Within months a small group of “confused” neighbors complained. Every agency that responded except one declared that we were not doing anything harmful or illegal. The one agency exception was the Zoning Department of the City of Oakland. Zoning departments have historically been facilitators of discrimination and ghettoization. What is not well known is that zoning has also been the means for suppressing Native American spirituality; Congress passed a special law to address this abuse and it has largely been ignored by cities.
With the tremendous help of the community, we worked our way through five years of bureaucratic struggle to a unanimous decision in our favor from the Planning Commission and a near unanimous decision in our favor from the City Council. Late in 2019 Zoning came after us again for almost the same issues. I [Wilson Riles, a 74-year-old black man] went to the Zoning office to work out the problem. I was tripped, thrown on the floor and carted off to Santa Rita Jail.
Now we have no other option but to take both 'police power' abuses of the City of Oakland to court. To do that most successfully we must pay…under protest…the fees and fines that the Zoning Department has levied against us. We are blessed to have the best Civil Rights lawyer in the Bay Area, Walter Riley, to handle my arrest case but will need financial assistance on the Zoning case. This is an arena where legal resources count, especially when one is suing a city. We are represented by the incomparable Peter Prows of Briscoe Ivestor & Bazel. We need your help IMMEDIATELY to help us protect the rights to an indigenous life and Native American religious practices in Oakland. With your help we will overcome these ‘police powers’ abuses so that no other Oakland resident need go through this to live a spiritual and indigenous life.
Please give generously: $500 or $100 or $50 or $10 or $1. Whatever you give will be greatly appreciated.
MY WIFE, PATRICIA ST. ONGE, WILL BE THE BENEFICIARY OF THESE FUNDS. She is Hudenosaunee (Mohawk) and adopted Lakota. She also conducts ceremony in the Sweat Lodge. She will make sure that the funds are used to pay the City's fines (under protest), pay associated legal costs, and to support a campaign advocating City legislation to bring Oakland in to compliance with Federal Native American spiritual practice rights.
When we pray, we pray For All Our Relations! That includes you.