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March 10,  2003


Black Journalists Arrested at Oakland Peace March

By Mary Ratcliff

At the National Student Strike and Peace March in Oakland, California on March 5th, aggressive police attacked the peaceful, singing crowd of young and elderly people of color with their motorcycles and weapons. Two reporters from the SF Bay View newspaper were injured and then also arrested.

Thursday, March 6 - Two of the three people arrested at the peace march yesterday in Oakland were Bay View editors JR and Ra'shida. All day today the Bay View has been swamped with press calls. Media find the story interesting because the marchers were mostly young and Black, unlike those in other anti-war protests so far, the police were unusually and extremely aggressive, journalists were singled out for attack (we've just learned that JR's camera was run over by a police motorcycle), and, of course, the backdrop is a Bay Area caught up in unprecedented police scandals.

The media are also interested in our perspective because the truth is diametrically opposed to the police statements they heard - and believed - immediately after the march. The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, reported, "Police arrested three marchers at Jack London Square who charged a police motorcade, said Oakland Police Deputy Chief Patrick Haw." That statement is absurd - almost silly - on its face. TV anchors, parroting the police, reported that the people arrested had been throwing rocks and bottles. That's hard to do with a camera in your hand.

Ra'shida and JR were bailed out of jail and have been interviewed all day. They are very sore but more determined than ever to fight for justice and use the press attention to enlighten the people.

Here's the Bay View press release, which was written by Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seito:

March 5, 2003
San Francisco Bay View Newspaper
(415) 671-0449

Oakland - March 5 marked the day for the National Student Strike against the war. High school and college students from San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and around the Bay Area walked out of classes today in support of peace. Instead of protecting this peaceful protest, however, Oakland Police marred the day by brutally attacking the youth and several elderly people accompanying them. Gathering in downtown Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza, the protest began peacefully with police looking on. As 300 to 400 students, most from local high schools, marched peacefully down Broadway toward Jack London Square, carrying a banner, singing and chanting in the tradition of nonviolent protest, members of the Oakland Police Department began following the protesters, and the number of officers steadily increased.

Once the students reached Jack London Square, police began attacking them, running into the demonstrators with their motorcycles. Ra'shida Askey, managing editor and staff writer for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, asked officers why they were running over the young marchers. In response, a black female police officer grabbed Ra'shida by the neck and placed her in a chokehold. The Bay View's associate editor, JR Valrey, who was also covering the march, came to his colleague's aid. At this point, several officers swarmed both JR and Ra'shida, knocking them to the ground and beating them both. Ra'shida sustained the most injuries.

JR and Ra'shida were placed in a paddy wagon. When another arrested demonstrator, Kelly Duncan, joined them, the Black woman police officer holding her remarked, "It was three of them! I should have been able to use my gun."

The two Bay View journalists are currently being detained at the Oakland City Jail and have been refused release on their own recognizance. They are being charged with obstructing and battering a police officer and resisting arrest. The extent of their injuries is unknown.

These unprovoked attacks are yet another example of the out of control conduct of the Oakland Police Department and police departments across the nation. The ferocity and severity of the attack on these two Black journalists, representing a Black newspaper, and on young demonstrators - predominantly Black high school students - looks suspiciously like a case of racial profiling. In the Bay Area, known for racial diversity, political activism, and overwhelming opposition to U.S. plans for war, such attacks on freedom of speech and of the press are intolerable.

In a show of support, please share this information widely and make your opinions known to the Oakland Mayor's Office at (510) 238-3141 and the Oakland Chief of Police at (510) 238-3365.


This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Bay View and was posted on SF.Indymedia.