Reportback from anti-checkpoint direct action in Pomona, December 18, in which pizza is gifted, donuts liberated, and fascism diverted.
Members of Direct Action Claremont, Labor Solidarity Network, Workers Support Committee and Pomona Habla responded to the Pomona Police Department's inauguration of a renewed campaign of immigrant harassment on Friday night. After popular resistance against the police checkpoints, which are aimed at impounding the cars of drivers without proper papers, brought the program to a halt late last summer, a new police chief successfully convinced the City Council to accept a state grant providing $370,000 in funding to checkpoints over the next year. The police delayed holding a checkpoint under the new grant for almost two months until December 18, the last day of exams at the Claremont Colleges, when many of their opponents would be long gone.
Checkpoints are announced approximately 24 hours in advance through the local media. The location is not given, but Pomona Habla was able to determine the location in advance through other means. Material preparations had been wisely largely taken care of in advance: DAC had previously prepared extra large banners for the checkpoints proclaiming 'RETEN ADELANTE' and LSN was, after some difficulty, able to successfully locate their stockpile of checkpoint warning signs saved from the previous year.
Mobilization at the Claremont Colleges proved highly difficult given the almost completely empty campuses. The existing networks were quickly alerted, and almost all active members of DAC and LSN who were on campus responded to the call. Fliers were printed and distributed in the quiet dining hall of Pitzer College (the only dining hall still open besides conservative Claremont McKenna College), but despite talking to the majority of students who came to eat dinner that night, only passive support was registered and no one was recruited to the action.
Our strategy in taking direct action at the checkpoint is to maintain a visible presence at both ends of the two-way checkpoint in order to warn drivers of the checkpoint, providing any sans papier drivers the chance to turn away and save their car (or the chance to ask for directions to the gay bar, in the case of one). By providing warnings to drivers we are able to effectively negate the checkpoint and prevent cars from being impounded. Although the police did not release statistics to the media on how many cars were impounded, we witnessed several dramatic u-turns from drivers who noticed our warning banners and witnessed very few of the tow trucks that carry impounded cars away (it's the tow truck companies that profit from the checkpoints and are one of the major forces behind them in many towns). While past checkpoints have usually been in immigrant communities in the south of Pomona, this checkpoint was in a more out-of-the-way business district near Claremont, and there were thus fewer drivers to redirect from the checkpoint.
About 12 students from DAC, LSN and WSC came out to the action. A mysterious band of high school students apparently known to young master Cameron dropped by the checkpoint, made a Facebook post and sped off. The turnout from Pomona Habla was less than half a dozen. They arrived early and went door-to-door at all of the local businesses, talking about the economic impact of having a police checkpoint in front of their business. Their message seemed to have been very well received, as the Pizza Hut across the road dispatched two pizzas to us along with a message of thanks for our efforts in shutting down the checkpoints. Capitalists against the police state! Sugar sustained the action with the discovery of a 10 pound bag of nearly-fresh donuts in the dumspter of the local donut dispensary.
While the tactics that we have employed have been largely successful in directly reducing the effects of the checkpoints and saving peoples' cars, we will need to organize and escalate if we are going to end the checkpoints - for good this time! The police still get paid even if they're not taking away immigrants' cars, and I'm sure that they'd be happy to sit in an empty road and drink coffee if we redirected every car from the checkpoint. Pomona Habla has discussed going into the residential communities around the checkpoints and getting the neighbours to come out en masse to oppose the checkpoint, which would build a truly community-rooted power against the checkpoints, rather than the power of college advocates. It is more properly Pomona Habla's responsibility to lead this action than ours, but we will certainly support such efforts to engage the local communities affected by the checkpoints. Discussion also arose - during the three hours of standing around in the cold - of blocking the street during checkpoints through various means, which is easily accomplished but would need a high degree of consideration and intentionality if it were to be attempted.
Also of note was Hassan's kickass Marcos checkpoint banner.
With insurgent affection,
Direct Action Claremont
Occupy! Resist! Create! DAC@riseup.net