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East Bay | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism

Books, Banks & Pigs- videos & report on Anticut 2
by Bay of Rage
Friday Jun 24th, 2011 4:10 PM
Last Friday, we marched on downtown banks behind a bloc of book shields in an anti-capitalist defense of the Oakland libraries. Tensions were high throughout the afternoon and the action quickly escalated into a showdown with police that took many off guard.
Last Friday, we marched on downtown banks behind a bloc of book shields in an anti-capitalist defense of the Oakland libraries. Tensions were high throughout the afternoon and the action quickly escalated into a showdown with police that took many off guard.

Below are two videos that give a good sense of the action and the progression of events. They are followed by a longer report plus more images and audio recordings that elaborate on that complicated afternoon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UMo3prDOLw

http://vimeo.com/25434940

We started assembling at Broadway and Telegraph in downtown Oakland at 3pm last Friday. There were about 60 of us. It was immediately clear that OPD had been monitoring the Bay of Rage website and was out in full force to crush the march. (This is the second in a series of anti-austerity actions we have planned for the summer).A pack of bicycle cops backed by squad cars, police wagons, sheriff's vehicles and private security began issuing tickets and confiscated a shopping cart sound system before the march had even started. One officer happily displayed the BoR website on his smart phone and explained to us that "intel sent this over."

With book shields flanking the second sound system which began blasting Ol' Dirty Bastard, the dancing crowd managed to move into the street and we were on our way. Taking inspiration from recent anti-austerity demonstrations in Italy and the UK, we chose to experiment with the colorful and confrontational tactic of the book bloc. The 14 (out of 18) Oakland libraries which are currently being threatened with closure represent a visceral example of the economic violence being imposed on poor and working people during this wave of capitalist crisis. We felt the books made a lot of sense as a tool for defense and disruption in this context.

Despite the repression, Anticut 2 was greeted in downtown Oakland with curious smiles, raised fists and cheers as the crowd temporally blockaded Citibank. This was one of those rare actions where everyone on the street wanted a copy of our flyer. (The flyer –available here and here – explains the connections between bailed out banks, library closures and brutal policing). The vast majority of people didn't hesitate to openly demonstrate their support as well as their hatred of the OPD. After disrupting Wells Fargo, which currently makes a nice profit off the interest from Oakland Unified School District's $100 million debt that the bank bought with federal bailout money, we moved on to our next target.

"White people are getting crazy! Fuck the Banks!" yelled one excited Oaklander. Another ran up to us and exclaimed, "Oh you hate the pigs? I'm getting in there!"

Suddenly the cops made their move. We stood our ground when the bike police charged the crowd, trying to break us up and end the action right there on 12th street. Four were arrested in the ensuing clash. We were eventually forced onto the sidewalk where we beat a cautious and frustrating retreat in the direction of the main library branch.

The afternoon ended as we regrouped on the steps of the library. It felt like a much needed refuge as we stood behind our book shields eating Food not Bombs and looking out over the small army of cops that filled 14th street below. The police were clearly unnerved by the previous two hours and seemed very uncomfortable in their apparent standoff with the public library building. The librarians on the other hand were delighted and welcomed us with open arms. One even laughed and quietly said, "We need some more of this anarchy stuff!"

As the library closed for the day, three librarians joined us on the steps to speak publicly in support of the action and the struggle for the future of the libraries. Two corporate news helicopters hovered overhead and camera teams moved in to capture their statements.

"Safety is not necessarily police," explained children's librarian Helen Block. We all cheered. "Public safety means providing a place for children to learn, for children to form community, and for the community to come together. Oakland is too divided this way. Libraries are one of the few places remaining in this city where people can go and form community. Oakland Unified School District budget has been decimated, lots and lots of kids do not have access to books. Oakland Public Library is the only way that they will get books to read, and we need to recognize it and we need to prioritize it. Thank you so much for your support, and we really appreciate it."

