Has an Oakland city councilman become the voice of the anti-homeless backlash?

Written by on 01/17/2020

Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo

by Kheven LaGrone

Local media has made Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo the
voice of his city’s growing anti-homeless backlash. He should protect and serve
all of his constituents equally; however, media spread his attacks on the
homeless constituents.

He seemed to blame the homeless for choosing to be homeless.
He criticized them for fighting for their rights through the courts. Gallo even
attacked other council members for respecting and serving their most vulnerable
constituents. According to Fox News:

“Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo told Fox News that
elected officials are often too consumed with their public image and are ‘too
loose and flexible’ with the laws in place making it difficult to reverse
Oakland’s sobering statistics. When the city has tried to get tough and remove
the homeless or dismantle camps, they have been slapped with lawsuits from
advocates that argue kicking the homeless out is a civil rights violation” (see
Oakland’s
Homeless Stats Soar as Pressure Grows from Residents Businesses for a Solution
,”
Nov. 12, 2019).

Gallo vilified Oakland’s homeless and made himself their
victim. He complained to Fox News in the same story:

“’We are in court regularly – in federal court – based on
the 14th Amendment, the Eighth Amendment, the Fourth Amendment that everyone
has rights but, at the same time, I as a resident, also have constitutional
rights and that’s where the debate is currently,’ Gallo said, adding that even
though the city has won all of its court challenges to date, the cases have
taken up a lot of time, patience and money.”

But Gallo’s complaint was misleading. Oakland’s winning
those court cases did not mean that the homeless were wrong. It meant that
Oakland had more money and a full legal staff to fight with.

They fought against homeless people with no money. Besides,
Oakland won at least one case, Miralle v. City of Oakland, by misleading the
court (see “Did
the City of Oakland Mislead the Judge
,” San Francisco Bay View, Jan. 28,
2019).

But it seemed that Gallo wanted to violate the rights of his
homeless constituents in order to evict them. According to Martin v. City of
Boise, being homeless is not a crime. A homeless person has the right to camp
on a public space if he has nowhere else to go.

However, in KTVU’s “Oakland
City Councilman Wants Military to Help Clean Up Streets, More Policing of
Illegal Dumping
,” Gallo associated his homeless constituents with trash and
criminal behavior. Then, according to KTVU News:

“Gallo said he wants police to issue more citations, make
more arrests and physically pick up homeless people and violators and transport
them away from schools and put them anywhere else.”

This statement dehumanized Gallo’s homeless constituents. Homeless
people were not all trash or criminals. They are individuals with their own
stories.

They came together in encampments to support and help each
other. They came to encampments because they had nowhere else to go.

Many even had jobs but couldn’t afford an apartment in
gentrified Oakland. Many homeless people hid in their tents because they wanted
to avoid encounters with the police as well as rowdies terrorizing the
encampments.

This statement also highlighted a failure in Oakland’s
gentrification. Gallo wanted to remove his homeless constituents, but he could
not arrange a place to send them.

Removing long term and native Oakland African Americans had
always been part of the gentrification plan. However, the leaders didn’t make
plans for where to send them.

In effect, Gallo blamed the homeless for being homeless. He
argued as if his homeless constituents had options, but chose a homeless lifestyle
that violated his rights.

He suggested that homeless people really had homes but
wanted to live outside; he suggested that the city’s “getting tough” would make
them stop “playing homeless” and go back home. He suggested that the solution
to the housing crisis was moving them around Oakland.

Gallo also suggested to KTVU that homeless people should be
transported to City Hall. Gallo knew, or should have known, that would not
work. In November 2019, a group of people camped at City Hall. They were immediately
evicted.

Gallo blamed other cities, like San Francisco, for sending
their homeless to Oakland (see “Oakland
Homeless Stats Soar
”). Yet, several studies have shown that most of the
homeless people were native and long-term Oakland residents who were displaced
by gentrification. Oakland leaders aided this gentrification, thus Oakland
leaders should find a solution.

If Gallo had evidence that other cities were transporting
their homeless to Oakland, then as a city official, he should take the city to
court.

Ironically, Gallo should empathize with his homeless
constituents. He told KTVU that he was from Oakland and lamented the loss of
his hometown. Many, if not most, of Oakland’s homeless were also Oakland
natives or long-term residents. They lamented the loss of their hometown
because they were displaced to the streets.

Gallo should be helping his homeless constituents, yet he
betrayed his most vulnerable constituents. Instead of riling hostilities, he
must stop playing victim and start helping them.

If nothing else, he has to find a way for the housed and
unhoused to exist together peacefully. Perhaps some compromises must be made
between the housed and the unhoused.

Perhaps more encampments should be allowed downtown; the
homeless especially need to be located near jobs, transportation and services. In
fact, fees the City was supposed to collect for affordable housing should be
used to build affordable housing downtown.

Ironically, Gallo told KTVU that Oakland was a
compassionate, progressive city. Perhaps Oakland’s housing crisis needs a more
conservatively compassionate solution.

By the way, Gallo was emailed more than once asking for his
comments on “Oakland Homeless Stats Soar.” If he felt he was misquoted or taken
out of context, this was an opportunity to clarify or correct any statement he
felt needed it. However, he never responded.

Kheven
LaGrone, investigative reporter, activist, writer, artist and curator, can be
reached at
kheven@aol.com.

Watch the latest video at foxnews.com
Source: San Francisco Bay View


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