1) Open Letter from ILWU Local 10 President Henry Graham Urging Support for the Committee to Defend ILWU Local 10 Business Agent Jack Heyman
2) Port Antiwar Protest: Police Might vs. Civil Rights -- by Jack Heyman, Business Agent, ILWU Local 10
3) Charges, Lawsuits and Investigations: April 7 Reverberates Through Oakland -- by Steve Stallone (reprinted from July 2003 issue of the ILWU Dispatcher, the official monthly newspaper of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union)
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
I write you regarding an urgent matter, a threat to both organized labor and civil liberties. In a chilling measure the government has moved file charges against one of our Local 10 business agents, Jack Heyman, and against 25 protesters in the April 7th antiwar demonstration in the port of Oakland.
TV coverage clearly shows that it was a peaceful protest until police opened fire with so-called "less than lethal" weapons. The New York Times called it the most violent suppression of antiwar dissent during the Iraq war. Numerous demonstrators and nine longshoremen were hit with this fire, sending five of our men to the hospital. When business
agent Heyman attempted to warn longshore workers at an adjacent terminal gate who were waiting to go to work that police were firing on our brothers and sisters, they dragged him out of his car and arrested him. If a union official can't tell his members to get out of harm's way, then what rights do we have?
Safety is a fundamental right of all workers. And the right to protest for the demonstrators is indelibly etched in the Bill of Rights. When some 2,400 people were arrested in San Francisco earlier this year for protesting Bush's illegal Iraq war (now occupation), I sent a letter to District Attorney Hallinan. As president of ILWU Local 10, I implored, "The ILWU has a proud legacy of opposing unjust wars, racism and oppression. On behalf of my members I am requesting the immediate release of all protesters and that charges against them be dropped."
I'm happy to say that in the end justice prevailed in San Francisco. Now it is we, in Local 10, who are under attack in Oakland. Local 10's record speaks for itself: Our rank and file initiated dock action against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, against the bloody military dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile and in support of
the Liverpool dockers in England who dared to challenge international shipowners. Three years ago our union sent longshoremen to join a picket line with our brothers in Charleston, South Carolina, protesting a non-union stevedoring operation. Days earlier they'd
faced 600 riot-clad state police acting to stop the union protest. Together we succeeded in rallying the entire AFL-CIO and dockworkers internationally behind their struggle.
What's at stake in Oakland is the right to protest on the docks, a right maritime workers and others have historically exercised but is now threatened since the 9/11 terrorist attack. Under the guise of fighting a "war on terror," Bush is attempting to declare the waterfront a "national security" zone where we are no longer free to exercise workers' rights or the Bill of Rights.
Picket lines have always "interfered with business" when workers didn't get justice, whether on the docks or on the streets. These phony misdemeanor charges are a classic case of blaming the victims for the crime. Oakland police commit the crime, as they did in the notorious, racist "Riders" case and then pin it on the taxpayers of Oakland to subsidize their continuing acts of police brutality. As the
ILWU Local 10 Longshore Bulletin of July 17, 2003, stated: "A press conference was held at the office of civil rights attorney John Burris to officially announce the lawsuit (of longshoremen shot by police) on June 19, 2003. It is not surprising that immediately after the press conference the City decided to press forward with these bogus charges against our Business Agent along with demonstrators."
If we don't stop this miscarriage of justice, it will spread from a scratch to gangrene. That's why I'm asking all labor unions and civil rights advocates to do two things:
1) Send faxes to Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown (510-238-4731) and Alameda County District Attorney Thomas Orloff (510-208-3965) protesting the phony charges against Local 10 business agent Jack Heyman and the antiwar demonstrators and demand the charges be dismissed.
2) Fax a message of solidarity to Local 10 (415-441-0610) and send a donation to the Committee to Defend ILWU Local 10 Business Agent Jack Heyman (c/o Local 10; 400 North Point Street; San Francisco, CA 94133) to help defray Local 10's legal expenses and build a defense campaign.
If we take to heart ILWU's slogan, "An injury to one is an injury to all," then we can defeat this attack and achieve a victory for all working people.
