The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have catalyzed a national uprising in response to continued police violence and lawlessness that has shown implacable resistance to reform. It was recently reported that a Louisville police unit called Place-Based Investigations “deliberately misled narcotics detectives to target a home on Elliott Avenue, leading the cops to believe they were targeting ‘Louisville’s largest violent crime and drug rings.’” The unit appears to have been tasked with arresting and intimidating Breonna and her neighbors into leaving their homes in order to make way for a lucrative new development being pushed by the city’s mayor.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not limited to Louisville. Similar aggressive action by police to accelerate gentrification has been reported in other major cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and New Orleans. These policies are harmful to low-income people and BIPOC communities attempting to keep a toe-hold in neighborhoods they’ve called home for generations as they witness an influx of newer, whiter, higher-income residents. Worse still, once those new residents arrive they produce an increase in non-emergency nuisance calls, continuing to fuel police violence and harassment of long-time residents, like when Oakland city planner Kenya Wheeler was held at gunpoint for taking a photo of a bike rack in front of new condos he and his co-workers helped add to the neighborhood.
East Bay for Everyone denounces in the strongest terms all racist policing policies and tactics, including actions undertaken with the intent of displacing current residents in favor of newer ones. As an organization whose leadership is predominantly Black, Indigenous and People of Color, and whose membership includes many marginalized people, we’ve been forced to confront the reality of police abuse. We’ve dedicated our activism to pushing back against both explicitly racist policing as well as policies that unnecessarily inject police into situations which inevitably lead to harm to poor people and BIPOC. We’ve pushed our transit system to hire de-escalation community nonprofits, pushed back against the criminalization of RV dwellers and the homeless, and called out Oakland police’s targeting of Black businesses. Our neighbors in disinvested neighborhoods have a fundamental right to thrive in their communities without enduring racist police harassment and violence. Furthermore, we believe that there is enough room in our neighborhoods to accommodate both new and old residents if we build abundant housing for everyone.
We call on all East Bay cities to examine their histories of racist policing and take immediate, systemic steps to ensure that all individuals and communities can live without fear of being targeted, injured or killed by agents of the state, regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, gender, income, religion, or disability status.
We further call on housing providers to prioritize the safety and stability of their residents and the communities in which they live. Developers building new homes in our neighborhoods must support existing communities by employing projects and marketing plans that work to keep those who are already here in their homes and share with them the opportunities and benefits created by the new development through local hiring, spaces for local businesses and organizations, and on-site affordable housing. At the same time, established landlords must demonstrate a greater commitment to community stability by abandoning practices that seek to displace current residents in search of exorbitant rents.
Our elected officials should wherever possible enact policies that encourage or require housing providers to place greater priority on resident safety and stability, including vacancy controls, rental registries, and forestalling the removal of rental units from the market. A core mission of EB4E has been to push for systemic reforms to state and local planning and development policies to create more opportunities for dense housing built with speedier permitting, reduced construction costs, and unionized labor, leading to a future in which new housing is abundant and low-cost rather than rare, expensive and politically fraught. We strongly believe that this is a future with greater community flourishing and empowerment.
Lastly, we call for deep self-examination and self-accountability on the part of newcomers to our neighborhoods. When you move here, you are not just buying or renting a home, you are joining a community, and that community deserves respect. Respect means meeting and getting to know your new neighbors. It means patronizing long-time businesses in addition to brand-new ones. And it means using alternative strategies to resolve conflict and maintain community safety rather than calling 9-1-1 any time you feel uncomfortable. In Oakland, for example, the Anti Police-Terror Project has started Mental Health First Oakland to provide assistance when your neighbors are in crisis and would benefit from a non-police alternative.
We have all seen the deadly consequences of police showing up in a wide variety of situations, so neighborhood newcomers need to make it their business to avoid this outcome whenever possible. All members of our diverse, vibrant East Bay communities, whether new arrivals or long-time residents, are responsible for protecting each and every member of the community and not resorting to knee-jerk reactions that can jeopardize our neighbors’ safety. We believe our neighborhoods work better when people appreciate and respect and help their neighbors, and this is part of the work required in building community.