Cookies Not Cages Local Effort Raises $12,000 to help reunite families

When the dialogue on El Cerrito Next Door landed a suggestion for a bake sale to raise money for detainees at West County Detention Center, members of ECP agreed to get involved. Although some thought it was a long shot or at least an effort that might not yield much money, In the end, we raised $10,000 for bonds to support Freedom for Immigrants in 2018. 

This year we wanted to do something again. We sought out an organization doing immigration work locally with a solid reputation. We were deeply affected by the pictures of the young children in cages so we decided to support East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and specifically help the organization fulfill a need for additional legal services for unaccompanied minors in our community. We met them at their offices to discuss our fundraiser and were so impressed by their work and what they were able to do with such limited space and funding. 

They told us that since 2014 EBSC had provided legal assistance to more than 600 unaccompanied children fleeing gang violence, human trafficking, and domestic abuse in their home countries. We also learned that as of January 2019, the apprehensions of unaccompanied minors at the border had increased over 40%. We wanted to help.

The organizers for Baking for Bonds regrouped and recoined the effort: Cookies Not Cages.  We launched our campaign on the 4th of July with a Gofundme followed by monthly bake sales at El Cerrito Plaza and Kensington Farmers Market. Cookies Not Cages set a $10,000 goal. 

Hundreds of cookies, brownies, pies, cakes and breads yielded thousands of dollars!

Once again, we called out the larger community reaching out first to the bakers and sellers that worked with us last year. Immediately we had the bake sales up and running. Almost every sale we sold out! Everything was donation based. We had many generous donors give us $20 and not take a thing. Others used our sale when they were going to a potluck or having visitors over and bought a variety of items. 

The first weekend we made over $1,000 just at the El Cerrito Plaza. And subsequent weekends were just as successful. People really wanted to help.  Our majority-female group raised over $12,000 for EBSC and they were able to increase access to legal services for minors. While we couldn’t change policy, we could make a difference in the lives of those children who are seeking to remain in the community with their family members.

Our brigade of women was from our community (El Cerrito, Kensington, Richmond) and they did us and the community at large proud! And to the men or women who may have been in the kitchen helping out or watching the kids -kudos to you!

We reached out to local businesses and want to give a special shout-out to Ojas Yoga in the EC Plaza. Ojas placed a donation can in their Yoga Studio and helped to spread the word.  And the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley Social Justice Committee hosted a special bake sale that garnered over $500 dollars!

For any of you feeling frustrated and overwhelmed,  think about the ways you can make a difference. The ideas you have can help others that need it now. Then grab some friends and make it happen. We showed that it can work!

El Cerrito PD Unveils Drone Policy, Pushing Back on a Surveillance Ordinance

On October 22nd the El Cerrito Police Department held a public forum on the use of drones by the police department. Sadly it was poorly attended by the public, perhaps because it was advertised as a discussion on Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) operations. Regardless we do appreciate Chief Keith having the public forum because there is nothing to require him to do so.

The police department talked about why they might use drones such as searching for missing persons, photography for crime scene investigations, and pursuit of a suspect for a violent crime to name a few. We had a good discussion on the current language in the policy about using drones for incidents of civil unrest and how that may be defined. The Chief agreed to look for a more specific definition of what he meant by that.  

Chief Paul Keith Introducing Drone policy to a small gathering of community members on Oct. 22nd, 2019

The difference that stood out is that the Police Department wants to have these guidelines be departmental policy rather than an enforceable ordinance. What this means is 

  1. A departmental policy can be changed at any time for any reason without public notice
  2. If there are violations of the policy the department handles them as a human resource issue.

What El Cerrito Progressives and some local civil liberties organizations such as ACLU and Oakland Privacy are asking for is an ordinance. What this provides is

  1. Annual reporting of the use of the devices to council
  2. Council approval with public input of any new devices
  3. Civil remedies if the policy is violated. The civil remedy is what is called a cure and correct which means the city would be notified that they were in violation and asked to fix the problem. If they did not fix the problem it would then go to a judge. This allows for accountability outside of the system.

Essentially what the ordinance does is ask for transparency and accountability in a formalized manner. The issue of trust came up a lot in the meeting. The Police Department feels like the public does and should trust them to do the right thing. What the privacy advocates said is that there can easily be incidents of abuse no matter how well the intentions of the department. Public accountability deters abuse. Right now the policy when amended may be reasonable and something most people can support. That being said, if a staff change occurs or there is a new surveillance item the city wants they can get it with no transparency or public accountability. Right now we have to trust they will do the right thing. 

Sadly as an institution, police departments have not always been shown to be trustworthy. Oakland, Richmond, and Berkeley police departments all have had significant issues with violations of public trust. In addition, both Alameda and Contra Costa County Sheriffs Departments have used surveillance methods in a way that civil liberties organizations object to. (see link at the bottom of the page) While our department is much smaller it does not mean it could not happen here. It is not a matter of trust to us, it is a matter of solid policy guidelines with accountability. Just because we live in a more liberal area does not mean that such violations could not occur. 

