Sign O’ The Times: BART police sticker intervention

July 22, 2010 at 5:38 am 6 comments

Hit 'em where it hurts, BART sticker intervention, July 2010

On hemmed-in ground, use subterfuge.

–Sun Tzu

Just a quick shoutout regarding a nice little intervention that’s followed in the wake the Johannes Mehserle verdict a couple weeks ago. Short, sweet, and to the point, these little gems have apparently been popping up on BART trains throughout the Bay Area. I haven’t found images of any of them in situ so if you happen to see one pasted up somewhere on your next BART ride be sure to whip out your cameraphone & document it for me. If you send me a pic I’ll post it for sure.

The Mehserle verdict was frustrating in so many ways, but even more aggravating was the mainstream media’s utterly predictable and fairly irresponsible response to it. The day of the verdict you could almost smell the anticipation on the breath of the cable news networks’ spokesmodels as they hopefully waited on the streets of Oakland for a riot to break out. Oakland residents managed to defy expectations as hundreds of people peacefully rallied for several hours after the verdict was announced, and it was only after most of those folks had gone home that a few goons trashed some storefronts and stole some running shoes. I’m not discounting the idiocy of the vandalism that happened that night but for the most part damage was contained to about 5 blocks in downtown Oakland.

Exercising constitutional rights, Oakland, July 8, 2010

It’s telling that, of the 79 people arrested that night, prosecutors only filed charges against nine of them. Even more significantly, of those arrested 75% were not from Oakland and twelve of them weren’t even from the state of California. This reflects a common pattern of police repression that’s been honed in recent anti-capitalist demonstrations worldwide, most recently at the G-20 summit in Toronto.

As Loius Proyect, aka The Unrepentant Marxist, notes in his blog, what happened in Oakland followed a well-worn scenario:

There’s a mass demonstration. A layer of people do a split from that march and then some engage in expressing their rage against the system by smashing windows and other acts. Given the world we live in, it is surprising that more of this doesn’t happen more often.
In response, the police hold back until the main march disperses. They wait for some damage to be done, and then they go on the offensive. They round-up and brutalize everyone left on the streets, including passers-by, peaceful protesters and those engaged in property damage. In Seattle, Quebec, Genoa, etc. this script has played out over and over again. The police wait until the mass organisations leave, then go after the rest. This strategy suggests that the police and the state are keenly aware of who they want—and don’t want—to provoke.

The events in Oakland suggest that, onced again, we were played both by the police and by the complicity of the mass media. If the powers-that-be have perfected the art of misrepresenting peaceful protests as riots and discouraging the average citizen from any form of dissent, then continuing to utilize creative interventionism as a revolutionary tactic is an absolute must. As 19th-century Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz famously stated, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Street protest is a venerable form of dissent, but if properly done, small, sneaky activist artworks like the BART sticker above can also pack a mighty wallop.

For a more detailed analysis of the Mehserle verdict and aftermath, go to Davey D’s blog here.

UPDATE: Nov. 5, 2010. Johannes Mehserle’s sentence has just been announced–he got 2 years, which was the minimum about of jail time he could have received. The gun enhancement charge, which could have added up to 10 years to Mehserle’s sentence, was thrown out by Judge Robert Perry. With time served, Mehserle could be released as early as February 2011, or in about three months. In my opinion there are no words to describe how stunningly wrong this is.

Entry filed under: activism, civil rights, interventionism, politics, Uncategorized, visual art. Tags: , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. huckle  |  July 22, 2010 at 6:21 am

    I thought it was gross how the Chronicle article showed a pic of two guys/opportunists breaking into a store… surrounded by photographers with humungous cameras plastered to their faces. Six years after I moved back to SF, I still wish I lived in Oakland. There’s a real warmth in its diversity–very different to San Francisco–that I just haven’t found here in the city.

    Reply
    • 2. valeriesoe  |  September 18, 2010 at 9:00 pm

      The gulf between the media version of Oakland vs. the reality of Oakland is sometimes astoundingly large. But it sells more advertising to show a few violent thugs destroying property than a peaceful multiracial demonstration attended by hundreds. Visual media racism, indeed.

      Reply
  • […] egregious cases of police brutality, invoking among others Oakland’s Oscar Grant, whose killer, Johannes Mehserle, has already been released from prison after serving just 24 months in the […]

    Reply
  • […] egregious cases of police brutality, invoking among others Oakland’s Oscar Grant, whose killer, Johannes Mehserle, has already been released from prison after serving just 24 months. Fong Lee's mother Youa […]

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  • […] egregious cases of police brutality, invoking among others Oakland’s Oscar Grant, whose killer, Johannes Mehserle, has already been released from prison after serving just 24 months. Fong Lee's mother Youa […]

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  • 6. Occupy Oakland General Strike « beyondasiaphilia  |  November 3, 2011 at 7:00 am

    […] was imprisoned at the Topaz internment camp during World War Two, and Grant of course was murdered by BART policeman Johannes Mehserle in 2009. Liu also notes the importance of other significant place-names including Wall Street, […]

    Reply

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