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The Scapegoat's Tale: An Interview with Gabe Meyers
Fault Lines interviewed Josh Wolf and Gabe Meyers, the two people targeted by the federal and local authorities after the July 8, 2005 Anarchist Action Anti-G8 demonstration in San Francisco. Anti-capitalist protests and demonstrations against the G8, WTO, and other institutions that represent neo-colonial domination and corporate globalization have always been met with more aggression and hostility than normal marches for peace. Granted, these demonstrators are often much more militant. With a police officer injured and a police car damaged, the authorities felt a need to subpoena and prosecute.
Fault Lines: What happened after the squad car started toward the crowd? Gabe Meyers: That guy was just driving through there like it’s the Indy 500 or something. And I don’t really see any reason he would drive into this crowd other than to run people over...I ran out of the way and dropped my sign. It went under the wheels and that’s when he hit the brakes. His partner got out, chased me, tackled me, strangled me, and put me in a chokehold in front of all these people, and people took a picture and it was on video--Josh Wolf’s video. Then the driver [who] had barreled into a crowd, he gets out of his car—and this is even confirmed in the police report—and he starts using his baton on some people...So somebody hit him over the head. He’s gotten a lot of sympathy because he got his skull cracked, which has kind of made him out to be the good guy. I mean, just because that happened to him shouldn’t get him off the hook for trying to run people over with a car...I don’t really condone hitting him in the head, it could have killed him...But you know, if you try to run people over with your car, and then you beat them with your nightstick, well, duh, what do you think’s going to happen? Nobody’s going to put up with that shit...I’m sorry the guy got beaten up but you know, he initiated the whole incident. When they talk about it in public, with the media and so forth, the real story is not being told...All that you saw on TV was ‘whatever, it was a violent anarchist protest and this police officer had his head cracked in and his police car was set on fire’ and, you know, that’s not the whole story there—this guy started the whole thing by trying to run people over. FL: So what exactly were the charges they tried you for? GM: This is really weird; getting charged with lynching is pretty rare and most of the time when people get charged with it they’re trying to do it to somebody else. Meaning they’re trying to take someone out of [police] custody...This police officer who was photographed and videotaped trying to strangle me ‘til my face was bright red—this guy decided to charge me with a felony of lynching myself--in other words saying that I tried to take myself out of his custody by trying to incite a crowd. By saying the words “help me” while he had me in this chokehold. FL: How long were you detained? GM: I was only in custody for less than a week. FL: What was it like after that? GM: It was a major pain in the ass. Having to show up for court. Other than that it was just kind of psychological, even though I knew it was bullshit... The police were mad because they didn’t catch who they were looking for, and they wanted a scapegoat and they wanted it to be me. I was the only person they charged with a felony. FL: Did you feel like you had a lot of support during all of this? GM: I got some supporters who came out. There were a lot of hearings. There were always a few people, and I think that’s where you really see who your friends are. I think a criticism of some of the organizers is that they didn’t show me that much support. I didn’t really see a lot of them show up. But I had some good people show up, some of the grand jury resistors. It’s important. I think it’s really cool when people show their support. You really can build a bond through a thing like this. I was just some guy who got arrested and got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think they just want to be mean and harass you for 18 months and shit like that. I just had to put up with this shit and watch everything else go down, like Josh Wolf. I kind of feel like Josh Wolf wouldn’t have been in prison if people would have spoken up more. In hindsight I think I should have made more noise about it as well. But my lawyers had advised me just to keep quiet. There were a lot of witness- es who saw the cops beating on people. I saw a lot of stuff posted on Indybay. I saw one legal observer, who was also a law- yer, had made a statement at one of Josh Wolf’s first appearances in federal court and in a press conference, and basically he said what happened--that they just drove into the crowd and started beating people with batons and choking people—well, me. But I guess that’s the whole thing with the media control issue—that those sorts of things were able to get hushed up or played down even though people were saying them publicly. There just wasn’t enough people saying them. Maybe I should have started getting the story out earlier, it’s just hard when there’s charges coming against you. FL: Having been the one person blamed for the actions of an entire group of people, what did you think about the behavior of the rest of the crowd? GM: To me, going into a working-class neighborhood like the Mission and causing chaos and smashing windows, even though those are corporate structures and so forth, we’re still in a neighborhood—I think the energy could have been directed better...I think a lot of people in the Mission, just because they might not want these big corporations, they don’t necessarily want all this chaos going on. I don’t necessarily have a problem with people being militant but you’ve got be smart about it. I want those corporations out of the Mission. I don’t like their domination here in trying to take everything over. That’s one of the effects of the G8, and it makes me want to protest. It’s good to go to the Mission and say, “Get out of our neighborhood, we don’t want you taking everything over and exploiting people.” But I think that just to go in there and kinda go nuts and throw things through windows and shit like that, I mean there’s people inside there too...It could be a person that lives here in the Mission that’s working this shitty job because they need the money. I guess it’s just one of those things that you’ve got to be smart about.
Read Josh Wolf's interview here.
From Fault Lines #21