Monthly Archives: October 2011

October 22 Speech Against Police Brutality

Emma Rosenthal, MacArthur Park, Rampart Division-LAPD, Los Angeles

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today at this October 22 demonstration against police brutality on the theme, Resistance Matters,  focusing on a segment of EVERY community– people with dis-abilites.

People with dis-abilities are specifically targeted by police for abuse and brutality.

People who are deaf, unable to heed orders they do not hear, unable to communicate with authority, often are killed or battered by a system that doesn’t take their communication needs into consideration.

People with visible dis-abilities attract the attention of bullies, including the bullies in blue who know that there are no consequences for our ostracism or victimization.

People who appear, walk, talk differently are often singled out, accused of being drunk, and often have trouble with law enforcement because of both misunderstandings and the outright hostility toward us, by the police.

People with mental health conditions come in contact with police on the street, when our behavior doesn’t conform to society’s expectations, or when police are called to respond to medical emergencies.

Homelessness and prisons ARE our society’s mental health care system.

Police often respond to medical psychiatric emergencies with brutal and often deadly force, claiming they felt that they were in imminent danger.

Imagine if health care providers said they had to kill a patient because the patient’s condition threatened the lives of health care professionals.

It is the job of health care providers to treat people who are ill. We must demand no less of emergency personnel, including police, when answering a call for medical emergencies.


There is a nexus of gender, class and race with dis-ability, compounding our experience with authorities. We are part of every community, not a separate group, or geographic. There is no organization or outreach that can fully succeed without our full inclusion. You cannot address the issue of police brutality without also addressing the role of people with dis-abilities in the struggle for social justice.

Yet many social justice organizations don’t include people with dis-abilities fully, in addressing many social justice issues, and often perpetuate attitudes and policies that contribute to our marginalization.

You can’t defend our rights without our participation, our full participation. Nothing about us, without us. Working on our behalf without us, simply appropriates our exploitation in the service of rhetoric.

A movement that isn’t informed by the victims perpetuates the abuse. Planning that does not take our specific needs and issues into consideration often puts us in significant danger. Too often event security responds to us in much the same way that the state does.  I have been at demonstrations where the event coordinators did as much to endanger us, as the police do. This must be changed, this must be challenged.

We cannot fight a system by replicating its attitudes & practices. We cannot demand from society what we cannot also create among ourselves.

Expectations of people with dis-abilities merge with issues of race/gender and class to increase marginalization via expectations of behavior.

Thinking of people with dis-abilities as aberrant, undesirable, non-contributing and a burden have no place in the movement, these are capitalist attitudes.

Dis-ability rights isn’t charity. nothing short of full inclusion is justice. It is not your place to “help” us, but rather to work with us, to include us in ways that inform praxis.

It is NOT our job to make you comfortable with out conditions.

It is NOT our job to find our own way into your organizations.

It is NOT our job to say what you want to hear, and to leave our particular needs and experience out of the discussion.

Dis-ability inclusion is the collective responsibility of the entire community. 


Additionally, agents of repression know to use dis-ability to divide the movement, like they use gender & race; by relying on our own prejudice & bigotry.

Infiltrators use ridicule of people with dis-abilities. Police have been known to “street: us into demonstrations to provoke an angry crowd that knows we are acceptable targets.

These divisive tactics don’t work when we check ourselves, our own entitlements that mask as privileges that defeat us all. We cannot build a sincere movement w/o including the most marginalized sectors, and we cannot address police brutality by ignoring its specific nexus with dis-abilty .


It must also be  recognized that police not only target people with dis-abilities for abuse, but also, in their brutality, create dis-ability, leaving those who survive, injured and traumatized. Let us honor those comrades wounded in the struggle, injured by capitalism, with ramps, sign language & voice, as well as make room for all activists into the future, as any one of us can become a person with a dis-ability, at any time.

No more excuses. These are matters of resistance because resistance matters.

So, let us build the strongest resistance to police brutality and state hegemony by ever increasing the circle, by standing, sitting, signing, rolling arm in arm in solidarity, a strong movement that cannot afford to leave anyone behind, a movement that needs everyone’s voice, everyone’s story.

