The Dallas Police Department is already trying to paper over the outrageous arrests of seven bank protesters last Saturday on trumped up Soviet-style "misuse of sidewalk" bullshit charges. (Police made eight arrests in all.) Everything about this reeks of official misconduct and slime.
The cops claim a small riot started in front of Bank of America downtown when a protester refused to get off a concrete planter that was bank property and then attacked police with a union flag. Stephen Benavides, an organizer for the United Steelworkers, a union trying to organize city employees, remains in jail.
If Benavides, a seasoned organizer, attacked a bunch of Dallas cops with his union flag, then he's got to be the dumbest, greenest, least experienced union organizer on Earth. Which he's not, according to people who know him.
I talked this morning with Hobie Hukill, a school librarian and union activist in Alliance/AFT, who was the other guy on the planter with Benavides when the whole thing started. Hukill told me a lot of people were crowded into a small space, chanting but behaving responsibly.
"That planter was the logical soapbox," he said. The concrete planter formed a "quick mini-stage" from which Hukill and Benavides were leading the chants.
"From completely out of our line of sight," he said, "from behind us, I heard this, 'Get off the planter.' I turn around. Stephen does too.
"I think I said the word, 'What?' and the guy has punched both of us in the chest, a glancing blow for me, but he nailed Stephen, and at the time he was doing that he was saying, 'Get off the planter.'
"In less than 10 seconds from the time I first heard from behind, 'Get off the planter,' Stephen was flat on his face on the curb, actually in the street."
Hukill thinks the guy who punched him identified himself at first as working for the bank and was wearing a bank security uniform, but the same guy shows up later in news video wearing a Dallas Police Department jacket over his uniform.
That's a huge issue. We've got Dallas cops working off-duty for the banks the same way they work off-duty as bouncers for the bad bars. That entire arrangement is rife with corruption and conflict of interest. We can't let it go on.
We can't let our cops play the part of Harry Bennett's goons in the 1930s when they were out on the streets beating up UAW organizers for Henry Ford. It's bad medicine for us, bad medicine for them.
But in the end, I don't believe appealing to the bureaucracy at City Hall is ever going to accomplish jack shit, because of the sold-out culture there. What the protesters here will have to do is what they did in Oakland -- bulk up and go again. The one thing we can't do is let this lie.