Oakland Police Commission Addresses Black Lives Matter
As the Black community and its allies collectively heal, come together, and take action, it is important to have conversations regarding police brutality and its prevalence upon the Black community. Police brutality is the abuse of power that comes in the forms of blunt physical, emotional, and mental abuses inflicted unnecessarily upon citizens and individuals. Because of racial profiling and unconscious biases, Black individuals are disproportionately the greatest targets of police brutality.
After the killings of a number of unarmed Black individuals at the hands of police officers, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Tony McDade, protests have sprung up in different states in the United States and around the world. The Black community and its allies have had enough killings of Black individuals and lack of accountability for police officers and policing in the United States. They are now demanding the United States, its citizens, and its institutional systems prioritize Black lives and the ending of systemic racism in all forms with immediate action to the policing system that kills innocent Black lives.
Amid all this action around Black Lives Matter, the community of Oakland has come together to hold the Oakland Police Department (OPD) accountable with protests, demonstrations, walks, and various other forms of protest. On Saturday June 6th many gathered for a protest from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, down 12th Street leading to Lake Merritt as shown to the left. On this same day, California Highway Patrol (CHP) killed another unarmed, Latino man, Eric Salgado, forty times. Following these events, the Oakland Police Commission, a group of individuals who are supposed to oversee OPD and its practices, held a Zoom conference to hear from Oakland citizens.
The Zoom conference was introduced and led by the chair, Regina Jackson, who reiterated the commission is there to “listen” before she gave the floor to hear from youth organizers, Akil Riley and Xavier Brown. As they reflected on the recent murders, they encouraged youth organizers to unite and take action. Riley posed the question, “How does the police receive more funding than education” to which he ended saying, “Defund OPD”. It is clear that youth want and are demanding OPD to radically change the way they police Black individuals and others for the sake of the Black community in Oakland.
This was the shared sentiment all around as individuals ranging in age demanded OPD be defunded and held accountable for the harm inflicted on innocent and unsuspecting citizens. Ava, a white ally living in Oakland, demanded they start the process to abolish OPD to “get rid of killer cops”. Katarina, age fifteen, demanded OPD be defunded and asked the Oakland Commission to “stop giving them [OPD] the power to hurt people”. A senior at Berkeley High School said, “Citizens are expected to react calmly to terrorizing whereas police can act with impulse in response to peace” when demanding OPD be defunded. A second grade teacher called wanting Oakland to be a safe place for her Black students to grow up.
Although I could not attend the entire Zoom call, I think this conversation must continue to happen at a policy level. There were 500 people listening in on the conference; this movement is challenging America to make a radical change to the way racism intercedes into systems of oppression. I am glad the Police Commission was able to navigate Zoom online as this work must continue to be shared in all platforms. Excuses will no longer be accepted. I hope the Oakland Police Commission seriously considers defunding OPD. As some youth addressed in their comments towards the commission, the money that is allocated to OPD and results in the terrorizing of Black people can be better spent on resources that address trauma and spaces for the Black community to focus on growth.
Genesis believes Black lives matter. Genesis believes police brutality has greatly impacted the Black community and there must be social and institutional changes made so that Black lives do matter in every space. We at Genesis will continue to support this movement with constant educating, reflecting, donating, and protesting and hope Genesis supporters and allies do the same. We will fight until Black Lives Matter is important to police officers and policing, legal policy and procedures, and the entirety of the United States.