Thursday, May 3, 2007

LAPD Thugfest on May Day

One of the more disturbing aspects of being part of an activist movement was the acknowledged presence of infiltrators, particularly government spies who participated in activist organizations. This has been going on for years.

When I was in ACT UP New York in the late 1980s-early 1990s, we had a few people who were suspected informants, but that was rather absurd, considering our meetings were open to anyone. The regular announcement each Monday at meetings in the LGBT Community Center's hall went something like, "If there are any members of law enforcement, you are required to identify yourselves now..." Of course none of them did. And every activity of the AIDS activist group was known by the police, and in some cases, the FBI.

Yet, we got our actions done, for the most part, with only minor interference from some who served as "liasons" to the police. Sometimes actions had to be curtailed or shifted across a street, or cordoned behind barricades.

But it wasn't very often that we had a member who would die and then have his real identity revealed.

Such was the case in Fresno, of all places:

Members of the organization Peace Fresno were recently shocked when they found out that one of their participants, Aaron Stokes, died in a motorcycle accident. An obituary published in the local newspaper in late August showed Aaron's picture. But the name under the picture was not Aaron Stokes. It was Aaron Kilner - an undercover detective who was working for the Fresno County Sheriff's department. He was also a member of the local anti-terrorism unit. Kilner was 26 years old and the father of two girls.

Peace Fresno activists are concerned that an undercover officer attending their meetings is in violation of their personal liberties and civil rights. Fresno County sheriff Richard Pierce would not answer whether or not Kilner was attending meetings but asserted that he "was not and is not the subject of any investigation by the Fresno County Police Department." But in a statement issued October 2, Pierce declared, "For the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorist activities, the Fresno County Sheriff's Department may visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public, on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally."

Of course, we all know what a hotbed of potential terrorist activities Fresno is known for! How utterly ridiculous. This kind of inane infiltration continues in activist groups all over. Some of the more radical groups have insiders working to foment violence and give police the nudge to get violent in return, as they did yesterday at immigration rights rallies in Los Angeles.

From inside the park, the first warning was a single thud. Then a line of squad cars, sirens wailing, raced down 6th Street and turned onto S. Park View to 7th Street. Crowds from the street began pouring into the south end of the park, as parents scooped up children from impromptu wrestling matches and pulled them out of trees where they had climbed. Finally a helicopter overheard blared out the dispersal order, telling the crowd to leave the park and return to their cars. Another round of cop cars tore down the crowded street.

"I've been in protests in the '50s, the '60s, '70's. I've never seen anything like this," an elderly woman reported. She had been on Alvarado when the cops had charged. The people had lifted the woman over a fence onto private property, where the owner offered her sanctuary. Her daughter, frantically seeking her child as she retreated, was batoned in the stomach three times by a pig who said she wasn't moving back "fast enough."

As the police entered the park, vendors at the entrance frantically tried to escape with their carts. Organization members desperately tried to clear tables and literature in the path of the incursion. Roughly eighty pigs formed a diagonal line and marched across the park, sweeping everybody into a shrinking semicircle.

The police used foam and bean bag bullets against the people in the park. At least one guy left with blood soaking through his white T-shirt and a massive bruise already forming. Foam bullets carry the impact of a 95 m.p.h. fastball or a baseball bat. Last month, David K. Maxson from McHenry County, Illinois died in a "justified" police shooting with a beanbag gun.

For more on this heinous incident, visit Included are links to Telemundo videos showing the police brutality. The TV screencap shows an LAPD cop pointing a rifle at a guy holding a US flag. That's not something you'll see on the other (white-corporate-owned) news.

This is the increasing risk one faces when participating in protests that are set up to be peaceful. One person simply has to throw something - an infiltrator given that task, perhaps- and the riot police are gleefully set to pounce on old women, children, and hundreds of people who simply came to march and wave a flag.

For what? to "protect" a park?

No, to silence dissent.

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