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East Bay | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice

Sometimes you should riot
by Hanumansboi ( hanumansboi [at] yahoo.com )
Thursday Jan 8th, 2009 12:29 PM
It should anger everyone that the investigation has moved so slowly, and that the officer who shot him was allowed to sit at home and resign rather than face questioning. Over a week later the man has yet to answer a single question from any source. This is appalling, and there are no excuses for that.

Waving signs and banners and stopping traffic. The police were ready and within seconds five police cars were slowly trailing the procession. They blocked off side streets as to keep us from taking it to the residential neighborhoods that bordered the main drag. We walked and walked with no seeming direction, the destination was passed through the crowd like your usual game of telephone. No one seemed to be sure of where we were going. Every couple of blocks it felt as though the cops had blocked the path, then we would proceed. Until corralled to a side street, one with less traffic parallel to our unknown destination. Someone in the front of the pack must have had an idea of where we were going but I was at the tell end with the elderly and my fiancé. We talked and discussed the events that brought all of us strangers to this point in the middle of the road. The injustice suffered by Oakland citizens for so long, and the history of civil unrest that famed the city so long ago intertwined. I was introduced to a woman claiming to be the first female Black Panther. We talked about Oscar Grant, Bill Clinton, and Malcolm X’s speech writer. Before we knew it we were downtown and several children who had joined us somewhere around The Jack in the Box and The Polo Loco had begun to randomly smash the windows of a police car. Within an instant they were on top of the car, and then after each window had been removed they attempted to overturn the car. As they were busying themselves with the task, some of the young Berkeley Anarchist decided to light a fire in a small dumpster and roll it near the patrol car. This is when the peaceful march finally turned up the adrenaline. In came the police in full riot gear, far quicker than one might expect. My first thought is that the initial agitators where somehow undercover officers. It wouldn’t surprise me. The crowd I witnessed from three to five at the Fruitvale station was not organized enough to start a riot. It could have been the kids that joined off the street. Earlier they had run into a store and knocked over items and stole a hand full of Slim Jims. Things were moving fast by then I had no time to think I tried my best to snap off a few pictures, of which none came out clear enough. I missed the shots I waited all day for and my fiancé was screaming my name for me to run. The tear gas canisters started popping off and I saw a young girl on her ten speeds get popped in the arm with one. To my right another young girl was screaming as two police officers pulled her arms in separate directions as if in a make shift drawn and quartering. I saw a few of the Berkeley kids against the side of a church caught like dears in proverbial headlights. The cops were yelling it was time to go home as the crowd scattered. I decided for once they were right. I had no idea those that managed to escape the initial burst of violence would go on to create more havoc. Though, I suspect when they ran into the usual contention of thuggish teens that spend their nights on the streets downtown that things extrapolated. Once home the evening news showed a few bike riders and protesters survived long enough to draw out the city’s mayor. There was no need for much of the store front smashing; Oakland is poor and rundown enough. Though as someone who arbores driving I applaud the old fashion SUV torching. I regret sadly that I went the other way now. I would have loved to witness the destruction first hand. It had been a while since I smelled tear gas however and I quickly remembered that I didn’t miss it. Throughout the early morning I searched the internet for news and posted my pictures at various sites. I thought over the events from 3’o’clock onward and wondered how things would have been had the protesters been better organized. How much damage could they have done with a leader? Though, I stand firm with my belief that police informants and outside instigators played a bigger part than actual concerned citizens. I do not deny the fact that ha not the event turned violent the story never would have made it past the second page of the local papers. Because of the violence more people are aware of what is happening here. And while the internet is a haven for closet racist to voice their opinions on message boards and forums. They leave angry comments on You Tube and newspaper columns saying that blacks and Latinos deserve the abysmal treatment given to them by the police assigned to protect and serve the community. The point is often lost that a human being (many human beings) has lost his (their) life to a corrupt and unjust system that is more inclined to shoot first and cover up the evidence later. This is not an isolated incident. Those kids that joined in and later attacked the cop car did so out of frustration over what the police state they found themselves born into, the inequity of not just the American criminal justice system, but the system in Greece, China, Gaza, and across the world. There is no excuse for violence some claim, but when confronted with violence on a daily basis how, do you combat that with words and slogans and peace? Fire is sometimes only fought with fire. These children are out gunned and outnumbered and they react like anyone would when cornered in such a fashion. You can have your opinion about how to deal with the situation, but as you debate others react. The events of January 7th in Oakland are only a brief glimpse of the turmoil that simmers underneath the surface. We sit comfortably in our homes now hidden behind monitors that and television screens that shield us from the realities that most of these people live with everyday. I live in this neighborhood; I see them every day I could have easily been Oscar Grant a few years ago. I consider myself lucky to have only spent a few months behind bars; many black men my age have been incarcerated since they were the age of the kids jumping up and down on the cop cars. There are many problems seething in the underbelly of cities across this nation that Barack Obama’s election will not solve. There is no appeasement for the years of injustice. A man executed by police in the manner that Oscar Grant was should not be simply tolerated, riots should be held from coast to coast. The world should be outraged. It shouldn’t even matter what color his skin was, it should matter that a human being was killed in the manner that he was. It should anger everyone that the investigation has moved so slowly, and that the officer who shot him was allowed to sit at home and resign rather than face questioning. Over a week later the man has yet to answer a single question from any source. This is appalling, and there are no excuses for that. Even if the shooting was a mistake which I do not believe it was, he should have still been made to answer at least one question. Have we become so complacent in the loss of our basic human rights that we can find no reason to be angry in this? People are dying around the planet and we all need to stand up before the only people left are the police.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by ¶
Thursday Jan 8th, 2009 12:51 PM
Paragraphs are good.
by Anonymous
Thursday Jan 8th, 2009 12:52 PM
IF A CAR IS BURNED, MAKE SURE IT'S NOT THAT OF AN ORDINARY CITIZEN. SAME GOES FOR STOREFRONT WINDOWS. I doubt it was a protester who did it, probably just someone looking to incite a riot for the sake of "having fun". We have to distinguish between the two. OUR ACTIONS MUST BE directed towards the right targets or we will destroy ourselves.
by Kuerno
Thursday Jan 8th, 2009 12:57 PM
The biggest problem I have with the riots are how they are carried out. Though they certainly get peoples attention they always seem to be so aimless. Almost like a temper-tantrum of the masses.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not looking for all-out anarchy but doesn't seem like they should focus their anger?

