In September of 2014, the City of Oakland began to make attempts to displace and remove people in public plazas along San Pablo Ave in the wake of the WOSP (West Oakland Specific Plan) being passed. The clamp down by the police on the plazas is thus clearly part of “socially cleansing” the area, while UC Berkeley students mapped out the park and planned where the art would go for a “transition,” and city workers erected fences at 32nd and San Pablo (‘Triangle Park’) and near 21st and San Pablo, across from the Greyhound Station. Then, on December of 2014, as the Ferguson inspired Bay Area uprising was ranging, people armed with bolt-cutters took down the fences encircling the park to the cheers of those on the streets. Soon after, people gathered in the plaza on 32nd street to share food and supplies and clean up the area. Wanting to know more about the anti-gentrification struggle and how it connects to the battle against police and white supremacy, we caught up with long-time Oakland organizer and militant, Linda Grant.
FW: Why did people organize to distribute food, supplies, and also clean up the park at 34th and San Pablo several weekends ago after the fence around it was torn down?
Linda Grant: We decided than it was important to support the park because we know there is so much deep African history in that park going as far back as 40 years, some of my family members included. We know that its gentrification that is trying to do its deadly sweep of Oakland and we can’t sit back and watch our African sisters and brothers get booted out their park because of greed and fear. Also, we wanted to show the city that we care about our people as a whole. Cleaning the park and feeding the people is what needs to happen every day.
FW: What has been the reaction from the people who hang out in the plaza as well as the surrounding community towards people taking action in the park?
Linda Grant: The reaction from the peoples in Triangle Park has been amazing. They love us because we don’t come out there preaching to them, but talk to them and let them know that that park is public space and they have no right pushing people out of spaces that clearly belong to the people. We tell them to stand up and fight back. I recently had people from the park ask me how can they get involved and help out. Also, lots of neighbors of the park came out each time to donate food and time to support us and tell us it’s awesome what we do.
FW: Recently the police have had a higher presence at the plaza. Why do you think this is?
Linda Grant: The police presence is an intimidation tactic used to scare the homeless because they don’t know any better. The police have also had an community outreach day at the park. Its gentrification they are trying to prepare them for.
FW: How are the city’s attempts to shut down the park part of the ongoing efforts of gentrification connected with WOSP (West Oakland Specific Plan)?
Linda Grant: Well, if you get rid of the park, you get rid of the people. They already have plans to redevelop the area and redesign the park. My goal is to help the people there understand gentrification there, and stand up to WOSP and the city; to not be driven out of an area that they have been occupying for over 50 years.
FW: In early February, only several blocks away from the park, Yvette Henderson, a 38-year old woman was shot and killed by Emeryville Police. What do you seen as the connection between displacement and the gentrification of black residents and police murder and terrorism?
Linda Grant: I see a terrible pattern of violence in our hoods being caused by white people calling the police on black people in our hoods. The worst part of it is that these gentrifiers are moving in our communities with the idea that they belong here and we don’t. The rent has risen sky high in Oakland forcing Africans to move out somewhere else far out, just not in Oakland. I always connect the dots to police brutality and gentrification.
FW: Is there anything you would like to add? How can people hear more about this ongoing struggle?
Linda Grant: Yes. I would like to say that gentrification is real and police terrorism is too. If you hear a call out to defend a space or donate food, please come support. I will be doing more events very soon and will keep y’all posted on some other connections I’m making too.
Hard times on the San Pablo Corridor – EastWest
People Remove City Fence Posted Around Triangle Park – WeCopwatch and Bay Area Intifada