Wednesday August 02, @12:46PM
Free Speech Falls Victim to Police Crackdown By Ana Nogueira
Helicopters flew like vultures over Philadelphia today as the streets filled with activists intent on expressing their opposition to what they call "the criminal IN-justice system." Throughout the city, thousands participated in rallies, marches, spontaneous direct action and nonviolent civil disobedience in an attempt to illustrate their disaffection with Republican support for prison expansion and privatization, active pursuit of the death penalty, and the ongoing problem of police brutality. Both activists and police have prepared carefully for this long-awaited day. Although the strategies of the activists often proved successful, police were well-informed enough to be able to respond to immediately, indicating they had access to detailed intelligence information. While police fretted about not being able to contain the chaos, protestors were upset that certain planned actions had been abandoned because of the intense police presence.
A woman named Etacetera, who was traveling with the Black Bloc from an action at the PoliticalFest to a civil disobedience at 16th and Vine, expressed dismay that the actions thus far had not achieved their purpose. ?Right now the mood is that we failed, that our actions have failed,? she said.
The anarchist group intended to serve as "a divergence squad" that would draw attention away from the direct actions. But [we] were foiled,? she said. ?We came and there were a million cops, and the puppets are in prison.? (75 activists were arrested in a puppet-making studio on 41st and Haverford Avenue; see story on this page).
Others, however, had a different understanding of the situation. ?I think today is successful, in that?we?re here. People are hearing our voice, people are hearing our message,? said Bernadette, a member of the International Socialist Organization. She and her affinity group attracted lots of media attention at the lockdown on the I-676 onramp because of their energetic chanting and dancing and their multiracial makeup.
Bernadette expressed confidence that the direct actions would effectively express their concerns to the world. "We're telling them what our views are, they're learning about it. We're showing them that we don't agree with the way they run our country. We don?t agree with this system."
The estimated arrest count for the day is over 450 people. Eighty percent of those people are practicing jail solidarity, according to R2K Legal. As late as 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, serious complaints of police brutality were still coming in.
While people who ?locked-down? streets comprised the bulk of the arrests, others were rounded up for actions ranging from vandalism and arson, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"There was a strict policy of no damage to personal property," said David Graeber, a reporter for In These Times who acted as a daylong witness to the black bloc. "I don't think there were any store windows smashed or anything like that. Since the theme chosen for Tuesday's protests was the 'Prison Industrial Complex', "all the attacks were on symbols of state authority," Graeber said.
Such symbols included the burning of the American flags and the red, white, and blue bunting which adornes the facades of buildings everywhere. Police car hoods were dented and the District Attorney?s office received to a new paint job when anarchists threw rubber balloons filled with red paint at its facade. "But everything was designed not to hurt anybody," said Graeber, "including the smoke bombs."
The day was nevertheless fraught with violence that did cause injury to humans. At major activist convergence places during the day, police stuck to Commissioner John F. Timmoney's instructions to provoke no violence and make no arrests. But reporters have taken at least ten video witness accounts of police brutality directed at specific individuals on random streets and hidden alleyways.
Independent Media Center (IMC) reporters videotaped an incident regarding police disguised as anarchists, beating a demonstrator while radioing uniformed officers for assistance. "There were about five or six of them amid the protestors and once the marching group started to thin out, they turned around and jumped one man and threw him to the ground. Then one officer dug his knee into the man?s eye-socket," said IMC reporters. "At first I was very confused at why the protestors would tackle their own comrade. But it turns out that they were working with the police," said one reporter.
According to Graeber, several similar reports of cops disguised as activists, claiming to be hurt by protestors, gave the police the excuse they needed to beat and arrest specific individuals.
This behavior escalated dramatically starting around 6 p.m., after the city was emptied of its workforce. Tactics were not limited to protestors on the street. On Tuesday night, policemen entered the lobby of the Independent Media Center. At roughly the same time, a vanload of cops pulled up to the offices of the R2K Legal Team. The officers stepped out onto the street carrying plastic handcuffs. At neither location did the police actually enter the respective offices. When asked by an ACLU observer what they were doing outside the Legal offices, the officers replied they stopped and got out of the van merely to stretch their legs.
Regardless of how much the authorities know and how they act, many feel the movement is immune to their behavior.
One confident protester expressed this to a passing conventioneer, rumored to be Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.): "Your party's over! The rich will no longer rule this country," he said. To this the Senator replied, "Bullshit! The rich will always rule this country."
Joe R. Golowka End the American Police State! Anarchist FAQ - http://www.infoshop.org/faq
"Freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice, and socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality." -- Mikhail Bakunin