|Last Friday, we marched on downtown banks behind a bloc of book shields in an anti-capitalist defense of the Oakland libraries. Tensions were high throughout the afternoon and the action quickly escalated into a showdown with police that took many off guard.|
Below are two videos that give a good sense of the action and the progression of events. They are followed by a longer report plus more images and audio recordings that elaborate on that complicated afternoon.
We started assembling at Broadway and Telegraph in downtown Oakland at 3pm last Friday. There were about 60 of us. It was immediately clear that OPD had been monitoring the Bay of Rage website and was out in full force to crush the march. (This is the second in a series of anti-austerity actions we have planned for the summer).A pack of bicycle cops backed by squad cars, police wagons, sheriff's vehicles and private security began issuing tickets and confiscated a shopping cart sound system before the march had even started. One officer happily displayed the BoR website on his smart phone and explained to us that "intel sent this over."
With book shields flanking the second sound system which began blasting Ol' Dirty Bastard, the dancing crowd managed to move into the street and we were on our way. Taking inspiration from recent anti-austerity demonstrations in Italy and the UK, we chose to experiment with the colorful and confrontational tactic of the book bloc. The 14 (out of 18) Oakland libraries which are currently being threatened with closure represent a visceral example of the economic violence being imposed on poor and working people during this wave of capitalist crisis. We felt the books made a lot of sense as a tool for defense and disruption in this context.
Despite the repression, Anticut 2 was greeted in downtown Oakland with curious smiles, raised fists and cheers as the crowd temporally blockaded Citibank. This was one of those rare actions where everyone on the street wanted a copy of our flyer. (The flyer –available here and here – explains the connections between bailed out banks, library closures and brutal policing). The vast majority of people didn't hesitate to openly demonstrate their support as well as their hatred of the OPD. After disrupting Wells Fargo, which currently makes a nice profit off the interest from Oakland Unified School District's $100 million debt that the bank bought with federal bailout money, we moved on to our next target.
"White people are getting crazy! Fuck the Banks!" yelled one excited Oaklander. Another ran up to us and exclaimed, "Oh you hate the pigs? I'm getting in there!"
Suddenly the cops made their move. We stood our ground when the bike police charged the crowd, trying to break us up and end the action right there on 12th street. Four were arrested in the ensuing clash. We were eventually forced onto the sidewalk where we beat a cautious and frustrating retreat in the direction of the main library branch.
The afternoon ended as we regrouped on the steps of the library. It felt like a much needed refuge as we stood behind our book shields eating Food not Bombs and looking out over the small army of cops that filled 14th street below. The police were clearly unnerved by the previous two hours and seemed very uncomfortable in their apparent standoff with the public library building. The librarians on the other hand were delighted and welcomed us with open arms. One even laughed and quietly said, "We need some more of this anarchy stuff!"
As the library closed for the day, three librarians joined us on the steps to speak publicly in support of the action and the struggle for the future of the libraries. Two corporate news helicopters hovered overhead and camera teams moved in to capture their statements.
"Safety is not necessarily police," explained children's librarian Helen Block. We all cheered. "Public safety means providing a place for children to learn, for children to form community, and for the community to come together. Oakland is too divided this way. Libraries are one of the few places remaining in this city where people can go and form community. Oakland Unified School District budget has been decimated, lots and lots of kids do not have access to books. Oakland Public Library is the only way that they will get books to read, and we need to recognize it and we need to prioritize it. Thank you so much for your support, and we really appreciate it."
