OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — There is a new lawsuit to repeal a loitering law in Oakland, claiming that Oakland Housing Authority police are using the law to harass people.
The councilmembers’ proposal would throw out the Housing Authority Loitering Law. Residents hope this repeal could change the way police patrol their neighborhoods.
Residents of East Oakland’s Lockwood Gardens, such as Anthony Nelson, say that it’s rare to find people outdoors because of how they are treated by authority figures under the current loitering law.
“I got arrested over loitering. I got pulled over for loitering,” said Nelson.
Nelson is one of several residents who told KPIX 5 that Housing Authority police sometimes use the law to harass residents.
“Getting chased all the time, having to run all the time, getting guns drawn on us when we don’t have nothing on us,” said Nelson.
Stories like Nelson’s are what led civil rights groups to file the lawsuit last month, claiming that the loitering law is vague, unconstitutional and unfairly criminalizes people who live in public housing.
Oakland city councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney is a main force in proposing the repeal of the law.
“It can be abused by certain officers, so we think it’s better to just take that off the books,” she said.
Greer McVay of the Oakland Housing Authority called the loitering law “…a valued legal section required to ensure OHA residents have safe and peaceful enjoyment at the property in which they reside.”
But Nelson says Housing Authority police have told residents something completely different.
“They’re like, ‘We heard about the lawsuit and we’re not gonna mess with you guys. Our superiors told us to stand down,'” he said.
McElhaney says standing down is the right thing to do.
“We want every citizen, every resident in this city to feel safe and served by our policing entities across the board, and we have some more work to do.”