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For those who have been following the Wood Street story, or been active participants in it, there may be a lingering question about the legal status of the members of the Wood Street community, and what does the future hold for us?
After achieving so many historic and unique milestones in the movement on behalf of encampment dwellers throughout the State of California, we are now in a kind of anti-climactic doldrums, quietly accepting our position of being deprived of our land, as well as much of our fame, power and property, while our two active legal challenges were apparently shut down by Judge William Orrick in his recent rulings on Blain v. Caltrans (the Injunction), as well as the Motion for Contempt that we file pro se (without an attorney) against Caltrans. These legal actions represented the first efforts of 31 out of the 200 evicted persons to basically stop Caltrans from evicting us and taking our treasures, while trying to give proof of Caltrans’ violations of the law and human rights.
And so, the Judge’s rulings leave us...where??
None of the evicted persons have received a single dime to pay for their losses caused by Caltrans. The evicted persons have also been stuck with the label of guilt for 240 fires, and other associated problems of trash and visual blight, as well as being politically untouchable and expendable from the standpoint of virtually every lawmaker in the State – there is effectively not one single person from any City Council or County Board, or from the State Senate or the State Assembly, who was willing to be our friend or advocate in public. No politician in California has made a statement in public of sympathy for our plight, or one peep of criticism against our main antagonists, for the injuries and harm they have caused us.
We are already used to being untouchables, or politically expendable, and inherently guilty human trash. But as far as all those legislators and lawmakers throughout the state of California are concerned, it's really their loss. They missed out on the biggest civil rights issue of our time and age. AND they lost out on being our friends. Which makes me all the more appreciative of those friends, allies, advocates, and members of the press who are still with us, and who still care.
So, I will try to give a brutally frank assessment of our "problems", as well as a road map for our ultimate vindication and emancipation.
Admittedly, our brand is problematic. We are all at once both too complicated, too fabulous, too free, and, well, you don't know what to call us.
We are NOT homeless, houseless, unsheltered, or what have you. You could call us "landless", or "we the people", or "stewards of the land", but, actually, so is everybody else. I'll say, we are commoners. But that's not a well-known term yet. So, for the time being, I could refer to us as "encampment dwellers". For it is the encampments that Governor Newsom wants to destroy, every last one of them. And if the encampments are destroyed, then all those non rent paying members of the societal "bottoms" will suffer a worse fate that is in store, namely, a combination of care courts and long-term psychiatric confinement, and internment camps and eventual extermination.
So what can we encampment dwellers here in West Oakland, or throughout the state, do, to stop further violence in the form of eviction from our encampments on public land?
There are several things to do first.
We have to clear our name of this group guilt for fire, and specifically cast doubt on the allegations leveled at us by Caltrans and Judge Orrick. (I will go into more detail on how this might be accomplished later on.)
We should make a database of all the evicted community members that are willing to provide us with their current contact info, as well as a statement from each one, of their losses, claims and damages that each one suffered at the hands of Caltrans. In addition, we would collect from every willing individual, any evidence or testimonies they have about any of the fires at Wood Street, as well as any content that they want to contribute to our online digital archive, called the Wood Street Anthology.
We must do fundraising to help pay for replacement cell phones, and/or mobile connectivity kiosks, where people can gain access on a weekly basis to communal cell phones, laptops, device recharging and Wi-Fi, as well as paper printouts of vital information, for all those community members who are in need of such.
We must continue our freedom of information requests against Caltrans, the city of Oakland, and others. In addition, we must make formal complaints to OSHA and other agencies, about the train crash caused by Caltrans, and the various other workplace hazards and safety violations that we have documented, which were caused by Caltrans.
We must build relationships with the Oakland fire department and the Oakland Police department, so that we can enlist their aid in authenticating our list of community members who are free from being the objects of any investigation for arson, or for any of the 240 fires at Wood Street since March 2020. We must also enlist the aid of these departments in accepting and receiving the body of evidence and testimonies that our community can provide to them concerning the fires at Wood Street, so that they can incorporate this information into their existing investigative and reporting functions, and eventually make a public statement on our behalf, that, with regards to those individuals named on our list of community members, they have no active investigations or accusations against them.
And, we must get from every willing individual on our community list to sign an affidavit which states that they did not cause any of the out-of-control fires at Wood Street, and keep these on hand as admissible exhibits for any future lawsuits, as well as an additional support for our public case to clear our names.
Finally, when the results and findings from all of these items are sufficiently impressive, we will have a press conference and a party/theatrical event where we will present these findings to the public and the media with our characteristic flair. Any significant legal motions in the courts that we decide to make would also be announced at this time.
Hopefully, those legal motions would include the effect of generating a constitutional challenge against each City in the state of California that has any ordinances or injunctions against overnight camping or sleeping on public land in the city limits. And that constitutional challenge would be centered on the Fifth Amendment, and our right to not be deprived of life, liberty, or estate, without due process of law.
In addition, a basic goal of these legal motions would be to fully restore or re-establish our land jurisdiction, or in other terms, the constitutional basis for our right to be stewards of sufficient amounts of public land to create the commons in every city in California, based on our social agreements, and the template of the Oakland Humane Commons charter.
And speaking of land, while all of this is going on, we will secure through various means areas of land in Oakland where our people can have basic safety and relief from harassment, evictions, and other violations of our constitutional rights.
Theo Cedar Jones