With over 150 supporters on the steps of the Alameda Courthouse in Oakland, embattled District Attorney Pamela Price answered critics who are organizing a recall campaign. At the rally, Price detailed her challenges and reforms of her first 100 days in office.
Price gave a far-ranging speech on Sunday, April 23, linking her campaign for the DA office to her career and actions. Price connected her reforms as a part of the ongoing struggle for civil rights. “The system was not broken in a day,” Price told the rally-goers. “It will not be fixed in 100 days.”
Price also did not hold back in criticizing the former DA, Nancy O’Malley, detailing multiple problems she found in the DA’s office she inherited from O’Malley.
Price said that O’Malley had no transition plan in place after losing the 2022 election and also had some employees supposedly reporting to managers who retired or left their positions during COVID or just after the 2022 election. She also noted that many cases earmarked for review had languished for years without attention during the previous DA.
To help reduce the large backlog in cases, Price said she is hiring new staff and reorganizing teams in the DA office as well as adding more support for victims of crimes.
Although only elected to the DA Office in November and working since January, Price has been blamed for rising crime and problems in policing that are not part of the DA’s job description.
There has also been criticism of the lighter sentencing in many of her recent plea deals, particularly the plea deal rejected by an Alameda County judge in the freeway shooting of toddler Jasper Wu.
Other Progressive DAs in California have also been subjected to recall efforts, including Contra Costa County DA Diana Becton, and SF DA Chesa Boudin, who lost in last year’s recall vote. (Becton did not face an actual recall election but had similar challenges to Boudin and won handily in her re-election bid the same day).
The rally opened with spiritual songs led by Bishop L.E. Franklin, followed by civil rights attorney Walter Riley acting as emcee.
An opening prayer was led by Reverend Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant. Another speaker was Richard Johnson (no relation), wrongfully incarcerated for a crime he did not commit but later released after an appeal organized by Pamela Price when she was his attorney.
Valerie Winemiller, a rally attendee, told Oakland Voices, “I feel the public is getting a very distorted picture of DA Pamela Price from the media coverage. Some on social media were asking ‘How soon can we recall her?’ within days of her inauguration. And people are getting worked up over what they think she’ll do based on rumor and speculation. All of that is fundamentally undemocratic.”
Winemiller added, “Every crime is a tragedy and a trauma for the victim and their family. But mass incarceration, charging too many juveniles as adults, unequal treatment based on class and race —we’ve been doing that for too long as a country, and we know it doesn’t work well. It’s past time we look at doing things differently. Other countries do not have our harsh approach and long sentences, but still have lower rates of recidivism. That’s why I voted for Pamela Price.”
Rivka Polatnick, another DA Price supporter who also helped organize the rally, had a lot to say on the issues surrounding the new DA. “The heated political battle surrounding criminal justice reform is a key moment in the long-term battle for racial justice,” Polatnick said. “Those backing and funding the recall efforts against progressive DA’s here and around the country are pretty much right-wing people who have not been friends of the Civil Rights Movement.”
Polatnick, who is Chair of the Racial and Criminal Justice Committee of the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club and a Steering Committee member of the Racism and Criminal Justice Reform group (RCJR) based in Berkeley, added, “DA Pamela Price has been doing all she possibly can in such a short time in office to serve all of Alameda County’s diverse communities, while also honoring her promise to address the long-time unjust treatment of so many Black people, other people of color, and poor people by the whole criminal legal system. She can’t work a miracle in only 100 days, especially given the zero transition support from the outgoing DA.”
On the NextDoor social media platform, some people have been promoting a recall petition and also citing policing issues and plea deals as reasons to recall Price after only 100 days in office. A number of those are members of STOP CRIME IN OAKLAND group. Oakland Voices tried to contact critics for comment or to quote their posts, but none responded before this article was published.
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Clarification: an earlier version of the article made it unclear that Contra Costa County DA Diana Becton did not face an actual recall election.
Hi Howard, please fact check a recall of Diana Becton. Did she appear on a ballot for recall? There’s a huge difference in in folks talking and an actual recall like Boudin Thank you.