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Restauranteur: Vandalism Undermines Black Lives Matter Message

Michelle Snider

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Wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap that says Oakland California, Chris Pastena’s appearance looks like he could be part of any protest like the one that passed the restaurant he operates. When he tried to stop a white woman from taking a bat to the restaurant’s door during a protest on Saturday night, a crowd of people attacked him. Another group of protesters stopped the attack. They had not realized he was a co-owner of the restaurant, Tribune Tavern, or that he owned it with his wife, who is Black.

“Who brings a bat to a protest?” said Pastena. 

In a Facebook post about the incident, Pastena wrote, “Dear white woman with a bat, you do not know the harm you do. You march in a righteous protest for BLM yet you choose to attack a business that is owned by a Black woman and employees almost all POC. You are in Oakland in a diverse community, any destruction that you do hurts POC. Do you care? Or is it your privilege not to care?”

The glass window door of Tribune Tavern shows broken glass after a woman with a bat hit the window during a protest on Saturday, July 25. Photo by Michelle Snider.

Pastena said the post was meant to start a difficult conversation about protests and the tactics used in recent protests, not only to destroy large corporate businesses and institutional buildings like Alameda County Superior Courthouse but have also taken a toll on small businesses as well.

Pastena’s concern is not just for the community at large but for his employees who are mostly POC and depend on his restaurant to financially survive. The business has already taken a hit due to COVID-19, and he does not want to have to shut down and let go of any of the staff members he and his wife employ.

“I don’t want to make it about me, or the Tavern or the building…It’s not about me. It’s about people who are doing things that take away from the issues at hand,” Pastena said. “It’s my job to provide a safe environment for my employees.”

The nighttime protest on July 25 was organized in response to Portland, OR ongoing BLM protests which have faced unidentifiable federal police agents arresting people and throwing them into unmarked vehicles. In response, groups like Wall of Moms and Dad’s with Blowers popped up to help the protesters.

Wall of Moms Bay Area organized the Oakland response protest on Facebook with Refuse Fascism Bay Area and Vigil for Democracy in order to march against federal agents coming to Oakland.  President Donald Trump said on July 20 he would send Federal agents to Oakland. While the protest drew in a large crowd, no federal agents appeared.

Pastena said most of the protesters were peaceful on Saturday night and stayed on message. It was not until the tail-end of the protest that he noticed a change in chants and direction.

This was not the first time he had a violent during a protest. A man kicked his foot throw a window that was already broken on May 29. Pastena said when he asked the man to stop the man swung and hit him on the chin and yelled, “We’re here to burn this mother-fucker down!”

Pastena said that has nothing to do with George Floyd or the message of Black Lives Matter. Pastena said for several nights after the late May protest, young white kids would walk up to him and ask him where they were. He said it showed him that many of the people showing up downtown at night were not from Oakland. He said one of them came up to him and asked him, “Where are the riots tonight?”

Pastena said he cares about the current movement and does not wish for protests to stop. After the May 29 protest that left much of downtown with broken windows and destroyed property, he and his friends came together and cleaned up the streets. He helped people set up areas to leave paint so art can be put on boarded windows.

He and his wife own several restaurants in Oakland, and they believe deeply in taking care of the community around them. They are working with World Central Kitchen to feed thousands of homeless people. Pastena said he even drained his bank account during the pandemic to cut checks for people he works with who could not get unemployment. “That’s all we care about, my wife and myself, she’s my partner in this, she’s my partner in life and partner in businesses. Without her, none of this happens.”

When it came to last Saturday’s protest he said, “There was this really nice protest happening. It felt like there was a lot of energy. As they walked around 13th, it seemed very positive…that’s what this is all about, positive change.”

There were about a thousand people who passed by in the protest he said, but as the crowd passed the energy changed. A smaller group at the end of the crowd wearing all black with white faces started throwing trash cans. That’s when he noticed a woman swinging a bat at the Tavern door. He yelled, “stop this is a small business,” she continued to swing the bat. He approached her to try and stop her again, unsure if she was trying to swing again at him or the door. He was in between her and the door mid-swing and pushed her. That’s when a crowd started to attack him.

“At that moment…all I was thinking about is, if I can’t open tomorrow, if I can’t provide a place for work tomorrow what happens to my staff? They need jobs right now. They need income. Their kids need to eat,” said Pastena. 

