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D.A. Goes After BART Shutdown Protesters for $70,000 Fine

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A national petition has gathered over 7,000 signatures in less than a week, calling on BART to drop the charges against 14 African American “Black Lives Matter” protesters who are facing misdemeanors and as much as $70,000 in restitution for blocking BART trains on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

The “Black Friday 14” shut down the West Oakland BART station on Nov. 28 to disrupt “business as usual” on the nation’s largest shopping day of the year.

When a train pulled into the West Oakland station that day, a woman chained herself to a train car handrail, and others then linked arms using cylinder tubes, stopping transbay service for several hours.

The protesters are arguing that BART is not an innocent victim but bears responsibility for the killing of Oscar Grant on New Years Day in 2009, as well as being guilty of a number of cases of allowing BART police to harass, assault and arrest Black and Brown youth, and for utilizing eminent domain to construct its tracks above ground in West Oakland, disrupting the life of the local community.

In addition, the protesters see the demand for restitution as part of a pattern of seeking harsher penalties for African Americans who participate in the Black Lives Matter protests nationwide.

According to several sources, BART is informally saying it is not committed to restitution but needs to negotiate a punishment that will discourage people in the future from disrupting the train system, inconveniencing riders and perhaps putting them in danger.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx organizing committee in Oakland, was one of the 14 arrestees.

“The action on Black Friday was part of a national response to the war on Black people,” she said. “This is the beginning of the next social justice movement in this country. As long as it is business as usual to gun down Black people in the streets, there will be no business as usual.”

Demands for restitution at present are being raised only in the cases of Black-led protests – by BART in the Bay Area and by the Mall of America in Milwaukee, which was shut down by protests over the police killing of Dontre Hamilton.

Oakland civil rights attorney Walter Riley is the lead attorney representing all of the 14 arrestees.

“They could have been charged with infractions,” Riley said, “but BART is asking for prosecution and restitution, though the amount of restitution has not be established in a written document. They want to make an example of them.”

“If the restitution does not get paid, it would be forever on their records as an unpaid fine, and it could be enforced arbitrarily at some future date,” he said. “Other local institutions, like UC Berkeley, have not taken that approach in dealing with protesters.”

Demonstrations and civil disobedience may inconvenience people, but these are the kinds of actions that bring long hidden conditions to public light, he said. This is the kind of free public expression that should not be stifled in a democratic society, he said.

“I remember civil rights demonstrations in the past, and the same kind of arguments were made against them,” said Riley. “We need older people to show some real love for our people. This means there should be an outpouring of support for them.”

In an interview with the Post, BART Boardmember Robert Raburn said he was not involved in discussions of BART’s demand for restitution.

“I didn’t get elected to the BART board to be a judge,” he said, referring questions to the agency’s staff and denying that the board has a policymaking role in leveling charges and restitution against the protesters.

Rev. Dr. Lawrence VanHook of Community Christian Church in Oakland said he has been in conversations with BART, and the agency is willing to drop the demand for restitution against the 14 if they would be willing to accept terms such as probation and community service, which would inhibit other potential protesters from trying the same tactics.

According to a Jan. 7 statement released by BART General Manager Grace Crunican, “It is critical that the post -Thanksgiving BART shutdown be handled in a manner that is fair and equitable to all stakeholders.”

“The (Alameda County) DA indicated that her office is guided by California Law on issues regarding restitution, and she made it clear that the handling of restitution is within her purview and premature to discuss at this time.”

The protesters’ next court date is Feb. 4, and they are asking community members to come to the Alameda County Courthouse to support them.

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Activism

Ask County Supervisors Not to Spend Millions in Tax Dollars on Oakland A’s Real Estate Deal

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

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A rendering of the proposed new A’s ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, surrounded by port cranes and warehouses. Image courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) and other groups are asking local residents to attend and speak at next week’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose a proposal to spend county residents’ tax dollars to pay for the Oakland A’s massive multi-billion-dollar real estate deal at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. 

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

The Stadium Alliance urges community members to “let (the supervisors) know that Alameda County residents don’t want our tax dollars to pay for a private luxury development. This proposal does not include privately funded community benefits and would harm our region’s economic engine – the port- putting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk.”

 

“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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Community

Marin County Sheriff Sued for Illegally Sharing Drivers’ License Plate Data

This practice has violated two California laws, endangers the safety and privacy of local immigrant communities, and facilitates location tracking by police.

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An example of ALPRs (www.pasadenanow.org)

Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle has been sued for illegally sharing millions of local drivers’ license plates and location data, captured by a network of cameras his office uses, with hundreds of federal and out-of-state agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), over a dozen other federal law enforcement agencies, and more than 400 out-of-state law enforcement agencies.

This practice has violated two California laws, endangers the safety and privacy of local immigrant communities, and facilitates location tracking by police.

The suit seeks to end the sheriff’s illegal practice of giving hundreds of agencies outside California access to a database of license plate scans used to identify and track people, revealing where they live and work, when they visit friends or drop their kids at school, and when they attend religious services or protests.

The lawsuit was filed in Marin County Superior Court by the ACLU Foundations of Northern California, Southern California, and San Diego and Imperial Counties, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and attorney Michael T. Risher representing community activists Lisa Bennett, Cesar S. Lagleva, and Tara Evans, who are longtime Marin community members.

