Community organizers protest proposed cuts to Oakland violence prevention department

Dozens of community leaders rallied outside Oakland City Hall on Tuesday, urging city officials not to slash the budget of the city's Department of Violence Prevention.

"We come to say, 'This is what we're here for, this is the work that we do, don't cut the budget.' Point, blank, period!" said Daryle Allums, an anti-violence advocate.

A proposed budget released by Mayor Sheng Thao calls for a reduction in contracts between the violence-prevention department and community-based groups that reach out to those at risk.

"No budget cuts for DVP!" the group chanted as they held a banner that read, "Humanize, don't criminalize."

Allums held up photos of 13-year-old Desiree Jenkins and her mother Rebecca, both of whom police say were shot and killed as a result of domestic violence in East Oakland.

"This here is a collective of all the people that came together to support this one family, a mother and daughter. So without the budget, how can we support our people?" Allums said.

Ricardo Garcia of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice agreed, saying, "What we're demanding the city is to equally invest in our frontline people, our folks who are putting their lives literally on the ground, to be able to make sure they're supporting families."

Swai Lakai told the crowd, "The police do not keep us safe, we keep us safe."

Lakai told KTVU she's a beneficiary of community-based programs.

"I'm a formerly incarcerated student, and it helped me because I used to be in a lot of trouble, and me being able to go to these programs have helped me," Lakai said.

Joseph Griffin, executive director of Youth Alive, says the much-needed programs must be sustainable.            

"What we're asking for is not for the City Council to put their money where their mouth is, but to keep it there," Griffin said.

The council held a public meeting Tuesday to study Thao's proposed budget.

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas said Oakland is facing the largest budget in its history.

"We've been meeting with most of our department heads to understand the proposal, to understand the services that we can deliver, where we have to scale back," she said.

Kentrell Killens, the interim chief of the department of violence prevention, told the council the cuts will be palpable.

"Contract reductions will result in approximately 2,000 fewer individuals being served per fiscal year," he said.

Henry Lee is a KTVU crime reporter. E-mail Henry at and follow him on Twitter @henrykleeKTVU and