We understand that the public is generally exhausted with general political turmoil right now. But this is one of those slippery slopes where if we allow unregulated drones into our community then easily a next step is facial recognition technology which has been banned in Oakland, San Francisco and has a pending ban in Berkeley. We don’t want the line to be drawn at that point when that technology is already purchased as it is in this circumstance. The police purchased the drone a year ago before a policy had been put in place and before any public or council comment.

So what can you do?

  1. Read the policy here and send any feedback to evera@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us.
  2. As of now, Chief Keith is planning on presenting the policy at the December 17th council meeting. We will continue to keep you apprised of this. Follow us on Facebook for updates also.
  3. Email city council members and let them know your thoughts

Mayor Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto rpardueokimoto@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Lyman glyman@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Councilperson Paul Fadeilli pfadelli@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Councilperson Janet Abelson jabelson@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

Councilperson Gabriel Quinto  gquinto@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us

For more information 

Alameda and Contra Costa County Sheriffs Flew Drones Over Protests

El Cerrito Progressives in depth post on the surveillance ordinance

ECPD EXPLORING USE OF DRONES

There is a growing trend in the United States  towards using surveillance technology to cast a broad net over a community to protect public safety rather than developing methods that are more precise.  As a result, we are all subject to the scrutiny of law enforcement agencies regardless of whether or not our activities are against the law. The potential for abuse with this data is undeniable.  A rigorous ordinance can balance the tension between public safety, privacy, and civil liberties. In fact, El Cerrito’s recent process for a body camera policy provides an example of how use policies can be developed prior to implementation and with ample public input. 

We believe El Cerrito should implement a surveillance technology ordinance before obtaining these technologies so that privacy concerns and potential degradation of our civil liberties can be addressed from day one. Right now we know ICE is actively using these technologies to pursue undocumented immigrants. However, the facial recognition technology they are using is against drivers licenses which means most of our information is exposed to this. (1) San Francisco has just passed a ban on all facial recognition technology and other cities are following. (2)

There are many current types of surveillance technologies such as license plate readers, cameras, drones, cell site simulators, and new technologies are being developed every day. Many community members want to develop a policy that allows for public input before any such technologies are adapted by the city. Such a process was used for the body cameras the police wear and it was a great example of a balance between civil liberties and needs of the police. What do you think?

We would like an El Cerrito Ordinance on the use of surveillance technology that includes the following:

  1. Each new surveillance technology shall have a developed policy that is approved by the City Council. This policy shall include a detailed description of what the technology is, how it will be utilized, how, when, why, and with whom data will be shared, and what the data storage policy will be. 
  1. Any surveillance technology used by law enforcement shall be held to a high standard of public accountability.  An annual report of how data is being collected and used shall be shared with the community. This report shall include what equipment was used, how it was used, and how effective it was in preventing or solving a crime. 
  1. Any surveillance data collected shall have stated requirements for how long data can be stored, and how it will be stored.  
  1. El Cerrito Police Department will develop strict guidelines for how information is shared will other law enforcement/government agencies. Information will never be shared with ICE.
  1. No contract for surveillance technology shall be entered into with any agency that shares their data with ICE (such as Vigilant). 
  1. A process shall be established to enable citizens to know if their data has been collected. 

We believe there can be a balance between the use of technology for crime protection and protection of civil liberties. Join us if you would like to see a reasonable policy that protects our privacy.

Links to Articles:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/07/07/fbi-ice-find-state-drivers-license-photos-are-gold-mine-facial-recognition-searches/?utm_term=.4df8b56d0acc

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/14/us/facial-recognition-ban-san-francisco.html

 

ECPD EXPLORING USE OF DRONES

The article below is a reprint of a previous ECP post and relevant to the public meeting being called for by the El Cerrito Police Department.

There is a growing trend in the United States  towards using surveillance technology to cast a broad net over a community to protect public safety rather than developing methods that are more precise.  As a result, we are all subject to the scrutiny of law enforcement agencies regardless of whether or not our activities are against the law. The potential for abuse with this data is undeniable.  A rigorous ordinance can balance the tension between public safety, privacy, and civil liberties. In fact, El Cerrito’s recent process for a body camera policy provides an example of how use policies can be developed prior to implementation and with ample public input. 

We believe El Cerrito should implement a surveillance technology ordinance before obtaining these technologies so that privacy concerns and potential degradation of our civil liberties can be addressed from day one. Right now we know ICE is actively using these technologies to pursue undocumented immigrants. However, the facial recognition technology they are using is against drivers licenses which means most of our information is exposed to this. (1) San Francisco has just passed a ban on all facial recognition technology and other cities are following. (2)

There are many current types of surveillance technologies such as license plate readers, cameras, drones, cell site simulators, and new technologies are being developed every day. Many community members want to develop a policy that allows for public input before any such technologies are adapted by the city. Such a process was used for the body cameras the police wear and it was a great example of a balance between civil liberties and needs of the police. What do you think?

