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West Oakland Loses Alliance Metals after Nearly 40 Years

Despite our campaign and collective offer to raise the funds, services and volunteers to balance neighborhood complaints and concerns with the basic needs of recyclers to earn a livelihood, Alliance Metals is now closed.

By The Dogtown Redemption Team

The day started off with a line of customers waiting for the gate to open at 8 a.m., like any other day. We spent time with people who recycle by foot, by bike, by truck, people who work in the yard, in the office, all of whom, with every ounce of their energy, strive to make ends meet. Friends who have protected each other and kept the business going for years are now disbanded–and the day ended with sorrow and sadness on the faces of many, particularly Alliance’s employees as they closed the open gates one last time.

Despite our campaign and collective offer to raise the funds, services and volunteers to balance neighborhood complaints and concerns with the basic needs of recyclers to earn a livelihood, Alliance Metals is now closed.

We asked the city for an extension so we could have a plan in place to ease the shock and absorb the trauma. In a couple of weeks, we had over 2,000 people signing our petition calling for a compassionate solution. Even with help from Pastor Raymond Lankford to mediate and $30,000 in pledges from two foundations, neighbors claimed that Alliance had not implemented the plan, and was acting in bad faith.


Recycler Ohio Smith and filmmaker stand together on closing day. ©2016 Denise Zmekhol

Recycler Ohio Smith and filmmaker Amir Soltani stand together on closing day. Photo: ©2016 Denise Zmekhol


The bonds, labor and lives were considered nothing but a “nuisance” to the neighbors, city attorney, council and mayor. Not a word from Libby Schaaf, explanation or clarification, let alone apology, from Barbara Parker, not an appeal or intervention from City Council.

Not one of them stepped forward to utter a word in defense of Oakland’s poor. They not only permitted the neighbors to dehumanize hundreds of recyclers by labeling them as thieves and addicts, but lent legal force, the stamp and authority of their offices to an assault not only on the civil and economic rights of the recyclers, but on their dignity and humanity as fellow Americans. That’s the true theft, here.

We are at the beginning of a new fight.

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