Lets see, what do we have here.
The Iron Heel Revisited
By JACK HEYMAN for Counterpunch.org
April 7, 2003 police attack peaceful anti-war demonstrators and longshoremen in the port of Oakland in which more than 50 were injured by wooden dowels, concussion grenades, tear gas, motorcycles and rubber bullets.
Spying on grannies in Sacramento who were planning to “mark Mother’s Day urging the Governor and Legislature to support bringing California National Guardsmen home from Iraq by Labor Day”; doing undercover surveillance at a union rally for health care in San Francisco and prompting police to fire “less-than-lethal” weapons at anti-war protesters and longshore workers in the port of Oakland -- this is the veiled face of the “war on terror” exposed in a just-released American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report.
The report, The State of Surveillance: Government Monitoring of Political Activity in Northern and Central California, written by Mark Schlosberg documents the trampling of constitutional rights by various government agencies, the F.B.I., the Department of Defense, the State Terrorism Threat Assessment Center, the California National Guard, at least one Sheriff’s Department and several Police Departments.
Ominously, the ACLU states, “If history is any guide, the stories documented in this report represent only the tip of the iceberg.” Perhaps these kinds of government interventions explain, in part, why organizing efforts for an end to the wars in the Middle East and for workers’ rights at home have difficulty in achieving a modicum of success.
In the case of the grandmothers’ protest against the war, along with Code Pink and Gold Star Families for Peace, the press office of Governor Schwarzenegger sent an email warning to California National Guard brass, including Robert J. O’Neil, head of a new “intell” unit called the Information Synchronization Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion Program. It’s touted as a “one-stop shop for local, state and national law enforcement to share information.” When the San Jose Mercury News exposed the monitoring of the protest, the Guard tried to nip criticism by inviting the peace groups to tour its facilities.
This PR ploy blew up in their faces when Code Pink members photographed a poster in Guard offices of General “Black Jack” Pershing who, during the U.S. imperialist conquest of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, quelled a Muslim rebellion in 1911, by slaughtering 49 insurgents with bullets soaked in pigs’ blood. The poster asks: “Maybe it is time for this segment of history to repeat itself, maybe in Iraq? The question is where do we find another Black Jack Pershing?”
After a public outcry, the poster was removed and the Guard’s Fusion program dismantled. However, it was revealed in State Senator Dunn’s investigation of the Guard that similar domestic spying operations exist around the country. And undoubtedly in California other government agencies will continue the Guard’s surveillance.
Workers—Under the Gun
When Safeway employees in Southern California voted to strike over health care issues in 2003, workers across the country organized actions in support the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). In Los Angeles, longshore Local 13 shut down the port and held a solidarity rally with other unions to raise money for the largely Latino strikers. In Northern California a group of religious leaders planned a pilgrimage to the home of Safeway CEO Steve Burd in Contra Costa County to hand deliver postcards supporting the striking workers.
On January 23, 2004, two men identifying themselves as deputies from the Homeland Security Unit of the County Sheriff entered the union offices in Martinez asking about the pilgrimage. The following day UFCW officials at a strike solidarity rally in San Francisco spotted the same sheriff’s deputies in plainclothes at the rally. After continuous prodding by Art Pulaski, Secretary-Treasurer of the California Federation of Labor, the deputies admitted their pernicious undercover role. Said Pulaski, using homeland security justification to monitor union activity “is sending a chilling and intimidating message to all of us.”
“Port Security” in the Imperial State’s Homeland
Nowhere is the bipartisan nature of the “war on terror” more apparent than in the April 7, 2003 police attack on peaceful anti-war demonstrators and longshoremen in the port of Oakland in which more than 50 were injured by wooden dowels, concussion grenades, tear gas, motorcycles and rubber bullets. The California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC), set up immediately after 9/11 by Democrats, Governor Gray Davis and State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, sent a warning before the anti-war demonstration that there could be violence. CATIC spokesman Mike Van Winkle even equated terrorists with protesters, creating a volatile atmosphere in which cops were armed with riot gear and prodded to shoot.
