Monday morning, April 7, 2003, police fired on protesters at the Oakland docks using wooden dowels, bean bags, and rubber bullets. At least 12 protesters and six longshoremen were injured. More than 500 protesters had gathered to protest the military related contracts of American President Lines (APL) and Stevedoring Services of America (SSA).
Sophomore Joy Liu was among the Mills students who attended the protest with her affinity group Freedom uprising (Coalition of People of Color Against War).
“Basically [APL and SSA] make tens of millions off our taxpayer dollars by supporting the war,” said Liu. “APL transports ammunitions, while SSA will deliver the materials needed to rebuild the Iraq that we first obliterate” SSA was recently awarded a $4.8 million contract to ship cargo designated as aid to Umm Qasr seaport in Iraq.
While police alleged that protesters began throwing rocks, prompting the shooting, protesters assert that this was not the case.
“We approached it as a picket rather than a protest to maintain the calm legality of the action. We wanted to bring media attention to the immorality of war-profiteers, not to do property damage,” said Liu.
Mills student Raeanne Young, a member of the affinity group Global Intifada, and spokesperson for Direct Action to Stop the War, agrees.
“It was not a shut down of the docks. It was a nonviolent action.”
Young said that the police shooting was not justified given the peaceful nature of the crowd. While the police assert that they gave warning before opening fire, Young didn’t think that adequate warning was provided.
“I didn’t hear any warning. There were helicopters flying overhead. My friends on the other side heard no warning,” she said.
” I started hearing gunshots and loud explosions. I saw smoke clouds over the other entrance. They were threatening our police liaisons with gassing. Later on we found out that it was concussion grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets, and wooden dowels.”
Lui, whose contingent left before the shooting, was shocked when she heard the news. “I was astonished. While we were there, the energy was very civil.”
Despite the police action, neither woman is deterred in her plans to keep protesting.
“As one of our folks pointed out, the police might use tear gas, might use pain-compliance and other scare tactics, but it’s nothing compared to the horrors and pain and torment of war,” said Lui.
Young agrees and feels unfazed by the police decision to use force. “We’ve been out there for months and months before they started firing on us. Just because the story happens to be a bigger one right now, because of the police brutality, doesn’t mean that it changes anything for us.”