Posts tagged ‘police brutality’

I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It: Oakland Police Department Attempts To Beat Down OccupyOakland

Oakland Police Department fires teargas into peaceful crowd, Oct. 25, 2011

Been following the heinous acts of police brutality tonight in Oakland as the Oakland Police Department cracks down on peaceful protestors trying to demonstrate in support of Occupy Oakland. Twitter feeds from Davey D, Josh Holland, and a great livestream from jlevinger on qik.com have been providing immediate on-the-ground updates of the violence against peaceful and lawfully assembled demonstrators. Throughout the night the police have fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades, and used sonic cannons to harass the thousands of people exercising their right to peacefully assemble.

Right now I’m listening to the the police repeatedly playing a chilling warning demanding that the crowd disperse or face arrest and that, “regardless of your purpose,” they face “possible serious injury” and that “chemical agents will be used.” Who knew that when the regime in Iran was cracking down on peaceful protesters back in 2009 that the OPD would be using similar shock tactics to prevent U.S. citizens from exercising their constitutional rights?

Navyman holding a copy of the Constitution faces down the OPD, Oct. 25, 2011, Oakland, CA. Photo: North Oakland Now

Luckily, on the protesters’ side cooler heads seem to be prevailing so far and there have been no rash acts on their part. But who knows how long folks will tolerate being gassed before they break down and fight back? The OPD knows they just have to provoke one misguided fool into breaking a window or lighting a garbage can on fire and it will be all over the front page as justification for their misdeeds tonight.

At one point in the livestream (now looping previous information as the cameraperson’s phone batteries recharge), jlevinger say, “I’m no pro videographer here, it’s just a fucking iPhone.” But he’s doing much more than the so-called professionals working for the TV news. Earlier tonight ABC-Live had a live feed from one of their traffic helicoptors following the demonstrations, but, mysteriously, just as the police started to fire the first tear-gas cannisters, the chopper pulled away from the scene and the live-feed stopped. ABC-Live tweeted that they helicopter needed to refuel–I call bullshit. Mysteriously, the #OccupyOakland hashtag on twitter has intermittently been inoperative through the night as well. Inadvertent technical glitch or deliberate censorship?

As Davey D tweets, “All folks were doing was trying to create a better living situation for many damaged by economy and now it’s copters & tear gas.” Is this how the U.S. government is going to deal with lawful dissent? If so, we need to be really worried really fast.

My friend Rebecca Solnit has taken up another guerilla tactic, this time on facebook. She posts,

By the way, I just wrote this note to the letters section of the Chronicle and then started posting it on Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s (facebook) wall. It gets taken down after a few minutes. Feel free to post it if you like. “Dear Editors, Even if you’re a conservative you should be against the kind of police brutality we just saw in Oakland, because the courts are not going to be as enthused about beating people bloody, throwing tear gas at crowds that include children, and denying people their civil and constitutional rights. It is going to be really expensive for the city of Oakland to pay for the brutality and denial of rights lawsuits, and the plaintiffs will deserve every penny they get. As for the rest of us, we’re against it because it’s inhumane, undemocratic, and vicious. As well as expensive. Police brutality is an indulgence, a luxury, a spendthrift activity most cities can’t afford any more.”

Mayor Quan, by the way, was a student activist in the Third World Liberation Front at UC Berkeley during the Third World Strike back in 1969. Sadly, her presence, her leadership, and her ethics are nowhere to be found tonight and her absence has allowed the OPD to wild in the streets of Oakland unchecked. Shame on her–

Incredible video of OPD firing teargas into peaceful crowd, shot by Kazu Haga.

October 26, 2011 at 5:56 am 4 comments

You Must Learn: Bao Phi Dropping Science at San Francisco State University

Bao Phi speaks truth

Last week I had the pleasure and privilege of witnessing the phenomenal spoken word artist Bao Phi reading at my homebase, San Francisco State, and his singular blend of brilliant wordsmithing and sharp political commentary was completely awesome. Bao was the capstone presentation at the two-day long Re-SEAing Southeast Asian American Studies conference, hosted by the Asian American Studies Department at SFSU where I work, and he rocked the house with his funny, smart, sensitive, and deeply moving work.

Phi is the author of one of my favorite spoken word pieces, Reverse Racism, which I teach in all of my Asian American culture classes, but prior to last week I’d never heard him read in person so I was really looking forward to his presentation. He didn’t disappoint, reading mostly from his ongoing series, The Nguyens, in which he inhabits and articulates the experiences of various Vietnamese American characters surnamed Nguyen, from waitresses to artists to Prince impersonators.

