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East Bay progressive organizations protest police budget and fiscal delay in front of Mayor Schaaf's house

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Built in the Bay
Built in the Bay
 2021-05-05

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(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

By Ian Firstenberg

(OAKLAND, Calif.) Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf got an unexpected wake-up call in her upper middle-class Oakmore neighborhood Wednesday morning as a progressive coalition decried her delayed budget proposal.

The Defund OPD and Refund Coalition — which is made up of at least 10 local organizations including the Anti Police-Terror Project, East Bay Democratic Socialists of America, Oakland Rising, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and many others — marched by the brownstone and brick houses before 9 a.m. Tuesday morning to greet Schaaf at her door.

Schaaf's office was initally expected to release the budget for the upcoming fiscal year on May 1 but delayed it due to "the challenges of this year (that) have made it difficult for everyone to meet pre-COVID deadlines,” according to a spokesperson from her office.

City Council President Nikki Fortunato-Bas then took to Twitter to condemn Schaaf's delay and published a statement noting that disruptive effects this has on city planning.

In her statement, Bas noted that the delay means that the city council and public now have just a few days to review the often lengthy budget proposal before the city council is expected to vote on it.

On Tuesday morning, the progressive coalition supported the statement by Bas and expressed their frustration over the delayed budget.

More than just the budget delay, the local organizations noted that the distribution of funds in Oakland creates and maintains the economic and racial issues these groups push back against. Many activists pushed back against the narrative that defunding the police would lead to more crime as spurious. They noted that more police are not the solution in the city's most impoverished areas.

"Libby Schaaf I dare you to spend a few days in Deep East Oakland and then look us in the eye and tell us we neeed more police," said Linda of CURYJ.

Additionally, the progressive activists with the Anti Police-Terror Project noted that Schaaf's delay is illegal under city law, as it violates the "fiscal responsibility" ordinance, which was authored by then-Councilmember Schaaf two years ago.

"Residents are calling for action on housing and services for the homeless, reinvesting in adequate city services, and reimagining public safety by cutting ineffective, over policing tactics from OPD’s budget and reinvesting in services that actually keep us safe," a representative of the Anti Police-Terror Project told Built in the Bay.

Local organizers pushed back against not only the budget delay but the budget distribution, which they felt inadequately supported education and housing.

Many progressives feel the city's police budget, $338 million as of 2020, is excessive and that money would be better spent on housing and education, hence the coalition incorporating "Refund" into their name in an effort to combat common misconceptions about left-wing pushes against policing. Their aim is not to slash the city budget solely for saving the money but reinvesting that money back into the community rather than the police.

"The safest communities don't have the most cops, they have the most resources," a representative from the Anti Police-Terror Project said out front of Schaaf's house, calling for her to cut the OPD budget by 50% to refund housing mental health care services, education and union jobs.

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