One of the easiest ways to slant a story is to deliver a warped timeline. Case in point is the Oakland Police Department’s press release about the arrests and actions at the “Fuck the Police” march January 7. Anyone reading the release, who was not present at last night’s action, might believe it was a night of vandalism run amuck and Oakland was one stick of “dynamite” away from tragedy if the police had not stepped in.
“On January 7, 2012, at 8:00 p.m. protesters gathered at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza and marched through the downtown streets of Oakland. During the march, protesters broke patrol vehicle windows, vandalized a media van, threw bottles at the police, and lit an object on fire at the intersection of 8th Street and Washington Street.
As of 11:00 p.m., six protesters have been arrested. Offenses ranged from assaulting officers, possession of explosives, resisting/delaying officers, and vandalism. One of the protesters arrested was in possession of an explosive device described as a quarter stick of dynamite.”
Thanks to @susie_c for posting the press release
Seven Oakland Police Officers stand alongside Walgreens on 14th and Broadway during the rally.
The rally, planned by the Tactical Action Committee, began at 7 p.m. with the first Oakland police officers emerging from the shadows around 7:30 p.m. across the street from Oscar Grant Plaza on 14th and Broadway. Wearing their riot gear at the hip, they stood watching from a distance as people told their stories of police brutality and harassment. When a very small fire (which burnt out in less than a couple of minutes) began on 14th, one officer came over, extinguished part of the fire, and then walked away.
Anyone watching Spencer Mills’ @OakFoSho ustream got a view of the police officers hiding around the plaza, staging for the march to OPD headquarters, schedule for 9 p.m. By the time of the march, the officers were suited up with their riot attire. This is how the police “handle” Occupy Oakland, with force and intimidation tactics. Too often, people brush aside the repeated actions of police brutality and unlawful arrests to have a conversation of the “appropriateness” of the “fuck the police” chant. Which started first: the sentiment or the actions of the police?
“Fuck the Police” can carry negative connotations, and sugar-coating the booming chants of “Kill Cops” and “Fuck the cops, We don’t need them, All we want is total freedom,” isn’t going to clear up those feelings. From the announcement of this action, the discussion from non-approvers of the march has centered around a “PR war” instead of focusing on what the police are actually doing. While public opinion is vital for Occupy Oakland, catering the message for approval by corporate media and bought politicians will not help the people of Oakland.
Going after banks, fighting against school closures, demanding jobs, calling for better public service, fighting for equality, stopping foreclosures…these are all areas that need addressing and are being addressed by Occupy Oakland. The violence oozing from Oakland Police Department is also issue. Discussing bank fraud on Monday and police brutality on Tuesday neither diminishes the weight of the topic nor its overall importance.
One of Occupy Oakland’s strongest points is the openness to autonomous action and diversity of tactics. LHO, an Occupy Oakland supporter, says this approach is what will make the difference.
“Revolution isn’t done with nonviolence and civil disobedience, it’s done with fighting the established order, like physically and violently,” he said. “There’s a difference between reform and revolution. We need it all to happen at the same time. There’s value in nonviolence because what the nonviolence aspect of this movement does is it creates a critical mass with the regular people of the society. And they realize these motherfuckers are talking some real shit, but they’re getting brutalized for doing nothing.”
“When we fight the pigs in the street, if we are all nonviolent we will just get crushed. There has to be some motherfuckers with teeth, there has to be some Black Bloc to throw some shit back at them and there’s value in that. There’s value in both aspects of fighting.”
“As an anarchist, personally, I will not tell anybody whether you should be violent or nonviolent, like whatever strategy you choose for your personal revolution, go with that shit. We need everything.”
OccuBubble aimed to bring a different message, "fuck with the police."
Cue Bubble Bloc.
While some may align themselves with the Black Bloc, last night there was a strong showing of the Bubble Bloc. As part of “occupying joy,” a group suggested that we “fuck with the police” instead. People received free bubbles using them at the plaza and again during the march.
Melvin Kelly, a member of the Occupy Oakland Tactical Action Committee, says the “fuck the police” march will happen every Saturday because “it’s time for the police violence to stop.”
