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Settlement Reached for Protesters Who Sued Alameda County Over Jail Conditions

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Four women who sued Alameda County over unhygienic and humiliating conditions at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin reached a $130,000 settlement with the county on August 1. 

 

Plaintiffs Anne Weills, Tova Fry, Alyssa Eisenberg and Mollie Costello were arrested in February 2014 while protesting in Oakland. They and other protesters were drawing attention to the death of Alan Blueford, who was shot and killed by an Oakland police officer in 2012.

 

“We were demanding Kamala Harris investigate the deaths of young Black and Brown men by local police departments,” said Weills, who was acting as a legal observer when the California Highway Patrol arrested the women on suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing.

 

The four women were then taken to Santa Rita Jail, where they said they experienced conditions both humiliating and biohazardous.

 

“In the back of the cell was an overflowing toilet with feces and blood. To the left of the toilet was a pile of bloody clothes from women who were menstruating, and there was old food left out,” Weills said.

 

“[Deputies] also demanded that we take off our outer garments… and to the left and right of us were two holding cells where at least 10 to 20 male prisoners could see us,” she said.

 

Policies adopted from the settlement now require curtains for female inmates at Santa Rita Jail to use during screenings, basic amenities like trash bags and menstrual pads for female inmates, and will improve training for deputies.

 

According to Weills, the jail will also now clean up the cells every hour. “There is going to be a log, and every shift has to be signed off. ‘Yes the cell is clean’ or ‘yes they have access to menstrual pads.’ There will be a level of enforcement through the logging.”

 

Weills and the other plaintiffs quickly sought legal recourse after their arrest to bring attention to and change the degrading conditions that women inmates face at Santa Rita Jail.

 

“We were a privileged class of women and we thought, ‘what do we have available to fight this so it doesn’t happen again to a less privileged class that experiences this week in and week out?’” she said.

 

Prior to reaching the settlement, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in June approved $116.9 million in upgrades to the Santa Rita Jail, including a new medical wing for improved healthcare and mental health services to inmates.

 

And just days after the lawsuit settled, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted on August 5 to end its contract with Corizon Health, which had provided medical care for Alameda County jails for nearly three decades.

 

According to the East Bay Times, Corizon laid off 63 nurses earlier this year after an $8.3 million settlement over the death of Martin Harrison, a 50-year-old Oakland resident who died in Santa Rita Jail.

 

The Times also reported a second lawsuit was filed in February by the family of 29-year-old Mario Martinez, who died at the jail of a severe asthma attack.

 

Shawn Wilson, Chief of Staff for Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, said he was unaware whether the decision to cut ties with Corizon had any direct relation to the case involving the four women at Santa Rita Jail, but that some supervisors had finally “had enough with Corizon and the number of complaints that had been cited.”

 

Weills sees things a bit differently.

 

“I think our case and these other cases are threatening (Sheriff-Coroner Gregory Ahern)’s control over the jail,” she said.

 

With the $130,000 settlement, the four women plan to distribute ‘know your rights’ pamphlets to inmates at the jail.

 

They also plan to set up a hotline run through The Alan Blueford Center for Justice in Oakland for women at Santa Rita Jail “who have stories to tell and questions to ask,” Weills said.

 

Bay Area

As Planned Robberies and Thefts Increase, Oakland Officials Grapple for Solutions

On Friday and Saturday evenings in Oakland, “roving caravans” targeted cannabis dispensaries, retail stores and pharmacies throughout Oakland. “At least two dozen businesses were impacted, mostly cannabis operations. Armed individuals exchanged gunfire with police and security guards.

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Councilmembers are saying funding has doubled for violence prevention measures like adding more violence interrupters.
Councilmembers are saying funding has doubled for violence prevention measures like adding more violence interrupters.

By Post Staff

Police and city officials are struggling to deal with a wave of organized smash-and-grab robberies, shootouts, home invasions, random drive-by shootings and muggings that swept across Bay Area cites over last weekend.

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong called the violent crime wave “unprecedented” and said his police force needs the help of elected officials to meet the challenge.

Armstrong said, “We will have tactical teams deployed throughout the city,” to increase safety over the holiday weekend.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the police chief’s boss, has been silent about how her office will step up.

In a video interview, Armstrong said, “What we’ve seen in Oakland is not much different than a lot of cities have seen in this Northern California region: roving robbery caravans, homicides and shootings.”

