I’m not condoning violence, but sometimes to get justice, you can’t just sit around holding hands singing ‘Kumbaya.’ —An organizer of the Fruitvale rally
Masses of people had gathered at Fruitvale Bart station, one of those rare protests where you walk around and see different people from many different organizations and ideologies. There’s indignation, fear, and anger. The video of Oscar Grant is fresh, weighing on all of our minds. The speakers’ words hit live wires of memory not yet sealed over, not yet forgotten into the nasty legacy of Bay Area police violence.
Video after video had come out, each with a different angle, a different perspective; each with a somehow differently devastating effect. As the first videos made it onto YouTube there was frustration, disbelief, disgust. Millions of hits lat- er, more videos began to emerge: the cops threw punches to their faces, bystanders with evidence confiscated. But according to BART police there had been no crime.
Somewhere, at some point, our disbelief gave way to rage, to anger, to a clarity of purpose and focus. The evidence was damning and the lack of response was infuriating. We may not gather around many things publicly and collectively, but to pick up the newspaper on the first day of the new year and to read about such old news, so fresh, so painfully new and accessible through modern media, set the stage for an explosion of those angry with what passes as daily life, what cruelty that passes as sanity, the timeless status quo.
We are here, in the plaza by the entrance to the Fruitvale station, the site of the murder of Oscar Grant, a crowd of approximately 1,000. Our friends are getting off the shuttle. 4pm. There are many banners, many faces: Oakland youngsters, youth-organizers, communists, anarchists, mostly young, and multiracial. The station is closed and the PA is very loud. The rally has now begun.
Speeches are being made from the sound system in the center of the crowd. The emcee is a professional activist:
“Listen everybody, we need to get organized and be peaceful, not let our emotions take over.”
She’s greeted with an enormous silence from the crowd. She continues on, undeterred:
“But right now we’d like to open it up to anyone who’s ever been harassed by the police—would you like to come up and speak? Especially our youth, feel free to come up right now and tell your story.”
Young people begin to take the mic.
I’m feelin pretty violent right now, I’m on some Malcolm X shit: by any means necessary. If I don’t see some action, I’m going to cause a ruckus myself.
There are cheers and applause, and chants:
No Justice, No Peace! Fuck the Police!
When you get bullied at the playground you don’t sit down and beg that fucking bully to leave you alone! You knock his fucking teeth out. We’ve been bullied for too long, we’ve been talking too long, we gotta take fucking action, you know what I’m saying? Because you don’t get results by pleading to the fucking bully, you beat his fucking ass and you let his ass know that you’re not to be fucked with. That’s how it goes.
Yes, right on!
The crowd listens but interrupts one particular speaker:
“Hi, I’m coming from the mayor’s deputy chief of staff’s office, the mayor could not be here—”
BOOOOOOOOO, We want the mayor here, BOOOOOO
The police officer and the mayor have said that they are sorry but I’m making it very clear that we reject your apology.
We’re gonna march tonight everyone, we’ll be meeting at the “Fruitvale Village” sign over there.
There is silence… and then chanting:
March! March! March!
There is the usual feel of divergence of tactics, the speakers, the organizers, the organizations standing strong to main- tain a front of righteous anger while others want to move this anger to another target, to see that this righteous in- dignation keep going, keep moving, doesn’t just, for lack of a better idea, go home.