Thanks in advance for your support.
President, ILWU Local 10
[Note: For more information on the Committee to Defend ILWU Local 10 Business Agent Jack Heyman, please visit the committee's new website, still under construction, at
2) PORT ANTIWAR PROTEST: POLICE MIGHT vs. CIVIL RIGHTS
By JACK HEYMAN
June 17, 2003 - When police opened fire on a peaceful anti-war protest at the Port of Oakland on April 7, many demonstrators and nine longshore workers were injured.
Police used "less lethal" riot control weapons. The manufacturer's instructions clearly warn that shooting directly at people, which police did, can be lethal.
Thirty protesters and a longshore union official were arrested in the unprovoked police attack. On May 12, anti-war demonstrators successfully returned to the port to reassert their First Amendment rights to protest.
This time port employers delayed ship arrivals to avoid any conflict and police did not attack demonstrators. The Bay Area has a long history of dock protests. At an Oakland Coliseum rally in 1990, Nelson Mandela credited a San Francisco dock action in 1984 with sparking the U.S. anti-apartheid movement. In 1997, before he was mayor, Jerry
Brown marched in a picket line in support of dockworkers in
Liverpool, England. Today, he hypocritically defends the police shooting protesters in a picket line. Even police videos refute their justification for shooting, that the demonstrators threw rocks, bottles and blocked trucks in the port.
Last year during longshore contract negotiations, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) representing shippers closed all terminal gates, locking out longshore workers and shutting down all U.S. West Coast ports from Canada to Mexico for ten days. Longshoremen protested by organizing picket lines, rallies and marches. After the PMA lockout,
President Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act, forcing longshoremen back to work under employers' conditions. Mayor Brown did not object to the ports being closed then by maritime employers, nor did he object to Bush imposing what the labor movement calls the "Slave Labor" Act.
In the post-9/11 world every event is measured in "national security" parameters. Last June, in an unprecedented act of government intimidation of unions, Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made phone calls to ILWU President Spinosa warning that dock actions during longshore contract negotiations would threaten "national security."
Politicians of both parties are jumping on board President Bush's "war on terror," lest they be branded unpatriotic. Meanwhile, draconian legislation like the Homeland Security Act, USA Patriot Act and Transportation Security Act, which eviscerate civil liberties, fly through Congress without serious debate. These patriots argue paradoxically that nowadays democratic rights have to be suspended in
order to protect them.
The state of California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC) spied on protesters and union officials before the police attack. In an Orwellian twist Mike Van Winkle, a spokesman for CATIC who has since been removed from that job, explained, "You can almost argue that a protest (against a war ... against ... international terrorism)
is a terrorist act." Even more chilling, Van Winkle extends terrorism to include any action that has an "economic impact. Are union picket lines or civil rights demonstrations to be banned in this war on terror?
National security was the excuse for government spying on former ILWU President Harry Bridges, the target of an unsuccessful redbaiting campaign to deport him. Today, spying on Oakland longshore officials whose union has been outspoken against the war and occupation in Iraq is no less reprehensible.
Yet, when it comes to probing the awarding of billions of dollars in reconstruction contracts in Iraq to corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton, that's taboo. Bush handed Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) a $4.8 million contract to run the port of Umm Qasr. The Port of Oakland demonstrators were protesting SSA's war profiteering. Clearly, this was a war for imperial might not civil rights.
The "Blue Ribbon Committee" set up to probe the latest Oakland police atrocity will have as little effect in curbing "excessive police force" as the Civilian Police Review Board did in curtailing the OPD's racist Riders. Perhaps, Jerry Brown in his possible run for state
attorney general could host a radio program similar to his former KPFA show "We the People," this time renamed "We the Police."
3) Charges, Lawsuits and Investigations:
April 7 Reverberates Through Oakland
By STEVE STALLONE
(reprinted from the July 2003 issue of the ILWU Dispatcher, the official monthly newspaper of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union)
Fallout from the unprovoked police attack on anti-war demonstrators and longshore workers at the Port of Oakland April 7 keeps piling up.
