Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Month: May 2019

The 2019 CDP Chair Race-Part 2

Kimberly Ellis – 2019 CDP Chair Candidate

This is Part 2 of a two-part series on the 2019 California Democratic Party (CDP) Chair Race. For the full background on the 2019 CDP Chair race, check out Part 1 first.

Why Kimberly, Not Kamala?

Kimberly Ellis is a Black woman and the former Executive Director of EMERGE California. She is running for Chair of the California Democratic Party for the second time. Kimberly’s message about redefining what it means to be a Democrat is inspiring, particularly in light of the party’s failures for at least the past two decades.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a strident advocate for the leadership of Black women. My favorite hashtag is #BlackWomenLead. Because I am a Black woman who has been on the front lines of the fight for civil rights for more than 40 years, I know how transformative our leadership can be. I supported Kimberly Ellis in 2017 and I support her in 2019.

So, you ask, how can you support Kimberly, but not Kamala?

The answer, unfortunately, is based on Kamala’s record and my own personal experience. In 2017, Kamala Harris did not support Kimberly Ellis. She did not endorse her or vote for her. In 2019, Kamala Harris still has not endorsed Kimberly Ellis. And Kamala controls at least 6 votes in the CDP Chair’s race. The fact that Kimberly Ellis is the only candidate in the race who can actually challenge the CDP’s pervasive culture of sexual misconduct is obvious. Yet, Kamala is standing silently on the sidelines watching the action.

Kamala’s Silence is Complicity

But then, standing by silently is Kamala’s habit and practice. In 2016, when Sen. Holly Mitchell was fighting like a demon to repeal California’s unjust sentence enhancement laws, Kamala stood on the sidelines. That year, Sen. Mitchell sponsored SB966, the 2016 version of the RISE Act. It died in the Legislature. It finally passed in 2018. Kamala did not support the bill.

Sen. Holly Mitchell is the most powerful compassionate inspiring Black woman to grace the California Legislature in decades. For more than a decade, she worked tirelessly with civil and human rights advocates to heal and restore our communities from the devastation caused by our racist and broken criminal justice system. Kamala Harris was silent on most of the groundbreaking criminal justice legislation sponsored by Sen. Mitchell.

In 2015, when Assemblymember Kevin McCarthy introduced AB86, a bill to make California the first state in the nation to have its top law enforcement officer independently investigate deaths in police custody, Kamala actually opposed the legislation. Under the plan, the state attorney general would appoint a special prosecutor to direct an investigation whenever the police kill a civilian. Several other states, including New York, have since adopted this policy.

Gwen Woods & her son, Mario Woods (Credit: Vic Lee, ABC7News)

In 2016, the Black community in San Francisco was incensed about the police killing of Mario Woods. In a series of community meetings, Kamala’s most loyal supporters called upon her to do exactly what AB86 called for – convene an independent investigation of the shooting. Kamala rejected their appeals and stood by silently on the sidelines of the controversy. I shall never forget how shocked I was when I learned that Kamala refused to meet with Mario Woods’ mother.

My Own Disappointments

In August 2016, a coalition of community organizations that I worked with called upon Kamala to convene an independent investigation of the Bay Area police sex trafficking ring. Seven law enforcement agencies were implicated in sex trafficking of a minor. Even when the young woman at the center of the police misconduct was spirited away in the dead of night by the Richmond Police to Florida and promptly incarcerated on felony charges there, Kamala rejected our appeals to get involved. She stood by silently as criminal cases were either never brought or quickly dismissed.

In 2010, I represented a group of 10 women sexually harassed at work. They were all employed at the California Dept. of Corrections. Two of my co-counsel were staunch Kamala supporters. When she became Attorney General (with our help), they thought she would listen to them. She did not. We had our clients write to her directly describing their pain and injuries. We thought she would listen to them. She did not. In fact, she turned their letters over to the lawyers in her office defending the case. Those lawyers used the letters to ridicule our clients.

