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(en) US, Anarchist journal - The Nor'easter #7 - From Funk the War to Funk the Police By James Amber

Date Sun, 10 Jan 2010 13:55:27 +0200

This idea that the people united will never be defeated has been one of the overarching
ideals of Rochester Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) as they rise above false
allegations and media misrepresentation. ---- Wednesday, Oct. 7, as part of the National
Day of Action commemorating the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan that had
been adopted at the SDS National Convention in July, Rochester held their second Funk the
War street dance party. They were protesting the fact that the war in Afghanistan has been
going on for eight years too many and also had three specific demands of their own.
Besides wanting all troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, they were calling for the complete
demilitarization of our schools, demanding that all military recruiters be banned from
school grounds and that the recent opt-out policy in the Rochester City School District
(RCSD) to be overturned. They also demanded more money for education, not occupation,
referencing the most recent budget cuts in RCSD as an example.

The march started out as any protest that SDS had organized, resembling the first Funk the
War held in March 2009, on the 6th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Protesters
congregated in Washington Square Park, and, standing on a statue looking out over
everyone, I could see people hula-hooping, bucket drumming, dancing, laughing and having a
good time. Signs such as “Eat the Rich, Feed the Poor” could be seen, as well as banners
that read “No War But Class War” and “8 Years Too Many, U.S. Out of Afghanistan.”

A chant rose up of “No justice, no peace, U.S. out of the Middle East” as people started
dancing to the beat of the drums and the rhythm of the chants. After having been in the
park for about an hour, organizer Jake Allen gave an opening speech voicing the demands of
the march, which was met with loud cheers and raised fists as he said, “No more blood for
oil! No more blood for empire!”

Soon the march moved out of the park, at first on the sidewalk and then crossing through
Bausch and Lomb Place, chanting at the top of our lungs, “Occupation is a crime! Iraq,
Afghanistan and Palestine!”

We stayed on the sidewalk until we got to Main St., when we filled the road. At that
point, unlike the previous Funk the War, which had taken a very similar route, no police
were to be seen except the foot cop on the corner of Main and St. Paul. As we proceeded
through the intersection, the cop shoved us back down the road with no explanation until
somebody asked, and he simply pointed down the street. A few blocks away, a fire truck was
coming toward us with lights and sirens. As soon as we saw this fire truck, the group
turned around and backed up to allow the fire truck passage through the intersection. As
the fire truck passed, it did not have to slow down for protesters as reported by
corporate media, nor did it have to come to a complete stop as reported by the fire
department. Having allowed the truck clean passage, we continued on until we reached the
Main St. Bridge. And that’s when things took a turn.

Out of nowhere, numerous cops appeared, some wading through the march to arrest the single
African-American youth in the march, something that Rochester SDS as well as other
organizations have called an act of systemic racism. A local independent media reporter
who was filming this incident was shoved, tackled to the ground and arrested by three
cops. By this point everyone had been pushed or moved back onto the sidewalk, and enraged
yells of “Let him go!” rang out. Except for one, all the arrests, including that of the
independent reporter, took place on the sidewalk.

Nothing happened for a couple of minutes as the cops surrounded us, but then it all turned
to chaos. All of a sudden, my friends, my comrades, were being taken down by cops for no
reason at all. My friend in front of me was taken down by three cops, who scraped his chin
against the pavement. Unable to move as I watched this event, I felt something hit the
back of my feet. Turning, I saw yet another friend of mine laid out on the pavement,
having reportedly been punched by a cop and then brought to the ground, his face smashed
into the sidewalk to the extent of needing three stitches in his chin. As his arresting
officer put on the cuffs, he dug his knee into the back of my friend’s neck, and I
distinctly remember looking over and being gravely concerned, unable to tell if he was
even conscious due to his half-closed eyes and pallid skin.

Yet another female protester, for absolutely no reason at all except perhaps not moving
fast enough, had her face bashed into the base of a lamp post, resulting in her later
needing stitches as well. Cops were pushing, shoving and hitting with batons, causing
another marcher to fall and injure his wrist. Another independent media reporter was
pushed into a flowerbed because she was not moving fast enough.

By the time we managed to disperse, having previously had no way to do so with cops
blocking off both sides of the bridge, 11 people had been arrested and two had been
hospitalized. One had to later take herself to the hospital despite having blood pouring
from her mouth due to a split lip. Our march that had consisted of about 75 protesters had
resulted in approximately 40 police cars responding.

In the words of Jake Allen, the police “acted like thugs, [and] there are plenty of ways
they could have handled the situation that would not have resulted in the arrest of a
dozen people.” Police have said that an order to disperse had been given, but no
announcement was ever heard. Not one of the loudspeakers on the cars was utilized, and the
police chief was quoted as saying that many of these protesters had never protested before
-- but that is not the case. Many of us have been to D.C., to Chicago, to the DNC and RNC,
and, most recently, Pittsburgh, and we are aware of what a dispersal order sounds like.
There was not one given.

The next day marchers met at the Flying Squirrel Community Space to have a meeting about
what to do next. We met outside since the weather was nice, and before we knew it, we were
surrounded by cop cars. For a one-and-a-half-hour period we were constantly patrolled by
around 10-12 different cop cars. They parked across the road, drove past, and were even so
brazen as to pull into our driveway and openly videotape every single person at that
meeting, as well write down the license plate number of every car in the parking lot. When
people attempted to leave the meeting, they were followed, pulled over, identified and
released. In talking to Allen about this, he said, “It was [an act of] blatant
intimidation. They want people to be afraid, afraid to speak out, afraid to dissent.”

In response to these acts of brutality and intimidation, Rochester SDS is taking action
and making moves. On Friday, Oct. 9, they held a press conference to confront obvious
errors and lies in the reports from police and the corporate media. Every major media
outlet came to the conference ,but all they could focus on was the fact that it had been
an unpermitted march. The City Council met on Tuesday, Oct. 13, and SDS members and march
participants and supporters, packed the City Council chambers to speak to the council and
tell their sides of the story. As of right now, Rochester SDS, as Allen puts it, is “in
dialogue with the city” and will continue taking steps to prevent something like this from
happening again.
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