Tag Archives: Oakland Police

The Blogoaksphere in 2009: The Biggest Stories

2 Jan

You’re probably wondering what happened to the three-part series I promised about the blogoaksphere in 2009. Well, I was initially hoping to get this post up on the 31st, but it turned out to be a much bigger project than I had realized. There were hundreds of blog posts to pour through and many of the big stories of 2009 were heavy and filled with emotion. I pushed on and finally finished the post yesterday evening, but when I hit publish, I received an error message and my many hours of work over several days disappeared. I have no idea how this happened because WordPress automatically saves drafts as you write, and I’ve never lost more than 10 minutes of work in the past.

Unfortunately, there’s no way I’m going to be able to recreate that post. It took an immense amount of energy and time to write, and I just am not up to doing all that research and writing again.

But I’m not looking for sympathy here; I’m looking for help. Something that happened this past year, which I had not seen as much in previous years, is that big stories emerged in the blogoaksphere. In some cases, a couple bloggers would pick up the story and then many more would join in (like the Uptown parking lot fight), and in others, everyone jumped in at once (like the shooting of four Oakland police officers). What amazed me is how many different perspectives were shared on issues and how much these perspectives filled in the gaps of reporting in the mainstream media.

Here is the list of what I thought were the biggest blogoaksphere stories of 2009.

  • Riots in response to the killing of Oscar Grant (January)
  • The Oakland Airport Connector boondoggle (February-December)
  • Tragic shooting of four Oakland police officers (March)
  • Stopping the Uptown parking lot (March-May)
  • The abrupt closure of the Parkway (March, ongoing)
  • The parking rebellion & its aftermath (June, ongoing)
  • New restaurants opening & thriving throughout Oakland (Yearlong)

Since I’m not going to be able to fill in the dozens of links and excerpts that I originally compiled, I’m asking you for some help. You’re a blog reader and probably remember some posts written about these stories. Post links, excerpts, or just thoughts on these stories (or other stories) in the comments below. If you’re a blogger, feel free to post links to your own blog posts about these stories.

I’ll get this started by posting an excerpt to one of my favorite blog posts of the year, “Thoughts on a fractured city” at City Homestead, which reflected on the killing of Oscar Grants and the riots that ensued in downtown Oakland:

The shooting and its aftermath disturb me deeply on so many levels. There are countless layers to it: fear in its many forms, anger, prejudices and quick judgments, weighty decisions with life-altering consequences. We may never know exactly what was going through that officer’s mind in those early morning hours. Although the many videos make it clear to me that there was no need to fire, those of us watching on YouTube have the benefit of hindsight. We’re not standing inside that scene, weighing our options, uncertain. That’s not to say the officer is any less accountable for his actions, as we each live our lives by the decisions we make in the instant. It’s only to say that we may never know what emotions ran through his mind as he made that choice or in the moments afterwards.

I never expected what followed, though. The protests and vigils made sense, of course: BART’s leadership was remiss in their initial response to this tragedy, I think, and in the months to come, the agency will probably dissect these days one by one, trying to determine what might have been done differently. And given that the shooting happened in Oakland and BART’s headquarters are here, it was only logical that gatherings should be here as well. But the riots stunned me. How can the destruction of our neighborhoods possibly further the cause in any way? What’s worse is that the riots do not even seem to have been wholly Oakland-grown—many of the media reports and images profile young people from San Francisco and Berkeley and places farther afield attacking OPD cruisers, torching dumpsters, smashing windows. “I feel like Oakland should make some noise,” one protester from San Francisco told a reporter. “This is how we need to fight back.” And of the Oaklander whose small business had just had its windows smashed: “She should be glad she just lost her business and not her life.” This is the way to fight back? Is the killing of a young black male truly avenged by the destruction of black-owned businesses—and in someone else’s city, no less?

She continues, reflecting on all the positive things that Oakland has to offer and ending by explaining why we continue to live here:

To the world: we are not trapped here in this city; we have chosen to be here. We are here not because it is the only place we can afford living, but because it is the only place we can imagine living. I believe in this city, in its vast potential and its vibrant communities—and I love it, with all its imperfections. As a community, we will work through the anger and the violence, unearthing the very roots of it. Then, together, we will rebuild trust across the city and create from the fragments a single unified community. There’s a long road ahead, but I have faith that it is one that the people of this city will travel together.

It is Oakland, after all.

Exactly. So please join in below and share some of your favorite posts of the year on these big stories, be they inspiring, funny, informative, or simply enjoyable. It would be a huge New Years gift to me and would help me forgive WordPress for eating all of my work.

James Anthony: OPD steps in to enforce medical cannabis regulations

26 Feb

This guest post was written by James Anthony, a land use attorney who works with legitimate legal medical cannabis dispensaries in Oakland and elsewhere. He is a former City of Oakland community prosecutor (Neighborhood Law Corps 2003-2005) and a member of the Board of Directors of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

lemondropLast Friday, the Oakland Police Department raided the Lemon Drop Cafe at 1736 Telegraph Ave and recovered 16 firearms, 2 pounds of marijuana, and $16,000 cash. Oakland has four city-licensed medical  cannabis dispensaries (MCDs), but this was not one of them. The Lemon Drop had been one of the original dozen or so MCDs that operated in the Oaksterdam area (better known now as Uptown) before 2004, when Oakland put its regulations in place and cut the number of MCDs to four with a licensing system. The Lemon Drop never held one of the four licenses.

But it is something of an evolutionary turning point for OPD to go after an unlicensed “MCD” and charge its operators for violation of state and local law. This was not a federal DEA raid of the kind that happens (and can still happen) to legitimate MCDs all over the state. This was a local police department raiding an illegitimate operation– while leaving its four city-licensed MCDs unmolested. You wouldn’t think that was a big deal, but it is.

