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San Francisco | Immigrant Rights

Independent Journalist Bill Carpenter Assaulted by Protest Organizers
by Josh Wolf ( mail [at] joshwolf.net )
Monday May 1st, 2006 2:36 PM
While documenting the protest, I witnessed Bill Carpenter be forcibly removed by organizers with ANSWER
Copy the following to embed the movie into another web page:
download video:

billcarpenter.mov (1.6MB)

I just returned from the protest today, I had planned to shoot the entire demonstration, but after several incidents in which the independent press, and the media in general were treated in a represhensible manner, I decided to return home.

While filming the front of the protest at the beginning of the day, I was asked repeatedly for my papers to establish myself as a legitimate media presence. Something ironic, about being asked for my papers at a pro-immigration march if you ask me.

Despite the fact that I had no credentials on my person, after telling several people on several occasions that I work for peralta.TV, I was able to stay in the fron of the march.

Once the march began moving, I stumbled upon Bill Carpenter who had staked out a spot inside one of the islands. I joined him, and after a short while, we were approached by several ANSWER organizers and told we needed to move.

As newsgatherers, we are allowed to film anywhere on public space, and even cross police lines in some situations as long as we do not interefere with the business of the police. After explaining this to the ANSWER security we were told again that we would need to move.

Shortly after this point, we were threatened that they would come get the police. Knowing my legal rights, I told them that this was fine and that we'd be happy to straighten this out with the police. At this point 2 organizers with ANSWER were summoned to get the police to deal with us.

About this time, the main guy we were dealing with began repeating, "You're going to jail, You're going to get arrested," in an attempt to intimidate us. After the organizers returned, without the requested police assistance, the organizers returned to demanding that we move in order to protect the public safety.

When we refused to oblige, they began to phsyically force Bill Carpenter onto the sidewalk. They then came up to me implying that if I didn't move they would physically attack me.

Although I didn't capture the assault on Bill, the video attached gives at least some idea of what happened.

The final straw came when I was filming from Civic Center as the march approached and was pushed out of the way by a gentleman demanding "Move Blanco." I'm used to the police being assholes but when the police' behavior is more professional than the protest organizers it seems more than just a little counter-intuitive.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by -
Monday May 1st, 2006 2:50 PM
But, but but....You KNOW Answer always acts in your best interest! How DARE you not obey! Seriouslyk you should have told him to bite it and refused to move.
by Josh Wolf
Monday May 1st, 2006 2:53 PM
I did repeatedly tell them I wasn't moving. Should I have let them attack me? Maybe, but I can't afford to replace my camcorder, and I felt that neither it nor myself would've been safe had I continued to refuse.

Maybe that wasn't the right decision, but it's much harder to pull back and look at the broader picture when your living in the moment.
by C
Monday May 1st, 2006 4:01 PM
jerks come in all forms
by disgusted
Monday May 1st, 2006 4:19 PM
Today's march was NOT an answer event. Where were they even a week ago? they are so disgustingly opportunisitic. I'm sorry they hassled you, good on you for standing your ground and for telling us about it.
Monday May 1st, 2006 4:25 PM
I really believe that they are agents provacateurs whose aim is to keep the lefties in line.

What do they do for us? nothing. All I see them do is alienate mainstream Americans from the cause (and start fights amongst people who should be united)

We need to wrest our movement away from these cult-ish dinosaurs.
by cp
Monday May 1st, 2006 5:05 PM
What the hell are ANSWER (and, I notice, Todd Chretien of the ISO and now greens) doing moving in so quickly to be the leaders of this. It boggles the mind.

The fact that so many millions of people organized themselves to turn out in large numbers should almost make the antiwar people rethink their arguments on Indybay and elsewhere, where we've been bickering over whether having too many countercultural people with stupid signs, vs. not enough militant attutyde and civil disobedience, is what has been leading to lack of impact on Iraq policy. The immigrant protests show that effectiveness doesn't come down to subtle organizing details (such as organizing flyers not reaching diverse audiences) and nuances of protest conduct.

