Police vs. Protesters at Port

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Revolutionary Worker #1200, May 25, 2003, posted at rwor.org

Police, dressed in the ominous black uniforms, helmets and jackboots reminiscent of stormtroopers, level their shotguns and fire into crowds of innocents. People standing around and people trying to run away are hit by wooden plug-like bullets, bean-bag projectiles and concussion grenades. The wooden plugs look like the spools around which thread is wound, and their wide, flat ends raise welts on the bodies of a score of people. One young woman's right jaw is swollen to the size of a baseball, her neck reddened and discolored.

This is not Belfast at the time of `the troubles'; nor is it a roiling perpetual protest in the heart of the neo-dragon, South Korea. This is Oakland, April 2003, under the mayorship of Jerry Brown, the state's former Governor, who ran as a `progressive' in recent presidential elections. The shot, wounded, arrested, and seized are legal protesters and bystanders at the Oakland docks, who have come to protest the then- raging Iraqi War. The police lash out at them with a vengeance that is stunning. Jack Heyman, the Business Manager of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) tries to approach police to speak on behalf of workers who were attacked, and then he finds himself arrested, and would be among 29 people held for 19 hours in jail before being released, for nothing more than exercising the alleged First Amendment right of protest, free assembly, and free speech.

Why? Because the anti-war protesters were trying to block the work of the APL (formerly American President Lines) which stands to gain millions of taxpayer dollars from the Defense Department each year, shipping military cargo. It was to protect these private business interests that those sworn to `serve and protect' the people, lashed out at the people, with weapons that caused broken bones, hearing loss, puncture wounds and abrasions. They may be sworn to protect the people, but they are paid to protect the established. As ever, when it's a conflict between labor and industry, labor is left holding the bag.

The march, which began at Oakland's City Hall, originally featured the presence of national and local luminaries, including acclaimed singer and actor Harry Belafonte, film star Danny Glover, U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, various Bay Area artists like D'Wayne Wiggins, Goapele, Boots of the Coup, and even the Vice-Mayor of Oakland, Nancy Nadel. But police follow the orders of business, not politicians.

The unprovoked attack was an attempt by the state's armed forces to quiet the spreading anti-war movement, and to protect the wealth being made on this war by U.S. corporations.

The police attack was designed to quiet the growing swell of anti-imperialism being heard across the land. That's why everybody was targeted, trade unionists, students, dockworkers, you name it.

The formal stage of the Iraq War may have ended, but the war against Empire must still be waged. For millions of Americans, they never voted for, and do not approve the establishment of a Middle East Empire in their name. They know that such a state will do nothing to secure their security, but only makes their lives, and the lives of their children, woefully unsafe.

That's why protests are so important.

That's also why the state so opposes them.

It is time for those who have always taken their alleged constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of assembly, and the right of protest to seriously question these actions by the police. They should call for the immediate dropping of all charges against the Oakland Port protesters (and, of course, those who were simply there, as workers and passersby). They should also demand that the police be held responsible for this violent attack on the people.

ILWU business agent Kevin Willis declared the attacks were "unnecessary," and an "overreact[ion]". "This is the second protest in two months where the Oakland police reacted violently to anti-war protests," Willis charged. "The other time," he argued, "it was against the children." ( San Francisco Bay View , 4/9/03, p. 12).

People angry at this behavior should let the Mayor know about it. Oakland's Jerry Brown's number is (510) 238-3141. Drop all the charges now!

[Col. Writ. 4/22/03] Copyright 2003 Mumia Abu-Jamal

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497