Anti-Police Brutality Forum, Pasadena City College

  • I’m excited to announce that I will be speaking on the panel at this event. Hope to see you there.

    Thursday, October 13 at 6:00pm
    Please join Julia Wallace, Emma Rosenthal and others on the panel, discussing police brutality as it impacts and targets different groups of people. Cafe Intifada’s Emma Rosenthal will be addressing specific impact of police brutality on people w dis-abilities (PWDs)
    (Part of Anti-Police Brutality Week)DATE: Thursday, October 13, 2011
    TIME: 6PM-8PM
    LOCATION: Pasadena City College (Circadian Building CC), 1570 E. Colorado Bl., Pasadena, CA 91106

    Police repression and brutality is UNDENIABLY one of the most pressing issues which afflicts our communities. Whether we believe that the police are here to protect our communities or keep them in their place, we cannot ignore that that the people of Los Angeles have experienced unbelievable trauma as direct result of decades worth of police misconduct, mayhem, and murder.

    But it is important to note that we are NOT defenseless against state repression. Through knowledge, community, and resistance, we can push back the authorities and assert our right to live in a space that is free from poverty, crime, and the grasp of the prison-industrial complex.

    This forum will not only educate us on the complex relationship between racism, economics, and injustice system, but will also offer a safe space for marginalized communities to offer their experiences with police and state repression, including:

    – People of Color
    – Womyn of Color
    – The Queer/Transgender Community
    – Dis-Abled Populations

    We hope that through this event, we can begin connecting to each other and form communities of resistance.

    In Solidarity,

    Students for Social Justice

    This event is wheelchair accessible and dis-ability affirmative. If you need additional accommodations please contact us 72 hours prior to the event.

  • Part of Police Brutality week. An important forum

Arriving at OccupyLA–cops and dogs, have more of a place than people with dis-abilities!

Dogs occupy the lawn during OccupyLA

Dogs occupy the lawn during OccupyLA ©2011 emmarosenthal photography


This article was solicited for publication and is included in the Dreaming In Public, anthology

I made it down to OccupyLA yesterday, after a week of attempting on line to assure that such an effort  would not be a major  misuse of my time and energy and wouldn’t be dangerous or humiliating. (it’s not easy for many people with dis-abilities (PWDs) to get ourselves out of the house. it takes real planning.) I had been tweeting, facebooking and blogging and getting first hand reports from friends and family who had made the trek to the event.

I had spent hours on the phone and in person with some of the organizers.  I was brutally harassed and insulted on both FB and Twitter for even suggesting that outreach to this significant 20% of the 99% be a consideration, and that our participation be more than passive, that our inclusion must have agency and that we must be able to inform this movement.

After a series of attempts at contributing to this event hit a cruel brick wall, I used harsh words, strong words and militant words. That’s what activists DO! That’s what marginalized people must DO, to be heard. We are not asking for handouts (food, medicine, tent space is all free and EASILY AVAILABLE at OccupyLA, for everyone BUT people with dis-abilities.) We are demanding that our skills, voices, opinions, ideas, power be present as equal contributors in the movement.

In previous blog posts, I documented my efforts to offer resources for dis-ability inclusion, and attempts to help the committee that was working on this, (if there is one). I was finally contacted by Cassie from “finance” who had informed me that she had bought 6 accessible porta potties and they would be there the next day (IT –1-  porta potty, didn’t arrive for several days, forcing PWDs to leave the event in search of a bathroom more than a block away. ) We talked for hours on the phone.  Cassie told me she also worked in the welcome tent and to come see her when I finally made it to OccupyLA.  She gave me the contact information for Cheryl,  the person who was “in charge of dis-ability access”, who a google search revealed was a medical marijuana access activist, but whose twitter account ended after the last election cycle.  I sent her a tweet, decided to call her later when I was feeling less burnt out, or figured I would attempt to find her when I got to the event, I was just so disappointed in my efforts so far, and the incredible energy it took just to get porta potties. At no time did she ever attempt to reach me.

