This is an important article on a number of fronts. First it details accurately much of what took place on Friday night after the sentencing was announced. Writer Joseph Anderson alone w/ photographer Jay Finneburgh not only monitored and documented the march, but kept a phone line open to our studios so folks not inside the police lines could actually hear what was being said. What was being described by Anderson, documented by Finneburgh and experienced by legal observers was a far, far, far cry from what was reported on the evening news when police held a press conference boasting about arrest numbers.
When we were down on the corners of 6th and East 17th.. We a long with folks from the Lawyers Guild were told the entire block had been designated as a crime scene because someone throw rocks at officers and everyone was being arrested as agitators. That was never ever stated to Anderson and other marchers who were all hauled away unless they were accredited press.
During the press conference that evening police didn’t talk about rock throwing, but instead talked about a gun being snatched from holster and how that ONE individual was quickly arrested. So why were 150 people arrested? What was the danger when the cops outnumbered marchers? Read Anderson’s account.
you can also listen to the Hard Knock Radio interview we did with him yesterday Monday November 8 2010
“Same-Old-Same-Old from the Corporate Media: the Oakland Justice for Oscar Grant Protests”
by Joseph Anderson
Photo: jay Finneburgh
I was swept up and arrested Friday night, in Oakland at the “end” of the Justice for Oscar Grant march. As usual, most of the Bay Area TV stations gave a totally bad — of course, very pro-police — spin to what happened. It amazes me how edited and re-chronologized video can make viewers think they are seeing something that they aren’t. Events are portrayed out of order, and most TV reporters falsely describe the context of the video clips they show.
For example, many local stations showed video of protesters pushing down a chain link fence, calling it an example of vandalism. In reality, what the video showed was frightened overwhelmingly peaceful protesters trying to escape fully-geared and itching-to-go riot cops who had tried to enclose the marchers and cops who were about to begin assaulting not just innocent marchers but also bystanders and, later, neighborhood people.
I saw very young black females, plus-or-minus 20-something, no more than 4’8″ height, no more than 95 lbs, just peacefully sitting on a less than a knee-high sidewalk wall in their own neighborhood, trapped and being led off in handcuffs by aggressive, 200lbs+, riot cops. I saw an equally small, very young woman, a person of color, being aggressively picked up and slammed to the ground (face down like Oscar Grant), while being arrested and handcuffed. This, in spite of a black mayor and a black police chief and a black cop (L. Johnson of OPD) on the scene talking about “his men”, over the police murder of a young black Oscar Grant. Like Oscar Grant, none of us were armed, none of us were resisting, and none of us (at least not where we marchers were entrapped) were violent.
photo by Jay Finneburgh
If you pay more attention, the pro-police spin of local media coverage doesn’t hold up. At least two mainstream news reporters at the scene at 6th Avenue & East 17th Street in East Oakland admitted that there was NO “widespread violence,” if hardly any, and NO bottles or rocks thrown at the police — except for “one or two storefront windows broken” and “one AC Transit bus window broken.” This was how a Jennifer (last name unknown) of KGO, whom I talked with, and another reporter, a Josh Richman of the Oakland Tribune, his reporting live on KQED-TV‘s This Week in Northern California, basically reported on the night of the march.
Such minor incidents would have been easy for the police to contain, given the presence of a thousand cops in uniform, all the police cameras, but also with all the (we must assume) undercover cops along these marches. Instead, the cops played the propaganda numbers game (bragging about 152 arrests), enclosing and mass arresting obviously nonviolent protesters: the easy ones to catch. And who are among the small property “vandalizers” and “looters”: undercover police provocateurs? I also have seen, defying any otherwise common sense, riot cops purposely try to antagonize and provoke nonviolent marchers. This would upset me if I were a nearby small business owner.
At least one of those reporters, and other TV reporters, reported only “rumors” (gee, I wonnnder by whom?) of a gun being pulled from the holster of a riot cop and pointed at the cop. Cops have video of everything else in these events; why don’t they have any video of that? It would seem to defy common sense. Let’s see YOU get close enough, and for long enough, especially if you’re black or brown, to a phalanx of ‘itchy,’ fully-geared, riot cops to successfully reach for the gun and then wrest the latch off, and then wrest the gun from his holster, let alone long enough to then point the gun at said riot cop. And then live to tell the story!
photo by Jay Finneburgh
Instead, you would be gunned down (along with any nearby protesters) in a hail of other cops’ bullets or wind up in a hospital emergency ward, critically beaten, unconscious or comatose and near death. These are the same cops who beat the hell out of Black people, if they are caught, for merely trying to run away! These are the same kind of cops who participated in the legalized murder of Oscar Grant for his merely trying to catch his breath!
