No Coal Meets at West Side Missionary Baptist Church

  • Westside Missionary Baptist Church, Oakland, California

About thirty people attended No Coal in Oakland’s community meeting on Monday, May 15, at West Side Missionary Baptist Church.  The discussion included the status of the lawsuit filed against Oakland’s 2016 coal ordinance, possible strategic directions, and current activities.

The meeting kicked off with members of Occupella leading the audience in spirited renditions of “This Little Light of Mine” and “Bye Bye Coal” (to the tune of “Bye Bye Love”). Lyrics to the anti-coal anthem by Bill Pinkham and Bonnie Lockhart can be found at

City Administrator Claudio Cappio attended the meeting for a half hour, agreeing to come in response to an invitation by Rev. Ken Chambers, the pastor of West Side Missionary Baptist Church and the host of Monday’s meeting. Cappio said that the city is simultaneously engaging in the litigation and in settlement negotiations.  As expected, she could give no details about how negotiations are proceeding.

Audience members made it clear to the City Administrator that we do not want any toxic substances shipped through the marine terminal, do not want Phil Tagami rewarded financially for filing the lawsuit, and are interested in other uses for West Gateway site that would provide more jobs than a marine terminal would.

Cappio reminded the meeting that the City passed a resolution opposing fossil fuels ( before the concerns about coal became real. This resolution is not an ordinance banning rail transport of the toxic substances, as the City has no jurisdiction over rail lines — but it does indicate the City’s environmental stance. Cappio also reminded the group that any commodity shipped through Oakland needs to meet air quality and other safety standards (which are enforced by other agencies, not the City Council).

Oakland’s City Charter permits only the City Administrator and City Attorney to engage in settlement negotiations. Neither the Mayor nor the City Council are directly involved. The negotiators report to the City Council in closed session, receiving direction and comments; once the Council approves a proposed settlement, it must be voted on in a public meeting.

Before and after Cappio’s appearance, Ted Franklin outlined the pending lawsuit and responded to questions. To date, there has been no order admitting the Sierra Club and SF Baykeepers (represented by EarthJustice) as intervenors in the suit, which the judge had indicated he was inclined to do. The meeting considered different kinds of leverage to convince Tagami to drop his lawsuit: moral, social, political, and economic.

Ms. Margaret Gordon, of West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, described an upcoming day of door-knocking by teenagers. They will be trained in how to conduct canvassing and how to talk about the coal campaign, and then will speak to residents in West Oakland this coming Saturday, May 20.

Carolyn Norr, of Ahimsa Oakland, told the group that Phil Tagami is an owner of Ume Yoga Studio and promotes yoga on his Facebook page. Since a basic principle of yoga is “ahimsa”–non-harm–yoga studios and practitioners have begun a campaign to convince him to act on this principle and drop the lawsuit.  They are gathering signatures on line and at studios ( for the initial stage of the campaign.

Carolyn also reported that in addition to the youth canvassing on Saturday, there has been activity by students at Castlemont High School, Urban Promise Academy, New Voices are Rising, and Jewish Youth for Community Action. Because Tagami may be influenced by young people, they are considering ways to reach him with their concern about their future.

Brooke Anderson, of Climate Workers, outlined ideas for an extensive coal curriculum to be implemented in elementary, middle, and high schools throughout Oakland. Students will be coming home from these classes and raise their concerns with their parents. Planning will take place this summer, when teachers are more available to work on the curriculum.

Rev. Chambers announced an upcoming meeting of the Interfaith Council of Alameda County, which can spread information about the coal campaign to participating congregations.  This will be on Saturday, June 17, from 1-5 at Taylor Memorial Church, 1188 12th Street in Oakland.

Attendees appreciated the opportunity to ask questions and assert our concerns with Cappio, to hear about the lawsuit, to float ideas about next steps, and to sing together. A new shipment of tee shirts arrived, and all sizes were available for sale at the meeting. You can get one at our table at the Temescal Street Fair Sunday, June 11, 12-6 pm, or by arranging a pickup by emailing

Check our calendar of events for announcements of upcoming meetings.