Tag Archives: Oakland

Raw Reflections: East Oakland People’s Library

books packed up once over 40 police officers descended on the people’s library at about 11:30 on 8/13/12

Comrade Mara & The Fish write:

Today’s library occupation, like the Lakeview Occupation of July, demonstrated a powerful tactical approach towards building radical connections outside of activist circles.  In both cases, radicals initiated bold actions without asking permission but from the beginning were organizing to involve the folks directly affected.  Even in the first day of the Victor Martinez library, parents were already dropping of their kids to garden, a family from two blocks away donated crates of books, and curious people from the neighborhood were dropping by to show support and borrow literature.

Here are some of the basic components of what went down: folks occupied the library, erected banners, and brought in palettes of  radical literature.  But this wasn’t all they did in the brief time of the library’s new existence; in addition to these basic logistical tactics, the organizers also put out a press release, went door-knocking in the neighborhood to inform and invite the community, and built a gardening program that invited youth to come and develop the blighted space.  Without the support of the folks around, there’d be little defense against the constant narrative onslaught from the bourgeois media that radicals in Oakland are isolated and dwindling.  Instead, the Lakeview Occupation and today’s Victor Martinez library show a strategy that defends against that attack, building strength in radical unity with people’s hostility to austerity measures.

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The Value of the Lakeview Sit-in and People’s School for Public Education

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The eighteenth day of the Lakeview Elementary School Sit-in and People’s School for Public Education experienced a police raid that successfully shut-down the direct action. In the early morning, around 4:20am, police – led by Sargeant Barhin Bhatts, the officer responsible for shooting and killing an unarmed Raheim Brown in January 2011- gave an initial dispersal order and instructed all those looking to be arrested to sit in a designated area. Two Lakeview community members chose to be arrested, one – a parent of Lakeview and the other – an alumni and long time Lakeview supporter. All other supporters were allowed to gather their belongings and leave the premises without an arrest.

In response, the Education Committee of Occupy Oakland organized a rally just outside the front gates at Lakeview and a march to an undisclosed location for 5pm that evening.

The rally featured parents, teachers, and students who participated in the sit-in & People’s School. The program was a combination of calling out and shaming Tony Smith and the School Board for shutting down such a positive action, and also a call for people to get involved in the organizing against the austerity inspired policies of the Oakland Unified School District. There was a militant energy in the air coupled with smoke from dried sage provided by an indigenous elder supportive of the action. A long time Adult-Education teacher and veteran education activist credited our action with swaying the School Board to vote against a proposed 4 million dollar cut to Special Education. He made the point that this marked the first time in three years that the board voted against Tony Smith and felt this to be a contributing factor in shutting down our efforts.  Three candidates for the upcoming school board elections called on the crowd to support their campaigns to bring about a much needed change for Oakland’s Public Schools. Four students from the People’s School for Public Education called for an end to the police presence and for the people to continue using the building for its intended purpose – public education. More on this point later in the post. The student speeches were very inspiring and were met with loud cheering and applause. An education committee organizer wrapped up the rally with a call-out for everyone to continue actively supporting these types of actions.

After the last speaker, a recently fired OUSD teacher announced there would be a student-led march to Tony Smith’s house to confront him face-to-face and let his entire neighborhood know just who their neighbor is and what he’s all about.  The march was filled with militant chants in favor of “education not incarceration” along with music provided by the Occupy Oakland sound team. Upon arriving to Tony’s house there were calls for him to “reopen or resign” and a continuation of the rally started back at Lakeview. One of the students from the People’s School called on Supt. Smith to show his face. Despite him either not being there or else hiding behind the walls of his bourgeois home, it was nonetheless positive to see many of his neighbors outside their homes and supportive of our presence in that neighborhood. All in all it was a vibrant first volley in response to the police raid on the Lakeview Sit-in.

Now back to the political nature of this action and the reason why the sit-in was an extremely important step for the working class , i.e –  the use of the building.  The Use-Value of a commodity is defined as the qualitative aspect of value – its usefulness to people – as opposed to exchange-value – it’s worth in exchange for something else, like money – which denotes the quantitative aspect of value.   The parents, teachers, and students reopened the building, a commodity, for its use-value. The People’s School for Public Education was holding social justice classes. Members of the education committee were building a people’s library and were to planning to call it La Casita II (in honor of the parents who led a successful occupation to keep open a field house library on the grounds of Whittier Elementary on Chicago’s south side.) The grounds around the school were being used for lessons in gardening, drumming, sports, etc. etc. On Sunday July 1st  the building was opened up to the wider Oakland community. The education committee hosted a bbq/potluck followed by a movie screening of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman . All these were arguably qualitative leaps when compared to the day-to-day operation of the former Lakeview Elementary School. Once the state realized the building was being used not only for a People’s School but also as a community space for political education and culture – they quickly sent their armed thugs to smash the occupation and school.

