Cop shoots restrained man dead – Oakland Erupts!
Oscar Grant, a 22 year old black man, was shot in the back while face down on a train platform. After handcuffing him then letting him lay there for 30 minutes without medical attention, he died 7 hours later. Summary execution of a black man by the cops isn’t new in this country but just what the hell happened here? This time the the undeniable horror of a wanton shooting under color of authority was caught on video by every witness who cared to raise their cellphone. (I could search for you but you can find plenty yourself: just search out “Oscar Grant” or “BART shooting” for all the different footage or search “Oakland riots” for footage of the aftermath on Youtube.)
The transit authority, the police chief, the mayor, the DA….everybody above this cop drags their feet, offers the community nothing and takes no real steps to investigate or charge him with a damn thing, but the cop gets legal counsel AT THE SCENE as the yellow tape goes up!
Downtown Oakland explodes 6 days later as a spontaneous march splits off from a rally being held at the train station where he was killed. … A smashed cop car and a dumpster set alight in the street and it’s on. …. Confrontations and passionate chants of “I am Oscar Grant!”… Lines of people dropping to the pavement assuming Oscar’s last position: face down, hands behind their backs , screaming “Shoot me! Gonna shoot me now?!”… Smashed storefront windows … smashed windshields and 2 local residents’ cars are torched … Many folks bail when private property and little businesses get hit… Tear gas is in the air: some canisters are fired straight at people -smoking hot projectiles into bodies … No one can keep up with the running street melees between riot cops and the wildly mixed crowd in the street: all kinds of kids from the neighborhoods and all kinds of politicals… masked radicals/anarchists getting taught a thing or two by street kids about staying mobile and fighting arrest … instances of anarchists giving bandanas out to kids from the corner, clueing them into not getting ID’d and busted by cop surveillance … News and police choppers churn overhead constantly… People are using cellphones to keep in touch with their friends or document what is going down … Later I hear that there were even live Twitter feeds complete with images streaming onto the net … Neither the cops, the protestors, the pitifully few news reporters still out on the street, nor anyone really can keep up with the different bunches that have split off and gone mobile all over downtown …. It’s intense and it keeps going for hours. …. When they finally get the edge, the cops make a mass arrest – appproximately 80 people are face down in an intersection to the west of Broadway as the cops lock down the whole area.
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[FYI: Oscar was shot two blocks from my house. I was at the rally that first Wednesday and at the following second rally, march and late night confrontations a week later.]
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The day after the “riots”: the usual media vultures offering the lamest of explanations and ready-made vilification. Everyone, no matter what proclaimed political stripe it seems, takes the media’s presumptions as their own, repeats simple-minded characterizations and takes complete misstatements of fact as their own point of view.
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This is a response I posted elsewhere trying to counter some of this blatant misinformation and bullshit:
Let’s try to be clear. This seems to be the task at hand this last week, at least for those who are involved, organizing or just interested in the matter. Btw, I was at the demo Wednesday and have been involved in a ton of street action as well as other various types of organizing since I’d say, about 1984.
:: First: property destruction and “violence” aren’t synonymous. Parroting this lazy, pejorative thinking is testimony to the power of the media and a lack of critical thinking and direct experience street action and political organizing in general.
:: To say “rioter” distinct from “protester” is to say that there is a clear dividing line and that line is a justification for vilification and schism. It’s never that simple. I’ve been on both sides of that drawn line and the line has always been bullshit and besides the point.
:: 105-120 people were arrested and each is a story unto themselves. Don’t overspeak and pretend to know what went down in each case.
:: “Riot” is a loaded term and is used precisely for that reason. There’s a lot at play here and moronic simplifications especially the ones instigated by the state, the cops and the corporate infotainment media are a trap.
:: Beware of indulging in vicarious retribution, thrilling on or getting satisfaction out of the punishment of others by authority. This comes to mind when I heard stuff like “I hope they get prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” The abdication of public life, justice and and right and wrong to Authority is at the heart of this issue and of damn near every political issue at far as this anarchist is concerned.
:: Beware of easy characterizations in general: speak within what you know or have seen, or feel and think and treat it as such. Seems like I have been trying to cut through assumptive bullshit and taking heat (from all sides) non-stop for days.
::If you want to talk about the mechanics of direct action and how an organized, experienced and radical mass can take the streets, police itself and still keep its spontaneity, we can get into that…
If you want to dig into the demands and nature of movements in general….
or talk about “What we want” or long term visions….
or talk about opportunities and methods to organize effectively right here and now, we can do that and I’d be glad to.
It’s what we really should be doing.”
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And guess what…. The massive coalition that runs deeper and wider than anything I’ve ever seen in addition to the undeniable pressure in the street put this on front pages nationwide, got the mayor to do a 180 and start a parallel OaklandPD investigation, got the State Attorney General to appoint a “supervisory prosecutor” to watch our local bullshit DA, and got the (now ‘former’) Officer charged with murder – at midnight the night before the second rally no less!
But more importantly….
Shit is moving in Oakland. Real work is getting done in the community and boundaries are coming down. This just might be the start of something.