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OUSD School Board Approves Black Organizing Project’s School Safety Plan

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Black Organizing Project Organizing Director Jessica Black speaks outside of MetWest High School announcing the People’s Plan in November 2020. Photo courtesy of Black Organizing Project

Oakland’s School Board voted on Wednesday to pass a resolution to implement Phase 1 of a reasonable compliance safety plan, a plan Black Organizing Project, Oakland Unified School Department staff, and community partners formulated to deal with school safety without police presence.

The unanimous vote came after Black Organizing Project (BOP), who describes itself as a “Black member-led community organization working for racial, social, and economic justice,” organized for 10 years. Their goal was to eliminate the Oakland Schools Police Department (OSPD), which works exclusively in OUSD schools. On June 24 of this year, Oakland’s School Board voted to dismantle the department when they passed the George Floyd Resolution to Eliminate the OSPD.

With its Phase 1 plan, BOP is preparing for when OSPD is completely eliminated and in-person schooling starts. The plan outlines alternatives to police intervention for most behavioral issues that result in school settings. OUSD teachers, union representatives, principals, school administrators and public health experts helped to design it. Part of the plan proposes that mental health professionals deal with mental health issues instead of police.

When asked why the plan proposes that health professionals deal with mental health crises, BOP Organizing Director Jessica Black said “it’s better to have people who are trained, skilled, professionals who deal with people’s mental health than to have people who are trained to look for suspects and kill people.”

In anticipation of Wednesday’s vote, BOP organized a week of action, calling on the community to post videos on social media in support of police-free schools, contact board members directly to encourage them to support the safety plan, and prepare public comments for the meeting. During the meeting, community members spoke out in support of BOP’s plan.

BOP is happy that Phase 1 of their safety plan has been adopted by the Board but wants OUSD to remove the remaining OSPD officers and the Chief as soon as possible, as the District has not stuck to the original timeline for police removal that the George Floyd Resolution originally set.

“The goal is to have police off campus,” said BOP Organizing Director Jessica Black. “But we feel the community was undermined because they were supposed to be out now, not later.”

OUSD has extended OSPD Chief Jeff Godown’s contract by 90 days. OSPD officer’s contracts are set to expire on January 11, 2021. Through the George Floyd Resolution, the Board instructed OUSD to terminate these positions by December 31 of this year.

In an interview with The Oakland Post, District 5 Board Director Roseann Torres, who helped write the George Floyd Resolution, said directly terminating OSPD officers and the chief were “not within the board’s purview” as the terminations require action from OUSD, not the board. Torres speculated that the process has been delayed by the pandemic.

The District said it needs more time to eliminate the department.

“The District is well on the way to eliminating the police department, but there are parameters within which the District must work to complete this task,” said OUSD Communications Director John Sasaki when asked why OSPD has not been shut down yet. “A police department, even one the relatively small size of the Oakland Schools Police Department, cannot be shut down overnight.”

BOP also wants more community involvement in dealing with safety in schools, including input from teachers and students and plans to include that involvement in Phase 2 of their safety plan.

“Instead of top down we need [school safety] to come from the bottom up,” said Black. “We are the ones who keep us safe, and it’s going to take the parents, the students, the teachers, the community members and administrators to make it work.”

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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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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.

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Activism

President Biden, You Must Do More to Protect Voting Rights

I was proud to work hard for the election of President Joe Biden. And I was proud to protest outside the Biden White House on Aug. 24. 

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Joe Biden and Kamala Harris/ Featured Web

I was proud to work hard for the election of President Joe Biden. And I was proud to protest outside the Biden White House on Aug. 24. 

Along with other voting rights activists, including our co-organizers at the League of Women Voters, I called on President Biden to do more to protect voting rights under attack from Republican state legislators all across the country.

President Biden knows what the problem is. He needs to do more to solve it.

We all know how Republicans have responded to President Biden beating former President Donald Trump: by trying to rig future elections in Republicans’ favor. 

In state after state, they have used Trump’s false claims of voter fraud to justify new laws that make it harder for some people to vote. President Biden has correctly called this a threat to our democracy.

President Biden has called on Congress to pass the For the People Act, which would overturn many of the new restrictions and keep billionaires from buying our elections. 

And he has called on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would give the Justice Department the power to prevent future discriminatory voting changes from taking effect.

President Biden now needs to back up those words with stronger actions. Senate Republicans have already used filibuster rules to block the For the People Act. Now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is getting ready to use the filibuster to block the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as well.

Senators using filibusters to protect state voter suppression laws takes us back 60 years. In fact, I just saw a guy who works for a big right-wing think tank complain that these federal voting rights bills are “an invasion of state sovereignty.”

Well.

Early in my career, I worked for a crusading Black community newspaper in Mississippi. A paper that survived multiple fire bombings. I think about that ugly history when I hear the phrase “state sovereignty” used to defend restrictions on voting.

As I told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow after the White House protest, I fear that President Biden believes he is called to be an FDR for this moment, when he is actually called to be the LBJ of this moment. 

When President Johnson was faced with intense opposition to federal civil rights and voting rights laws, he used every bit of his persuasive power and knowledge of the Senate to overcome those obstacles.

Like President Johnson, President Biden is a master of the Senate. We have seen him build support for an infrastructure bill. Rebuilding roads and bridges is important. But not as important as saving our democracy.

When they had the power, Senate Republicans changed filibuster rules so that Trump could pack the Supreme Court. 

Those rules are not sacred. They are not in the Constitution. They can be changed, and they must be changed to prevent Republicans from doing Trump’s bidding once more and blocking voting rights protections. Senate leaders have not yet built the support to make that change happen.

President Biden must publicly call on Senate Democrats to do what they need to do—remove the filibuster as an obstacle to voting rights protections. That is why I stood at the White House fence with League of Women Voters CEO Virginia Kase-Solomon and all of the organization heads, faith leaders and young elected officials demand that Biden do his job.

At the White House we were blessed by the presence of prophetic religious voices who reminded us that we are part of an honorable history and sacred struggle for voting rights.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism invoked the names of murdered civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, “two young white Jewish men and a young Black Christian man who gave their lives for the right to vote.”

Rev. Timothy McDonald, co-chair of People For the American Way’s board, also grounded our protest in the history of voting rights struggles. “This fight is not a new fight,” he said. Rev. McDonald promised, “We will come back again and again and again, until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Amen.

We and our allies across the country are building a broad direct-action campaign with a profoundly moral purpose. Mr. President, it is time to show faith with the voters who put you in office. It is time to lead.

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