The state, in this case Superintendent Tony Smith and the School Board, has no interest in Lakeview’s (or any of the other four elementary schools) use-value. These public schools are being closed because of the exchange value of their buildings and grounds. Next year Lakeview, located in an area with high property values, will host administrative offices. These offices will be housed there while a brand new administration building is completed. Once the new building is ready, the district will no doubt look to rent out Lakeview to a charter school or sell the property to a developer. Santa Fe Elementary, the last public school in Oakland’s 94608 zip code, is being leased to Emeryville. Lazear Elementary, whose parents and teachers were denied a charter by Oakland Unified after the district recommended this course to avoid closure, will be a charter school after all because the county granted them their charter and OUSD grudgingly allowed them the use of the building and grounds. Why grudgingly? Because the district intended to sell the property to Target, and the site was to become another corporate chain store. Thurgood Marshall and Maxwell Park are both being leased to Charter School organizations. These closures are not based on anything except Tony Smith and School Board wanting to generate revenue to balance a public education budget decimated by austerity. And it just so happens that this fits in with a nationwide trend to dismantle public education in favor of charter schools, which represent the transitional stages for the ruling class to privatize education across the country.

Use-value over exchange-value is why the Lakeview Sit-in is an extremely important action that should be publicized far and wide. The goals of this action were clear from the beginning – the people taking back what is rightfully theirs and using it for its intended purpose while demanding that the state stop closing neighborhood schools to balance their austerity budgets, stop union-busting, and fully fund free public education. Every urban center in the country that is being bombarded with the same ruling class privatization strategy should hear about the People’s School for Public Education.  The working class must continue and escalate these types of actions. Failure to do so will mean losing access to a major component of our own reproduction — Free Public Education .

The Taking of Lakeview

The sight of young children digging into a planter box full of soil and sprouts is nothing new – an activity that happens at any given summer school for elementary school aged kids. The difference with this picture is that the gardening activity is taking place at a school site, Lakeview elementary, that’s been taken over by parents, teachers, community members and radicals. On the last day of school, June 15th, this motley mix of people held a bbq that marked the end of the Oakland Unified School District’s 2011-2012 school year and marked the beginning of the transformation of the Lakeview elementary campus into the People’s School for Public Education. This initiative is led by a committee of activists, parents, and teachers that formed out of the struggle against school closures in the fall of 2011; this struggle was itself intimately bound up within the context of a general strike called for by Occupy Oakland one day after 5 elementary schools were announced to be closed by the OUSD. The purpose here is to document and explore some of the context behind this current struggle, the complexities and contradictions involved in its organizing, and thoughts on moving forward.

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La lucha por la Educación Pública en Oakland / The Struggle for Public Education in Oakland

EL Distrito Escolar de Oakland está fallando a los niños de Oakland, la creación de un futuro para ellos es ir a la cárcel o ser trabajadores de comida rápida. A principios de este año Superintendente Tony Smith del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Oakland (OUSD) anunció el cierre de 25 escuelas en dos años, y 5 escuelas primarias de este año. Él está haciendo esto para “equilibrar el presupuesto.” La razón por la cual el presupuesto debe ser equilibrado se debió a la estatización de OUSD en 2003. Durante la toma del poder estatal, la deuda de OUSD se incrementaron en $ 70 millones – de $ 37 millones en 2003 a US $ 107 millones en 2009. OUSD debería haberse negado a pagar esos $ 70 millones, pero no lo hizo. La solución de OUSD es cerrar 5 escuelas primarias de este año. Estarán permanentemente cerrado 15 de junio 2012. Tres de las cinco escuelas primarias que estan cerando se encuentran en el este de Oakland: Parque Maxwell, Marshall y Lazear. Estas tres escuelas son en gran medida los jóvenes inmigrantes latinos y los jóvenes de la clase obrera Negro. El cierre de estas tres escuelas primarias más va a desestabilizar al este de Oakland, haciendo que las condiciones aún más duro y opresivo.

¿Dónde terminaran los jóvenes ? ¿Qué pasará con ellos?

El Distrito Escolar Unificado de Oakland hiso la decisión de pagar una deuda de Sacramento en ves de luchar por la educación pública de calidad para nuestra juventud. La decisión de OUSD ayudará a impulsar a estos jóvenes a la cárcel o en el trabajo en los restaurantes de comida rápida.

