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Community Leaders Call for Solidarity Over Threats and Harassment of Black Women Leaders

A new database by Princeton University and the Anti-Defamation League has begun tracking threats received by public officials, identifying women, particularly women of color, to be targeted, totaling 42.5% of all incidents.

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A press conference Monday, Feb. 6 at Oakland City Hall calls for solidarity against threats of violence and intimidation of Black women leaders. Some of the elected officials and leaders at the event were [Bottom row l-r]: Assemblymember Liz Ortega, Councilmember Carroll Fife and State Senator Senator Aisha Wahab. (Middle row): Councilmember Janani Ramachandran, Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Mayor Sheng Thao and Assemblymember Mia Bonta. (Top row): Councilmember Kevin Jenkins and Rev. Cheryl Ward. Photo by Ken Epstein.
A press conference Monday, Feb. 6 at Oakland City Hall calls for solidarity against threats of violence and intimidation of Black women leaders. Some of the elected officials and leaders at the event were [Bottom row l-r]: Assemblymember Liz Ortega, Councilmember Carroll Fife and State Senator Senator Aisha Wahab. (Middle row): Councilmember Janani Ramachandran, Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Mayor Sheng Thao and Assemblymember Mia Bonta. (Top row): Councilmember Kevin Jenkins and Rev. Cheryl Ward. Photo by Ken Epstein.

“We are seeing a sharp polarization of politics and when people build on fear … we are seeing a rise in violence across the nation,” says Councilmember Carroll Fife

By Ken Epstein

A press conference this week on the steps of Oakland City Hall called for community solidarity against the increased dangers posed by threats of violence and harassment of women of color — particularly Black women who are elected leaders or leading members of justice advocacy organizations.

While threats, violence and harassment are rising across the nation, including highly publicized threats against Congressional leaders Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband, these threats are also increasing in Oakland, which is not immune.

“We are seeing a sharp polarization of politics, and when people build on fear or want to dispossess their fear onto other individuals, it can result in violence and harassment — we are seeing a rise in violence across the nation,” said Oakland Councilmember Carroll Fife, who called for the press event after increased threats against herself and others.

This “is an attempt to limit democracy; they are seeking to stall and stymie the voices of people who are transforming government in order to stop the change that they know is so desperately needed and desired by the community,” said Fife.

“This is why I chose to finally share my experiences after years of dealing with it in silence, because it isn’t just about me,” she said. “I have taken a vow to fight for my constituents and to fight for the residents of this city, and the more that I speak, the more that I hear other stories. These stories need to be documented in order for us to address the deeply rooted issues motivating this violence and harassment.”

Attending the press conference were state and local leaders including Councilmember Fife, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, California Senator Aisha Wahab, Assemblymember Liz Ortega, Assemblymember Mia Bonta, City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, Kevin Jenkins and Janani Ramachandran.

Also attending were about 100 individuals and members of many local organizations who came to stand in solidarity.

A new database by Princeton University and the Anti-Defamation League has begun tracking threats received by public officials, identifying women, particularly women of color, to be targeted, totaling 42.5% of all incidents.

The Oakland Progressive Alliance (OPA) has begun a petition calling on business leaders, civil rights groups and advocates connected to any of the individuals perpetrating misleading, politically motivated or dangerous rhetoric to join them in publicly condemning these personal attacks. They are also urging the community to speak out when they see the scapegoating of Black women and women of color in leadership positions.

In her remarks, State Senator Wahab said, “Threats of rape are a particular avenue of violence that are only reserved for those of us who are not heterosexual men. I, too, have been on the receiving end of such threats. … If we stay quiet about this type of abuse, the efforts to … make us shrink, cower and be quiet will only continue.”

Councilmember Kaplan said, “This is a good morning because this is what solidarity looks like. This is what it means when we say we will not stand idly by when people are attacked and particularly when Black women are attacked.

“These attacks are happening because people fear the kind of justice and transformation that is happening. These attacks are a sign of the success of these incredible Black women leaders.”

Kaplan continued: “We will not stand by whether it is individuals leaving disgusting voice mails, putting comments online, whether it is the rightwing white supremacist Proud Boys coming into Alameda County to attack people in our communities, whether it is a politician at the national level raising hate or it is one at the local level raising hate as a part of a political strategy.”

Cat Brooks, a journalist, actor, and a founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), said, “Let me be clear: the work is going to continue. (In spite of) your threats, your actions, your voicemails, your emails, your Twitter warrior messages, the work is going to continue.”

Brooks said she has been subjected to countless threats over ATPT’s demands to end police violence, which claims the lives of over a thousand Black people a year. “Because people don’t like what I have to say, they think it’s OK to threaten my life, to threaten my home, to threaten my child.”

One of the first threats she received 14 years ago was a threat of sexual assault against her then 9-year-old daughter, she said.

Thao said, “We know this happens, (but) why does this happen? There are still far too many people in our society who cannot deal with women of color being in positions of power. These messengers of hate … cannot deal with women of color being in leadership and demanding, not asking, for respect and inclusion.

“They are trying to send a message to all women of color to stay in your lane, stay in your place. You wait your turn … This is what we say: ‘Hell no.’”

She continued: “We will not be intimidated. We will stand together, all of us beautifully together, and we will send a message to those messengers of hate: You cannot stop us.”

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