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Two hundred and fifty people gathered at Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland Friday evening in support of Anaheim protesters; those who are decrying the shot-in-the-back killing of Manuel Diaz as he ran away from an APD officer, those protesting the many others gunned down as well in recent years by the Anaheim Police, and those who were shot at with beanbag rounds and rubber bullets last week for daring to question the legitimacy of these killings.

Solidarity with Anaheim was professed. Passionate words were spoken. The names of the dead at the hands of Oakland's Police were invoked -- Alan Blueford, Oscar Grant, Raheim Brown, Gary King and many others -- and the connection made to the same pattern of police violence in Anaheim. The police were repeatedly denounced and you can be sure that no one was going to be joining a police force anytime soon from this crowd.

In fact, there were a couple of young people in the crowd eager to smash up all of downtown Oakland do violent chalking. You notice how no one dares to come near them. And we wonder how our children grow up to be such hardened criminals.


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Young'uns in solidarity with chalkers in LA and Anaheim kids chased by police dogs. Or just having fun.

There was one thing missing in the plaza this evening. Police. Sure, there was the usual helicopter buzzing overhead and I'm sure there were intelligence agents about. I did notice one jeep double-parked a block away that on closer inspection contained a police officer or two, but there wasn't a single uniformed police officer visible -- and I looked around pretty carefully a couple of times as the rally progressed.

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As we began the march, there were still no police visible. We took half of Broadway and marched down to the police station. No motorcycle police appeared, even to block traffic. (The marchers' bike brigade took care of traffic control, and took care of it well.)

Even as we marched right up to the police station at 7th & Broadway, there wasn't a single police officer between the street and the doors to the station, or anywhere in obvious sight. (I did spot a squad of police a block away down 7th, as best I could tell trying to keep out of sight, but I doubt if most of the marchers were aware of them).

The crowd was young and noisy and angry -- angry at police for gunning down young men in the street -- but also festive. And here's the nasty little secret you can never let the police apologists in on. Without police in riot gear looming in battle formation at every intersection, crowds almost never get crazy. They just march. And chant. And march some more. Because it's fun to march, and Friday was a beautiful evening, and there was no one to tell us what we could and could not do.

Going back many years, virtually every instance of protesters who have had, shall we say, 'inauspicious encounters' with the police in Oakland (and, I suspect, many other locales) has been caused by police provocation. If not direct provocation by arresting people for "maliciously blocking a sidewalk" or snatch and grab tactics whereby police invade the marchers' space and try to extract 'undesirables' from the crowd, or some other bullshit, then by the indirect provocation of massing in battle armor, displaying menacing weapons, and using other intimidation tactics.

Could it have turned ugly Friday evening? It certainly could have. There were plenty of people in that crowd of two hundred marchers who would have been willing to engage the police -- and by that I don't mean promising to marry them! But there weren't any police to engage for much of the march, and when the march came back past the police station the police out there were not in a particularly threatening formation or in battle gear.


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On the way back to OGP. Are the police posing for GQ?

The police have a choice.

The police do not have to shoot into a crowd that has children, mothers and babies in it, nor shoot at livestreamers, as they did in Anaheim.

The police do not have to arrest people for chalking and then shoot rubber bullets at the rest of them, as they did in Los Angeles.


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Anaheim police officer aims directly at a livestreamer.

The police do not have to pepper spray eighty-year old grandmothers as they did in Seattle, or young women standing on a sidewalk as they did in New York, or students sitting on the ground as they did at UC Davis.

The police do not have to shoot bean-bag rounds at people as they did at Scott Olsen and Keyvan Sabeghi on those nearly-fatal nights in Oakland.

Let's make no mistake about free will here. It is totally a police force's choice (and the politicians who stand behind them) to do these things. They make a deliberate decision to endanger both themselves and the people they are sworn to protect; to deny people their right to free speech, to peacefully assemble and to protest. Because they can. Because they know they will never be held to account.

And just as the police can choose not to precipitate violent confrontations with protesters in the streets -- as was illustrated Friday and on December 12th, 2011 when the Port of Oakland was shut down in a totally peaceful civil disobedience action), just as the police can choose to be sane rather than insane, they can also choose not to terrorize and gun down unarmed black and brown young men.

No police officer had to fire at Manuel Diaz as he was fleeing with his back turned, then shoot him again -- in the head.


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Diaz vigil site

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No police officer had to shoot Alan Blueford multiple times and leave him there to die.

No police officer had to kill unarmed Oscar Grant.

No police officer had to chase unarmed Ramarley Graham into his house and kill him over a bag of weed.

No police officer had to murder unarmed Gary King, shooting him in the back.

No police officer, or two, had to beat Kelly Thomas, a mentally disabled homeless man, to death.

These are not isolated incidents. Scenarios like them are repeated again and again on the streets of our cities. They are a conscious choice the police -- and we the people -- have made.  To shoot first if you are young and black or brown. To give the police an almost absolute pass to do whatever they wish to anyone who is down and out -- and never answer any questions later.

The police are for all practical purposes trained to use unconstitutional force:

((A)) Justice Department report found that force was used unconstitutionally one out of every five times ((a Seattle police)) officer resorted to it.
If police do this as a matter of course, can there be any doubt that contempt for them will boil over?
"The police are arresting people who threw rocks and bottles, but not the officers who killed Manuel Diaz. That's not justice."
The truth, as we saw on Friday night, is that if someday the police decide to act civilized, society will respond in kind. Yes, there will occasionally be someone who breaks a window. Yes, there will occasionally be someone or two who throw a bottle at a protest. Yes, as long as there are guns there will be those who shoot at police officers. And yes, occasionally a policeman will make a deadly mistake. Everyone is human.

But that doesn't mean that All Holy Hell Has To Break Out in Oakland, or Anaheim. It just doesn't.

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Photo credits:

Alyssa (kossack Allie123, on twitter Allie101968) took the Oakland Anaheim solidarity rally and march pictures.

Scott Johnson (Twitter HobgoblinOfCommunism) took the Alan Blueford memorial roses photo.

Amber Stephens took the Manuel Diaz vigil picture.

Gladstone Report says a friend of his took the one of the Anaheim cop aiming at a livestreamer.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 10:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Progressive Policy Zone.

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