El 15 de Junio, el último día de escuela, los padres y los maestros de Oakland se sentará en la primaria de Lakeview exigiendo que el distrito mantenga todas las escuelas de Oakland abiertas.

El distrito no ha escuchado a los pleitos, las súplicas de los padres y maestros, o protestas. Sabemos que el dinero existe, pero aún así insisten en el cierre de las escuelas que atienden a niños que son predominantemente negros y latinos en Lakeview Primaria, que se encuentra en 746 Grand Ave., al otro lado de la calle del Grand Lake Theater.

Venga a las 1:30 pm hasta la noche para luchar contra los cierres de las escuelas.

Los trabajadores inmigrantes que limpian los baños, lavar los platos, conducir los camiones son la clave en hacer que estas escuelas funcionan. Si los trabajadores inmigrantes organizaron su fuerza de trabajo a parar estos sistemas, como el Primero de Mayo de 2006, se puede plantear una fuerza más fuerte que los políticos liberales, los iglesias y NGOs (organización no govermental). Esto es el camino a seguir para organizar por la justicia.

The Struggle for Public Education in Oakland

Oakland Unified School district is failing Oakland’s children, creating a future for them to go to jail or be fast food  workers. Early this year Superintendent Tony Smith of Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) announced the closure of 25 schools in two years, and 5 elementary schools this year. He is doing this to “balance the budget.” The reason why the budget needs to be balanced was due to the state takeover of OUSD in 2003. During the state takeover, OUSD’s debt increased by $70 million — from $37 million in 2003 to $107 million in 2009. OUSD should have refused to pay back that $70 million but didn’t. OUSD’s solution is to close 5 elementary schools this year. They will be permanently closed this Friday, June 15th 2012. Three out of the five elementary schools closing are in East Oakland: Maxwell Park, Marshall, and Lazear. These three schools are heavily Latino immigrant youth and working class Black youth.  Closing these three elementary schools will further destabilize east Oakland, making conditions even harder and more oppressive.

Where are these youth supposed to go? What will happen to them?

Oakland Unified School district rather close these schools and pay a Sacramento sponsored debt than fight for quality public education for our youth. OUSD’s decision will help push these youth to jail or work in fast food restaurants.

On November 19th, 2011, Occupy Oakland organized a massive march of 3-4 thousand people to Lakeview elementary school. Some say this was one of the biggest rally for public education in Oakland. A committee has been working very hard to continue such work through this whole year, http://education4the99.wordpress.com/.  Parents from Lakeview elementary school are standing up and want working class community support. They are leading a struggle to keep Lakeview elementary open. On June 15th, tomorrow, the last day of school, Oakland parents and teachers will sit-in at Lakeview Elementary demanding that the district keep all neighborhood schools open. The district has not listened to lawsuits, pleas from parents and teachers, or protests. We know the money exists, but still they insist on closing flatland schools serving predominantly Black and Latino children at Lakeview Elementary, which is at 746 Grand Ave, across the street from Grand lake theater. Show your solidarity with the Parents of Lakeview Elementary Friday, and come 1:30pm until night-time to fight the closures of our schools.

Occupy Oakland: Advance the Struggle’s Political Reflection

The mass strike…suddenly opens new and wide perspectives of the revolution when it appears to have already arrived in a narrow pass and where it is impossible for anyone to reckon upon it with any degree of certainty.

                                                          – Rosa Luxemburg, “The Mass Strike.”

Occupy Oakland has reshaped politics not just for this city or the West Coast region where its impact has been greatest, but for the US as a whole and has given hope of revolution within the belly of the beast to millions of people around the world. Significantly, Occupy Oakland has injected a clear anti-capitalist current with the broader Occupy movement and has been able to implement an array of tactics to galvanize those politics. What are the lessons we draw from our young movement? The following is Advance the Struggle’s reflection on the movement. Comments, critiques, and discussion are welcome.

 

Table of Contents


I.    Fight for Space Morphs into Battle for Class Power

II.   Context of Occupy Oakland

III.  Political Origins

IV.  Attack: OPD Raids Occupy. OUSD Closes Schools.

V.   Counter Attack: November 2nd General Strike

VI.   November 19th: Unpermitted anti-school closure march

VII.  December 12th: West Coast Shutdown.

VIII. Class Struggle or Substitutionism?

IX.   Our Future

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I.    Fight for Space Morphs into Battle for Class Power

Revolutionaries around the world often ask why the people in the US don’t rise up against its government. With the rise of the Occupy movement, a global audience has been glued to the unfolding events surrounding this struggle, and tens of thousands within the US have participated in perhaps their first political protest. Like most movements, Occupy has its contradictions; in fact, its contradictions have largely been celebrated as diversity of political opinion. Working out the political contradictions through action, movement, struggle – in short, through practice – is the only way that masses educate themselves, becoming more clear in their critique of existing social relations and participate more fully in the implementation of strategies for change. Occupy has been a success just as much for the learning process it has unleashed as for the victories it has gained against “the 1%”. In what follows, we attempt an overview of developments at Occupy Oakland and refer to some debates within the movement. We aim to preserve the tone of unity and broad inclusion that has made Occupy so remarkable. What will be explored below is the relationship between Occupy Oakland’s class composition, the tools it uses to formulate strategy and the tactics implemented in practice.