“Anarchy is fun” is spray-painted on the side of the Alameda Courthouse.

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D.C. Statehood is a Voting Rights Issue… and Racial Justice Issue

The disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents is fundamentally un-American and there is no good reason to allow it to continue.

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Washington, D.C. has a higher percentage of Black residents than any state in the country, and they have no voting representation in Congress. This is systemic racism in action. It is long past time to give Washington’s 712,000 residents the representation they deserve by making D.C. our 51st state.
It is shameful that people who live in the nation’s capital have no say in Congress. And it is unacceptable that local laws and budgets passed by D.C. elected officials can be overturned by members of Congress who decide to meddle in local decision-making. That explains why Washington, D.C.’s license plates include the slogan, “End taxation without representation,” a rallying cry by American colonists against the tyranny of British rule.
The disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents is fundamentally un-American and there is no good reason to allow it to continue. There are bogus reasons to oppose statehood, and some Republicans in Congress have been trotting them out now that legislation to admit Washington, D.C. as a statehood bill is moving forward in Congress.
Some claim that Washington, D.C. is too small to be a state. But D.C. has more residents than either Vermont or Wyoming. There are currently six states whose population is less than a million. D.C. pays more federal taxes than 21 states—and more federal taxes per person than any state.
Some make the false claim that it would require a constitutional amendment to make Washington, D.C. a state. Not true. The Constitution clearly gives Congress the authority to admit new states.
That’s how every one of the 37 states that were not initially part of the U.S. have joined the country. The original District of Columbia was created out of land from Maryland and Virginia. In 1846, a good chunk of D.C. was returned to Virginia. No constitutional amendment was required then, and none is required now to admit Washington, D.C. as a new state. Some objections are so idiotic, frankly, that they must be a cover for pure partisanship or worse.
In March, a Heritage Foundation legal fellow testifying before Congress said that D.C. residents shouldn’t get representation in Congress because they can already influence congressional debates by placing yard signs where members of Congress might see them on their way to work. One Republican congressman said (wrongly) that D.C. would be the only state without a car dealership. Another said that D.C. doesn’t have enough mining, agriculture, or manufacturing. Mitch McConnell said the plan to make D.C. a state was evidence of “full bore socialism on the march.”
At least some Republicans are honest about their real reason for opposing statehood:  they just don’t want to let D.C. voters elect Democratic officials who will support progressive policies supported by the majority of the American people.
But that is not a principled position. None of the objections to D.C. statehood hold water, especially when weighed against the basic injustice of disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people.
Washingtonians have fought in every U.S. war. About 30,000 D.C. residents are veterans. But D.C.’s mayor does not even have the ability that governors have to mobilize its own National Guard—a fact that proved to be deadly during the Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection.
The bottom line in this: how can we hold ourselves out as a model of democracy when we are the only democratic country in the world that denies representation and self-governance to the people who live in its capital? We can’t.
As the Biden administration recognized in announcing its support for D.C. statehood, it is long past time to correct this injustice. The House of Representatives voted on April 22, to admit Washington, D.C. as a state. Senate leaders must not allow filibuster rules or Republican resistance to prevent Congress from righting this wrong.

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MAYOR LONDON BREED NOMINATES CITY ATTORNEY DENNIS HERRERA TO LEAD THE SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION

As the new General Manager of the SFPUC, Herrera would bring decades of experience serving San Francisco residents and advancing the fight for significant environmental policies.

