Rolling with the 'White Anarchists'

>> Saturday, July 9, 2011

I thought that headline would get your attention.

If you're looking for a blog about the mysterious, elusive, alleged 'outside agitators' who get all violent and cantankerous at protests in Oakland: you should read corporate ruling class press and not this post.

On Friday, July 8, I marched in Anti-Cut 3: Austerity is Prison" - an anti-austerity, anti-police state demonstration in downtown Oakland. The demonstration is 'organized' by Bay of Rage, an anti-capitalism initiative.

Last month, I documented Anti-Cut 2, the "Books not Cops" or "Mobile Disruption for Libraries" march to the Oakland Main Library. (I've yet to post my photos or blog post, however.) Although I didn't have my camera Friday night, I joined to march in solidarity with the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike. July 8 is also the one year 'anniversary' of the Johannes Mehserle verdict.

Over the past three years, I've documented about two dozen protests, from the Justice for Oscar Grant movement*, to transportation justice demonstrations* at MTC* and AC Transit, to public education demonstrations that have led me from Laney College to the Peralta Colleges District to the State >Capitol, and even on an Oakland freeway.

I'll admit; however, being at a demonstration without my camera was like being naked. Arguably, the freest I've felt in a while.

Photo: Andy Chu/Oakland Tribune

I crossed the street and joined. Mainly white men in the 20s and 30s, but there were men and women of various ethnicities, ages --including a few babies -- and even a few dogs marching.

Since the anti-war protests against the War in Iraq in 2003, I've begun to actively count African people I see at demonstrations. One, to sort of estimate our buy-in to the particular cause/issue, but two, to make sure "I'm not the only one." There's an urban legend that "Black people don't go to anti-war protests," but that was debunked (in my mind) in 2005. There were a few who were 'obviously' there at the demonstration who planned to be there, then there were my people who heard people marching, yelling "Fuck the Police," and finally had a collective outlet to express those unconscious, but conscious, inclinations. (see, first photo)

Oakland Police were adamant about keeping people confined to sidewalks. For a minute, it seemed as if they were even anti-pedestrian, and didn't want us to Walk Oakland or Bike Oakland* (Bay of Rage is very different from Oaklavia*).

As we walked down Broadway, we passed the Marriott and Smart & Final. I overheard on a police walkie-talkie, "Make sure they don't walk onto the freeway." On March 4, 2010, a group of over 160 marched onto the 980 freeway* in Oakland after police had tried to trap protests west of Preservation Park.

We marched through Old Oakland to the intersection of Clay and 8th Street: right across from North County Jail, Wiley E. Manuel Courthouse, and next to Mexicali Rose.

Demonstrators repeated told police, "Go back to Walnut Creek!" The majority of Oakland Police do not live in Oakland, and live in suburbs like Walnut Creek, Lafayette, and Castro Valley. "This is our city. Go home pigs!" Across from the jail, the crowd chanted, "Inside! Outside! We're all on the same side!" At one point, you could hear those inside Glenn Dyer Jail -- who often beat on the windows -- yelling in solidarity.

We then doubled back to 9th Street, back to Broadway. After police stopped the group -- prompting one man to yell, "They're trying to force us to go to 'Radio.' Hell no, we won't go!" referring to the bar next to Burger King, we stopped in front of the T-Mobile that used to house a beauty supply store.

13th Street Party

Folks were listening to music on the sidewalk as police hung out, blocking traffic on Broadway.

At 13th and Broadway, folks gathered and listened to some music. First, the DJ played "Don't Snitch" by Mac Dre, where folks proudly yelled, "Don't ask me shit! ... You can send me to jail!" People danced as police circled around us, between the bus shelter, the BART station escalator and the T-Mobile building.

The second song was "I got Five on it" by the Luniz. This was, ironically, the most telling thing about the evening. But first, a little more "context."

Last month during the anti-cut demonstration, I put my camera down for a minute and called on people to pull out their library cards. "If you really from Oakland, and you're down with the library, where's yo cards at?" I saw one person produce a card.

Flashback to 13th and Broadway, if you're gonna play that Luniz track, you play the remix with Shock G, E-40, Richie Rich and Spice 1. That's my opinion. Despite the fact that many of people present live in Oakland presently, I doubt it's been too long. Because when the hook (chorus) came on, everybody in Oakland knows this, we add an extra line to the song. Too Short's favorite word* is affectionately added. However, when the song played, I was the only one who said, "Biaatch!" It would've been embarrassing, except, I realized, they just didn't know about it.

Now, it could be that they didn't listen to 90s Bay Area Hip Hop. Maybe they only listened to Punk Rock. Or, they never went to a dance at Skyline, or Mack, or even an old school Waterfront Party in Berkeley. Nonetheless, it was a stark reminder of the decline of the Black population in Oakland, and how cultural institutions and colloquialisms can be co-opted, or lost, stolen and strayed.

Dispersing the Assembly
During a Rhianna song, Oakland Police declared the gathering at 13th and Broadway an unlawful assembly. Time to go. Considering that the City of Oakland is being sued right now by the National Lawyers Guild, I wasn't too surprised we were allowed to leave. On November 5, 2010, a group of people protesting the lenient sentence of Johannes Mehserle were arrested in East Oakland. Police did not allow people to disperse after allegedly calling for a dispersal order. As a member of the press, I was not allowed to leave until the then-police spokesperson recognized me. I'd refused to leave unless the Youth Radio documentarian I was with was allowed to leave also. Anyway, maybe I should have stayed and got paid.

Back to Broadway, in small groups, police 'allowed' us to leave the intersection, but it appeared they were trying to filtered people out. A few minutes passed before those near the boombox were allowed to leave. Police wanted to find the "leader." Good luck finding a leader amongst anarchists. "There is no leader!" one man yelled.

The group then headed down 13th towards Franklin. I tried to get busy in the Burger King bathroom, but the security guard closed the restaurant and wouldn't let me have it my way. The march continued, but I bounced.

Before leaving, the group began chanting, "We'll be back." There's an upcoming demonstration at Civic Center BART Station in San Francisco. The demonstration is for Charles B. Hill, the man shot by BART police because he was allegedly drunk on the station platform. If he'd been a banker, he would've been protected by the police, but instead, he was considered a nuisance and he was shot down.

As for me, I'll be sure to keep my phone charged and my camera handy. Although it is fun to yell, "Fuck the Police," and walk in the streets, I'd rather carry a camera than pots and pans.

Photos by Michael Conti, of, unless otherwise noted.



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