Repression in Rochester

My daughter, Jenn (the RFC’s Grantmaking Coordinator), and I spent last weekend in Rochester and Buffalo attending RFC receptions as part of our 20/20/20 program. We call it 20/20/20 because we will celebrate the RFC’s 20th anniversary by holding at least 20 events around the country during the 20-months that started in September. We managed to beat the snows and catch the tail end of one of the best fall color seasons we’ve had in the last decade.

At each reception I told my personal story, described how it gave birth to the RFC and reported that the ongoing repression and the Bush economic depression have increased the demand for our support. The folks at the Rochester event described their own recent brush with authoritarianism: several had been arrested and/or harassed by police earlier in the month.

On October 7th, 2009, the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the current Afghan war, the Rochester chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) staged a peaceful protest calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The noisy but peaceful action of less than 100 people started with speeches in a park and was followed by a march to the center of town. As they crossed a bridge the activists were confronted by a phalanx of police who arrived in no less than 40 police cars!

The police attacked the protesters without warning, singling out a young black man in the center of the crowd for no apparent reason other than the color of his skin. A dozen protesters were arrested and two required hospitalization. The incident was filmed by an independent media (IMC) film crew and is available at http://blip.tv/file/2695340. The video shows police throwing non-resisting students to the ground and arresting them without provocation. As often happens in these situations, the two students who were most severely injured are facing the most serious charges of resisting arrest and attacking a police officer.

This was one of several stories I heard about the brutality and racism of the Rochester police while I was in town. On the 300 mile drive home to Western Massachusetts I couldn’t help wondering if the police took their cue from the barely suppressed violence and hate spewed by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Fox News. Unlike the TV blowhards, the police have guns, badges, the power to arrest and the authority of the state behind them.

How many of these cops and others across the nation, have been pumped full of post-9/11 hysteria for almost a decade and are primed to explode? How many of you have your own stories of similar events unfolding in you areas? I invite you to bring these outrages to light by posting comments here.

I fear that given this climate, the RFC will face a seemingly endless stream of new applications for many years to come.

Comments

I had some experiences with fbi repression.
the fbi called me like 7 times in 2006 trying to ask me about people i am associated with, about my past foreign travels and the emergency name on my passport renewal form. i kept on refusing to talk to them at all and they said i can choose to do it the easy way or the hard way and that they will come to my home and work again which they did. they told my lawyer if i refuse to talk to them they will “deal with me by other means” etc. i got evicted from my squat as a result of one of their nasty visits, i got threats of evicted from the land lord at the next place i moved to, the super told me the fbi came around and went into my apt a few times, etc. they terrorized my friends, neighbors, boss, landlord,brother & my roommate who they threatened by saying i am deeply involved in a underground palestinian terrorist group, that i am dangerous and that i associate with dangerous people and that they are going to get me and make me name names etc causing him to leave the city – he was scared to death. sure it was creepy but the bottom line is never to breath a word to these porkers since they are trying to piece together a giant puzzle of our movements. i am active in palestine liberation stuff. we all must stick together.

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