Below is the full audio recording of the statements of support made by the three librarians:
The remark by the librarians about public safety was, in part, meant to chide the squadron of police keeping watch on us outside the library. In recent weeks, the Chief of Police and leaders of the police union have gone before the City Council several times in order to argue for their essential work, their importance, and to threaten an apocalypse if the council reduces funding for them. Oakland, as many will know, spends over half of its budget on the police. And although some have suggested we focus on the high salaries and pensions paid to police – as well as their unwillingness to make concessions on these – we think this is misguided. Pay and pensions for cops is not what has brought ruin to Oakland’s budgets. The problems originate with the economic crisis in general, and high unemployment and plummeting property values in particular. If we endorse this view for police, then we’ll find we have endorsed it for other public employees as well – teachers, social workers, librarians—when nitwit politicians tell us that public workers’ unwillingness to make concessions is the problem. No, the blame for the Oakland budget lies squarely with capitalism, with the way that capitalism allows corporations and owners of wealth to determine the priorities of the city. The problem with cops, therefore, is not how much they’re paid, it’s that they exist. The problem with cops is what they do, what they’re for. The problem with cops is that the rulers of Oakland would rather fill our streets with these hired thugs than spend money on health care, libraries and schools. Salaries and pensions are just a small part of this. If cops were paid half as much, we’d still want them gone.
The cops, therefore, stand in stark opposition to everything we value about a place like Oakland. You need only listen to the words of one officer as he processed one of our arrested comrades: "Fuck Libraries...Who gives a fuck about libraries?!"
Anticut 2 was very successful at drawing these contradictions out into the open and building connections with many different kinds of people who happily sided with us against the banks and cops. The books worked great both on a symbolic level and as a tactical defense for the crowd. Yet there are also lots of lessons we need to learn, as the action exposed some of our serious tactical weaknesses. We were taken off guard by the street fight the police initiated, but it's still too early to tell how those few hours altered the course of this summer anti-capitalist initiative.
One thing we can safely conclude is that it probably opened up more opportunities for future action in this period of crisis than it closed. As such, it was another important step forward.
Please join us for Anticut 3 on Friday, July 8! And on July 4, we are hosting an anti-Amerikan BBQ where can can all relax and socialize. Stay tuned to bayofrage.com for updates and details about these upcoming events.
BOOK BLOC NOTES:
Six book shields backed by small team wearing matching baseball caps made up this initial North American book bloc. We chose to march behind the following books:
-The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
-Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici
-The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
-Assata by Assata Shakur
-The Unseen by Nanni Ballestrini
-Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
The following video was released by Italian comrades that details their construction of a massive book bloc last fall.
We hope to see this tactic used by many others in the coming fights against austerity!
ADDITIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE
Corporate Media Coverage:
Oakland: Anticut 2 - Book Bloc vs OPD
from Bay of Rage
full analysis & reportback coming soon…
LEGAL UPDATE: Of the four comrades arrested in yesterday’s anticut, one
has been released, one will hopefully be released shortly, and two are
still in custody with arraignments scheduled for tuesday. All have been
arrested on multiple misdemeanors. more info will be posted as it is
PHOTO ESSAY OF ANTICUT 2:
Indybay has posted a complete photo reportback of the action including the
book bloc, disruption of downtown banks and police attack. Check it out:
PART 1: Demo Kicks Off – Police Attack
PART 2: Police Attack – Rally at Oakland Library
Anticut 2 disrupted downtown Oakland Friday afternoon in an anticapitalist
defense of the libraries. 75 people took the streets of downtown in the
face of an ominous police presence that began issuing tickets and
confiscating sound equipment before the demo had even started. Crowds
walking by and waiting for buses cheered on the action as banks locked
down in fear of the disruption. After shutting down a Citibank and Wells
Fargo, police attacked the crowd and arrested multiple people but failed
to halt the movement of the action. The mobile disruption ended at the
downtown Oakland Library Branch where it was greeted by local librarians
who addressed the crowd as cops and bystanders watched from the street. 14
out 18 libraries in Oakland are facing closure due to the proposed city
Here are links to the texts handed out at the action today, but stay tuned
for a more detailed analysis.
Libraries vs. Banks: the old world is in our way
WE ARE FED UP! let’s block everything
Anarchy in the Library
also, here are some corporate news stories about the action: