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OP-ED: Don’t Stop Window Smashing by Targeting Peaceful Demonstrators

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By Rebecca Kaplan

 

In recent years, we have suffered from the cyclical epidemic of responding to problems by aiming at the wrong targets.

 

Some people, expressing (or pretending to express) anger about police misconduct, have broken windows and vandalized Oakland businesses. Being angry about police misconduct is legitimate, but the target — local Oakland businesses — is the wrong place to put that anger.

 

Many people have responded by pointing out that “having your windows smashed is not as bad as being killed,” but that does not solve the problem that the people whose windows are being smashed are not the people who did the killing.

 

Smashing windows and causing economic hardship to Oakland businesses and workers does nothing to stop the nationwide crisis involving the shooting of unarmed Black men.

 

The vandalism undermines efforts to build real solutions, diverting effort and public attention away from the need to end these wrongful deaths, and causing the public to associate the movement with the destruction of property of those who have done nothing wrong.

 

But just as window smashing misses the target, so too has the Oakland city administrations’ response to it — repeatedly — over the years. Those who engage in vandalism have often gotten away with it, while peaceful demonstrators are surrounded and arrested.

 

The window smashing is illegal and destructive, and it is important to hold people who do it accountable. However, mass arrests of nonviolent protesters who had nothing to do with the window smashing is missing the target — just like the window smashing itself.

 

This is not a question of having enforcement versus no enforcement; it’s a question of enforcement against the people who committed the harm versus enforcement targeted against those who did not commit the harm.

 

Because police resources are stretched thin, focusing efforts on strategies that don’t improve public safety means that other important work isn’t happening — such as catching illegal gun dealers, armed robbers, and the window-smashers.

 

Regardless of whether someone believes it is appropriate to devote substantial police resources to move demonstrators from streets to sidewalks, (and whether or not it turns out to be legal, which we do not yet know), surely we can all realize that it does not target the vandals who got away with their acts of destruction.

 

The people being cited and arrested are not believed to have engaged in vandalism — and meanwhile, those who committed the vandalism are not being held accountable.

 

To effectively respond to and redress the vandalism, we should directly target, and hold accountable the people who have engaged in acts of vandalism.

 

Therefore, I am asking that Oakland specifically:

 

  1. Make a real effort to identify and hold accountable those who have engaged in vandalism.

 

For those who did not get caught, continue efforts after-the-fact to identify and find them. Collect and review video and photo footage and work to find the identity of the vandals.

 

Ask the public for help in identifying people in photos. Initiate significant litigation against those who engaged in vandalism and destruction to seek payment for the harm they caused, including compensating the businesses for their impact, and requiring a commitment that they refrain from such acts in the future.

 

  1. Help the businesses that were harmed, including with tenant improvement and façade improvement funds.

 

Make city funds available, in a timely way, to support needed repairs, including allowing funds to be used for strengthening measures to make businesses less vulnerable in the future. (Such as helping install metal roll-down doors and unbreakable windows).

 

Those who vandalize Oakland businesses not only create blight in our community, but they also endanger the jobs of working people who rely on their jobs at these businesses to feed their families and put roofs over their heads. Those who vandalize Oakland businesses are not only creating harm to our business owners, but also are putting the economic security of working people and our broader community at risk.

 

Rebecca Kaplan is vice mayor of Oakland. This column was originally published in the East Bay Express.

Bay Area

Vice Mayor: Business Group Wants to Buy Coliseum, Attract WNBA Team

The group will provide additional details of its effort at a news conference at 11:00 a.m. Friday at a site to be determined.

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Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan.

Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan said a local business group has made serious inroads to buy the city’s 50% stake in the Oakland Coliseum complex and to bring a WNBA team to the city.
Kaplan’s office shared a news release Monday about the effort by the African American Sports and Entertainment Group.

Kaplan said the group is in negotiations with the Oakland-Alameda Joint Powers Authority, has submitted a formal proposal to WNBA officials, and has submitted a term sheet to the city, which the City Council’s rules committee recently voted to advance to the full council for a vote.

The group will provide additional details of its effort at a news conference at 11:00 a.m. Friday at a site to be determined.

“I am pleased that there is such great interest in doing an important development at the Oakland Coliseum that will provide jobs, revenue and community positivity,” Kaplan said. “My goal is to help this process move forward before the summer recess.”

Kaplan said the group has the backing of more than 30 community groups of faith-based institutions, labor organizations, civic leaders, and job development organizations. She did not name the groups

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Art

City Selects Ayodele Nzinga as Inaugural Poet Laureate

As poet laureate, Nzinga will make an inaugural address, partner with the city’s youth poet laureate Myra Estrada on a reading series, deliver four readings in Oakland, and write a poem that commemorates the city.

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Oakland first poet laureate Ayodele Nzinga, author of “SorrowLand Oracle” and “The Horse Eaters,” in an undated photo. (Photo courtesy City of Oakland).

Poet, playwright, and community activist Ayodele Nzinga was selected as Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate, city officials announced on June 11.

Nzinga is the founding producer and director of the West Oakland theater company Lower Bottom Playaz, established in 1999. She’s also the founding director of Black Arts Movement Business District Community Development Corporation, which produces BAMBDFEST, an international arts and cultural festival celebrating the arts in the Black community.

“Her decades-long commitment to Oakland’s art scene will feed the richness of her storytelling as she nurtures creativity in others,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement.

Nzinga is the author of at least two books of poetry: “SorrowLand Oracle,” a collection of spells, incantations, prayers, and “The Horse Eaters,” which is described as an origin tale, a reclamation of memory and a movement toward wholeness in thought.

Nzinga said she is “overjoyed” with her selection as Oakland’s first poet laureate.

“I look forward to representing ‘The Town’ and the honor of bringing poetry to the people!” she said in a statement.

As poet laureate, Nzinga will make an inaugural address, partner with the city’s youth poet laureate Myra Estrada on a reading series, deliver four readings in Oakland, and write a poem that commemorates the city.

“Whether in the visual performing arts, music or literature, the talents of the Town’s artists are world-renowned and deserve recognition and financial support,” J. K. Fowler, cultural affairs commissioner and chair of the poet laureate selection team, said in a statement.

City officials closed nominations on May 19 for Oakland’s inaugural poet laureate and five members of the city’s literary community selected Nzinga from other nominees based on five criteria.

That included their poetic work, and among other things, their understanding of civic stories around belonging, culture, and equity.

Nzinga will serve a two-year term until May 2023. Her selection comes with a $5,000 honorarium.

The date for the inaugural address by Nzinga has not been set.

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Business

Go Fund Geoffrey’s

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

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Geoffrey's Inner Circle

For more than 30 years Geoffrey Pete ‘s business, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, has been a cultural hub because of its full-service restaurant, live entertainment, nightclub parties, jazz music and community special occasion events. Faith-based organizations have also rented the spacious facilities for services and concerts. Their full-service restaurant, bar and live entertainment business along with their tenants and multilevel event rental spaces have been severely interrupted and devastated by the COVID 19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. Now those lights are dimmed due to the economic conditions that have descended on high intensity people-contact businesses.

Thanks to a group of customers and supporters a Go Fund Me page has been opened for the public to contribute to support Geoffrey’s Inner Circle https://gofund.me/b2541419.

The Post newspaper has notified the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce that regular articles concerning the needs of Geoffrey’s and other Black-owned Businesses will be published weekly.

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