II.   Context of Occupy Oakland

The 2007-08 crisis has radically destroyed the public infrastructure of our society: schools, hospitals, public transportation, and parks have all been violently gutted. This is an expression of a much deeper crisis in capitalism that is pulling society into a downward spiral. The last 30 years we have seen an extremely rapid and unceasing technological revolution within commodity production, one that has devalorized labor-power so fast that the proletariat is being constantly expelled from the work process. As a class, the proletariat is thus unable to reproduce itself.

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Occupy Everything Goes Proletarian: Revolutionary Strategy, the Occupy Movement and the General Strike

We On a World Tour

The occupy movement which started in North Africa, Egypt, and the Middle East, followed by Wisconsin, and blending with popular and labor movements in Southern Europe and the UK, has spread to the US with a vengeance.

In typical US fashion, the Occupy protest has remained a vague vision, a confused critique, and a couple catchy slogans. Despite its shortcomings the movement hits the populace in the solar plexus with the truth.

How can something come so true, yet be so cloudy?

Our occupation in Oakland has become a focal point for the global movement, gaining solidarity from Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Most recently, global solidarity has been expressed in the form of calls for strikes and renewed protest in solidarity with our decision to have a general strike November 2nd here in the Bay Area where we have a fighting spirit that we are proud to share with sisters and brothers across the country.

What are we fighting for? How do we clarify what we hold to be true?

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Oakland Goes Commie

Jazz and the Class Struggle

The Fillmore District in San Francisco was at one time known as “the Harlem of the West Coast.” Its Black population was the base for a vibrant jazz scene that was at the vanguard of a revolutionary culture. Jazz was the product of ancient currents of African music, filtered over centuries through the unique conditions of the Southern US’s plantation economy in which all surface-level traces of the slaves’ autonomy was eliminated and replaced by the dominant White capitalists’ cultural mode. African drums, languages, clothes, language, and symbolism were taken from them and replaced with Anglo counterparts. Despite being coerced to adopt them, African slaves manipulated the Anglo cultural forms to further their own content, inherently (due to their totally proletarian class status and African epistemological roots that were quite opposed to the bourgeois intellectual method) revolutionary.

An analysis of jazz (far beyond the capabilities of this author or the scope of this post) can reveal one of the more accessible examples of dialectics in our history, for it assumed a form that was quite different from its content; jazz’s formalism is always pregnant with improvisation. Jazz was the first Black musical form that European Americans fully participated in, and along with the synthesis of European and African musical styles, came a social synthesis that was a cultural powder keg fueling one of the most militant eras of class struggle in history – the Great Depression and WWII. Black Power, Jazz, and Communism grew up together.

Today, jazz is largely a distorted and fetishized commodity for rich people (white and black) to  consume in a manner so as to say “society is in harmony and despite my put-together and classy airs, I am in sync with the salt of the earth folks whose daily struggle gives them – ahem, I mean us – so much soul.” The disconnect between jazz’s racial and class origins and its current status can be seen in one Bay Area institution called Yoshi’s. This author has had the privilege of winning pairs of tickets to the best jazz venue in the Bay several times (hint: listen to KPFA’s music hour on weekday AMs) and been dazzled by the luxury of the place. Both Yoshi’s locations (Oakland and SF) are centerpieces of redevelopment projects that have been pretty hostile to the local proletarian populations.

The most recent example of Yoshi’s bourgeois character is its lack of sympathy for a workers’ struggle at the Hotel Frank in San Francisco, where Yoshi’s sends its out of town performers – even when it means crossing a picket line.

Of course, jazz is not dead. There are quite a few genuine jam sessions throughout the Bay with participation from musicians who struggle daily to pay bills as workers with day jobs or unemployed. There is one brilliant flautist in Oakland who can be found playing at BART stations and has a Marxist analysis as sharp as anyone’s. Advance the Struggle ourselves even have the honor having a talented jazz pianist in our ranks. And of course, jazz has spurred a whole lineage of musical forms that have taken turns at the forefront of revolutionary upsurges in the US and around the world, from rock n roll to hip-hop.

