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Dignity and rage, dignity and freedom

July 14, 2010

by Malaika Kambon

A photographer at the 14th and Broadway speak-out carried his message on his hat. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
Just as in Haiti, what is in the streets when the people march or take political action is dignity and rage – and dignity and freedom.

This was so true when just days ago, on the 8th of July, 2010, when the people of the world took to the streets of Oakland to make our displeasure felt at the non-verdict delivered to the killer cop who assassinated Ancestor-Warrior Spirit Oscar Grant III in cold blood on a BART platform a year and a half ago, 1 January 2009.

We took our anger to the streets, 3,000 strong and more, expressing rebellion in civil action: speeches, warrior words, pain and determination. The various power structures that be – from the massed National Guard forces on standby alert to the “observer” (read: potential sniper) poised atop the highrise Citibank-Walgreen’s building at 14th and Broadway, to the boy and girl terrorists in blue (and assassin black rolling in unmarked black vans) and their toys on the streets – these arms of the state massed, with their corporate talking media heads, to bleat on about “outside agitators,” an outdated state rant characterized by a “red scare” commies-under-every-rock mentality.

They did this rant while they amassed thousands to beat on us for having the temerity to express outrage and to demand justice.

But that terminology is so ancient that it hasn’t even washed the blood of killing Paul Robeson off its bloody jaws.

Looking down on the crowd from atop the Citibank-Walgreen's highrise at 14th and Broadway was this man – a police sniper, observer, command post staffer? – Photo: Malaika Kambon
And it wasn’t “outside agitators” who consistently outflanked and outmanned the so-called finest of several different police departments – most of whom were definitely from outside of Oakland.

As in Haiti, it was thousands and thousands of us who don’t have shit. It was the lumpen proletariat that Comrade Field Marshall George Lester Jackson spoke of in “Soledad Brother” and “Blood in My Eye,” those who are underfed, under- and unemployed, old and young people, the ones of us who have very little or nothing at all in the way of material means and therefore nothing to lose but our chains.

“As he himself put it, he was from the ‘lumpen’. He was not part of the regular producer force of workers and peasants. Being cut off from the system of production, lumpen elements in the past rarely understood the society that victimized them and were not to be counted upon to take organized revolutionary steps within capitalist society. Indeed, the very term ‘lumpen proletariat’ was originally intended to convey the inferiority of this sector as compared with the authentic working class.

Standing in defiance of the army at his back, a protester holds up a sign stating Mehserle's lie. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
“Yet George Jackson, like Malcolm X before him, educated himself painfully behind prison bars to the point where his clear vision of historical and contemporary reality and his ability to communicate his perspective frightened the U.S. power structure into physically liquidating him. Jackson’s survival for so many years in vicious jails, his self-education, and his publication of ‘Soledad Brother’ were tremendous personal achievements, and in addition they offer an interesting insight into the revolutionary potential of the black mass in the USA, so many of whom have been reduced to the status of lumpen …” – from Walter Rodney’s “George Jackson, Black Revolutionary,” 1971.

I know these facts to be true, because I was there – at home in the streets with the true people of Oakland – photo-documenting as much as I could in the space between 14th and Broadway and the Fairyland and Grand Lake Theater sides of Lake Merritt.

Fast forward to Haiti for a minute. Haiti is an occupied country. Between 1791 and 1804, the masses of the people – enslaved AFRIKANs – threw off the yoke of chattel enslavement by defeating Euro-AmeriKKKa’s finest: France twice – the forces led by Napoleon Bonaparte and his brother in law – England and Spain, kicking them out of Haiti, despite Thomas Jefferson’s $400,000 “foreign aid” contribution to Napoleon. Haiti was the first AFRIKAN republic to achieve freedom.

WE WON! And it is the most significant thing in the universe to this day because it shows us that we can do so again.

Reminiscent of the Black Panther Party free food program: The enemy is frightened of an aware, educated people. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
But the ruling powers didn’t like their income being re-diverted back to the people from whence it was stolen. So they have been fighting a war of occupation against Haiti complete with weapons of mass destruction, U.S. puppet dictators, 34 coups d’etat, assassinations and disappearances of key people’s leaders, such as Lovinsky Pierre Antoine, ever since.

