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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
Sick of Distortions and Disinformation! The Truth Must Come Out! An Eyewitness Account
I'm sick and tired of the lies and misinformation emanating from both the corporate-whore media and the "anarchist" apologists on Indymedia--who are both distorting what happened in downtown Oakland Wednesday evening, each for their own particular reasons. It's time the truth came out. It's time to break the silence.
I was at the Fruitvale BART rally Wednesday afternoon, on the march Wednesday night, and downtown (at 14th & Broadway, then down 14th to Madison, then down Madison to the Lake) until after 10PM. I personally witnessed what happened with my own eyes.
When the masked young people (who, in their great majority, were white kids) started burning the first garbage dumpster near Laney College, about half the Black folks in the crowd said, "Aw fuck this! I'm outta here! I ain't getting caught up in the middle of that, those cops'll be shooting soon!" and left.
Then later at 14th and Broadway, many Black youths joined in the demonstration. They were chanting slogans like "We're all Oscar Grant!" These Black youth were very militant, they were facing down the riot cops and defiantly raising their fists in anger and solidarity.
Meanwhile, behind them on 14th St., east of Broadway, masked white punks proceeded to smash car windows, shop windows, etc.
After a couple of trashcans were turned over and lit on fire on the northeast and southeast corners of 14th and Broadway, the police began pushing the crowd down 14th. More cars were smashed, one SUV was set ablaze, and I clearly saw a small group of masked white kids smashing the windows of the three storefronts on the southeast corner of 14th and Webster.
All the way down 14th to Madison, Black youth continued to face down the police, legitimately but militantly protesting, exercising their First Amendment rights. And the white punks continued to break shit.
The riot police forced the crowd to turn north on Madison. Masked white punks torched a car just outside of the Islamic Center of Northern California, while Middle Eastern Muslims inside were holding some sort of event. Several elderly Muslims came out of their mosque in their religious garb, looks of utter confusion and horror on their faces. Here was a persecuted minority being terrorized by the "anarchists", self-professed friends of the oppressed and marginalized.
All the way down Madison, white punks smashed the cars of working-class Black folks in their own residential neighborhood. I was there, I saw. In the aftermath of the white hooligans' onslaught, I spoke to many Black neighbors who came out of their apartment houses demanding to know what was going on, what was this all about.
I apologized to them, explaining that this was a riot that grew out of a march to protest the police murder of Oscar Grant on New Year's in the Fruitvale BART station. I told them things had got out of hand and that the march organizers had lost control.
I told them that I had been on the march but that I was appalled by what was now happening. I explained that there was a police perimeter of about 3 blocks in any direction, and that I was now trying to find a way out of it to get safely back home.
Many people offered me glasses of water, and some even invited me into their homes to wait out the chaos. All expressed sympathy and support for the cause we had marched for, saying that we were right to try and force the powers that be to hold the cops accountable.
But these Black residents of Madison St. also expressed outrage at having been targeted and having their cars destroyed. One brother stated that his car was totaled and he would now lose his job because he works in Fremont, and the insurance won't cover the damages because he cannot afford the premiums for anything better than basic liability coverage. He was close to tears, and he was saying, "You go back to your people, your protesters, and tell them what they have done to me!"
Meanwhile, by the time I had this conversation, along 14th St. and down Madison, the cops had violently, brutally begun arresting the Black youth who were still militantly confronting the police, but who had not been smashing cars, windows, etc. Watching from the sidewalk, I had personally witnessed at least six arrests that night. Each were of young African American men, who were doing nothing more than defiantly staring down the police, yelling slogans, raising their fists and exhibiting other militant gestures, all within their First Amendment rights.
These arrests went like this: The riot cops would advance in their line. Then they would halt in line and within a few minutes without warning 6 or 8 of them would break ranks in a wedge-formation, brutally tackle or beat down a young Black brother, usually tazing him in the bargain, handcuff him behind his back, place him in a painful, arm-twisting restraint hold and, then, with two cops roughly handling him, he would be violently thrown into a vehicle.
I did not, for as long as I was on the streets that night, see the cops apprehend even one of the white vandals who were breaking shop windows, or smashing cars. The police were allowing these activities to continue unimpeded.
To me, in retrospect, this Wednesday night riot was a virtual Kristallnacht by white hooligans against the Black community of Oakland. Like in the original, German Nazi Kristallnacht of November 1938, the police essentially looked the other way when it came to the roving bands of perpetrators and took out any frustrations and aggression they harbored upon innocent young Black men, just as the Nazi cops had done to Jews who displayed the temerity to protest their awful treatment.
