Let’s Say it Together- Protest, Good-Vandalism & Violence, Bad #Oakland

The whole country now knows that on May 1st, our auto row was inexplicably attacked-were they rabid environmentalists, anti-oil-use radicals? Who knows? It was kinda gross though. Even more gross was the downtown KFC being attacked while it was still open because, what, they were saving chickens from factory farming? Once again the small group of masked merry-makers-merry at least in their own way-smashed lots of stuff, more than just windows, for their own purposes.

By the way, my Progressive friends, we cannot ignore that there were people eating inside that KFC. Were they bankers and corporate CEOS, seems unlikely. This has happened before in Oakland. Other businesses have been hit where people are either trying to make a living or just grab a bite.

So let’s not use the tired cliche that there were only broken windows, some of my best friends, well, colleagues whom I respect but disagree with on this issue, continue to throw this meaningless phrase around.

As a person who represents small businesses and once owned a shop on Grand Avenue, I’m highly attuned to the level of trust needed for someone to put their life savings and their hopes for the future onto a public sidewalk in the belief that, if not deserving of a profit, at the very least, their venture is deserving of respect for the effort. Being an entrepreneur is a respectable way of life and not all of them are greedy or self-absorbed.

I once said, rather glibly, that breaking a bank’s window didn’t bother me much and someone pointed out some problems with that logic: 1) the bank doesn’t care, doesn’t cost them anything really, 2) the little shop next to them is affected by the mess that it causes, and 3) if that bank leaves it windows boarded up, that little shop suffers indefinitely.

Okay, so we all know this and kinda disavow vandalism and violence-after all what do you call it when windows are broken while people sit inside?? So let’s say it. We are part of/or support the most important movement since the Civil Rights fights of the 50’s and 60’s, the #BlackLivesMatter movement which combined with organizing against income inequality is on the cusp of changing how Americans live-or has that potential. This moment is too important to mess up.

We in Oakland have a large role to play-we always have. I believe that many of the Millennials (often decried as hipsters) who are moving here, are also very interested in these movements and can be mobilized to join.

But, it’ll be hard to maintain our leadership position if we allow the power structure to define this as a morality play in which activists get to play the bad guys who dash the hopes of entrepreneurs who try and live their dreams much less hurt other demonstrators who want to join us. And even though that is NOT true, the average Oaklander doesn’t know this and we are losing the PR war.

Bottom line, it’s not a movement builder to allow folks in our ranks to destroy our own Town and threaten those who disagree with such tactics, much less beat up on journalists and photographers. Don’t we get outraged when police do that? I’m not implying that we have welcomed them but have we worked hard enough to prevent them from hijacking the message?

I’m also sick of the fine print, let’s banish it. No, declarations of intent to remain peaceful or not destroy property with fine print down further down that says we honor “diversity of tactics”; no, I don’t and I won’t be told to “not interfere” with these fools.

When I’m in a movement for freedom of speech and respect for the individual with disgust for militaristic tactics, I’m not about to abrogate my ability to act. I would no more do that than tolerate being interrogated before attending a city council meeting. Bullies are bullies no matter which side of the baton they’re on.

Most Oaklanders support organizing for #BlackLivesMatter, and we have to get them to differentiate the necessity of that movement succeeding with the ugliness of breaking windows where working folks are eating (and working for that matter.)

If we want to build a mass movement and not just a phony vanguard, we have to figure out how to stop the vandals and the provocateurs from running us out of our own movement.

In the same way it’s not okay for our elected leaders to reduce the commons to phony free speech zones, it’s not okay-it’s stupid, counterproductive and wrong for us to turn a blind eye to those who would reduce us to a caricature of revolution.

Affordable Housing Forum sponsored by Wellstone & BBBON

Press Advisory

Affordable Housing Forum, May 28th

Announcing the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club Meeting, co-sponsored by the Oakland Block by Block Organizing Network, this Thursday, May 28th at Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street between Broadway and Telegraph in Oakland, wheelchair access and more parking available on 28th Street.

There will be a potluck at 6. Please bring food to share. Club business including updates on political events in and around Oakland/Berkeley starts at 6:45-info on affordable housing legislation upcoming in Sacramento and possible club action, with the panel discussion to follow about 7:20pm.


Over a quarter of California renters are severely burdened by housing costs – defined as paying more than 50% of their income for housing. The mortgage meltdown has forced many from their homes and into the overheated rental market.

The panel will discuss what can be done locally and at the state level to reduce displacement, increase local and state funding for affordable housing and strengthen requirements for affordable housing in market rate developments.


Chris Jackson, CEO, Center for Economic Opportunity, ACCE, Oakland,
Sasha Hauswald, Senior Program Officer for Inclusionary Housing Policy, Cornerstone, Oakland,
Dr. Larry Rosenthal, Goldman School of Public Policy, Executive Director, Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, President, Board of Directors, Berkeley Food and Housing Project.


For more info-contact Pamela Drake, pamelaadrake@gmail.com or @bethpikegirl on twitter and instagram.

Mayor Libby Schaaf Takes a Wrong Turn

IMG_20150524_210616Last night I was very disappointed, even angry at our police department and new mayor, when the police took a hardline approach for the 2nd time this week with a peaceful group of highly disciplined demonstrators. Sadly,I had just started to feel the new mayor was on the right track in some areas. She appointed Sabrina Landreth as the new city administrator who was Mayor Quan’s budget director and helped us get through one of the worst budget periods in this city’s history.