“We’re not going to tolerate this kind of activity in the City of Oakland. We are going to respond,” to be ready to deal with these roving gangs in the upcoming weekend, he said.

“These individuals who come to the city have been heavily armed, from all throughout the Bay Area,” Armstrong continued. “They are not just people from Oakland. They are groups of people coming to target communities. We will be prepared to address it. We will have extended staffing over the weekend to ensure there are enough resources to address the violent crime.”

After 11:00 p.m. roving caravans have targeted cannabis dispensaries, retail shops and pharmacies throughout the city of Oakland. At least two dozen businesses were impacted, most of them cannabis operations. Armed individuals were shooting at staff and others when they met resistance.

On Friday and Saturday evenings in Oakland, “roving caravans” targeted cannabis dispensaries, retail stores and pharmacies throughout Oakland. “At least two dozen businesses were impacted, mostly cannabis operations. Armed individuals exchanged gunfire with police and security guards.

Other organized groups of thieves targeted stores in San Francisco, Hayward and Walnut Creek.

On Sunday, robbers broke into a jewelry store in a Hayward mall, smashing glass cases and driving off with the valuables. In Walnut Creek, police urged businesses to close early after 80 thieves ransacked a Nordstrom last Saturday night.

In San Francisco, thieves broke into high-end stores in Union Square, including Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Burberry and Bloomingdale’s, stealing merchandise worth thousands of dollars.

Oakland City Councilmembers responded quickly to Chief Armstrong’s call for help.

They said they have called a special meeting on December 7 to discuss the violence and underscored their commitment to stopping the violence.

“Absolutely, we are all concerned, and I can attest to that from all councilmembers including the mayor as well, too,” said District 2 Councilmember Sheng Thao, quoted on KGO.

Thao and District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb called for restoring the violence reduction program, Ceasefire, back to where it was before the pandemic.

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan said the Council is already responding to the post-pandemic crime wave that is surging in many cities. She pointed to new laws to increase funding for tracing and cracking down on illegal guns.

Councilmembers are saying funding has doubled for violence prevention measures like adding more violence interrupters.

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Activism

Crime and Homelessness Reach an All-Time High

These depressing findings were recorded in a poll conducted by the Jobs and Housing Coalition (JHC) between October 16 and 18. They mark an all-time high in negative responses when Oakland residents are asked how they feel about the quality of their lives in Oakland and the direction of the city.

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The three most pressing issues that Oakland residents cited were homelessness and crime, which were virtually tied, and the cost of housing/rents which came in third place. No other issue was reported as a double-digit concern.
The three most pressing issues that Oakland residents cited were homelessness and crime, which were virtually tied, and the cost of housing/rents which came in third place. No other issue was reported as a double-digit concern.

Residents Want to Know What Can Be Done About It

By Paul Cobb

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of interviews with Greg McConnell who commissioned David Binder Research (President Obama’s polling firm) to find out the issues Oakland voters are concerned with.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Oakland residents feel that the quality of their lives has gotten worse over the past few years. Sixty-three percent (63%) feel that Oakland is headed in the wrong direction.

Greg McConnell

Greg McConnell

These depressing findings were recorded in a poll conducted by the Jobs and Housing Coalition (JHC) between October 16 and 18. They mark an all-time high in negative responses when Oakland residents are asked how they feel about the quality of their lives in Oakland and the direction of the city.

Negative opinion has reached a new high over the last 10 years according to David Binder Research.

This trend has been steadily rising since 2015, however, the trend erupted in a 10-point leap in negative responses – from 53% to 63% – since last June.

The three most pressing issues that Oakland residents cited were homelessness and crime, which were virtually tied, and the cost of housing/rents which came in third place. No other issue was reported as a double-digit concern.

David Binder

“It would be foolish to overlook the obvious,” said Greg McConnell, president and CEO of JHC. “People believe their quality of life is sinking, and the city is headed in the wrong direction. We cannot not ignore those feelings or dress them up to make them go away. So, our options are either to surrender the city to the current trend of negativity or turn things around.”

The question now, asked McConnell, is how do we turn things around? “The last thing we need are big speeches and proclamations. You fix big problems by focusing on the small parts. My recommendation is to get government working more effectively.”

“Oakland must start doing the small things well,” explained McConnell. “Take the homeless crisis for example. This problem will not be solved with lofty speeches. Addressing mental health and addiction issues must be done one day and one issue at a time. No one gets sober overnight. They build one day on another until they have 24 hours, then 30 days, then years.”

