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“It’s hard to begin to understand that the drift in American life towards chaos is masked by all these smiling faces and do good efforts.” James Baldwin
Over the last two weeks in the East Bay, we have been in the streets night after night. In spite of tear gas, flash bang grenades and mass arrests, our numbers and nightly presence have increased. These recent protests in Oakland and Berkeley have included many different constituencies but also featured struggles over leadership, tactics and decision-making.
After months of escalating protests and grassroots organizing in response to the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, police reformers have issued many demands. The moderates in this debate typically qualify their rhetoric with "We all know we need police, but..." It's a familiar refrain to those of us who've spent years in the streets and the barrios organizing around police violence, only to be confronted by officers who snarl, "But who'll help you if you get robbed?" We can put a man on the moon, but we're still lacking creativity down here on Earth.
A three-month Fusion investigation that reviewed hundreds of pages of records from five police departments with body camera programs reveals that the way body cameras are used usually serve police more than citizens charging misconduct. And in the data from two cities provided to Fusion, there was little evidence police body cameras reduced police involved shootings or use of force incidents.
Last week you released a statement addressing the Ferguson protests in Portland. Of the several concerns you have for future demonstrations you seem fixated on demonstrators blocking streets, intersections and highways. You add that blocking highways is "foolish and dangerous." There seems to be some confusion on your end in this regard. Blocking traffic is a sign of civil disobedience. It is illegal and it can also be dangerous but the reason demonstrators are doing it, and have been since the struggle for civil rights, is because it brings attention to your everyday, perhaps apathetic, citizens.
A young black person was killed, many people brave enough to take to the streets in the aftermath were injured and arrested, and the only real consequences the police will face will be changes designed to increase their efficiency at spinning the news or handling the crowds, the next time they kill someone. Because amidst all the inane controversies, that is one fact that no one can dispute: the police will kill again, and again, and again. A disproportionate number of their targets will be young people of color and transgender people, but they have also killed older people, like John T. Williams, Bernard Monroe, and John Adams, and white people too. The Right has seized on a couple cases of white youth being killed by cops, like Dillon Taylor or Joseph Jennings, throwing questions of proportion out the window in a crass attempt to claim the police are not racist.
If you were asleep in 2013, stop-and-frisk -- or as the NYPD would have it, stop-question-and-frisk -- was a policy under which New York police could interrogate and search people under extremely vague criteria of suspicion. (To get a sense of that vagueness, spend a minute browsing this Twitter account, which uses real stop-and-frisk reports.)
Yesterday, 1,500 people gathered downtown infront of the justice center. This place is not only the central precinct for the police, but also serves as a jail. The perfect place to hold a rally within the context of darren wilson, and police violence in general. This event was organizing by the AMA coalition, a group host organizations that are known collaborators with the police. Old church men who would rather sing songs to them, and invite the police chief himself, then confront them.
In a city whose life is based on commerce and exchange of goods, to block all commercial channels means to interrupt normality. You might say: “This will cause discomfort.” We answer that we feel much more discomfort in pretending that this is all normal, that cops murder black teenagers and that banks and multinationals are deciding our future. When insecurity about life is turning into fear. When the final limits of social and environmental devastation are about to be reached.
As communities across the country wait on pins and needles for a Ferguson grand jury’s decision on whether or not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Mike Brown, artist Molly Crabapple breaks down at Fusion how the St. Louis suburb has once again made clear the police’s contentious relationship with black communities.
When communities attempt to police the police, they often get, well... policed. In several states, organized groups that use police scanners and knowledge of checkpoints to collectively monitor police activities by legally and peacefully filming cops on duty have said they've experienced retaliation, including unjustified detainment and arrests as well as police intimidation.