Friday, August 15th, 2008 at 3:29 pm in Oakland Museum.
I have been thinking a lot about the upcoming elections and democracy in the United States. Some of my thoughts were sparked, or more accurately intensified, by the weekend of Aug. 1, which I wrote about in the following blog entry because I was covering a Night Owl event that was intensely political and thought provoking. Art and resistance together. The entry turned out way too long for one post so I am breaking it into sections.
Aug. 1: The recreation Saturday of a 1969 Angela Davis speech in the same West Oakland park she spoke 29 years ago stirred political tensions – exactly what it was supposed to do.
Even the park’s rightful name – Bobby Hutton or DeFremery – appeared to be a long-simmering point of contention that flashed last night, Friday, between artists, “community members” and activists on hand to discuss the Port Huron Project.
They gathered at the Oakland Museum, which got folks warmed up with a screening of “Chicago 10,” a documentary about the mockery of a trial that followed the police riot in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. In those days, convention delegates chose presidential candidates.
Angela Davis made the 1969 speech two weeks after Bobby Seale was chained and gagged during the Chicago trial.
My blood freezes every time I see footage of herds of police closing in on protesters with clubs and tear gas. “I think that film can ignite and inspire people,” said Black Panther Minister of Culture, Emory Douglas, who was on hand Friday for the screening. “Thunk, Thunk” is the sickly sound the clubs made on people’s bodies, like a scene from the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
(Or, if you prefer, the April 7, 2003 demonstration at the Port of Oakland when police fired wooden dowels, tear gas, concussion grenades, rubber bullets and string balls at protestors who refused to disperse. Police also hit nine longshoremen waiting to go to work. Okay. It wasn’t anything close to a massacre but it was an example of authorities blurring the line between terrorism and dissent. Days before the march, a California’s Anti Terrorism Information Center http://ag.ca.gov/antiterrorism spokesman told Oakland Police that, “You can make an easy kind of link that is you have a group protesting a war where the cause that’s being fought is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that [protest]. You can almost argue that protest against that is a terrorist act,” according to a report by the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute.)
“I’m emotionally wrung out. How do you guys feel?” said Rene de Guzman, the senior art curator for the Oakland Museum, who moderated a discussion after the film about the Port Huron Project 5: The Liberation of our People.
The audience responded with applause.