By 2015, three of the cases had been dismissed and one of our clients had committed suicide. We settled most of the remaining cases in 2015 for almost $2.8 million. The estate of Judy Longo – the woman who committed suicide – received a mere $250,000, largely because Judy was not alive to testify about what happened to her. The lead plaintiff Martha Berndt lost her case at trial. The case was weakened both by the extreme passage of time (13 years) and our assignment to a ridiculously sexist trial judge. Kamala stood by silently as these women suffered years of unnecessary and cruel litigation.

But She’s a Black Woman

In my experience, with one exception, Kamala has not stood with progressive Black women.* In the 2018 race for Oakland Mayor, there were 2 Black women running for the seat. Kamala did not support either one of us. In the 2018 race for Assembly District 15, there were 2 Black women running for the seat. Kamala did not support either one of them.

Kamala’s prominent support for the incumbent DA in the 2018 race for Alameda County District Attorney is perhaps the most shocking. That DA’s record on racially-biased prosecutions is abysmal. I ran for DA in response to the lack of police accountability and racial injustices that have devastated our community for decades. Kamala did not ever respond to my request for a meeting. According to the President of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), a statewide organization of Black women that has always supported Kamala, Kamala did not even return her calls.

The Struggle is Real

In conclusion, my decision to reject Kamala Harris as a candidate for President is based “empirical evidence” and real life experience. Perhaps she will have a last minute change of heart and decide to support Kimberly Ellis in her quest to become the first Black woman CDP Chair. If you support Kamala and believe she should stand with Black women, please reach out to her and let her know that Kimberly Ellis deserves and needs her help. Before the vote on Saturday, June 1st please!

Here’s how you can contact Kamala on Twitter, Messenger, by phone or e-mail:

Twitter: @KamalaHarris
Messenger: @SenatorKamalaHarris
Phone: (415) 981-9369
E-mail: erica@scnstrategies.com

I hope I live to see the first Black woman President. I know that she will be a woman with the courage of her convictions and the compassion of a queen. #BlackWomenLead

*Kamala endorsed Public Defender Genevieve Jones-Wright for San Diego District Attorney in 2018 less than 3 weeks before the June 2018 election.

The 2019 CDP Chair Race-Part 1

Kimberly Ellis, 2019 CDP Chair Candidate

Kimberly Ellis is a Black woman and the former Executive Director of EMERGE California. She is running for Chair of the California Democratic Party for the second time. Kimberly’s message about redefining what it means to be a Democrat is inspiring, particularly in light of the party’s failures for at least the past two decades.

On May 20, 2017, Eric Bauman was elected Chair of the California Democratic Party (CDP). Bauman narrowly defeated Kimberly. The CDP says he won by 62 votes. It really was a contest between “old school” Democrats vs “new school” Democrats. The delegates had a clear choice between (a) someone relatively new to the party and (b) someone who had waited years for “his turn.” I reported on this exciting contest in 2017. I supported Kimberly Ellis.

Bauman was Vice Chair of the CDP for almost 10 years (2009-2017) and Chair of the Los Angeles Democratic Party for 17 years (2000-2017). Not surprisingly, his endorsement by the LA Democratic Party was won with 94% of the vote. Bauman was considered the” consummate party insider.” Bauman resigned his position as CDP Chair in disgrace in late 2018.

Fast forward to 2019

On January 15, 2019, 3 current and former CDP employees sued the CDP and Bauman. They claim there is a culture of harassment and sexual misconduct at the CDP that is “well-known and apparently tolerated” by top officials. They describe a workplace where drinking during the workday and inappropriate sexual conduct and comments were tolerated, and party leaders retaliated against those who reported allegations of harassment. In April 2019, more staffers sued the CDP and Bauman for the same type of conduct.

Bauman’s former assistant at the LA Democratic Party filed the second case. William Floyd says Bauman sexually assaulted him at least three times and groped him on numerous occasions. Floyd says Bauman threatened him, telling him “if you cross me, I will break you.”

