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Rally to Protect Free Speech from Police Brutality

by Rockero Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011 at 9:27 PM

Friday, November 11, 2011
RIVERSIDE, (CA) - In response to Sunday's police raid on the peaceful anti-Wall Street encampment at the downtown arts walk, Occupy Riverside marched on the police station and rallied there. In recognition of Veteran's Day and the significant contributions of veterans to the Occupy Movement and all social justice movements, we took a moment to honor the veterans in our movement and all veterans of the class war.

The day's activities began with an 11:30 am rally at the pedestrian walkway and University Avenue, where occupiers and supporters increased awareness about the weekend's injustice, chanted, and sang. One young woman delighted us with an original song composed just for the occasion.

By noon or so, we had a good crowd of well over 100 people, and began our march. Our veterans, one a trans woman and Vietnam combat veteran and another, a Sunday arrestee and survivor or the latest Iraq war, led the way. Again, as during the march in solidarity with Oakland occupants, we denounced the Wells Fargo cartel as we passed the corner of University before hanging a left down Market. We chanted "Hey hey! Ho ho! Police brutality has got to go!" as well as the now-famous "We are the 99%!"

We rounded the corner at 14th Street and paused for a moment at the Bank of America to denounce that cartel's crimes against humanity before turning up Orange Street. To the bewildered looks of the police officers standing guard at the police station, we passed their facility, arriving at the Presley Detention Center and filling up the entire plaza in front of the jail. One comrade explained the purpose of the stop:

"We are here at the detention center, not just because this is where our comrades were detained Sunday for six, seven, some of them eight hours, but also in recognition of the suffering that goes on in jails, prisons, and immigrant detention facilities all across this nation. The United States has the highest per capita rate of detention in the world, and it's because of the policies that the 1% impose on us. Those of us in the 99% cannot afford justice."

We then returned to the police station, where we chanted some more before beginning our program. Our master of ceremonies began with some inspiring words before asking Jasmine, a UCR student who witnessed the events of Sunday, to come forward to explain what happened that day.

The description was followed by testimonies from Robert, who was victimized, Elizabeth, who told the story of the aggression against the father of her child and the subsequent denial of his right to due process by Riverside sheriff's deputies at the jail, and Dani, the People's Kitchen volunteer who had to be hospitalized for her injuries.

Robert said, "I just wanna thank everybody for being out here tonight. I personally was arrested that day, and I want to address the mainstream media because we've been told that there was no police brutality. What people've gotta realize is that you don't have to be punched to be hurt. If you choke someone hard enough, they can pass out. You know what I mean? I was arrested and I had about three to four police officers on top of me, on my neck, on my head, and on my back for being part of the human chain. We were just protecting food. They said that we attacked them with a lethal weapon. I don't know what weapon they're talking about, cause all we had were tents, food, people, clothing, love, books--that's our weapon. They came with handcuffs, beanbags, firearms, police cars, pepper spray. You know, we're here peacefully, and what people need to realize, they're saying we have no specific demands. Well, you gotta be patient with us America, because look at what we've done in just two months since Wall Street began. Some people say we haven't accomplished anything. We've totally changed what people are talking about now. And we're here standing for America, not just for ourselves. And realize that today it could be me, tomorrow it could be your child, your granddaughter, your husband, your wife. This is something that affects America, not just an individual. And when you let someone get away with a little bit, the next time they're gonna wanna do more. And another thing, we're here to march not only for ourselves but also for Scott Olson. He has made the ultimate sacrifice. He's put his life on the line. And he went to Iraq for two tours, he came back, and he was hurt really really bad, by police, by a citizen. And that is not right. I wanna tell the mainstream media, you gotta stop editing the film. Show the real footage! Be real and be honest, because tomorrow it will be you. You think you're part of the one percent, I tell you what: sooner or later, they're not gonna need you. And what do you think they're gonna do to you? United, we will never be defeated. We are too big to fail! We are too big to fail!"

Dani was the last speaker of the segment. "I just first--before I speak about my experiences on Sunday, I want to say thank you to all my comrades who are here supporting me. And it's to be on this side of the police department and not locked up inside and demoonstrating against state-sanctioned violence.

"On Sunday, I received a call from Evan that the police had come, and this was after multiple threats this weekend that they were gonna come and raid our camp. I was at home, I threw on clothes, and I got down there, and as soon as I got down there, I saw them carrying items away from the People's Kitchen. So not only was I mad that they were at my camp, I was mad that they were taking away all the stuff we were working so har d to get from the community in order just to stay in our camp. So I joined the human chain immediately. We were not only protecting the items in the People's Kitchen, but out books, our library, our personal belongings, it's just--we had to do it. So we've been accused of breaking laws and saying this is OK that the police used the force that they did, but it's not right! I mean, I broke a law that I think is unjust. Before the police even tried to take me from the human chain, I had one officer grab my left arm, which is now sprained, and just twist it behind my back and do that for multiple, multiple minutes, and even when it continued after I was handcuffed and arrested, he continued to do that. And then I was later slammed onto the ground.

