Rightnowish: Urban Peace Movement's Effort to Combat Injustices in Alameda County

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Urban Peace Movement (Pendarvis Harshaw)

On June 19, a group of about 50 people—the majority of them young folks—gathered around Lake Merritt on their bikes. There were Big Rippers, Scraper Bikers, and even a guy on a unicycle. While it appeared to be a regular summer bike ride, they were really there for a day of action.

Veronica Caña, a leader from Urban Peace Movement, an Oakland based nonprofit that works to give young people a voice on issues of justice, told me the ride aimed to hold the Alameda County Sheriff's office accountable as part of the #AuditAhern campaign—as well as to bring attention to numerous incidents of negligence within the local jail.

Zay Coleman
Zay Coleman prepares to ride out for peace. (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Those incidents, including over 30 in-custody deaths in and around Santa Rita jail in Pleasanton, have been covered by local publications. There are stories of a woman having to go through labor and birth her child while in solitary confinement, as well as a woman who was released from jail in the middle of the night only to be found dead hours later.

And then there's the case of Dujuan Armstrong, a young man who was found dead in his cell just hours after being booked last summer. A criminal investigation into the cause of his death was launched just last month.

Zay and Veronica command the mics at the Urban Peace Movement protest event.
Zay and Veronica command the mics at the Urban Peace Movement protest event. (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Armstrong's mother Barbara Doss was at Lake Merritt, alongside Caña, event organizer Zay Coleman and other bikers and activists. Doss gave the riders some words of encouragement before they took off, lapping the lake, heading downtown and eventually biking to East Oakland—screaming "justice for Dujuan" all the way.

To hear all about it, click the link above.