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Tentative Plans to Relocate Unhoused Union Point Residents Up in Air After Oakland’s Homeless Liaison Steps Down

“We’re trying to figure out solutions to make it better for any and everybody that comes into situations like this,” said Deanna Riley, who has lived at Union Point Park for two years.

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Unhoused residents (left to right) Matt Long, Deanna Riley, and Edward Hanson stand behind a barricade at Union Point Park. Photo by Zack Haber on February 28

As the City of Oakland has stated intentions to relocate unhoused residents living in Union Point Park in East Oakland, some residents say they will refuse to move unless they can receive a new place to live where they can have independence and services for survival. 

“We’re trying to figure out solutions to make it better for any and everybody that comes into situations like this,” said Deanna Riley, who has lived at Union Point Park for two years.

Riley said she became homeless when her husband passed away shortly after listing himself as head of the household of their section 8 housing and she got evicted. She lives in an RV at Union Point, where she and other residents in similar situations have access to bathrooms and water. Currently, about 15 people live there.

But their stay at Union Point Park is tenuous. The park borders the waters of the Brooklyn Basin and is under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). On Dec. 2, 2019, BCDC sent the City of Oakland a violation report accusing Oakland of failing to “make the area accessible for public purposes such as walking…fishing, and picnicking.” On Oct. 15, 2020, BCDC sent a cease and desist order to the City ordering them to clear residents living at the park by February 12.

On February 5, the City posted notices saying they intended to clear the park on February 9-11. On the eviction days, some residents living at the park decided not to leave. Protestors, some of whom were members of the grassroots anti-gentrification organization The United Front Against Displacement (UFAD), supported them. Residents and activists built a barricade of debris and unwanted materials to slow the eviction effort, held signs, and chanted.

“The City of Oakland was unable to fully implement the closure of the park using the methods and resources that Oakland Public Works, Oakland Human Services, and the Oakland Police Dept. regularly use to complete such a closure due to ongoing demonstrations,” Karen Boyd, Oakland’s citywide communications director, told The Oakland Post in an e-mail about the attempted eviction. She added that the City is now “working with the individuals present to achieve a productive resolution,” and that BCDC had extended their deadline for the City to evict residents until March 12.

The Oakland Post spoke with eight residents in the park who said they would only leave if the City provided them with six-core demands: new land to move to that they can use long term and independently, trash services, water hookups, electricity, room to store their possessions and bathrooms. 

“We want a solution that is not just a stop-gap measure,” said Matt Long, who lives in a self-made home in the park. “We want something that will allow us to set up our community and dig in some roots and feel comfortable.”

The City has recently successfully relocated one family who used to live at Union Point into a hotel room. But other residents living at the park said such options have not been made available to them. Instead, the City has offered stays in Oakland’s “Tuff Shed” programs which are operated by non-profits. The City refers to the collections of 10-by-12 foot structures as “community cabins.” Residents feel the “community cabin” land is not theirs to fully use at those programs as residents of the program cannot cook food, have visitors in their unit, have enough space to store their possessions, or come and go when they want or need to. Riley said she used to live in the program but had to leave when she took a night job because the program did not recognize her as living in her unit when she did not sleep inside it at night.

On February 9 to 11, Oakland Homelessness Administrator Daryel Dunston met with Union Point residents and some of their supporters in the UFAD to look at different plots of nearby land that residents could possibly relocate to. On February 11, Adam Garrett-Clark, who runs an LLC called Tiny Logic which specializes in organizing tiny communities, said that Dunston contacted him about collaborating with the City and residents to possibly create a “co-governed encampment.” Garrett-Clark has researched co-governed models for five years, including staying for three days in Opportunity Village, a city-sanctioned co-governed tiny home community in Eugene, Ore.

Garrett-Clark said “the key distinction” between co-governed models and how cities generally operate shelter programs “is removing the paternalistic impulse that usually comes when governments give people housing resources.” He thinks co-governed models place more dignity and trust in the individuals they serve and calls them a “response to the shelter system” where residents can have more power to control the day-to-day operations of the spaces they live in. Residents say they discussed moving to a co-governed encampment model with Dunston, who was supportive and encouraging of the idea.

Although the model has not yet been tried in Oakland, Garret-Clark said Dunston had expressed interest in it repeatedly, stretching back to the summer of 2019, when they discussed collaborating to apply the model to a community of unhoused people who lived near Wood Street in West Oakland. 

    Part of Garrett-Clark’s desire to get involved comes from the hope of gaining legitimacy and stability to a West Oakland tiny home community he currently operates where his 62-year-old mother lives with five other people. The community has existed for over five years. He said the City is asking for $9,000  in fines due to the tiny homes not being sanctioned on the land where the community sits, even though he rents the land the homes sit on from a landlord.

