Photo: Anadolu Agency
Tuesday afternoon Oakland held a press conference addressing recent protests over the death of George Flyod where local leaders voiced concerns of potential damage to their communities.
Jane Garcia, CEO of La Clínica de La Raza, and Chris Iglesias, CEO of the Unity Council, were brought in as voices from the Fruitvale community, the location of Oakland’s next protest. These community leaders voiced their approval of the protests but drew the line at vandalism and looting.
“We know that our community is being disproportionately effected by the pandemic, by the virus. We are reporting close to a 30% positivity rate. That is not what the rest of the community is experiencing. So we understand the issue of discrimination and not being treated equally,” said Garcia. “So it’s for this very reason we are concerned about what is going to happen to our communities and urge our colleagues to please respect the businesses, and organizations, and non-profits that are there.”
Fruitvale Station is home to both La Clínica and the site of the Unity Council’s Wednesday food drive. The Unity Council’s work is responsible for many housing and food services in it’s community. It’s weekly food drive feeds over 400 families and provides over 1,200 prepared meals in conjunction with local restaurants. CEO Chris Iglesias says that it’s job has only gotten harder as the needs of it’s communities have shot up from the COVID-19 pandemic. He urged protesters and others to be respectful of the area as demonstrations flow into his community on the eve of the weekly food drive.
La Clínica is also a staple of the East Oakland community. It employs over 1,000 people and serves as a way for the underprivileged to access health services. The organization is also home to a local COVID-19 testing site. CEO Jane Garcia says she was heartbroken to see that fighting for justice for African Americans has caused damage to facilities meant to create equity in communities of color.
“This is counterintuitive to the very reasons that this movement is so active and so vibrant. So we’re here today to say we understand the anger, we understand the movements, and we are very much a part of it. We are from that movement. But let’s not have our movement contaminated by the other message of looting. We’re in it together and we’ll come out of it together,” said Garcia.
So far many of La Clínica’s buildings have already been vandalized and many more have had to be closed early, boarded up, and locked down limiting their use to the community in a crucial moment. Garcia says the damage has created an unnecessary burden to people who have already been hit hard by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.