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While the COVID-19 pandemic necessitates public health measures to reduce the impact of the virus on our communities and health care systems, the National Lawyers Guild urges vigilance and resistance to authoritarian and violent tendencies. Emergency powers often criminalize movement, freedom of expression, protest, and oppressed communities. Even though the state has severely restricted the right to assemble, people still find creative ways to protest.
While California Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered residents to shelter in place because of the COVID-19 virus, local Bay Area law enforcement agencies are continuing to expand their powers and resources. On March 24, the Vallejo City Council voted unanimously to purchase a cell site simulator for the Vallejo Police Department. On Tuesday, March 31, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to vote on a surprise $85 million additional budget allocation for Sheriff Department staff at Santa Rita Jail.
Demanding action for homeless families at higher risk from coronavirus, homeless and housing insecure families successfully moved into six vacant, state-owned properties in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles on March 14, with scores of community supporters coming out in support. In the next few days, similar families reclaimed more houses, with thirteen providing shelter now. CalTrans owns the houses, and activists estimate that nearly 200 sit vacant.
Sat Mar 21 2020 (Updated 03/26/20)
California on Coronavirus Lockdown
California residents have been ordered to "stay at home" to suppress the spread of COVID-19. Stringent mitigation measures mean millions are without an income. Students face the possibility of going hungry. Curbside communities and incarcerated persons are especially at risk for contracting the virus. The stress and isolation of the pandemic take a toll on mental health. Not waiting for government action, people are stepping up with mutual aid efforts to assist those most in need.
Thu Mar 12 2020 (Updated 03/22/20)
COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens Most Vulnerable Populations
The World Health Organization officially named COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. As of that date, over 128,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide and 4,717 people have died (updated statistics). Among the most vulnerable are the elderly, the immunocompromised, the prison population, people who are experiencing homelessness, and hospital workers who have a high likelihood of exposure to the contagious virus as they care for the public health.
Santa Cruz City Councilmember Drew Glover faces attack after attack by City Staff and other City Councilmembers. Several members of the Commission for the Prevention of Violence Against Women (CPVAW) have continued their attacks on Glover by filing a complaint on behalf of former CPVAW Commissioner Kevin Grossman, regarding a Facebook post by Glover. Also, Councilmembers Donna Meyers and Martine Watkins are continuing to seek Drew's censure, even after a video has circulated clearly showing Councilmember Meyers screaming at Councilmember Glover and pounding her fist loudly on the council dais.
On February 28, the Westlands Water District signed a permanent water repayment contract with the Bureau of Reclamation to provide Central Valley Water Project water in perpetuity to the growers in the powerful, politically-connected water district on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta, stated, “At a time of unprecedented climate changes and droughts we should not be circumventing the law and promising by federal contract far more water than actually exists to one large irrigation group at the expense of others.”
Thu Feb 27 2020 (Updated 02/29/20)
Saranap Development Will Destroy Old-Growth Oak Trees
On February 25, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors doomed an old-growth grove of oak trees, and an easement trail, by deciding in favor of real estate moguls Tambri Heyden and David Montalbo. Despite opposition, the developers have been given the green light to proceed in the unincorporated community of Saranap, located between Lafayette and Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County. In their way stands a grove of old-growth oak trees. Also, at issue is the possibility of Indigenous remains and cultural artifacts on the site. However, it is not too late to stop the construction if people act up and speak out.
Thu Feb 27 2020 (Updated 02/29/20)
Corruption in the Fresno Police Department Runs Deep
Mike Rhodes reports: My first history lesson about Fresno’s corrupt underbelly was in the late 1990s when I read Mark Arax’s book "In My Father’s Name." It is a great book about Arax’s search for the killer of his father, which dives deep into Fresno’s interesting but corrupt past. Arax, writing for the Los Angeles Times, quoted Larry Miller, a retired federal agent who busted numerous Fresno bookies with connections to the Fresno Police Department in the 1960s. “It was a rotten town with a rotten police force and the citizens didn’t mind. Their indifference was practically suffocating.”
In the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of Trump that concluded with an acquittal on February 5, Republicans senators refused to let people with direct knowledge of Trump's behavior testify. Trump's defense attorneys asserted that a President could do whatever benefited him personally if he thought it was in the public interest. The same day Trump was acquitted, protesters in the Bay Area and across the country hit the streets and called out the trial out as a “hoax," “sham,” and “fake," using some of Trump's favorite words to describe events that don‘t accord with his notions.
Tue Jan 14 2020 (Updated 01/18/20)
Protesters Hijack Facebook's Giant "Like" Sign
Critics say that Facebook is leading its 2.7 billion users down a dark road into an information environment filled with dishonest propaganda. On January 9, activists demonstrated both outside and on the property of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. The words "Fake News Real Hate" and other slogans were projected on to Facebook's giant thumbs up "like" sign to call out the platform's political ad policy, which allows for paid advertisers to deceive the public.
In September of 2019, the Mountain View City Council passed a sweeping ban that would close off most streets in the city to "oversized vehicles." Two days before Christmas, many RV dwellers got news that brought hope that they might be able to keep their mobile homes in the city, where most of the adults are employed. A referendum petition successfully collected enough signatures to overturn the Mountain View ban on RV’s. If the council wishes to try again to enact a ban, they must go to the voters. The earliest date for such an election would be November 2020. Meanwhile, there is no ban on RV's parked curbside in the city.
Sun Dec 29 2019 (Updated 01/01/20)
Mothers Fight to Keep Their West Oakland Home
On November 18, unsheltered mothers claimed possession of a vacant investor-owned property in West Oakland. After receiving an eviction notice, Moms for Housing declared that they intended to remain in their new home and petitioned the courts to allow them to stay. Wedgewood refuses to negotiate with the moms on a sale backed by the Oakland Community Land Trust. At the latest court hearing on December 30, the judge did not issue a ruling, but might any day. Separately, Moms for Housing pushed back against a public relations ploy by Wedgewood — using affiliated Los Angeles nonprofit Shelter 37 to soften the company's image as it attempts to evict the moms.
Sun Dec 29 2019 (Updated 01/31/20)
Oakland Jails 22 Housing Justice Protesters
On November 24, what was to be known as the Housing Justice Village began to take shape in Oscar Grant Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall. Housed and unhoused activists set up a number of tents on the grassy lawn to protest the city's never ending war against the homeless: demolitions, evictions, and tows of residential vehicles. In a political show of force, the city of Oakland directed a small army of police to mass arrest and jail 22 of the demonstrators on what would otherwise be a citable infraction. On December 2, arrestees held a press conference to address the city's attack and why they protested in the first place.
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