From the beginning of my attempts to work with OccupyLA, the excuses I got were rote, almost like talking to cult members. “We are a leaderless group, We are a few people trying to do so much. We are a nascent movement.” So, over the course of the week, and at the event itself, I offered. I offered to work on logistics, on dis-ability access, on social media and on finance.  I suggested they needed a page on their web page with a list of committees, contact persons, and meeting times.  I also told them they needed a page on their web page on logistics, with special outreach to PWDs– information that included parking, bathrooms, what to bring,  perhaps a map of the occupation village, etc. I told them they needed sign language interpreters and outreach, outreach, outreach.  I told them that when people asked questions to social media that that information needed prompt connection to the appropriate person who responds in a timely manner and that people offering suggestions not be subjected to a barrage of hate and abuse. Again, the mantra: . “We are a leaderless group, We are a few people trying to do so much. ”  One thing Cassie and others had told me, was to come down and see for myself. That what was on the twitter feed bore little resemblance to what was happening on the ground.

So, I headed out on Saturday, which was the first day I could get assistance and would be prepared for whatever obstacles I might encounter.  I hoped, that perhaps I was being too hard on this effort, that it was probably not as bad as I imagined.

The entire park  around city hall, with one narrow exception, has a curb that prevents wheelchairs and scooters from entering any portion of the park except the walkways!!!!  The welcome tent, the food tent, the media tent, workshops, committee meetings,  the library (we had brought books to contribute, but not being able to get to the library, I declined contributing), the first aid tent– so the people who might be most in need of medical attention, can’t get it!, the stage, and even the wheelchair accessible porta potty, were situated so PWDs in wheelchairs would not have access. PWDs  are limited in our participation to sitting in the walkway, watching everyone else interact, We are to need nothing, or hope for charitable assistance, and hope we’re not in the way. (We get accused of that, a lot!)

I was told on line, more than once, “I have seen people in wheel chairs out here”.
One twitterer, who set up a sock puppet account just to harass me,  accused me of not standing (sic) by other PWDs who attended the event, as if my lack of presence, so unwelcome as it was, was a betrayal to those who were happy and brave and were part of this FARCE!!!! (I MEAN CAMPOUT!)

So, then I had to ask myself– is my passive presence simply bearing false “witness” of inclusion??? Would people say, “See, Emma Rosenthal was there, they even” (maybe if I was lucky) “allowed her to speak from the foot of the stairs. sad– so sad– pity–pity–pity– she couldn’t make it up the stairs to the stage.”  

And would I want to address a crowd where no sign language was available to sisters and brothers in the struggle, who are deaf?

I finally did meet up with Cheryl the person “in charge” of access, she was giving a tour of the (inaccessible) campout,  because a map, wouldn’t have sufficed?  I found out where most things were, and I couldn’t even access most of the territory of the park. She had a slew of excuses for the TOTAL lack of access,  I offered to go on the tour. She told me to wait some undesignated amount of time. She would give me my tour later.  She wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise, controlling me and the conversation the way a cop controls a crime scene or an interrogation. She was very, very good at THAT.  (and perhaps that’s why she was there, really– to keep anything significant from happening.) She also gave me the mantra “”We are a leaderless group, We are a few people trying to do so much. We are a nascent movement.”  Of course they’re not leaderless, there’s plenty of leadership, it’s just not accountable.

After my bad cop experience with Cheryl, Someone who identified herself as Jeannie, ran up to me, handed me her card, and gave me the good cop approach. She acted like she knew of me, but said she didn’t. She let me know she was in charge of social media, but hadn’t seen any of my tweets and facebook posts.  (How is that even remotely possible?)  And she was eager to get my help on any of the committees I wanted to work on.  She was very concerned, explained to me again “”We are a leaderless group, We are a few people trying to do so much. We are a nascent movement.” It was eerie, like they had all worked together to get their story straight, whenever anyone suggested any improvements. Jeannie was very encouraging, but full of excuses. “Cheryl was working very hard, and of course the mantra “We are a leaderless….”  She also told me that they were having things STOLEN BY HOMELESS PEOPLE, and that THE EVENT HAD BEEN INFILTRATED. well this is where the conversation went totally downhill. At first I thought she was talking about how the cops had infiltrated the event, but it turned out that she was referring to activists who had been pushing for a statement opposing police brutality. These were her infiltrators. She told me the police were an important part of the 99% (apparently more important that PWDs) and that the cops working on this event were our friends, and really good guys, she knew them personally.  (I bet she does!!) When I told her the cops weren’t part of the 99%, she yelled at me not to call her, and she ran away. (So much for democracy, justice, and leaderless action.)

