‘Bay Area Anarchists’ weigh in on Oakland riot

I don’t usually publish anonymous missives, but despite having had no answer to my plea for the author to identify himself or herself, I’m going to go ahead and post this e-mail I received this morning entitled “An Anarchist Perspective on the ‘Violence’ of the Oscar Grant Riots.” I think the community is sufficiently concerned with Oscar Grant’s killing and its aftermath that it’s worth it to post this and start a dialogue, even if the source is unclear.

So here it is, in its entirety:

The news of the riots that followed the shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant has sensationally occupied the headlines of Bay Area newspapers and television programs over the last week. These reports have focused almost exclusively on the vandalism of local businesses and cars and have remained chillingly silent on the topic of the police violence that occurred that evening. The troubling assumption made throughout all of the reportage is that the destruction of storefront facades and car windows somehow equates to the horrific execution of Oscar, and that it justified the police violence against demonstrators that night.

As anarchists who were involved in the demonstrations, we fully reject the notion that the vandalizing of private property could ever be weighed against the violence committed against not only Oscar Grant, but against youth of color every day by police and the prison system. This way of thinking, that gives property more value than people, is what allows the violence of the police to become dangerously normalized and unquestioned.

At the time of this writing, the police officer that executed Oscar Grant in cold blood still walks the streets without criminal charges, while some of those arrested during the demonstration are locked away in prison awaiting trial and will likely face harsh sentences. The violent system that so quickly punishes those who demonstrated while simultaneously protecting the murderer of Oscar Grant should be the target of our collective criticism and condemnation, not the angry youth who reacted to the shooting in the streets that night. While Bay Area journalists have presented themselves as being objective reporters of the aforementioned events, their reports and broadcasts repeatedly reveal their bias in favor of the police when recounting the evening of the demonstrations. The endless images of smashed windows and burned cars, and the litany of condemnations of “lawlessness” and “destruction” serve to obscure the most violent events of the night, and indeed the only violence perpetrated against human beings: the brutal police beatings of protesters. One witness described a police officer beating a protester on the head so severely his bike helmet was split in two. Another described how police made over 70 protesters lie down on their stomachs in positions that eerily echoed Oscar Grant’s pose as he was shot. A visibly pregnant woman was screaming in pain after being attacked by police. It is clear to us that the police were protecting private property and not human beings that night. We are disgusted by this, and we condemn Bay Area journalists for being complicit with police violence by attempting to justify their actions.

A very distorted and troubling view of what constitutes violence in our society is perpetuated by the current coverage. A car does not scream in agony when it burns, and similarly a storefront facade does not sob when its plate glass window shatters to the sidewalk below. It is true that the cost of replacing cars and windows may be a burden for the working-class people who were affected, and that is certainly regrettable. However, there is simply no comparison between those costs and the brutal consequences of police violence. The youth who were brutalized by police the night of the demonstration will have to live with their injuries and traumas for years to come, and Oscar Grant cannot be replaced. We call on the public to recognize the real violence in our society – the violence of the police, the prisons and the politicians. As long as police and corrupt politicians protect the cop that killed Oscar, as long as youth of color are continuously attacked and criminalized by the police and court system, as long as property is valued over people – we will not grieve over the property vandalized on Wednesday night.

-Bay Area Anarchists

UPDATE @ 3:36 P.M. TUESDAY: This just in from the above e-mail’s still-anonymous author: “Thanks for your response and interest in our statement. We are choosing to remain anonymous for the time being due to possible legal complications. However, feel free to post the statement on your blog; if you must use a name you can attribute the statement to ‘Barry Cade.’ We will continue to check this email for future correspondence and media requests.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR

    Not worth a dialogue.

