By Cassandra Devereaux
My name is Cassandra Devereaux and I would like to announce my candidacy for the office of California State Assembly for District 14 under the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.
I am a journalist, graphic artist, and long-time transgender activist and advocate living in this lovely Bay Area district. A founding member of People’s Alliance, I am honored to be a member of the Peace and Freedom Party and to run under their banner. The Peace and Freedom Party is a socialist party founded in the heat of the struggle against U.S. imperialism in Vietnam. It stands for poor and working class power, and has always fought to advance socialism, democracy, ecology, feminism and racial equality. People’s Alliance is a socialist formation. We believe that the multinational working class and oppressed peoples of the world are not only entitled to the full fruits of our labor but should have control over the course of our society and world.
The 14th district encompasses land taken by force and coercion from the people of the indigenous Olhone, Patwin, Bay Miwok, Yokuts, Karkin and Chochenyo nations (per https://native-land.ca/). It falls in modern day Contra Costa and Solano counties, including Vallejo, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Clayton, Concord, Benecia, and parts of Pittsburg and Walnut Creek.. The working class and oppressed peoples of this district face institutional challenges that demand redress. In the face of a ruthless gentrification that is displacing the poorest, we need comprehensive and thoroughgoing rent and vacancy control. When one family is forced out of their home by ever hiking rent, landlords increase the rent for their vacated home drastically. This renders the entire neighborhood unaffordable for poor and working class people who built the very community landlords are forcing them out of. This increases our unhoused population, which gentrifiers try to sweep out of sight by hook or crook. We need to keep residents in their homes, and make vacant homes available to all. It is a moral imperative to house all our residents, and this can be done when we put people before greed.
Our struggle includes ensuring medical and mental health care access for all. When someone cannot access the mental health services and medicine they need, this can leave them unable to work. Uplifting these services uplifts the community. Accessibility for people with disabilities helps us thrive, allowing them to bring their best to the benefit of all. A community is also made more vibrant and accessible for the poor and working class people by forgiving student debt and providing free postsecondary education for all. And, of course, all impediments to labor organizing must be removed. Unions are the most reliable tool for workers to secure their economic empowerment through collective bargaining, and every worker deserves a union. Collective bargaining enables poor and working class people to thrive in our own communities rather than fall victim to gentrification-driven displacement. Our fourteenth district will never thrive by shutting out those who already live here and replacing them with outside wealth. We will prosper when we “lift from below,” and allow our current population to provide for ourselves and our loved ones.
The fabric of our community is woven with the presence of migrants from around the world, including those from Mexico, Central America, and South America who came for sanctuary from nations destabilized by U.S. imperialism. From the Banana Wars to the many CIA backed coups of yesterday and today, we have ravaged the global south, and sheltering the victims of our imperialist greed is the least of our responsibilities to these neighbors. As such, we must allow absolutely no compliance with ICE and actively shield our residents. We must actively resist ICE, allow no roundups, no family separations, no camps, no imprisonment, no deportations, no children in cages. The persecution of migrants by this government is an evil happening right under our noses.. As such, we will unite and say “ICE is not welcome; not here, not anywhere”.
We must support the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement. The BDS movement is frequently smeared by being called antisemitic, and is particularly weaponized against our Muslim neighbors. Recognizing the crimes of apartheid Israel and opposing the genocide of the Palestinian people is not an aggression against the peoples of the Jewish diaspora. We must stand with Palestine, for the right to return, and against Islamophobia, antisemitism, and religious bigotry in all its manifestations, from mass shootings to travel bans.
There is a legal and cultural offensive against those whose gender identities and/or sexual orientations are not straight or cisgender, and we stand against it. The violence against these communities, most especially transwomen of color, have got to be countered by all means available and we recognize the importance of self-defense for those most vulnerable among us. Additionally, we must ensure the right to travel for all. The federal REAL ID act of 2005 is about to deny the ability to travel by air for those transgender/gender nonconforming people of California who cannot afford the nearly $500 filing fee for court ordered name changes. It is its own form of a travel ban, and this fee must be eliminated.