Even after police videos of the demonstration showed police firing without provocation, refuting the police version that demonstrators threw objects at the police, still, Democrat Mayor Jerry Brown backed the cops as he does today in his quest to be California State Attorney General, the “Top Cop”.
Hypocritically, it was Brown who, in 1997, participated in a picket line in support of fired dockworkers in Liverpool, England which blocked traffic in the port, his ostensible reason for backing the police attack this time. The difference: in 1997 Brown needed labor credentials in his bid for mayor. Now, he needs to portray a “law and order” image and get financial contributions from the global corporations. Earlier this year the City of Oakland settled out-of-court for some $2 million in damages without admitting any wrongdoing.
The ACLU report places much of the blame on the present loss of civil liberties on the government’s overzealous response to fighting terrorism after 9/11 and the bountiful rewards doled out by the Department of Homeland Security. In the nascent days of the “war on terror”, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) bore the brunt of government coercion, first exposed here in the pages of Counterpunch (27 June 2002 Strikers as Terrorists? Ridge Calls Longshoremen’s Chief). Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and then-Homeland Security Czar Ridge telephoned ILWU President Jim Spinosa to warn that any job actions on the West Coast docks during contract negotiations would pose a threat to national security and be met with an ironclad military occupation of the docks.
Such heavy-handed threats clearly played well with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), the group representing international shipowners, stevedore companies and terminal operators with whom the union had been negotiating. When the PMA shutdown every port on the Coast 3 months later by locking out longshore workers, the Bush administration saw no such threat to “national security” and eagerly followed the employers lead by invoking the slave labor Taft-Hartley Act at the request of California Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein. ILWU officials called the concessionary contract borne from this double whammy a “victory” simply because the union survived the struggle.
During the employer lockout, some dockworkers carried picket signs reading the “war on terror is a war on workers”. Port security measures are jettisoning civil liberties over the side as surveillance cameras are mounted not only in the dock area, but in some workers’ breakrooms as well. And “port security” has become a euphemism for militarization of the waterfront, where some 750,000 port workers are being required to undergo intrusive background checks, having little to do with “terrorism” and pay $139 for an electronic ID card in order to work.
The union-controlled hiring hall, the power of the union, won after 6 workers were killed by police in the 1934 West Coast maritime strike and founded on the principle of an equal distribution of work, is in jeopardy. Now the government, like Johnny Friendly, the mobster bully in the film “On the Waterfront”, says it will determine who works and who doesn’t. Prison records, past psychological problems or activist politics could mean cement shoes for waterfront workers’ rights.
The planning meeting to march back to the Oakland docks to reassert “free speech” rights one month after the bloody police attack was infiltrated by undercover cops according to Deputy Chief Jordan. Raising the spectre of agents provocateurs, he stated before the OPD’s Board of Review, “…we’d be able to gather information and maybe even direct them to do something that we want them to do”. It is not unreasonable to assume that in a climate of fear generated by the 9/11 attacks and fomented by the “war on terror”-- where repressive legislation like the USA Patriot Act and the Transportation Security Act are rubber stamped by Democrats and Republicans -- that the right to free speech, (demonstrations, rallies, and picket lines) and freedom of association (the right to join a union) could be banned in the ports.
IRON HEEL REDUX
The ILWU played a principled role during the witchhunting McCarthy period, defending workers against waterfront screening and offering workers purged from other maritime unions a safe haven. Although it was targeted by the government and redbaiting union officials in both CIO and AFL unions, the ILWU, to its credit, opposed the U.S. war against Korea, and has taken the same stance on every imperialist war since.
Today, business unionist ILWU officials are cut from a different cloth. While the official position of the ILWU (decided by a delegates’ vote at the 2003 union convention shortly after the military invasion) is opposition to the Iraq war and for immediate withdrawal of troops none of the ILWU’s International officers has implemented that rank-and-file decision by speaking out at anti-war rallies. Moreover, they buy into the “war on terror” and “partnership” with the bosses like the rest of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win union bureaucrats. The mantra they chant, “we’re the first line of defense” in the ports, actually aligns the union with employers and the government, while exposing the union and its hiring hall to attack from the back.
