Filed under: Action, Featured, Pacific, Police, Repression, The State
Report on recent mobilization and march against the proposed “Cop Campus” in so-called San Pablo, California. For more information on the campaign, go here.
On Saturday Sept. 30, over 200 people came together in San Pablo, California to oppose the building of Cop Campus, a large-scale regional police training facility that will bring a 20 lane gun range, a surveillance drone center, virtual reality conflict simulators, and a K-9 training center to the most policed city in the Bay Area. Cop Campus promises to further increase surveillance and police violence in San Pablo and throughout the Bay Area. Cop Campus, like Cop City in Atlanta, is another example of the multiplying horrors of tech-fueled police state expansion. Down with Cop Campus and its world.
Source: Indybay.org, Leon Kunstenaar
The people who spoke, rallied, and marched against Cop Campus represented a wide diversity of identities and political tendencies. The crowd included people living near the proposed police playground in San Pablo and Richmond, to the broader Bay Area, to comrades from cities around California. The rally was translated into Spanish and ASL in real-time for participants, and many access accommodations were made for folks with disabilities. There were medics and National Lawyers Guild legal observers present to respond to and document any militant response from the San Pablo police.
Speakers represented a range of positionalities from local Indigenous struggles to a report on Atlanta’s Stop Cop City organizing. While speakers were setting up, a counter-protester with a sign, megaphone and friend filming began to heckle and talk over the crowd from across Brookside Dr. After only a minute or so 15-20 people from two different crews left the rally to move to confront them. The counter-protester’s sign was stolen as they fled up San Pablo and retreated behind marked and unmarked police vehicles that had driven up to protect them.
Source: Indybay, Leon Kunstenaar
Upon returning to the plaza one of the people who had moved to confront that person got on the mic and made heated comments pressuring a common liberal and unagreed-upon talking point that white people should have placed themselves in front of POC to protect them. The divisive interjection broke the coalition’s point of unity regarding internal critique. The next speaker, a latinx organizer of the event, addressed the comments directly, noting the importance of multiracial solidarity in struggle. That POC going to a street protest want white people to fight the common oppressor alongside them as accomplices, not from some line of protection in front. That as organizers, we value the agency of all to fight for their liberation autonomously. Tensions were high after the speech, but were ultimately deescalated.
While we may know that white folks, mostly femmes, absolutely participated in confronting this counter-protestor, we also agree that white people always need to be working towards stepping up their game. That said, we know that the relationships between identity, life experience, material reality and folks’ ability to participate in direct action or confrontation are complex and multi-faceted, and we encourage and support people in making those choices for themselves in an anti-authoritative manner. Ultimately, we needed to ensure that only one or two people were not capable of stopping or disrupting our larger rally – thanks to the people who made sure that that was indeed the case.
After the speeches everyone took the streets blocking two lanes of traffic on busy San Pablo Ave with music and chanting. Throughout the march, protesters handed out bilingual fliers to folks in San Pablo with information about Cop Campus and our resistance. When the crowd reached the site there was more chanting, colored smoke, a short speech about Cop Campus, and then spontaneously fences around the construction site were torn down. The city’s informational sign about the project was corrected to read, “Expected completion date: NEVER!!!” The crowd was energetic, full of warmth and rage.
The crowd then slowly made its way back to Kennedy Plaza. People in the rear of the march stepped up to deal with aggravated drivers on several occasions and eventually the march was able to fully reenter the plaza and safely disperse. The police of San Pablo kept their distance from the march, only blocking traffic relatively far back from the rear of the march which ended up benefiting the demo, as traffic was an issue. At the time of this reportback, there are no known arrests related to this march.
In the days since, there has been push-back and criticism as is to be expected with an event of this size and gravity. No action is beyond criticism and we take people’s feedback seriously, however some of these criticisms are out right false, and this misinformation damages cross-racial solidarity. We want to address two bits of misinformation first. First, ‘organizers of the march are all white,’ and second the assertion that ‘no local outreach was done before this march.’
In fact we are a multi-racial group of organizers who brought together a diverse mix of speakers and demonstrators, to claim otherwise is false and invisibilizes people of color. Also in fact many people in the coalition did extensive bilingual outreach in San Pablo prior to the march, putting in 30+ hours of work over numerous days. Many of the families and businesses in San Pablo we spoke with did not know Cop Campus was being built and folks were shocked to hear the $43 million price-tag (even people who expressed support for the police). During the march itself, we handed out hundreds of bilingual flyers and talked with many locals about this struggle, and this outreach work has been carried forward by many people in the weeks since. To assert this outreach did not/ is not happening is again objectively untrue, and this misinformation serves the agenda of the cops by de-legitimizing or erasing solid community organizing.
There has been criticism that people of color were put at risk by the removal of the fence and the events that took place at the proposed site of Cop Campus. We hear the criticism that direct action which does not abide by the law can put people of color at risk, and we know cops arrest/harass/kill people of color horrifically disproportionally. This debate over protest tactics is strategic and political. We did not organize the taking down of the fences, and we don’t agree with people who peace police protests. This criticism assumes that compliance with the law creates safety, we believe history shows otherwise. This criticism assumes people of color are passive bystanders, who are neither engaged in direct action nor capable of exiting a situation that exceeds their risk tolerance. We believe a diversity of tactics is built into the coalition for a reason and is absolutely essential to defeat this cop surveillance and murder training center. If others want to see a different kind of protest, we whole-heartedly hope that they too will take it upon themselves to do so, and many of us will be there too.
In our organizing, we took great care to explicitly state that we could not guarantee a safe space, and we organized the march to be as accessible as possible for people who chose to participate. At every step we put thought and intention into how to invite people who wanted to show their rage, while also bringing mass attention to a 43 million dollar police militarization building project that has been largely hidden from the public. There is always room for improvement; this struggle to Stop Cop Campus is in it’s early phases. While this action was organized on a tight timeline, we are looking forward now and will continue to grow. Our goals for this action were to inform the local community and broader public about Cop Campus, mobilize a march sharing diverse perspectives on this struggle, grow the movement and offer opportunities to participate, and we think the action succeeded in its goals unequivocally.
To all who thirst for impactful collective action against police militarization: join us! Let’s work in solidarity to Stop Cop Campus. Let’s abide by the points of unity, which state “we are building a decentralized movement where every participant is empowered to take the actions they feel are necessary to Stop Cop Campus. We respect a diversity of strategies and tactics, and encourage both autonomous and collective action to build a diverse and resilient movement” and that we will share principled criticism internally rather than taking assumptions to press and social media. It is not the breaking down of the fence that surrounds Cop Campus that will break this movement, but pushing misinformation, de-legitimizing solid community organizing, and policing each other’s tactics that will. We are stronger together, we can stop this project!