Oakland City Council Approve DAC, Abandon Constituents
After last year’s concession of former councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (who referred to political protests as “domestic terrorism”), many residents had hoped that the latest incarnation of the city council would progress in representing the voices of those they were elected to represent — hopes that, if still held in tatters at the start of last night’s meeting, were completely eradicated before the sun rose this morning. Somewhere between 6:30 pm and 2:00 a.m., Oakland City Council proved once again that they are just as capable of corruption and complete disregard for their constituents as ever.
There was no need to consult Zoltar the fortune teller to see this one coming, as many councilmembers announced the way they would vote to the press ahead of the public’s chance to speak on the issues at the meeting. However, the consequences are no less damning — Oakland City Council unanimously ushered in a new era of mass government spying throughout the city, and near-unanimously banned the public from carrying items that are 100% legal — all of which are also involved in many trade professions — within the vicinity of what they determine to be a protest. Both of these are frightening abuses of power and arguably violate the Constitution.
At 6:30pm last night, the Oakland City Council meeting was packed with constituents holding signs protesting what’s known as the Domain Awareness Center, or DAC– an overarching surveillance system up for vote on the July 30th meeting agenda. But it wasn’t just “on the agenda.” DAC, along with fellow controversial resolution “Tools for Violence,” was strategically placed at the very end of the list — 35 and 36 respectively, out of 36 agenda items. To say this was anything but political just doesn’t make sense statistically . To not let comments about the item regarding the following begin until five hours into the meeting — past 11 pm — is ridiculous:
- nearly 1,000 cameras being installed throughout Oakland to spy on people and to be watched 24/7
- tracking via license plate
- twitter feed tracking
- and even more, all linked up into warrant-free access to an aggregate of data about anyone
Dozens and dozens of people had to leave early simply to make the last public transportation home, many of whom came straight from working all day. The city council indubitably knew this would be the case when they placed the rights-stripping bills at the very end of the agenda, in an all too familiar abuse of the democratic process. Oakland’s local slice of the PATRIOT Act mimicked the same populace-overruling force that inaugurated it’s national predecessor — an action even more striking given the amount of time the country has had to watch the countless abuses of rights unfold in the twelve years since it’s passing. After all, according to national polling, the majority of the population think that the government, in it’s attempt to allegedly fight terrorism, has gone too far in restricting civil liberties.
When 35 finally came up on the agenda, about 20% of the original crowd remained, eager to speak. As the clock approached midnight, people began doing so – one after the other speaking strongly against the implementation of the Domain Awareness Center, including ACLU Attorney Linda Lye. She cited statistics from long-term studies on the effects of CCTV in the UK, which showed that people of color are multiple times more likely to be profiled than white people. Another British study showed that one in ten cameras was used to “follow women for voyeuristic ends.” These also aren’t accounting for people who face multiple oppressions — if those numbers are high, how will the people behind the cameras treat trans women of color?
Any way you slice it, the Domain Awareness Center is a dangerous invasion of privacy, under the guise of increasing safety and liberty. Not a single person spoke in favor of the DAC — but did the Oakland City Council listen to their constituents, (who, unlike them, weren’t paid almost $40/hour to be at the meeting)? No – they unanimously voted to take millions of dollars in federal tax payer money to implement the Domain Awareness Center, saying they would “add some privacy protection later.”
Aside from the Domain Awareness Center, Oakland City Council also voted to pass an ordinance they call, “Tools of Violence.” This ordinance makes it a crime to have certain items anywhere near the vicinity of a protest. These items include things that are 100% legal such as wrenches, spray paint, signs being held up by more than 12″ of wood, and even shields.
[To be continued]