Next Saturday in Philadelphia, members of From Occupation to Liberation will lead a march to the 14th police district, as part of a continuing campaign against police brutality. Their campaign began last fall, when cops brutalized local resident Florence Mason and her family in the course of executing an illegal eviction.
In the Bronx, a recent wave of police violence has prompted a string of mobilizations in different parts of the borough.
On January 26th, cops approached 19-year-old Jateik Reed while he was hanging on his block with his friends, and proceeded to beat him viciously with fists and clubs. The incident was caught on video by one of Jateik's friends, who was chased down the block as officers threatened to mace him. Jateik was booked on false charges, and when his parents went to the local precinct to demand information, they too were arrested and charged with "disorderly conduct."
Video of the incident hit the internet just days after a the Stop Stop & Frisk campaign held a march to the same precinct where the officers who beat Jateik were stationed. Take Back the Bronx (formerly Occupy the Bronx) and members of Bring the Ruckus followed Jateik's case in the days following, fielding people to court support and organizing a march through the South Bronx against police violence. But even before the action could take place, cops shot and killed an unarmed black youth sixty blocks to the north.
On February 2nd, narcotics officers murdered 18-year-old Ramarley Graham in his own home, after entering through a backdoor while not in hot pursuit. Graham was gunned him down in front of his grandmother and little brother in his bathroom, as he frantically attempted to flush a bag of weed. Response to Graham's murder was swift and furious, including a rally the night of the murder organized by the Stop Stop & Frisk campaign, and another large rally in the days following. Two marches organized by Take Back the Bronx followed this chain of events, with videos below.
The first march in the South Bronx piggybacked off a press conference called by local politicians. Participants hit the 42nd precinct, took the streets and blocked a 6-way intersection in a commercial center, blocked cop cars at a nearby public housing police station, and closed with a rally on Jateik Reed's block with his friends and family.
In the days following, Jateik's family secured the head of the National Lawyer's Guild as their legal representation, gathered donations to bail him out of Rikers, and are now calling for a special investigator to look into his case.
A second march took place the following weekend in Ramarley Graham's neighborhood. Participants held a roving speakout which again took the streets, blocked intersections, confronted officers from the 47th precinct, and closed with a moment of silence outside Graham's home with his family.
In New York City, neighborhood and borough assemblies are taking shape outside the organizational infrastructure at Occupy Wall Street, which currently operates out of indoor spaces and privately-owned public plazas downtown. Autonomous assemblies have arisen in Harlem, Washington Heights, Brooklyn, Sunset Park and the Bronx, some adopting the "occupy" moniker and others opting for "reclaim."
In recent weeks, the Occupy the Bronx general assembly has spearheaded a range of actions, including petitioning for welfare reform, storming a community board in solidarity with an evicted community garden, and holding a speakout against police violence and march on a local precinct. This past weekend, the Occupy the Bronx general assembly was targeted for preemptive arrests by the NYPD, and protesters responded with a rally outside the precinct and march through the neighborhood. The events were covered by local media and the Daily News.
The following is written by Jeff, a member of BtR-Oakland.
Race, Class, and the Police in Occupied Oakland
As I start my 5:30am shift this morning at a warehouse in Richmond, California, one block from the Chevron Oil refinery on the edge of the working class neighborhood known as “the Iron Triangle,” the Occupy Movement is poised to hold what could amount to the Nation’s first general strike since 1946. As it was then, Oakland, California will be the epicenter.
Some speak of this current economic crisis as “The Great Recession,” and yet companies like Chevron have easily managed to doubled their profits in the last year from $7.8 billion for the third quarter 2011, compared with $3.8 billion in the 2010 third quarter. If we are to fully grasp this historical moment we presently find ourselves in, some clarification, both political and economic, must be made.
“Hatred of the Oligarchy!”
Much of the Occupy uprisings have been built upon a confrontation between “the 99%” and “the 1%.” With this new push for mass working class participation and the overtly anti-capitalist rhetoric of the general strike coming from Oakland organizers, actions that have already shifted the terms of the struggle in a more explicitly class conscious direction, so to is it time for the movement to evolve beyond the hegemonic dialectic of 1% vs. 99%.
As a general strike unfolds today in Oakland, we reflect on the events and struggles that have carried us to the current moment. Below is a timeline of recent events in Oakland, and video from an October 29th Speakout Against Police Violence, organized by the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality & State Repression, Berkeley Copwatch, and Raider Nation/Bring the Ruckus.
