The scene is a usual grey day in Eureka, but startled by the echoes of music from downtown. We walk from our car to the area, noticing the occasional pink kitten hat and signs reading “pussy grabs back.” We proceed forward, noticing familiar MLK quotes behind orderly placed police vehicles. By having the police lead the Eureka Women’s march, people’s power is dampened. As members of this community, we felt our voices and the voices of others who had experienced police brutality firsthand were stomped out by a governmental force, one who’s paid duty it is to uphold the law in defense of an inherently violent system that has been, and continues to, contribute to the genocide of various peoples and cultures since it began. Thus, we chose to make our dissenting voices heard, hanging a banner that read “empower people, not cops.” The police, especially EPD, are known for using unnecessary force and violent tactics, especially encounters with people commonly marginalized within our communities including people of color, people without homes, people with little income, native people, and women. It seemed particularly contradictory that a parade geared towards women of all types openly endorsed police involvement. We chose to bring an awareness to the divisiveness of police presence and the lack of accountability taken by EPD and the city of Eureka in regards to its violent treatment of marginalized people at a march meant for the empowerment of marginalized groups.
The message sent by endorsing a police presence at the march was that they get to decide when and where and how much women can be empowered, that we are free to protest and smash the patriarchy just as long as we buy an expensive permit and give them a copy of our planned march route. We were not saying that we did not want the march to happen, this march was an opportunity for people who do not normally get involved in political dissent to share their voices in a setting they felt they could bring their children to. However, the question we posed is who is it that we are afraid of? When we broke off from the march to re-route traffic from the 101, we were saying exactly what our banner had read. We danced and chanted in the road, a real family friendly party. We left a lane open for people to pass through. As promoters of people power, we had faith in people’s ability to reroute themselves, guided by a couple of people loosely directing traffic. Most figured it out, and the ones that didn’t weren’t stupid, they were stubborn. They didn’t understand what was happening, got upset, and either yelled at us, drove eerily close to us, or the one man in the truck who attempted to run us over. This was not surprising for those among us who had participated in disruptive action before.
What was surprising was the immediate response by EPD blaming us for the nearly fatal collision. What was even more surprising was learning that law enforcement had been called by the main organizers of the women’s march. For those of us who have experienced police brutality because of our gender, race, or sexual orientation, or from being on the front lines of struggles, it is not empowering to march behind police vehicles, it was divisive and violent for the organizers to call the police on us. This shows a substantial ignorance of the issues of police violence and state repression. For many of us, we don’t get to go home and turn this off. We are doing the work 24/7 while parades like this one only require a cardboard sign and the sense of privilege that comes with not having to think about whether or not you will survive an encounter with law enforcement.
We blocked the road as an act of resistance against the violent systems in power, systems that use the police to enforce their unjust laws and inhumane policies. We stood there and did not back down when demanded by the police to demonstrate the potential of people power. The response by the organizers of the women’s march was polarizing, to continue creating false dichotomies is to continue supporting a system of tone policing people who are in the right to be angry. Together, we can disrupt the status quo, we can shatter the air of invulnerability that pervades business as usual. Getting arrested was not only a statement of our seriousness and commitment to the struggle against state violence and fascism, but also to show that many effective methods of resisting the brutalities of this world, from white supremacy to patriarchy to the destruction of the earth, fall outside the boundaries of acceptable protest as defined by cops, politicians, and “respectable citizens.” Ultimately, the road block and arrests don’t matter. What truly matters are the conversations that are now happening and the perceptions that are changing. None of us are free until we are all free.