The Oakland Dock Protest




I

was one of the hundreds of people who met Monday, April 7 at the
Oakland Docks to peacefully picket in front of the APL shipping
lines—which transports munitions that were used to kill men,
women, and children in Iraq. Many Longshoremen watched and many
showed support for what we were doing. 


The
police gave dispersal warnings to our picket of women and men, old
and young, holding signs and chanting peaceful slogans. But then
we heard huge blasts from guns and I saw some people fall. Many
of us ran, some left the scene altogther. Some of us did not want
to give up that quickly, feeling it was our democratic right to
picket on Oakland property. We re- grouped and joined a smaller
picket circle in front of another driveway at the docks. 


Once
again, we had little time to communicate about what we wanted to
do. We joined the last remaining circle and then people started
running as police on motorcycles charged the protestors, actually
hitting one woman, leaving tire prints on her arm, leg, and back.
The police fired on people at alarmingly close range. I saw many
being carried away who were bloody and wearing stunned looks on
their faces. These were young people, elderly men and women, people
of many colors and economic backgrounds, teachers and union workers.
The police were indiscriminate. They rounded up 31 of us and we
were handcuffed and put into a bus. The guy next to me had gravel
in the side of his face and his back was aching from the force of
five police officers on top of him, one with a knee in his back. 


We
were arrested at around 8:30 AM and held in Santa Rita county jail
until 4:00 AM the next day. We were separated by gender and shoved
into small cells. There were 16 men in our cell. We were taunted
by the guards. One of them shoved a picture of George Bush and a
trapped-looking Saddam Hussein in my face and asked what I thought
of it. I said, believe it or not, we are not in here in support
of Saddam Hussein, but for the Iraqi people who are being slaughtered
by our government. We were in there because we have the right to
peacefully protest in our democratic nation. He snickered, “You
people are so stupid.” 


During
our time in jail, we went around the room and told jokes, played
theater games, and talked about everything from the overthrow of
Chile’s President Allende in the 1970s to the tragedy in Iraq.
One man had just returned from Palestine where he was working with
the International Solidarity Movement. He recounted a recent horrific
story when the Internationalists were walking peacefully with some
Palestinians and they noticed an Israeli militant watching them
from a tower through the scope of his rifle. Suddenly they heard
a shot and a 14-year-old Palestian boy, who was walking with them,
was suddenly dead from a gunshot wound in his head. 


I remember
reading about this in the paper. The man recounted his horror at
witnessing this incident so closely, and also his sadness, as the
story was presented in the media the next day as the boy throwing
a molotav cocktail and the Israeli army reacting in self-defense.
An outright lie, stripping this boy of the dignity of the truth
of his life and death. 


Similarly,
I was distraught to see the media coverage of our protest for peace
at the Oakland docks. The police claimed that their actions were
justified because they were responding to our throwing of rocks
and cement. No one in my jail cell witnessed any such violence on
the part of the peace protesters. None of us participated in any
aggressive actions. 


We
will not stop protesting. We will fight for the truth non-violently.
If what happened at a protest in Oakland can’t be reported
in the media, how can we know what happened to people in Iraq? 


I
will never forget my fellow protesters from the Oakland dock picket.
These are the same people who must read these lies about our experience,
but know our fight is not in vain. 







Paul
Ginocchio is an activist living in California.