Oakland Councilmembers Want to Ban Tear Gas Used Against Protesters; Reporting on Unhoused Issues During COVID-19

Two city workers remove a curbside tent.
An Oakland encampment sweep. Photo by Talya Husbands-Hankin.

COVID-19 cases are now at 1,299 in Oakland, and 3,548 in Alameda County. Our correspondents Iris M. Crawford and Aqueila M. Lewis chat with two organizers of unhoused communities in Oakland to see the pressing issues during COVID-19, and beyond.

The Village Oakland and Love and Justice in the Streets

Love and Justice in the Streets’ Talya Husbands-Hankin says homelessness is an “absolute human rights violation.” Iris M. Crawford catches up with the organizer to see how dire things have become during COVID-19 in particular.

The Village Oakland has been organizing unhoused communities since the election of Donald Trump in 2016, with “Needa Bee” as a leader in the movement. Iris M. Crawford and Aqueila M. Lewis find out more about how things are since COVID-19, from installing hand washing stations to the clean water effort.

Both organizations, along with The East Oakland Collective, are a part of NoVacancy California. The three groups are also joining together to raise funds to move unhoused communities into hotels in their “Fill Hotels, Not Graves” campaign. So far, they have moved 36 people safely into hotels. Needa Bee says that this has had a positive impact on peoples’ health.

Oakland Councilmembers Ask to Ban Tear Gas during Protests

Councilmembers Sheng Thao, Rebecca Kaplan, and Nikki Fortunato Bas are asking Mayor Libby Schaaf, the Oakland Police, and the City Administrator to ban the use of tear gas during recent and upcoming protests in light of COVID-19. Tear gas is used in chemical warfare, and while Oakland Police are no longer supposed to use it, other forced deployed to Oakland during this time have been using it against protesters.

KTVU’s Lisa Fernandez reports that UCSF medical professionals have warned that tear gas could exacerbate health problems. “UCSF Dr. Peter Chin-Hong aid that tear gas makes people cough a lot and that people at protests are shouting and possibly projecting the virus droplets at farther lengths. Data also shows that African Americans are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 in Oakland and Alameda County, the letter states. In addition, ‘many black Americans disproportionately have pre-existing conditions like asthma that could make tear gas lethal,'” Fernandez reports.

Pharmacies that are Open in Oakland Right Now

Some pharmacies, including ones in East Oakland, downtown, and Chinatown, either had their windows smashed or were looted last weekend. As a response, all of the Walgreens in Oakland are closed, according to a report by Oaklandside’s Azucena Rasilla. The report also includes a searchable list of pharmacies that remain open in Oakland.

Author Profile

Momo Chang is a freelance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the Oakland Voices Co-Director. Her work focuses on healthcare, immigration, education, Asian American communities, food and culture. She is a former staff writer at the Oakland Tribune. Momo has received journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting and the Asian American Journalists Association, among others. Her work has appeared in the East Bay Express, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, and The New York Times. Momo is primarily a print journalist who also produces audio and visual stories for documentary film and radio. She is a Senior Contributing Editor for Hyphen and formerly the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM).

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