It is clear that they are good at logistics, sign printing, and stage arrangements, but isn't it almost dangerous for an immigrants' movement to be perceived as being lead by ANSWER socialists? That's not redbaiting, as they always reply, but the obvious reality. All the major arguments being used by undocumented workers seeking amnesty go along the lines of appealing to the american work-ethic value in order to secure citizenship. Citizenship status is necessary first before being able to start fighting for higher wages, and the immigrants seem to clearly understand this - hence the "we want to do the work americans won't do" argument. And this is working! If you look at the polls, a lot of conservatives say they are open to having some amnesty routes, and types of guest worker programs. They aren't going to be like that if the WWP, who got well under 1% of the vote, seem to be running things.
by civil disobedience
Monday May 1st, 2006 5:13 PM
ANSWER SUCKS!!! They act like a bunch of hardcore revolutionaries but in reality their nothing but a bunch of hypocritical bootlicking conformists. Whens the last time they marched with out a permit with out the fear of going to jail. We've had three years for them to begin civil disobedience and all they 've done is sit on their hands. As far as I'm concerned the protest permit is nothing but a piece of asspaper meant to wipe your ass with. The ones who challenge the unjust checks on our democracy are the only true revolutionaries.
by D
Monday May 1st, 2006 5:13 PM
For the immigrants' movement to be perceived as being lead by ANSWER socialists is just what Bush inc. wants.
by cp
Monday May 1st, 2006 5:21 PM
yeah - my cousin's husband Vicente is undocumented. Most people would assume that someone who marries an american could get a green card, but they actually make you go through all sorts of checks... and my cousin has had previous drug arrests and I'm not sure if he has, but that probably came up. He is one of a small fraction of latino immigrants who had a four year degree from the university so the U.S. should be lucky to have him because it is brain drain from Mexico, but he is stuck doing landscaping in Las Vegas. Anyway, the first thing he needs is basic security. They are not nearly at the level of being able to risk blowing this nascent movement with the right-wing being able to claim this is a radical movement yet. (That, of course, needs to come later on). Their daughter has a blood disorder and needed chemotherapy, and ended up being taken into foster care - so it's sort of a nightmare. The paranoia can be pretty intense, where my cousin's husband was suspicious of the note to pick up a package at the post office, when we sent them a present. Right now, there are all sorts of rumors and gossip about INS traps where undocumenteds will be caught at government offices and so forth.
by .
Monday May 1st, 2006 5:33 PM
I'm trying to imagine why these security guards would do that. My first guess is that it is the same principle explaining why certain 'average' people turn into tyrants when given any position of authority for the first time, including some coaches and teachers, the McDonald's lackey finally given a night supervisor position, and some regular security/police/army staff.

Once they have been given this little bit of power, they realize that they relish an opportunity to test it out and push people around for the slightest provocation. It makes them feel important. Being official ANSWER security but not actually doing much more than just walking the march route with everyone would make it feel like a failure to fully realize their status.
by John Green
Monday May 1st, 2006 5:47 PM
I was standing at the front of the march when this incident happened, so let me try to set the record straight:

1. The people wearing lime-green vests were not ANSWER organizers. The vests were on loan from ANSWER, instead the folks wearing them were from the May 1st Coalition and other allies recruited to act as security.

2. Photojournalists (including the fellow who wrote this article) were all over the march at the beginning. After a while some journalists started to get in the way of the march by not moving when people marched up to them, and this started to cause a disruption.

3. I don't think the incident in question needed to happen, but at the same time it wasn't like they were trying to censor anyone's right to cover the protest. The man was simply asking everyone to move out of the way--either off to the sidewalk or back 20 feet.

