Re: Scenes from the Struggle, live from Sacramento

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Posted by ricardo dominguez on February 24, 1997 at 12:50:34:

In Reply to: Re: Digital Zaps posted by ricardo dominguez on February 10, 1997 at 12:46:35:

Scenes from the Struggle, live from Sacramento...

Last night, February 22nd, 1997 I bore witness to the most

shocking and appalling scene in my life... It seemed like a

nightmare, but instead it was reality... 1997 style. Having been

born after the Civil Rights movement, I had only seen photos of

police harassment via the use of intimidation (the appearance of

riot police, dozens and dozens of police officers, K-9 units,

helicopters, streets blocked off, and the lights from the police

cars flashing.) But last night, I saw it first hand... I was

there, in the middle of the Curtis Park area, in Sacramento, the

state Capitol, and I was taken back in time... To a time, when

the police made chaos out of peaceful gatherings and assembles.

To a time, when the police use intimidation to destroy the good

that could come of people assembling.

I couldn't believe my eyes, nor my ears. This is what happened

last night... I had heard about a benefit concert, that would be

taking place at the 24th Street Theater. I walked in, and was

excited by the numbers of people who had turned out to support

the Zapatista's efforts to make a change in Chiapas, Mexico. I

sat down with my cousin, Alejandra in the theater seats, and

waited for the benefit to begin. The band began to play;

everyone started dancing, having a good time. After not even an

hour of the band performing, a break between bands was called.

While everyone was catching their breath after all the dancing, a

member from the Zapatista Solidarity Coalition spoke briefly

about the reason for the benefit--raise funds for the building of

a classroom for the Oventic Middle School Project in Chiapas,

Mexico and what was/and continues to be the situation in Chiapas,

Mexico. People were fairly attentive, much more so than I

thought possible.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, loud noises came from the back of the

theater, near the front entrance ways. In a loud, and rather

"threatening" voice, a police officer told everyone to leave,

that the evening was over for everyone. And just like that, more

police officers appeared. When people approached the officers

with questions as to why everyone had to leave, one yelled, "we

had complaints" and that was all. Nothing else. The next thing

I know, a baton is being waved at one of the benefits attendees,

and the officer was taunting him, "Come on, you want some of

this." I kept wondering, "what the hell is going on here? What

did we do?" I even thought of all the possible reasons as to why

the police would be called, but from what I had seen and heard

for that last hour or so, no problems had occurred. The music

wasn't loud at all, I would have liked for it to have been turned

up, if anything. And as for people loitering outside of the

theater, there wasn't any. The organizers of the benefit had

been doing their job, keeping the entrance ways cleared. I

didn't, and couldn't understand... I mean, yeah, if there had

been a problem, don't you think the police would have at least

given a warning for any infractions... But there wasn't any.

Members of the Zapatista Solidarity Coalition tried reasoning

with the officers. But, the officers just turned their backs,

and keep repeating, "Everyone leave now. You will be arrested if

you stay." (or something to that extent). At this point, the

attendees pointed their cameras and tape recorders in the

direction of the officers to have proof of the their harassment.

I heard a very loud commotion, like someone had fallen. I looked

over the railing, and saw a young man spread eagle on his back,

and an officer standing over him. During all this, I heard

someone say that a young woman had been pushed down some stairs

by a female police officer. People (the benefit attendees)

started shouting at the police, "Pigs. Go do your job. Go

protect and serve the community. While you are here bothering

us, people who do need your help are being murdered and injured."

The noise grew and grew, and with that, the police one by one

went and then returned with their riot gear on.

ZSC Members told everyone to sit down, to keep calm and quiet.

And just like that, silence in the theater prevailed. I remember

hearing someone say, "If you all want to stand up for your rights

by getting arrested, then lets all do it together, but

peacefully." I got flashes of myself being taken away in a paddy

wagon, but then I just kind of laughed, thinking... "No way.

There is no way we are all going to be arrested for having a

peaceful event."

So while everyone who was in attendance was sitting quietly,

wondering what the next move would be, if anything, I helped the

Zapatista Solidarity Coalition members by packing up the slide

projector (used to show slides of Zapatistas, and others of the

different events held in Chiapas, Mexico by the Zapatistas), and

the boxes of information flyers, etc. Each time, my cousin and I

made a trip out to the van, we saw the sudden MILITARIZATION of

the street in front of the theater. There were dozens of riot

police, and police cars everyone, blocking all entrance to and

from the theater. I looked up, and saw a helicopter flying

overhead, flashing its search light over the neighborhood. By

the time, I had made my last (of three) trip to the van, what was

once a quiet and deserted street, was now a mass of police cars,

officers, and noise.