All of the “leaderless leaders” I spoke to  at OccupyLA, were white 30-50 year olds. Neither my partner, activist, Andy Griggs nor I had ever seen any of them in any leadership capacity in any organization or event in Los Angeles.

While I was there, I did see and spoke with three other people with ambulatory dis-abilites: one person with a walker, aside from Andy, and two other people in wheelchairs. None of them was happy with our lack/level of inclusion.

AT one point I just fell apart, and was consoled by a stranger named Ryan, as well as by my partner, Andy and my friends Kathleen, Cindy, and  Tamara, who was serving at the First Aid station.  (She put a call out for plywood for ramps.)  I want to thank them for helping me metabolize my rage. I was approached by other strangers, who were also willing to help. But all were powerless to really address issues of equitable and empowered access.

The class struggle is vast, and I would rather find a small stream and flow firmly with the currents, then get caught up in a stagnant eddy in some huge river that has no place for me, nor appreciation of even the most simplest aspects of my humanity. The amount of abuse and isolation is infuriating, and I don’t need environments that negate my existence while I’m fed platitudes to “think positive”. the level of rage I reached just isn’t good for anyone. So, unless there are huge changes in the entire movement, I won’t be back.

 Images from an Exclusive Movement:

Media tent-- off limits (see curb) to reporters and volunteers who use wheelchairs.

Media tent– off limits (see curb) to reporters and volunteers who use wheelchairs. ©2011emma rosenthal photography

Inaccessible Stage at OccupyLA, up a flight of steps.

Inaccessible Stage at OccupyLA, up a flight of steps. ©2011 emma rosenthal photography

A wheelchair accessible porta potty, up a step, inaccessible via wheelchair.

A wheelchair accessible porta potty, up a step, inaccessible via wheelchair.                    ©2011 emmarosenthal photography

Curbless sectment of the Park, just a few yards from where event organizers placed the inaccessible porta potty.

Curbless segment of the Park, just a few yards from where event organizers placed the inaccessible porta potty. They should have placed it here.  ©2011emmarosenthal photography

Inaccessible first aid tent at OccupyLA, up a step.

Inaccessible first aid tent at OccupyLA, up a step. ©2011 emmarosenthal photography

Close up of step to first aid tent at Occupy LA, with signage that says "step up step down"

Close up of step to first aid tent at Occupy LA, with signage that says “step up step down” on green tarp with red tape. (no, really,it is really red tape!) ©2011 emmarosenthal photography

Medic, Tamara, who is working really hard to fix issues of access at the first aid tent.

Medic, Tamara, who is working really hard to fix issues of access at the first aid tent. ©2011emmarosenthal photography

Tables for organizations at OccupyLA, up a curb, making staffing at such a table, difficult for a person in a wheelchair.

Tables for organizations at OccupyLA, up a curb, making staffing at such a table, difficult for a person in a wheelchair. ©2011 emmarosenthal photography

Food tent and welcome tent

Food tent and welcome tent and other tents all inaccessible at OccupyLA 2011 emmarosenthal photography

Next blog posts: Tweets on dis-ability access OccupyLA and an article on the clientization of dis-ability– the charity model, or “Be happy we got you a porta potty you can fit your chair into, how dare you be upset that it’s up a flight of stairs!”

Update to “Decolonize L.A., That’s the Movement We Need”

Yesterday I published my own commentary on OccupyLA, “Decolonize L.A. That’s the Movement We Need” which focused on issues of inclusion, including dis-ability inclusion, without which my participation is either distant or passive. I also provided links to resources and other commentary. since then a lot has happened. (scroll down for more links to more commentary by other activists).

