The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLGSF) condemns the offensive and abhorrent position taken by the Alameda County District Attorney (DA's) Office and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to prosecute fourteen Black community activists for interrupting the BART system at West Oakland BART station on Black Friday, November 28, 2014. The Black Friday action on BART protested the racist judicial system and state-endorsed violence that have allowed law enforcement agencies to commit killings and assaults with impunity in Black communities nationwide.
The DA's office, led by Nancy O'Malley, and BART have opted to punish the #BlackFriday14 for their First Amendment activities rather than respond to the righteous call for police accountability and move to end systemic racism in the legal system by condemning the lack of prosecution of the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Now, these activists, who put their lives on the line to demand justice, are facing trespassing charges, and a severe and punitive demand for $70,000 in claimed restitution, as a tactic to silence them. Rather than spending its resources on the selective prosecution of Black leaders who speak up about injustices in Oakland, the DA’s office should adopt specific guidelines and procedures to ensure that it will no longer allow police killings to go unpunished.
The DA is setting a very dangerous precedent by criminalizing the protesters for its own lack of responsibility to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for their higher rates of violence against black community members. Criminalization of this type of political activity is not only detestable and careerist, but it also shows that the DA's office prefers to maintain this violent racist status quo.
"It is rather shameful that the DA's office has selectively chosen to go after these Black members of Oakland community for engaging in a clearly righteous civil disobedience to bring attention to the epidemic of police and vigilante killings of Black people in the U.S.," said #BlackFriday14 lead attorney, Walter Riley. "I am particularly disturbed that BART would pursue charges and restitution, considering it has blood on its hands for some of the very killings that these Black Lives Matter demonstrators have brought mass attention to."
NLGSF urges that the Alameda County District Attorney's Office immediately drop the charges against #BlackFriday14 in furtherance of justice. We also demand that corrective steps be taken by the DA's office by publicly condemning the lack of prosecution and indictments of police murders within its jurisdiction.