No matter what we look like or where we live, we all want our families to be whole and our communities to be vibrant. We want to know we can make it home to our families at the end of the day. The truth is, we keep us safe. We are finding new ways to take care of one another and hold each other accountable all the time. Many of these practices are rooted and have been developed in communities that have never been able to rely on policing for safety.
Our communities will truly be safe when everyone has their basic human needs provided for, including housing, food, health care, income and education. An increasingly militarized police presence leads to racial profiling, harassment and further incarceration of Black and brown people, and more harmful policing. We need to stand in solidarity across communities to protect each other, including our elder Asian community members and undocumented immigrants. The pathway to prevent crime lies in funding the health and wellbeing of everybody in the Bay Area, regardless of immigration status, past record, etc. Across the political spectrum, people agree that sending sworn officers to solve so many of society’s problems—like traffic stops, mental health crises, or homelessness complaints—is expensive, inefficient, and ineffective.
It’s time to shift money from policing to community. It’s time to fund the alternatives, like restorative justice in schools and harm reduction — things that actually prevent crime rather than respond to it after the fact. It is time to make the Bay Area a sanctuary region for undocumented immigrants and also other marginalized communities, including Black communities, that have been systematically attacked by government policies and practices, from discrimination and criminalization to incarceration and deportation.
Orange denotes Bay Rising member organizations. Green denotes partner organizations. Click on the circles to visit each organization’s website.
Cities across the country are rethinking municipal budgets and reevaluating whether the police are doing jobs they were never intended to do. We have a unique opportunity to cut the spending of police forces that consume ever larger shares of city budgets, producing billions in savings that can be reinvested in a shared vision of community safety, infrastructure, and recovery that does not rely on policing.
This MOU won by the Black Organizing Project in 2014 that limits and defines the role of police on campus
This MOU won by Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth in 2013 that reduces arrests and police presence on SF Unified School District campuses
Reducing the number of people in jails and divesting from incarceration and policing will bring us closer to a just and healthy Bay Area that centers those communities currently targeted and fast-tracked to be locked up. We can do this by freeing people from jail, lifting and preventing gang injunctions, lowering recidivism, breaking down the school-to-prison pipeline, and investing in healthy communities.
Provide education, healing, prevention, and survivor support after cross-racial violence
Fueled by Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric, violence against our Asian community members has seen a sharp increase here in the Bay Area and across the country. At the urging of community organizers including Bay Rising member Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), cities have responded by funding violence prevention programs, including a Community Ambassador program in Oakland, where trained staff will prevent crime, provide a sense of security, and promote neighborhood health. It’s important for staff and leaders from existing community organizations that have long-standing relationships within local neighborhoods to provide services where possible. Promoting neighborhood health and safety should also include community-building and neighborhood-level resource wayfinding, as well as addressing homelessness, mental health issues, illegal dumping and more.
The ambassador program described in the Chronicle story was a project of Chinatown Improvement Initiative back in 2017, then became a joint project between the Asian Prisoner Support Committee, Asian Health Services, and the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. As of 2021, Family Bridges houses the program.
The city also made budget allocations specifically for the Chinatown and Eastlake neighborhoods for violence prevention. Oakland family service center Trybe was able to utilize these funds for their community ambassador program, which is now connected to the program described in the Chronicle story.
Asian Health Services now has a mobile healing clinic that serves victims of hate crimes and expands resources to those who have been impacted by crime directly or indirectly (people who are living in increased fear).
Bay Rising member Asian Pacific Environmental Network partnered with the Korean Community Center of the East Bay for a short period to run healing circles with Chinese elders to process news of violence as well as learn safety practices and self-defense techniques.
In San Francisco, the Coalition for Community Safety and Justice (including Bay Rising member Chinese Progressive Association) won initial investments from the City and County of San Francisco in 2021 to mitigate violence and hate across all communities of color. As of December 2021, the coalition has already:
Reached nearly 17,000 people
Engaged 15+ partner organizations and agencies
Run programs in 7 languages
Conducted a public safety needs and asset assessment of Asian and Pacific Islander members
Created a victim and survivor support fund to offer immediate financial assistance to vulnerable community members, raising nearly $45,000
Provided services to 40+ people
Managed community outreach programs across six SF neighborhoods (Chinatown, SOMA, Clement, Tenderloin, San Bruno, Leland)
Held 12 intergenerational listening sessions about accountability, safety, and race across multiple organizations, reaching 140 individuals
Led a series of rapid response events and built communications infrastructure to respond to violence with a focus on cross-racial solidarity, healing, and education.
End local collusion with ICE
Increased local and national anti-immigrant bills across the country, such as states taking increasing liberties in enforcing federal immigration law, as well as continued heavy-handed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) programs such as “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) play ongoing roles in diminishing the rights of new Americans, whether documented or not. Our member organization, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, has been at the forefront of strengthening immigrant rights and providing critical services.
In Oakland, while there had long been a coalition of labor and community groups (most recently called the ReFund coalition) that worked together around budget cycles to advocate for bigger investments in community resources, from libraries to local jobs to streetlamps, the Anti Police-Terror Project launched a campaign calling to shift money from the Oakland Police Department and to violence prevention in 2016. The campaign has since evolved into a coalition of 13 people-of-color-led grassroots organizations with decades-long roots in Oakland and tens of thousands of active members among them.
This demand to defund policing and invest in the community deepened during the nationwide uprisings during the summer of 2020 when, across the globe, tens of thousands of people came together to demand an end to state terror and violence. The City of Oakland created the Oakland Reimagining Public Safety Task Force in direct response to significant local demand to redirect monies from the Oakland Police Department to programs, support services, and resources that take a holistic view of public safety and focus on addressing the root causes of so-called “crime” rather than relying on militarized policing and a violent and cyclical carceral state.
In June of 2021, Oakland reallocated $18M to fund violence prevention rather than the mayor’s proposed two additional police academies. Other major shifts in Oakland’s budget included prioritizing funding for jobs, housing, community services, and arts & culture. Importantly, this budget includes an audit of the police department.
Towards the end of 2021, using an increase in violent crimes as justification, Oakland City Council shifted budget priorities and gave money back to the police academies. As with any city budget allocations, local leaders continue to watch and advocate for community demands. The work to shift funding will be a long-term effort, and we need to give the community services we’ve started to invest in time to work.
“We need to get to the gun before the bullet flies, not watch yet another mother put her child in the ground. We need to REfund. REstore. And REimagine.” – @CatsCommentary
Full quote: “Police are violence responders, not violence interrupters. We need to invest in root-cause, preventive strategies. We need to get to the gun before the bullet flies, not watch yet another mother put her child in the ground. We need to REfund. REstore. And REimagine.” – Cat Brooks, director of the Anti Police-Terror Project
Photo credits, top to bottom: April Martin Kofi / courtesy of Black Organizing Project, Brooke Anderson / courtesy of Anti Police-Terror Project, courtesy of Chinese Progressive Association, Adriana Oyarzun Photography / courtesy of SF Rising.