April 7th: Police attack anti-war picket at the port of Oakland
By Kay Walker Bay Area(SF) WDN
On April 7th a very peaceful anti-war pro-labor demonstration took place at the Port of Oakland Approximately 500 to 700 people showed up. During the entire protest I did not witness one moment of "acting out" by the protesters.(The Oakland Police, however, were another matter.) The demonstrators were protesting two companies’ involvement with the U.S. government's war on Iraq. SSA, the company which manages the Oakland docks, has a contract with the US government to manage at least some of the docks in Iraq. The American President Lines, a shipping company, also has a contract with the government to ship cargo to Iraq. APL's contract is with the US Army to the tune of $l.2 million. I arrived at the docks at 6:30 AM and was there until the police hearded us into a blocked off freeway several hours later. Many of the truckers and other employees (members of the ILWU) refused to cross the picket lines. Our action, which was more like a strike than anything else, was beginning to be successful when the police arrived on the scene.
I was picketing at the third and final gate when we were joined by about 200 people who appeared to have been driven away from other sites – they appeared a little dazed. The police arrived -eyeballed the group for a few minutes and then began to roll their motorcycles into the crowd – a two tiered motorcycle brigade. No order to disperse was given. We began walking rapidly in the only direction open to us - right into the freeway which had been blocked off - no traffic. We were being moved like a herd of cattle and it appeared to be planned. I kept looking back at the crowd as I moved away from the police. A volley of shots rang out and again. We later saw the bullets - large wooden shells - and the injuries - massive swelling and painful lacerations - some broken bones. My friend and I turned around and saw a young woman lying on the ground too injured to move. Her leg was swollen and lacerated in two places. Her injuries were swelling to the size of large oranges. This was documented on film as were other injuries. An IlWU member who was trying to decide whether it was safe to work or not was shot in the hand by the police. His thumb was shattered. He later turned up at a hearing and stated that his employer, SSA, had denied him Workman's Comp. as well. As we began to talk to one another, we began to suspect that the police action had been planned. One thing was certain however, our first amendment rights had been seriously violated.
THE HEARING - APRIL 29, 2003
SUBJECT: POLICE RESPONSE TO THE APRIL 7, 2003 PROTEST AT THE PORT OF OAKLAND. PLACE: Oakland CA. City Hall COMMITTEE: Public Safety
The city hall hearing room was jammed with hundreds of people. Many testimonies were given and in some cases people arrived in bandages and/or casts. Protesters, ILWU members, the head of the Construction Trade Unions, Pueblo members (a community police watch group), the National Lawyers Guild, ACLU and the Director of the Alameda Labor Council all gave accounts supporting the protesters. A video was shown clearly depicting some of the outrageous action by the Oakland Police. After many hours of testimony including Police Chief Word's, the committee agreed to have the incident investigated by an "independent" investigator. Heartwarming to me was the ILWU member's especially stong spirit of brotherhood as they supported one another and the anti-war demonstrators at the meeting and at the port. Disheartening were the allegations that there had been meetings between port managers and the police days prior to the demo. and that the police did the bidding of the private companies involved. Some of us believe that the port would have been shut down had it not been for the brutality of the police. Most of us know that our first amendment rights were violated. We took action and fought back and I believe will prevail.