The Long Arc of the Oakland Rebellion:
A Timeline of Recent Events
January 1st – Oscar Grant is shot in the back by BART transit cop Johannes Mehserle while lying, face-down and restrained, on a platform at the Fruitvale station. Rather than administer first aid, BART police attempt to confiscate cellphones from passers-by who filmed the shooting. Several versions of the footage make it out, and are viewed by hundreds of thousands on Youtube.
January 7th – Mounting anger at the murder of Oscar Grant and the lack of response by public officials leads community organizations and others to call a rally at the Fruitvale BART station. Popular anger spills over into the streets in an hours-long rebellion which sees property damage and police repression. When Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums attempts to calm crowds, he is heckled and booed. Police are under orders to hold back and allow the people to express their anger, making arrests late in the night.
January 14th – In an effort to head-off further rebellions, Dellums and State Attorney General Jerry Brown lean on the local District Attorney, who calls for Mehserle’s arrest. Mehserle is found across the border in Nevada and returned to Oakland. The people are not satisfied: a second night of rebellions breaks out.
January 30th – After Mehserle’s arraignment on murder charges, the community demands that he not be released on bail. When bail is announced, a third night of rebellions breaks out. The police have had enough, and repression is more severe.
March 21st – At a traffic stop, parolee Lovelle Mixon decides not to go back to prison. He shoots two OPD officers dead. When others storm the apartment of Mixon’s sister seeking revenge, he opens up with an SKS from within a closet, killing two more. The OPD uses the killings and the public funerals the next week to successfully regain the upper-hand in the city.
A number of organizations emerge from and participate in the upsurge following the Oakland Rebellions of January 2009, coming together in the formation of the Oakland Assembly, a directly democratic body which pushes the struggle forward throughout 2009 and into 2010.
June 2nd – City Council and courts approve a repressive and racist gang injunction in North Oakland.
July 8th – Expecting an unsatisfactory verdict, popular organizations centered in the Oakland Assembly mobilize on the day of the Mehserle verdict. The city is put on lockdown and federal agencies are visibly present as the verdict is released: involuntary manslaughter, which means 2-4 years max. Thousands have gathered for a speakout in the middle of the intersection at 14th and Broadway, and as anger rises at the injustice, protesters confront police and loot nearby stores. OPD holds a line, allowing the looting in a successful strategy to avoid further confrontation, before later clearing the intersection. “Progressive” mayoral candidates Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan gain public attention by standing between the protesters and police. As a result, both are formally investigated by OPD.
November 5th – Mehserle’s sentencing hearing is delayed in a clear attempt to outmaneuver the resistance. Judge Robert Perry unilaterally lifts the gun enhancement, sentencing Mehserle to the minimum: 2 years. Outraged Oaklanders take to the streets, before Police Chief Batts fabricates the claim that an officer’s gun was grabbed as an excuse to kettle the march and mass arrest all those present.
November 10th – Jean Quan is elected mayor of Oakland in a three-way race against opposition from police over a demand that they pay toward their own retirement.
The following piece examines the implications and context of the murder of Kenneth Harding by police in the Bayview district of San Francisco. It was originally published on CounterPunch.
A Life Worth Less Than Train Fare
The Ongoing Struggle Against Police Violence
By Mike King
Another young, unarmed black man, Kenneth Harding, has been gunned down, shot numerous times in the back as he fled, his empty hands in the air in broad daylight. His crime had been a simple train fare evasion for which San Francisco police executed him in the street. Dozens of witnesses saw a sight that has become commonplace in US cities, capturing images with cell phones of police surrounding the man and watching him struggle and writhe from a distance, in a swelling pool of his own blood. Without either offering the severely wounded man assistance, searching him, or otherwise looking for the supposed weapon, the police, most of whom had their backs turned to the suspect, would later try and say that he had fired at the them and randomly into the crowd that had assembled. No one in the crowd said anything about him having or firing a gun. Police would later say one had mysteriously appeared, via an informant. The police publicly named Harding as a "person of interest" in a Seattle killing, a day after he had been shot dead by police. They are using a criminal conviction to attempt to further devalue his life. This piece is not about previous convictions, or the "official story" which the police are constructing as I write, about post-mortem murder suspicions and mystery guns. One thing is clear, as far as police knew he was a simple fare evader. As far as multiple witnesses could see, Harding had no gun and the shots all went one way.
