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My Experience of the Oakland Dock's Protest
by Paul Ginocchio
Thursday Apr 10th, 2003 10:40 AM
My Experience of the Oakland Dock's Protest
My Experience of the Oakland Dock's Protest



I am tired of the lies. The lies the government is telling me. The lies I see when I turn on the television. The lies that this is a "successful" war. The lies when I experience a peaceful protest and see it portrayed as violent. I am tired.

I was one of the hundreds of people who met at the Oakland Docks early in the morning on Monday to peacefully picket in front of the APL shipping lines-which transports munitions that are being used to kill men, women, and children in Iraq. I had a little time to to hold my sign and walk in a circle, participating in the community effrot to the block the APL driveway. Many Longshoremen watched and many showed support for
what I and others were doing.

The police did give dispersal warnings to our picket of women and men, old and young, holding signs and chanting peaceful slogans. But then time sped up very quickly as we heard huge blasts from guns that sounded like war itself, and I saw some people fall from wounds caused by the objects being fired upon us. Many of us ran, some left the scene altogther. Some of us did not want to give up that quickly, feeling that it
was our democratic right to picket on Oakland property. We re-grouped and joined a smaller picket circle in front of another driveway at the
docks.

Once again, we had little time to come together and communicate about what we wanted to do. My girlfriend and I joined the last remaining circle. We saw people running, police on motorcycles powerfully charging at
the protestors, actually hitting one woman, leaving tire prints on her arm, leg, and back. The loud bangs began again, and we may or may not have been told to disperse. Suddenly another wave of police ran towards
us. Many people tried to run away to the other side of the street, but we were effectively trapped. Thankfully my 60-year old mother had just mananged to avoid the charging police, as I saw one guy get thrown to the ground very forcefully by 5 police officers. I saw no one doing anything violent towards the police. Why would we use violence when we were at the docks to protest the violence being done by our government to innocent people in Iraq? I saw people trying to escape and "disperse" as the police would say, but they were not allowed to. It was too late.

The police were brutal in their attack. They fired on people at alarmingly close range. I saw many being carried away, or arrested, who were bloody and wearing a stunned look on their faces. These were young people, elderly men and women, people of many colors and economic backgrounds, teachers and union workers. The police were indiscriminate. They rounded up 31 of us and we were handcuffed and put into a bus. A guy next to me had gravel in the side of his face and his back was greatly aching from the force of 5 police officers on top of him, one with a knee in
his back. This for a man not resisting arrest.

We were arrested at around 8:30am on Monday morning and held in Santa Rita county jail until 4am the next morning. We were seperated by gender
and shoved into cells that were meant to hold half our size. There was 16 men in our cell. Once again the diversity of people was not like the picture painted by the media-we were old and young and not one of us had acted with any violence. We were held in this cell for about 14 hours-not being told when we would be released. We were treated poorly indeed. We were even taunted by the guards-one who shoved a picture of George Bush and a trapped looking Saddam Hussein in my face and asked what I thought of it. I said, believe it or not, we are not in here in support of Saddam Hussein, but for the Iraqi people who are being slaughtered by our government. We are in here because we have the right, less and less, to peacefully protest in our democratic nation. He snickered, "You people are so stupid."

The time in this cell was tough and hard, on the cement floors, but we managed to bond at a level not usual in the divided norm of our society. We went around the room and told jokes, played theatre games, and talked about everything from the overthrow of Chile's President Allende in the 1970's to the tragedy in Iraq. One man had just returned from Palestine where he was working with the International Solidarity Movement. He recounted the horrific story of a few weeks ago, when the Internationalists were walking peacefully with some Palestinians and they noticed an Israeli militant watching them from a tower through the scope of his rifle. They thought he was just watching their procession. Suddenly they heard a shot and a Palestian boy of 14 years who was walking in their line with them, was suddenly dead with a gunshot wound in his head.

I remember reading about this in the paper and the man in my cell recounted his horror of witnessing this incident so closely, and also his sadness as the story was presented in the media the next day as the boy
throwing a molotav cocktail and the Israeli army was just reacting in self-defence. An outright lie, stripping this boy of the dignity of the memory of his life.

As we sat in a cell now thousands of miles away from this violence, I felt the horror of violence and war. An occasional "prisoner" would pass us in the hallway and I felt the horror of his life in this place of such deadness. We bonded in this cell and I felt hope that our cause was going to be heard around the world. The union leader who was arrested with us said that Longshormen around the world would protest this assault on his peaceful brothers.


When I woke up this morning, I was distraught to see the media coverage of our protest for peace at the Oakland docks. Similar to the story the man in my jail cell had told about the Israeli military making up stories to excuse their killing of an innocent Palestinian boy, our protest was being presented in the media as a legitimate police reaction to OUR violence. The police claimed that their actions were justified because they were responding to our throwing of rocks, and cement. Once again, lies. No one in my jail cell witnessed any such violence on the part of
the peace protesters. None of us participated in any aggressive actions.

We will not stop protesting against the war. We will fight for the truth non-violently. If the reality of what happened at a protest in Oakland can't even be reported in the media, how can we know what's happening to innocent people in Iraq, where thousands of bombs are falling all over the country? They aren't only falling on Saddam Hussein and the Republican Guard. They are destroying innocent people's homes and lives.

I will never forget my fellow protesters from the Oakland dock picket. The same people who today must read the lies about our experience, but know that our fight is not in vain.

By Paul Ginocchio
Oakland, CA
E-mail: paulginocchio [at] yahoo.com