The blog post has received a lot of attention (more hits than any other post on my blog), most of it very positive. I have had my share of detractors, including one commentary on a FB thread telling people , to stop reading and  circulating my link, and accused me of trying to keep people from participating in OccupyLA. (not a stellar example on his part,  of how to  build a democratic movement!)


Aside from the example already provided, I’ve received other nasty emails, tweets etc.  and disparaging comments, some in the form of patronizing pleas that I temper my message to be more pleasant and effective, to outright abuse (usually from the same belligerent pwod white male, who couldn’t control me with sweet talk.)

But they are wrong. social justice isn’t realized by acting all “nice” and “pretty”. and I don’t try to be a lady (a term that seems most prolific when insults are being hurled such as “go fuck yourself, lady” — one lovely tweet (squawk) i got). I sent 3 days of tweets before I got ANY response from OccupyLA.  That’s what it took.  And to my knowledge, the abusive language i received went totally unchallenged.  But I have been  informed that due to my persistence, 6 accessible porta potties have been purchased, and I’ve been contacted by some of the event coordinators in search of more input from me, on the issue of access.

Dis-ability rights seems to be finding itself into the lexicon of social justice, and there seems to be a greater understanding of the need to include us in the pantheon of marginalized and oppressed. I’ve also received a lot of support on this issue, and a lot more people had my back, which is a relatively new experience. I feel like my years of struggle screaming into the wilderness on this issue are finally proving to have impact.

I’m looking forward to seeing how I can help assist with access to this event, including working with either the logistics committee and/or the social media committee. I’m hopeful, but  I’m not holding my breath.

Positive thinking can be a real kick in the ass, in the form of devastating disappointment! But we’ll see. I’m not going to be tokenized, nor am I willing to address access outside of the other issues of social justice, because they’re too linked and none is more important than the next. It’s all class struggle.

As for those who disparage netivism, for those of us who can’t always get out, or who, when we do, are up against terrible obstacles, netivisim is what we have. If it isn’t effective why are so many pwod white boys so damn upset with me??? After all, it’s just the internet, it’s not really real life! (Or is it?)

More Links to Other Dissenting Activists re OccupyLA

While the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy LA movements have a great potential to bring about social change, some of us who participated in the encampment of City Hall and the Saturday and Sunday Gene…


AN OPEN LETTER FROM TWO WHITE MEN TO #OCCUPYWALLSTREET     We—two white men—write this letter conscious of the fact that the color of our skin means we will likely be taken more seriously.  We write this knowing that because people of color are thought to be too biased to speak objectively on iss…


My thoughts on #PoliceBrutality discussion at #OccupyLA General Assembly last night: 

“…This is Occupy LA, right? Police brutality is a real issue for Los Angeles. (you know, the home the Rodney King beating, the most famous case of police brutality in the world). Those who have grown up here in poor and immigrant communities (aka, the majority of LA) will all tell you stories of being harassed, abused, and sometimes brutalized by the police. Just last year hundreds of people from the MacArthur park area marched to the LAPD headquarters right across the street after a day laborer was shot in the head by the LAPD for no reason. Whether or not you’ve experienced police brutality yourself, it doesn’t mean it’s not an issue for the people of Los Angeles, which has one of the highest rates of police brutality in the country. If Occupy LA is the people of LA, it should raise the issues that most affect the people of LA.”

Decolonize L.A. –That’s the Movement We Need!!!

Commentary on Occupy L.A. by radical crrpl gurl, Emma Rosenthal

Well, OccupyLA is in full swing, complete with police collaboration, and the predictable exclusion and marginalization of those sectors of our community most impacted by the already existing several hundred year, occupation of L.A.. causing many to quip, “You can’t occupy stolen land.”  I’ve not even attempted to attend OccupyLA. I have first hand experience provided to me by my partner, Andy, and other friends, who’ve attempted to participate in ways that are honored and empowered.  For example, I understand that there are porta-potties, but they aren’t the wheelchair accessible type. (Exclusive bathrooms??? how 1964!)