But the showstopper of the afternoon was 8 (9), was his elegy to Fong Lee, a Hmong American teenager shot and killed by the police in Minneapolis under very suspicious circumstances. As the poem’s introduction notes:

In 2006, Minneapolis Police Officer Jason Andersen shot and killed Fong Lee, a 19-year old Hmong American.  Andersen was awarded a Medal of Valor, though the Lee family and community members allege that Fong Lee was unarmed and the gun found on the scene was planted by police.  During a foot chase in North Minneapolis, Andersen shot at Lee 9 times, 1 bullet missing, the other 8 hitting Fong Lee as he ran and as he lay dying on the ground.

8 (9) embeds significant parenthetic phrases  (gang member for Lee; hero and peace officer for Anderson) to suggest the moral panic evoked by the police department in smearing Lee in court.  The poem captures the irony of Hmong Americans who fled persecution in their home country only to find more violence as well as flagrant racism once in the U.S. It also links Lee’s experience with other 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 Vang Lee, 2010

Bao Phi has active in the fight to bring Lee’s killer to justice, using his poetry and spoken word pieces as well as numerous blogs posts and articles to illuminate this grave miscarriage of justice. Unfortunately the fight has thus far been a futile one, with the Supreme Court recently declining to review the case, but it has galvanized an outraged Minneapolis Asian American community. Phi has been at the forefront of the struggle, and by using poetry as a means of memorializing the injustices in Lee’s death, his work offers hope for preventing future cases of unchecked police brutality. It’s great to see an artist passionately engaged with important social issues–I’m counting the days to the release of his first book, Song I Sing, due out in the fall from Coffee House Press.

Here and here are a couple nice blog entries by Bao Phi outlining the Fong Lee case and Phi’s involvement in it. As usual the comments section is instructive in itself.

With many thanks to Bao Phi, here in its entirety is 8 (9).

8 (9)

In memory of Fong Lee

And for the Lee family, and the Justice for Fong Lee committee

In 2006, Minneapolis Police Officer Jason Andersen shot and killed Fong Lee, a 19-year old Hmong American.  Andersen was awarded a Medal of Valor, though the Lee family and community members allege that Fong Lee was unarmed and the gun found on the scene was planted by police.  During a foot chase in North Minneapolis, Andersen shot at Lee 9 times, 1 bullet missing, the other 8 hitting Fong Lee as he ran and as he lay dying on the ground.

1.

Community members point out that accusations about Fong Lee’s history and character, specifically allegations that he was in a gang, were allowed in court and written about in the press.   But Officer Andersen’s alleged dislike of Asians and history of derogatory remarks against Asians was neither allowed in court nor written about in the press.

One of the devil’s greatest powers

Is to force you to take a deal

That he himself would never take.

2.

Fong Lee was 19 (gang member). I can imagine him (gang member) and his (gang member) family. They are eating (gang member) something that steams and it does not steam like food from this (gang member) country, the smell lingers (gang member) like home.  It is Minnesota so (gang member) the lights inside no matter how dim somehow makes (gang member) all indoor rooms feel warm.  Now its summer and he’s fishing with his (gang member) friends.  They (gang member) get on bikes and their (gang member) legs drape low, (gang member), arms lazy crosses on the handlebars.   Their heads lean as they debate the Minnesota Vikings (gang member) and the Minnesota Twins, slapping absently at the logos (gang member) on their caps and (gang member) shirts.

3.

Officer Jason Andersen (hero) shot Hmong American teenager Fong Lee eight times (to serve and protect). A bullet wound in Fong Lee’s hand suggests the teenager may have held his hands up in surrender (decorated officer) as Officer Andersen (white) shot (Medal of Valor) him.  Andersen was also charged with domestic assault (peace officer) by his girlfriend though charges were later dropped (officer of the law).  Officer Andersen (police officer) was also accused of kicking (hero) an African American teenager who was on the ground in handcuffs in 2008.

4.

An all-white jury found Officer Anderson not guilty of using excessive force.

Put a blindfold on me

Tell me who you fear

And I will tell you

Your skin.

5.

I’m wondering when people will care.

If we made your story into a movie about killing dolphins, perhaps.

6.

I’m 18 and the brutal cold holsters my hands into the warm solace of my jacket pockets.  The police officer snaps his hand to his gun.  My pockets are empty.  My hands open.  Still.  My story would have ended in smoke and red snow.  If my body lay there, perforated, would I bleed through holes in his story?

7.

Lost, you turn the car around and see trees stretching up like greenbrown fencing up to the blue skies.  For a moment you think that woods stretch forever, somewhere close a bubbling stream whispers white kisses across worn rocks, a deer leans its neck down to drink, the velvet moss of a hushed secret world here in your city.  But just beyond the neck of scrub trees is the hint of chain-link, the distant ghost silhouette of strip mall, just one step past the shadows of those leaves are railroad tracks running like stitches over broken glass and gravel.

Minnesota Nice: this city hides its scars so well.

8.

All our lives, men with guns.

Chased, in the womb, in the arms

Of our parents.

Our parents

Chased, all our lives,

By men with guns.

In the womb, in our parent’s arms

We’ve run

Chased by men with guns.

(9).

Michael Cho.  Cau Thi Bich Tran.  John T. Williams.

Tycel Nelson.  Oscar Grant.  Fong Lee.

May your names be the hymn

wind that sways

police bullets to miss.

Bao Phi

November 25, 2010

March 19, 2011 at 7:06 am 4 comments

Clampdown: Independent Media on G-20 Protests

Independent media keeps an eye on riot police, Pittsburgh, PA, Sept. 24, 2009

Independent media keeps an eye on riot police, Pittsburgh, PA, Sept. 24, 2009

Once again the web is the place to be for up-to-the-second information about breaking news. This time it’s the G-20 protests taking place in Pittsburgh, PA today. About 500 protestors have been attacked by overzealous policemen in riot gear using tear gas, rubber bullets and other excessive force against the peaceful crowd. On twitter, one poster claims he was told, “No matter your purpose, we will arrest you.” Another tweets, “teargas, rubber bullets, 1 arrest on baum and liberty (Half of march turned one way on baum), beat people with batons, shot with rubber bullets.” Most disturbingly, another reports, “cops using#LRAD less-lethal sound rays on protestors at #g20. Never before used in U.S.” This is confirmed by another poster on the blog of the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center’s website, who states:

Likely sound weapon (LRAD) attacks G20 protesters
On the live G-Infinity Indymedia broadcast, what sounds like the distinct oscillating chirp of the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) military technology was overheard. The Active Denial System has not previously been used by law enforcement or military personnel at major demostrations in the United States until now (An LRAD system was on the streets at the 2004 RNC but not used). LRAD type systems can be used as loudspeakers and also to create extremely high-decibel “chirping” noises — which seemed to be heard on the broadcast. The LRAD was used recently to suppress dissent at large demonstrations in the nation of Georgia.

In addition this should raise questions about the role of the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) which is developing civil dissent repression techniques for implementation around the country. NORTHCOM and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) have major roles in National Security Special Events (NSSE) — the NGA is providing geographic intelligence (GEOINT) to law enforcement under a special confidential agreement that gives them a “loophole” around the Posse Comitatus law restricting domestic military activity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_Denial_System

posted by Dex Thu 9/24/2009 3:10 pm

Many police in riot gear, Pittsburgh, PA, Sept. 24, 2009

Many police in riot gear, Pittsburgh, PA, Sept. 24, 2009

Traditional media is running the usual nonsense about one protestor throwing a rock and another pushing trash bins into the streets as a way of justifying the extreme force used by the police. But pictures posted from protestors on site show a mostly peaceful and fairly small crowd of about 500 people marching, with a phalanx of 20 police cars and 100 police in riot gear hot on their heels.

msnbc.com and other news outlets have picked up the story, although they refuse to directly acknowledge the riot police’s flagrant civil rights violations. In msnbc’s clip the  news reporter cautiously states, “We’re not sure if the gas is coming from authorities,”  while showing footage of bleeding protesters pouring water in their eyes. Also audible on the soundtrack is the LRAD’s high-pitched chirping (see above), which indicates that the sound weapon was indeed used on protesters in Pittsburgh.

Those violent, anarchistic monks protesting, Pittsburgh, PA, Sept. 24, 2009

Violent, anarchistic monks protesting, Pittsburgh, PA, Sept. 24, 2009

Ironically, in order to watch msnbc’s newsclip you have to sit through insipid advertising for teeth whiteners, dog food, and other consumer products. The ad I endured was a commercial for disposable diapers, accompanied by a soundtrack of The Youngbloods’ “Everybody Get Together.” (I somehow doubt that Jesse Colin Young envisioned his tune being used to sell products that take up so much space in our landfills.) Yet another reason to go straight to indie media for your information—so far, there are no ads on twitter, and there’s also no corporate bias. As one tweeter says, “I think I’m going to go back upstairs to my MacBook. The news coverage is just irritating…”

UPDATE: Hot and heavy on twitter tonight. Use #g20 hash for most information. Also follow these tweeters:

@infernoenigma

@robjdlc

@iwasaround

@billpeduto

@resistg20

UPDATE 2: Scary new tweet from @robjdlc: “Just spotted police with shotguns and semi autos behind those with batons”

UPDATE 3: After a peaceful daytime march of several thousand people today, the Pittsburgh police are running wild again tonight on the Pitt campus. Taking advantage of cover of night and scanty mainstream media coverage they’ve gassed students walking home from campus events and set unmuzzled dogs on them. Independent media sources including Oakland CA’s own Davey D are tweeting from the scene, although the intrepid KPFA reporter sounds pretty freaked out, if his last few tweets (Shit I am in the middle of this the entire block is being cordoned off. Trying to be chill I just wanna get the hell out of here) are any indication.

And an on-the-spot post from swwhee on dailykos.com:

Tonight in Schenley Plaza

a large group of Pitt students and G20 protesters gathered to protest the violent tactics of the law enforcement officials. Hundreds of officers descended onto Pitt’s campus, arresting everyone who remained within the vicinity. Countless individuals were arrested merely for standing on their campus, curiously observing the ongoing mele.

Police used tear gas, dogs, a sonic gun, and full riot gear. I myself had an automatic shotgun pointed at my chest and felt as though I was running for my life. I have never been so scared in my own country. We were meant for more than this.

We simply wished to assemble to show our disapproval of the police tactics used from the night before.  On Thursday night the police used tear gas and night sticks to disperse students.  Many of the students were told to go home when home for many was a dormitory.  A dormitory that was locked down for security reasons.  Tear gas was released and confused students who were merely trying to go to a home that they were locked out of. The police trapped Pitt’s students and arrested them for not being able to navigate the various blockades and security measures.

Here’s a video of the LRAD sound cannon being used today in Pittsburgh against protestors:

Here’s a video of the Pittsburgh police in riot gear posing with a kneeling, handcuffed student for a snapshot. flickr, anyone? Sorry I can’t get the embed to work—just click to link to the site. Other good videos at the G20 tag, too.

UPDATE 4: Good firsthand accounts from students harassed on Friday night here from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

UPDATE 5: Great eyewitness account from a student who was there on Friday night at dailykos.com

September 24, 2009 at 10:27 pm 4 comments

Violence Grows: Kinatay and the Abduction of Melissa Roxas

Kinatay, still from movie, 2009, Brillante Mendoza

Kinatay, still from movie, 2009, Brillante Mendoza

When I first read the description of Pilipino director Brillante Mendoza’s new film Kinatay (Butchered) I thought, “That sounds kind of wack.” Shot on HD video with a budget of $100,000, it’s a down-and-dirty, graphic representation of the rape, murder and dismemberment of a prostitute in the Philippines through the eyes of an idealistic, greenhorn cop. The controversial film just won the Best Director award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, where the announcement of the award was greeted by boos and gasps of shock. Roger Ebert calls it “the worst film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival,” and extensively details his disdain for the picture in his blog.

But after I read a few interviews with Mendoza about the film, I started to change my opinion of it (though still sight-unseen; the film will probably receive pretty limited distribution in the U.S., if at all). Mendoza claims that the movie is based on a true-life event and that it reflects the rampant police corruption and unchecked military violence in the Philippines.  “This is not just entertainment, these kinds of stories are real,” Mendoza said after winning his award at Cannes.

Surface Melissa Roxas, online poster, 2009

Surface Melissa Roxas, online poster, 2009

This was borne out by an email blast I received on the same day that Kinatay won at Cannes. On May 19 Pilipino American Melissa Roxas, a poet and human rights activist from BAYAN-USA, a non-government organization (NGO), was kidnapped along with two co-workers while doing volunteer health work in the Tarlac Province in the Philippines. The email I received stated that BAYAN-USA was mounting a campaign to demand the Pilipino government aid in searching for and surfacing her. Thankfully, Roxas surfaced after a week of captivity, although her compatriots are still missing. What’s interesting in light of the accolades that Kinatay received is that Roxas and BAYAN-USA have claimed that she was abducted and tortured by the Pilipino police and military and that this event is the latest in a series of abuses against political activists by government agencies in the Philippines. The New York Times notes:

“According to the human rights group Karapatan, more than 200 Filipino activists have been kidnapped and never heard from since 2001, the year President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power. Others have turned up dead or showing signs of torture.”

If the claims by Roxas, Karapatan, and BAYAN-USA are true, then Mendoza’s film takes on an added significance. Most of the film’s detractors criticized it for its graphic, unvarnished depiction of violence and brutality, with Ebert in particular scorning its rough-hewn soundtrack and cinematography. What Ebert might not understand is that Mendoza is making a conscious decision not to sanitize the film’s violent events. Movie violence is nothing new, but it’s usually presented with a patina of glamour and unreality, an aestheticization that distances the viewer and sanctions the viewing of the violence, making it an acceptable form of entertainment.

By denying his film the glossy sheen of conventional filmic violence, Mendoza forces viewers out of their complacent moviewatching habits, taking them out of their comfort zone and making them realize that, as in the case of Melissa Roxas and many others around the globe, violence is not a form of entertainment but a dire part of everyday life. In this case, Mendoza is working toward the same goal as Roxas—to expose and eradicate the corruption and human-rights abuses of the power structure in the Philippines.

UPDATE: Here’s the transcript of Melissa Roxas’ June 28 press conference in which she describes her ordeal.

June 8, 2009 at 6:27 pm 15 comments


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