yesterday in Oakland, Ca


Oakland riot

Oakland riot

Yesterday there were riots in downtown Oakland protesting the murder of a young black father. He was shot in the back while lying on the ground by a bart (bay area rapid transit) cop.


After the funeral of the murdered young man, people were angry that again, in Oakland, an unarmed black man was shot by a trigger happy cop.

People are rightly upset by the rioting, several cars were burned and windows of shops broken. People think there are more constructive ways to protest injustice, and those who were the victims of the riots were not the one’s who perpetrated the violence.

cop car and protesters

This is where history comes in and is of the utmost importance. 

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense originated in Oakland in 1966 in response to the widespread racism and brutality carried out on the black population by the police. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale started organizing groups of people to patrol the OPD and stand guard against the perpetual violence aimed at the black community. The movement, part of the shift towards Black Power, advocated revolution, a total remaking of American society. The Black Panther Party had a stated ten point platform, encouraged education of communism and history, and published a newspaper and started positive community organizations such as charter schools and free breakfast programs.

This is a very brief and inadequate sumnation of what the Black Panther Party stood for and its goals. I encourage you to read more about them, they were an incredible revolutionary group and their triumphs were great. But the history of the BPP was tragic in the end. The FBI declared war with the panthers. They were victims of the FBI program COINTELPRO and they were doggedly hunted by the police and government in every chapter that opened in America. Fred Hampton was murdered by the police, as were many others. The image of black men with guns was America’s worst nightmare.


an image of history and power

an image of history and power



While white America was able to respond to the nonviolent movement of MLK JR and Rosa Parks, the Black Panther Party for self defense was much to radical and scary for most people.

I could go on and on about the Black Panther Party ( I wrote my undergraduate thesis on gender roles in the Black Panther Party) but I won’t right here (at least for now)

But I want to say this, the riots last night in Oakland are part of a long history of police brutality. I am not condoning the violence in the protests (more than 100 arrests) BUT if there had not been violence would it have made it to the national news?

A man was murdered by a police officer. We won’t be able to know if it would have happened the way it did had he not been black. BUT we do know that the majority of men in prison are black and latino, eventhough they represent a minority of the overall population. The American prison system is the new 20th century form of slavery and chain gangs.

The roots of self-defense as opposed to nonviolence in regards to civil rights are right here in Oakland. We have a Malcolm X elementary school. We have Barbara Lee as our representative- head of the Black Caucus, and lone voice against the initial war in Afganistan. 

But we also have a history of violence in our community. America is a violent country. And so should people be so shocked when frustrated members of the community respond in violence. Have we not been inundated with violence from childhood? We learn of war, we watch movies and television with violence, we see violence over sees in Gaza. And we also learn about our personal rights, the 2nd amendment and our right to bear arms.

The Black Panther Party rejected nonviolence, and advocated real power. And as an American entity real power means guns. 

If the police can accidentally pull the trigger and governments can bomb schools, can we be so surprised when we respond with violent anger?

What happened in Oakland last night is part of history, and is the culmination of history. Just as the Watts riots in the sixties, just as the LA riots after Rodney King was beaten, and just like all the times in the future when Americans (or other nationalities) use violence to get their point across. 

If people want to understand what is happening today in our society, community, country, ect. we need to read our history books, learn from the mistakes of the generations that came before us, and understand that violence is as American as apple pie (or whatever cliche you might put here).

Oakland rioters sent a message last night to the world- It is not okay for the government or police to terrorize its citizens with excessive force and subtle or overt racism.

Our prison system is broken and ineffective in thwarting crime. 

Obama said this morning, that we must have a 21st century economy. Well I would add that we need a 21st century attitude towards war and violence and other ineffective ways we solve conflict.

The 20th century was an incredibly violent century, and this with all the progress of enlightenment, industrialization, secularism, and technology.

We must learn to use other  and new unorthadox strategies in overcoming conflict.  Violence begets more violence. The more we use violence to solve our problems with our ‘enemies’ on a global front, the more we will see violence in our own community, like we did last night in Oakland.

The family of the victim denounce the violence of the protests. Violence in the short term is terrible. And violence in the long term is even worse.


and in the meantime…


Rest In Peace Oscar Grant

Rest In Peace Oscar Grant


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Lynn said,

    Good point, Rebecca Luz. I second your wish for Oscar Grant to RIP. My heart goes out to his family.
    BART should just pay the $25 million to his family and not fight the lawsuit. LV

  2. 2

    Sérgio Henrique Ribeiro da Silva said,

    Capitalism analised only from the point where concerns ways to make more money, as you just said Becky, industrialization, technology make in 200 years a progress that ( only in the techonological point of view ) never was made before in such a short time in civilization. We do had great people in the area of thinking ( name one, just one, Hannah Arendt ) you do have people that with this amount of technology and their very effort and talent found the cure to diseases that used to kill people just like flies.

