SAN FRANCISCO-“We are all tied in a string of destiny. If one black person is down, we’re all down.”
“It’s a quote of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Josephine of Bay Area Solidarity explained about The Bay Area’s 96 Hours of Direct Action that wrapped up over Martin Luther King memorial weekend. KGNU talked to organizers and activists who say they were on the streets for the purpose of reclaiming the “radical history” of MLK.
If you arrived to San Francisco’s national airport today, perhaps you were greeted by about 100 people participating in a “Say Their Names” direct civil action. Here people from the Anti-Police Terror Project stood at the bottom of an escalator to say the names of the seven people killed by Oakland Police last year, but also the names of others killed by police in the area.
But earlier in the day there was an action that shut down a McDonald’s restaurant at 45th Street and Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. The shutting down also included the McDonald’s Drive-thru to demand the reinstatement of Carlton Emmen who said he was fired without cause. Other workers aired similar complaints including being wrongly accused of stealing, having hours cut from a scheduled 8-hour day to as little as three, and being called in on days off.
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACE) was represented by the group’s anti-displacement chapter that turned out to raise awareness about an eviction in an area that the group says is being gentrified to make way for a community once occupied by lower income residents but now have to leave because of skyrocketing housing costs. In the last ten years, 14,000 homes have gone into foreclosure in Oakland. Annette Miller was one resident who will be forced to leave the family home, “My family owned the property for sixty years. And a bank called Nationstar hooked up with Dorshire Bank and are trying to foreclose on the property. My father and family members live on the property right now. The bank is trying to evict them at this present time. My father is a purple heart veteran for 22 years. My father can’t afford to stay here. Dorshire bank won’t accept the money, so what they’re trying to do is just evict us. This right here gives us hope that so many people came out to support black owners, black renters.” She added that five years ago a white person could not even be seen in her neighborhood and police response was sometimes hours, but now that her neighborhood is gentrified, the rents are $5000 for a three bedroom apartment, and $2,500 for a room with a bathroom and that police response is now within minutes.
The protesters entered the McDonald’s establishment to speak to management. One worker said that her hours are part-time and sporadic and finds it difficult to depend on the job to support her family. Another said that he was a student of Morehouse College where Martin Luther King graduated and how he came to an understanding of a statue of King there that shows the civil rights icon pointing “to keep moving on, to keep fighting, to find that light of hope”:
“Protests have always worked. America was founded on protests and that’s what people really forget. All the people I’m here with right now have been fighting. We haven’t been fighting just now. This has been years of work. And we’re tired of working for change and constantly by businesses that keep hitting us back with economic unjustice and racial unjustice.
We’re not going to stop. That’s the thing. People think we’re going to stop because you have in newspapers, you have the media saying that this is not going to work. All the fast-food workers can’t do this. People of color can’t get these type of rights. But it’s happened because we’ve continued to fight.”
He added that the workers have been fighting for union representation but that McDonald’s has refused to recognize the union.
The list of demands delivered to the restaurant included the reinstatement of Emmen with back pay, the redirection of funds from the Oakland Police Department for the Measure FF reinforcement, and to make sure that McDonald’s workers can’t retaliate against workers for a measure that was passed by the people for minimum wage. The Measure FF reinforcement is Oakland’s minimum wage law.
The group held a makeshift drive-thru where they offered standard and veggie hot dogs for free to those who chose not to cross their picket line.