Mayor Schaaf also appointed Claudia Cappio as the economic development director working on new retail projects with which she’s had lots of experience. She made one other move that surprised and heartened me in appointing Gary Malachi Scott, a young man I made a short video of for PUEBLO, who has real experience with restorative justice as her Measure Z rep.

I had heard her talk to business groups about preventing any more nights of destruction like that which happened to Broadway Auto Row-the remains of a once robust auto row, mostly now gone to the burbs and which generates high sales tax for the city-on the night of May Day. Fifty-seven cars had been damaged in one dealership alone that night and no one could explain why.

Schaaf thought she could reinterpret our crowd control policy to prevent night time vandalism by outlawing night time marches through downtown Oakland as the former cat and mouse strategy had not been working. Clearly, the police and her new administration were under tremendous pressure to find some solution to a problem that most Oaklanders had grown weary of, especially when it seemed to have no connection to recent local injustices; and in fact, moved the focus of protest away from current injustices.

Interestingly, Mayor Schaaf’s first instinct was to announce her decision, which she insists is not a new policy, to the media and the community but the police department discouraged her from going that route. Rather than obey her own political instincts which served her well during the election, she went with law enforcement’s analysis. That has turned out to be a huge mistake which may reverberate night after night unless she decides to fix it.

Police think about security first, policy much less citizen rights, are not their specialty, as those of us who have worked for social justice for decades learned long ago. That is not their job either. It is the policy makers job to determine the correct solutions and  and law enforcement’s job to implement them even when they don’t understand or agree. This tendency of Libby Schaaf’s should not surprise us. Though she talked little about her approach to public safety during the campaign, I remember what she did when the idea of a youth curfew came up on the council.

Noel Gallo had dredged up this old curfew idea but the council voted it down, again. When asked for Libby’s position, she replied that she had queried the chief and he said that it was not useful. So she voted against it on the basis that OPD did not particularly want it rather than on principles or data, or a combination of both.

I passed this off as election politics but now wonder if she really believes it’s appropriate for the chief to make these important policy decisions. The chief was right about this based on data, the size of our force, etc. But a mayor must have an understanding of how this kind of curtailment of activity becomes punitive in many of our communities and may lead to the expansion of the childhood to prison pipeline that Oakland youth are so familiar with. In other words, a mayor has to make political decisions based on the knowledge of a  wide breadth of how our community experiences law enforcement, schooling, and many other factors in high crime-impacted neighborhoods.

So now we’re in a situation in which the women of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the next stage in our long American struggle for Civil Rights, have been lumped in with the masked vandals who tear up our retail districts. Unfortunately, many Oaklanders have already conflated the two-they may be excused for not paying attention but the mayor should know better. It’s her job to know who is working for a better Oakland even if their strategies differ from hers.

These women and their partners in other organizations have helped jump start this new movement, indeed the hashtag, the rallying cry #BlackLivesMatter, started with them. Though OPD has come a long way, some of our residents still have reason to eschew the “assistance” of OPD and fear the officer in their rear view mirror. There’s no need to reiterate all the ways that fear affects folks’ lives, I hope; but we still have a ways to go before each community in Oakland feels comfortable working with their neighborhood police officers.

This mayor’s confused policy directive has reminded us of our unhappy past and its consequences and it may take us back there if she doesn’t act soon. Why has she not met with the representatives of this and other groups who seek to make positive change? It’s not too late to apologize for knowing so little about the folks she shut down last night and Thursday night. It’s not too late to admit an error or a wrong turn when struggling with a difficult situation in an atmosphere of distrust. But it will be soon. See you on the plaza tonight.

Artifical Intelligence and Film Critics or How to Imagine Better Movies

2015-05-04 11.04.28 From my review of Ex Machina on Rotten Tomatoes-

One reviewer suggests that when the lights come up, you might find yourself thinking about the true meaning of intelligence, yeah, but only as to whether all film criticism is the real answer to whether AI exists, that is, how to find meaning where none exists and no real character development has taken place, leaving the reviewer to conjure it artificially for the sake of his critique.

This movie had little plot, the twists were telegraphed-spoiler alert-you knew that young Caleb would not leave the lonely mountain range alive from the moment the helicopter landed there-and the music told you the rest. Thank god, because all the other stuff these reviewers imagined developed between these characters, the over achieving egoist, his pale techy antagonist and the cool and calculating female character, just didn’t happen.

The script leaped from one vague interaction to another with no connecting tissue, just some reviewer’s desire to find some kind of (well) hidden meaning in this otherwise useless exercise, ultimately,  in the difficulty of designing the perfect woman who can be controlled absolutely. Fortunately, the filmmaker failed there too.

Desperate for some escapism last week, I had seen the Age of Adaline which was mostly forgettable. There were a couple of things to draw the attention and displeasure of any viewer with a passing acquaintance of San Francisco in the way that they flubbed many of the identifying scenes-like the address on 18th Street which resembles no corner or view of that street in the Mission/Castro and the lions at the main library, a scene most probably filmed in Manhattan.

But, if you went just for the popcorn, you might have enjoyed a couple of moments watching the aging but still romantic countenance of Harrison Ford at his most vulnerable since Regarding Henry, an emotionally manipulative movie which I can’t help watching whenever it reappears on television.

Here’s hoping for a better movie-watching experience next week!