  • Steven

    Not worth a dialogue, are you f**king insane? We live in a police state, a TOTALITARIAN REGIME. Der Furher Reagan, Bush and Bush Jr. (the King Georges if you will, remember freedom? That’s what we thought we had when we removed King George from our country almost 300 years age-wake up!) RR YOU’RE NOT WORTH A DIALOGUE, I have no idea why you are permitted on this blog response. As far as the BART police…yeah, the brothers sometimes are rowdy, and other times they aren’t. I remember reading on the train one time and they were just talking whatever, I had homework to read so I was going to read as much as I could, as often as possible. Sometimes I can read, sometimes people are noisy, again whatever, the cops come in, bart cops,and they come in from the other train and start giving these guys the hassle, [guilty before proven innocent]. I stand up and I’m like, “you know what sirs-we were doing just fine until you guys got here actually, I was reading, I’m a graduate student, and this time you guys are the noisy ones, how about that?” The cops threaten me just like anybody, I’m as zero to them as they are me. One of the kids said something later like, “dude they hella cold, I appreciate you sayin something other than straight dis.” I say Fubar to the police and fubar to RR.

  • Sounds like Revolutionary Books out of Berkeley.

  • tim

    Steven, take a deep breath. “TOTALITARIAN REGIMES” don’t surrender power. Reagan did, Bush 41 did, even Clinton did. If George Bush is not on flying back to Texas next Tuesday afternoon, please continue to throw around phrases like “TOTALITARIAN REGIME”, if he leaves, well, find another word. One of the most incredible events for this country is that regardless of war, depresssions, terrorism and whatever crises has occured we change leaders peacfully and regularly.

    Do police commit crimes? Sometimes. Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don’t. It’s an imperfect system, breaking the windows of decent hardworking people won’t fix it.

  • J

    Steven said:
    “I have no idea why you are permitted on this blog response”

    Steve, the reason RR is permitted is because we have freedom of speech in this great country, brought to you by our 1st Amendment. You think we live in a totalitarian regime, but you are wrong. We have freedom. Why would you want to silence someone like Steven who doesn’t share the same opinion as you? Your way of thinking is Totalitarian. in this great country we tolerate other people’s point of view even if you disagree with it. That is the ultimate freedom, the free flow of ideas and opinions. You don’t have to like other people’s opinions, but that shouldn’t mean we silence people we don’t agree with.

  • Robert

    This is sheer lunacy. Did MLK riot to get his point across? Enough said. Now, a group is going to use an identity that in itself states they cause anarchy. Hmm, try that crap in my town, the police would be your savior. Consider yourselves lucky that you were in Oakland, and under a watchful eye. Its people like you that bring down the mentality of the US, and make us the laughing stock of the world. People like you are exactly what people from other places in the world despise. Grow up idiot!!

  • TS

    Can any one of these so-called anachists answer and tell me exactly what it is you want? Would it make you feel better if they just removed the police presence entirely? Or should we just lynch the officer over the Fruitvale BART tracks? Go ahead and kill each other off all you want, far as I’m concerned…Make no mistake, the BART cop that pulled the trigger was dead wrong, and will pay his price in prison for it as he well should, but you so-called “anarchists” are fully delusional. You really think rioting will solve the problem? It only exacerbates it,moron… You say you value people over property, until it comes to YOUR personal property. F’n hypocrites on the largest scale. You act like dogs, you get treeated like dogs. Act civil and responsible and SMART, then you get what justice you’re looking for. Way to piss away whatever cmmunity support you had after this tragic event. Do us all a favor, and finish the job tonight by burning down your mess of a city.

  • jimothy j jones

    J said: “in this great country we tolerate other people’s point of view even if you disagree with it”
    -Not true, people who disagree are herded in to “free-speech zones”, beaten, gassed, and jailed.

    The author draws a distinction between human life being sacred and material property being the equivalent of garbage in comparison to the value of human life. The author is correct that life has more value than property, unfortunately that is not how the state, media, and majority of public feels.

    Oscar Grant is You. You and I are next if we don’t make sure this doesn’t happen again. We are next to be executed in the streets. They did the right thing by charging him with murder.

  • TS

    > “We are next to be executed in the streets.”