The fact that Bauman’s outrageous conduct was “widely known” and tolerated for whatever reason is deeply troubling. Bauman was clearly a sexual predator with “no shame in his game.” He abused his power openly in grotesque ways. He knew he could get away with it. Apparently, no one cared enough about sexual oppression, or felt empowered enough within the party to say or do anything about it until CDP staffer Kate Earley broke the silence.

The 2019 CDP Chair Race

Today, Kimberly Ellis is the front-runner in the CDP Chair race. If elected, Kimberly would be only the fourth female Chairwoman of the CDP in 128 years. She would be one of less than a handful of Black women Chairs of State Democratic parties. Rusty Hicks and Daraka Larimore-Hall, both men from Southern California stepped up to run against her.

In my view, Rusty Hicks comes out of the same cesspool of sexism and white privilege that birthed and fed Eric Bauman. Rusty is a longtime labor leader with the LA County Federation of Labor. There is little doubt that Rusty worked closely with Bauman for the last 14 years. Indeed, in 2017, Rusty supported Eric Bauman. I believe that Rusty had to know about Eric’s outrageous misconduct and said nothing. In too many ways in 2019, Rusty looks like Eric Bauman’s surrogate replacement.

Daraka Larimore Hall (Credit: Paul Wellman)

The other leading contender for CDP Chair is Daraka Larimore-Hall. He was elected as Vice-Chair in 2017 by winning 84% of the votes. The first sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the CDP and Bauman in January, however, names Daraka as a person who tried to dissuade the lead plaintiff from filing her complaint. As a result, Daraka has not been able to overcome the perception that he was complicit in Eric’s misconduct.

So why is Rusty not similarly disqualified? Maybe because Eric is a clean-shaven white man while Daraka is a Black man. In addition, Daraka is a former Democratic Socialist who supported Bernie Sanders in 2016. Therefore, Daraka’s political principles are not popular with the party elite. But, having listened to all 3 candidates, I can say that Rusty Hicks is the least impressive.

The Party Elite Have the Power

Kimberly’s greatest challenge is the power of the party elites. These “electeds” get between 2-6 votes each, depending on the size of their constituency. In addition, if they successfully ran a slate of candidates in the 2019 ADEM elections, they may have as many as 20 votes.

The California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) has 10 members. They have up to 60 votes. The Caucus has endorsed Kimberly. However, that is no guarantee that its members will vote in accord with the endorsement. At least two CLBC members – Assemblymembers Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Steven Bradford – have publicly supported Rusty. For example, in 2017, CLBC members Jones-Sawyer, Bradford, Mike Gipson, Autumn Burke and Chris Holden supported Eric Bauman over Kimberly.

The California Women’s Legislative Caucus has 36 members, including 31 Democrats. That’s a trove of at least 186 potential votes. But not all women support women. In 2017, Senator Nancy Skinner supported Bauman. Senator Kamala Harris did not vote for Kimberly in 2017 and she has not endorsed her in 2019. My commentary on Kamala Harris is in Part 2.

Statewide Constitutional officers like Betty Yee, Fiona Ma and Tony Thurman have all endorsed Rusty. It seems that they are progressive until it comes to supporting the leadership aspirations of a Black woman.

How Can You Help?

Many people outside the CDP question whether they can influence the race. The answer is yes! First, you know someone who knows someone who is a delegate to the CDP Convention. You just need to find that person and urge them to vote for Kimberly.

Second, you can reach out to the key legislators and ask them to vote for Kimberly. Hit them on Twitter. Message them through Facebook. Call their offices. Send a e-mail. Let them know that you are watching. Here’s how to reach the 10 members of the California Legislative Black Caucus:

Shirley Weber
Twitter: @AsmShirleyWeber
Messenger: @ShirleyWeberCaliforniaStateAssembly
Phone: (619) 531-7913

Steven Bradford
Twitter: @StevenBradford
Messenger: @stevenbradford62
Phone: (916) 651-4035 or (310) 412-6120

Sydney Kamlager-Dove
Twitter: @AsmKamlagerDove
Messenger: @AsmKamlagerDove
Phone: 323-291-5441
E-mail: assemblymember.kamlager-dove@asm.ca.gov

