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Bay Area Headlines: Wednesday 06/17/20 AM

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Prison Rights Advocates Call For Safe Measures / Columbus Statue Removed From State Capitol / Grassroots Education Grows In East Oakland / State Asked To Pick Up Large Bill For Policing

Prison Rights Advocates Call For Safe Measures

San Quentin State prisoners and prison rights advocates are calling on the state to stop COVID-19 from spreading there. Last month, over a hundred people were transferred from San Bernardino County Prison —a known COVID-19 hotspot — to San Quentin State Prison. Now, over two weeks later, there are at least 30 confirmed cases of the virus at San Quentin, but only about half of those were transfers.

People incarcerated at San Quentin are worried that the virus is spreading there. They have the support of two human rights groups:the Ella Baker Center in Oakland and the California advocacy group Re:Store Justice.

Advocates say that social distancing is impossible in prisons. Kerry Rudd, who’s currently housed at San Quentin, is critical of the way that prison staff and corrections officers have handled the outbreak. 

“I’ve benefited from so many amazing programs here. When it comes to this pandemic, they have absolutely no idea what they’re doing.”

Rudd and other advocates are urging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to make a change. Their main demand is that the CDCR and Governor Newsom grant releases to incarcerated people to reduce the overall prison population throughout the state. They’re also calling for more preventative measures like the stoppage of prison transfers, more COVID testing, and free hygiene supplies.

In a statement, CDCR said safety is their top priority. The department has already granted early release to over three thousand people and says they are providing hand sanitizer and masks to all staff and the incarcerated population.

Columbus Statue Removed From State Capitol

After nearly 150 years in the California state capitol building, a statue of Christopher Columbus will be removed.

Legislative leaders announced in a joint statement that the statue, which features Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain, will be taken down, though they did not provide a timeline.

The Democratic lawmakers said Columbus had a deadly impact on indigenous populations and that the statue is “completely out of place today.”

Monuments of colonizers and white supremacist historical figures have come under renewed scrutiny in the midst of worldwide protests for racial justice.

Earlier this week, the Sacramento-based hospital chain Sutter Health took down its statue of early California colonizer John Sutter, who had his own history of abusing Native Americans.

Grassroots Education Grows In East Oakland

The Oakland REACH is a grassroots group of Black and Latino parents with kids in district and charter schools. They’ve been pushing for better quality education, especially around reading. When Covid came along, they turned to a more pressing issue — survival — and raised $325,000 in private donations to give away to families struggling financially. Now, also with private funds, they’re opening their own virtual summer school.

On Tuesday, Oakland REACH launched its virtual hub, a summer school program for Kindergartners through 8th grade. Nearly 200 students are already enrolled. They’re hiring teachers, and today they’re giving out Chromebooks.

Oakland REACH is a parent-led organization focusing on literacy for black and brown students. That was before COVID. When the pandemic hit, it spurred a huge crisis. And, Lakisha Young says, an opportunity. 

“I’m co-founder executive director of The Oakland REACH and everybody on our team is mamas and grand-mamas with kids in schools right now and I think that’s important. We’re gonna be in this situation for a while, and if only 30% of kids are participating in distance learning, what do we do? No one’s coming to save us. We need to save ourselves. Like, we need to create the solutions. We’re trying to create a one-stop shop that gives our kids critical learning but also is a place to give parents access to resources and workshops. And then our families will also receive a stipend for their participation.”

State Asked To Pick Up Large Bill For Policing

The California Highway Patrol spread across the state during the recent demonstrations against the police killing of George Floyd and for racial injustice.

The CHP says it accrued $38.2 million in overtime during protests at the state Capitol, in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California between May 28 and June 11.

The state Department of Finance released these numbers, which include more than 430 thousand hours of "unanticipated" overtime.

CHP is asking for more than 13 million dollars to help cover those costs. And millions of dollars more have already been appropriated under the governor's state of emergency.

Officers sealed off the state Capitol for days as demonstrations filled Sacramento's streets. Officers also hit protesters with batons to keep them from blocking Interstate 5.