Back To The Docks

I’m going back to the Oakland docks to picket, to confront the corporations behind the war, to face the Oakland police who attacked us, and to redefine a new antiwar movement that can topple the empire and build a better world.

At sunrise April 7, I joined 750 students, community and antiwar activists, trade unionists, teachers, and concerned folks in a picket against war profiteers American President Lines and Stevedoring Services of America. After holding closed meetings with these corporations days before, the Oakland police opened fire on us for two hours with potentially lethal wooden bullets, metal shot-filled bags, and concussion grenades. Three members of the media, 9 longshore workers, and 50 community members were injured, and 31 people were arrested.

Three weeks later, on April 29, news came that the U.S. government shot ­ with live ammunition this time ­ and killed 13 Iraqi civilians protesting the same war and occupation. Seventy-five Iraqis were injured. That same day, at a packed Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee hearing on the police attack, Oakland residents recounted the long “war at home” that Oakland police have waged on communities of color.

The war didn’t start and won’t end in Iraq, and the system behind it won’t end with President Bush. It’s one piece of a bigger war for empire that includes three interlocking parts: military war and occupation, economic war to impose corporate globalization on the world, and war at home ­ including racism, environmental injustice, attacks on civil liberties, and cuts in our basic services. On May 12 we will confront all three.

The military war: APL Corp. makes profits from shipping ammunition like that used to kill the 13 Iraqi civilians. The company also profits from loading munitions at the Concord Naval Weapons Station.

The economic war: SSA, like Bechtel and Chevron, will profit from the second, corporate invasion of Iraq. The U.S. government, refusing to consider Iraqis, has given SSA a three-year monopoly contract with guaranteed profit to take over Umm Qasr, Iraq’s major port.

The war at home: the Oakland Police Department and Mayor Jerry Brown are attacking our civil liberties as they defend APL and SSA and long-term brutality and injustice against communities of color in Oakland.

Can we redefine the antiwar movement, to resist in different ways on different fronts the war for empire? Can we find more spaces, like the Oakland docks, at which to converge and weave our diverse threads into a fabric of resistance? Can we couple this with expanding and creating socially just, ecological, and directly democratic alternatives?

With no office or paid staff and organized in living rooms, cafés, union halls, and church basements, tens of thousands of people shut down and occupied the biggest corporate artery in the western United States: San Francisco’s Financial District. The Bay Area’s do-it-yourself antiwar uprising articulated some new politics that are essential: people power, or nonviolent direct action to assert our power, directly democratic organizing so everyone has a say in the decisions that effect him or her, and the creation of new forms and language of resistance.

The world’s social movements are stronger and more connected than ever ­ we are the global mainstream ­ as the biggest protest in history showed Feb. 15. The global elite is divided and faces an escalating crisis of legitimacy: they are increasingly an extremist fringe.

What happens here in the United States is key. Can we in the Bay Area help create a new, deeper antiwar movement that can catalyze an uprising in the heart of the empire and step up to the plate with movements around the world? Do we have the guts and imagination?

See you at the docks.

David Solnit puppeteers with Art and Revolution and organizes with Direct Action to Stop the War. A nonviolent picket will be held at the Oakland docks May 12, 5-9 p.m. Meet at West Oakland BART. For more information go to or call (415)820-9649.

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