The same is true with shelter for the unhoused. Oakland will not build thousands of housing units in a day. They chip away at the problem by building new units every day until we have a sufficient supply. “Doing little things well will impact the big things greatly,” McConnell continued.

“There will always be big political decisions like whether to fund or defund police, but to make a city better, it’s what we do every day that will make a difference and improve life in Oakland”, said McConnell. “If we operate government like government is supposed to operate and if government focuses on small things day by day, resident negativity, depression, and pessimism will fade away.”

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Bay Area

OPINION: Is Travis Scott to Blame for Astroworld?

Festival seating is when the entire venue becomes a mosh pit. It’s a concert where there are no assigned seats, making it a Darwinian every-person-for-himself, go-at-your-own-risk event. The nightmarish, mad rush that occurred at NRG Park at Travis Scott’s hip-hop Astroworld on November 5 was a foreseen possibility, especially since the artist’s encouraging a crowd surge is part of his act.

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Already more than a dozen civil suits have been filed against the concert promoters, which includes Live Nation and Scott himself. Eight people were killed including Danish Baig, 27, born near Dallas, an Asian American Pakistani and a district manager for AT&T, who went with his fiancé to the show.
Already more than a dozen civil suits have been filed against the concert promoters, which includes Live Nation and Scott himself. Eight people were killed including Danish Baig, 27, born near Dallas, an Asian American Pakistani and a district manager for AT&T, who went with his fiancé to the show.

By Emil Guillermo

I grew up in the Bay Area and attended “Days on the Green” at the Coliseum. But I started going to rock concerts in earnest when I was a teenager in Houston. I had taken a gap year from college and was the all-night DJ on the biggest rock station in town. Whenever I saw “festival seating” on a ticket, I knew it was more than just a warning, but an invitation to disaster.

Festival seating is when the entire venue becomes a mosh pit. It’s a concert where there are no assigned seats, making it a Darwinian every-person-for-himself, go-at-your-own-risk event. The nightmarish, mad rush that occurred at NRG Park at Travis Scott’s hip-hop Astroworld on November 5 was a foreseen possibility, especially since the artist’s encouraging a crowd surge is part of his act.

In Houston, the crowd was so packed, witnesses described how they couldn’t move. Then someone would fall, and the domino pile would begin.

For some, it became an “I can’t breathe moment.”

Eight people were killed including Danish Baig, 27, born near Dallas, an Asian American Pakistani and a district manager for AT&T, who went with his fiancé to the show.

He didn’t expect to die in the crush of people as he tried to save his fiancé from being trampled.

“She was stomped on, hit, punched, horrendous things were happening to her that I don’t want to mention,” said Basil Mirza Baig, Baig’s brother, who was also at the concert. “My brother was trying to save her, and he did, he saved her, and it cost him his life.”

At this time no precise cause of death is given. But the family said it was from cardiac arrest suffered from the crush of people.

The fiancé survived. But Mirza, speaking at Baig’s funeral on Sunday wants answers.

“My brother was laying on the ground. They were chanting to stop the event. Nobody stopped the event,” Mirza said in an interview with Dallas news station WFAA. “In this horrendous event, people that were in it (who) took part in this event, Travis Scott’s team, the NRG team, everybody who was associated with this should be held accountable for the lives that were lost today. We’re grieving. We’re in pain.”

Mirza wants answers, not a Tweet, but real answers from Scott.

“He could stop a show for his shoe, but he couldn’t stop the show for people?” Mirza asked. Reports say Scott performed for at least another 30 minutes after an emergency had been declared. “It was upsetting and sad seeing people thrown left and right, stop, girls, guys, everybody, little kids,” Mirza described the scene. “This is not how you do it. You go to a concert to have fun. You don’t go to a concert to die.”

Already more than a dozen civil suits have been filed against the concert promoters, which includes Live Nation and Scott himself. This is not the first time for Scott, who has faced criminal charges related to inciting concert crowds in Arkansas in 2018 (guilty, disorderly conduct), and Chicago in 2015 (guilty, misdemeanor reckless conduct).

Live Nation, too, should have known better. When the word “festival” is on the ticket, there are no seats, forcing crowds to compete for a stage view, and then a fun night becomes Darwinian, the survival of the fittest.

That’s not entertainment.

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