Whether BART police, Oakland PD, or SFPD, the stories have been very similar. Suspects are gunned down in the street, no weapon, usually shot in the back as they ran, almost all men of color, a homeless or mentally-ill white man here or there. We get a similar story each time. One that is weak, lacks probable cause for lethal force, and is based on the opinion of the offending officers whose word is unquestioned by superiors, city officials, or the corporate press. Unless there is a video. Mehserle, the cop who shot Oscar Grant, thought his glock was a lighter and larger and fluorescent tazer, though it had a completely different grip. An exception to the rule, Mehserle did time for his crime – a few paltry months. He was recently released. The OPD shot Derrick Jones in the back, he was carrying a scale. No charges were filed. Several killings of unarmed men of color in Oakland have yielded temporary suspensions, followed by reinstatements with back pay. Some acting, individual OPD officers have killed more than one unarmed man on separate occasions and still patrol the street, guns loaded, and ready to go.
The root causes of these murders by the police are multiple and far too complex to be fully discussed here: insulated and unaccountable police power committed to upholding a particular racial and economic order; psychological fear-turned-violence or plain hostility among the police; white supremacy at several levels of society from the motivations of suburban law-and-order voters to the historical legacies of the police in this country; to geographies of segregation, of which the Bayview is a prime example.
The result is a system of violence that is specifically targeted, on one level, and completely indiscriminant on another. Targeted in the sense that concentrated police presence, aggressive police tactics (profiling, checkpoints, not so random Muni train inspections for tickets, etc.), and police self-conceptions as occupiers of hostile territory are all almost entirely exclusive to poor, urban communities of color. The nature, logic, tactics and history of the police in communities of color is not a few bad apples, related to violent crime rates that have fallen, or a new phenomena. Within these targeted communities the violence of the police is often completely indiscriminate. A simple traffic stop, a response to a domestic argument, a skipped train fare. Case, after case, after case. Candlelight vigil, after community mural, after RIP rap, it is the same over and over. No gun. Hands up. Running away. Shot in the back. No accountability.
The following radio show aired on KBOO Community Radio in Portland, OR on June 21, 2010. It features George Ciccariello-Maher, from Oakland and Erinn Carter, from Los Angeles. They are active in the struggle for justice for Oscar Grant. As well as Sara Libby from Rose City Copwatch and the Fire Frashour Campaign and Andrew Barney from Youth for Alternatives to the Police.
by George Ciccariello-Maher, OAKLAND
As the trial of former transit cop Johannes Mehserle for the murder of Oscar Grant rushes at breakneck speed toward its conclusion, spurred by the insistence of Judge Robert Perry and political imperative, ominous clouds of injustice begin to crowd the political horizon in anticipation of a verdict, which could come as soon as this week. But while it is this injustice that we should most fear, too many are focusing their fear and the fear of others on the possibility of a repeat of last year’s street rebellions should Mehserle be acquitted or convicted of a lesser charge.
What this view neglects is one basic fact, indeed the most basic fact regarding the Oakland rebellions: that it was only as a result of those rebellions of January 2009 and the fear that they might be repeated that Mehserle was even arrested and put on trial in the first place. Those rebellions were, in fact, the basic precondition for this limited form of “justice” to even be possible. Possible, yes, but far from guaranteed. And yet those who opposed the rebellions from the very beginning, denouncing them with delusions of “outside agitators” as irrational and desperate outbursts--in short, as “riots”--are busily trotting out the same discredited lines as always.
RAIDER NATION COLLECTIVE, Oakland and Los Angeles
“Peace after revolution”
We were not surprised to hear of a recent meeting between the Oakland state apparatus (Mayor Ron Dellums and the Oakland Police Department) and representatives of the local nonprofit industrial complex. Nor were we surprised when the nonprofits emerged from that meeting with directives from the Mayor and the Police on how best to prevent and preemptively condemn civil rebellion in the case of the acquittal of Johannes Mehserle for the murder of Oscar Grant, or Mehserle’s conviction on a lesser charge. Why were we not surprised? Quite simply because what we are witnessing is a virtual repeat of last year’s controversy surrounding the short-lived Coalition Against Police Executions (CAPE), one which shows that the lessons of 2009 have fallen upon deaf ears.
By Erinn Carter and Traci Harris
In the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2009, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Police Officer Johannes Mehserle shot Oscar Grant in the back as he lay face down on the ground in front of a train car filled with people. He died several hours later. Uprisings in Oakland – including the killing of four cops by 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon - led the Alameda County District Attorney’s office to argue that while an impartial jury couldn't be found in Oakland, one can be found in Los Angeles.
When Mehserle goes on trial this May, Los Angeles will once again be the central location for a fight involving police brutality against communities of color.
The circumstances surrounding the Oscar Grant murder trial have produced a sense of déjà vu: police are charged with using extreme violence against a person of color and once again these violent acts were recorded and broadcast for the entire country to watch.