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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Racial Justice
The Rebels of Oakland High
On the heals of the righteous rebellions around the police murder of Oscar Grant a group of Oakland High School students held a speak out and march to protest police brutality and the US-backed slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza.
The day before, members of the Bay Area Revolution Club went into classes to talk about the situation in Gaza, the murderous police, and the way that both of these outrages come from the same brutal system. Very few students had any knowledge of what was happening in Gaza, so we used the maps and photos of Palestine in the centerfold of Revolution newspaper to show them the way that Palestinians have been systematically pushed off their land and to show them the scenes of terror from the past week. Many students knew about Oscar Grant and the rebellion that broke out in their town in response to his murder at the hands of the police. We talked about the way the system was protecting the cop by not arresting him and how the U.S. protects Israel because Israel is doing a job for them—keeping people down, attacking anyone who refuses to go along with the program. We called for greater and broader resistance to these crimes and then put it to the students—What do you want to do about this?
Some of the Yemeni and Palestinian students were ready to go. They decided to have a speak-out at lunch the next day. They took bundles of the Revolution newspaper "Stop the Israeli Massacre in Gaza" and fliers that demanded justice for Oscar Grant and distributed them to teachers, family, neighborhood stores, and students. They encouraged everyone they knew to come to the speak-out, they made t-shirts and signs that called for an end to the attacks on Gaza and the attacks on the people in Oakland.
The speak-out was wild. People were fired up, calling out the police for the blatant murder of Oscar and the harassment they face on the daily. One young woman said, "I'm pissed off day by day. People are getting shot and the police are killing 'em and they're just trying to get the Black people off the street and I just think that's wrong and the war in Iraq, well, fuck Bush." At first, some of the Black and Latino students didn't understand what the Arab students were about. Many students wanted to go on a march, but others hesitated because school was still in session. One female student got on the megaphone and called out the other students, "You guys say you're against this, but you're not going to do anything about it. You have to do something."
About 50 students decided to march downtown to the Oakland courthouse where many of the over a hundred people arrested in Wednesday's rebellion were being tried that afternoon. We took the street and the Middle Eastern students were leading chants like "Free, free Palestine", "Fuck the police", "Stop killing children", and "The whole system's guilty." At first the non-Arab students wouldn't join in on the "Free Palestine" chant, but as the march went on, Revolution Club members agitated about what our government is doing in Gaza and why we can't just go along when they tell us that American and Israeli lives are worth more than Palestinian lives. Also, the Arab students continued to lead chants that politically united the two issues. The dynamic changed drastically. By the end everyone was screaming "Free, free Palestine!"
The whole time the march was tailed by the police, but the students were really defiant. Whenever the pigs would give some command they would turn right to the police and chant even louder "Fuck the police! FUCK the police!" People came off the street to join the march. When we got to the courthouse they went right up to it and started banging on the doors—there were all these pigs right on the other side, but these students were fearless—unleashed by the events of the past week. People from the community, activists and a well-known civil rights lawyer spoke about Gaza and the epidemic of police murder. One of the Palestinian youth said, "We came here to say we don't want any more children killed or people killed. We need to make people strong. We want everybody to be like brothers and sisters...A couple days ago they bombed a school—400 people and somebody bombed the school. We need this to stop."
Many of the students had a lot more fight in them, so they marched to Broadway, the main thoroughfare downtown, and took an intersection for a little while until about 20 police backed them onto the sidewalk. The police threatened to arrest them, but the kids and some of the other people who joined in the fray got right in their face chanting "Pigs go home!" The cops made a "strategic retreat." The students started marching around the intersection and instead of avoiding the corner the police were on, they led the march straight through the cabal! Many of the students and others signed up with Revolution, got newspapers and bundles of fliers demanding justice for Oscar Grant, and pledged to come out for the big Gaza protest.
Afterward, some of the Arab students said they really wanted the protest to be about Gaza, but everyone was talking about Oscar Grant. We talked about how, if you want to see an end to the wholesale slaughter of innocent people, you need a revolution. We got into the issue #144, "The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of this System, and the Revolution We Need", and talked about how central the oppression of Black people is to the functioning of the U.S. empire and how central a deep understanding of that is to the creation of a revolutionary movement.
The resistance is spreading. Many other schools in the Bay Area have held walkouts to protest the execution of Oscar Grant including Oakland School of the Arts, Oasis High School, and Willard Middle School.
On January 16th, the Revolution Club called on students to walk out. There was intense repression in the schools. At Oakland High School the principal went on the public address system to threaten students and Oakland police were at the gates of the school photographing any student who walked out. Despite the repression about 50 students from at least six high schools and one middle school joined together for a rally at the Alameda County Courthouse and marched through downtown streets and to schools calling on more students to join with them. One high school student told us that she had been out at many of the protests because she is afraid that her brother or male friends could be killed now by the cops. She said that she was out there despite the attacks by the police because "her anger is greater than her fear." At the end of the march, four high school students from the protest were suddenly grabbed, brutalized and arrested by the Oakland Police Department which had maintained a heavy presence throughout the day, following the youth through the streets. This was an outrageous attack—brutalizing youth who stand up against police brutality!
The Bay Area Revolution Club is calling on people of conscience to raise the demand, "The people's anger is justified! Drop all charges on all the protesters!"