Comrade Mara writes:
Spending the weekend in LA preparing for a presentation with comrades allowed me to spend some time with the comrades in SULU (Struggles United/Luchas Unidas) and attend a demonstration against the Anaheim police department for their series of murders of working class latinos.
By now you’ve probably seen the photos of the heavily militarized police force present at recent demonstrations in Anaheim – fatigues, pigs hanging off the sides of trucks with weapons at their side, horses running into demonstrators, etc. What follow are just some quick notes on thoughts that came to me as I spoke with the community, various revolutionaries, and considered the relationship between the resistance in Anaheim, the response of revolutionaries, and what I’ve been part of and seen in Oakland over the past few years.
Some of the maoists I spoke with (of the party building as opposed to social-democratic NGOish variety) immediately responded by going into the community where the murders took place and carrying out a door knocking campaign. The residents were encouraged to send messages of solidarity on a banner which these maoists then brought to the demonstrations in front of the police department. While the door knockers encouraged people to come out to the rallies and protests, not much else was proposed aside from buying newspapers and signing the banner. Nonetheless, the immediate inquiry into the community is a move that could generate positive results if coupled with a more proactive program of struggle.
A variety of Trotksyist groups responded in particular by relating to the circle surrounding the families of the men murdered by the police. This included forming a political bloc with them at public meetings and press conferences where the families, no doubt encouraged by people with friendly-to-the-state agendas, called out for the “violence” (e.g., property destruction and other militant tactics) to cease, because it would “not help in bringing [the victim] back.”
The anarchists I spoke and marched with on Sunday were determined to carry out a march away from the police state once hundreds of people were gathered and rallied up. As we’ve seen before, the simple chant of “march, march, march” was called out for a couple of minutes before a group of black clad, mostly younger, group of folks began marching toward Disneyland, the capitalist center of Anaheim.
While the march ended up gathering several hundred of demonstrators to march in the streets, the march was quickly attacked by police mounted on horses who were able to anticipate the direction of the march and keep it contained within a single lane of the road. The composition of the march included many community members, children, and revolutionaries which was very positive.
Many of these people were brave in facing down there pigs in their attempts to intimidate us with their arsenal of weapons and vehicles, but the march continued until it reached an overpass that would have lead straight to Disneyland. Unfortunately, at the crucial point where the overpass leading to Disneyland was less than a block away, the black-clad vanguard of the march was at least a few hundred feet ahead of the most militant center of the march – the one with the most diverse social composition and the one that was chanting the loudest. The vanguard of the march kept yelling to the rest of the march to “hurry up!” but by the time the bulk of demonstrators arrived at the overpass, the police were already in formation blocking the main artery toward Disneyland.
At this point, several demonstrators attempted to evade the blockade of police blocking the streets in front of us by hitting a left and cutting through the Chevron gas station. Unfortunately the police were quick to block us off from squeezing past their line with several motorcycle units that descended into the parking log and began revving towards us.
Ultimately the march did not break through the police lines, though the amount of demonstrators outnumbered the amount of police and could have possibly made it through. The will power and sense of determination was strong, but not enough to push through to the destination. We were eventually sectioned off down a street away from Disneyland and several dozen police in military fatigues, wielding rubber bullet guns and clubs separated one half of the march from the other. At this point, some people returned back to the police station while others were kettled in by the pigs on horses. Eventually the people who were kettled were able to get out, and the majority of people returned to the original rallying location.
One of the tactical (and perhaps slightly strategic) questions that I’m left thinking with is: what if the breakaway march had been able to have kept a tighter and more disciplined vanguard, as opposed to a tinier vanguard all the way at the front and separated from the rest? Could collaboration among left Trotskyists, anarchists, and community members have helped accomplish the goal of making it to Disneyland and evading the police blockade? Maybe. But how? Could unity of action against the police murder have included many leftists, armed with a strategy broader than selling newspapers and getting signatures, going door knocking into the community and building rapport with the residents in order to better inform the immediate resistance?
Ultimately, campaigns against police repression and murder ebb once the initial uprisings become exhausted and the focus begins to narrow in on specific officers involved in the shootings, or their immediate managers and the Chief of Police. The energy that we find in the streets at the beginning of the resistance begins to be cordoned off by the state, in its various forms. It’s important we continue to learn lessons from these explosions of resistance and begin to formulate strategies and tactics that allow us to continue intervening in militant ways on the streets – chants, forming affinity groups during demonstrations, having tactical plans for routes, etc – but that also allow us to connect the energy and outrage that people feel against the state into organizing that can develop more sustained resistance to the state AND capital – connecting to centers of capital by organizing militant marches to them, such as the attempt to go to Disneyland, but ultimately going further in our disruptions to capital. Incorporating working people on the outside on the pickets during peaks of resistance is excellent, and to sustain the proletarian militancy from these events by initiating and developing working class organization in the community and workplace.
One interesting example of such an ongoing community organizing effort is Kelly’s Army – a formation with an eclectic and contradictory political composition, but which has nonetheless been organizing against police brutality for years, including in the recent demonstrations in Anaheim, since the murder of a Kelly Thomas who was the son an Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy. What would an explicitly anti-capitalist, anti-state version of Kelly’s army look like?