Invest in Communities, Not Weapons
An Open Letter to the Mayor
Dear Mayor Libby Schaaf,
We are an Oakland-based B Corporation with 32 employees located across the street from Oscar Grant Plaza, and recent police actions have endangered rather than protected our business.
The use of force during protests is often justified by saying small businesses need protection. On June 1st, when tear gas (which experts say increases viral risk) was used against protesters before curfew even began, people on our staff were emotionally traumatized by this use of force. Staff members attending the protest were personally endangered. On June 2nd, you stood behind the deputy police chief at your press conference, as he claimed (in contradiction to eyewitness reports) that no children or elderly were in the crowd. When the people of our community are threatened, the emotional weight of our tax dollars being spent on violence affects our morale and productivity.
As the publisher of over one hundred books on diversity, equity, and inclusion, we know that the only way to achieve racial reconciliation is to heed the voices of Black-led organizations. Countless Black-led organizations are calling on you to reduce police funding instead of spending yet more money on ineffective reform. Oakland has attempted police reform many times, including after the death of Oscar Grant eleven years ago and after the sexual abuse of teenager Jasmin Abuslin four years ago.
Your OPD negotiated and accepted restrictions on crowd management after abuses by OPD during the 2005 and 2011 demonstrations. However, Mercury News reports that dangerous weapons such as flashbangs, specialty impact munitions, and of course tear gas, were “carelessly employed,” violating earlier court orders and agreements.
Please listen to the Black leaders who ask you to invest in housing, jobs, youth programs, restorative justice, and mental health workers. Be transparent about police violence, instead of holding press conferences to make excuses for police brutality. The mayors of San Francisco and Los Angeles are diverting police funds towards healthcare and jobs: we implore you to follow their example. Please join them in doing what will make cities safer for businesses and the people who work there.
The Berrett-Koehler Staff