Just as jazz is not dead, it goes without saying that neither is class struggle. The ILWU local 10 is at its militant best once again, as it fights legal persecution for taking workplace action in solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin on April 4th.  This SFBayview article is a great collection of info on the April 4th action and their employers’ lawsuit.  Come through tonight to an emergency organizing meeting to defend local 10!  Here’s the meeting info:

Local 10 located near Fisherman’s Wharf at 400 North Point St., corner of Mason, Thursday, April 14, at 7 p.m., in the Henry Schmidt Room.

Lastly, we would like to take this opportunity to promote a show and talk on Friday night called “Jazz and Black Power” at La Pena Cultural Center in Berkeley this Saturday 8-10pm:

This Saturday from 8:00pm to 10:30pm, La Pena (3105 Shattuck Berkeley) will host a night of Jazz and the Black Power Movement. Come and listen to 5 member band Jazz group Luv U Down and commentary by ex Black Panther political activist Gerald Smith on Jazz’s connection to the Black Power movement. General tickets are $12 and student tickets are $10.

Fight Police Brutality With the ILWU – This Saturday 10/23!

ILWU Local Ten is shutting down the port on October 23rd, calling for justice for Oscar Grant, with a rally taking place at noon on 14th Broadway. This is significant! The array of organizing that took place — media outreach, thousands of flyers handed out in the streets,

ILWU say Jail Killer Cops

ILWU say Jail Killer Cops

several union endorsements, several community and political organizational endorsements — has now developed a critical momentum for the Oscar Grant movement that was not present on July 8th 2010, January 7th or 14th of 2009. Those rebellions were expressions of raw anger from Oakland youth and young Bay Area working class people of all races. Since then, there’s been a labor-centered development of struggle, where ILWU local ten has publicly stated over and over that their means to fight against injustice will be to shut down the port.

 

In 1912 two IWW organizers, Joseph Ettor and Arturo Giovanniti, were framed for murder. Witnesses saw the murder of the striker committed by the police. But the 30,000 worker strike in Lawrence Massachusets, often referred to as the Bread and Roses strike, was led by Wobblies Ettor and Giovanniti and needed to be stopped by the state. The first phase of the strike won wage increases. The workers went back to work, but then restruck later in 1912, with around 20,000 participating, as a political strike to free Ettor and Giovanniti, as they were politically framed for a murder they did not commit. Philip Foner, the American Communist Party historian, claims this was the first political strike of such kind in American labor history.

It should be seriously noted when the labor movement shuts down part of the industry of commerce as a political means of defending itself as a class against racist state oppression. The ILWU has pushed the theoritical concept “an injury to one is an injury to all,” in practice. If this can develop as a trend throughout the country, then new formations opposed to state oppression and based in labor can rise, giving working people in ghettos and barrios through out the country a method for fighting back against police brutality.

Arturo Giovanniti, an Italian immigrant IWW organizer, was considered one of the best poets of the movement. In 1914, he wrote “The Walker,” that carries within its description of incarceration coded messages of liberation:

I hear footsteps over my head all night.
They come and they go. Again they come and they go all night.
They come one eternity in four paces and they go one eternity in
four paces, and between the coming and the going there is
silence and the Night and the Infinite.
For infinite are the nine feet of a prison cell, endless is the march
of him who walks between the yellow brick wall and the red
iron gate, thinking things that cannot be chained and cannot
be locked, but that wander far away in the sunlit world, each
in a wild pilgrimage after a destined goal.

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Bay Area Class Struggle History: Panthers at Peralta Colleges

The roots of the Black Panther Party (BPP) lie within student struggle for fully-funded public education reflecting Black history, culture, and struggle. The founders of the party, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, met at Merritt College in Oakland and began to struggle for education together with other black students. But unlike liberal forces in the movement, Newton and Seale saw the necessity to connect their struggle as black students to structural oppression in working-class black communities. Police murder and beatings combined with a deadly lack of jobs, healthcare, food and affordable housing; the BPP saw that the struggle for control over our schools must be connected to the revolutionary struggle for control over our communities. Looking to the present not a whole lot has changed in Oakland: the BART police murder of Oscar Grant and the numerous murders committed by OPD before and after him demonstrate that state-sponsored racism and violence continues to oppress and kill us; East Oakland has some of the highest rates of foreclosures in the state creating more and more homeless families; health clinics and other vital social services continue to get cut back or completely eliminated; free after-school youth programs and daycare centers continue to close down placing more burdens on working-class mothers, who struggle to find ways to make sure their children are cared for when they attend work and/or school. A central difference between then and now is the lack of an organization like the BPP striving to connect these issues and build community control. There is however a growing student movement, which is trying to fight the budget cuts and demand affordable quality education. There are also BPP sun, flag, fistindividuals and organizations who, like Bobby and Huey, are trying to connect the student struggle to broader issues affecting the working-class as a whole. One of these is the militant student organization Student Unity & Power (SUP), which exists at San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, and Laney College. The Laney College branch has put forth a very important analysis demonstrating their radical perspective while drawing from the rich local history of one of the most inspiring and influential revolutionary organizations of all time, The Black Panther Party. This analysis will be useful as we move forward in our struggles for freedom, peep game!

