Is the Recall Effort of Pamela Price another Black Mark against Reform? Vanguard Interview with Color of Change PAC

Pamela Price at a press conference back in September 2021

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

In the wake of the news that the recall effort of Alameda DA Pamela Price qualified for the ballot, the Vanguard sat down with Michael Collins, from Color of Change PAC to discuss what this means.

Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, with over seven million members online and it leads campaigns that build power for Black communities.

Vanguard: Is there going to even be a challenge to these signatures or is this like a done deal now?

Michael Collins:  I think there are still challenges to be had. I mean, that’s a legal process that will be led by the Price Campaign. I know that there are decision points to be made about the date of this connected to the Board of Elections, and there’s just potentially litigation about the number of signatures that you need to have and the ruling that the board made to bring it in it line with California state law. So again, there are probably more twists and tons. I don’t think it’s a done deal… Having said that, we’ve always been prepared for a recall. We knew that the recall hope plans started before Price even took office. So we are prepared for that eventuality.

Vanguard: So at this point, what’s your reaction to all of this and what’s taken place in the last week?

Michael Collins: Well, I think this is something that’s taken place over the last couple of years where nationally we’ve seen MAGA conservatives hijack the crime narrative, and that is playing out in California where Democrats and liberals, rather than pushing back against that MAGA narrative about the need for tougher penalties and tougher approaches and all the rest of it, rather than pushing back, it’s that many of them have of them are actually co-opting that messaging, which is what we’re seeing with this Price recall.

The idea that Pamela Price is responsible for crime in Oakland or any of the social problems that are decades in the making is complete nonsense. The idea that this recall is based in any way on Price’s performance is nonsense. We know what this is about. This is about getting a Black woman who is reform-minded out of office and installing somebody who will do the bidding of muddied interests and conservative leaning officials in Alameda County.

They want somebody who will take us back to the 1980s and arrest and incarcerate poor Black and brown people. That’s not what Pamela Price wants to do. She has a more holistic vision of community safety, but that’s not what the moneyed interests in California want. And so that’s why we’re having a vehicle call.

Vanguard: And this is really a nationwide issue now where everybody seems to be pushing back on reform.

Michael Collins:  Yeah, I don’t know. I think the issue really is, well, first of all, we had this back in 2020, 2021 that was nationwide and that people wrongly attributed to efforts for prosecutorial reform or pushes for police reform or the post George Floyd protests. And like I say, the conservatives, the MAGA folks really took advantage of that situation to push their message that this is all about, this is all the responsibility of progressive prosecutors or bail reform or defund the police. And none of that was based in fact.

I actually think one of the issues is really there’s no real disagreement in the movement or nationally on the issue of safety. We all agree that everybody deserves to feel safe. I think where the divergence is that we believe that safety can be built through services, through support. It can be built holistically. We believe that a lot of damage was done in the eighties and nineties through this tough on crime rhetoric. But the opposition and the people behind the recall, they just want to take us back to that. And they’re quite happy to throw Black and brown communities under the bus in the process.

Vanguard: And we also know now, and the news has come out really in the last week that across the country that crime went up during the pandemic. It had been at a 50-year low, so it really had nowhere to go but up. But now that we’ve gotten space from the pandemic, we’re starting to see again that crime is going back down. The murder rate has plunged. So are you seeing this as a messaging issue or are you seeing this as there’s a bunch of people with big money that can do whatever they want at this point?

Michael Collins: I don’t necessarily see it as a bunch of people can do what they want. When I think about the prosecutor movement specifically, I think there was a lot of excitement 2018, 2019 when you saw this flurry of elections of prosecutors, Larry Krasner or Rachael Rollins or Marilyn Mosby, people like that getting elected and doing pretty bold things in the prosecutor’s office. And then came this backlash that you mentioned.

Now I really think that reform-minded prosecutors are just having to navigate that backlash. And the movement is having to navigate that backlash itself. And I really think you win some, you lose some chases. Boudin was ousted, Marilyn Mosby was ousted. But we’re seeing, for example, like Alan Bragg is now leading the prosecution of Donald Trump. And he was a very high-profile reform. He ran as a very high-profile reform minded prosecutor who did the day one memo of policies, and you’ll see George Gascón is hopefully going to win, He just came through the primary, I think he was the top vote getter there.

So I just sort of think that we were on a trajectory where we were winning every race that we got involved in. And now that’s not the case. And in that sense, progressive reform, prosecutors have just become any other political issue where we’ll have wins, we’ll have losses, but the idea that the movement is going away or it’s going to recede is completely false. And the idea that we won’t fight back is also deeply misguided.

I think you’ll see that in this Pamela Price recall, because as I say, I think the fundamental misunderstanding that the opposition have is they think that people’s concern for crime will translate into a desire for tougher penalties, tougher punishment, more policing. We believe that people are concerned about crime. Those people deserve to be safe, but the safety should not come on the backs of poor Black and brown people being locked up. You think the public will recognize that mass incarceration is a huge public policy issue that we’re trying to untangle and we think will be successful in opposing the people.

Vanguard:   Do you think that there are people out there that just feel like the reforms were too much too fast? And how do you respond to that?

Michael Collins: Yeah, look, I think there are people who feel that. And I think there are disagreements even within the movement about how to proceed. As I say, I think this is what I go back to, the fact that the movement itself is still young. And there’s definitely been some change in tactics and change in thinking. And we’ve had to respond to some of the opposition, like these recall efforts and the flurry of on Florida and even removal legislation that we’ve seen in certain states. It would be futile for the movement not to respond to that. But I don’t see these, I think these opposition efforts are coming as a part of our success. They don’t like our success, and we caught the opposition napping, and that’s how we were able to get so many reform minded prosecutors elected and they’ve woken up and they’ve developed a strategy.

And so we are responding to that strategy. And that’s the kind of moment that we’re in. But as I say, I think you can do a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking about the movement itself in any mistakes. And whether it was too bold or not bold enough, but we are where we are and I’m not really one for trying to go in some sort of time machine and undo any mistakes in the past. There’s no way to do that. And so we are as a movement, responding to the moment that we’re in just now.

I think the opposition wants to eradicate the idea of reform-minded prosecutors completely. And that’s just not happening. That we’ve seen that in these elections. We’ve seen that in the last couple of years, was very often a misreading of the electorate. Jose Garza just won his race in Austin. I mentioned Alvin Bragg, George Gascón. There’s a lot going on in the movement that is sometimes not captured by an outsized focus on certain major losses.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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