“I’m here with Occupy Oakland to help feed the homeless and make sure people have affordable housing. They’ve been tearing our people up for the last 3 months now, doing hella shady shit, so now we’re revolting, we’re fighting back,” Kelly said. “When people are protesting they been arresting us for stupid shit, so now we’re revolting. We’re not stopping. We are going to do this shit for the rest of our lives.”
From December 21 to January 6, OPD arrested approximately 40 people for taking part in Occupy Oakland actions, sometimes doing nothing more than standing at the plaza. OPD placed City Hall on lockdown over an Occupy Oakland permit issue. Homeless men and women have had their food and blankets confiscated. When police arrive on the scene, they either are in riot gear or have it ready to use. Not to mention, Saturday marked the third year anniversary of the protests against the murder of Oscar Grant. The discussion of how to handle police aggravation occurs daily because the aggravation from the police occurs daily.
People did throw bottles. Anyone watching @OakFoSho ustream heard him yelling at the people throwing the objects, and he wasn’t the only person voicing dissent on that choice of action. Police ran towards the back of the march in response, but stopped short of a full chase. I did not witness any police vehicle windows being broken or any media van being vandalized, and have yet to see proof for those accusations.
Riot cops outside of OPD headquarters.
As for the “dynamite,” time will most likely reveal it a M80 firecracker. Say what you will about the dangers of firecrackers, M80s in particular, but the term firecracker and dynamite are not interchangeable.
When the crowd of at least 150 reached 8th and Washington, one person proposed a sit in, an idea quickly shot down, though some people did sit down. Minutes later, a box was on fire at the intersection. For a clear image: Hold your hands the length of a piece of paper. At one hand stands 60+ riot cops glaring; the other hand is where the fire was burning. Now place in the middle a group of protesters holding an Occupy Oakland banner.
After a tense few minutes, police charge towards the banner and shouts of “Run!” come from all over the crowd. The chase splits the group, with cops kettling 30 – 40 people while the rest run towards the plaza. While turning on Clay or Jefferson (The writer apologizes for not noting street names while being chased by riot cops) officers came from the other direction snatching a person running in the street.
Back on Broadway, five vehicles, two of which were marked as a police vehicle, came to an abrupt stop and at least 10 officers jumped out to give chase to a group of protesters walking back to the plaza.
At the kettle, protesters were sandwiched in between a large group of riot cops and a larger group of riot cops. Officers delivered the typical “unlawful assembly” announcement, giving people the option to leave or face arrest.
A box burns at the intersection of 8th and Washington.
So here’s this writer’s timeline: protesters show up to rally, cops show up. Protesters start marching; police block the roads. Protesters arrive at the jail, approx. 60 riot cops are waiting for them. Protesters reach the next corner approx. 40 riot cops are waiting for them. Protesters continue to march; some take part in starting fires, throwing bottles and other objects, others sit down and hold up peace signs.
March again reaches 8th and Washington, someone starts a fire with approx. 60 riot cops watching. Protesters with a banner move in between the fire and police. Few minutes later, the police charge the crowd. The police give a full chase and kettle protesters. Six are arrested, one requiring medical attention. Protesters chased down Broadway back to the plaza. Officers declare the group of kettled protesters an “unlawful assembly.” Protesters take the option to leave. Police continue to harass protesters all the way to the plaza. Back at the plaza, protesters start small discussions of the march and the actions of police.
The OPD press release is lacking. It’s lacking transparency and concern for the public which it not only serves, but is a member of.
It’s “fuck the police” because the police shouldn’t be chasing protesters. It’s “fuck the police” because the decision of whether or not to protest shouldn’t center around “can you afford to be arrested.” Look at the actions of the Oakland Police Department. Could they have handled things better? Should they handle things better? How are things going to be changed?
Being outraged over people yelling, “fuck the police” when such a police state exists, seems to be missing the issue. Focusing on why people are yelling, “fuck the police” may help find it.
Video from http://www.politicalfailblog.com shows OPD hitting a woman on a bicycle during the FTP march on January 7.