 

Panthers at Peralta

by Laney College Student Unity & Power

SUP draws inspiration from the birth of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in October 1966 when Huey Newton and Bobby Seale met as students on 57th and Grove St. (now Martin Luther King Jr. Way) at Merritt College. Unliketoday’s view of Peralta as a job training hub, the Panthers saw the campus as “not a typical institution for so-called higher learning. Grove Street College is what is called a community college: a place where, for a variety of reasons, people who don’t have an opportunity to attend larger colleges and universities go to seek knowledge and hope for a better life.” The Grove Street campus also represented a base for organizing the neighborhood and a place to demand self-determination for Black and all oppressed people via community control of the curriculum, operations and facilities of the College. While engaged in militant resistance to the District, rank-and-file Panther women built counter-institutions to reproduce their culture of struggle.

This piece is an effort to remember the lessons of their struggle. Continue reading

Start Building for 10/23 – Work Stoppage Against Police Brutality

Recently the ILWU called for a rally on October 23 and expressed interest in a work stoppage to ensure that Johannes Meserle receive the maximum sentence for the murder of Oscar Grant. The ILWU have a long history of taking a leading role in periods of mass struggle and of engaging in political strikes. The San Francisco General Strike started when state and private police killed 2 longshoremen as they tried to break picketlines that had closed not only SF ports but all of the ports on the west coast for 2 and a half months. In 1973 the ILWU refused to ship munitions headed for Chile following the military coup and suppression of the Cordones (workers councils). In 1984 the ILWU shut down the ports for 11 days in a political strike against aparthied in South Africa.

ILWU Local 10

The ILWU is able to take such militant action without being destroyed by the ruling class because the longshoremen occupy such a strategically strong position in the production of profit – the unloading of the majority of commodities headed for consumption. Harry Bridges, along with a rank-file committee organized and led a strike in 1934, quickly growing into a general strike through all of San Francisco and even Oakland, it continues this militant historical legacy into an array of other struggles long after. The ILWU is now throwing their weight into the struggle for justice during a period of racist state murder and mass incarceration marked by the deepest economic crisis in capitalist history. On May 1, 2008, International Labor Day, they shut down all of the west coast ports in a one day political strike against the war. On June 20 of this year the Longshoremen refused to cross a picketline blocking the entrances to the port to stop an Israeli ship from docking in the wake of the Freedom Flotilla Massacre. Now they are calling for a rally on the 23rd of October at Oakland City hall and may shut down the ports.

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To the Budget Cut Movement: No More Ignoring State Violence

by Rebelde

The anti-budget cut movement and struggle for public education in California over the last year has inspired worldwide resistance, and has brought in a lot of new people who have never organized or been political before. The March 4th movement provided an outlet for people to get involved and educate themselves about the budget cuts; it also created a base to build off for the next cycle of struggle. Since March 4th conferences have gone down and a new date for mass action has been picked: October 7th… but will October 7th be qualitatively different than March 4th? Will more sectors of society be brought in? Will struggle deepen and become more militant? As the economic crisis deepens and affects more and more people internationally, there is a real need for a militant perspective examining why the budget cuts are happening, who is causing them, and who is suffering from them.
So far the education sector has largely lead resistance to the cuts, on college campuses specifically, but these cuts go far beyond the universities. It is not just education that is being destroyed; social services, such as free and/or affordable healthcare are being cut; there are massive foreclosures and a lack of affordable or public housing; unemployment remains high. Anyone can see that these cuts aren’t just affecting students, but the working-class as a whole. While all these cuts are happening in the public sector the top corporations and banks were immediately bailed out by the Federal Government as soon as their financial instruments evaporated in the bubble pop. If it wasn’t clear to you before that this system was based off of exploitation and a class divide between the rich and the poor, massive bailouts to the capitalists and bankers while we are left to struggle for the basic necessities of life should make it clear.

