Posts tagged ‘police brutality’

February 2, 2012

The New Normal: This militarized empty lot called home

By Puck Lo

From the diffuse clouded sunlight, which looks and feels the same in January as it does in June, to the broken glass glinting on the sidewalks, downtown Oakland is as usual. The city barely skips a beat anymore during and after the now-normal political riots that clog otherwise empty, wide downtown thoroughfares, drawing relatively little attention from non-political passers-by beyond perfunctory updates on Twitter decrying the lack of parking due to #oo or contemplating the sometimes nearly monolithic young whiteness of these latest exhilarated, raging masses.

Since the diverted building takeover on Saturday and the police riot, kettling and violent mass-arrest of marchers outside the YMCA, interest in denouncing and trying once again to co-opt and control the unruly Occupy has returned with a vengeance. Recently dormant factions of the Bay Area’s Leftish communities and political intelligentsia, often genuinely well-intentioned, are issuing statements condemning so-called violence against buildings and other inanimate objects or taking issue with the insurrectionist strategy of facing off with police and antagonizing city officials. This unnamed Occupy strategy, coupled with the hyper-militarized state of Oakland’s police force, culminated on Saturday with some 400 arrests and hundreds of thousands in city dollars spent to terrorize the populace of our fiscally gutted, deeply unequal and gentrifying city.

Not surprisingly, every faction involved is staying on-message.

The cops blame the protesters. The Mayor blames the “fringe” protesters who are out of touch with and beyond the control of the non-profits who claim to represent authentic communities. Within activist communities, pacifists blame the rioters. Non-profits blame outside agitators.

And though I agree with their overall analysis, many of the same Occupy-ers and insurrectionists who seem to value above all else militant confrontation with the police (as much as someone unarmed can actually “confront” a heavily armed force who have state-sanctioned powers to kill) now act shocked that cops don’t follow the letter of the law, white kids can get arrested for walking down a street, and jail is not a good place.

Such “politicizing” experiences of spending a weekend in jail – celebrated in the manarchist culture of back-slapping camaraderie shared by those for whom jail is a rebellious and exotic adventure – only highlight some of the many ways that privilege and punishment land unequally on the differently raced, gendered and classed bodies who get swept up in mass arrests of the 99% movement.

Let’s be clear: I can’t think of any social movement that has overthrown dictators, ousted exploitative corporations, or catalyzed its populace to build alternatives to a corrupt system that hasn’t engaged in one or more of the following militant tactics: building and land expropriations, illegality, and strategic confrontation against police forces.

November 28, 2011

Inside the Student Movement: Undeterred by Crackdown, Activists Around the Country Gear Up for Bigger Actions

originally published on AlterNet

by Manissa McCleave Maharawal

Today, Monday, is not only a day of action against university budget cuts in New York City but also around the country, at places like UC-Davis, where last week students were violently pepper sprayed during a peaceful protest. Here these same students are courageously calling for a student strike that will shut down the campus and in which rallies and teach-ins about budget cuts, police brutality and non-violent action will replace normal campus activities. At UCLA there are planned protests at the Board of Regents meeting in order to force that body to change their agenda to better reflect student concerns like increasing tuition and decreased funding for the entire UC system. These actions will be done with the solidarity and support of students around the country, from Tufts University in Massachusetts to the rural Kentucky-based Owensboro Community and Technical College. These actions also occur in the context of a global student movement: for weeks in Chile protesters, spearheaded by students demanding more affordable education, have been expressing dissent against President Pinera’s capital market reforms. In solidarity with these protests students around Latin America, in Argentina, Columbia, and Peru have come together to demand education reforms and stand in support of the Chilian students. Earlier this month, students in Ireland, Italy and the Phillipines staged massive protests and walk-outs over increased tuition.

Let me start by being very clear about who I am and what I do: I am a graduate student at the City University of New York in the Anthropology Department and I teach Anthropology 101 at Baruch College twice a week on Monday and Wednesday evenings. My students are younger than me and older than me. They are impressively diverse, they are mostly women of color, they work all day long and then come to class in the evening. They are tired by the time they sit down in my class and I respect this tiredness, I respect and understand that many of them have to leave early or get there late because of their job or their family and because I, just like them, am a student and a worker in a public university system.

The public university system that we are in is the third largest in the country and one that has had  values of free education, accessibility and inclusivity in its inception and embedded in its history. I want to be very clear about this because in many ways our histories create our visions for the future and the history of CUNY is a history of struggle that gets to the core of what we think higher education is as well as who we think higher education should be for. Founded in 1847 as the Free Academy, the City University of New York was explicitly created to educate the poor and working class of New York City. Students fought for open admissions in 1969, a struggle that was about forcing the University to accept more non-white students and create Black and Puerto Rican Studies Departments. This struggle was won. In 1976 the University, amid years of student protests against it, imposed tuition for the first time since its foundation. Since then almost every year has been punctuated by protests over increasing tuition and proposed budget cuts. This year is the same.

But this year is also not the same. In the context of the Occupy movement, the student movement has taken off. Our movements are connected and stronger because of these connections. They are connected because they are fighting to articulate the same disconnect between power and people and to show the same connections between where our money is spent and where we want it to be spent, they show the connections between dissent and the way this dissent is violently repressed around the country and the world. In New York City and the United States Occupy Wall Street has provided the student movement with inspiration and supportIn this way Occupy Wall Street has, as Zoltan Gluck writes here:  “already begun to shift the very terrain of other struggles. For student organizing it has provided a whole new framework through which to organize collectively and horizontally.”

