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City Attorney Issues Guidance of Civil Rights Protection During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker released new guidance to remind all Oaklanders that local, state, and federal civil rights protections remain in full force and effect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidance, released in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), aims to assist individuals, businesses and advocates in understanding what types of choices and activities remain impermissible during the global health crisis.

African American and Latino Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in terms of deaths, and have been and continue to be disproportionately subjected to harassment and discrimination before and during the pandemic.

In addition, incidents of harassment of and discrimination against people of Asian descent have increased dramatically in part due to the president’s fear-mongering and scapegoating of China for his administration’s abysmal failure to take action to protect the American people from the ravages of   COVID-19.

Disabled people also have been targeted during the pandemic.

“Tragically, discrimination targeting African Americans, Latinos, Asians and other communities of color and disabled people, is not a new phenomenon,” said Parker.

“African Americans, Latinos, Asians, other Oaklanders of color and disabled people, among others, have been subjected to harassment, assault, mutilation and murder for centuries.

“The current public health crisis has only exacerbated those harms, with hatred and fear fueled by the current occupant of the White House and his enablers. I released this guidance because I want to make clear that Oakland will not tolerate unlawful discrimination of any kind. Now more than ever, we need to protect and uphold the rights of all of our colleagues, families, neighbors and friends,” she said.

The FAQs remind us of all of the civil rights laws that remain in effect and provide specific examples of the kinds of behaviors that are particularly problematic forms of unlawful harassment or discrimination during the pandemic.

The FAQs also walk readers through the penalties that are provided for violations of civil rights laws, provide persons experiencing harassment and discrimination with resources to vindicate their rights and list additional sources of reliable COVID-19 information. To ensure these FAQs are accessible to all Oaklanders, they are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese, and will be provided in other languages upon request.

Oakland is releasing these FAQs against the backdrop of thousands of reports of discrimination against Americans of Asian descent based on wholly false assertions that Asian Americans are responsible for or carriers of COVID-19, and with the reality that many are shaming or shunning disabled people based on misunderstandings about infection. The guidance should serve as a warning to anyone who violates their fellow Oaklanders’ rights that the City Attorney remains committed to addressing illegal discrimination in all of its forms.

Erin Bernstein is the media liaison for the City Attorney’s office.

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