The injured are seeking redress. Law enforcement officials are seeking to blame the victims. Politicians, protesters, workers and the media are seeking answers. They want to know how a simple, non-violent picket became a bloody battleground. The flurry of activity comes more than two months after several hundred anti-war protesters set up
picket lines in front of the APL and SSA terminal gates early that Monday morning. They acted to highlight what they claimed was "war profiteering" by the companies APL has a contract with the U.S. government to ship war materiel to Iraq and SSA was recently awarded a $4.8 million contract to operate the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr.
As ILWU longshore workers stood by awaiting an arbitrator's decision on the validity of the picket, police moved preemptively to disperse the crowd.
They began indiscriminately shooting so-called "less than lethal" munitions wooden bullets, stinger grenades spewing rubber bullets and lead-shot filled bean bags injuring dozens of protesters and nine workers, some seriously enough to require hospitalization and surgery.
Three days before the press conference where civil rights attorneys representing the protesters and workers planned to unveil their lawsuit accusing the police of violating their constitutional rights, the Alameda County District Attorney's office launched a first strike.
On June 23 prosecutors filed charges against 24 demonstrators and ILWU Local 10 Business Agent Jack Heyman. Although police have tried to justify their use of force by accusing protesters of throwing rocks and bottles at them, none were charged with that. Instead they face misdemeanor charges of failure to disperse and interfering with a
business. Heyman is charged with failure to comply with a police officer's order and resisting an officer when he did not immediately move his car as told. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned in Oakland Municipal Court July 21.
ILWU Local 10, all nine Local 10 members injured in the melee, and 31 demonstrators who were hurt filed a civil rights class action lawsuit against the Oakland Police Dept. and the City of Oakland June 26. In their filing they allege police use of dangerous munitions against the protesters was specifically "motivated by the political content, message and viewpoint of the demonstrators." The attack on the
longshore workers, they say, stemmed from police "hostility, animus and discrimination against the ILWU as an organization."
They further allege the police acted "for the purpose of interfering with [the demonstrators'] First Amendment rights" of free speech and assembly.
By those actions, the lawsuit claims, the police also violated their Fourth Amendment rights to be "free from unreasonable seizures and excessive and/or arbitrary force" and their Fourteenth Amendment rights to "not be deprived of liberty without due process of law" and "to equal protection under the law." The suit also alleges violations of similar protections under the California state Constitution and the state civil code.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the OPD to restrain it from using "excessive, indiscriminate and/or arbitrary force" at future demonstrations in Oakland. It also seeks monetary damages for medical expenses, wage loss, etc., as well as punitive damages and costs of the suit.
At the press conference announcing the lawsuit, Rachel Lederman, attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, said that in her organization's 20 years of providing legal support to demonstrations in the Bay Area, they had never experienced the level of unprovoked violence they saw that day. This included violence specifically directed at legal observers taking notes and videotaping the events.
"For the first time legal observers had lethal force used against them for observing police action," Lederman said.
Six of the 10 NLG legal observers were shot by police or run into by cops on motorcycles and three were arrested. Lederman held up the notebook one of the observers was using which, she said, was splattered with blood from a shot he took in the head.
Willow Rosenthal, a protester with West Oakland Residents Against the War, said she was trying to leave the demonstration and go home when police charge the retreating crowd and started firing. She was hit in the back of the calf at close range with a wooden bullet. She had massive internal bleeding and a 4"x5' piece of skin had to be
surgically removed. She was hospitalized for 10 days and laid up and out of work for weeks in the most severe pain she has ever known, she said.
"I have permanent nerve damage to a large part of my leg and permanent disfigurement," Rosenthal said. "These police actions are calculated to frighten people from expressing their views."
Local 10 longshore worker Billy Kepoo said he was standing by the SSA terminal gates on his way to work when he was shot.
"What I witnessed was horror. What I felt was pain," Kepoo said. Police shot Kepoo in the hand with a wooden bullet, breaking his thumb so badly the bone was sticking through the skin. He had surgery that evening and was fitted with a cast. He was out of work for two months and his employer, SSA, denied his workers' comp claim, leaving he, his
wife and four children without a paycheck all that time.