Ironically, the ACLU of Northern California was born in San Francisco during the 1934 maritime strike when waterfront workers were under deadly attack from police, the National Guard and anti-communist vigilantes. This well-researched ACLU report meticulously identifies recent government acts of repression. However, their conclusion reads “inadequate understanding of privacy laws and protections for political activity, and a profound lack of regulation” have led to governmental abuses. The report recommends “reforms for law enforcement surveillance activities”. Its liberal, myopic view blinds readers to the reality that the imperialist state is a racist apparatus of class repression, not changed or controlled by “a few good laws”. FBI’s COINTELPRO program actually killed radicals like the Black Panthers not just “disrupted political organizations”. And while the report lists the FBI’s campaign to “neutralize” Martin Luther King, it is silent on the government’s hand in the murder of Malcolm X. The American road to empire is littered with bodies.
Early on, the ACLU report cites the 1976 Church Committee findings that the U.S. government has “consistently used law enforcement agencies to investigate and stifle political dissent.” That Senate committee found a pattern of abuses dating back to 1936. Actually, state repression of working class radicals is evident with early 1900s anti-syndicalist measures directed against the Wobblies of the Industrial Workers of the World, and through the imprisonment of railroad union leader Eugene V. Debs, opposed to the First World War, Tom Mooney and leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and the Minneapolis Teamsters in the run-up to WWII. The report skips over the McCarthy period, perhaps, because the ACLU participated in that political cannibalizing of the workers movement.
No, we don’t need more legislation to control police activities. What’s needed are intransigent defiance of unjust laws and mass mobilizations against the war, racism and repression.
That’s what stopped the war in Vietnam and won civil rights at home. In that vein, ILWU Local 10 submitted a resolution to the union convention in May for a one-day strike against the war calling on the rest of the labor movement to join in. Unfortunately, union bureaucrats scuttled the motion in committee before it could reach the convention floor for debate and a vote.
La lutta continua.
Jack Heyman, a longshoreman who works on the Oakland docks, was one those assaulted by police in their attack on the April 7, 2003 anti-war protest in the port. He has organized dock actions against apartheid and in support of Mumia abu Jamal. For the video documentary of the Oakland police shooting anti-war protesters and longshoremen April 7, 2003 "Shots On The Docks".Send $20.00 check or money order to: Labor Video Project, P.O. Box 720027San Francisco, CA 94172. Jack can be reached at email@example.com.
There were certain 'agereements' reached, in order that the like might never happen again. Certain rules were put in place, to wit:
Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer Saturday, November 6, 2004
Oakland police will no longer indiscriminately use wooden or rubber bullets, Taser stun guns, pepper spray and motorcycles to break up crowds, under an agreement announced Friday.
The changes followed criticism and lawsuits against police for their tactics at a large demonstration against the Iraq war outside the Port of Oakland on April 7, 2003.
The new policy settles part of a federal class-action lawsuit filed by 52 people who claimed their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly were violated as they targeted two shipping companies with contracts tied to the war in Iraq.
"What we've done is create a comprehensive policy that really provides a much more sensible, reasoned approach to managing demonstrations and crowds," said Rachel Lederman of the National Lawyers Guild in San Francisco.
The policy followed 10 months of discussions involving Oakland police, the city attorney's office and plaintiffs in the case. Oakland Police Chief Richard Word publicly circulated the basic changes in the policy in December.
Nearly 60 people, including longshore workers, said police fired nonlethal projectiles including wooden bullets, stinger grenades and bean bags without provocation and without giving them a chance to disperse. Others said they were bumped hard by traffic officers on motorcycles.
A photograph of protester Sri Louise, showing her with a golf-ball-size welt to her jaw, was widely published.
Still unresolved in the lawsuit are monetary damages that the protesters are seeking. Those claims will go to trial in January unless they are settled.
"Overall, it's a good policy, and I think it will benefit the whole community," said Michael Haddad, an Oakland attorney representing Louise and five other plaintiffs in a separate federal lawsuit.