Police attack people protesting the racist murder of Oscar Grant. - July 9th, 2010, Oakland

These budget cuts are also occurring during a time period of massive state violence to communities of color and queer people; the passage of the anti-immigration bill SB 1070 is causing and supporting more profiling of immigrant populations and ICE raids; the Oscar Grant movement has exposed the police’s continual assault against Black women and men that stems from the days of slavery; and there is consistent harassment and murder of queer and gender oppressed people. Is a budget cut struggle solely confined to defending education enough to really fight the cuts and the crisis? Is it enough for the people most affected by it to be brought in? No. We need a larger analysis that identifies the true enemy, the capitalist system, which relies on other systems of oppression (patriarchy, racism, & homophobia) to target and discipline people of color, women, and queer folks to keep divisions within the class that makes uniting and resisting harder.

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General Strike for Rodney King!

When Rodney King was severly beaten by 4 LAPD officers and the police were found not guilty, Los Angeles exploded in rebellion and riots.Thousands upon thousands of working-class residents of all races broke into commercial stores taking commodities for free.  

The media tried to paint the riot as angry violent Black people attacking working-class white people and Korean shop owners– they were consciously trying to turn the multi-racial rebellion into a racial war.  But the media was not able to supress a powerful radicalization of LA consciousness.  Bloods and Crips started having serious discussions about unity, positive revolutionary energy was flowing from the ghettos and working-class neighborhoods; these developments are captured well by the documentary Bastards of the Party.

May 19th General Strike - Malcolm Flyer

It’s important to remember that we are all facing the sentencing hearing for officer Mehserle on November 5th. The flyer above is the political effect of the radicalization produced by the ’92 Los Angeles rebellion against the acquittal of Rodney King’s attackers. What do these two struggles, separated by 18 years, have in common? The Oakland/SF local (Local 10) of the longshoreman’s union ILWU is planning to do a job action and/or rally on October 23rd to fight for justice for Oscar Grant, and militant rank-and-file union members have argued that their radical action in isolation will have a very limited effect. One ILWU rank-and-file worker argued that what we need is for BART (lightrail) workers, bus drivers, government workers, private workers, to also shutdown their workplaces in the name of Oscar Grant. This form of struggle can be more effective than breaking windows or pleading with the government through non-profits because it uses the greatest power that working people have: our ability to get organized and control the economy. We’re posting the flyer from ’92 to make these kind of connections with another historical moment where riots began an ascending wave of radicalization. Around the country people look to the Bay as the current front lines of the struggle against police brutality: will we rise to the new possibilities and show ’em how it’s done?

What’s Next in the Struggle for Oscar Grant?

The outcome of the verdict for Johannes Mehserly, the cop who murdered Oscar Grant, left people with feelings of outrage, disappointment, and defeat, and rightfully so. We live in a world where police can kill innocent and un-armed people, have it captured on video, and still get off. The fact that Mehserle was convicted at all should be seen as a partial victory for the black working-class of Oakland. That victory was largely due to the black and brown Oakland youth who took the streets, and made the system listen to them as they bashed in windows of banks, corporations, and other sources that profit off of the exploitation and murder of black and brown people. When the day of the verdict finally arrived on July 8th we found ourselves in a similar place: angry in the streets with no real outlet to fight back. Our options were dismal, chaotic rioting on one end, and non-profit sponsored apolitical, non-violent speak-outs on the other end. Im not against rioting or community expression, but none of these options represent a concrete and effective way for people to resist, a way to flex their power as people and workers, while simultaneously striking back against the bourgeois state that relies on the police to repress our resistance through murder and incarceration

The day of the sentencing is November 5th, which is three months away. People are still angry and we have plenty of time to do something about it, but what? We have tried a variety of tactics from symbolic rallies and marches to riots/rebellions, and nothing has managed to bring justice for Oscar Grant, and the Black working-class yet. It’s time to try something different. A huge jumping off point for this is the recent involvement of the Longshoremen who are a part of the ILWU local 10. So far the Oscar Grant struggle has been organized mainly by activists, and community members with no involvement by organized labor. The longshoremen have a reputation of being one of the more militant unions. They have shut down the coast numerous times for political reasons: apartheid in South Africa, Mumia, and most recently for Palestine. The longshoremen also have majority Black membership, and their reps have experienced state violence on the job and during actions. All these things have fueled their own interest to get involved in the Oscar Grant struggle. They recently had a meeting, which they opened up to the public, to discuss the planning of a protest on Saturday October 23rd, where two major outreach committees were created to try to mobilize the community and other sectors of labor. This demonstration has the ability to bring in 1000’s of workers and community members if the organizers build it right.

