Image description: A woodcut artwork entitled “Puppet” by Korean artist Hong Song-Dam, of a hand wrapped in the US flag holding a stick with strings that are puppeting a soldier holding a knife in one hand and a rifle in another.

Tuesday,  5.18 (Oh-Il-Pal), marked the 41 year anniversary of the start of the 5.18 Gwangju Uprising. In 1980, the people of Gwangju led an uprising against martial law and the US backed military coup government that ended with the death of 2,000 citizens. The people took up arms and threw out the Republic of Korea (ROK) military from their city and established self-governing institutions. The ROK brutally murdered its own citizens with assistance from the US military and used the media to suppress the truth. South Koreans mark this day as pivotal to the rise of the democracy movements and the end to dictatorships, but today the US continues to occupy the Korean Peninsula with 15 US military bases and maintains over 28,000 troops on the land. Each year the US military and ROK forces conduct live ammunition “war games” near the border with North Korea as provocation and maintenance of military force because the Korean War has technically never ended. 


“Resistance is justified, when a people are occupied”  photo by liz suk taken on 5/15 in SF “All Out For Palestine” March.

The tactics of the ROK and US military are the same tactics the Isreali Defense Forces (IDF) currently use to terrorize the Palestian people. This past week alone, IDF killed over 200 Palestians in their bombing campaign, almost half of those being children, and injured thousands. Everyday the number grows. The violence and rhetoric are identical. This week, President Biden authorized $735M in weapons sales to Israel. This is in addition to over $3 billion annually that the US gives to Israel for aid (2nd highest beneficiary of US aid). The US government is complicit in using our tax dollars to fund the murder of Palestian people and the illegal occupation of their land. The same complicity with Gwangju. The same way our Mayor is complicit in trying to overfund the police department and our Alameda County Board of Supervisors are overfunding the sheriff’s office. 

My parents were the last generation who survived the actual fighting of the Korean War and grew up through two dictatorships. They were living in the US as young adults at the time 5.18 happened. The realities of US imperialism in Korea propelled my parents’ trajectory to this land, where the violence of war turned into war on our bodies via domestic violence and alcoholism. We became bound to the US systemic racism both as victims and conscriptors of anti-Native and anit-Black racism. I grew up most of my childhood in Deep East Oakland (where OPD continues its violence and over-policing) but went back to Korea during the 80’s where martial law was still in effect – a tactic used last year by Mayor Schaaf who instituted a curfew in response to the uprisings in defense of Black Lives after the murder of George Floyd. Every time I go back to Korea now, the sound of OPD helicopters is exchanged with the sound of US military helicopters. Sounds of war and violence are universal. 

The connections between oppression at the hands of the Israeli military and what’s happening here in the Town are all too strong. OPD participated in a delegation training to Israel with the Israeli Defense Forces . OPD with Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) through Urban Shield also trained with “YaMaM”, an Israeli Border Police “counter-terrorism” unit and participated in “counter-terrorism” competitions with police and federal SWAT teams from around the world. These are the tactics that OPD and ACSO are using on community members here in Oakland and across Alameda County. You may remember the way ACSO showed up with a BearCat armored vehicle, battering rams, and a camera-equipped robot to evict the Black mothers and their children of Moms for Housing (led by ACCE) from the Magnolia Street home in West Oakland just a little over a year ago. 

The people of Oakland showed up last year on June 3 to say “F*@% Your Curfew” and launched the Defund the Police Coalition, spearheaded by the 6 years of groundwork of the Defund OPD campaign of Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP). Building off this past year of work, we now have a chance to win a Real People’s budget that centers the needs of the community instead of policing. 

Our struggles are local to global. Our struggles are intertwined therefore our liberation is intertwined. So show up in every way you can. Show up to the fight for Palestine. Show up for Oakland.  Here are some ways you can join the fights:
This Saturday, May 22nd from 11am – 3pm, join the Refund Oakland Budget Coalition in reaching our flatland neighbors in District 1 & 3 in West Oakland to educate them on the Real People’s Budget platform and get them to pledge their support.
Sign me up!
Here in Oakland we continue to see the same budget year after year that prioritizes the Mayor’s skewed priorities – one that continues to rely on outdated “solutions” to our town’s economic and social inequities such as state-sanctioned structural violence and heavy policing as an easy “fix.” It’s time to flip the script, reimagine, and demand a new People’s Just Recovery Budget that:    – Reinvests in housing, and increases shelter and housing protections;
    – Prioritizes critical public services and mental health programs;
    – Restores city services like trash pick-up and maintenance of parks;
    – Protects our essential workers on the frontline and provides worker protections;
    – Reimagines public safety and livelihood for ALL;
    – Invests in youth jobs and prevention programs;
    – Lifts up arts and cultures and fund programs; and
    – Makes corporations pay their fair share to make this all possible.There is more than enough money to refund and restore our town. We have a surplus of revenue from federal covid relief funds which we must combine with holding wealthy developers and corporations accountable for their fair share of taxes, and defunding OPD’s inflated budget. We can win a real recovery budget for the people of Oakland, but the deadline is coming soon.
If you are unable to join us for  volunteer canvassing, please join the Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) Resistance Until Liberation Action this Saturday, May 22nd.11AM – Gather at 16th & Mission in SF and march together1PM – Convene for a rally at Civic Center in SF
Come together with community and listen to powerful speakers sharing their stories of resilience.
Finally, sign up for Block the Boat text alerts! The Block the Boat Coalition has been very successful in deterring one of apartheid Israel’s largest global shipping companies, Zim, from docking at Oakland’s port. This has caused Zim to lose millions of dollars and is a key way of showing our solidarity with the people of Palestine. Although there is no definite date set for its return, Zim plans to come back since 2014 was the last time it came to Oakland. Find out more and sign up for text alerts and updates by texting ‘BTB” to 181-BLOCKZIM (1812.562.5946).

We must step into our power and leadership and mobilize our neighbors in the name of a collective vision for what we want our town and world to look like. Long live Palestine and all of our neighbors around the world in the struggle and in resilience towards collective liberation.