November 27, 2011

Dear New York, Welcome to the Student Movement

Editor’s note: We are posting this article about the student movement because we believe that the connections between student struggles around debt, tuition increases and budget cuts are integrally connected to what OWS has been about.

By Zoltan Gluck

We could hear the hundreds of students outside, students who had come from across the city to show support, cheering for us as CUNY campus security surged forward and began to shove us with their clubs. There were only about sixty of us assembled inside the lobby on the ground floor of Baruch College where, fourteen floors above us, the Board of Trustees were convening to discuss the latest round of widely unpopular tuition hikes. Again these hikes will likely pass and, again, when they do, higher education will become even less accessible to the poor and traditionally marginalized communities of New York City. Last Monday night we stood non-violently in the lobby of this school where an undemocratic process with direct bearing on our future and the future of our city was taking place. We stood and spoke and we were met with violence. When the police tried to disperse the crowd students were jabbed and struck with batons, four were arrested, fifteen students were detained and charged with disorderly conduct and “trespassing” on their own campus. We left bruised and battered but far from demoralized. As one of my friends aptly observed: “This is just the beginning.”

A student movement is blossoming in New York City. While police violence against peaceful protesters still loudly dominates public attention, a silent revolution is afoot in the universities. Spurned and inspired by Occupy Wall Street, General Assemblies are now meeting at most major university campuses in the city, active working groups are building for future events, and an All-City Student Assembly has begun to facilitate dialogue and coordination between the campuses. It seems that the era of students struggling in relative isolation, fighting losing battles against insulated and invisible trustees who run their schools like hedge funds, is beginning to give way to something new.

For the past seven weeks students from across the CUNY system, NYU, Columbia, the New School, Rutgers, Pratt and Juilliard have been meeting and organizing. One fruit of their collective efforts has been the “Student Week of Action in Defense of Education.” By November 14th the calendar was full with over sixty events happening on campuses around the city. Corporate walking tours elucidated the connections between university campuses and Wall Street. A faculty speak out at the CUNY Graduate Center linked the struggles of the previous generations to those the present. A group of students occupied a New School Study Center on 5thavenue and 14th street declaring the space open to all and proceeded to run a series of high-octane lectures, teach-ins, workshops and general assemblies that filled the weekend with a sense of collective struggle. An ambitious Student Debt Refusal Pledge was launched at Zuccotti Park. And then last Monday night hundreds of students from across the city joined together to protest CUNY tuition hikes, the gutting of public education and to rebuke the Board of Trustees that hid behind a wall of armed police.

November 15, 2011

A Day in the Movement: November 15th, 2011

By Zoltán Glück and Manissa McCleave Maharawal

Scene 1: Manissa

The text came at 1:05am just as I was just getting out of the shower:

OccupyNYC:URGENT:Hundreds of police mobilizing around Zucotti. Eviction in progress.

I both could and could not believe it. But it didn’t matter right then, what mattered right then was that I get on my bike and get there as soon as I could. I threw on the first clothes I found and started texting everyone I knew. It wasn’t even a thought if I would or wouldn’t go: of course I was going. I somehow remembered to fill my water bottle.

Half an hour later with my friend David, I locked my bike a few blocks from Zucotti Park. We started up the street towards Broadway when, out of nowhere I was body checked by three cops in riot gear and thrown against the side of a van, pinned there by a baton. I looked over and David was surrounded and being shoved. I start to scream, threw my arms up and simple thoughts started going through my head: there is no one here to see this, what did I do, how do I get out of this safe? Suddenly it is all over and we are being pushed down the block, being told we can’t go this way. I’m shaking. I grab David’s hand. He holds it tightly and I start crying silently.

Scene 2: Zoltan

By the time I arrived at the scene it was 1:30am, a mere half hour after the emergency text message had gone out. Already the park was fenced in and we could only get within a one-block radius of the square. People were arriving from all over the city, our numbers were growing quickly, and the police decided to push us back before more supporters arrived. There was spontaneous solidarity: along side many faces I recognized from the long weeks of occupation and many that I did not, we linked arms, we tried to stand our ground, we chanted that this was a peaceful protest and we were met with wanton violence. The police had hardly started to move and already to my right three people were pepper-sprayed, a man to my left was being repeatedly gouged in the stomach with a police baton. A few minutes later we were penned in and the police were grabbing people at random from the crowd and arresting them. They made a small opening and now were throwing people violently through it. One man had fallen to the ground, and the cops did not step in to help him up, but rather kept throwing more people out towards him, tripping and stepping on him as he was down. When we tried to help him up we were met with batons, shoved and cursed at.

October 6, 2011

Beyond Barricades and Privilege: Reflections from the #OccupyWallStreet Community/Labor March

By Sonny Singh

Yesterday was a great day in New York City.  Tens of thousands joined the #OccupyWallStreet movement in downtown Manhattan, demanding an economic system that ensures justice for working people, students, the unemployed – the 99%.

It’s been a little over a week since I began going down to Liberty Square to support and participate and exactly a week since our desi bloc block of the movement’s Declaration over our concerns about it obfuscating the history and present realities of systemic racism and other forms of oppression.  I have to say that yesterday, as I marched while banging the hell out of my dhol alongside so many passionate and angry and hopeful and beautiful people from so many different walks of life, the color and vibe of this movement may very well be shifting in a promising direction.

With a huge presence of labor unions and community organizations taking to the streets yesterday, the culture on the ground felt and looked really different: it looked like New York City.  I saw posters in Punjabi, Farsi, Mandarin, and Spanish (and probably missed many other languages as I was pretty focused on my dhol), an indigenous people’s contingent, tons of POCs from grassroots organizations like FIERCE!, NYCPP, CAAAV, Make the Road New York and the Arab American Association of NY.