Law enforcement is confused by MCDs. They have been slow to recognize the difference between legitimate licensed MCDs and the unlicensed opportunists that steadily pop up in Oakland. There have been at least three such rogue operators in the last 6 months–and the city’s approach has been mostly administrative enforcement with OPD unable to find a role. Until now.

The Lemon Drop had operated on and off for the last 6 months or so as an “underground” MCD. The operators are unknown to the medical cannabis movement, but are not the original operators from the old days. They were flagrantly violating the city’s regulations, and had been warned and ordered to stop by city officials. The landlord signed an agreement not to allow the tenants to operate as a dispensary. But once again unlicensed activity started up there, without any connection to the legitimate medical cannabis movement.

Maybe it was just the guns, but I like to think that OPD is developing an appreciation for the distinction between the licensed, regulated, tax-paying, above-board MCDs and the rogue operators who think anything goes in Oakland and are taking advantage of the City’s long history of support for medical cannabis. These operators are not part of the medical cannabis movement and disrespect the movement deeply. They present a disturbing and troubling image of uncontrolled drug sales, cash and guns, with no city oversight, no security, and no accountability.

That’s not even close to the real portrait of medical cannabis in Oakland in 2009. In almost five years of regulations the city has successfully controlled its four MCDs to the point where the city administrator’s annual reports find no indications of any problems associated with them at all. Oakland’s four licensed MCDs are good neighbors, respectful of their communities, civically engaged, and fulfilling the promise of California’s Compassionate Use Act by providing safe, local access to high quality fresh medicine. One of the MCDs even lab tests its medicines to ensure safety and quantify potency. They are all clean, safe, friendly, and legitimate.

Hopefully Friday’s raid on the old Lemon Drop will make it clear that Oakland is not the Wild West–and that illegitimate attempts to exploit the medical cannabis movement with bogus dispensaries will not be tolerated.

Dellums Stands Up to DEA Attacks on Medical Marijuana

21 Dec

A few weeks ago, the DEA sent letters to dozens of landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries in the Bay Area. These letters are aimed at intimidating landlords into evicting their tenants, and they understandably scared many providers in activists in the area. Instead of giving in to intimidation, advocates immediately began reaching out to Bay Area mayors to ask them to speak out against the DEA raids and support efforts in Congress to hold investigative hearings on this issue.

I’m happy to say that our own Mayor Dellums was the first to publicly voice his support for providers and to strongly question the tactics of the DEA:

As the mayor of a city that believes in compassionate care, we support Medical Cannabis Dispensaries. We are discouraged to learn of the DEA’s actions that appear to be in opposition to the will of the residents of this city. Rep. Conyers, Chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, expressed deep concern over the DEA landlord threats and other efforts to undermine California law, and committed to sharply questioning these tactics as part of the committee’s oversight efforts. I am grateful for and supportive of Rep. Conyers’ concerns.

Dellums also sent a letter to Rep. Conyers, urging him to “expeditiously hold hearings and examine this very important issue.”

In the past, I’ve expressed some concern here about the Oakland PD assisting with medical marijuana raids and have questioned whether Oaklanders would stand up for medical marijuana in the case of a DEA attack so I was pretty ecstatic to see such strong movement from the Mayor’s office.

I think Dellums’ statement is a great step towards protecting safe access to medical marijuana for Oakland patients. Hopefully other mayors will follow his lead and push our federal representatives towards standing up for patients and California voters.

Doesn’t Oakland PD have something more important to do?

30 Oct

This morning, as I was pouring myself a cup of tea, I got a call: the DEA was raiding Compassionate Patients’ Cooperative, a medical marijuana dispensary in Hayward. After doing some work to get the word out, I hopped in my car and drove down to Hayward. I was greeted immediately by yellow police tape surrounding the building and representatives from practically every Bay Area media outlet. After doing a bunch of interviews, in which I highlighted the fact that this dispensary had been permitted by Alameda County and inspected regularly by the Sheriff with no complaints, I took a look around. I noticed that there were many Sheriff’s agents there, though I was soon assured by Supervisor Nate Miley’s office that they were just there for crowd control.

I observed the raid for several hours and joined 30 supporters in protesting the raid. Many of the protesters were patients who arrived at the dispensary to get their medicine and were shocked to see the DEA raiding the provider they depended on.

I also started to hear rumors of other raids. Soon, these rumors were confirmed: the DEA was busy raiding six production facilities throughout the East Bay that were connected to the dispensary.

It was already a bad day, but the news soon got worse. The Oakland Police Department and Berkeley Police Department were allegedly helping with the raids. Later in the day, we confirmed through a council member that OPD had helped the DEA raid at least one facility in Oakland. And later in the evening, I read in the U.S. Attorney’s press release that OPD, BPD, and the Alameda County Sheriff had been involved in the year-long investigation.

I don’t think anyone in this city would disagree that OPD is already short-staffed and unable to keep up with the real crime that occurs daily throguhout Oakland. So why are our police officers wasting their time helping the DEA raid a medical cannabis provider that was compliant with county law and paid significant sales tax to the state?

Maybe Oakland police are no better than the DEA and love to do an easy bust sometimes. Maybe they’ve tired of chasing down thieves and investigating murders and decided they’d have some fun today helping the DEA steal some medicine.

Regardless of why they wasted precious resources and staff time on these raids, it is important that this never happen again. California voters have spoken, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors have spoken, and Oakland has spoken through the City Council (regulation of dispensaries) and the voters (Measure Z – making marijuana the lowest police priority). It’s time for the Oakland PD to listen and to start finding some better ways to spend their time. Maybe they could even start doing their jobs and protecting us from real criminals.

(If you’d like to read more about the story, the Tribune did a pretty good job covering it, though they missed OPD’s involvement.)