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Last Night

July 9, 2010

*Trigger warning: depictions of state violence, discussion of intimate abuse.*

Associated Press video and some photos of mine from last night in downtown Oakland, after Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

oakland says guilty banner

people

community fanny pack

cops 1

cops taking down abel

dumpster fire and smashed Wells Fargo

Media and many non-profit folks repeatedly called for “non-violence” from the crowd, but besides one small fight that was quickly broken up, the only violence I witnessed was cops in riot gear beating on protesters.  (The blurriest of my photos shows cops taking down and arresting a friend of mine.  They whacked him over the head, tackled him to the ground, cuffed him, threw him in a car, and are apparently charging him with a felony.)

Again, it’s important to distinguish between property destruction or the looting of a Foot Locker, which did happen among the crowd, and violence, which is what the police were doing, did to Oscar Grant, and do to poor of-color communities in general.

I was at a loss as to how to possibly respond to police repression in this kind of a situation.  Hundreds of riot-geared, tear-gas-and-rubber-bullet-armed officers blocked the crowd in from all sides, slowly advancing over hours toward 14th and Broadway.  At times they even blocked the sidewalks, preventing anyone from leaving after having ordered them to disperse.  A few Oakland youth called out to a line of stoic officers, “It looks like fuckin Baghdad out here.”

Throughout the night, too, at the back of my mind the question remained: how does this state violence connect to intimate violence?

One rather crude analogy:

Being abused by the very person or people you look to for protection.

Being told that you are the ungrateful or unbalanced one for objecting to their ‘care.’

Being told by outsiders to just walk away.  Find some peaceful, non-confrontational solution.

Knowing that if you tried to, your ‘protector’ would likely harm or kill you.

And perhaps most importantly, finding a way out through community.  A group of people large and powerful enough to restrain the abuser(s).  To disarm them.  To wrest power from them and redistribute it.

We’ve got the numbers.  But we don’t have leadership, or a real strategy.  All last night, it seemed like a lot of people (especially young people) were aching for some direction — something better than continuing to plead for mercy from the racist state.

We’re not there yet, but I think we’re coming closer.  And as someone invested in social and spiritual liberation, I’m eager to see spiritual communities playing an active role on the side of the people.  Certainly not instructing them, as so many religious leaders instruct victims and survivors of intimate violence, to go home, have faith, and do their best to smooth things over — for the sake of the family.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2010 10:43 pm

    This is amazing, so well written and powerful, thank you. State sponsored militarized violence has always infuriated and scared me, but I had never before linked it so clearly with intimate partner violence.

    You’ve got me thinking now, thank you for that.

  2. nathan permalink
    July 10, 2010 7:35 am

    “I was at a loss as to how to possibly respond to police repression in this kind of a situation. ” Back in 2008, I felt exactly the same way for most of a week due to the Republican Convention taking over my city. It was astounding to watch two-three thousand police officers in riot gear blocking streets, arresting anyone who flinched, and shouting down the rest of us who were “in the way.” Helicopters flew over my apartment 24 hours a day for the entire week, and every time I got on my bike to either go to work or go down and try and document what was going on, I was an instant suspect in their eyes. Most of the pictures I got were useless because I couldn’t even get close enough to what happening to actually document anything. But others did. And nearly everyone arrested was eventually let go because they had nothing real to charge them with.

    “Again, it’s important to distinguish between property destruction or the looting of a Foot Locker, which did happen among the crowd, and violence, which is what the police were doing, did to Oscar Grant, and do to poor of-color communities in general.” This issue can’t be raised enough because I even ended up having an argument with some sangha members who had sat at home, watched TV, and decided that the streets had been full of thugs. I can imagine it’s even worse, the kind of shit people on the outside, with no real clue of the situation, are saying about the Oscar Grant protests.

    I hope your friend is ok. I’m sorry that he went through that misery and hope he’s able to get the charges dropped.

    Thanks for providing an inside view of all this.

  3. Abby permalink
    July 10, 2010 9:25 am

    Thanks once again for being objective and breaking things down. That video was frightening. It was the same kind of seen I saw as a child on TV during Civil Rights demonstrations, rubber bullet, militant, batons out, beatings, and that was in the day time. When is this going to stop??????? I just want you to know that I am proud of you for you braveness in posting your opinions and the pictures. I am so sorry about your friend.

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