    What a fallacy…Oscar Grant might be you only if you are out looking for trouble, like I don’t know…maybe burning public property for starters, or being involved in a huge fight on a BART train. Way to slant the truth to suit your point though.

  • Elwood

    Typical anarchist BS.

    They have no compunctions at all against lying.

    Strange that there is no corroboration whatsoever of the allegations of police beatings.

  • Anarchist

  • MLK

    MLK was against rioting, and he actually changed the world PEACEFULLY, through civil disobediance and education. Not by being a retard and rioting.

  • RR- Your an idiot

    Steven-If your point is that the police are tools for a higher authority, and that for a determined period that authority can oppress and manipulate the population they govern, I agree

    Hypocritawhatever- Your naive stereotypes and all around lack of critical analysis will probably be detrimental to you when trying to understand the chaos you will undoubtedly find yourself in soon.

    Tim- your acceptance of an imperfect system is despicable

    J- I do not appreciate your words. They bore me.

    Robert- MLK died for what he believed in. Other than that, you don’t really say anything worth considering.

    TS- Have fun with your blindfold. I’m going to do whatever I want.

    Jimithy j jones- I like you. Do and say more things.

    TS- Say something intelligent and give an example

    Elwood- Big words are meaningless when they are used incorrectly.

    Anarchist- Lol

    MLK- Way to go. You are obviously a true leader and should propose a new world order for us to live in, since you fully understand what it takes to change the world. And yet, 40 years after MLK was murdered, another unarmed boy is killed by a man with a gun. Good thing the world changed.

    I am an anarchist. I deliver freedom to all who choose to accept it. I promote chaos, for the sake of chaos. I am for the disintegration of the system, whatever that may be. I am for violence, I am for pain, I am for the refusal to obey. I am for the people, and I am against all that hinder me in my endeavors. I am the product of a diseased and dying society, and I will produce death. I am everlasting life, of which only the willing, the brave, the lost, and the enraged will know and cherish. I am the epitome of suffocating creativity. I AM GOD.

    Challenge me, hurt me, disrespect me, torture me, kill me, fight me, destroy me; and you will be removed. This land belongs to me. The society you live in is my arena. It is my playground.

    Besides, broken windows just look prettier…don’t they 🙂

  • AoT

    “Steven, take a deep breath. “TOTALITARIAN REGIMES” don’t surrender power. Reagan did, Bush 41 did, even Clinton did.”

    Presidents are not regimes, presidents are the heads of governments. I think you need to read a little more before you criticize others.

  • Paul Kersey

    The anarchists are nothing but a bunch of racists who hate blacks. They want to start problems in Oakland in hopes of inciting young black youths to fight the police. Once the riots have started, the anarchists will disappear and leave the black kids holding the bag. I heard that female anarchist talk about how their success will depend on how many problems they can creat through others. Anarchists stay away, we don’t need you in Oakland. You don’t benefit anyone but yourselves and your weird sense of satisfaction.

  • Elwood

    What Paul said!

    Anarchists are the scum of the earth.

  • BHO

    The anarchists above are proper foot soldiers of the Democrat Party, using violence and fear to push their agenda of anti-Republican, anti-capitalism, and anti-white platforms. I don’t see why anyone is surprised by their viewpoints and means of expressing those viewpoints…the Obama administration pushes this polarization, as do Democrat representatives from Stark to Brown. These viewpoints are expressed in schools around the bay area, as well as in the media.

  • anarchistsaredumb

    anarchists are no better than the evil violent cops that go over the line when arresting young black youths. It pisses me off when i hear someone say they are ‘god’ because they are a violent person. ALL you did was bring MORE unchecked aggression towards young black people in Oakland. Why don’t you start problems in your own town?
    BART ran on time that night, the one corporation that was solely responsable for all of this. you’re a walking joke. You ruined everything. Pigs.

  • Joe

    Anarchists are government controlled agent provocateurs working overtime to bring in their NWO. The people are awakening. We know what you are and who you are. You are agents of the system. You will be defeated.