Autumn Burke
Twitter: @AsmAutumnBurke
Messenger: @AssemblywomanAutumnRBurke
Phone: (916) 319-2062 or (310) 412-6400

Holly Mitchell
Twitter: @HollyJMitchell
Messenger: Holly4LACounty
Phone: (916) 651-4030 or (213) 745-6656

Reginald Jones-Sawyer
Twitter: @JonesSawyer59
Messenger: @reggiejonessawyersr
Phone: (916) 319-2059

Mike Gipson
Twitter: @AsmMikeGipson
Messenger: @AssemblymemberMikeGipson
Phone: (310) 324-6408 or (916) 319-2064
E-mail: assemblymember.gipson@assembly.ca.gov

Jim Cooper
Twitter: @AsmJimCooper
Messenger: @AsmJimCooper
Phone: (916) 670-7888 or (916) 319-2009

Kevin McCarthy
Twitter: @AsmKevinMcCarthy
Messenger: @ASMKevinMcCarthy
Phone: (916) 319-2007 or (916) 324-4676

Christopher Holden
Twitter: @ChrisHoldenNews
Messenger: @AssemblymemberChrisHolden
Phone: (916) 319-2041

Here’s how to reach the 3 women who represent the Bay Area and will control at least 18 votes at the Convention:

Nancy Skinner
Twitter: @NancySkinnerCA
Messenger: @StateSenatorNancySkinner
Phone: (916) 651-4009 or (510) 286-1333

Buffy Wicks
Twitter: @BuffyWicks
Messenger: @AsmBuffyWicks
Phone: (916) 319-2015 or (510) 286-1400

Rebecca Bauer-Kahn
Twitter: @BauerKahan
Messenger: @RBKCalifornia
Phone: (925) 328-1515

In conclusion, the vote will take place on Saturday June 1st. We will see what the CDP really stands for!

#METOO WorldWide Movement

#METOO – “Ain’t I A Woman”

The Worldwide #METOO Movement came to Berkeley this week. Fifty speakers came from around the world to talk about global resistance to sexual harassment and violence. I am honored to participate in the conversation and the ongoing struggle against oppression based on gender.

The most important insight that I can contribute about resistance to sexual harassment and violence is that it is deeply rooted in the intersectional oppression and resistance of Black women.” And so I started to engage with this amazing group of activists, lawyers, professors and students. We are all committed to moving #METOO beyond the popular hashtag into real challenge and change. We must honor and appreciate the roots of this movement as we move “forward and beyond.”

The title “Ain’t I A Woman” goes back to Sojourner Truth’s famous speech on May 29, 1851 in Akron, Ohio. She spoke from her heart and the pain of slavery to challenge white women to “see” her. In 1981, Professor Bell Hooks in her famous book, “Ain’t I A Woman” challenged contemporary white feminists to “recognize” Black women in “their” movement. Ten years later, in 1991, Anita Hill‘s riveting testimony before an all white male Judiciary Committee (headed by Uncle Joe Biden) gave voice to the outrage of women everywhere. After that hearing, the battle cry was “I believe Anita Hill.”

#BlackWomenBuiltThat

The oppression and resistance of Black women created the
law of sexual harassment. In the fall of 1977, I joined the sexual harassment lawsuit called Alexander v. Yale. My political science professor sexually propositioned me. Yale’s band leader raped Ronni Alexander. Ronni’s case was dismissed. Mine was not. As a 21-year-old Black woman, I became the lead plaintiff in the first sexual harassment lawsuit ever litigated in this country in education. We gave sexual harassment a name and made Title IX apply to it.

I was not alone. In 1976, Diane R. Williams, a 23-year-old Black woman attorney won her sexual harassment case against the Dept. of Justice. Diane persisted after the case was overturned on appeal. She started fighting her case in 1972 and kept fighting until she finally won in 1980. Her case was among the first in employment to say that “quid pro quid” sexual harassment is sex discrimination.

