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Pigs open fire on protesters, report from Oakland
Full account of this mornings demo at the docks in Oakland. Photos to follow.
April 7-- In an hour and a half long assault on protesters, Oakland PD tactics differed greatly from the mass arrests seen in San Francisco two weeks ago. By 6 AM this morning, hundreds of protesters had blocked both entrances to the shipping company American President Lines, which was targetted because it is a primary mover of military supplies for the u$ Department of "Defense." (1) Traffic was prevented from entering the yard until 7:30 AM. At 7:15 AM, the first order to disperse was given by the Oakland PD with a two minute warning. As cops moved in, most demonstrators had moved to the sidewalk or across the street. At this point the first arrest was made, a demonstrator/peformer on roller skates was grabbed as he skated too close to the line of police.
Many protestors struggled to hold the picket line by allowing the cops to let the first few cars to pass and blocking the trucks further down the street. This resulted in a few more arrests as cops picked people off the front lines. One trucker expressed his opposition to the war but moved along once ordered by police. Once traffic was moving riot pigs moved in and began firing shotgun shells filled with octupus shaped beanbags causing protesters to scatter.
The demo had regrouped at the next entrance (for Stevedoring Services of America (1)), where reportedly one worker drove through the picket line. A handful of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members were standing outside waiting to get into work. While one said he supported the demo, most refused to answer questions. Organizers say that the union agreed not to break the picket line as long as there were 300 or more people involved, but they did not participate. After the incident of breaking the line, protesters chanted "Pro-worker, Anti-war" in an attempt to show unity. If the ILWU was willing to come out and stop the shipment of military supplies it would be a great victory for the international proletariat. But the ILWU has yet to do this, and we must not wait for them or expect them to do so. Amerikans benefit from this system of imperialism that we are out here opposing, and as a group they will not come out and bite the hand that feeds them. Throughout the day, "War is for profit, Workers can stop it" was a favorite chant. While this is a true statement it is misleading to tell people that workers in this country are going to stand up against war.
At 8:02 AM cops made another move led by charging motorcycles into the crowd and followed by wooden dowels and more concussion grenades shot from shotguns. One person who drove up behind the line of police (apparently a protestor) was pulled out of his car, thrown to the ground and arrested. This followed another warning to disperse and more shots including canisters releasing an explosion of tear gas and rubber BB's.
Injuries were numerous, mostly huge bloody welts from being shot. One person had a finger broken and a couple people were shot in the face. Pigs aimed at protesters carrying a friend out of the line of fire. In a humorous offer at 8:31 AM, the captain called "organizers" forward, at which point a whole crowd of people approached him with riot pigs rushing to line up behind. At this point he declared that if we walked down 7th Street and went back to the BART station we would be left alone.
The crowd headed in that direction but stopped again at the corner of Maritime and 7th, an important route for bringing goods to and from the docks. Demonstrators had blocked traffic in two directions by 9 AM. At this point we received news that the picket line at the other entrance to APL had been pushed back to the BART station. Local TV station KRON4 parked their van in the middle of the street to cover the action as protesters deflated their tires. The bourgeois media has continued to be a target of protesters in the Bay Area who recognize that their coverage only serves the interests of the state. As I write this article dozens of reports and photos have already been posted to the web from the viewpoint of participants. Meanwhile live onsite reports are given via cell phone and radio. We must continue to build our infrastructures of independent media that serves to bring info to people that will help us organize for a better world.
The final attack took place at the blocked intersection with cops aiming their shots parallel to the ground (rather than bouncing them off the street as they had earlier in the morning). Canisters hit semi trucks as protesters dashed into traffic for cover.
After regrouping at the West Oakland BART station, people soon agreed to march to the Federal Building in downtown Oakland. The march took to the street blocking part of 7th Street as we walked. Before taking off the cops informed everyone that it is illegal to cover your face in Oakland. San Francisco seems to be one of a few u$ cities that has not outlawed the protection of identity when participating in political demonstrations.
Many people along the march yelled and honked their support, including people from a store who came out with free cupcakes "for your efforts." Others yelled at the protesters because they could not get to work, and the common cry of "get a job" was heard at least a few times.
Minor scuffles with police continued as the rally entered the downtown area. One cop road his motorcycle onto the sidewalk illegally blocking demonstrators. And others pushed people in an unsuccessful attempt to clear the street for traffic. At the endpoint the rally remained a couple hundred strong occupying the street in front of the federal building. Some layed down to construct a humyn peace sign in the road for those in the towers to see.
The demo was successful in stopping the morning shift of workers, and word on the street was that there was no one to unload the docks as of 8 AM. Once the traffic did open up outside of APL there was not as long a line of trucks moving in as expected. Apparently many workers didn't come to work today, while others were sent home. Surely they were happy to get a day off with pay.
Today's demo was one more event in a series of symbolic acts to oppose this war. But the event did not succeed in stopping the war machine. Direct actions like these have proved to be limited to playing the roles of enacting financial losses on sectors of this imperialist nation and keeping the anti-war movement lively and relevant. Ultimately we must build a more focused movement in order to overthrow the whole system, and replace it with one that serves the interests of the world's people.
(1) See Direct Action to Stop the War for more background on APL and SSA, the targetted companies.
(2) more coverage at http://www.etext.org/Politics/MIM/agitation/iraq/index.html