Cyclists ride through the “safety zone” to protest gang injunctions
on March 2, 2011
On Tuesday night more than 25 cyclists took to the streets to raise awareness about the North Oakland gang injunction and the proposed gang injunction in the Fruitvale district.
The Stop The Injunctions Coalition sponsored the bike ride as a part of a week of action that will close this Friday afternoon with a rally at Oakland City Hall where activist, professor and former Black Panther Party member Angela Davis is expected to speak.
The cyclists convened at Bushrod Park and took a pre-planned route that wended its way through the North Oakland “safety zone” where alleged gang members named in the injunction are not allowed to interact with each other and have a 10p.m. curfew, in addition to other restrictions.
“We want to push for more community-based alternatives to create healthy and safe communities,” said Whitney Walton, an organizer with Stop The Injunctions Coalition.“From the very beginning folks started to talk about what alternatives could be more effective, and ways they would rather see their money being spent, and what things we know actually work opposed to gang injunctions—which don’t really have a history of being effective at all.”
The group made its way north from Bushrod Park on Shattuck and hung a left on Alcatraz. The first rest stop was in front of Actual Café on the corner of Alcatraz and San Pablo, where one woman passed out snacks of oranges and miniature chocolates. Another rider had a boom box strapped to her bike rack that was playing Daft Punk’s signature tune “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.”
Patrons inside Actual Café peered out the windows quizzically while riders stocked up on flyers to pass out and got ready for the next leg of the trip.
As the sun set, the bikers’ flashing safety lights helped to create a festive atmosphere. After a quick discussion some riders decided to chant as they stood in front of the café, “Say Hey! Say Ho! Gang Injunctions have got to go!”
The riders next headed south on San Pablo towards 43rd Street, fanning out to take over the right lane. Some of the riders zipped over to the sidewalk to pass out flyers to interested on lookers and explain the basics of the gang injunction.
One of these riders most active in his outreach was 27-year-old Berkeley resident Solo, who declined to give his last name. Solo often sped ahead of the crowd and would be seen later on the sidewalk talking to someone as the group caught up and passed him by. “I think at this stage in the game it’s really about showing up, and taking some risks and investing time to educate other community members,” he said.
North Oakland native Fred Hampton was just as active as Solo. The 19-year-old student got off work and came directly to the ride. By the end of the evening he had passed out all 30 of the fliers he had been given to community members.
“The more conversation the better,” said Hampton. “People get desensitized to aggression from the police. This is an exception. It needs to be stopped or it will set a bad precedent.”
Zaylia Pluss, a 24-year-old organizer with Stop the Injunctions Coalition who also works for a non-profit, thought the ride was a great opportunity to have a good time while working.
“There were a lot of familiar and new faces. It’s a fun action. We met a lot of new people interested in helping,” she said.
A motorist stopped at a red light rolled down his passenger window to ask what was going on, and a rider rolled over to the car and handed a flyer to the passenger in the shot gun seat.
Nine more cyclists were waiting at the corner of 43rd and San Pablo. When the crew made a left onto 43rd Street the new cyclists mixed in seamlessly.
The next destination was 55th and Market Street, a historical site where Black Panther Party members volunteered as crossing guards in 1967 and stopped traffic to help children cross the street, a reaction to the City of Oakland saying it would be years before a stoplight could be installed at the intersection. (Once the volunteer crossing guards set up shop, the City of Oakland ended up installing a stop light a few months later.)
According to Walton, one of the evening’s goals was to bring together community members and share some Oakland community organizing history to show how the legacy of past organizers like the Black Panther Party connect to the organizing that they are doing right now.
The ride ended at It’s All Good Bakery on Martin Luther King Boulevard, which was the original site of the Black Panther Party offices. Ride members shared large slices of three-layered yellow cake with chocolate frosting and hunks of square cookies.
“It’s a history of people seeing something wrong and not always depending on these bureaucratic systems to fix the problems,” said Walton. “It’s about depending on community to fix community problems. Just starting that conversation and looking back on things that have worked and hopefully encouraging other people to think more creatively about what we want except gang injunctions.”
The Alameda County Superior Court judge is expected to hold another hearing on the proposed Fruitvale gang injunction this afternoon.
Photo: Cyclists hang in front of It’s All Good Bakery, the historical site of the first Black Panther Party office, after a ride protesting gang injunctions.
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