Oakland Update


Representatives from UK justice campaigns today participated in a rally for truth and reinvestment in Oakland’s Oscar Grant plaza. They joined US activists from the Ella Baker Centre, American Civil Liberties Union, Anti Police Terror Project and the #BlackLivesMatter Bay Area chapter. Director of Truth and Reinvestment at the Ella Baker Centre, Patrisse Cullors introduced the #CaravanForJustice project, highlighting its demands and practical calls to action.

Historically communities have faced deinvestment in their vital health, educational and social resources whilst public and private funding for punitive aspects of the state increase. This includes the increased militarisation of police departments and the building of more and more carceral facilities. The call for reinvestment demands that funds be diverted from these damaging institutions towards those institutions vital to the life of the community.

We do not need police in order to run our communities. Methods of restorative justice and repair in our communities can be a powerful alternative.

Oakland’s residents take control of their public spaces by lending them names of social significance. The square outside the city’s town hall was dubbed and is now popularly known as Oscar Grant Plaza, in memory of the young man shot dead by a police officer at Fruitvale BART Station on New Years Day 2009. Oscar’s uncle Cephus ‘Uncle Bobby’ Johnson closed up the rally with powerful condemnation of the culture of state violence that took his nephew’s life. But Uncle Bobby also spoke of their victory in having the state bring a prosecution against the officer that shot Oscar that night – a first in California’s history.

Activists were also able to celebrate the victory of having California’s Governor Brown bow to pressure to sign AB-953 into law. The legislation forces police departments in the state to record all stops they perform, including data on race and gender. This followed campaigning from activists across the state, with many personally phoning the Governor’s office to show their support for the bill.

Much of the discussion at the rally focused on further practical action community members could undertake. A representative from the #BlackLivesMatter Bay Area chapter highlighted the role of the ‘Shut Shit Down’ tactic in forcing greater focus and attention on racialized state violence. The Bay Area chapter were also responsible for starting a series of ‘wake-up calls’ to public representatives across the United States after they ushered in Martin Luther King day with a 5AM wake up call outside the house of their mayor.

Going forward those attending the rally were encouraged to download the ACLU’s MobileJustice CA application – which allows recording of law enforcement personnel to be sent directly to the ACLU – and to spread this amongst their communities in order to normalise the practice and take control back from police.

UK activists had shared the stories of their struggles to gain justice for loved ones killed at the hands of the police and were invited to dinner with Uncle Bobby and ACLU organisers to continue the conversation.


The #CaravanForJustice will mobilize low-income communities of color against law enforcement violence, train them in how to respond when incidents of brutality occur, and highlight the stories and strength of victims and survivors of state violence. To create prosperous, thriving communities, we must acknowledge how our countries’ long history of criminalizing and incarcerating communities of color has led us to this state of emergency, and reinvest in opportunities for those very communities.

Need for Rapid Response to Law Enforcement Violence:

  • We are in a state of emergency right now with law enforcement violence increasing at an alarming rate against black and brown communities. In the past year, 729 people have been killed by US police and 27 were black and unarmed.
  • Every 28 hours, a black person is killed by law enforcement, security guards, and vigilantes.
  • Justice Teams will be local rapid response networks, building infrastructure to support victims and survivors of law enforcement violence, and teaching communities how to effectively respond when police brutality occurs.
  • There are efforts to combat police violence at the policy level, such as body camera legislation and policies aimed at demilitarizing police. However, communities need to be empowered to take action themselves when state violence occurs.
  • People who have been directly impacted by law enforcement violence should feel equipped with the knowledge and power to make demands, lead campaigns, and take action to prevent police brutality in their communities.
  • When police violence occurs in communities, too often, the response of law enforcement is to send in the National Guard or further militarize the police. We need to equip communities to respond and demand support for the people who have suffered abuse at the hands of law enforcement.

Global Issue and Cross-Racial Issue:

  • Police violence impacts communities across the globe and must not be seen as a disparate issue from country to country. While the details of each instance of brutality may differ, the common themes remain the same: people in power demonize already vulnerable community members to justify their unlawful use of force.
  • The similarities between the stories of Mark Duggan, Sean Rigg, Leon Patterson, and Kingley Burrell and those of Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and too many other victims of law enforcement violence in the U.S. make clear that this is a global problem.
  • Across the world, police criminalize poverty and those with mental health problems—we must change this punishment first approach to every social problem.
  • Victims and survivors of state violence must connect with each other to learn how to respond effectively and eradicate this problem.
  • Police violence is a multi-racial problem, and one that affects both black and brown communities, especially in California.
  • In California, 126 people have been killed by police this year, and 66 come from black and brown communities.