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San Francisco, CA — Today Mayor London N. Breed nominated City Attorney Dennis Herrera to serve as the next General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). Herrera was elected as City Attorney of San Francisco in 2001, and will bring decades of experience serving City residents and advancing environmental policies through his nationally-recognized office.
The SFPUC provides retail drinking water and wastewater services to the City of San Francisco, wholesale water to three Bay Area counties, green hydroelectric and solar power to Hetch Hetchy electricity customers, and power to the residents and businesses of San Francisco through the CleanPowerSF program.
“I am proud to nominate Dennis Herrera to serve as General Manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission,” said Mayor Breed. “Dennis has been a great champion in San Francisco across a wide range of issues from civil rights to protecting our environment, and most importantly he has been someone who always puts the people of this City first. By bringing his experience in office and his commitment to public service to this new position, I am confident the SFPUC will be able to deliver the high-quality services our residents deserve while continuing to advance nationally-recognized programs like CleanPowerSF and pursue ambitious efforts like public power. Dennis is the right leader for the hard-working employees of the SFPUC and this City.”
“I will always cherish the groundbreaking work we have done in the City Attorney’s Office over these nearly 20 years,” Herrera said. “We advanced equality for all, pushed affordable housing at every turn, gave our children better opportunities to grow and thrive, and took innovative steps to protect the environment. We never shied from the hard fights. Above all, our approach to government has had an unwavering focus on equity, ethics and integrity.”
“It is that focus that drives me to this new challenge,” Herrera said. “Public service is an honor. When you see a need, you step up to serve. The test of our age is how we respond to climate change. San Francisco’s public utility needs clean, innovative and decisive leadership to meet that challenge. I am ready to take the lead in ensuring that all San Franciscans have sustainable and affordable public power, clean and reliable water, and, overall, a public utility that once again makes them proud. I want to thank Mayor Breed for this unique opportunity to stand up for ratepayers and usher in a new era of clean leadership at the top of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.”
The next step for the nomination is for the five-member commission that oversees the SFPUC to interview City Attorney Herrera and forward him as a formal recommendation to the Mayor. After this, and once a contract is finalized, City Attorney Herrera would be officially appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Commission. This process will take a number of weeks.
For nearly two decades, Herrera has been at the forefront of pivotal water, power and sewer issues. He worked to save state ratepayers $1 billion during PG&E’s first bankruptcy in the early 2000s and has been a leading advocate for San Francisco to adopt full public power for years. In 2009, he reached a key legal agreement with Mirant to permanently close the Potrero Power Plant, San Francisco’s last fossil fuel power plant. The deal also included Mirant paying $1 million to help address pediatric asthma in nearby communities. In 2017, Herrera sued the top five investor-owned fossil fuel companies in the world, including ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, seeking billions of dollars for infrastructure to protect San Francisco against sea-level rise caused by their products, including large portions of the SFPUC’s combined sewer and stormwater system.
In 2018, Herrera defeated an attempt to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the crown jewel of the SFPUC system, which provides emissions-free hydroelectric power and clean drinking water to 2.7 million Bay Area residents. He is also leading efforts before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the courts to fight PG&E’s predatory tactics to grow its corporate monopoly by illegally overcharging public projects like schools, homeless shelters and affordable housing to connect to the energy grid.
Herrera was first elected City Attorney in December 2001, and went on to build what The American Lawyer magazine hailed as “one of the most aggressive and talented city law departments in the nation.”
Herrera’s office was involved in every phase of the legal war to achieve marriage equality, from early 2004 to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark rulings in June 2013. Herrera was also the first to challenge former President Trump’s attempts to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities. He repeatedly defeated the Trump administration in different cases as it sought to punish sanctuary cities, deny basic benefits like food stamps to legal immigrants, and discriminate in health care against women, the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable groups. He brought groundbreaking consumer protection cases against payday lenders, credit card arbitrators and others. He also brought pioneering legal cases to protect youth, including blocking an attempt to strip City College of San Francisco of its accreditation and getting e-cigarettes off San Francisco store shelves until they received required FDA approval.

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Leading Black Health Group that Sued FDA Responds to Agency Decision to Ban Menthol Cigarettes

For decades, the industry marketed menthols to our kids and communities with exploitative and discriminatory tactics.

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The African American Tobacco Leadership Council (AATCLC) released the following statement in response to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes, which follows the organization’s lawsuit filed against the agency last year: 

“[Thursday’s] decision by the FDA to ban menthol cigarettes is a long-overdue step toward ending years of racialized predation upon African Americans by the tobacco industry. 

    This decision follows the lawsuit we filed against the agency last year and it signals the beginning of the end. We are encouraged but there is still much work ahead.

     For decades, the industry marketed menthols to our kids and communities with exploitative and discriminatory tactics. As we work to confront racism and injustice in all forms, banning menthol cigarettes is one part of the push toward racial justice, health equity, and protecting Black lives. 

     While a ban on menthol cigarettes is progress, there is more work to be done to end tobacco use and protect the health of African Americans. The AATCLC will continue to fight for justice and health equity in our community. We will continue to work to educate the public about the harmful effects of tobacco on Black Americans and African immigrant communities to ensure we enjoy longer and healthier lives.”

      This statement was provided by Keisha N. Brown, president of Lagrant Communications.

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