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Resist: It takes more than marching

by Christina A. DiEdoardo

"An activist's most important job ... is not to organize rallies or act as a spokesperson. It is to inspire people by creating a small culture of democracy in a place dominated by the mindset of dictatorship." - Ahmed Salah

For many, January 20 will mark the first anniversary of the struggle against the fascist regime in Washington (and the fascists' local fellow-travelers in the Bay Area and elsewhere). To borrow a line from Winston Churchill, we are probably far closer to the "end of the beginning" than the "beginning of the end" of that fight, but we've learned a lot all the same.

One area of education has been challenging our own expectations. For example, who would have thought San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón would follow the lead of his counterparts in Washington, D.C. at the inauguration and insist on prosecuting several #J20 defendants arrested here last January?

While there are some differences between the theories underlying both cases - in Washington, the government tried to elevate mere presence at an action to the level of aiding and abetting a riot, while in San Francisco the defendants are accused of blocking Caltrain tracks as part of a direct action - in both instances criminal prosecution seems a foolish use of scarce criminal justice resources. According to Supporters of the J20 Resisters, Gascón apparently doesn't agree, so a one- to two-week trial is scheduled to begin in the case March 12. Here's hoping prosecutors face the same ignominious defeat as their colleagues in Washington did last month, when a jury acquitted the first cohort of #J20 defendants to be brought to trial.

On a more positive note, last year activists in Oakland and San Francisco managed to defy expectations and schedule their respective Women's Marches to take place at staggered times, so that it was possible for attendees to march in Oakland's that morning and San Francisco's that afternoon and evening.

Sadly, that's not the case this year. The Oakland Women's March will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, January 20, at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater and march to Frank Ogawa Plaza (or Oscar Grant Plaza, depending on your political sympathies). In contrast, the San Francisco Women's March is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, January 20, at Civic Center and conclude after a march to the Embarcadero, while another march in San Jose being put together by the San Francisco organizers is set to begin at 11 a.m. that same day at San Jose's City Hall and proceed to Arena Green East near the SAP Center.

While there's value in keeping the marches local for accessibility purposes, it does seem to me like a big opportunity to build community was squandered. How powerful would a unified march across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland (or vice versa) have been instead of the well-worn paths that were chosen instead? #MaybeNextYear?

In the meantime, as Salah says, there's more to this than marching - and there's some great direct actions and trainings coming up, as you'll see below.

Bystander intervention training
At 3 p.m. Sunday, January 14, at the Islamic Society of the East Bay's Jamia Masjid at 33330 Peace Terrace in Fremont, the San Francisco branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, and the ISEB will conduct a training on how to respond to (and, ideally, de-escalate) hate crime incidents when they occur in public spaces. The event is child-friendly.

Let our people go
At 11 a.m. Sunday, January 14, at the West County Detention Facility at 5555 Giant Highway in Richmond, the Choral Majority, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, and Kehilla Community Synagogue will conduct a singing protest at the building that serves both as Contra Costa County's jail and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility for the Bay Area. The event is youth- and elder-friendly.

Reclaim MLK's radical legacy
At 1 p.m. Monday, January 15, at 14th Street and Broadway in Oakland, the Anti-Police Terror Project will conduct its fourth annual March to Reclaim King's Radical Legacy. The event is intended to be an exhibition of direct action against and noncompliance with the administration of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and the fascist regime in Washington, D.C.

Help the radical monarchs
At 10 p.m. Friday, January 19, at La Estrellita Cafe at 446 East 12th Street in Oakland, Queer Cumbia will host a fundraiser to benefit the Radical Monarchs. Admission is a sliding scale of $3-$69 for an evening of tropical music, including "cumbia, merengue, salsa, norteñas, banda y más!" but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. There's no ATM at the location, so please bring cash for the door (the bar accepts credit and ATM cards at this 21-and-up event).

For those who may not be familiar with them, the Radical Monarchs focus on empowering young women of color both as individuals and to assist them as they build progressive movements within their own communities. They've been strong supporters of the Trans March and other queer events and deserve all the backing they can get.

RIOTcon
At 11 a.m. Saturday, January 20, at the East Bay Community Space at 507 55th Street in Oakland, the Radical Interactive Open Technology Conference, or RIOTCon, kicks off. Besides having the best name I've seen for an event so far this year, RIOTCon will explore "the intersections between radicalism, art and technology." It's organized by GG Allen, who led the "Baby Bloc" contingent of children and their parents at last year's general strike in Oakland on January 20, 2017.

Got a tip? Email me at christina@diedoardolaw.com.

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