So you are probably wondering how this demonstration is different from any other symbolic protest. It will be another permitted, Saturday afternoon action that probably won’t change a thing. There is some truth to that, but this demonstration is deeper than it seems initially. First of all there is potential to shut down the ports that day, because the Longshoremen work Saturdays. If the ILWU is able to mobilize all their members and locals to the demonstration that day, then there will be a work-stoppage, and that is significant in its own right. Politically this demonstration represents an opportunity for us to bring in people from different struggles and sectors of labor and the community. The most active struggles right now have been for Oscar Grant, Immigrant Rights and the Budget Cuts. All of these struggles have been disconnected from each other in key ways, which has been a huge weakness of the organizers in these struggles, because not only are we stronger when we are united, but these struggles are organically connected. They all share the same enemy: the racist, sexist capitalist system.

When black and brown youth walked-out to protest the budget cuts during March 4th this past year they made that connection. They weren’t just talking about budget cuts and their schools; they were talking about police and incarceration. They understand that when 90% of the Oakland bailout budget goes to killer cops and not schools that the budget cut movement should be a part of the Oscar Grant movement. Did I mention that 90% of the bailout money went to OPD? Why aren’t we making these connections? When Arizona passed the racist, anti-immigrant law SB 1070 Oakland youth took the streets again walking-out on April 30th, a friday, to protest a system that oppresses the black and brown working-class. At the bottom of all three of these struggles is the violence of the state, both direct and structural, being aimed at working-class communities of color.

With organized labor being at such a low level in this country it is a qualitative advancement in the Oscar Grant struggle to have the ILWU get involved. It also moves us closer to making these connections between the struggles so we are stronger and more united as a class. We need to reach out to other sectors of labor to have them turn out as well. AC transit workers in Oakland are already upset over their contracts and there has been “labor unrest”–workers even directly intervened in the work process by ‘sicking out’ in large groups; the Oakland teachers union, OEA, went on strike April 29th and most likely will go on strike again this fall; high school students have walked out twice; immigrant communities have protested in SF and in Oakland for May 1st and again against the implementation of SB 1070; MUNI drivers in SF are upset over their contracts while the city tries to pit drivers (who, it should be noted, make significantly less than SF pigs) and riders against each other. There is huge potential to have a mass convergence of organized and un-organized labor, youth, activists, and community members to come out on October 23rd to protest a system that takes money out of our schools and into a racist police system that criminalizes and murders immigrants and black people; to protest a system that continually exploits and doesn’t take care of its workers who drive buses, BART, clean up our streets, our businesses, and teach our children. Not only would this be a day where we can all get together and share our struggles, but it will also be an important day to help build up November 5th.

Due to the work of hundreds of in the Bay Area, the underlying unity of these struggles is starting to take shape explicitly. We know October 23rd is not enough. We know that no conviction or sentence for Mehserle would represent true justice while the racist violence of the state continues to terrorize black and brown communities. We know that we have little chance at dignity and justice in a world with few opportunities and intensifying austerity. We also know that by coming together in the thousands to take direct control of our city, we have a real chance to go beyond partial victories, to fight back effectively against the budget cuts and pigs of all kinds, against the violence of the state in all its forms. This Fall, no struggle needs to stand alone. Justice–November 5th.

Moving Beyond Violence vs Non-Violence: Justice for Oscar Grant means justice for all

by Rebelde

Protest sign: "50 days of strike for 50 bullets fired!!!"

Shot from a Sean Bell police murder protest in NY

The Oscar Grant movement and the 2009/2010 rebellions in Oakland have triggered a lot of discussion about violence versus non-violence. What are the correct tactics to fight against state violence? How do we get justice for innocent Black and Brown men and womyn who are brutalized and murdered by the police? These are the questions that continually ran through my mind at the 2010 protest/rebellion on July 8th in downtown Oakland. During the earlier part of the protest a lot of non-profiteers, liberals, and regular people were talking about this debate between violent and non-violent resistance, and largely condemning acts of ‘violence’. Youth Uprising (an Oakland non-profit) was passing out flyers for their community gathering, which said “violence isn’t justice.” All around there was encouragement to be non-violent and peaceful. There was also a serious racialization of violence by the media, the churches, and the local government and non-profits. Violence is characterized as something coming from outside of ‘the community’; beware of the ‘outside agitators’ that come in the form of white anarchists. Before the verdict was released I listened to my co-workers talk about these ‘agitators’ who were coming into Oakland from everywhere to wreak havoc in our city. It was alarming to see this panic and fear of anarchists being conjured up by the bourgeois media and the State. There is some truth to this statement that violence does come from outside of the community, but not in the form of anarchists, but in the form of racist killer cops. What’s really violent is living in a world where people die everyday from curable diseases and hunger; where working-class youth are deprived of an education by closing schools and building more prisons; where the police can kill innocent men and have it recorded on video and still not be guilty of 2nd degree murder!

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