License plate scans occur through Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs): high-speed cameras mounted in a fixed location or atop police cars moving through the community that automatically capture all license plates that come into view, recording the exact location, date, and time that the vehicle passes by.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office scans tens of thousands of license plates each month with its ALPR system. That sensitive personal information, which includes photographs of the vehicle and sometimes its driver and passengers, is stored in a database.

The sheriff permits hundreds of out-of-state agencies and several federal entities, including the Department of Homeland Security, to run queries of a license plate against information the sheriff has collected. The agencies are also able to compare their own bulk lists of vehicle license plates of interest, known as “hot lists,” against the ALPR information collected by the sheriff’s office. 

“In the hands of police, the use of ALPR technology is a threat to privacy and civil liberties, especially for immigrants. Federal immigration agencies routinely access and use ALPR information to locate, detain, and deport immigrants. The sheriff’s own records show that Sheriff Doyle is sharing ALPR information with two of the most rogue agencies in the federal government: ICE and CBP,” said Vasudha Talla, immigrants’ rights program director at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “Police should not be purchasing surveillance technology, let alone facilitating the deportation and incarceration of our immigrant communities.”

California’s S.B. 34, enacted in 2015, bars this practice. The law requires agencies that use ALPR technology to implement policies to protect privacy and civil liberties, and specifically prohibits police from sharing ALPR data with entities outside of California. 

The sheriff also violates the California Values Act (S.B. 54), also known as California’s “sanctuary” law. Enacted in 2018, the law limits the use of local resources to assist federal immigration enforcement.

“The information unveiled through this lawsuit shows that the freedoms that people think they possess in Marin County are a mirage: people cannot move about freely without being surveilled,” said Bennett. “Our county sheriff, who has sworn to uphold the law, is in fact violating it by sharing peoples’ private information with outside agencies. This has especially alarming implications for immigrants and people of color: two communities that are traditionally the targets of excessive policing, surveillance, and separation from loved ones and community through incarceration or deportation.”

The Marin County Post’s coverage of local news in Marin 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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Community

The 157th Session of the AME Church’s California Annual Conference: Not Just Business as Usual

For the 157th time in history, the African Methodist Episcopal Church in California met to report at the call of their bishop, the Right Reverend Clement W. Fugh, which, for the first time was held both on-line and in person from Bethel AME Church at 916 Laguna St. in San Francisco. 

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Bishop Clement W. Fugh, Presiding Prelate of the 5th Episcopal District, ready for the 157th Session of the California Annual Conference

For the 157th time in history, the African Methodist Episcopal Church in California met to report at the call of their bishop, the Right Reverend Clement W. Fugh, which, for the first time was held both on-line and in person from Bethel AME Church at 916 Laguna St. in San Francisco. 

The renowned presiding elders, Rev. Dr. Harold R. Mayberry and Rev. Dr. Vernon S. Burroughs, middle managers of this portion of Bishop Fugh’s charge, shared the accounts of their respective territories at the AME Church’s California Annual Conference via prerecorded videos at the meeting hosted by Churches of the Sacramento Valley. 

The lead congregation from the valley was Murph-Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in North Highlands, CA, which is pastored by Rev. Dr. Carieta Cain Grizzell, whose spouse Rev. Martin Grizzell is also known for his past ministry in the Bay Area. The venue church is served by the pastoral team of Rev. Robert R. Shaw and his partner, Assistant Pastor, Rev. Ann Champion Shaw. Murph-Emmanuel and Bethel A.M.E. Church were acclaimed by Bishop Fugh for their cooperation in this session of the California Annual Conference.  

Bethel A.M.E San Francisco looked like a television set had grown into the sanctuary, complete with multiple lights and cameras. There was a technical team (in person and on-line) primarily made up of young adult members of AME churches under the purview of the bishop. The meeting was a clear, joint effort of both clergy and lay people, more than in past years. Though the California Annual Conference has long made a point of including non-cleric church members, young and old, the COVID-19 pandemic circumstances have clearly advanced the Conference’s inclusivity.  

“The Word of God is Colorblind,” said Bishop Fugh during the retirement portion of the Annual Conference which honored the retirement of the host pastor. The diversity within churches of the California Annual Conference was on display at this 157th session of this historic meeting and it was clear that the leadership encourages the welcoming of all who would like to join with the church. 

There was an apparent focus on meeting safely, with limitations on those allowed to join in person. Attestations related to COVID-19 were required of registrants and a screening process was administered at the venue. The bishop commended the venue leadership and church for the dignity that was maintained during the process. 

Registration for Zoom attendance was also a painless process and open to whomever desired to attend the Webinar. The conference was accessible on Facebook as well as YouTube. The bishop also encouraged churches to make attendance as safe as possible while keeping the process simple and focusing on a quality worship experience. Bishop Fugh set a goal for represented churches to reopen their sanctuaries by the first Sunday of November. 

This session of the California Annual Conference carried with it the long-standing traditions of the first Christian denomination founded in response to social injustice over 200 years ago. The ministries reported primarily using pre-recorded videos this year as it all followed through decently and in order. Indeed, there was a genuine spirit of love during the conference.

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