What FTP Means to Me
In late December of 2011, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) began pulling people out of the crowd at Oscar Grant Plaza (OGP), the gathering place for Occupy Oakland (OO), for no apparent reason and "arresting" them on charges that could not legally stick. Arrestees have been given "stay-way" orders that prevent them from gathering at OGP. The ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild are challenging the constitutionality of these orders in court. In response, it seems, the Alameda County district attorney has become unhinged enough to write an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle defending the stay-away practice. See here for some good analysis.
There is one particular snatch and grab case available on youtube that is shot from the point of view of the arrestee, @geekeasy. See here.
This happened to a lot of people and continues to happen. In the video, it's particularly interesting that one of the arresting officers tells @geekeasy: "Let go of it, Mr. Katz. Let go of it." ("it" is the camera). It's clear OPD knew his name before they arrested him. Yet it's not clear what "Mr. Katz" did to deserve that pre-knowledge or that arrest.
In response to this practice, on new year's eve 2011, a jail solidarity (noise demo) march was organized by the Occupy Oakland Tactical Committee (ooTAC). If you've seen the Occupy Oakland "sign" it is usually carried by an ooTAC member. See here.
The idea of a noise demo is to march to the local jail and make as much noise as possible so as to let the prisoners know someone knows they're there.
We were in the crowd of about 100 people. We were getting ready to march from OGP to the jail. Part of the preparations concerned unveiling a large black banner, three traffic lanes in width, with the words FUCK THE POLICE thickly stroked in a red non-serif font. See here.
We marched down Broadway behind this large banner to the police station. We stopped in front of the station and stood near the entrance and performed a party. Some people made gestures to the five or six riot cops guarding the doors of the police station from the inside.
One half hour later we moved down seventh street to the jail. On the way an OPD flag was grabbed from it perch. We stopped in front of the jail and again performed the party. We shouted to the prisoners. They flicked the lights on and off. People brought out fireworks and flares and lit them. See picture of rocket.
Someone burned the flag snatched earlier. This party lasted for one half hour after which we made our way back to OGP, but not before walking back up seventh street to again make gestures to the five or six riot cops guarding the doors of the police station from the inside.
At the plaza we had a real party with dancing. I think michael jackson songs were played. Some people kissed anarchists. The next day, near year's day, there was a march from OGP to the fruitvale BART station where Oscar Grant was shot in the back by BART police while he was handcuffed and face planted on the platform early new year's day 2009. We marched behind a family who brought a mobile sound system and played NWA's Fuck the Police over and over. See here.
I make a note regarding the ooTAC that they are largely people of color from the east bay about the same age as Oscar Grant. They rallied after the "verdict" of the BART officer who shot Oscar Grant in the back while he was handcuffed and face planted on the platform early new year's day 2009. They came to know each other in real life (IRL). I don't know members of the ooTAC in real life. They probably think I'm a cop. After all, I do play one on tv.
After the relative lack of police presence at the noise demo, the next FTP marches were met with a serious police response: large white vans full of cops in riot gear, lines of cops in riot gear, motorcycle cops, batons, "non-lethal" rounds. During FTP 1 on January 7, for example, the cops kettled and attacked the marchers, beating them and making numerous arrests.
FTP 1 Jan 7, 2012 Downtown Oakland, CA
1) 00:03:20 The entire precinct is outside arming up, putting helmets on. Protesters coming down. '... from Oakland to Greece, fuck the police...'
2) 00:21:00 Discussion with someone snatched from Oscar Grant Plaza. The arrestee, Tiffany Tran, was charged with lynching.
3) 00:40:00 Standoff .
4) 00:44:00 Riot cops attack.
5) 00:54:45 Discussion with food committee member Leila with swollen knuckles: "They took my cake, they took my bike, they took my trailer."
To date, there have been 10 FTP marches. I think the new year's eve noise demo can be called FTP 0. I assume there will be more. I get updates about FTP marches from the Twitter Social Media Site. I follow @occupythemob and @LadyGoftheTAC.
Occupy4Prisoners Benefit March 1, 2012 Grand Lake Theatre Oakland, CA
1) 00:22:45 Blank Panther Elaine Brown gives a brief lecture on US Capitalism 101 and the prison industrial complex.
2) 00:28:45 Elaine Brown's closing thoughts: "[I am happy to] urge you to organize yourselves and arm yourselves for the inevitable government onslaught and know that we are still dreaming of that day when power will come to the people and we will all truly be free at last. Power to the people."
So, given that brief FTP background, I want to make a point about a recent blog article concerning one cluster of contemporary american poetry, a thoughtful exchange between Brandon Brown and Thom Donovan. They fawn over each others' new books; hey, I'll fawn too, you should read them: The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus and The Hole. Get them. They're good poetry. They talk some about the lyric and its (new) possibilities against a backdrop of anti-lyrical sentiment starting in the late 70s or so with Language Poetry and ending with the Telling it Slant book of essays in the 90s. (disclosure, I think I must be under attack since I have an essay about gender in Telling it Slant). It's a reasonable piece written by two poets who I like personally and whose work I admire. See here.
I only have one problem with the piece. I found myself wishing they had used another title:
"Enframing the Brink: Fuck the Police and Fuck the Avant-Garde Too."
1. "Enframing the Brink"... not sure what that means. Fine. Whatever. It's not the part of the title I have a problem with.
2) "Fuck the Police" ... I know what that means. But I'm not sure the authors do. Here's why I think that. If the authors knew that police feeling, the one you get, for example, from facing a line of riot cops, they probably wouldn't trivialize it by transferring it to the realm of poetics and using it as a hammer against some perceived elitist, vanguardist or old-fartist tendency in one cluster of contemporary american poetry. Or maybe I just mean I wouldn't. Why?
a) It gives you a feeling inside
"Recent advances in understanding what psychologists call 'embodied cognition' indicate a surprisingly direct link between mind and body. It turns out that people draw on their bodily experiences in constructing their social reality." duh.