Truth and Reinvestment:

  • To eradicate state violence, both on the streets and inside of jails, we need to move resources away from policing and punishment and toward reinvestment in communities, especially low-income communities of color.
  • As we work to end mass incarceration and state violence, we must grapple with this country’s long history of organized violence and systemic oppression of people of color.
  • We cannot overcome racial injustices without an institutional examination of this country’s long history of racism and oppression, which has involved forced labor, segregation, disparate opportunity, and organized state violence against black and brown people.
  • We must acknowledge how the actions of racist institutions, both past and present, have led us to a society in which people of color are brutalized, criminalized, and incarcerated.
  • This punishment regime has penetrated every aspect of society – from our communities and schools where children first come into contact with police, to hospitals where women are being drug tested and arrested in the delivery room, to the barriers to housing, employment, education, and civic engagement that formerly incarcerated people must face after they have finished serving their sentences.
  • It is time to break our addition to policing and punishment.
  • We must demand accountability for every stolen life while working to transform our society into one in which accountability is not synonymous with punishment. 

Community safety:

  • Policing has never been about public safety, it is rooted in social control.
  • To understand modern-day policing, we must understand the origins of police—going back to slave patrols where white men policed the lives of enslaved Africans. Their purpose was to instill fear in enslaved African populations by controlling their ability to move.
  • The problem is not one of spontaneous rage from individual officers, but rather a culture and training of law enforcement that further marginalizes, criminalizes, and dehumanizes communities that do not fit in the current model of power that exists in this country.
  • True community safety will be achieved by reinvesting resources in employment, healthcare, education, and restorative justice initiatives.

UK Families to join California #CaravanForJustice for “global conversation” on deaths in custody


3-10th October https://www.facebook.com/events/950750004971268/
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Following on from the Ferguson Solidarity tour earlier this year, family members and campaigners are travelling to join #BlackLivesMatter activists in California for a #CaravanForJustice tour of the state in early October. Together they will meet with families whose loved ones have died as a result of police contact in the US in a bid to spark a “global conversation on deaths in custody”.

Those making the journey include Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett whose twin brother Leon Patterson died after six days in custody in 1992, Marcia Rigg sister of Sean Rigg who died on the floor of Brixton police station 2008, Shaun Hall, Mark Duggan’s brother who was shot dead in 2011 and Kadisha Burrell Brown whose brother died the same year after being restrained for a prolonged period of time by police -a jury inquest earlier this year found police force and neglect contributed to Kingsley’s death. Campaigners from NUS Black Students and Defend the Right to Protest will also be joining the solidarity tour.

By participating in this justice tour, families from the UK hope to draw links between racial injustice in the US and their own personal losses of loved ones in custody. Not only are their many similarities between killings on both sides of the Atlantic but campaigners feel the importance of remedying this epidemic at an international level.

1518 people have died in custody in England and Wales since 1990, yet not a single officer involved has been convicted. The Black and Minority Ethnic community account for 152 of these deaths and represent a disproportionate number of cases considered controversial or involving the use of force.

An IPCC report earlier this year showed a big increase in police custody deaths from 11 in 2013/14 to 17 2014/15.

Patrisse Cullors a co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter and Campaign Director at the Ella Baker centre which is organising the tour said: “Britain has done a great job painting itself as the humanitarian, with the U.S. being the torturer. But that is not true. We have Mike Brown, no justice. We have Eric Garner, no justice. Here we see the same: Mark Duggan, Sean Rigg. The list is vast.”

Patrisse will also be travelling to the UK for the United Families and Friends annual memorial procession on 31st October. We encourage everyone to join the march this year to join families in their demand for truth, justice and accountability.

Full details on the facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/767259753384723/

“On the 04th August 2011 in Ferry Lane Estate Tottenham, my brother ShaunHallMark Duggan was horrifically shot dead by the police, they later set out to smear and explain their actions by claiming with no proof whatsoever that Mark was indeed one of the most dangerous gangsters in Europe! We move forward determined to find justice and aim to let the authorities know that there will be no peace without justice. We aim to share our experiences as well as learn the experience of others both sides of the Atlantic.” Shaun Hall, brother of Mark Wayne Duggan

MarciRigg CREDIT Peter MarshallDeaths and violence in state custody is a public outcry both in the US and in the UK. As Dr Martin Luther King Jr said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is therefore vital for families like mine to join in solidarity with others, to share experiences and discuss strategies that can bring about change on both sides of the Atlantic.” Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg
“United families and friends was set up to fight for justice, change and StephaniLightFootBennettaccountability. Of 4800 deaths in custody since 1968, no state official has ever been convicted. From the UK to the US we are joining together to ensure that families voices will be heard.” Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett, sister of Leon Patterson

Kadisah and brother Kingsley Burrell Brown“I am travelling to the US to join the justice tour against police brutality to start to build an international alliance to address this horrific issue. My brother Kingsley Burrell died at the hands of the police after calling for their help. The alarming use of lethal and indiscriminate force by police dealing with black ethnic minorities is something that seems to be emulated by state officials here in the UK as well as the US and I want to unite with others to stop this injustice.” Kadisha Brown-Burrell, sister of Kingsley Burrell