Paulette L. Barnes, a Black woman, filed and lost her case against the federal government in 1974. Paulette persisted. On July 27, 1977, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. ruled that it was illegal to fire a woman who refused a supervisor’s advances. On the West Coast, Margaret Miller, a Black woman, sued Bank of America for sexual harassment. Margaret lost her case in the district court in 1976. But she persisted. She finally won her case in June 1979.

“Anita Hill’s Grandmother”

Sandra Bundy in 2018 (Credit: Lexey Swall)

Sandra Bundy‘s case was the first federal appeals court case to clearly say that sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. Sandra sued the federal government in 1977. She lost at trial in 1979 and fought until she won in 1981. Because of Sandra Bundy, women everywhere can say that sexual harassment creates a hostile work environment. As a result, in 1986, Mechelle Vinson, a Black woman, won her hostile work environment case in the United States Supreme Court. She fought her case for almost 10 years, from 1978 to 1987.

From #METOO to #SayHerName

Fast forward 30 years to October 2017. That month, actress Ashley Judd went public with her story of sexual harassment by powerful Hollywood icon, Harvey Weinstein. Soon after that, Actress Alyssa Milano tweets “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” #METOO goes viral worldwide.

Tarana Burke, 2018. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Tarana Burke, a Black woman activist, created the phrase “MeToo” and an organization in 2006 to empower survivors of sexual violence. The worldwide #METOO movement to fight sexual harassment and sexual violence springs again from our oppression and our resistance.

It was my privilege this week to share our history with women and men from around the world. At last year’s conference, Professor Kimberle Crenshaw shared this herstory. Professor Crenshaw’s work on the urgency of intersectionality clearly points the way forward for our #METOO global movement. Black women must not be invisible in this movement. We are the veins in the “kaleidoscope of butterflies” that Professor Catherine MacKinnon so beautifully describes that gives our movement wings. Our power lies in our collective effort.

Pamela Price & Joelle Dzukou Epse Nwabueze
UC Berkeley Law School, 2019

Repeal No. 2

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Protest, Parkland, Florida 2018

The news this week is the same news we heard last week. The same insane incessant scourge of gun violence overwhelms us. The same “thoughts and prayers” that were issued by legislators around the country last week are re-issued this week. To a different family. To a different grieving community. To the same shocked nation.

Someone asked me after reading “Every 16 Hours” last week, what is the call to action? The call to action is simple: Repeal the Second Amendment. Repeal No. 2. The Second Amendment is the hard rock that supports every argument that we should continue to allow people to be killed with guns.

The Second Amendment was added to the Constitution as a compromise to protect the slave patrols in the South. The Founders knew the militias were necessary to keep slaves under control. Just like we abolished slavery, we need to abolish the Second Amendment. It is a vestige of our history, just like Jim Crow and mass incarceration, that is still killing us.

The Second Amendment Is Killing Us

This week, two teenagers opened fire at a high school in Colorado. They killed Kendrick Castillo, 18, and wounded eight other students. A gunman killed Riley Howell, 21, inside a University of North Carolina-Charlotte lecture room. Two people were killed and four others were injured in the attack.  The national news is abuzz with tributes to these two young men for bravery. The media sensationalizes their lives and murders.

Less sensational but just as deadly are the events here at home in the Bay Area. In Oakland, on Friday night, someone shot and killed 30-year old Tristan Carson, a clothing designer and event promoter at the intersection of East 12th Street and 23rd Avenue. No suspects, no motive. Just another young life lost to gun violence.

On Tuesday morning, a gunman shot and killed a 47-year-old man in Pittsburg as he stood outside his car. The shooting was the City of Pittsburg’s 8th homicide in 9 months, and the 5th in less than 6 weeks.

Today, May 9th, in San Ramon, police and FBI descended upon California High School to investigate threats of a gun attack. Someone scrawled three graffiti messages threatening to shoot up the school on May 9th. Two of the messages included racist slurs about Black people.

In Oakland, 4-year-old Na’Vaun Jackson is still recovering.