We would like an El Cerrito Ordinance on the use of surveillance technology that includes the following:

  1. Each new surveillance technology shall have a developed policy that is approved by the City Council. This policy shall include a detailed description of what the technology is, how it will be utilized, how, when, why, and with whom data will be shared, and what the data storage policy will be. 
  1. Any surveillance technology used by law enforcement shall be held to a high standard of public accountability.  An annual report of how data is being collected and used shall be shared with the community. This report shall include what equipment was used, how it was used, and how effective it was in preventing or solving a crime. 
  1. Any surveillance data collected shall have stated requirements for how long data can be stored, and how it will be stored.  
  1. El Cerrito Police Department will develop strict guidelines for how information is shared will other law enforcement/government agencies. Information will never be shared with ICE.
  1. No contract for surveillance technology shall be entered into with any agency that shares their data with ICE (such as Vigilant). 
  1. A process shall be established to enable citizens to know if their data has been collected. 

We believe there can be a balance between the use of technology for crime protection and protection of civil liberties. Join us if you would like to see a reasonable policy that protects our privacy.

Links to Articles:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/07/07/fbi-ice-find-state-drivers-license-photos-are-gold-mine-facial-recognition-searches/?utm_term=.4df8b56d0acc

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/14/us/facial-recognition-ban-san-francisco.html

 

California Legalizes Public Banks

From the Standing Rock movement came Indigenous activities across the nation to divest from banks that supported the Dakota Access Pipeline. The growth of the movement to divest brought to light one of the biggest issues concerning economic justice in the United States: banks that do not support the real economy.

The Indigenous divestment movement engendered into public consciousness the need to better secure public assets, such as pension funds.  Banks into which state, local, and the national government invest public money that’s used in for-profit speculation rather than in local communities hurt the real economy. This issue raised the question of alternatives.

Gov Newsom Legalized Public Banking

California Legalizes Public Banking

California is one jurisdiction that provided an answer to that question.

In September, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 857, a law that allows public banking in our state and the establishment of a banking framework that includes socially responsible charters, anti-corruption clauses, transparency, a board that includes community development professionals, and prohibitions on retail locations and on unbalanced competition with community banks and credit unions. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law on October 2nd.

Sushil Jacob, a senior staff attorney for economic justice with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, explains that, somewhat like nonprofits, the boards of public banks are made up of community members who have business experience. It is then the responsibility of the community to monitor board members in staying true to community values, such as investment in affordable housing, making student loans more affordable, saving people from foreclosure, and creating more infrastructure to defend against the effects of climate change.

Jacob continues that, while it is important to pressure the federal government on such issues, real change is going to take place at the state and local levels.

For more information on public banking, see YES! Journalism for People Building a Better World, from which this information was taken, and The Los Angeles Times: Public banks can be formed in California: Newsom signs new law.

Meet the Author-David Bacon

DATE: Saturday, October 12th

TIME: 3:30-5:30 PM

PLACE: Berkeley Zion Presbyterian Church, 545 Ashbury Ave., El Cerrito

Photo-journalist, activist and photographer David Bacon will be speaking on several of his books addressing the plight of farmworkers in the U.S. and around the globe. His work provides insights into the roots of immigration from Central America and Mexico to the United States. He documents the experiences of some of the hardest-working and most disenfranchised laborers in the country: the farm workers who are responsible for making California “America’s breadbasket.” . Bacon will discuss the inherent abuse in the labor contractor work system, and remind us that the struggle in the fields for justice is far from over. In his latest book, (available at the event) David Bacon will remind you that the food that appears on our dinner tables is the result of back-breaking labor, rampant exploitation, and powerful resilience. Reserve tickets at this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/meet-the-author-david-bacon-tickets-71759046239 Event is ADA accessible and free parking in lot on side of building. This event is sponsored by El Cerrito Progressives. For more information contact by email: elcerritoprogressives@gmail.com or call/text 510-734-8883

D

Newsweek: ICE Fails To Properly Redact Document, Reveals Location Of Future ‘Urban Warfare’ Training Facility

 

ICE logo.JPG

El Cerrito Progressives has been tracking the increasing militarization of policing in the U.S. with trepidation. This article by Chantal da Silva in Newsweek – September 11, 2019 – is important.

“The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has accidentally revealed the whereabouts of a future “urban warfare” training facility that is expected to include “hyper-realistic” simulations of homes, hotels and commercial buildings in Chicago and Arizona.

On Tuesday, ICE published an acquisition form for the procurement of “hyper-realistic training devices” for a new training facility for its expanding Special Response Team (SRT) program on the Federal Business Opportunities website.”

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