Emotions were (and are) running high today because this is a very serious issue, especially so for the tens of thousands of undocumented workers who protested today and their family members. So I'm sorry for the incident but I think its not right to to let one very minor thing detract from the hardwork that hundreds of organizers put into making today's protest so beautiful (the t-shirts, the water, the stages, the publicity, the signs, the energy, etc. etc.)
Monday May 1st, 2006 6:05 PM
The sooner we stand up to these clowns and take back our movement, the better.
by child of immagration
Monday May 1st, 2006 6:25 PM
why color an entire movement with one very small negative experience. today there where many security folks trying to keep people safe. I was asked to back up until the front line passed and did so respectfully then joined the march. don't let your one negative experience change the rest of our experience, to me you even writing this is egotistical. write about the movement, about the people and their experience, this was a positive day for many of us. what will your message solve, is it the misunderstanding between you and a few people who will influence how you report on this event? check your ego brother! Be positive.
by Eric Wagner
( eric [at] basetree.com ) Monday May 1st, 2006 6:35 PM
I usually try to stay away from ANSWER "security" as I have been hassled on several occasions while taking photos (with an Indybay press pass I might add.) I was yelled at today by someone who appeared to be with ANSWER, however, I don't hold it against the actual march organizers.

Note that I am not entirely sure the "security" person who yelled at me was with ANSWER. They were dressed in the usually neon green/yellow vest, but I didn't stick around to find out.

I certainly understand needed to clear the area in front of marchers for safety reasons, however, no other organization has ever given me as much grief while I have been taking photos as ANSWER has. I should point out, though, that I haven't had any other issues with ANSWER and their media check-in and press contacts have always been easy to deal with.
by a TG person
Monday May 1st, 2006 6:46 PM
I was only able to attend the morning march for a few hours. Later on I recieved an email from a shooting buddy on how he got assaulted by someone. Some man went up and shoved a camera into his face and eyes. I wasn't aware of the assault until reading an email later on in the day, and after I reviewed the footage I actually had captured some of it on video. The march organizers were so rude he could not get to me during the moment for help.
I will show the video later, but the point is independant media should be respected and taken care of because WE are the ones watching your backs. If a cop attacks it will be on video.
If an opposer attacks it will be on video.
If someone falls and gets trampled it will be on video.
Shooting video and taking photographs can be used for your safety. If independant video does not attend then, trust me, ultimately people will get hurt and no one will have proof.

Hi, this message is directed at "child of immigrant." I saw a film about Jonestown last night, and for the first time in my life, I was able to see what attracted thousands of people to the People's Temple. It was a social movement, and a pretty profound one at that.

But, at the same time, those involved in the group were discouraged from speaking about it's flaws and the problems within the church. Why? Because they felt it was important not to hurt what the church was doing by speaking out. For the most part, people were silent, and nearly 1,000 people died as a result.

While today was a beautiful thing in many ways, I feel that it's important that we discuss these issues. Not bringing them up, for fear of jeopardizing the "movement" is a dangerous approach that has failed historically time and time again.
by Bill Carpenter
( wcarpent [at] ccsf.edu ) Monday May 1st, 2006 7:19 PM
Goodness, nothing really happened. Sorry not to make a comment here sooner but I just got up from a nap.

I had staked out a position on a Muni island behind one of those upside-down-U-shaped barriers as I usually do so as to videotape marchers flowing past me. Security was clearing the way for the march to proceed and asked me to leave. I pointed out marchers wouldn't be able to pass through that 3-foot wide barrier so I'd be ok -- one security person disagreed.

