I woke up with aches in 3-4 places on my body, including my head, from being unceremoniously tackled to the pavement of Oakland’s Broadway Street by an enormous cop last night — mere minutes after the 150ish-person March against Police and State Violence had left Oscar Grant Plaza (on stolen Turtle Island land). We were already far outnumbered by police, enormous in quantity and physical size. And of course, they were none too happy about the demonstration’s theme. Yet they were unexpectedly offensive (in both senses of the word) from the get-go, which is why I was caught — literally — off balance.
My particular assailant wasn’t particularly going after me. I was simply the body in the way of him — a white male him — along with many other of his gang racing at full, lightning speed from what seemed all corners and crevices to pounce on one person, soon lead away under arrest. But “my” cop stormed headlong into me, swatted me aside like a bug, and thus flung me hard on the concrete. I felt the aches starting, my eyeglasses flying off to land in the darkness, and many other bodies running on all sides above me; I peered down the street at the now-blurry lights of cop cars all around.
Two folks kindly grabbed my arms, pulling me up, and then grabbed my glasses, and dragged me — and themselves — quickly to the sidewalk. That’s what solidarity looks like, as I’ve seen time and again, on the streets. Someone thinks to remember someone else, even though they too are under threat.
Within what was likely less than 15 minutes from the start of this FTP march, OPD had engaged in an aggressive and highly successful strategy of running at demonstrators from all angles, as if out of nowhere. Rather than tail behind us for a good while, and then call out a dispersal order and create a big kettle, last night they almost immediately set about brutally breaking us apart by sheer bodily force without warning. Some were arrested; some were hurt; most were scattered.
The few who huddled around street corners, regrouping for a few minutes to touch base, mumbled, “This isn’t working.” Or, “We need to try something new.” “Or, “Maybe this is the new OPD under the new mayor.”
All I could think, and still do, is, “This is nothing.”
Nothing as in, it’s clear — if and since it wasn’t before — that police murder people daily with no, with zero, consequences — mostly killing people of color, but also transpeople, queer, those with mental health concerns, those in wheelchairs or without homes… Of course police now, increasingly, feel freed up to hurt those protesting such cold-blooded murders. Laws are swiftly following to make sure there’s some sort of justification.
But also, nothing as in, we seem to be able to do nothing to stop the violence of state and police, of capital and white supremacy. There’s so much resistance, so much bravery, and the norm of injustice becomes part of everyday life: a black mom of two teens murdered by cops in Emeryville less than two weeks ago; a man shot dead by police in San Jose two days ago, and another shot by cops in Oakland yesterday, perhaps still in critical condition, perhaps dead; yesterday’s two-year anniversary of a black transwoman dying suspiciously in cop custody in Berkeley, and San Francisco’s DA deciding not to press any charges against any of the 4 cops and some 20 other helper-cops who killed Alex Nieto with 59 shots on Bernal Hill just 11 months ago.
That police now shoot first, and the state and its “justice” system put out lies to rationalize it, and the populace mostly eats up the blatant fairyt ales like candy, only emboldens others to kill and lie, too. And so three people, Muslims, are executed in North Carolina just days ago, among so many others slain by nonstatist citizen-vigilantees.
That I am aching this morning is nothing. We demonstrators are not, at least for now, the ones the cops target 24/7 as bullet practice.
That I am aching has so much more to do with existential pain than physical, with despair that it’s not rhetoric anymore that we live in a police state, as the state of this society — settled on stolen land and stolen bones; built on stolen labor and stolen lives — and any remaining humanity falls apart.
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(Photo by Cindy Milstein, sticker-art, with illustration by Warrior Creations [https://www.etsy.com/shop/warriorinspiration], Bay Area, February 14, 2015.)