    Going to the human part, the ones who fought for their rights. To name a few: You do have the Black Panthers in America, Los Montoneros in Argentina, you do have a man like president Getúlio Vargas in Brazil ( because of his total lack of care with the elite and making Brazil at the time the 6º economy in the entire planet is accused of fascist/nazist because it´s from a region that was basically colonized by italians and germans, the south of Brazil ).

    But in the mean time, where we surely had our human progress, we also had to live with a brutal and wild social-economic project that basically teaches you that a good human being is the one with the biggest pocket. This line of thinking make happenings such as what happened with Oscar Grant ( the third to wish him to RIP ) to be seeing as one more in the statistics. You know where i found out it was a father praying who got a bullet the way he did? Here.

    In Brazil, the press ( journals, radio, internet, tv ) who make the monopoly of information, Rede Globo are like the ones who legitimate the existance of anything in the country, in the past when the militar regime had their back ( 1964-1985 ) was worse. They´re a sort of a power of the state as well. Beyond Citzen Kane, a BBC documentary explain better what Rede Globo means a way better then i ever will. It was told about Father Grant in their tv news, that some 70 millions watches every single night that ” during a fight who involved one drugged black kid who was beating up this cop… to aid his fellow officer who was being beat in to a bloody pulp, the cop had no other choice but use his gun ).
    The masses are already mistread with lazy schools, lazy health, inexistent security and are informed with a manipulation that have this level of distortion arriving their houses, the correspondent of Rede Globo in Israel, is a former member os Israeli Army. She had a blog ( of course now totally off, out of any reach ) where the main theme was heavy racists jokes.

    To make justice, in a very slow and tough way, President Lula is making a extremly good government, black people are for the first time getting a chance in universities, more than 40 millions left the line of poverty and now have a house, meals and the schools are improving. In a country with 200 milions, that´s something.

    What happened to Father Grant it´s so absurd that if you see the ones who were at the manifestation, with any doubt, they are people who had the luck of being well informed. Who with their own ways find means to inform themselves and simply know that their place was in the street because, you simply don´t do what you do and things stay all quiet. This is reaction, the riot was simply reaction. And if things weren´t so manipulated, just take what happened, with a little more of masses well informed it´s something to have millions in the street.
    When i say they´re lucky i mean that they could very well be people who fell into the system trap, the ones who do and simply watch to all sorts of barbaritys happening in the world, they didn´t choose to be like that. There´s a whole context who brings you to the status quo, and i don´t believe is that what i´d like to talk.

    Many of our human progress happened because of such a huge struggle with the ones who had the power and never cared for change because this just scares they too much, ” with equality of races will my bucks be alive in the bank? “. What we obtained with such a huge amount of effort, where the law was and is just never ever give up, and all this effort the we did and do, it exist to say one thing first off, LISTEN UP WE´RE ALL HUMANS. By the way i do believe, that we all who believe in peaceful progress have a way more thins in our minds, but that´s, so basic and so impossible to be understood by so many it´s number one.

    The Father Grant case says, Gaza says, any suburban zone of any place of the world says one basic thing, and i´m sorry if i´m writting to much and nothing gettin as deep as i could.

    Humans are not being treated like humans, and that make me go off topic, but i hope i made my point.

    Someone praying, being cowardely killed with a shot on his own back! What kind of animality is that? Things like that even when you know that saddly happens every day, even if you know that it was already like that and there´s a good chance of non stoping with any change of attitude of any one with the power in their hands. Being Israel, America, not necessaraly a State but a institution of one the police in this case.

    The one thing, and i do believe that it´s of the most important part of any indignate behaviour in front a situation like the one with Father Grant. Something that you Becky always make question to remind. Payback is not the solution. Vengeance no, you don´t pay violence with violence only brings more violence.

    To find civilizated solutions to violent conflicts and problems where always the most poor and independent part suffer with a great amount of violence and manipulation. Make the work of the ones who already are making this effort since a pretty good quantity of time, make their experiences healthly colide with some of our ideas. Join forces, i do believe that only exchanging points of view we´re doing something already.

    How to handle with a penal system who simply keep people eating rage, 24/7? How someone whose entered the prision for the color of it´s own skin because of a crime that it wasn´t him/she who commited get out of jail, if leaves, like that? What kind of human being came out from a system like that?

    How to break the political ties, who are so many, to make it seem clear Zionism equals Criminality? To make them pay, make the State of Israel pay for one simple thing, bomb schools, kill UN people, 18 months forbidden the Red Cross to enter in Gaza, for all war crimes they´re making.

    How does it feel for a black person to know that a father got murdered for the color of his skin? Cold blooded murder, did on the victim back.

    The list goes on and on, but they all have one thing in common. The fight against finnacial-political pressure that the keep this system working it´s sure rough. It´s rough, but it´s about the time to some people to hold back their greed and disgusting ways to run the world.
    This doesn´t started yestarday, and here the study of history came along as a main condition to try to understand this and to know that only good will is not enough, it would be very naive to think.

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