FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY
October 7, 2005
Editors, Daily Planet:
I agree with J. Douglas Allen-Taylor that it is bad public policy for Oakland police and the CHP to harass drivers in east Oakland just because the sideshow thing is out of hand, but how far does his freedom of assembly argument go?
On Saturday night, Oct. 1, we had a little activity of the unneighborly kind on my block of 58th Street near Shattuck, that spoke volumes about the lack of space for Oakland’s teenagers to hang out and to the inability or unwillingness of the Oakland Housing Authority to supervise its property, which happens to be across the street from my (rented) house. Perhaps I am being overly sensitive, but this is the site of two border dispute murders within five weeks in the summer of 2003.
There were no deaths this time but lots of broken bottles, a few car windows smashed and a lot of police time wasted because a 13-year-old’s birthday party, perhaps turned into a flash crowd by the ubiquitous cell phone, spread out into the OHA parking lot, then the street with cars blocking the street, fighting, drinking, loud music and waves of youths running away from the eventual swarm of Oakland police.
Adding insult to injury, my call to the housing authority police dispatcher was answered by, “we only have one officer tonight, and he’s busy.” (This on a warm Saturday night for an organization with more than a thousand units). I waited on hold for 10 minutes, hung up and called back, very angry this time, and finally got her supervisor, a corporal named Jerry Williams. He said “I only have one officer and what am I supposed to do about it?” Continuing, he said, “What can one guy do against a crowd?”
While many homeowners on this block want the place shut down, even considering a nuisance lawsuit against the housing authority in the wake of the murders, I am one of the few who’ve supported keeping the place open because people need housing. But now I have realized that the OHA can’t control its own property and can’t keep the peace on 58th Street.
How would J. Douglas Allen-Taylor answer this freedom of assembly issue?