District 14 has been subject to the iron grip of PG&E. This reprehensible monopoly over our vital public power utilities went to court in relation to their culpability in a gas explosion and has declared bankruptcy. The judge chided them for their lack of upkeep, threatening to restrict their ability to pay dividends if they continued to fail in such things as removing plant growth around their power lines. In defiance, this arrogant corporation has continued to pay dividends while ignoring the upkeep. Much of Northern California has experienced multiple, extended power shutoffs. As the first was about to be put in effect, the executives partied at an exclusive gala at a Napa winery. Their irresponsibility and greed is antithetical to the public good, and their self-indulgence is reminiscent of the apocryphal tale of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. PG&E must be broken up, the electric and gas infrastructures placed in the hands of the communities. The people must control our own utilities.
Moreover, we recognize that PG&E’s negligence is only one part of the puzzle that is the yearly California wildfires choking us with their thick smoke. PG&E is refusing to remove the kindling from the fire, but aridity, hot winds, and all environmental contributors to this crisis are driven by human-created climate change driven by capitalist greed. Climate change will continue to destabilize ecosystems, lead to disease outbreaks, and will drive a massive escalation of “climate refugees”. For this reason, we must stand against greedy corporations and investors and the polluting Pentagon who are destroying our planet for their pleasure and move to green energy.. We are in the early stages of Earth’s sixth largest mass extinction., proving that capitalism is an extinction level event. For our safety we must stop contributing to this crisis to ensure a future worth living in.
District 14 is currently represented by incumbent Tim Grayson, a former police chaplain for the Concord, California police department. Under his watch in Assembly, the city of Vallejo, another city in his district, has been besieged by a bloodthirsty police department. Vallejo P.D. has lethal indifference to the lives of people of color making it the city with the highest per capita rate of police killings in Northern California.. Their greatest notoriety comes from the killing of rapper Willie McCoy who was shot 55 times in the head and chest by 6 officers while asleep in his car earlier this year. Other victims include Angel Ramos, Ronell Foster, and Mario Romero. Most recently Eric Reason was shot in the back by an off duty officer from nearby Richmond. Reason was a respected member of his community, a loving father of six children. This reprobate of an officer was caught on video taking “trophy pics” of the man as his fallen body bled out onto the pavement. Vallejo P.D. failed to arrest the killer, instead treating the murder as a shooting happening in the course of an on-duty officer’s duties.
Meanwhile, people are being found dead in their jails, most recently a woman named Maria Barraza in the Martinez Detention Facility. It was ruled a suicide, but… Grayson came into office “representing” the terrorized people of Vallejo as well as other municipalities in Solano and Contra Costa Counties. His response has been to appear at a “town hall” meeting, standing side by side with the chief of the Vallejo Police Department. These police, instead, enjoyed a sizeable raise and loosened rules around drug testing killer cops. Rather than serving us, he has wounded our terrorized communities with his indifference in failing to hold the badge-holding murderers to account. The grieving families heroically stood firm in the face of merciless power, rallying a community in resistance and struggle. Because Black lives matter, theirs is the lead that demands to be followed. Bringing peace and justice to the people must begin with the community and those most directly affected. Stunts performed shoulder to shoulder with the head of the oppressive beast don’t cut it, and a crony of said beast will not be the one to usher in peace and justice.
Society needs deep, systemic change. Capitalism is an exploitative, destructive force and as long as poor and oppressed people remain in its thrall our liberation and the planet’s future is in jeopardy. Meanwhile, this district needs and deserves new leadership to help ourselves and our futures thrive in the here and now. We must defend our neighbors of all nationalities, all religious affiliations, all gender identities and sexual orientations. We must push back against reactionary and far-right politics from the street to the statehouse. We must thrive in the moment and build a future for youth worth inheriting. This is what I stand for. Please come with your passion and determination to build a winning movement.
I ask for your vote in 2020.