I went back inside, and by this time, everyone had been told of

what was waiting for them outside. Some people left, fearing the

outcome of a (peaceful) stand-off with the police. But, those

who remained inside the theater all gathered on the stage. They

didn't want to leave. They wanted to stay and defend their right

to assembly peacefully. The Zapatista Solidarity Coalition and

the staff from the Sierra II community center spoke to the group,

explaining to them that giving the police a reason to storm

inside the theater, using violence to arrest each and everyone of

them. The emphasis was placed on leaving peacefully, without

incident. The people who were on the stage had decided to leave

the theater. I heard my voice mix in with theirs in the cries of

"injustice". "Pigs. Facist Pigs. Go do your job. Nazis,

etc..." At this point, ZSC members and benefit volunteers

cleaned up the theater. Not only was the trash thrown away, but

the floors and stage was swept clean. Nothing had been damaged.

I didn't find out Victor Rivera, a ZSC member had been placed

handcuffed and in a police car, until my cousin and I had walked

outside. Not one officer would explain the reason why he had

been taken into custody. This was causing even more chaos.

Everyone wanted to know what was going on. Why he was being

arrested. But our pleads for information were met with silence.

Those of us who were outside were told to leave. My van was

parked, right there on the blocked off street. I tried to get

into the car, and an officer said, "You cant leave. You can't

take your van." I tried to explain that all I wanted to do was

to leave. He then put his hand over mine, pushing the door

closed. So, I turned and started walking in the direction that

the 15 plus officers were hording us to... And then, two officers

told me, "Get in your van and leave. If this is your van,

leave." My cousin and I went back to the van, and again I

started opening the door, and the same belligerent officer told

me, "What are you doing? I told you, you cant leave in your car.

You cant take it." I was so mad, here I am trying to listen to

the officers instructions and I was getting told two different

messages by different officers. I was so angry, so I said loudly

so that all the officers on both sides of my van heard me

clearly, "Fine, first you tell me to leave, then you tell me not

to take my van, then two other officers tell me to get in my car

and leave, and now you are going to tell me that I cant? If I

cant take the car, then I want to be told the same thing by every

officer. I don't want to be hearing different messages." Again,

we walked towards the end of the street, and as we were crossing

the street (where were we going to have to walk to, before it was

"far away" enough?), the same officer who told me that I couldn't

get into my van said, "Hey you two, get over here, I will escort

you to your van and you have to leave." We walked to the van,

and as we did... We were again harassed by approaching officers.

I just waved my hand, and said, "Don't worry, we're leaving."

I drove home, and picked up my aunt. We went back. You see,

Victor Rivera is my father. I wanted to know what was going on.

With him, and with the rest of the people who had attended the

benefit. Finally, after finding the lawyer who had been called,

we were allowed onto the blocked off street. I found my mother,

and members of the ZSC. I saw young people in police cars,

waiting to be taken to the downtown jail, officers taking down

reports, and yet others (officers) who were just sitting there,

shooting the breeze. I kept turning around, looking at the

waste. Yes, it was a waste... Over 60 police cars, K-9 units,

helicopters, etc is a bit excessive. And also a major blight on

our city. We drove to the police station, only to be told that

the people who had been arrested at the "party" were being

inquiried about. Finally, at 4 am, my father called collect and

said he had endured countless insults, name calling, and was

being charged with a "40-46, inciting a riot", and with "property


What the hell happened? Why was a peaceful event turned into

something so ugly, so extreme? Was it because the benefit was

being attended by people of the "Counterculture"? Was it because

it was something to benefit the Zapatistas, the Mayan Indians in

southeastern Mexico fighting peace with dignity, justice,

democracy, and indigenous rights? What was the aim, and reason

for the show of force? Who could and can benefit from all this

attention? Who was the target of all this harassment, and why?

I came to the Benefit Concert/Event because I believe in what the

Zapatistas are fighting for in Mexico. Because, I thought I

would and could be able to express my solidarity with the

Zapatistas and their fight for equality and justice. What

saddens me is, I live in the US. "The home of the free, and the

land of the brave", and yet, "30 years after the start of the

Civil Rights Movement, the US hasn't changed at all. There is no

justice. Not for the Zapatistas, not for the victims of Props.

187 and 209, not for those in attendance last night, and surely

not for me. The fight our human rights... Rights that are

guaranteed by the CONSTITUTION and the BILL OF RIGHTS continues

on into the 21st century.

by Ibyang Rivera

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