Na’Vaun accidentally shot himself in the head when he found a gun in the house. He survived but his family and the entire neighborhood was traumatized. There is a GOFUNDME page to help the family survive the financial devastation of this tragedy. The man who left the gun in the house has been arrested and will likely go to jail.

It Is Time to Repeal No. 2

What do all of these events have in common? Guns. Across this country, guns are everywhere. Despite our efforts to regulate and control access to guns, the situation has gotten completely out of hand. Increased criminal penalties and harsh sentences have had no impact whatsoever on the access to guns or the number of people killed by guns. Legal or illegal, guns kill, wound and maim too many people every day.

It is long past time to repeal the Second Amendment. That will remove the legal justifications that have thwarted every gun control measure ever proposed. We have the highest gun ownership per capita rate in the world. A March 2016 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that 90% of all women, 91% of children under 14 , 92% of youth aged 15 to 24 years, and 82% of all people killed by firearms in the world were in the United States.

The United States stands alone in its allegiance to gun violence. In 2010, the number of gun homicides in the U.S. was at least 9,960. The Centers for Disease Control reported 11,078 firearm-related homicides that year. In comparison, there were only:

173 in Canada

155 in the United Kingdom

158 in Germany

142 in France

30 in Sweden; and

11 in Japan.

How Do We Repeal No. 2?

The devastation to our country because of the Second Amendment should compel us to take bold action to address our national crisis. It will not be easy – it may not be quick. Going through Congress requires a 2/3 majority in both the House and the Senate and approval by 38 states. Bypassing Congress means we need 34 states to call for a Constitutional Convention to pass the repeal legislation and then 38 states to approve it.

The last time a Constitutional Amendment was repealed was in 1933. It took legislators less than a year to repeal the 18th Amendment which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol. It was a national conversation that led to the repeal of the 18th Amendment.

In this moment, we are having a national conversation about gun violence and gun control. In the words of retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the simple but dramatic action of repealing the Second Amendment will move us closer to stopping gun violence than any other possible reform.

To support the movement to repeal No. 2, sign a petition at MoveOn, find and support a youth group in your community that is committed to getting this done. In this season, young people are on fire to stop the violence and they should not listen to anyone who tells them it can’t be done. The future of this country is in their hands.

In the immortal and wise words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible, until it is done.” Let’s get this done as soon as possible. #RepealNo2.

Every 16 Hours

It’s finally May, thank God. April is always a hard month for me. It starts with April 4th, the anniversary date of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. That date always brings me to somber reflection of the challenges we still face despite Rev. King’s sacrificed life.

This April 2019, there are too many stories and other anniversaries of tragic deaths, most of them by the gun. America is among the most deadly countries in the world when it comes to gun violence. In fact, America’s gun-related murder rate is the highest in the developed world, excluding Mexico.

According to one 2012 study, Americans own at least 270 million guns. The second gun-ranking country, India, a country over three times our population, only has 46 million guns. And, the vast majority of the world’s countries have fewer than 10 million privately-owned guns. This disparity is based on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The devastation to our country because of this law should compel us to take bold action to address our national crisis.

Everyday Gun Violence

An end to gun violence in America cannot come too soon for Black and Brown communities, women or children. Too many lives are lost, not just in schools, but in our homes or in the streets. There are so many preventable deaths that only happen because there is a gun available. In fact, there are always way more gun suicides than gun homicides in America. In 2016, 22,938 people committed suicide with a gun, while 14,415 people died in gun homicides. In 2012, 64% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides.

Guns are easily purchased or traded in the streets everywhere. These guns do not show up in surveys. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2010, African Americans were 55% of the victims of gun homicides, whites were 25%, and Hispanics were 17%. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 1980 to 2008, 84% of white homicide victims were killed by another white person and 93% of Black homicide victims were killed by another Black person.

The McElhaney Family

The fact of random violence was painfully brought home to Oakland again on March 10, 2019, when we lost Victor McElhaney. Victor was a son of Oakland killed in a senseless act of gun violence in Los Angeles. Heartbroken family and friends in Los Angeles and Oakland will forever be linked through the loss and legacy of Victor McElhaney.

