called SB 8 “one of the most severe attacks on reproductive rights” in U.S. history.
“SB 8 is an appalling violation of human rights and reproductive rights, and will put the health of millions of people in jeopardy, especially for low-income people and people of color,” Lee said in a statement.
SB 8 does not make exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and allows people to sue doctors, medical staff and even a patient’s ride to a medical clinic if they suspect the patient has had an abortion after six weeks.
Plaintiffs also are not required to show damages or have a connection to the patient to file a lawsuit under SB 8, and are entitled to $10,000 and their legal fees if a judge rules in their favor.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said the law constructed a “vigilante bounty system” that could keep people from seeking reproductive health care of any kind.
“This provision is a cynical, backdoor attempt by partisan lawmakers to evade the Constitution and the law to destroy not only a woman’s right to health care but potentially any right or protection that partisan lawmakers target,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Vice President Kamala Harris echoed that sentiment.
“This decision is not the last word on Roe v. Wade, and we will not stand by and allow our nation to go back to the days of back-alley abortions,” Harris said in a statement. “We will not abide by cash incentives for virtual vigilantes and intimidation for patients.”
Jodi Hicks, the CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, argued in a statement that the Supreme Court’s decision will inevitably lead to other states passing their own abortion restrictions.
Nearly a dozen states have already passed so-called “abortion trigger laws” that would fully outlaw the practice in the first and second trimesters as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned.
“The inaction by the Supreme Court on a blatantly unconstitutional ban has taken away a crucial right to millions of people in Texas and without a doubt threatens their ability to make decisions about their body, their lives, and their futures,” Hicks said.
On September 2, Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives will formally take up legislation to codify abortion rights in federal law instead of relying on the court decision alone.
However, that bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, is unlikely to find enough support in the U.S. Senate to reach President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature.
Biden said in a statement on September 1 that SB 8 “blatantly violates” the decision in Roe v. Wade and pledged to defend abortion rights across the country, but did not elaborate on what that might entail.
California Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, argued in a Twitter post that the purpose of SB 8 is clear: “to intimidate women (and) providers.”
“It cannot stand,” she said.

#NNPA BlackPress

U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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Bill Capping the Use of Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas Awaits Gov. Newsom’s Signature

A police reform bill calling for stricter standards on how law enforcement officers across the state use rubber bullets and tear gas for crowd control has been approved by both the California Senate and Assembly. 

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Bangkok, THAILAND - August 7, 2021: Riot police block road to 1st Infantry Regiment by container and crackdown protesters by tear gas, rubber bullets, water canon./ Shutterstock

A police reform bill calling for stricter standards on how law enforcement officers across the state use rubber bullets and tear gas for crowd control has been approved by both the California Senate and Assembly. 

The legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 48 introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), is awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature. He has until October 10 to sign or veto it. 

“During the nationwide protests in 2020, many reports showed peaceful protesters and bystanders being seriously injured, even permanently maimed, by dangerous projectiles,” said Gonzalez, who represents California’s 80th Assembly District located in southern San Diego County. 

“This bill will protect Californians’ right to safely protest by establishing statewide standards that help minimize the overuse of these dangerous weapons, while directing law enforcement on how and when they can deploy projectiles in truly life-threatening situations,” she continued. 

AB 48 prohibits the use of kinetic impact projectiles – i.e., rubber bullets and plastic bullets – as well as chemical agents like tear gas by any law enforcement officer or agency “to disperse any assembly, protest, or demonstration.” It also prohibits their use solely “due to a violation of an imposed curfew, verbal threat, or non-compliance with a law enforcement directive.”

Under current law, a peace officer is allowed to use reasonable force to arrest or to prevent the escape of a suspect — or to subdue that person if there is resistance. Existing law requires the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to provide instructional courses and training to law enforcement officers on the use of force. 

POST is the state agency responsible for setting basic standards for hiring and training for police officers in all 58 counties. 

In addition, AB 48 requires officers to be trained on the safe use of kinetic projectiles and chemical agents for situations where any person’s life is threatened or instances where a person faces serious risk of injury.

In these situations, according to the bill, officers would be required to employ other de-escalation techniques before using projectile weapons.

Also, the officer must provide prompt medical assistance to any person injured. The bill prohibits aiming these weapons at the head, neck, or other vital organs.

Across the country, on average, officers receive about 50 hours of firearm training during the police academy. They receive less than 10 hours of de-escalation training, the Brookings Institution reported in April 2021.

The California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), which represents over 16,000 members employed by municipal, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, has publicly registered disagreement with parts of AB 48.

“This bill is a near-exact replica of last year’s failed AB 66, which CPOA opposed,” said Shaun Rundle, CPOA deputy director. 

AB 66 was also authored by Gonzalez.

CPOA is in favor of limiting the use of less-than-lethal force but has safety concerns about officers being struck by — or targeted with – life-threatening items such as frozen water bottles, bricks, and laser pointers.

“Restricting the use of less-lethal options limits the tools that are at an officer’s disposal to protect public safety,” the California State Sheriffs’ Association said in a statement opposing AB 48. 

“However, by restricting when an officer may use those tools, their response to a particular situation may end up being guided by choices about practices that may be acceptable or unacceptable to some instead of what measure is most appropriate in the context of the event,” the statement continued. 

Last year, Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, introduced another police reform bill, Senate Bill (SB) 731. 

Although that bill did not make it to the Senate floor for a full vote, SB 731, which proposed a statewide process to disqualify bad officers and block them from being hired by other agencies, resurfaced as SB 2 last December. The updated version of the legislation passed in the Senate with a 28-9 vote last week. It has been sent to Governor’s desk for signature or veto.

According to the State Sheriffs’ Association SB2 could be an obstacle in hiring, recruiting, and maintaining employees.

Bradford, on the other hand, says the legislation is timely and necessary. 

“We want to be intentional about what we are doing here in California when it comes to police reform,” Bradford told the Senate Judiciary Committee about SB 2 last April.  “That’s what this bill does. It’s intentional in what we are trying to achieve. This is a fair measure and far better than any that exist today.”

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East Oakland Community Clean-up

The office of Councilmember Treva Reid invites you to…

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Oakland Clean Up Flyer

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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