Below is the full audio recording of the statements of support made by the three librarians:

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/06/19/18682338.php

The remark by the librarians about public safety was, in part, meant to chide the squadron of police keeping watch on us outside the library. In recent weeks, the Chief of Police and leaders of the police union have gone before the City Council several times in order to argue for their essential work, their importance, and to threaten an apocalypse if the council reduces funding for them. Oakland, as many will know, spends over half of its budget on the police. And although some have suggested we focus on the high salaries and pensions paid to police – as well as their unwillingness to make concessions on these – we think this is misguided. Pay and pensions for cops is not what has brought ruin to Oakland’s budgets. The problems originate with the economic crisis in general, and high unemployment and plummeting property values in particular. If we endorse this view for police, then we’ll find we have endorsed it for other public employees as well – teachers, social workers, librarians—when nitwit politicians tell us that public workers’ unwillingness to make concessions is the problem. No, the blame for the Oakland budget lies squarely with capitalism, with the way that capitalism allows corporations and owners of wealth to determine the priorities of the city. The problem with cops, therefore, is not how much they’re paid, it’s that they exist. The problem with cops is what they do, what they’re for. The problem with cops is that the rulers of Oakland would rather fill our streets with these hired thugs than spend money on health care, libraries and schools. Salaries and pensions are just a small part of this. If cops were paid half as much, we’d still want them gone.

The cops, therefore, stand in stark opposition to everything we value about a place like Oakland. You need only listen to the words of one officer as he processed one of our arrested comrades: "Fuck Libraries...Who gives a fuck about libraries?!"

Anticut 2 was very successful at drawing these contradictions out into the open and building connections with many different kinds of people who happily sided with us against the banks and cops. The books worked great both on a symbolic level and as a tactical defense for the crowd. Yet there are also lots of lessons we need to learn, as the action exposed some of our serious tactical weaknesses. We were taken off guard by the street fight the police initiated, but it's still too early to tell how those few hours altered the course of this summer anti-capitalist initiative.

One thing we can safely conclude is that it probably opened up more opportunities for future action in this period of crisis than it closed. As such, it was another important step forward.

Please join us for Anticut 3 on Friday, July 8! And on July 4, we are hosting an anti-Amerikan BBQ where can can all relax and socialize. Stay tuned to bayofrage.com for updates and details about these upcoming events.

BOOK BLOC NOTES:

Six book shields backed by small team wearing matching baseball caps made up this initial North American book bloc. We chose to march behind the following books:

-The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon -Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici -The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf -Assata by Assata Shakur -The Unseen by Nanni Ballestrini -Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord

The following video was released by Italian comrades that details their construction of a massive book bloc last fall.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pAea8o__b8

We hope to see this tactic used by many others in the coming fights against austerity!

ADDITIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE

Indybay detailed photo essay: PART 1: Demo Kicks Off – Police Attack PART 2: Police Attack – Rally at Oakland Library

Corporate Media Coverage:

http://informant.kalwnews.org/2011/06/16-arrested-in-downtown-oakland-anti-austerity-protest/ http://www.insidebayarea.com/twitter/ci_18302205 http://www.ktvu.com/news/28278662/detail.html http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_18302205?nclick_check=1


Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Konsider
Saturday Jun 25th, 2011 3:22 AM
It's amazing that only about 60 people showed, yet the march was far more vibrant then those put on by Answer and others comprising hundreds. The constraints the left place on themselves, and everyone else during protest rallies is really frustrating.

I was struck by the contrast between the population in Oakland, which largely seems aware of the wrongs perpetrated by Banks, cops, rich people, politicians etc' and that of Berkeley where the majority of people seem to be in some sort of a daze. Nevertheless, I think similar type actions should be taken in Berkeley as well.

I see, with many others, the potential of these actions growing and becoming more pervasive. Alot of leftists think that the reason their "movement" is ineffectual is because too many people are ignorant and apathetic, and if only educated they might see the light and be converted to left ideology. They fail to see the extent to which many people recognize the problems of austerity measures, cut backs and such, but recognize the futility of "demands" and are turned off by the banality of most protests.