This week in Bay news: Nia Wilson, civic engagement and lunar viewing parties
This was a tough week in the Bay Area, period. We’ve chosen to leave all the national news alone for this wrap, although there is plenty to report on there, including today’s deadline for family reunifications. But there is enough for us to digest here closer to home that speaks to the civic engagement, heartbreak and resistance in our communities. Also, some fun facts about Trump’s Hollywood star and some ideas to get your full moon on. Let’s go…
Oakland and Berkeley residents get civic
Oakland held a marathon City Council meeting Tuesday, with public comments heard until about 2 a.m., according to Bigad Shaban of NBC Bay Area, who also held in there for the duration. The controversial topic on the table was housing and specifically a proposed amendment to the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance. After hours of heated neighborly debate, some people waiting 11 hours for a chance to speak their minds, the amendment bill will see the light of day on November’s general election ballot. The measure would limit landlords’ ability to evict tenants and provide more protection for renters, highlighted in a proposed amendment to remove the exemption for owner occupied duplexes and triplexes.
In Berkeley Monday, the hot topic of a special meeting was the controversial Urban Shield exercise. Those opposed to allowing the city’s first responders to participate in the annual event believe it promotes “racial profiling and militarization, rather than the community policing and grassroots disaster preparedness efforts the city should prioritize instead,” as Berkeleyside reports. Those in favor applaud the tactical training benefits that come with participation. Council voted 5-4 in favor of continuing participation and several in the chamber responded by shouting “shame!!” Council member Cheryl Davila voted against the measure, telling Berkeleyside that Urban Shield is “training our officers to kill, to kill Black and Brown people.”
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The agenda also called for a vote to approve or disapprove of a November ballot measure to repeal Costa Hawkins; however, the item was not brought up for discussion until after 11 p.m. and will theoretically be reviewed at the next regular meeting.
Her name was Nia Wilson
An 18-year-old young woman lost her life Sunday night, in one of the most horrendous ways possible. Stabbed in the neck by a complete stranger, out of the blue and unprovoked – she bled to death on the platform of the MacArthur BART station while her attacker changed his clothes in the parking lot and managed to escape authorities for about 22 hours. Nia was traveling with two of her sisters that night – Letifah Wilson, 26, was also stabbed in the neck but is now in stable condition and the other sister was unharmed. Needless to say, the people of Oakland were pissed, and devastated.
A vigil was held Monday at MacArthur BART, which turned to a march of about a thousand people down Telegraph Avenue to the intersection at 18th Street, where the Make Westing bar is located. The day was emotionally charged but mostly peaceful, speakers preaching resistance and the need to protect and love each other. Everybody said her name, repeatedly and loudly. Her name was Nia Wilson.
Things took a turn around 8 p.m. when some protesters chased down and beat a group of of people they believed to be members of the Proud Boys organization, for reasons we get into in another article. Police and protesters clashed and a few arrests were made, but what happened at the end isn’t representative of what happened through the rest of the day. We’ve published a deeper analysis of Monday’s events that you can read here.
The suspect, believed to be 27-year-old John Lee Cowell, was arrested and taken into custody without incident late Monday at Pleasant Hill BART. Cowell is being charged with Nia Wilson’s death and the attempted murder of her sister Letifah. Cowell’s parents issued a statement of condolence to the victims’ family and stated that he was recently released from Atascadero and still experiences bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The suggestion that Cowell may claim any kind of mental condition that would lessen his sentence has angered many in the Oakland community. He was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday but the hearing was moved to Aug. 22.
Trump’s fallen star
Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has been vandalized several times. The damage typically amounts a pool of piss or pile of dog feces, easily cleaned up albeit nasty. But for the second time since 2016, the Trump star has met a catastrophic end. It was a sledghammer wielded by James Otis in 2016; Austin Mikel Clay chose a pickax to express his feelings about the president in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Clay’s feelings will cost him a felony charge, but the 24-year-old seems willing to accept the consequences of his actions, which he quickly turned himself in to police to face.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 25, 2018
Reactions to the damage, expression, art, or whatever you want to call it were varied, even in a city where the Los Angeles Times claims “the president’s critics far outnumber his fans.” Some passersby agreed with the message but not the method, some drew a similarity to street artist activism common in the late 60s and one man took the day off to stand guard over the battered symbol while holding a “Trump 2020” sign. One thing is undisputed, Clay definitely made a statement.
Lunar shit to do on your day off
Go see the full moon Friday! Bay Area viewers can see a partial lunar eclipse beginning around 11 p.m. and although it will be a total eclipse visible in other parts of the world, it still promises to be pretty flippin’ cool. It’s a special super long lasting, blood moon eclipse that we won’t see again for over 30 years – so get your ass out there and take a peek.
The Chabot Space and Science Center in the Oakland hills is holding a viewing party that starts at 9 p.m., although being closer to the Bay will limit visibility. If you really want to get a view, head out toward the Contra Costa and get as far up Mount Diablo as you can at that hour. For a more spiritually fulfilling event, check out the Tibetan Chanting Ceremony in Berkeley at 1815 Highland Place. The gathering is free of charge but chanting begins promptly at 7 p.m., so don’t be late.
Let’s all take deep breath and do our best to recover from the past tragic week. Maybe next week we can make things just a little better somehow if we reach out and try. Just a thought. Don’t forget to love each other.
“Good night and good luck.”
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated the full moon would occur Saturday.