A town hall meeting seeking solutions to the “strained relations between law enforcement and our communities” was held Wednesday night, hosted by Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Black Elected Officials and Faith Based Leaders of The East Bay.
A large crowed turned out to listen and speak at the town hall, held at Beebe Memorial Cathedral at 3900 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.
Attending were public officials and leaders of police from various cities in the East Bay.
Some people raised concerns that many of the youth and organizations that have been participating and leading protests in the streets and blocking “business as usual” were not at the meeting.
One speaker who talked about solutions was Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, the young man who was killed by BART police at Fruitvale Station.
Officers should not be “living 40 or 50 miles away” but should be “living in the community where they work,” she said.
“Take off your uniforms and talk with people in the community,” she said. “(You) don’t know how young people act in the community.”
Police should have sensitivity training, said Johnson, reflecting a recurring demand raised by many speakers. “We who have lost loved ones, mothers like myself, should be able to go into the police stations and share our stories.”
She also supported another solution raised by many speakers, a citizens police oversight commission with teeth. The community has to be able to “police the police,” so that something is done about all the complaints that are received, she said.
Other demands raised by speakers: “Jail the killer cops;” “Overhaul or repeal the Police Bill of Rights,” which allows officers to hide from public scrutiny; and a demand for the right to peacefully protest – “These are our streets.”
“Those folks out there in the streets aren’t here in the room right now, and that’s a travesty,” said another speaker. “You can’t have a conversation without them.”
Others like activist Robbie Clark and Cepheus Johnson, “Uncle Bobby,” Oscar Grant’s uncle, tied police violence to gentrification, the lack of spending for education and affordable housing, and the billions of dollars that are spent to militarize the police.
“It’s very obvious how much of a police state is being built right here in Oakland and Alameda County,” said Clark.
Instead of building schools and hiring teachers, “They are arming the police that are killing our children –the system is broken,” said Johnson.
“If by chance we get by the grand jury, we have to deal with the district attorney. And then we have to deal with jury and judge,” before justice is done. “We have a system in its entirety that is broken,” he said.