Here is how Austin, Texas people are linking local issues with international ones. From IndyMedia... (they have the uncovered Austin police memos on their site, too).
Last year, while undercover agents from the Austin police department were infiltrating anti-war activist workshops, officers of the same department continued the customary practice of harassment and brutality against communities of color on Austin's east side.
Austin continues to be a divided city, both economically and racially. Predominantly middle class activists have often voiced the same outrage against local institutions as the under-privileged in Austin, but from separate angles. The last few months, however, have seen an upsurge of cooperative resistance. Segments of the Austin activist community that have historically been divided are exploring new ways to connect and reinforce their struggles.
Over the course of 2003, three black East-Austin residents have lost their lives at the hands of the police. One victim, Sofia King, was a schizophrenic woman supposedly armed with a knife. The other two victims, Jessie Lee Owens and Lennon Johnson, were unarmed. The activist communities of color, all subject to routine harassment, rose up in resistance to these killings. The NAACP began holding weekly protests against police brutality at the Travis County courthouse as well as the headquarters of the Austin Police Department.
While these weekly protests were taking place a number of Austin anti-war activists involved in opens-records requests, including the Austin People's Legal Collective and the Texas ACLU, received photocopies of internal APD memos documenting their undercover surveillance of anti-war activist workshops during the spring of 2003. The opening memo commended the undercover officers, whom it named, for "infiltrating a culture of society that is highly suspicious of new members." The memos went on to describe the discussions that took place among the activists in attendance, going so far as to identify "leaders" by name. When the war broke out outraged citizens filled the streets of Austin, but were rebuffed with heavy police repression. Police tactics included the use of chemical weapons, 'snatch squads', and mass arrests.
Activist groups that had, in the past, concentrated primarily upon either anti-war or police brutality issues, have in the last few months converged in a campaign against the common "militarization" of our society, and the ongoing "occupation" of communities, both here and abroad. Last week, a number of communities in Austin including the Texas chapter of the NAACP, PODER, AFSC, YLN, Caracol el Machete, the Rhizome collective and a local direct action alliance, Austin Justice Action Movement (JAM), met to discuss their common grounds. The group consensed upon turning the March 20th global day of action against the war in Iraq, into "a common machete; a machete slung against the common denominator of human injustice."
Together this coalition against police oppression worked out a plan of action for March 20th, in which activists from around the city would rally in the city, and then conduct a tour--from the site of Sophia King's killing, through cultural gentrification zones, and finally to the Austin Police Department headquarters. From there, a Caravan to Crawford, Texas (home of one of President Bush's retreats) will depart from Austin, Texas for a statewide action to be held there.
In the meantime, APLC is petitioning the Texas Attorney General's office for greater tranparency concerning surveillance of activist groups in Austin, and weekly protests continue to be held by the NAACP and its newly-found allies, every Friday afternoon at the Austin Police Department headquarters (7th & IH-35).
Mar 14, '04
Good post, NH. Wish I was going to be off next weekend. I would love to join in the protests.