Garrett-Clark met with a few residents at Union Point after Dunston reached out to him, leaving them optimistic about a possible collaboration with Tiny Logic. On February 11, residents and Dunston identified a small plot of nearby public land, measuring about 12,000 square feet, near the corner of 23rd Avenue and East 11th street, that they were discussing as a possible site to move to. Then on February 26, Oakland’s City Administrator Ed Reiskin, announced in an e-mail that Dunston will leave his job with the City on March 8.

Dunston has not responded to The Oakland Post’s repeated requests for comment on this story. The announcement of his departure from the City has left residents unsure of what will become of their discussions to start a co-governed encampment, as neither Dunston, residents or Garrett-Clark agreed to any formal contracts for a relocation or services related to it. 

Despite Dunston’s absence and no formal agreement, communications director Boyd said the City plans to pursue a co-governed model with residents. In an e-mail to The Oakland Post, Boyd claimed the City is working to “identify partners” and that “there are a number of parcels [of public land] that are being considered…to implement a co-governed encampment pilot.” But she also did not respond to direct questions about collaborating with Tiny Logic or utilizing the public land near 23rd avenue and East11th street.

“[Dunston] talked a big game of what the City could do for people, but he said a lot of things he couldn’t follow up on,” said Adam Wurtz, of the UFAD. Wurtz has organized with residents at Union Point since last October to help support them in securing demands in the event of an eviction. 

    Both he and resident Matt Long claim that Dunston discussed securing $200,000 in City funding for relocating and re-establishing the Union Point community. But he has not been in contact with residents or activists since his announced plans for departure. City Administrator LaTonda Simmons is set to take on Dunston’s role until the City finds a permanent replacement, but activists and residents say she has not been in contact with them either.

Residents say they no longer see clear indications that the City will pursue a co-governed model. Some residents are planning to resist until their demands are met. The UFAD and residents have been meeting weekly since the start of this year to organize around such a resistance. Wurtz says he has been “excited and inspired by how residents have believed in their ability to fight.” He and the residents both claim that if they secure demands from the city in this situation, it will be easier for others to do so in the future.

“We’re not just trying to address the homeless situation for ourselves,” said Edward Hanson, who has lived at Union Point for over 10 years,  “but the homelessness situation period.”

Although the city has not formally announced an eviction day, BCDC’s order states that it would be possible for them to find the City $6,000 per day if residents remain on site. Due to the threat of fines, and the fact that BCDC has only extended its deadline to the City until March 12, residents think the City will attempt to evict them soon. 

    In a meeting with BCDC on February 24, Dunston told BCDC officials that residents would voluntarily leave by February 26 and the City would clear remaining debris starting on March 3. But residents still remain onsite and debris, much of which has again been organized in a barricade at the park’s entrance, has not been collected. 

    Unless the City gives into residents core demands of new land to move to that they can use long term and independently, trash services, water hookups, electricity, room to store their possessions, and bathrooms some residents plan to refuse to leave.

“I’m going to resist,” said Deanna Riley. “I’m not going nowhere. When [the eviction] goes down they’re gonna have a fight.”  

 

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Activism

“A Time to Reflect and Rejoice”: Black Caucus Members Commemorate Juneteenth on Assembly Floor

On June 17, two days before Juneteenth, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) delivered remarks on the Assembly floor commemorating the national holiday and its significance in American history.
ACR 192, introduced by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), aims to honor, and reflect on the emancipation of African Americans from chattel slavery and honor their contributions throughout America’s history.

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Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) speaking on the California Assembly Floor.
Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) speaking on the California Assembly Floor.

By California Black Media

On June 17, two days before Juneteenth, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) delivered remarks on the Assembly floor commemorating the national holiday and its significance in American history.

ACR 192, introduced by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), aims to honor, and reflect on the emancipation of African Americans from chattel slavery and honor their contributions throughout America’s history.

Speaking on the Assembly floor, Jones-Sawyer said the resolution is the CLBC’s annual commemoration of Juneteenth as “Freedom Day.”

“Two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the bell of freedom rang true for over 3 million Black Americans, marking the beginning of the fight to secure the freedom of those still enslaved and provide fair and equal treatment for the formerly enslaved,” Jones-Sawyer said.

“Juneteenth is a time to reflect and rejoice for all the work it took to reach this point, as well as a reminder that true equality is not accomplished overnight,” he added. “While there have been great strides to acknowledge and address the history and plight of Black Americans, society, as a whole, still has a long way to go. Juneteenth is an opportunity to educate all communities that we may not repeat injustices and abuses committed in the past.”

The resolution particularly highlights how Black Americans have helped enrich American civic life through their steadfast commitment to promoting unity and equality.

Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), also a member of the CLBC, spoke on behalf of the Women’s Caucus in support of Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 192, the California Legislature’s resolution acknowledging the federal holiday and celebrating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery.

Weber highlighted that African Americans won their hard-won freedom after providing free labor illegally for two-and-a-half more years in Texas.

Weber shared the story of Opal Lee, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.”  Lee is among numerous civil rights activists and leaders who campaigned for decades for June 19th to be recognized as a federal holiday.

