Police Overreaction to Protest Is Typical

Protest Was Largely a Peaceful Demonstration

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I was "swept up" in the mass arrests in Oakland at the "end" of the Justice for Oscar Grant march on Nov. 5. It's amazing how highly edited, rearranged video, with reporters giving a very pro-police version can make TV viewers think they are seeing something that they aren't, contextually. As in George Orwell's "1984." the lie becomes the "truth," and the truth - if a major march (especially if there's "violence") is televised at all - becomes the "lie."

Right-wing TV in Venezuela made it look like Chavez supporters were shooting at Chavez opponents; Israeli media made it look like the Gaza flotilla attacked Israeli commandos; instead of what really happened: actually, the opposite! When riot cops indiscriminately storm and club people trying to protect themselves, TV makes it look like it's the protesters who are violent, "resisting arrest," "assaulting an officer" - those pro forma police charges!

Many TV stations described marchers pushing down a chain-link fence as an example of "widespread violence." In reality, what happened was overwhelmingly peaceful but included frightened marchers trying to escape from phalanxes of very aggressive, paramilitarized cops in full riot gear who tried to entrap them. These cops seemed about to assault innocent marchers, bystanders and, later, even neighborhood people.

I saw young black females peacefully sitting in their own neighborhood trapped and led off in handcuffs by big riot cops, who arrested us all for "failure to disperse" when we weren't even allowed to leave!

I saw one small woman roughly picked up, slammed to the ground and handcuffed. All this in spite of a black mayor, Ron Dellums (who is often missing in action). Like Oscar Grant, none of us were armed, none of us were resisting and, overwhelmingly, none of us were violent.

At least two reporters at the mass arrest reported no rocks thrown at police and no "widespread" violence except, much earlier, a few broken windows. Such minor incidents should have been easy for up to a thousand riot cops to control.

Instead, the cops played the public relations game - proclaiming 152 arrests - enclosing and mass arresting obviously nonviolent protesters (the easiest ones to catch). I've also seen, defying any common sense, riot cops purposely antagonize protesters. This would anger me if I were an Oakland business owner.

TV news propagated "rumors" (gee, I wonder by whom?) of "a marcher who pulled a gun from the holster of a riot cop and pointed it at the cop." It would seem to defy common sense, since the rumor is all we heard!

Let's see you get close enough, long enough, especially if you're black, to a phalanx of itchy-to-strike, riot cops, to then successfully reach out for and wrest a gun from his holster, and then even point it at the cop and live to tell the story!

Instead, you'd be gunned down along with any nearby marchers in a hail of other cops' bullets or viciously clubbed worse than Rodney King! A cop killed Oscar Grant, as Oscar merely tried to catch his breath, while torturously pinned face down! Cops kill, in a hail of bullets, black men for merely standing in their doorway (Amado Diallo) or for merely sitting in their car (Sean Bell)!

The police portray themselves as concerned with protecting Oakland's small businesses. But, after a previous Oscar Grant march, cops in full riot gear, also far outnumbering the remaining "protesters," stood down and just watched as they let the downtown Foot Locker be sacrificed - practically waving looters into the store.

Oakland Police Department did this for sheer self-serving manipulation. As citywide budget cuts fell on the department too, it could show TV viewers, "See, this is why you need us cops!" And, "See, this isn't really about Oscar Grant: it's just about Negroes wanting stolen athletic shoes." You can bet that the cops wouldn't have stood down and let nearby Wells Fargo Bank be broken into, because that would have been a message by protesters that TV viewers could relate to about the institutions that have looted all of the U.S.!

Unfortunately, most middle-class-and-above, and especially older people fall for this TV manipulation. TV news can always find one of these types to verbally set up on camera, who then say how scared they were for themselves or their businesses.

Such people have probably never participated in a political march where they would see how the police often behave. They watch TV and believe that, since they are watching the (rearranged) video, they must be seeing "what happened!" But, the police say that they don't want to be all judged by the supposedly "few bad apples"; yet, the cops and the media always judge all the protesters by the relative few!

It's all part of the media narrative that's spooled out to us each day to keep us fearful (especially of U.S.-provoked foreign "boogeymen"), racially divided, docile and accepting whatever the state and the police do - even literally blocking people seeking social and global justice. It's the same media that harps about protesters not from Oakland.

Yet, Oakland cops often reside in the outer reaches of suburban counties with riot cops even from Modesto - lapping up much overtime! - rarely live in black neighborhoods. Well, police atrocities should anger everyone!

Why weren't all the cops at the Fruitvale BART arrested as accomplices to, ahem, "involuntary manslaughter" - or conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice in their attempted cover-up (they even attempted to confiscate people's cell phones)?

Oakland civic groups condemned the latest police actions; while, sadly, even the Daily Cal called the march "a mob" and "a riot!" But, if we aren't allowed an overwhelmingly nonviolent protest, then what else is left to do? It's crucial to give support to the true protesters, and to those very few reporters who do honest reporting.

One journalist is the highly respected Davey D, of Oakland, who has posted excellent articles at daveyd.com about the protests. And please read online, "Cops Arrest 152 Justice for Oscar Grant Protesters," for a neighborhood woman's chilling account.

Tags: OSCAR GRANT


Joseph Anderson is a Berkeley resident and author of Karmic Justice. Reply to [email protected]



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