‘We’re in the Wild, Wild West’: Oakland NAACP Members Speak Out Against the Violence and Crime in Their City

Crime rates are up and quality of life is down in urban areas around the United States, but it looks like the people most impacted by these conditions are starting to speak up. Last week, the Oakland chapter of the NAACP made national headlines for an open letter it released about the escalating violence and lawlessness in the city.

On Thursday’s show, Bishop Bob Jackson, senior pastor at Acts Full Gospel Church, and NAACP Oakland member Seneca Scott joined Megyn to discuss what precipitated the letter and why they are making their voices heard.

The Oakland NAACP’s Open Letter

Last Wednesday, Bishop Jackson co-signed a letter titled “End Oakland’s Public Safety Crisis” with Cynthia Adams, president of the Oakland chapter of the NAACP, that called for a state of emergency to be declared in the city.

It blames, among other things, failed leadership – including the ‘Defund the Police’ movement – District Attorney Pamela Price’s unwillingness to charge and prosecute criminal activity, and the proliferation of anti-police rhetoric for creating what they call “a heyday” for Oakland criminals.

Bishop Jackson said the statement was needed because “it’s very obvious that there was no real focus from the leaders of the city on public safety.” He said members of his own congregation don’t feel safe coming to services after dark. Local businesses, meanwhile, are suffering (1) because of the looting and (2) because patrons are having their cars broken into while they are trying to shop. “The whole thing has presented such an environment of danger and lawlessness that actually the citizens do not feel safe,” he shared.

In his view, the people of Oakland “didn’t have a voice,” which is why he chose to speak up. “We wrote the letter to bring more awareness to the fact that, ‘Hey, we’re citizens here, we’re taxpayers, we live in this city, we demand to have safety and feel protected in our city that we love so well, and we don’t seem to be getting that type of treatment,'” he explained. “This is the whole reason for the letter – it’s all centered around public safety.”

The Alameda County District Attorney’s office responded to the letter in a statement that said, “We are disappointed that a great African-American pastor and a great African-American organization would take a false narrative on such an important matter.”

But it is receiving support from fellow NAACP chapters in the region. “The NAACP California Hawaii State Conference stands by and doubles down on NAACP Oakland Branch’s request for a call for a state of emergency in the city of Oakland,” said Rick Callender, president of the NAACP California Hawaii State Conference. “Crime is at an all time high in Oakland and we are calling on the mayor to step up and work with the Oakland Branch to address this critical issue and call for a state of emergency.”

Defunding the Police

In 2021, the Oakland city council passed a resolution to remove upwards of $20 million in funding from the Oakland Police Department and other public safety programs. Bishop Jackson and Scott believe the ramifications of those cuts are being felt to this day. “You take $18 million from the police department and then the citizens are calling 911 and put on hold for 35 and 45 minutes when they have a crisis going on,” Bishop Jackson said. “[They] can’t get through to the police… and they blame it on the fact that they don’t have enough money in their budget to pay for 911 people and personnel to take those complaints and whatnot and field them out to the officers.”

Even if there was enough 911 personnel, it is unclear that there would be enough police officers to respond. Scott said he recently returned from the annual NAACP National Convention in Boston, where the disparity between his hometown and other cities was on full display. “The city of Boston is similar to Oakland – first generation Asian American mayor, fully progressive city council… an active defund movement,” he explained.

But there is a stark difference. Boston has the population of 666,000 people and a police force of over 2,200 officers. Oakland, on the other hand, has just 700 police officers for its 450,000 citizens. “If you scale it, we should be over 1,200,” Scott noted. All the while, Scott said politics is being prioritized over safety. “[We] don’t have a baseline of public safety, and [we] have elected officials who are playing politics… saying things like, ‘Crime is down,'” he lamented. “We all know that crime is up, we’re living through it.”

Vigilante Justice

These conditions are leading Oakland residents to take matters into their own hands. As Bishop Jackson explained, the feeling of being “unprotected” and “unsafe” is forcing “citizens to pick up guns and begin to protect themselves.”

They shared an example of a 75-year-old woman who returned fire on home invaders just this week. “They tried to kick in her front door, but she was smart enough to grab her .357 Magnum and start shooting at them as they were trying to break in on it,” Bishop Jackson recounted. “I guess they thought she was going to be easy pickins, but she fooled them.”

Megyn likened the videos of gunfire that Scott has shared on social media to the “wild, wild west,” Bishop Jackson said that is exactly what it feels like. “We’re in the wild, wild west, especially in the city of Oakland,” he said. “I’m not talking about years ago; we’re talking about what’s happening right now.”

The bishop emphasized that self defense cannot be the solution. “What kind of a city is that when everybody’s got a gun,” he asked. “We’re calling for the police… and the law enforcement agencies to come together to devise a plan to work on the crime and the lawlessness that’s been going on too long.” 

You can check out Megyn’s full conversation with Bishop Jackson and Scott by tuning in to episode 601 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.