From all reports there has been no planning to assure dis-ability inclusion (big surprise) and any attempt to raise issues of social justice, racism, sexism, police brutality or dis-ability inclusion, have  been shot down by what apparently is a movement lead by people who found their way beyond  La Brea Blvd into the jungle of the unknown to the East, only to demand that the event disregard the input of those not from the exclusive enclaves of West Los Angeles.  This movement that claims to be about the other 99% seems dominated by the top 5% of that majority. In Los Angeles, remove issues of gender, race and dis-ability, and you have a very small, pwod (people without dis-abilities) white male minority indeed.

I did make several attempts to reach OccupyLA, posting both my inquiry, and my link to resources for accessible event planning, to their fb page, and to their twitter account, asking what had been done to include PWDs, (people with dis-abilities) in the program, providing resources (though the link) and offering my own labor and support.  But i’ve received no official response,  though those who support Occupy LA , considered my efforts at increasing outreach and participation unwelcome, even accusing me of being a troll. I have to say, I met a few amazing people through the online exchange, and got more support on the issue than I’ve been used to. (I don’t know why I just don’t shut up on the issue, but I don’t. I’m strangely tenacious that way!)

On Facebook, I was told by one person that there was actually a committee to deal with Dis-ability inclusion, and to go to the web page (I did, there isn’t, she lied). Another person told me the park is totally accessible (even with crowds and no facilitation of access?) and that accessible bathrooms are available in City Hall (when it is open, and thru a metal detector, requiring PWDs in wheelchairs to be subjected to a pat down). She also told me to come down and talk to the organizers (at the inaccessible event!)  Others told me the same,  and to form a contingent, as if I could participate without advanced planning to assure I and other dis-folk could even get our bodies into the park.

Even if I had formed a PWD inclusive anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, human rights affirming,  contingent, and we were ready to descend on the park (a dis-abilty affirmative contingent would have to be formed off site first because of logistics), who would we need to talk to to get access, with (and this would be basic) our ACCESSIBLE porta-potties, and other equipment?  Remember, repeated attempts on my part to dialogue with the organizers went unanswered.  right?

Those weren’t the only responses I got, Someone else tweeted me to let me know Ron Kovic had spoken “from his chair”, as if one celebrity crrpl (who is NOT a dis-ability rights activist or advocate) means there’s access. Others said they saw other people with canes and wheelchairs, so I should just shut up. (Did anyone ask them what it took to attend, and if they needed anything?, so is attending, by extension, a form of complicity, simply because by being seen, we’re allowing PWODs to deny access issues persist?) And what of Ron Kovic? Do the crowds respond to his celebrity, the same way they respond to ordinary crrpl folk?  Does he bring his own attendants and assistants? Shoot, Ron can afford a driver, and even his own personal RV, complete with bathroom if he needs one.  This ISN’T a personal issue. IT MUST BE TREATED AS A COLLECTIVE ISSUE!!!

-If you’re at OccupyLA, demand full inclusion, addressing issues of dis-abilty, race, gender, etc. And if anyone wants to discuss organizing Decolonize L.A. or even a human rights village within OccupyLA, including full dis-inclusion, hit me up.  (comment here, or contact me on FB or twitter)

-You can follow me on twitter, and RETWEET my tweets on the issue:
-You can go to the OccupyLA Facebook page and demand full accountability and access, and of course include other issues of marginalization into your demands (race, gender, etc) 


-You can also follow the threads I started on the issue, on the OccupyLA list, and please, add your own position on the issue.  Let them know, dis-ing dis-ability is uncool.   The first link has many comments, and if you read thru them all, they get sidesplittingly funny!


And my most recent:


Other commentaries on the problems at OccupyLA, include:


Some Thoughts on Last Night’s Occupy L.A. General Assembly

The General Assembly was rather messy an undemocratic:   1) The “mic check” method that the organizers are copying from the NY Occupiers is a Pavlovian conditioning tool. Tha…

Personally, and I’ve told him, I wish Victor had included dis-ability access issues in his piece.  I hope he does so in future efforts.

Dear Occupy LA:   I am a white-anti-racist, queer, working class, cis-gendered womyn (among other inexplicable identities/existences) living in Los Angeles….

By: Kristy Lovich
Finally, please feel free to share with OccupyLA, these resources, and to use them in planning your own events.