"There's a lot of video footage, I've told this story a lot. So--and just watching all of my brothers and sisters thrown to the ground, I didn't use any profanity against the police. I don't condemn anyone that did, but it was just unnecessary force and aggression and abusive behavior at the hands of the RPD. My injuries are documented, I went to the emergency room after I got out of jail, so I just want to say thank you for being here, it really means a lot. What happened on Sunday, I would never downplay it, but unfortuantely, that's just a tiny percent of the police brutality in the entire world. And people think that in the US it doesn't happen here, but like Elizabeth said, it happens in minority neighborhoods, Black, Mexican, Hispanic, Latino, the poor, I mean, they have to endure it every day. They don't have a group that's standing up for them. We are now!"

Our MC then asked Julio to lead a tribute to the veterans in our midst. They were invited to come forward and were lauded by all present. Each was given a chance to speak, and these speeches provided a solid underpinning to the day's actions, making extremely clear the relationship between the struggles against police brutality, for economic justice, and against the wars.

"We have students, don't we? We have teachers, don't we? We have union members, don't we? This is the kind of movement that is changing the face of America. We are making history right now. We are making history, because this kind of brutality that the police committed we are not permitting any more. In order to do that, we need to get together with people from every rant of society. Black, Hispanic, Asian, White, and also with every sector, in the sense that this country's made up of so many kind of people. So one of the sectors that are very important for this country because they sacrifice a lot are the veterans."

Michelle began: "I served in the Vietnam War. I joined the navy in an effort to stay out of the army and served this country in a war that I believed was wrong. And it was wrong, and it accomplished very little, except a lot of death.

"And after I came home from the war, I was discriminated against as a war veteran. They promised me educational assistance, they fell short on that. They promised me job assistance, they fell short on that. They promised me housing assistance, and I am still unemployed and homeless as a US veteran. Combat veteran!

"And what happened to Scott Olson is just another example of how much they care about the veterans they put on the front line in so-called defense of our rights. It's not right!

"I was so proud of the human chain and the ones that resisted on Sunday. It shows so much commitment and courage and the unity and love of this movement."

Next came Matt. "Hello everyone, and thank you for being here. My name's Matt and I served in the US army. I'm glad to see all of you out here because there is a cause here: defending the COnstitution and the Bill of Rights. I and everyone else in the military took an oath to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so I gotta thank you all for doing that for us."

The next man, the father of an occupier, wore a baseball cap emblazoned with military regalia. He asked us to repeat after him as he said, "I had a mother, a brother, a sister, but where's my Uncle Sam?"

Juan was next. "Hi everyone, my name is Juan Brown. I'm an occupier. I also served with the Bush administration senior in the Gulf War. I got a lot of brothers and sisters still in. But I'm also here to honor my dad, who died in Vietnam. He was blown apart. He was saving a member of his platoon and walked on a mine. So this is to all the veterans, and to demoncracy, that we are going to stand fast and put back in America. I'm here to say to all the occupiers across the world and to all the veterans, let's put the 'A' back in America."

Dick was last. "Hello, I'm Dick Morris and I joined the air force during the Vietnam War because I didn't want to get drafted into the army, and I spent all my time here in the United States actually freezing in Montana for three-and-a-half years. But it's really exciting to see such a wonderful group of people. Give yourselves a big hand for being here today! I was literally shocked when I heard about what happened inside here. I would assume you never see that kind of stuff in the movies, or in the program where the police are brutalizing people inside the sheriff's station! This is horrible, it's just unacceptable. And we need to change that. We need to change that, and we can. This is a tremendous movement. I understand that the last figures were something like 650,000 people have stopped putting their money in banks and they're taking htem into the credit unions. Raise your hand if you have your money in a credit union. Fantastic, look at that, it looks like maybe 50 percent or so. That's fantastic. And that's one of the ways that we can take the country back and give it to the people. Thank you all for being here."

The floor was then opened to anyone else who wanted to speak, and several speakers availed themselves of the opportunity, including members of the ANSWER coalition and comrades from Occupy LA.

Occupy Riverside continues to face many obstacles. We are still developing policies and enforcement mechanisms to deal with the most-oppressed among us who suffer from mental illness and the aggressions that accompany it, and we are certain to face more repression as the city gears up for its annual "Festival of Lights," a celebration of gratuitous consumerism to benefit Riverside's 1%. Through unofficial channels, the city has made it clear that they will "clean us out" before the November 25 inaugural ceremony, and we have yet to develop a strategy or contingency plan for that eventual scenario. However, we have demonstrated our resolve and our solidarity through our response to police repression and our continued growth and commitment to a democratic process. Occupy Riverside is here to stay.
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