John Burris, another plaintiffs' attorney in Oakland, agreed, saying the crowd-control measures are "a positive step toward evenhandedness."
Oakland police spokeswoman Danielle Ashford said Friday that the department's new policy was the result of an "ongoing learning process" that seeks to "ensure the safety of our officers as well as the community that we serve."
Haddad said police are "supposed to respect protesters' First Amendment activity" under the new policy. If laws are broken, police will try to negotiate with leaders and give audible orders to the crowd to disperse before making arrests.
If demonstrators still refuse to comply, police are allowed to deploy tear gas "on the edge of the crowd," form a skirmish line and push back protesters with batons but not strike them, Haddad said.
Alan Schlosser, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco, said the policy is timely because of the re-election of President Bush.
"I would guess that there's probably going to be lots of demonstrations and lots of difference of opinions," Schlosser said.
Lederman said, "These projectile weapons are very dangerous. It was only a matter of luck that someone wasn't killed on April 7, 2003, in Oakland. That's what we're trying to prevent."
E-mail Henry K. Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then along came the 'accidental' murder of one Oscar Grant, and the protests which followed.
from Breaking anger, from Oakland to Tottenham: California activists worry UK police will import heavily armed enforcement tactics that violate the right to dissent.
by Jesse Strauss, for Al Jazeera.
Last Modified: 05 Sep 2011
On July 8, 2010, a jury that did not include a single black person convicted Mehserle of the lowest possible charge, involuntary manslaughter.
Demonstrators took over the city's central intersection. FBI, DEA and OPD helicopters buzzed overhead, 46 undercover officers from the OPD, California Department of Justice and DEA infiltrated the crowd, and secret service agents in OPD uniforms recorded the events on video, according to official documents and videos.
"There were a lot of young people who didn't necessarily know Oscar Grant, but saw him as themselves," said Riley. "There was a lot of identification with senseless brutality against people of colour."
Near the start of unrest on July 8, 2010, an image of Riley being arrested in his suit and tie, with a bright green cap identifying him as a legal observer, was broadcast on local news. Riley, in his 60s, speaking recently, told Al Jazeera that he was choked while being arrested.
"Their reason for arrest was resisting arrest and failure to disperse from the scene of a riot," he said, but the District Attorney dropped all charges. A police email two days after the arrest identified Riley as a "Community Leader".
Riley represented another arrestee in court, and said the police report on his client identified him "as 'a young black man wearing dreads and looking angry'", and used that description as pretense for making the arrest.
By the end of the night, 84 people had been arrested, fires smouldered in rubbish bins and cleanup crews cleared shattered storefront windows.
Four months later, a Los Angeles judge sentenced Mehserle to two years in jail, which would be cut in half for good behaviour. Hundreds of demonstrators again took to the streets, and police came prepared as they had in July, this time calling the event "Operation Sentence".
Police documents show Operation Sentence involved the FBI, DEA, the California Department of Justice and 569 officers from at least 20 other local police agencies - clearly outnumbering protesters.
Security forces on November 5 surrounded a large group of people as they were marching away from downtown, allowed members of the media to exit the scene, and made 152 arrests.
"[Protesters] were corralled by hundreds of militarised police. They were given no opportunity to disperse," Michael Flynn, the President of the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild (NLG), told Al Jazeera.
The OPD now faces a class action lawsuit filed by the NLG - a national association of progressive lawyers, legal workers and law students - which claims that police actions on November 5 were "violations of constitutional and statutory rights".
The lawsuit says that the OPD and cooperating agencies violate the OPD's own crowd control policy, and that the mass arrests amounted to violations of the first, fourth and fourteenth amendments to the US Constitution, false arrest, false imprisonment, negligence, and three California state laws.
It also says the arrest procedure included "an hour and a half seizure and detention on the street", after which arrestees were loaded onto buses and denied restroom access. "Many of the class members [were] forced to urinate on the floor of the bus where they were sitting or standing."
Citing the lawsuit, police officials declined interview requests.
