Taking on Oakland cop brutality
By Ken Morgan and Sue Sandlin | April 18, 2003 | Page 11
OAKLAND, Calif.--Hundreds of people from the community and dozens of union members packed a raucous city council meeting last week to show their anger at a recent unprovoked police attack on antiwar protesters and longshore workers.
On April 7, antiwar protesters set up peaceful community picket lines on public property in front of the American President Lines (APL) and Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) terminals at the Port of Oakland to protest those companies' war-profiteering.
Oakland police responded to this peaceful picket with brutal force--opening fire with concussion grenades, wooden and rubber bullets, and bean bag guns. Dozens of protesters were injured, as were members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 who were standing nearby.
At the council meeting the next day, the standing-room-only crowd loudly booed Council President Ignacio del Fuentes--a Democrat and former union leader--for his public support of the police attack.
After hearing only 13 speakers from the community, Fuentes tried to adjourn the meeting. When the crowd began shouting "Shame! Shame!" other council members agreed to continue the testimony and commenced the meeting without Fuentes.
Speaker after speaker condemned the police violence. ILWU communications director Steve Stallone quoted the police chief, who said he dispersed the crowd on behalf of APL and SSA officials. "We didn't stand for this in 1934 and sure as hell won't stand for it now!" Stallone said to overwhelming applause from the crowd. Michael Eisenscher of U.S. Labor Against War asked whether the police attack "is the kind of democracy they're talking about" introducing in Iraq.
Many at the meeting also spoke against Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, a Democrat who supported the police attack. Last week, Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle, "We won't tolerate shutting down the ports." But during his 1997 campaign for mayor, Brown himself joined a picket line, which longshoremen wouldn't cross, to prevent the unloading of scab cargo from the container ship Neptune Jade.
"We need to have demonstrations and meetings to keep this before the public," said Chuck Mack, International Vice President of the Teamsters Union and chair of Teamsters District Council 7, in a radio interview the following day.
Labor and antiwar activists are planning a demonstration to show that we won't stand for the suppression of our free speech rights. We won't be intimidated into stopping our protest against the occupation of Iraq and the corporations that stand to profit from it. And we plan to turn out in large numbers for the next public hearing scheduled for April 29.