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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Police State and Prisons | Racial Justice
"If you are a big tree, let me tell you that we are the small axe, sharp and ready to cut you down."
- Bob Marley
Operation Small Axe Highlights Resistance in Oakland's Occupied Territories
The new short film "Operation Small Axe", by Prisoners of Conscience Committee Minister of Information JR Valrey, debuted in October as an official selection at the 8th Oakland International Film Festival with screenings at Merritt College, Jack London Cinema, and the Uptown. The short has been shown at other venues as close as the Rock Paper Scissors Gallery in Oakland to as far away as Cape Town, South Africa. Plans are in the works for it to be shared with audiences across California as part of a speaking tour sponsored by the San Francisco BayView newspaper which will feature Jack Bryson and Oscar Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson.
"Operation Small Axe" takes a raw and unflinching look at life under police terrorism in Oakland, drawing parallels with the struggles against oppression in Palestine and South Africa. Through the stories of Oscar Grant and Lovelle Mixon the film focuses on the occupation of Oakland's communities of color by militarized and racist police forces. Oscar Grant was shot in the back and killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle on January 1st of this year. On March 21st, Lovelle Mixon was killed by Oakland police after having allegedly shot five OPD officers, killing four.
Overwhelming force is used by the state to maintain its oppressive regime, as documented in the film, but the state has other tools at their disposal as well. The use of agent provocateurs within a movement to disrupt popular uprisings is examined in the film. Particular attention is paid to one such accused agent prominently involved in early Oscar Grant protests.
It is the people's resistance to occupying forces, though, that is the driving theme behind the film, be it through independent media such as JR Valrey's Block Report Radio or street-level protests such as the Oscar Grant Rebellion. The film tells its story through interviews with prominent activists such as JR and the voices of people on the street, all pointing to a frustration with police abuses in Oakland's lower income neighborhoods and a determination to fight back. Lovelle Mixon, in allegedly shooting and killing multiple police officers, is once described as a "suicide sniper" along the lines of suicide bombers in the Middle East and Central Asia. An artist paints a row of chickens on a wall followed by the words, "Home 2 roost. RIP Lovelle Mixon." JR speaks to the sense of karma felt in East Oakland when the Oakland police officers were shot and killed, as residents are almost always on the receiving end of violence by police who are rarely held to account.
Addressing international audiences, JR assures them that the people of Oakland are in solidarity with the struggles for justice in the West Bank, Gaza, and South Africa, and asks for their support for those fighting in Oakland. In a closing statement, JR notes that this film is one way to help build an alliance between resistance movements across the globe.
"Operation Small Axe" is a work in progress with the release of a full-length version anticipated some time shortly after the conclusion of the murder trial of Johannes Mehserle in early 2010. Stay tuned.
Operation Small Axe
Directed by Adimu Madyun
Edited by Angela N Carroll
Running time: 11 min.