Review of Saturday's March For Justice and Police Accountability
A look back at the organizing and day of this contreversial event.
The march on saturday began a campaign by Arissa and its allies to accomplish two goals:
1) To demand that Jason Sery be subject to due process, and face trial for murder in a criminal court.
2) To demand that a citizen review board be created that is directly representative of the people in Portland, and that has independent disciplinary power over the police.
The event itself had many pros and many cons, some of which I intend to talk about here.
Before the march, Arissa and some allies created a large outreach campaign to both create a dialog about the issue of police murder and state reperession, and to promote this specific event. All in all, Arissa and allies put up approximately 5,000 posters; we handed out 700+ quarter-sheet fliers; sent out 5,000 pieces of bulk mail; and placed an ad in the Willamette Weekly.
Primarily, we hung posters in N and NE and all along E 82nd, and we hung several hundred in SE. Quarter sheets were passed out at highschools,PSU, PCC, danceclubs,cafes,on the street, and other police accountability events. The Willamette Week ad probably reached people in SE and SW the most, because that is where its distribution is the largest.
We are slowly but surely creating alliances with other organizations who are organizing around the issue of police accountability. For the march, we made contact with five other organizations who we thought might share common cause in this issue, to see if they were interested in collaborating on the march. No organizations got involved on that level, although many individuals, some from a couple of the organizations that we contacted, did.
About 200 people showed up at noon, at Pioneer square. To be accurate, that's 200 protesters- there were at least 100 cops in the immediate vicinity. There were armored cop-carrier cars driving around downtown, and many bike-cops present.
There were three speakers, and the MC. The speakers were Ruth, from the Justice for Mumia Coalition; Alton, from the October 22nd Coalition (Seattle); and Michael, from Arissa.
The march headed out of the square and we were quickly made aware that the police would not let us walk on the street. There was some shoving by the cops, and yelling by the protesters. We decided that we would march on the sidewalk. Some people have criticized the fact that we did not take the street for this march. The reason that we decided to stay on the sidewalk is that the main focus of the march was to bring people's concerns to the mayor's house, and we realized that the police would not let us that far if we were to focus on direct confrontation with them for the street. We did not want to sacrifice an opportunity that might further the campaign, for one particular confrontation.
The police were very vigilant in upholding the crosswalk statutes. The police themselves were blocking the streets, but they still would not let us cross any streets until the hand stopped flashing. Mike D was arrested for "jaywalking", although accounts differ as to whether or not he actually did. In any case, the police were looking for excuse.
We made it to Katz's home on SW 21st, where there was an open mic/bullhorn. Vera heard us, loud and clear,so she called 911. Then the police began closing in and posturing for a mass action, and we had accomplished our day's task, so we headed back down to the square.
PROS and CONS
By the day of the march, the corporate media was hyping the event as the brainchild of "terrorists"; that we were bent on having a "violent" event, and that we had "no roots in the community", all of which are blatantly untrue. It's not above and beyond the corporate media to lie, however this information was not just being put out by the media- the police union inferred that we intended violence, and some activists followed suit.
All this seems like it was intended to create a good protester/bad protester dynamic, and squash any emerging solidarity between the two "sides".
We couldn't counter this tidal wave of hate. We were unprepared, without enough time or energy to do it. As a new organization, we do not have a reputation to refer to. So what we focused on was building a dialog with a few people who were spreading the idea that we were violent and rootless, to try to come to an understanding of eachother's positions, and to see where we could build alliances. We had some sucess. I learned a lot in the process, and I think others did too.
So the turnout on the day of the march was smaller than might have been expected. Probably due to how contentious our efforts had been made. But the event itself had some really good points: We went to the mayor's house. She was made aware of the fact that she's accountable to the people. We made it clear that we are dedicated to a campaign to achieve the two stated goals of the march- that we will contribute to building this effort until this state repression and murder is disallowed.We built some great alliances.
Since the march, Arissa has released two press releases- one asking the District Attorney to release the socio-economic and racial make-up of the grand jury that refused to indict Jason Sery of any wrongdoing;
and the other one condemning the public inquest as a "sick attempt at pacification", due to the fact that it has no power to hold Sery accountable for what he's done. We are dedicated to community systems of oversight, and the end of state repression.
Some people are saying that our work is inconsistant with our larger stated goals, or that we must be "capitalizing" off the sorrows of others (that's what a policeman told me when he arrested me for allegedly fliering). But cops fighting for white supremacy and classism are doing all the people a big dis-service, forcing people to be no more than pawns in the power system to be moved against eachother and used and exploited. Cops killing people out of unsubstantiated fear should not be tolerated by people of any race, ethnicity, or class. Killer cops are enforcing a system of genocide and slavery that's been ingrained in this society since before it was even a nation. Time and time again, people have realized that none of us are free until all of us are free. Now is no different.
Arissa believes that the political, social, and economic system needs to be fundamentally changed for a just society to exist. We believe that working to counter state opression and to create systems of community power is a positive step in that direction. We don't fool ourselves that our efforts will BE the totallity of such revolutionary change, or the totallity of the successful campaign to hold Sery and the PPD accountable for their actions. We want to contribute to this effort in the ways that we can, so we're building alliances with those who feel we have a common cause, to address the state repression that impacts all of our lives.
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