Oakland community group plans recall campaign against Mayor Sheng Thao, demands state of emergency

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Saturday, January 6, 2024
Oakland group plans recall campaign against Mayor Sheng Thao
A community group will formally launch a recall campaign for Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao as demands for state of emergency become louder.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- In September, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said she would declare a state of emergency if the city's police commission didn't send her a list of finalists for a new police chief. Now a coalition of community groups is demanding that Mayor Thao follow through on that promise.

"And we are saying to Mayor Sheng Thao - honor your word and declare a state of emergency!" Edward Escobar told a small crowd rallying in front of City Hall on Friday morning. Escobar is with the community group Citizens United.

The mayor was sent a list of three police chief finalists, but she rejected all three.

For the past few weeks, community groups have been rallying against Oakland city leadership and Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price, demanding more be done to address public safety.

Virginia Nishita, who also spoke at the rally, said last week's shooting death of Oakland Police Officer Tuan Le reminded her of what happened to her husband, Kevin Nishita. Kevin was a former Bay Area police officer, who was killed while guarding a local TV news crew. Nishita wants Price to charge the three suspects in Kevin's murder case with the full extent of the law, which means life sentences without the possibility of parole.

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"The gun charges are being dismissed in my husband's case," Nishita said. "So (the suspects) will be eligible to get parole."

Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo joined Friday's rally. He supports declaring a state of emergency.

"We know who some of the criminals on the street are. We are not prosecuting them. We are not arresting them," said Gallo. "We need to declare an emergency to get assistance from the sheriff, the FBI, U.S. Marshall and the highway patrol."

"I think these people are afraid to say that they want to police department to step up and do more. So, instead, they can target the policy makers that create the laws because it is an easier target," said Oakland City Councilmember Carroll Fife, who backs the mayor.

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Fife acknowledges the challenges the city is facing with crime, operating without a police chief and facing a historic budget deficit. She adds that the city has implemented new measures, such as grants for small businesses and new police initiatives, which include deploying more walking patrols and establishing a mobile unit in the Fruitvale district.

"We have had a number of academies, the police academies, for the individuals who are calling for police on the streets. Everything is being implemented at this current time. We need time for it to show effectiveness," Fife said.

Former Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte, who was removed by Thao from the Oakland Police Commission, is set to formally launch the recall campaign on the mayor. She plans to send a letter of intent to Thao on Saturday morning.

"We need to hold her to the same standard for which she tried to hold Chief Armstrong. And she said, basically, 'Things happened on your watch, therefore you have to go.' Things are happening on her watch. She needs to go," Harbin-Forte said.

Thao didn't respond to a request for comment.

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