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Statement on Repression of Anarchist and Socialist Activity in Long Beach, CA

by Lissa Strata idVer:7871b41296c91161c0b4583d7d Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 at 4:52 PM
artofexisting@gmail.com

This article was collaboratively written.

In late 2014, local autonomous participants, anarchists and members of Socialist Praxis at Long Beach City College began working together to host a discussion on police, prisons, and capitalism. This event was planned for January 10th and is now postponed after drawing the targeted attention of the Long Beach Police.

LBPD intimidated the owner of our chosen venue, Cultural Alliance Long Beach, into withdrawing their support less than a week before the scheduled date by citing inapplicable permitting requirements.

In this statement, we will seek to explain the substance of our event, detail the police repression of our political speech, and outline our next steps in gathering despite LBPD manipulating their position and the law to restrict our access to a community space.

While the event includes zines and literature, an open mic, DJ set, free burritos from Food not Bombs, and live performances from local bands, participatory discussions remain the main focus of our event. Our plan was to feature five speakers, each talking for 10-15 minutes, with open discussion amongst all participants between each talk. In this way, sitting in a circle facing one another, we hope to subvert the power dynamics of a traditional "panel", in which speakers drone from a lectern and others feel discouraged from participating. The planned topics were promoted as follows:

"The History of Policing (A Marxist Perspective)"

"Prison-Industrial Complex and Minority Communities"

"Hierarchy or Liberation"

"Why Riot? Anti-Police Struggles in Perspective"

"Opposition and BlackQueer TRANS*formation"

Our event drew support not only from anarchists and socialists, but various groups from the area, including a local chapter of Black Lives Matter, Food Not Bombs, Mission Solidarity, Fight for 15, and "Housing, Justice, and Equality Long Beach". In the days leading up to the 10th, excitement was building and we had high hopes for a smooth event at The Bungalow, a venue of Cultural Alliance Long Beach (CALB).

That's when the police chose to make their surveillance known. Five days prior to the event date, the manager of CALB was contacted by LBPD, who called the event "incendiary" and warned that it would "attract the wrong crowd." They went on to insist that the event lacked the proper permits and should be cancelled.

Unfortunately, CALB's owner caved into this pressure with seemingly little awareness of political repression or thought to the consequences of chilling our political speech. This came after we had paid a membership fee to CALB, which supposedly permitted us to plan and host events in their space. In addition, a Space Reservation Form had been submitted for the event to CALB in December and was approved by their manager. CALB has also been notified they will now be required to obtain permits for other community events in their space, extending our repression onto them by association. They have since stopped returning our phone calls, despite our efforts to maintain communication with them.

After pressuring to have the event cancelled, a police detective made repeated phone calls to the event organizer who booked the space. Thankfully, he declined to speak with them, and we commend him and the other members of Socialist Praxis for refusing to validate the disruptive tactics of the Long Beach police.

The Long Beach police have committed numerous violations and misapplications of the law in their attempts to repress our political activity, raising serious issues of selective enforcement and political discrimination. This is especially suspect given the nature of our event, which was to critically discuss the role of the police and their abuse of the law.

There is no such “gathering permit" we know of. The "Occasional Event Permit" knowingly misused by Law Enforcement to intimidate CALB holds no bearing on a free event centered around political speech, and is specifically intended for business related events involving their clientele for the sole purpose of entertainment.

We want to be as clear as we possibly can: our event is an expression of radical political speech and is not aimed to entertain anyone. There is nothing entertaining about police violence, and the structural violence of prisons and capitalism.

A lawyer has also advised the organizers that these permit requirements, even if legally applicable, have yet to be proven constitutional, especially if being used by the LBPD to restrict political activity that calls their own legitimacy into question. In the coming days and weeks, the State may well answer for these missteps in their own courts.

The police want to divide us from one another by raising issues of permission and legality: a traditional point of contention between anarchist and socialist groups. However, in response to police intimidation, we have decided to go forward without permit and open up a space for dialogue at a new location. If the police choose to continue their harassment, we will be prepared with CopWatch on stand by to film them. Lawyers and legal observers will be on hand to witness their actions.

We feel it would undermine the intent of our event and the growing movement against police terrorism to comply with a group (LBPD) that organizes itself on violence and intimidation. This repression is relevant to all movement people and community organizing in general because it exposes how dissent against State sanctioned violence is being targeted or coercively managed by those in established positions of power.

IN TIMES OF TENSION:

If the cops think they can shut us up, they need to think again. We say "Fire to the Prisons!" because so many are still locked in cages. We say "Fuck the Police!" because the institutional white supremacist violence of the state continues unabated. And we say "Open the Borders!" with our thoughts towards those deported, or locked in the open-air jails of repressive powers. In times of tension we choose not to be silent.

In response to police repression, we see cause for increased participation, collaboration and solidarity. The event is going forward, on Saturday January 31st . Keep an eye out for location and time updates.

Signed,

Local Anarchists

Socialist Praxis

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