[Hpn] "Your party's over!"

Coalition on Homelessness, SF coh@sfo.com
Wed, 02 Aug 2000 13:09:58 -0700

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

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

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."

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