Oakland community rallies for violence prevention, against budget cuts ahead of council meeting

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Thursday, June 15, 2023
Oakland rallies against budget cuts ahead of council meeting
At a rally in front of Oakland City Hall, the community demanded no cuts to funding for violence prevention programs, ahead of budget meeting.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- At a rally in front of Oakland City Hall, community groups demanded no cuts to city funding for many of their programs -- ahead of Wednesday's city council budget meeting.

"The safest communities don't have the most police. They have the most resources," Vanessa Riles told the crowd.

She is with the group East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), which works to advance economic, racial and social justice.

"We need living wage jobs. We need safe and affordable housing. We need violence prevention," Riles said.

MORE: 'We all want to feel safer': Neighbors demand action from OPD after toddler injured, violence spike

The public safety meeting comes just a day after a 15-month-old child was hit by shrapnel in an attempted armed robbery.

Oakland faces a historic deficit. That means cuts across the board, including to the Department of Violence Prevention. That department funds local community groups like CURYJ, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice. Part of their work is working with young people coming out of prison, and frontline workers in the community - who some call violence interrupters. It could face $600,000 in cuts.

"That's a lot of money. We are going to have to lay people off as a result of these cuts. And these are people who live in Oakland, born and raised in Oakland. These are the kind of folks who are going to be laid off," said George Galvis, the executive director of CURYJ.

And many of these groups are critical of the close to $40 million dollar increase in funding for the Oakland Police Department.

"I want to be critical of language. But when we say 'defund (the police),' we aren't necessarily saying we don't need policing. We need better accountability of police, and we need better funding -- and more funding -- for those community-lead approaches in how we engage our public," said Reverend Jeremy McCants, also with EBASE.

INTERACTIVE: Take a look at the ABC7 Neighborhood Safety Tracker

Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas has put forth some amendments to the proposed budget. She supports a more comprehensive approach to community safety, pairing policing with violence prevention.

At Wednesday's budget meeting, she is proposing to increase funding for violence prevention by more than $2 million.

"My team and I have been able to find some additional revenue, make some additional expenditure reductions. So that we can continue to move forward alternative crisis response. Civilianizing some functions of the police department and violence prevention," Bas said.

While those are welcomed proposals, many community groups still argue that any cuts will have huge impacts to communities and neighborhoods that have been historically disenfranchised.

"An affordable city is a safe city. A livable city is a safe city. Investing in Oakland is public safety," says Kajani Edwards, with ACCE, a group which organizes around affordable housing.

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