An Express reader recently wrote that, while the Bay Area generally supports the efforts of the Anti Police-Terror Project, the community was growing weary of my “support for vandalism.”
For the record: Neither I, nor APTP, have ever made a call for property damage.
Following Oscar Grant’s murder, rebellions rocked Oakland. At nearly every protest, the police attacked protesters with tear gas, concussion grenades, and rubber bullets. And some independent protesters engaged in property destruction.
In response, the police used that property damage as an excuse to criminalize organizers, as well as Black and Brown protesters.
The kicker is that, despite a heavily white presence in those activities, the Oakland Police Department specifically targeted young Black men as the responsible agents, funneling even more of our youth into jails and prison with no clear gain for the movement.
APTP supports — and believes — in diversity of tactics. They are critical for a healthy and well-rounded movement. But tactics must be part of a long-term strategy that is driven by the will of the people, the most marginalized people.
Overwhelmingly, communities of color in both West and East Oakland have said they do not want a torn-up Oakland. A busted up Youth Radio building or family-owned downtown business alienates us from the very people we say we are fighting for. And, more importantly, it keeps the masses from joining us.
Furthermore, tactics that put our most impacted communities in danger are political theater at best, and willfully ignorant acts of white supremacy at worst.
The Express reader also hinted that APTP — and I — condone physical violence. We not only emphatically condemn violence against the people, we regularly step into violent situations to protect the health and lives of people at our demonstrations.
As a result, sometimes the violence is perpetrated against us. Despite this, we know we cannot rely on police to keep us safe. Far too often we’ve witnessed them standing in close proximity to violence (and vandalism) — and doing absolutely nothing. It is the protestors — every time — who intervene to protect the people. This is yet another example of why APTP believes we must replace systems of policing with community-driven alternatives that restore power and security to the people themselves.
In less than two weeks, the people will fill Bay Area streets, reclaiming Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s radical legacy, resisting Donald Trump’s tyranny, and building campaigns that uplift justice, liberation, and self-determination. People will march, sing, hold vigils, and shut things down as they express rage at an unjust system that prioritizes the white and the wealthy over everything and everyone else.
In the words of Dr. King: “[I]t is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without … condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention … a riot is the language of the unheard.”
APTP refuses to be boxed by politicians, police, or media into a narrative that condemns any form of protest, except bodily harm. We also refuse to take the credit (or the blame, depending on your viewpoint) for the actions of others as they resist the oppressive conditions that these same politicians and police create and uphold.
We urge the masses to utilize tactics born of strategies that reflect the will of the people, illuminate the clarity of our message, and maximize our energy and impact in the streets and in the struggle.