Compare, then, Haiti and the U.S. AFRIKAN communities of today. We are all in occupied territory. Our land, resources and vital wealth, especially our lives, are being stolen left and right. The U.S. is nothing but a vast imprisoning land mass, pockmarked by walls and barriers of the entrenched camps that house some of our best and finest AFRIKAN men, women and children.

Our lives are cheap to the powers that be, so the brutality, terrorization and murder of Oscar Grant III comes as no surprise to any of us. A Black man, woman, child still has no rights that a white person is bound to respect.

The world knows that Oscar Grant III was murdered and that his killers got away nearly scot-free.

So on 8 July 2010, people of the world rebelled – again, in Oakland. As historians know, there were many small battles and victories in Haiti, before the major victory in 1804. Such is still the case in Haiti today, damn the odds.

As people also know, there are those who insist that the AFRIKAN revolution in Haiti was inspired and led by the French.

That is such a lie.

By way of comparative analogy, there have been many small battles and major victories in Oakland. They have been inspired, conceived and led by the true people of Oakland.

Outside agitators … what outside agitators? Since when would we need someone from somewhere else to tell us that we’re angry?

People’s thoughts and anger were expressed in all kinds of signs. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
On that night, on the 8th of July, Foot Locker, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Sears, damn near everything for nearly two miles and more, going towards Lake Merritt and going towards Berkeley from 14th and Broadway, got hit.

People were still in the streets well past midnight, making our presence felt.

There were pigs EVERYWHERE. Someone standing next to me said that the last time he’d seen that many police, he was in Palestine, another country occupied by the “outside agitation” instigated by the U.S. and its subsidiaries.

Pepper spray, rubber bullets and tear gas were going off left, right and center.

But as many police as there were in the streets, they were getting outmaneuvered – every time they’d think they had the situation contained. But they didn’t. They tried to contain shit in a linear manner and it didn’t work.

The only thing they did really effectively is kept people from getting to Jack London Square.

Police were out in force and were heavily armed. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
They didn’t start trying to bum rush people until it was way too late. They had snipers in tall buildings and people in tall buildings looking down on the crowd taking pictures – visibly. But this too was to no immediate avail.

They were pissed. But it didn’t matter.

National Lawyer’s Guild reps, attorney Walter Riley, who was grabbed by the throat, choked and arrested, the Prison Law Office and other people’s legal and medical teams were on the ground observing – but the pigs were getting outflanked.

And as heavily armed as they were – being pissed and having carte blanche to kill is a dangerous combination in the hands of the police. Oscar Grant’s murderer damn near acquitted is testimonial to this.

This writer’s concern is that the pigs are just pissed off enough to start leaving bodies on the ground. They’ve won in the courts, but they’re losing in the streets. They don’t like the trial in the streets – and they don’t like being outmaneuvered. And they were packed so tightly that if they’d started shooting, the odds are good that they’d have killed some of their own.

They were also moving differently tactically than normal: They just stood and watched Foot Locker get trashed. They crept up slowly and contained people in a one-block square around the Foot Locker.

How many cops does it take to capture a Blackman? – Photo: Malaika Kambon
But even that wasn’t successful. What they did in the beginning, I think, was they tried to establish a perimeter that people couldn’t get past and surround and contain.

The problem for them though, was that it didn’t work. People knew we were surrounded. It just didn’t really matter.

People just waited until the pigs camped in what they thought was a contained, disbursed area. Then another section of Broadway was taken over, further forward, forcing them to keep establishing these mini-Maginot lines further and further down Broadway, as far as 25th Street and Broadway Auto Row, stringing themselves out thinner and thinner. They would do this repeatedly across streets hoping in vain that they could contain something that was already gone. It was a useless effort, because people would just start moving in a different pattern. This pissed the pigs off even more and they had to call re-enforcements for the re-enforcements.

That didn’t do any good either, for there is a fairly large stretch of Broadway – at least 10-12 blocks – that has some big holes in it.

I’ll bet they weren’t happy about their street signs being broken off either, as this could certainly confuse some of the “outsiders” coming in!

Two police toys: the Arctic Cat car and what I suspect is the $700,000 LRAD weapon capable of flattening a crowd utilizing sonic waves. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
It was so strange to watch. The pigs had all kinds of vehicles and state of the art equipment, but tactically they were being outmaneuvered by a huge crowd of unarmed, untrained people who were on foot, using alleys and city grids to advantage for fighting when confronted with a more heavily armed and mobile force.

