On August 3rd, Najari Smith, a leader of the Richmond community cycling organization Rich City Rides, was arrested during a peaceful group bike ride in Oakland. While the ride was in the First Friday street festival area, police officers stopped Mr. Smith, apparently for playing music loudly. He was handcuffed, arrested, and spent two nights in jail. Numerous police officers spent significant time detaining Mr. Smith, and then transported him to jail, even after they had obtained his ID.
This substantial use of police resources took away from personnel available to respond to violent crime. It also furthered the problem of racial disparity in police enforcement in Oakland, as a Black man was incarcerated despite there being no threat to public safety. Please click on the link to view the letter that was sent to the Mayor and Police Chief:
“I am concerned that OPD traumatically disrupted a peaceful community bicycle ride and sent Najari Smith to jail for a petty violation. The ride was organized by multiple local Black-led community cycling organizations— in memory of Nia Wilson, the Black woman fatally stabbed at MacArthur BART station last month,” Kaplan said.
Data from Stanford studies have repeatedly found that Oakland has a major and ongoing problem of racial disparity in police enforcement, traffic stops, searches, and arrests, with African Americans being targeted at dramatically higher rates. The data showed that of the bicyclists stopped by OPD, 73% were Black, compared to the population of around 26%. Furthermore, Black bicyclists were three times more likely to be handcuffed than white bicyclists. This continuing injustice worsens mistrust in our community, makes it harder to solve serious and violent crimes, and perpetuates racial inequity in our society.
Kaplan states “As a city which seeks to be a model both for bicycling and sustainable transportation, and a leader in working for racial justice, this incident goes against what we should stand for. I ask that you retract the filings against Mr. Smith, and take action to improve our policies and practices going forward.”
For a recent statement from Najari Smith, please click on link: https://mailchi.mp/4a2dfd50388f/police-misconduct-challenge-and-opportunity?e=%5BUNIQID
Rebecca Kaplan is the Oakland’s 3-Term At-Large Councilmember