"We're more than protesters and workers," he said. "We're people with families." Given the OPD's long history of excessive force lawsuits and costly settlements, city officials could not ignore the call from community groups, the ILWU and the Alameda County Central Labor Council for an independent investigation into the events of April 7
and the alleged police use of excessive force.
So at its June 17 meeting the Oakland City Council
voted to establish an independent five-person panel to carry on such a probe. The panelists, selected by Oakland City Attorney John Russo, include three former judges, a civil rights attorney and a former assistant police chief from Washington, D.C. The panel is charged with interviewing participants in the April 7 protest and police who were
there. The panel is scheduled to complete its work over the summer and present a final report on its findings in September.
The panel will take testimony behind closed doors, but a verbatim transcript will be available to the public, City Attorney Russo told The Dispatcher. The panel will not have subpoena power or the power to compel witnesses to testify under oath, Russo added. "We didn't want to get bogged down in legal battles over subpoenas," he said. "We need
to get through this in a timely fashion."
But that process may not provide all the answers the ILWU wants. While the city has instructed the police to cooperate fully with the investigation, it has no such clout over APL and SSA managers. The ILWU knows those employers and Port of Oakland officials met secretly with police several days before the demonstration to plot out how to handle it. After last year's bitter contract battle many in the union
can't help but be suspicious of what kind of collusion may have gone on between the employers and the police. A few facts feed that suspicion. The police were made aware of the arbitration process, but they attacked protesters and workers alike before it could work and an SSA official was spotted at the police command center set up at the
nearby intermodal yard during the action.
Oakland's only daily newspaper, The Oakland Tribune, did not wait for the city bureaucracy to ask why the police came to the protest armed and firing. In an investigative story published May 18, the Tribune portrays a police department in lockstep with Attorney General John Ashcroft-Patriot Act paranoia, purposefully blurring the distinction between legitimate dissent and terrorism.
According to the Tribune, the OPD received an "intelligence" report from the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC) April 2, five days before the demonstration. The report from CATIC, a state agency staffed with personnel from the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other federal, state and local agencies, warned the police
that the protesters might turn violent. The Tribune's analysis of documents obtained through open government laws led the paper to conclude that CATIC "blended solid facts, innuendo and inaccurate information about anti-war protesters expected at the port." CATIC selectively gleaned information from activist web sites, list serves
and intercepted email correspondence of ILWU members
to support its pre-conceived notions of the protest and protesters.
The Tribune quotes CATIC spokesman Mike Van Winkle justifying his agency's COINTELPRO-style tactics. "[I]f you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that (protest)," said Van Winkle, of the state Justice Department. "You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act."
Later in the story Van Winkle says, "I've heard terrorism described as anything that is violent or has an economic impact, and shutting down a port certainly would have some economic impact. Terrorism isn't just bombs going off and killing people."
As an example of the kind of "intelligence" CATIC provided the OPD, the Tribune reported that CATIC noted that the activist group the Ruckus Society planned on joining the protest. The report failed to mention that the Ruckus Society "specifically shuns violence and states its mission as `nonviolent direct action' repeatedly on its Web
site," the Tribune said.
Instead CATIC concluded that because Ruckus Society members were involved in the WTO Seattle demonstrations (along with 50,000 other people) and there was violence in Seattle, there was a serious enough threat of violence at the port to raise red flags with the OPD.
As the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, Local 10 is most concerned that there be changes in OPD procedures on handling demonstrations, said the local's president, Henry Graham.
"We come from the community and next time it could be us being attacked on a picket line by police using the guise of port security," Graham said. "Last time they made allegations that they didn't know if there was a terrorist there or not. They could us any excuse to shoot at us."
Anti-war protesters and ILWU members returned to the APL and SSA terminals at the Port of Oakland May 12 to reassert their right to demonstrate. All but one terminal at the port closed for the second shift that day and after all the bad press the police received for their previous overreaction, they kept their distance from the demonstration. The protesters held a spirited and peaceful march and
rally, and went home satisfied they made their point and stopped business as usual just by their presence.
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