Lee traveled around the country educating people about Juneteenth and led walks each year commemorating Juneteenth before it was federally recognized.

At 89, Lee led a symbolic walk, said Weber, from her hometown of Ft. Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., leaving in September of 2016 and arriving in January of 2017.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 and Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2024 for her activism.

“Lee represents the millions of women throughout the history of this country who have worked tirelessly to ensure that our history is not erased, reframed nor ignored,” said Weber.

Other lawmakers who recognized Juneteenth on the Assembly floor included Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Chair of the CLBC; Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-Colton), chair of the California Legislative Latino Caucus; Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno); Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-San Bernardino), chair of the California Native American Legislative Caucus; and Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), also a member of CLBC.

“It is a call-to-action for all Californians to interrogate the systems that keeps others in bondage,” said Wilson.

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60th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act: Reflecting on Progress and Persistent Challenges

As the United States commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the nation reflects on a transformative law that reshaped American society by prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The landmark legislation emerged from a period of intense struggle and demand for the fulfillment of the 14th Amendment’s promise of “equal protection of the laws.”

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The landmark legislation emerged from a period of intense struggle and demand for the fulfillment of the 14th Amendment’s promise of “equal protection of the laws.” Above, protesters from the March on Washington in 1963. NNPA file photo.
The landmark legislation emerged from a period of intense struggle and demand for the fulfillment of the 14th Amendment’s promise of “equal protection of the laws.” Above, protesters from the March on Washington in 1963. NNPA file photo.

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire

As the United States commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the nation reflects on a transformative law that reshaped American society by prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The landmark legislation emerged from a period of intense struggle and demand for the fulfillment of the 14th Amendment’s promise of “equal protection of the laws.”

Due to widespread opposition to desegregation and the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, President John F. Kennedy urged Congress to pass a comprehensive civil rights bill in June 1963. After Kennedy’s death, President Lyndon B. Johnson, with crucial support from civil rights leaders Roy Wilkins and Clarence Mitchell, championed the bill’s passage.

On July 2, 1964, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law prohibited discrimination in hiring, promoting, and firing, extending these protections to public accommodations and federally funded programs. It also strengthened the enforcement of voting rights and mandated the desegregation of schools.

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the nation’s benchmark civil rights legislation, and it continues to resonate in America,” said Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. The Act dismantled “Jim Crow” laws upheld by the 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which had deemed racial segregation constitutional under the “separate but equal” doctrine.

The Act’s impact has been profound and far-reaching. “It propelled a movement that was able to make major civil rights gains,” stated Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. “It has not only changed the arc for Black people. It has changed the arc for women and for other people of color in a profound way.”

Maya Wiley, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, highlighted the tangible benefits of the Act, particularly in healthcare and education. “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 added years, literally about three to four years, onto the life expectancy of Black people when healthcare had to open its once-segregated doors,” Wiley explained. The Act also significantly reduced segregation in Southern schools, benefiting both Black and white students.

Despite these advancements, the 60th anniversary comes amid concerns over recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings perceived as eroding civil rights protections, including affirmative action, legalized abortion, and diversity initiatives. Critics argue that the Court’s favorable ruling in former President Donald Trump’s immunity case further threatens American democracy. The ruling, which rejected Trump’s sweeping immunity claim but maintained protections for actions tied to presidential duties, has sparked intense debate about the boundaries of presidential power and accountability.

“Securing our civil rights remains the unfinished fight of our time,” President Joe Biden said in a proclamation commemorating the anniversary. “Our country is still facing attacks on some of our most fundamental civil liberties and rights, including the right to vote and have that vote counted and the right to live free from the threat of violence, hate, and discrimination. That is why my administration is remaining vigilant—fighting actively to protect the rights of every American.”

Biden emphasized his commitment to reversing the legacy of segregation and creating new opportunities for all Americans. “My administration is investing more money than ever in Black families and Black communities,” Biden asserted. “We are reconnecting historic business districts and neighborhoods cut off by old highways, redlining, and decades of discrimination and disinvestment. We have invested over $16 billion in historically Black colleges and universities, which will help raise the next generation of Black leaders. At the same time, we are creating good-paying jobs on which people can raise a family; making capital and loans for starting small businesses and buying homes more accessible; and making health insurance and prescription drugs more affordable.”

In popular memory, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was seen as a legislative response to the demands of the March on Washington. “Sixty years later, we must be honest: the federal minimum wage, indexed for inflation, is lower than it was in 1964,” said Rev. William Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. “What’s more, because the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in its 2013 Shelby decision and Congress has failed to remedy it, we have less voting rights protections today than we did on August 6, 1965.”

Barber continued, “The celebration of historic wins alongside this egregious decay is a source of discontent among everyday Americans. But we have no time for despair. We are determined to channel discontent for a resurrection rather than an insurrection.”

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Oakland Post: Week of July 3 – 9, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of July 3 – 9, 2024

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