People watched and learned, had tactical direction – forward – while staying outside of being boxed in after the first encounter. There weren’t small groups of 50-60 youngsters left after the rally to be jumped on by a horde of pigs, as in previous rebellions. There were literally thousands of people in the streets. Damn what the corporate media says was 200 to 300 at best.

Some people got busted early on – white mostly – but more and more people materialized seemingly out of thin air.

It was fascinating seeing people walk by with big bags of shoes right in front of the police. It was even more fascinating to see Foot Locker being trashed and see shoes and clothes go flying in the air. It was eerie though to watch the pigs do absolutely NOTHING to stop it.

Clothes and shoes from the Foot Locker raid were tossed into the air. Police looked on and did nothing. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
They let the corporate media come in after the fact and take all the pictures they wanted. People’s media kept getting blocked, though. It was something to worry about: watching fully armed squadrons of pigs, even in cars, just standing or sitting around watching property destruction and not doing jack sh*t about it. That to me is analogous to watching a hungry lion sitting and watching a herd of deer walk gracefully by and not try to eat them.

Bet they didn’t tell their corporate sponsors about that.

I didn’t make it to the speak-out at the Eastside Alliance. Too much speaking out was going on in the downtown O.

Oh yeah … The rally was peaceful – mostly. The city tried to sneak in their outside agitators crap; speakers put that down flat and the crowd cheered wildly. Bobby Hutton’s niece, I think, told people to remember their history and to learn their 10-point Black Panther Party platform. She said that what was happening today wasn’t new and had happened virtually in the same spot years ago. (See “The Black Panther Party Ten Point Platform and Program, 1966: What We Want, What We Believe.”)

There was some back and forth between real folks and folks it seems the city might have paid to “pacify” people. Folks aren’t anywhere close to being pacified.

All kinds of bus detours were happening. I had to walk for miles before I found a bus running regularly enough to get me to my house … didn’t make it home until about 1:00 a.m.

Heard folks marched in Los Angeles.

Youngsters making creative use of paper masks of Oscar Grant’s smiling face summarized the crowd’s most urgent demand. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
Panthers are popping up everywhere. The tremendous revolutionary potential of the AFRIKAN masses, people of color and those who are true allies has been proven before.

But in the end, it’s about the dignity and freedom of an AFRIKAN people who will no longer be denied. To paraphrase Comrade George: They will not ever count the true AFRIKAN people of Oakland among the broken. We are the most wretchedly oppressed. We have taken the vanguard position at the most dangerous point of our struggle for dignity and freedom.

We are not misfits. We are not “outsiders.” We are the street forces.

We have put the state and imperialism on the defensive by refusing to let Ancestor-Warrior Oscar Grant III’s murder be in vain: swept under the rug, mislabeled as a “righteous shoot,” ignored or forgotten. We forced the foolish mayor and his cronies to extradite Johannes Mehserle, Pirone, Domenici, and BART back to their kangaroo courts. We forced police resignations. We may have forced a federal investigation and human rights lawsuits as well.

Observer attorneys Riva McIntyre from the National Lawyers Guild and Walter Riley from the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund confer. Mr. Riley was later assaulted, choked and arrested by police. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
None of this will bring Ancestor-Warrior Oscar Grant III’s physical being back to us. But it will keep him and his strength and his sacrifice close in our hearts, minds, spirits and souls forever and beyond.

We showed the world what truly went down, by using their multi-million dollar technology to bite them in the ass. We’ve taken to the streets, refusing to be pacified, refusing to forget, refusing to let our anger – or our intelligence – get misdirected or redirected.

We are forging unity in struggle. The power of the people, being led by the most oppressed of us, is speaking.

People internationally stand in solidarity with the struggles of the family of Oscar Grant III.

“One, two, three, many Oaklands …”: This is the shout that is being heard around the world.

Our enemies have our coldest regards.

A luta continua. Pamojas tutashinda. (The struggle continues. Together we will win.)

Malaika Kambon is a freelance photojournalist who can be reached at kambonrb@pacbell.net. Photography by People’s Eye Photography.

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