Tag Archives: oscar grant

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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Nonprofits Defend the State – Need More Proof?! 

On June 23rd, 2010, in the midst of Oscar Grant’s murder trial, one of the leaders of the nonprofit organization, Urban Peace Movement, wrote in an email (in full below):

“We need to begin ‘innoculating’ our bases and the community at-large so that when the verdict comes down, people are prepared for it, and so that the ‘outside agitators’ who were active during the initial Oscar Grant protests are not able to incite the crowd so easily.”

The paternalist and racist assumption made by non-profit sector activists portrays those who participated in property destruction as child-like noble savages easily corrupted by superior beings from afar (read: “outside agitators”). This should come as no surprise to anyone, seeing as how the non-profit organization is historically rooted in colonial assumptions that the oppressed are mindless brutes that require, for better or for worse, intellectual guidance (read: “inoculation”) from above.  The non-profiteers see their role as missionaries, saviors, and saints that carry the burden of pity for the downtrodden.

Who is really the outside agitator? And what does the state and the politically interventionist non-profit sector object to most, the outside part, or the agitator part?

During this past week’s phase of the trial, leading Bay Area journalist JR Valerie observered:

“. . . 4 out of 6 black males under the age of 40 were kicked out of the courtroom in the 2nd day of Meserhle testifying . . . .” (rough transpcription from Hard Knock Radio archive, June 25th, 2010, min. 32:20-32:48, http://kpfa.org/archive/id/62141)

As Mehserle ran through a rehearsed emotional display, one black male courtroom observer from Oakland stood up and called out “save those tears.”  He was promptly jumped by Deputies, removed from the courtroom and now faces charges. Did any “outside agitators” incite this black male to speak out against the false cries of a murdering agent of the state? Would the Urban Peace Movement give this man credit for calling out the courtroom process, which is structured against the “biases” of the people’s sense of justice? Or for them, is the bourgeois white supremacist legal apparatus the legitimate carrier of justice? Continue reading

Bring the Struggle, Advance the Ruckus (Bring the Ruckus response to Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?)

We’re posting the first serious engagement and response to our pamphlet Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity? by comrades in the Oakland chapter of Bring the Ruckus. The response further develops the analysis of the pamphlet and poses further questions and challenges. We appreciate the response and look forward to discussing and debating the important questions of revolutionary praxis found within.

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Bring the Struggle, Advance the Ruckus 

Bring the Ruckus, Oakland (BR-OAK) welcomes the release of the new pamphlet by Advance the Struggle (AS), entitled “Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?” In the spirit of comradely and productive critique, we offer the following comments, which we hope will both build upon ideas developed in the pamphlet, and also provoke further reflection on where to go from here.

      Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?” seeks to critically assess the “organizational tools” available to those who took to the streets in January of 2009. According to AS, these tools primarily consisted of:

  1. The Coalition Against Police Executions (CAPE) a hastily-assembled grouping composed largely of nonprofit sector leftists, and
  2. “a self-labeled revolutionary communist organization” (i.e. the Avakianite Revolutionary Communist Party, or RCP) (p. 2).

The major contribution of this pamphlet, we believe, lies in this double-sided critique of two elements, two “organizational tools” which on the surface share very little, but whose subtle similarities could be further developed. While CAPE spent much of its time attempting to restrain the energies of the rebellion and channel these down reformist paths, young RCP cadres were consistently in the streets inciting further mobilization. AS is correct, nevertheless, to highlight the underlying compatibility that both sectors shared.
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Justice For Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

UPDATE: You can donate to our efforts of spreading this analysis to Oakland youth by using the donation button on the right of the page (email us your name and address if you want to receive pamphlets by snail mail). Every single dollar helps since we’re not sponsored in any of this. If you’re interested in distributing, please continue to email us at Bay.Strikes@gmail.com so we can get in touch. ¡Orrrale!

This is Advance the Struggle’s analysis of the Oakland rebellions of January

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity?

Click here for pamphlet.

’09 and the crisis of leadership which accompanied them. The piece speaks for itself, so I’ll leave you with a link to the graphically designed PDF version, as well as a text-only version in this post.

Click here to download PDF!

Post your comments and feel free to provide critical and/or appreciative feedback!

And please email us if you would like to get physical copies of the pamphlet to distribute (they’re also available at Bay Area progressive bookstores)

bay.strikes@gmail.com
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