In these Oakland riots as well as the bigger LA riots in '92 it seems like they would have been better to take over city-hall or a court building. I guess if they are so mad they must burn something then burning those buildings would certainly send the message wouldn't ya think?

I mean to go off in a fit of anger and burn down mom-and-pop businesses in their own neighborhoods just doesn't seem very smart. I realize it may be hard to steer a big protest or riot but you would think some "respected" personality from the crowd could do it.

If you recall in recent riots in Iceland they focussed anger on a police station and pretty much won the release of one of the prisoners...So it seems possible...I mean why burn down the corner liquor store or McDonald's?

Just imagine the attention in the news if one of the big "symbols" of TPTB was burnt to rubble.


What do you guys think?
by little guys
Thursday Jan 8th, 2009 1:12 PM
Well its the McDonalds and liquor stores that target our youth. Want someone to be mad at CJNY and The Gathering for thinking they could bring people together with no plan of action!
by Mango
Thursday Jan 8th, 2009 1:36 PM
Personally, I like my riots with a nice serving of some soy chai tea.

When I'm hyper-focussing my emotional responses to years of repression, violence directed against me and total frustration - I like to enjoy something nice and spicey and organic. That's how I start to "be the change I want to see in the world" ... by drinking fair-trade chai as I prepare to go out and "smash the state" (in a really focussed and efficient manner.)
by kuerno
Thursday Jan 8th, 2009 1:43 PM
I am personally not mad at anyone. Although I do think the Police actions need to be addressed. We are seeing more and more abuse with the tasers and in some cases they cause death. What ever happened to the term "Peace Officer"?

Anyway I am just saying, I didn't see Ronald McDonald pull the trigger but I guess if you deem McDonald's as the perpetrator oppressing the masses then the attack is justified.

I am only saying how I see it. Although I lived in LA during the '92 riots I now live in Rural America so I may see a different picture. It just seems it would be best for "the people" to articulate who the biggest threat is at the time and deal with them. The Law Enforcement officer took Oscar's life in a few seconds. It will take a few years for the Big Mac to kill you.

much of the radical left has no concrete way to define who the opposition is, or have totally silly criteria (like any one who owns a car, or eats meat, or likes porn, or thinks South Park is brilliant).

the radical left in the US has spent the past 40 years increasing sectarian divides, since the outbreak of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq this sectarian bickering has spilled into various anarchist trends.

Knowing what defines us is important, allowing that to divide us is disastrous.

It is no surprise to me that a movement which relies on spontaneous outrage, has no way to focus or sustain itself.
by Jen
Friday Jan 9th, 2009 6:12 AM
seems like a ridiculous attempt at an honest view, but the use of big words in an inappropriate context, and the "thuggish" "contention" bit reeks of c o p.
> seems like a ridiculous attempt at an honest view, but the use of big words in an inappropriate context, and the "thuggish" "contention" bit reeks of c o p.

So what's your view, then?
by sfguy
Friday Jan 9th, 2009 5:07 PM
That cop should be in jail for a long long time, but what was the point of that riot? To express anger? I express anger all the time, but I don't go busting up my neighbor's car because of it. I'm sure most of those protesters were civil, but the ones breaking windows and cars are idiots and criminals. That's right, idiots and criminals. What did they accomplish? Destroying a bunch of neighborhood businesses and people's cars, people who HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH OSCAR GRANT'S MURDER? Why?

I'm just waiting for someone here to say "It's just property." Yeah, next time I'm pissed off at the world, tell me where you live so I can destroy all your stuff in a pique of rage. I can't afford to replace my car or buy a new windshield, and I'm betting a lot of these small business owners are hurting over this. Why take it out on your neighbors? It's stupid. How about a protest at city hall? That belongs to all of us!
by Hanumansboi
Saturday Jan 10th, 2009 8:06 AM
What it accomplished was getting national media attention if only for one night.
by Anonymous
Sunday Jan 11th, 2009 8:17 PM
...and an organized protest at City Hall would not have done that? Even rioting at City Hall? I mean, tearing up your own neighborhood to protest something like this is like punching your friend in the jaw because some random guy is hitting on your girlfriend.
by luci
Sunday Jan 11th, 2009 8:28 PM
someone wrote "..and an organized protest at City Hall would not have done that? Even rioting at City Hall? I mean, tearing up your own neighborhood to protest something like this is like punching your friend in the jaw because some random guy is hitting on your girlfriend."

There are protests at city halls all over the country every day. No, they don't get national media attention.

Several people get killed by the OPD every year, and what has Dellums said, or, more to the point, done, about those killer cops?

Politicians and others in power don't always respond to protests or visits from special delegations of protesters or letters or things like that. People need to show them that we are willing to make sacrifices to protest what they have taken from us, and to demand change. Mostly, though, we need to make change happen ourselves and not wait for the police to change, because they never will.
by sfguy
Monday Jan 12th, 2009 10:56 AM
Is that pretty much it? It's okay to hurt other innocent people because it served the greater cause of drawing attention to the bigger problem? Sorry, but I can't get aboard that line of reasoning.