I appreciated Josh's support and his account is accurate except that I wasn't assaulted in any way altho another security person did grab my camcorder out of my hand; I got it back immediately and no damage was done. At that point the march (and security) moved on leaving me in my chosen spot and that was the end of it.
by jack frost
Monday May 1st, 2006 8:13 PM
You can't be serious? I mean, i don't support these left wing nutjobs...but, i mean, they just ask you to move, dude.
by Big Brother, Not
Monday May 1st, 2006 8:24 PM
Let's face it, any group pretentious enough to call itself ANSWER well, isn't.... I guess they might have picked shining path...or some other similarly brainwashed nonsense.... We have a different idea in this country, and we really don't need communists to push us around and tell us what to do, what to think, and in your case, where to stand. For everyone top down power tripping central committee member pledge, let me give you some advice, next time make sure the group you join is called QUESTION, becasue that is exactly what you should do when the man with all the answers tries to shove you around.
by answer
Monday May 1st, 2006 9:19 PM
they are not leaders of this movement, and we should kick them da fuck out...opportunistic mother fuckers...
by criminals
Monday May 1st, 2006 10:20 PM
> . . .another security person did grab my camcorder out of my hand; I got it back immediately

That's a crime. It wasn't assault, unless he touched your person in the process, but it was theft. Your property was stolen. That's theft. It's a crime. Just because you got it back later doesn't mean it wasn't stolen, or make it less of a crime. When a store dick catches a shoplifter, the store gets the stolen merchandise back immediately, but the shoplifter is still subject to prosecution. To take your property without your permission, even for a moment, is theft. It's a crime. How serious a crime it is depends on how much your property is worth. This person is lucky you didn't press charges. He should thank you.

Did anyone get the incident on tape?
by step
Monday May 1st, 2006 10:33 PM
There were plenty of signs against HR4437, which is the appropriate message for the protest. However, we all know that bill isn't going anywhere.

Fair Path signs are also appropriate.

The problem is that ANSWER and the other leftist organizations provide many of the printed signs on sticks that have pro-amnesty messages on one side, and "Bush step down" and "Stop the Bush regime" on the other.

Fact is, Bush doesn't support HR4437, but ANSWER promotes the misinformation that Bush is a villian in this debate among the masses, when Bush is in favor of a "Fair Path".

These photos then make the front pages of newspapers, first photos on Newsdays website for example, furthering their cause of weakening the administration and villifying Bush in the media,
by this wasnt an ANSWER protest
Monday May 1st, 2006 11:43 PM
ANSWER may have donated some jackets to people running security or maybe they bought the jackets themselves (I think they are road safety vests or something like that) but ANSWER had very little to do with organizing the march of policing it.
In all the pictures of protests I dont think I have seen one ANSWER banner or sign so Im not sure where all this hostility is comming from.
by Josh Wolf
Tuesday May 2nd, 2006 1:10 AM
All right, so it wasn't an ANSWER march; that still begs the question -- where did the security come from? If I remember correctly, in addition to the orange vests, several of the people harrassing me were wearing ANSWER shirts, but I could be mistaken.

The one thing I do know, is that I've never been at a protest with that crazy yellow rope and the wall of people locked elbows at the front of the march that wasn't ANSWER.
by not sure but...
Tuesday May 2nd, 2006 8:07 AM
The march was organized by various immigrant rights groups and Im guessing that the same groups that paid for toiilets to be along the route and probably paid for a permit for the march and rally locations also organized security.
Doing a quick google search I found the following site asking for volunteers to help with the march so perhaps you coudl ask them if you want to know who did security:
Since ANSWER marchs draw a lot of people too and many of the volunteers dont work with ANSWER I wouldnt be surprised if some of the security people overlapped with ANSWER security people (peopel who when they volunteer want to do security) but I saw many more security people at this march than at ANSWER protests and I wouldnt be surprised if many were people who have never attended ANSWER protests.
Personally I think they did a pretty good job overall and one case of someone harassing a camera person shouldnt be taken as representative.
by .
Tuesday May 2nd, 2006 10:23 AM
well, the quicktime film makes this security guy seem like a common variety pushy person who most of us encounter every couple of weeks - or perhaps more frequently in certain contexts. It's important not to let them get away with the behavior, but it doesn't define the march of thousands.
I really think the big issue here is the ability of ANSWER to be this amorphous leadership group that runs everything, without the people attending voting for them. Clearly, all the participants would have showed up anyway and didn't require ANSWER. Couldn't a radio station or a true grassroots group arrange parade logistics?
by except....
Tuesday May 2nd, 2006 10:43 AM
"I really think the big issue here is the ability of ANSWER to be this amorphous leadership group that runs everything"