In the same month, Los Angeles lost the visionary brilliance of its native son, Nipsy Hussle. Hussle, a former gang member, wanted to focus on “giving solutions and inspiration” to young black men like him. He spoke openly about his experiences with gang culture, and denounced gun violence through his music, influence and community work. On March 31, 2019, Nipsy was shot 6 times and killed by another Black man.

Women And Children are Not Safe

A recent study found that “intimate partner homicides ― when a person murders their spouse or romantic partner ― increased each year between 2014 and 2017.” The reason: guns. The study found that since 2010, intimate partner homicides by gun increased 26% while the murder of women by other means has decreased. According to one estimate, a woman is fatally shot by her boyfriend, husband or ex every 16 hours.

6-year-old Millie Drew Kelly killed by her 4-year old brother

Then, there are the guns legally owned and accidentally used to kill or maim someone. On April 11, 2019, 6-year old Millie Drew Kelly died after her 4-year-old brother accidentally shot her in the head. This kind of tragedy is a recurring event in America. In December 2018, a 6-year-old girl in Missouri died after she was accidentally shot in the head by her 12-year-old brother. October 2018, in Virginia, a 7-year-old boy found his grandfather’s gun and accidentally shot his 5-year-old sister. March 2018 – an 8-year-old in Ohio loads a .22-caliber rifle and opens fire on his 4-year old sister. She miraculously survived.

The Mass Shootings

The face of death by gun knows no boundaries of age, race, sex or religion. Most of the time we hear of a mass shooting, we see the perpetrator is a young white male. Our senses have been shocked over and over again since the Columbine High School shootings in April 1999. Over the last 20 years, we have watched this type of random mass shooting increase in frequency. The number of lives lost in each incident is completely unpredictable.

A gunman kills 32 people and wounds 17 at Virginia Tech State University in April 2007. Twenty-seven people – including 20 six and seven year olds – are murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. Another gunman kills 49 people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando in June 2016. Fifty-eight people die by the gun at a concert on the Las Vegas strip in October 2017.

Nine victims of racially-motivated attack shot & killed inside Emanuel AME Church

We have also seen the rise of racially motivated gun attacks on churches. In June 2015, a white man wanting to start “a race war” kills 9 Black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Charleston, South Carolina. In October 2018, a man expressing hatred for Jews kills 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Courageous Young Ones

Parents wait for news after a reports of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

Finally, on Valentine’s Day 2018, a gunman kills 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This one woke up young people across the country. #EnoughIsEnough. Since then, they are organizing state-by-state to challenge America’s gun laws. They took on the National Rifle Association (NRA) with fierce energy. Their attack on the influence of the NRA in the political and media world has left that organization reeling.

Watching the young activists who survived the Parkland massacre step up last year and demand an end to gun violence in America was inspiring. These young people are outraged and insulted by the excuses people make for gun violence. They courageously rejected the stupidest idea that we should arm teachers as a solution to the problem. They have been uncompromising in their insistence that we stop the violence now.

What Are We Doing About This?

In Oakland, we have a new Department of Violence Prevention. It is a small effort – a start – to tackle a huge problem in our City. It needs funding and leadership – two things in scarcity in our City administration in this season. Ironically, Councilmember Lynette McElhaney spearheaded the effort to create this Department. She is one of millions of Americans who have buried their children and loved ones long before their time.

For more than 20 years, Congress prohibited the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from conducting any research on gun violence in America. It was NRA pressure that led to the restriction on research. The CDC interpreted the ban to include all research on gun violence prevention, and so has not funded any research on this subject since 1996.

On April 29, 2019, however, a Congressional committee allocated $50 million dollars to study ways to prevent gun violence, giving $25 million to the CDC. It seems that if our children are not afraid of the NRA, maybe the politicians will finally stand up to the NRA as well. Based on what I’ve written, you know we don’t really need another study. We need action. The battle lines are drawn. Our future depends on the fight. We can only hope that the power and resilience of today’s young people will lead us to do what is absolutely necessary for all of us. Stop the violence now.

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