for comrade Jack
video of courtroom melee aftermath: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztM1irbAvZI
This past Tuesday morning, nearly 100 people gathered at Oscar Grant Plaza to say goodbye to Jack. Jack was arrested on January 7, 2012 during the very first FTP march in downtown Oakland. This march was called as a response to OPD and the local Oakland state apparatus' repression of all rebellious elements in Oakland with brute force in the wake of Occupy Oakland. After clearing the encampment at Oscar Grant Plaza twice, a struggle over territory in Oakland's downtown became a near daily event. Some would try to hold on to Oscar Grant Plaza as a zone where struggles could be coordinated and actions organized. A twenty four hour vigil continued even as the camp was gone. After many brutal arrests and regular brawls with pigs over control of downtown turf, a Fuck the Police march, that ended up becoming a weekly tradition for months, was called for the first Saturday of January. It was at this demonstration on January 7 that Jack was arrested and given bullshit charges – multiple felonies for assaulting a police officer and a made up “possession of an explosive device” charge that would eventually be dropped due to lack of any evidence. A year long court battle eventually resulted in Jack taking a plea deal: 1 year at Santa Rita Jail (though with “half-time” and “good behavior” he'll be out in six months) and multiple years of probation.
Together with our comrade and his family leading the way we walked quietly in the street some eight blocks to the court house. About 50 of us somberly filed into the courtroom. Jack was called before judge Carrie Panetta (daughter in law of former CIA director Leon Panetta) who rambled about the length of his sentence. She banned our friend from ever making contacts with “his victims” (as though pigs can be victims!) otherwise known as officers of the Oakland Police Department. After agreeing to the year long sentence, with only half to be served, the judge ordered the bailiffs take Jack into custody. Almost immediately dozens of people were clapping and hissing. Screams filled the air. “Burn the prisons!” “Fuck the police!” “Death to pigs!” “Hang the Judges!” “Pig Fuckers!”“Brick by brick, tear this court to the ground!” People stomped on the ground, cursed the judged, and brought smiles to the dozen or so inmates being sentenced that day. It was a modest yet appropriate response to a system that tears loved ones away from each other and reproduces the laws that defend the horrors in this world Jack was resisting in the first place.
After a minute or so of yelling we decided on our own accord to leave the court. By the time half of us were in the hallway the bailiffs had been ordered to arrest at least one person. These court-pigs rushed into the crowd with tazers and extendible batons. By the end of the pig-initiated melee four people were in custody and dozens of others were fleeing the courthouse. Family members of other prisoners were pleased with our disruption and shouted, “Fuck the police!” from passing cars. Another person leaving the courthouse in the aftermath of the fight nodded in approval and stated “I want friends like y'all”. We do not mention this to inflate our egos or position ourselves as a vanguard. This is merely evidence to prove that the people of Oakland continue to identify the courts and pigs as the enemy despite media representations to the contrary.
Oakland experienced a social explosion in 2011, an explosion no anarchist could have foreseen. One that soaked our wettest dreams. Inspiration drawn from concurrent struggles throughout the United States and across the world fed the naivety of even the most seasoned street fighters. Oakland seemed to be in the midst of an insurrectionary moment. It would not be long before the consequences of a year long social rupture caught up with us.
A wave of repression continues to crest over the West Coast. In the Bay Area alone many dozens of our comrades are in jail, on probation, or facing charges. Squats have been evicted and our social centers are under the gun. From the Bay to Seattle houses have been raided, grand juries have been convened, comrades are in prison, others have fled, and some have cowardly turned their backs on us in cooperation with the State. We acknowledge our stories are not unique. This wave of repression has crashed down on multiple cities across North America and the world.
Sometimes we drown in our collective hopelessness. We take cover in our homes. We cradle ourselves with distractions. We cope with silence. Last Tuesday we spontaneously chose a different path. We grieved loudly. The reality of yet another loved one ripped from us proved to be too much. If only for a moment their halls of justice were graffitied with disruptive screams and we brought the Oakland Commune to our enemy's pig pen. We hope memories of yesterday will bring strength to our friends behind bars. This time the gavel did not delay our resistance. Our hopelessness has again turned into rage. May our struggles reflect such a turn.
Fire to the prisons. Fuck the police.
Freedom to our comrades. Freedom to all prisoners.
Postscript: As of Friday January 11, all four comrades arrested in the courtroom melee have been released from Santa Rita. Only one has appeared in court and his charges are not being filed at this time by the DA. Hopefully the same will be true with the other three who have court in February.