Monday, January 30, 2012

Must Read: "Notes from an Occupation 14: Shock and Awe! Or: How I learned to stop loving the motherfucking Police and start loving Oakland (part 1?)"

I think this is a pretty important post to read when thinking about what happened on Saturday...
File under: Things that made whatsername almost cry reading
First off, as I said on facebook, the only way I can really start this out is by saying “Fuck the Police!” And I well and truly mean it. I know many of you who have known me for years, and even a lot of my brothers and sisters in the Occupy movement, who have only known me for a few months, will probably be shocked that I’m at this point, and frankly, I am too. I’m torn up about it. I might laugh when I say it, but it’s that uncomfortable “Oh God.” laugh, because I’m really split about it. 
I’m very much in the nonviolence/no property destruction camp, and I was also one of those Occupiers who would argue “but the police are our friends!” and I was one of their first defenders, “oh they’ve got such a shitty job!” or “oh they’re caught between a rock and a hard place.” Hell, I’m sure I’ve tweeted and blogged about it in the past at some point. I still believe that right now, but at the same time, fuck that bullshit. Really. There comes a time when your orders are so wrong, so unjust, so ill conceived, poisonous and odious that you must refuse. You have to do it, for yourself, and for those people who you are about to cause harm to. That point has come and gone, more times in just the last few months during the police vs. occupy movement alone, setting aside, for a moment, all the decades of police brutality and oppression in certain neighborhoods and against certain races in our cities. Today, these Oakland cops were batshit insane, and were going buck wild all over town. Good people were hurt, good people were arrested, and many innocent people, both marchers and pedestrians, were put in harm’s way, for no justifiable reason. 
It’s not like I’m “new” to police brutality or I didn’t know it happens. I’ve read about it, written about it, and been an activist against it in the past. That said, there’s a distinct and jarring difference between seeing and knowing it on paper, and seeing people ridden down by motorcycle cops, or seeing people get their heads smashed into the pavement and all the other lovely, grisly things police like to do to assert the little power they’re given. I mean, sure, we can dress it all up nicely and call it “training” and “tactics” and whatnot, but really, Police are just a gang. A gang employed by the state, but a gang nonetheless. Enforcing laws, regardless of whether that law is right or not, and using their force of arms and the backing of the criminal justice system to keep us in line and make sure we follow our marching orders.  