'Militarisation' of police
Jackson, who was arrested in Operation Sentence, says that if the same unrest in either Oakland or the UK took place in Libya, they would be called "protests" instead of a "riot", a term that "tends to be paired with 'senseless violence' and 'pure criminality'".
She says that the difference allows police to take advantage of their perceived power to create a degenerative crackdown on dissent.
"Police have increasingly militarised the United States over the past decade," says Michael Flynn. "They now see themselves more as soldiers in the battlefield, and I think we saw that in November."
Indeed, the police captain who managed most of the OPD response, David Downing, was an Air Force Reservist who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and reports from Operations Verdict and Sentence refer to police as "troops" in "tactical squads" and "tango teams".
And, more than the city deals with social and political problems in other ways, Oakland has been pouring money into enforcement, to police its way out of crisis.
The police department is now prepared for future battle. It has 90 new cases of .40 calibre ammunition, 20 cases of shotgun shells, 1,750 tear gas canisters and 3,000 new bean bag shotgun discharges. The OPD's crowd control policy says that these type of bean bags "shall not be used for crowd management, crowd control or crowd dispersal during demonstrations".
It also has at least four new high-definition video cameras and a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), which can be used to "make announcements to crowds" or "produce high pitch noise" strong enough to damage eardrums or potentially cause fatal aneurisms. The LRAD has reportedly been used against both Somali pirates and Iraqi insurgents.
Well. Here we seem to be going again, folks:
Police arrest 75 Occupy Oakland protesters at City Hall.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued around 6:30 a.m., city officials advised people who work in downtown Oakland to delay the start of the workday “until further notice.”
The 12th Street BART station was shut down during the raid but had reopened by 6:30 a.m. AC Transit bus service was disrupted in the downtown area and detours were set up.
Two men who had been living at the camp at Broadway and 14th Street said they were arrested when officers outfitted in riot gear raided the plaza shortly before 5 a.m.
Speaking by cellphone from the back of a police van around 6 a.m., Brian Glasscock, a 20-year-old Oakland resident, said police had used a flash grenade and that he also saw tear gas. He claimed his tent was ripped apart.
He estimated that at least 50 people were arrested.
The second man, 23-year-old Berkeley resident Davonte Gaskin, said he had been camping with Occupy Oakland for four days, and that police had used batons to dismantle his tent before arresting him for camping in the plaza.
An Oakland resident who only gave her name as Kristina, 28, said she was tear-gassed and that people around her were hit by rubber bullets.
She said downtown Oakland is shut down and that protesters at a second Occupy Oakland camp at Snow Park at Lake Merritt expect to be raided by police....
They did get raided. Last I heard, their tents were back up again: impressive. Perhaps not so much as those intrepid Oaklandish who stood in the path of certain specific less lethal projectiles that ought never, by the terms to which the police themselves agreed, have been deployed. Nor the motorcycles lunging at protesters; much less allegations, such as that by one intrepid videographer, that there was a concerted effort to mete out the most severe corporal punishments out of the eye of the mainstream media (at the least).
All the more reason, albeit retroactive, for this little recent history lesson, which I stitched together in gratitude. For my fellow man. Possibly for not sustaining injuries or losses. For my freedoms that were, and are still, being defended. Hoping as a child would -- and that is not always a weakness -- that we each find a way show solidarity, tangibly, to the best of our ability, with the #Occupation.
...Well I'll follow; we'll synchronize
So many confined at one place at one time
And there's so much at hand that I don't understand
And circumstances demand that we all better take a stand
Give in once, well you're giving in twice
Giving in three times; like you're giving them light
But they can't keep secrets 'cause they know they're wrong
And they can't keep us down 'cause we're too damn strong
Now the people on the left let me hear you say
That you're sick of their lies and you're not gonna take it
And now the people on the right, ain't no time to waste
Gonna start it off now, bring it on now, bring it
Now the people in the crowd, let me see those hands up
Stand up and demand some answers.
What? Come on, can you hear me in the back?
If you can't, let 'em know and we'll turn up the track.
So come on....
from Stromkern, "Stand Up." Light It Up, 2004
a once and future M.W.K.P.A..
Be seeing you.