Oakland city politics: Running against Desley Brooks? You may run a risk

Oakland City Council candidate Loren Taylor in Oakland, Calif. on Tuesday, June 19, 2018.

Loren Taylor knew it was going to be a bruising campaign when he set out to unseat Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks in this year’s election.

Still, the 40-year-old business consultant and third-generation Oaklander didn’t anticipate being threatened with physical violence while campaigning. But, that’s what he says happened last weekend.

Here’s the story of how a first-time council candidate and his campaign volunteers were chased from a city event in East Oakland by security guards in what is shaping up to be a tense election season in Oakland. The incident was witnessed by several people, and two District Six residents reached out to tell me how disturbing it was.

Brooks, who’s held an iron grip on District Six for 16 years, acknowledged that Taylor (no relation to me) was at the event but said she was unaware of Taylor’s interaction with people in the park, including security guards.

At around 12:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon, under trees in Arroyo Viejo Park, Taylor pitched a canopy and set up blankets and chairs in the grass, just like dozens of other people attending the city event promoted by Brooks and others as a community picnic. The free event used city funds, and booths there included the Oakland Fire Department and Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

The picnic was for Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865 — two months after the Confederate army surrendered, ending the Civil War, and three years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Taylor said he taped his campaign poster boards to the poles of the canopy. He was joined by nine volunteers, including high school students and retired district residents, to hand out campaign fliers.

According to Taylor, Brooks walked by, saw what he was doing and stopped in her tracks.

Taylor said Brooks told him she couldn’t believe he was campaigning there — that he wasn’t allowed to and that he needed to take his signs down. He said she did not explain why it wasn’t allowed but took a photo and told Taylor she’d file an ethics complaint.

In an email days later, Brooks told me Taylor was violating a rule that prohibits city resources from being used to campaign for or against candidates and ballot measures.

Taylor told me he didn’t want to be confrontational with Brooks, but he wanted to hold his ground because he felt he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He offered to take the poster boards down, as requested. He said Brooks walked away without responding.

Taylor said he was chatting with attendees when security guards approached. He said they told him it was a private event and that Taylor had to leave. Taylor protested, pointing out that it was a free public event.

Taylor said the security guard told him that Brooks wanted him out of there — and that if he had an issue with that, he’d have to talk to…

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