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Crime

Why I Went to Jail on October 5

Sometimes friends have to hold friends accountable.

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Barbed Wire

Sometimes friends have to hold friends accountable. That’s why I got arrested outside the White House on October 5. I was there with other civil rights and religious leaders to call on President Joe Biden to do more to protect voting rights that are under attack.

We know that President Biden supports voting rights. He has called anti-voting laws being passed by Republican state legislators the biggest threat to our democracy since the Civil War. We need him to act like he truly believes those words.

We need a federal voting rights law passed this year. More states are enacting voter suppression. They are abusing the redistricting process to rig future elections and give Republicans more power than they would win in a fair system.

They want to shut Democrats out of power in 2022 and 2024. They want to stop progress that millions of Americans voted for when we put President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the White House—and mobilized to elect Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

We have seen this before.

When Black people and their allies won political power after the Civil War, white supremacists used violence and illegitimate power to reverse that progress. State-level voter suppression was a core tactic of Jim Crow. The solution then, and the solution today, is strong federal voting rights legislation that will override those state laws and prevent new ones from taking effect.

The good news is that the legislation has been written. It has passed the House of Representatives and it has the support of every Democratic senator. If it gets to the White House, President Biden will sign it.

The bad news is that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues are using Senate filibuster rules to keep voting rights from coming up for a vote. This is 2021, not 1921. President Biden and Senate Democrats cannot let McConnell have the final word on voting rights in this country.

In the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson did not choose between civil rights and his anti-poverty agenda.

He knew the country needed both and he used his mastery of the Senate to get both passed.

That’s what we need from President Biden, who has more experience in the Senate than any president since Johnson. The infrastructure bill is vitally important. So is the Build Back Better agenda.

But we need the White House to devote the same level of urgency to the infrastructure of our democracy. President Biden must lead Senate Democrats in passing voting rights this year—and getting rid of the filibuster if it stands in the way.

We need strong, effective moral leadership both inside and outside the White House at this moment. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was a moral movement. It called on Americans to live up to their own ideals as well as to the promises in our founding documents.

It brought the public pressure that compelled LBJ to use the powers of his office to pass civil rights and voting rights legislation.

I was proud to stand outside the White House with so many religious leaders: a Catholic nun representing thousands of her sisters; a Jewish rabbi in whose organization’s office the original Voting Rights Act was drafted; Black Baptist and AME clergy taking their place in the Black church’s long legacy of working for justice. We were joined by representatives of secular social justice and voting rights organizations.

Rev. Timothy McDonald, who pastored in Martin Luther King’s church and who serves as the co-chair of People for the American Way, the organization I lead, led us in singing and prayer and brought powerful words of truth.

I choked up a bit with gratitude for their leadership, and with gratitude for all the members of the movement, including members of my own family, who risked their lives over the years to secure the right to vote for all Americans.

Before I was arrested and spent the night in jail, I delivered a message to President Biden: When the president of the League of Women Voters is willing to risk arrest, when pastors in Dr. King’s lineage are willing to risk arrest, when Catholic nuns are willing to risk arrest to call you to fulfill your promise to make voting rights a top priority, it is time to examine your moral conscience.

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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Black History

Freedom Summer, A Turning Point in The Civil Rights Movement

Devices used to deter voters included literacy tests and poll taxes, a fee that must be paid by Blacks in order to vote. And Mississippi led the pack, boasting the lowest number of Black registered voters: less than 7% of those who were eligible. These issues led to a 1964 voter registration drive aimed at increasing the number of registered Black voters in Mississippi. It was called Freedom Summer, also dubbed the Mississippi Summer Project.

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In June 1964 around 800 white, mainly middle-class northern students travelled to Mississippi to spend the summer working alongside veteran Black activists. It was a bold and creative attempt to advance the cause of civil rights and to force decisive action from the federal government. Courtesy of heroesofthecivilrightsmovement.org/chapter/freedom-summer
In June 1964 around 800 white, mainly middle-class northern students travelled to Mississippi to spend the summer working alongside veteran Black activists. It was a bold and creative attempt to advance the cause of civil rights and to force decisive action from the federal government. Courtesy of heroesofthecivilrightsmovement.org/chapter/freedom-summer

By Tamara Shiloh

It was 1964 and the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. Three years before, unforgettable history had been made: Freedom Riders (groups of white and African American civil rights activists who participated in Freedom Rides) traveled via bus throughout the segregated South fighting Jim Crow laws; and Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963. What took place then was called “progress.”

Still, the South remained segregated, especially at polling places. Blacks were abused, attacked, threatened, and some were killed when attempting to exercise their right to vote.

Devices used to deter voters included literacy tests and poll taxes, a fee that must be paid by Blacks in order to vote. And Mississippi led the pack, boasting the lowest number of Black registered voters: less than 7% of those who were eligible.

These issues led to a 1964 voter registration drive aimed at increasing the number of registered Black voters in Mississippi. It was called Freedom Summer, also dubbed the Mississippi Summer Project.

The project was organized by civil rights groups such as the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and run by the local Council of Federated Organizations. More than 700 volunteers (mostly white) joined Mississippi Blacks in the fight against voter intimidation and discrimination.

They, too, were met with the same level of violence, all perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan alongside some local and state law enforcement officers. Reports from the press drew international attention to America’s racist treatment of its Black citizens.

As the summer grew hotter, the violence escalated.

Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, white students from New York, and James Chaney, a Black man from Meridian, Miss., arrived in Philadelphia, Miss., on June 15. There, the trio was tasked to investigate a church burning. The arson was not resolved, and the three men had been kidnapped.

Six weeks later, their bodies were recovered: beaten and lynched by a Klan mob.

Public outcry mounted as the hunt for their killers began. Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney became nationally known. The press dubbed the crime “the Freedom Summer murders.”

Distrust crept in between white and Black volunteers and staff. There were 17,000 Blacks in Mississippi that summer attempting to register to vote. Sadly, only 1,200 were successful. Still, progress was made.

The project established 40-plus Freedom Schools serving 3,000 adults and children to read. National attention spurred by the press convinced then-president Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, squashing segregation in public places and banning all employment discrimination.

The violence of Freedom Summer eventually cooled, as did some relationships among those active within the Civil Rights Movement. Anger over the violence and deaths spurred a split: those who continued to believe in non-violence and those who had begun to doubt whether equality could be reached through peaceful means. After 1964, more militant factions would rise as the struggle for equality continued.

The events of Freedom Summer led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And still, the struggle continues.

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