The case of Trayvon Martin is constantly evolving and I do not claim to be an expert on it. What I can say is that the shooting of a unarmed individual four years my junior by someone who exhibited a long history of violent and impulsive behavior does not sit well for me. Nor does the subsequent investigation that treated Zimmerman as truthful and his claim of self-defense as correct.
This sentiment brought me to Oakland at 4pm- at the famous Frank Ogawa Plaza, where one of the largest occupations in the country had once existed before being violently expelled by the Oakland Police Department. A march had been called by various parties in order to raise awareness of Trayvon Martin and to pressure both state and federal governments to be more active in prosecuting Zimmerman and those that commit acts similar to his.
Overall it was a a mixed bag. The megaphone was controlled by members of the “Revolutionary Communist Party”– an organization I did not know existed. I found the rhetoric to occasionally be partisan rather than relevant to the case of Trayvon Martin. Researching afterwards I found that the RCP is Maoist and kind of skewed towards its leader, Bob Avakian. It generally reeks of cult of personality.
But there were lots of people there. I got leaflets or papers from not only the Revolutionary Communist Party, but the Marxists and Trotskyists. I had a brief chat with the Marxist paper seller, who was trying to do the soft sell (sooooo, are you interested in Marxist politics?). I simply admitted I haven’t studied enough Marx to have an educated opinion one way or the other. I also got a couple invitations- to an organizing meeting and a film showing! I feel popular.
The protest brought back memories of San Francisco especially- a march where I met Rev. Amy and her family marching near the cable car. Good old fashioned blocking of streets, a ton of chants. What SF had was more people by an order of 100- 40 to 50 was maybe our total crowd. I sort of prefer the thousands march- not just because both Occupy SF and calls for justice for Martin are both good causes, but because you can float around and meet new people. This sort of felt like a Revolutionary Communist shindig- they passed out the flyers and such- which I folded over their URL when marching.
On my way back to where I parked my car, the corner where we had originally been had maybe eight to ten people who were members of the New Black Panthers Party (NBPP). Now I don’t have an issue with Black Panthers at all- I like them, I haven’t really talked in depth with them- but they’ve been around and I like their insight.
New Black Panthers, however, I have the same issue with them and the RCP. They use tragedy to popularize their brand. They recently did this with the Martin case by offering a $10,000 bounty on Zimmerman’s arrest. Not the cause, not any sort of objective improvement, just to get their name out. Plus with the New Black Panthers- their accomplishments are pretty minimal. Mostly it’s just people who weren’t around when the real Panther activism was happening trying to look cool and rock the Panther look. But to be fair, I do not personally know any NBPP members- so this is based off of the very few times I have seen them, plus what I pick up in the media.
Overall I liked it- I’m beginning to recognize some regulars. Two people I had seen the previous day at the Long Haul, an anarchist-leaning creative space and lending library. They’re generally pretty nice- the ones who weren’t incredibly nice tended to be incredibly interesting.
However I do feel that the occasion was tainted by the injection of partisanship into what is a pretty clear trans-partisan issue. People like alleged killers arrested and tried for their crimes. This is not something that the New Black Panthers or the Revolutionary Communists have a monopoly on. Everyone wants this- and it shouldn’t feel like regular joes with mainstream politics aren’t allowed to marches like this.