Police vs. protesters at port
By Mumia Abu-Jamal from death row
Police, dressed in the ominous black uniforms, helmets and jackboots
reminiscent of stormtroopers, level their shotguns and fire into
crowds of innocents. People standing around and people trying to run
away are hit by wooden plug-like bullets, bean-bag projectiles and
concussion grenades. The wooden plugs look like the spools around
which thread is wound, and their wide, flat ends raise welts on the
bodies of a score of people. One young woman's right jaw is swollen
to the size of a baseball, her neck reddened and discolored.
This is not Belfast at the time of 'the troubles'; nor is it a
roiling perpetual protest in the heart of the neo-dragon, South
Korea. This is Oakland, April 2003, under the mayorship of Jerry
Brown, the state's former Governor, who ran as a 'progressive' in
recent presidential elections. The shot, wounded, arrested, and
seized are legal protesters and bystanders at the Oakland docks, who
have come to protest the then-raging Iraqi War. The police lash out
at them with a vengeance that is stunning. Jack Heyman, the Business
Manager of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU)
tries to approach police to speak on behalf of workers who were
attacked, and then he finds himself arrested, and would be among 29
people held for 19 hours in jail before being released, for nothing
more than exercising the alleged First Amendment right of protest,
free assembly, and free speech.
Why? Because the anti-war protesters were trying to block the work
of the APL (formerly American President Lines) which stands to gain
millions of taxpayer dollars from the Defense Department each year,
shipping military cargo. It was to protect these private business
interests that those sworn to 'serve and protect' the people, lashed
out at the people, with weapons that caused broken bones, hearing
loss, puncture wounds and abrasions. They may be sworn to protect
the people, but they are paid to protect the established. As ever,
when it's a conflict between labor and industry, labor is left
holding the bag.
The march, which began at Oakland's City Hall, originally featured
the presence of national and local luminaries, including acclaimed
singer and actor Harry Belafonte, film star Danny Glover, U.S.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, various Bay Area artists like D'Wayne
Wiggins, Goapele, Boots of the Coup, and even the Vice-Mayor of
Oakland, Nancy Nadel. But police follow the orders of business, not
The unprovoked attack was an attempt by the state's armed forces to
quiet the spreading anti-war movement, and to protect the wealth
being made on this war by U.S. corporations.
The police attack was designed to quiet the growing swell of
anti-imperialism being heard across the land. That's why everybody
was targeted, trade unionists, students, dockworkers, you name it.
The formal stage of the Iraq War may have ended, but the war against
Empire must still be waged. For millions of Americans, they never
voted for, and do not approve the establishment of a Middle East
Empire in their name. They know that such a state will do nothing to
secure their security, but only makes their lives, and the lives of
their children, woefully unsafe.
That's why protests are so important.
That's also why the state so opposes them.
It is time for those who have always taken their alleged
constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of assembly, and the
right of protest to seriously question these actions by the police.
They should call for the immediate dropping of all charges against
the Oakland Port protesters (and, of course, those who were simply
there, as workers and passersby). They should also demand that the
police be held responsible for this violent attack on the people.
ILWU business agent Kevin Willis declared the attacks were
"unnecessary," and an "overreact[ion]". "This is the second protest
in two months where the Oakland police reacted violently to anti-war
protests," Willis charged. "The other time," he argued, "it was
against the children." (San Francisco Bay View, 4/9/03, p. 12).
People angry at this behavior should let the Mayor know about it.
Oakland's Jerry Brown's number is (510) 238-3141.
Drop all the charges now!
Copyright 2003 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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