Go to oakland and participate in an FTP march and see how it makes you feel inside. I'd recommend against bringing the kids, but do pack a bandana, protective eye-wear, and a bike helmet. Bring also some water as you'll probably be walking a few miles. Enjoy the streets. They're your streets. Watch out when the cops try to join the march. Walk, don't run.
Now try to use the phrase Fuck the Police as a metaphor to make a literary point in a blog post. Wait, did I just do that?
b) I snark tweeted
Let me tell you the timeline of my encounter with Thom and Brandon's blog piece. I first read it after seeing a link on facebook. I thought oh, fine, whatever. Thom and Brandon like each other and that's nice. I had a few discussions with folks in real life who were a little tweeked by the piece, but I really didn't feel compelled to have an emotional reaction or respond in any way.
A day or so later I was reading the Twitter Social Media Site and had just finished wondering about a story about another snatch and grab episode and OPD's press release regarding same. You should probably read the Press Release (PR).
Thanks OPD, my new favorite phrase is "calling for a riot." Seems like OPD has not forgotten about Althusser. Operators are standing by. Call 1-800-RIOT-NOW.
(btw, if you're flush, like David Buuck, you can donate to the bail fund here.)
After reading that press release, a link to Brandon and Thom's piece showed up in my Twitter Social Media Site. I experienced a feeling inside I had not had from reading it when linked via facebook. I snark tweeted. Odd. Embodied cognition? Twitter is generally where I get information about Occupy Oakland and FTP and other anon news. Facebook is much more literary in terms of contact ratios. So sorry for the snark tweet. This is what I meant to say.
I feel a little odd, like I'm claiming some ownership over the term FTP when I have very little involvement with the actual actions or the actors. I really don't want to scold. What I want is Brandon there at OO and the others too. There used to be a lot of poets showing up and now they're not there so much. I love you poets. I miss you!
3) "Fuck the Avant-Garde Too" ... that is fine also. I don't theorize about vanguardism, so again I leave that to the realm of whatever. As a way out of here, let me pull a transformation from the literary realm to the realm of the anarchist discussion board.
Charles W via King Tender
"Direct Action Brigade of Wild and Eternal Childhood"
Chile: Claims Of Responsibility For Santander Bank & Banco Estado Attacks
Yesterday, February 27, 2012
Tony Dohr, Sara Wintz and 2 others like this.
I think actions of this sort are very destructive. Sure, they might evoke a sensibility, but they are inherently vanguardist and elitest.
February 28 at 1:45pm • Like
I don't know much about the action; or anything about the people who did it, or their relationship to and place within the broader movement. But I think their name is pretty funny.
February 28 at 2:27pm • Like • 3
@Chuck, thats what parents say to their kids. Better yet, what is said about OO...
What else do you propose people do in the face of this violent/murderous system? What shall we tell the people of Chile about how they should fight back?
February 28 at 7:28pm • Like
"Chuck, that's what parents say to their kids"? Huh? Did your parents call you elitist and vanguardist? Really? Well, ok, then. . . I'm not sure if the people of Chile care what I have to say, but you do and so does Charles and maybe a few others. And, yes, it IS elitist and vanguardist when a small, secret, unaccountable group of militants set fire to a bank in the name of the suffering masses. No thanks! Who needs another revolutionary elite, acting in the name of the people? I certainly don't and I suspect that most Chileans don't either. I want a MASS revolutionary movement, not one organized around elites (Bakuninist, Guevarist, Maoist, or otherwise)
February 28 at 7:44pm • Like
February 28 at 7:45pm • Like
for the sake of comparison, right now there is a very radical, mass student movement in Chile that can shut down Santiago with huge marches, has an impact on public debates throughout the country, and has a very important anarchist influence. It is a mass movement-in the streets, on the campuses, and engaged in discussions with millions of ordinary Chileans. This is the sort of thing I support, not a small, secretive group focused on extending its members childhood.
February 28 at 7:56pm • Like
Have you ever been part of any "mass revolutionary movement" in the Global South? Do you know that some actions are done in secret because of the nature of the action? They have state power last time I checked. What does YOUR experience tell you about how revolutionary actions take place? Not what you read, not what you wrote, what your experience there tells you. So, they burnt a fucking bank, what will you say when the 3 billion people on this planet--who live on less than $2.50 a day--seek to burn Wall Street and its junkie capitalist economy?
Yankee Go Home, J.
February 28 at 8:02pm • Like
Am I the Yankee you're telling to go home, Jose? Is that directed at me?
February 28 at 8:36pm • Like
I'm not sure where your indignation comes from Jose, but, yeah, I support mass, popular movements, not elitest, vanguardist groups. I actually want to see a movement of three billion people and, yeah, juvenile vandalism has nothing to do with it
February 28 at 8:42pm • Like
Jose, i'm guessing that you're probably not familiar with it, but there are big debates within the Chilean anarchist movement about the role of vanguardism, terror, and all of the related issues. Most but not all Chilean anarchists share my position (which is not controversial there)
February 28 at 8:47pm • Like
tomorrrow morning, i am so calling sasha elitist and vangardist.
February 28 at 11:01pm • Like • 1
then i'm going to use it on charles.
February 28 at 11:01pm • Like • 1
Hey, both Sasha and I only have pure revolutionary motives. We are so "of the people" that we don't even need the people.
February 28 at 11:03pm • Like • 1
yeah, yeah dream on haoles.
February 28 at 11:13pm • Like
Watch your step or we'll denounce you in our next construction-paper communique.
February 28 at 11:23pm • Like • 1