It’s also laughable for the media to portray the police as actually being concerned in the slightest with protecting Oakland’s small businesses. When a previous Oscar Grant rally supposedly “turned violent,” the same cops, in full riot gear and numbering in the hundreds (if not also up to a thousand), stood down and watched as they let the downtown Oakland Foot Locker be sacrificed — practically WAVING and FUNNELING looters into the store.
OPD did this for sheer self-serving manipulation. At a time when the OPD was facing budgetary lay-offs, the OPD could literally televise to the viewers, “See what happens when you threaten to cut back on us cops or even just our pay?” And, “You see, this rally isn’t really about Oscar Grant: it’s just about some negroes wanting to get stolen athletic shoes.” You can bet that the cops wouldn’t have stood down and let nearby Wells Fargo Bank be broken into, because that would have been a political message by the protesters to the TV viewers that the TV viewers could appreciate about the people who financially loot all of US!
Photo by jay Finneburgh
Unfortunately, some middle-class TV watchers — especially those who are white (the most susceptible), but also of any color (and the older the viewer, the more generally susceptible they are) — fall for this manipulation. The mainstream news can always find one of these types to put a microphone and camera in front of, who will say how scared they were for themselves or their businesses. These people, probably none of whom have never participated in any kind of dissident protest, where they then would know how police behave, watch suburban-looking reporters dressed up in nice suits, haircuts, and overcoats, and believe that since they are watching the (unbeknownst to them, highly edited and time re-arranged) video, they must be seeing “what actually happened.” They then monolithically condemn THE marchers, especially EVERYONE who got arrested, and become even more pro-police.
But, even though the cops don’t want to be judged by the so-called “few bad apples” cops, that’s exactly how the cops and the media monolithically judge THE protesters — by even just “the few bad apples” and sensationalize them! When will I see mass, wholesale arrests due to mostly white people who tear up a city or college town after a major sports victory? Where are the mass arrests when white people show up — toting guns(!!) — at town hall meetings hosted by Congress members!? When will I see cops mass arresting 150 affluent suburban drivers because a few might be recklessly speeding or even driving drunk on Highway 24 or 680 in suburban Contra Costa county? Why weren’t even just all the participating cops on the scene arrested for allowing conspiracy (at least accomplices) to commit “manslaughter” when one of them outright killed Oscar Grant?
photo by Jay Finneburgh
This is the same old pro-police and corporate TV news establishment propaganda. It’s all part of the daily establishment narrative that mainstream media strings out every day to keep work-a-day and couch-potato Americans fearful, docile, and accepting whatever the U.S. government and police want to do. It’s the same-old-same-old that would keep us all afraid of each other’s racial and social groups and, of course, the foreign U.S.-appointed “boogeymen.” It’s the same old media that harps about protesters not from Oakland, like Oakland is supposed to be some stepcity whose concerns, even tragedies, no one else is supposed to care about. Yet the cops, who rarely come from the community, and the media come from all over — cops from even the outer reaches of suburban Contra Costa county and even from Sunnyvale! Well, police brutality and atrocities should be everyone’s concerns.
You can see this ruling class strategy in action everywhere, on local, national, and international issues. The true facts are distorted to look like their opposite! The right-wing media in Venezuela made it look like Chavez supporters were firing rifles on Chavez opponents, instead of what actually happened: just the reverse. The Israeli military made it look like Gaza flotilla passengers were attacking the Israeli soldiers, instead of what actually happened: just the reverse. When the cops, truncheons swinging, wade into a crowd and indiscriminately beat up people who are physically trying to protect themselves, the TV news makes it look like it’s the protesters violently “resisting arrest” (that pro forma police charge) and beating on the cops (“assaulting an officer,” that other pro forma police charge)!
It’s the old divide-and-conquer ruling-class strategy, executed by the corporate media, aimed at blocking people seeking positive, real, transformative change, and social and global justice. If we can’t have, and be permitted, an overwhelmingly nonviolent protest, about even violent atrocities — the legalized murder of Oscar Grant — by the cops, then what else is left to resort to? In this media propaganda environment, it’s critical to give support to the protesters and those very very few reporters who do a good job reporting the truth instead of repeating police and government propaganda. One example journalist is the highly respected Davey D, of Oakland, who has written excellent recent articles at daveyd.com about the Oakland protest on November 5.
Joseph Anderson is a Berkeley resident; a longtime grassroots progressive political activist; an occasional sociopolitical contributing writer to various publications; and the author of “Karmic Justice” (available online), about Lovelle Mixon and the cops vs. the victims of legalized police murders.
You can see more of Jay Finneburgh‘ s photos over at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/11/07/18663397.php
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photo by Jay Finneburgh
Photo by Jay Finneburgh