Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Assault on Attica and the Symbionese Liberation Army
the media histories of state violence restaged in Romero's Dawn of the Dead

"The SLA used the notoriety it had won to spit invective at the country’s corporate leaders. ‘DEATH TO THE FASCIST INSECT THAT PREYS UPON THE LIFE OF THE PEOPLE,’ it proclaimed, in what became its signature sign-off.

The ‘insects,’ however, got them first. On May 17, 1974, 410 officers of the law representing the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and its Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and the California Highway Patrol, poured over 5,000 rounds of ammunition and 83 tear gas canisters into a Compton bungalow in which six SLA members, including Donald Defreeze, were holed up. One of the rounds ignited the flimsy building and, pinned down by continuous fire, those inside died of smoke inhalation, caught bullets, or, in DeFreeze’s case, committed suicide.

Before launching the attack, the LAPD marshalled the media into place. The incineration was broadcast live on national television, as though to exercise the radicalism that had been corroding the conservative core of the country. At least some of the police performed their task with the glee of an Old South lynching. One SWAT member quipped of DeFreeze, who had changed his name to Cinque (which DeFreeze pronounced ‘Sin-Q’) Mtume, after the leader of the 1839 revolt on the slave ship Amistad: ‘He may have been Cinque yesterday, but he’s bar-be-que today.’ The message couldn’t have been clearer: anyone ornery enough to challenge the U.S. government – whether a black ex-convict or a white dropout from the University of California – would be annihilated."

Daniel Burton-Rose

Guerrilla USA: The George Jackson Brigade and the Anticapitalist Underground of the 1970s

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