I eventually found my way out of the hell that downtown Oakland had become by walking for miles until I found a hole in the police cordon and finally catching a bus back to the Fruitvale district, where my car was parked, and then driving home.
Upon arrival at my house, after a stop to pick up a six pack of beer to calm my nerves, I turned on the 11 o'clock news. What I witnessed disturbed me even more.
After shots of broken glass, smashed and burning cars, etc., they switched to clips of young Black men being arrested by riot cops.
This gave the clear impression to the viewing public that Black youth were responsible for all the damage. "There 'they' go, they're rioting, burning down their own neighborhoods" is the cliched stereotype that must have resulted in the minds of multitudes of average news watchers who had not personally witnessed the events that had unfolded before me that night.
Malcolm X characterized this type of media coverage very accurately, when he said, in February 1965 after his own home was bombed, "With skillful manipulating of the press they're able to make the victim look like the criminal and the criminal look like the victim…" (To read the speech in its entirety, see http://www.malcolm-x.org/speeches/spc_021465.htm)
I have a degree of respect for the working-class political philosophy known as anarchism. For this reason, I refuse to dignify these white punks, thugs and hooligans with the title of "anarchists".
These masked white kids are no anarchists, they are opportunists, they are poachers on the Oscar Grant Justice Movement. They are white destroyers invading in the Black community.
They are no anarchists, because they are acting on behalf of the police state, doing part of the cops' job for them. They are being used to discredit the Oscar Grant Justice Movement, to frighten Black folks from protesting against the murder, to divide the community against itself. They are being used by the state to justify the next wave of repression against progressive elements of society in general and the Black community in particular.
I guess COINTELPRO activities are now being sub-contracted out to a wing of the "anarchist" movement. How clever.
These idiots don't care about Black people, Oscar Grant, police terrorism towards people of color, or anything like that. If they did, they would not be doing the things they are doing the way they are doing them. They are using Oscar Grant's tragic murder as an excuse.
They can justify destroying Black workers' cars because, as we all know, automobiles are evil polluters destroying the planet. This is the logic, I suppose.
So, I'm not concerned about assisting all the arrestees without qualification. I'm interested in helping the folks who were legitimately protesting but got arrested anyway (the Black youth), while (as far as I could tell) the perpetrators of the vandalism, arson and general mayhem were largely allowed to get away with it. These criminals posing as anarchists can rot for all I care, they've brought on themselves anything they get. I hope they are all charged with multiple felonies and are forced to pay restitution to all the good African Americans whose hard-earned property they have ruined.
Can you imagine what would happen if a white boy had been shot by police, and the family and other concerned citizens had organized a peaceful rally in Piedmont (let's say), and a gang of Black youth had used the excitement as an opportunity to come into the white neighborhood and bust the glass out of people's cars? Why, you know, they'd have all been shot on the spot. No further commotion.
Let me be absolutely clear about one thing: I was present in Seattle for the WTO protests in 1999. The anarchists of the Black Bloc broke windows there. Liberals and pathological pacifists condemned them for their "violence". But I defended their tactics.
In Seattle, the police were violently, viciously attacking peaceful protesters--pregnant women, elderly folks, it didn't matter--who were trying to hold intersections to keep the WTO delegates out of the Convention Center. At moments of the greatest peril from the police, the Black Bloc would march in to the rescue in a kind of brigade, seemingly out of nowhere, using their hammers to smash the plate glass windows out of corporate monstrosities such as Niketown. By so doing, they created a diversion and protected the peaceful demonstrators. The cops would chase after the anarchists and leave the peaceful demonstrators alone to hold their intersection. And then the younger, more agile Black Bloc would seemingly vanish into the woodwork of the city, only to return as if by magic when a situation became dangerous again.
The Black Bloc were the people's heroes precisely because they attacked CORPORATE property, and they did so TACTICALLY. They likely saved many from the disfiguring blows of police batons, and their actions contributed mightily to the famous victory of the people and the momentary defeat of the capitalist globalizers.
But what happened in Oakland Wednesday night was of another species entirely. Innocent Black, Muslim, Latino and Asian Oaklanders, none of them rich, none of them deserving of such treatment, took most of the blows and suffered the greatest extent of damage at the hands of masked white hooligans. To me, this situation bears a closer resemblance to what occurred in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 (if you don't know, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_Race_Riot) than to the Seattle events of 1999.
To all bona fide anarchists: Act now to stop these white thugs from continuing to do what they've been doing! Respect the self-determination of the Black community! Don't allow these idiots and criminals to usurp the name and reputation of the venerable working-class social philosophy of Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman and Vincent St. John! Take direct action against this irresponsible element tarnishing your movement's legacy, now!