Still Not Down With the Lockdown

mural

Last year Bay Area youth came together to protest the building of an expanded detention center for youth at a rally called Not Down With the Lockdown (WireTap was there to cover the day) in Oakland, Calif. This year the youth organizers made a repeat performance. Local groups like Books Not Bars and the Youth Force Coalition staged Not Down With the Lockdown II, not only to remind the residents of their opposition to the prison, but also to respond to the use of a proposed $70 Million for added security measures that promise to add the criminalization of young people.

So far, this year, the residents of Oakland have seen 67 people killed on the streets of Oakland and the community is demanding a response. But the city council's decision to add 100 new police officers the streets is not exactly what many of them had in mind.

"One hundred new cops isn't going to stop the violence," Venus Rodriguez, a 22-year-old Oakland resident told the San Francisco Chronicle. Instead, she proposed, "an increase in jobs, job training and spending on youth and after-school programs."

With the economy showing little sign of revitalization, and the national government proposing to cut funding for youth programs around the country, the picture seems grim. But Saturday's crowd showed an optimistic solidarity.

People arrived gradually over the course of the afternoon, often chanting as they appeared. It was a spirited and diverse crowd. Youth of all backgrounds performed skits and spoken word pieces about political and social justice. Although the majority of those involved were in their teens and twenties, the atmosphere was family oriented. One emcee brought his daughter on stage and dedicated his rhymes to her. Throughout the day the message was clear: Community development, especially investing in education and alternatives to violence needs to be a priority.
Here's what the folks we talked to had to say:
Kate
"I'm here to fight against the new Superjail that Alameda County is trying to build--and try to help to mobilize youth better against it. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors wants to put the juvenile hall out in Dublin,CA which is really far away. The majority of the youth in juvenile hall are from Oakland, so transportation would be a major problem for low-income families, making it harder for kids to make their court dates and meet parole officers. The County wants to spend a $177 million to expand the jail, which we think is way too much. We're not against providing better education programs and facilities for the juvenile hall. We don't think the jail should be expanded at all. Prisons don't rehabilitate kids. They set them up for failure and we think there should be alternatives to incarceration."
--Kate, 17, Lets Get Free

"You see a lot of young people who are concerned with what's happening to them today, in terms of them being locked down in disproportionate numbers--in terms of the murder rate amongst particularly African-American youth here in the city of Oakland, which is a great concern right now. The people who are here want to voice their displeasure with the City of Oakland's solution, which is a hundred more police on the streets. Many people feel that one of problems is the police out here in terms of what they do to African-American youth."
--Bakari Olatungi, African People's Socialist Party
deuce
"The fact that building this prison is a blunt attempt to show us that they're going to lock us up. Society isn't built for everyone here. So, if you can't conform to it, they're (authorities) going to get rid of you. You have to start now before it really becomes a problem. Who knows if we can stop it. Just to get the kids out here to understand that we're already jailed in our minds, we don't need to be physically jailed also."
--Deuce Eclipse, 29, Minds Eye- Artist Collective (San Francisco)

"I'm here to stop the super jail. They're trying to lock up a lot of young people in Oakland. California is number one in prison spending, but number forty-one in education spending. Politically, I think we're in a big rut. Ever since Bush has been in office, we seem to be going down. We just are here trying fight oppression and to have a fun time while doing it."
justin--Mercedes Gibson, 18, Young Women United for Oakland

I don't think [building the Superjail] is right because already have enough (jails). I just think it's ridiculous"
--Justin, 14, Leadership Excellence

"My motive today is to open the eyes of the eyes of all the young people in Oakland. What we're doing now is trying to let them know what they're building new jails to lock them up. Things like that don't really help the kids. One of my school teachers used to take us on trips to learn about John Henry, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. From that she used to come back crying and I wondered, why? As I got older I understood that those people had fought for our freedom in America. I said, there's nobody that I see in my neighborhood doing what Martin Luther King used to do -- or Malcolm X or Rosa Parks did. I thought, why not? Why am I not doing anything? I can get off of my butt and do what they did."

--Barlon Smith, 25, Lets Get Free

Stop Criminalizing Us



Twilight Greenaway, Jason Patterson and Miriam Markowitz contributed to this article.




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