How many times have police officers said to us Occupiers something akin to “I’d love to let you camp here but the law is the law.”? They’ll let the homeless sleep in an alley or a doorway in a grimy part of town that isn’t yet gentrified enough to warrant anti-homeless sweeps, because those people are ‘out of sight, out of mind’. They’re suffering in silence and invisible and overlooked and they should just go lay down in their doorway and be lucky it’s not some other city, or some other officer isn’t on this beat or there’d be hell to pay.  
And that’s the thing about this. You’re supposed to suffer in silence. If the police are arresting you, or shooting tear gas at you, you’re obviously doing something wrong, right? You’ve obviously committed some crime and deserve the treatment you’re receiving, right? WRONG. This is what I learned dealing with some of the issues that started cropping up, because I had to get over that hurdle, I had to let that myth about Police and Law shatter. Sometimes, in fact, many times, the Law is wrong. The law is the law because it’s there to protect protect property and privilege of the few, and maybe the rest of us too. It facilitates an order that perpetuates these cycles of hatred we find ourselves in. And you’re supposed to take it and like it and suffer in quiet. Suffer in quiet in a jail cell if you run afoul of it, or stay home and suffer and watch your family die because some back tricked you in to a shady mortgage or your job went overseas or your business imploded because a few bankers (who, historically, do not often run afoul of the law in comparison with lower class people). DO NOT GO OCCUPY. STAY HOME AND WATCH THE KARDASHIAN SHORE AND LIVE IN YOUR CAR AND BE QUIET AND GO AWAY IF SHIT IS FUCKED UP.
Well you know what? I’m not going to be quiet. I’m not going to cry at night or have to run to the bathroom half pissing myself in terror because I had a flashback from the camp eviction or a memory of seeing someone I care about be pulled from the sidewalk and tossed into the street on their side. I am not going to be quiet while I see Police fire tear gas and fucking flashbangs at a peaceful march, which had elders and children in attendance. I am not going to be quiet, I am not going to go home and I am not going to let you get away with this. You see, with Occupy, but especially Occupy Oakland, a police attack is like dripping water on a Gremlin (to steal a twitter quote from someone I can’t find right now!) they multiply. And not only that, you make moderate people more radical. You make peacenik people more radical. Notice I didn’t say more violent or more property destructioney - but more radical.  
Mayor Quan, Dual +5 Broadsword of Capitalism wielding Serpent Queen Santana and whoever the hell is Oakland’s Police Chief this week, your ‘shock and awe’ campaign you keep trying to run is a) going to get the feds to take over your police department, and b) not going to clear Occupy Oakland. Your suggestions of organizations as “alternatives” to Occupy Oakland are laughable when your ‘little oppressors in blue’ have arrested many people from these very organizations and previously condemned them as criminal. But wait, where is the “WOE IS ME” letter from the Police Union this time about flip flopping or whatever bullshit they tried to spin to place the blame for their uncalled for hyper violence last time? Oh yeah, you’re full of shit and are having a hard time lying fast enough to keep up the pace. Don’t try to deny it, whether it’s the Police Union, the rank and file or the Police Chief himself, we all know the truth is not something commonly found at the Oakland Police Department ( ). In short, you’re scum and we’re coming for you. Wether it’s a recall, or we elect the first candidate who promises to toss you out on your asses, those of us who still vote have long memories, especially when the howls of our teargassed and wounded brothers and sisters comes back to haunt us in the middle of the night.  
Tonight was a fucking massacre. I’m trying to remain calm, and collect myself, but it’s so difficult. I saw a lot of awful things tonight and a lot of good people that I care about deeply are in some black hole East Bay jail and I have no idea when they’ll be getting out or in what condition. I wasn’t even going to come over to Oakland, I promised my bf I wouldn’t go and I promised my friend Jill I’d celebrate our friend Breanna’s birthday with her and then I’d go dancing at my other friend’s club party. Once I saw pixplz’ stream of the crowd getting teargassed, and the constant, staccato popping of the rubber bullets hitting shields and legs and furniture, I knew where I had to be tonight. It was not my night to spend with my friends or out being a dancy faggot.  
As a quick aside, I want to commend the “black bloc” for one of the most amazing and inspiring things I have ever seen in my life. Those shields, the defense of the medic treating the wounded protester, and then that slow, hoplite turtle crawl you did when you tried advancing on the police line was fucking fantastic. This is where we can solve the friction over diversity of tactics. Aggressive defense. And you know what? When the cops let loose and go buck wild like they did today, gassing a crowd with kids and old ladies in it, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any large number of people telling you to stop throwing rocks and bottles. The other cool thing is that you were right up front and not throwing bottles from behind and running away. Please keep doing these things and we can all be friends and heal this fake ass divide in our ranks. That was some amazing, heroic work out there today.  
Anyway, back to my narrative about tonight. This is getting tl;dr, so I’m going to make it shorter and sweeter than I intended as I’d like to get some sleep tonight also. I got to Oakland to link up with one of my former partners on Welcome Committee, Kevin. As I was getting off the train, two older OccupySF people saw me and hugged me and teary eyed asked me “not to go out there.” and that the police were “going crazy on us.” I ran into two more coming down the escalator, who pretty much told the same tale, so I was not expecting a picnic by a long shot.  
What I did not expect to see was several hundred Occupiers being kettled in front of the YMCA. The ring had closed on them just minutes before I got there and had I not stopped a few minutes to talk to my fleeing OSF comrades, I’d have been behind those lines and probably sitting and rotting in Santa Rita prison or wherever they would have sent me to.
What I expected to see, in light of recent history, was police roughing up protesters, violating their policies, beating people, but knowing that, again, is different from seeing it. Thankfully, what I did see was from far away and I didn’t hear the screams. It’s always the screams that stay with me. There’s absolutely nothing so world destroying as someone sworn to protect and serving you, someone sworn to help protect your rights and facilitate expression thereof, being the shit out of someone else. Hitting them with their clubs, not pushing and prodding as instructed. Or several cops jump on top of a scrawny young protester, one smashing his knees into the protesters face, and then that face covered in blood and rocks as he’s lifted off the pavement. For what? We haven’t even gotten to the “Fuck the Police” march yet. These people still had signs and were making a second attempt at establishing a reoccupation, a community center to replace so much of what Oakland has gutted, and are threatening to cut even more in the immediate future.  
I’m not going to get into the debate about the legality of occupying an abandoned building. There’s historical precedents and nobody who would criticize Occupy Oakland for doing so is criticizing the banks for their shady foreclosures or for destroying communities, neighborhoods and families in their rapacious pursuit of wealth. It was “illegal”, but so is unilateral military action and that hasn’t stopped us in the past. Instead of destroying a community, or helping cut the safety net, Occupy Oakland was trying to help rebuild our tattered and frayed way of life. Instead of letting it happen in some ‘great experiment’, the city responds with overwhelming force, double speak, and the MSM helps them with their usual ‘spin’ and half or quarter truths. 
How about we talk about the fact that every goddamn occupy medic was arrested tonight, and rumor has it some were even beaten? We’re humanitarian workers. The only reason I wasn’t arrested was sheer luck and possibly that the Universal Aggregate was looking out for me. 
Umm, I’m pretty much done. I have to stop crying and I have to go to sleep because I work in 3 hours. I don’t care if this convinces you or not. I just hope and maybe even pray that you don’t see and hear and smell the things I did tonight. Some of them I’m not yet comfortable writing about, but I’ll wait for my support group to deal with that.  
EDIT: as always, and especially with the things being discussed here, feel free to share this widely. it’s not my best piece by a long shot, but i’m sleep deprived and i need about 30 good cries. i don’t normally pepper my stuff with profanity unless it’s strategic and i’m not going to go back and edit the piece because it’s perfect just the way it is. 
Reposted from scott's tumblr, show your support and "like" his original post!

So, everyone is largely out now.  But reports from people I trust from behind those police lines tell a familiar but disturbing story.  It is a story of illegal detainment (no disbursement order given) followed by refusal of needed prescription medicines, over crowding of cells, unnecessarily long detainment, further denial of legal rights (no phone call) and just to top it off, prolonged verbal abuse of detainees while in custody.  And of course because it just wouldn't be a proper police riot without it, scattered reports of physical abuse as well, at least one case of which I happened to see on a live ustream: police kicking a man on the ground.

There is no honor in doing your job this way.  Protect and serve?  Protect and serve whom?  Obviously not your community members, because look at how you treat them.  So... Protect and serve whom?  The people with the money?  Sure looks like it.

In that case, you're nothing but hired thugs.