As far as I can tell they had little to do with these protests except maybe providing some logistical support (and probably it was mainly a matter of the organizers of this march wangting to know logistical stuff like # of toilets how to deal with medical problems etc... and asking ANSWER since they are one of the few groups to have organized large marchs like this in the recent past)
The people in yell vests can be seen in:
and I dont recognize any of them from ANSWER marchs.

"Clearly, all the participants would have showed up anyway and didn't require ANSWER."

What do you mean "anyways". ANSWER didnt do the publicity for the march and wasnt an organizer. The main organizers of these marchs were immigrant rights groups and much of the publicity was on corporate Spanish language radio by people who have huge ideological differences with ANSWER (some were probably even proWar)

"Couldn't a radio station or a true grassroots group arrange parade logistics?"

Are you claiming that they didnt? The thousands of white "day without an immigrant" t-shirts and American flags were not handed out by ANSWER. ANSWER didnt pay for the permits and Im guessing ANSWER had little to do with march security.
by Josh Wolf
( mail [at] joshwolf.net ) Tuesday May 2nd, 2006 11:36 AM
All right, I would like to publicly apoligize for mistakenly attributing the security to ANSWER. Based on the yellow vests, and a similar crowd control approach, I had incorrectly deduced that ANSWER had been involved in terms of security.

At the same time, I think it is a mistake for any group to lend out there SECURITY uniforms as it has strong potential to instill the perspective that these individuals are involved with that group.

The march was truly a beautiful thing, and a handful of assholes do not diminish the hard work that the organizers put in and the support of the hundreds of thousands who came out to attend.

I do feel that such a blind obedience to orders amongst the people leading up security, to the point of threatening physical violence and grabbing people's personal property is a severe issue which should be discussed.

After all, if we build alternatives which are tainted with patriarchal bull shit, will we really end up with something that much better than when we started?
by yep
Tuesday May 2nd, 2006 11:57 AM
"At the same time, I think it is a mistake for any group to lend out there SECURITY uniforms as it has strong potential to instill the perspective that these individuals are involved with that group."

Perhaps but I think everyone is only guessing they came from ANSWER and they may not have. They are standard road safety vests that anyone or any group can buy for slightly less than $10:
by control thyself first
Wednesday May 3rd, 2006 7:37 PM
It should be obvious by now to all organizers and participants in big public events that trying to alienate your friendly media, or limit them, is just plain stupid.

I've been taping "actions," "demonstrations," marches and rallies for years now and there are always some paranoid whakos or control freaks who try and stop me. Even when they are at a giant event that was well advertised, is infused with all kinds of cops and so on. What's the point in being weird, alienating and secretive at a giant event that is designed to attract attention and to get dialogue going on in the larger culture? It's stupid and counterproductive. The mainstream media is going to get images. Are they going to be so kind and supportive in their voice over? Will they let the people themselves be represented. Even the Zapatistas knew how to take advantage of media coverage and how to support alternative media. We should all be doing the same. They knew the difference between a secretive action and a public event, why didn't these jerks? OK, yes, I'm sure the march was positive overall and all of that, but someone needs to really get on the case of these people who bullied Bill and Josh. I don't care if they were Stalinists or Anarchists or Moderate Reformist Control Freaks - THEY WERE CONTROL FREAKS whoever they were and they need to be reigned in and educated ... someone help them please ... before the next big event and they alienate even more supporters and thus leave the voice of the people to be exclusively filtered by the likes of Fox News - and, they might leave the people to be exposed to cop violence with no experienced video witnessers around ... stupid ... stupid ... someone should write in to this thread, admit their flawed ways and explain that they will never do that again.