This contribution comes from an old Phoenix-area radical...
I would like to write this to get the ball rolling on other more in depth accounts but it is important to note there was a time before now when dealing with the Red Squad was for lack of a better term, light-hearted. In the late 90's and early 2000's when radicalism in Phoenix began to slowly re-emerge from a mostly long dormant sleep, demonstrations and actions began to pick up steam. The vast majority of this beginning was spent with Red Squad Detective Al Ramirez. Al, would show up to all sorts of events from picnics to protests. This is a personal account and others might differ but from my stance Al was the old school cop that felt his job was to be an actual liason with “communities” from the Phoenix Police Department. Sometimes, events that were designed to be more confrontational or larger in scope Al would be absent from. There were other Cops on the squad at the time but generally, we dealt with Al. Or rather, Al dealt with us.
The name red squad, was tongue in cheek, at least for me, I never got the feeling in 2001 that we were all about to be deported to Russia. There were some interesting moments looking back on it when I really started to notice things change. Twelve years on having worked in the corporate world, 2001 and 2002 should have felt like that moment when a client says “oh, we would like you to meet our new director.” This generally, is always a bad sign. This was around the time when JTTF's were proliferating throughout the country, the feds had completely switched their focus to anarchists prior to September 2001 and local police were being trained by departments that had been dealing with radicals for years. I remember being at a protest around this time, I honestly don't remember if I overheard it or if someone pointed it out but a new lady from the FBI had showed up, with the red squad.
Things began to change slowly at this point and really for me, ended with a big moment for “activism” in Phoenix Arizona. We started hearing a little less from the red squad at this point and more from columns of police at demonstrations and city lawyers showing up at our meetings. You could say that it was the post September 2001 way to deal with dissent, but I don't think for a second without planes flying into buildings it would have been different. The thing was, they were not quite ready to use tactics they had developed in the drug war on radicals. But you can be sure, that is what they were going for. It was around this time we found out that police departments local and national were classifying radicals as a gang.
We still had a bit of ways to go, in 2003 after one of the largest actions led by radicals in the history of Phoenix we set our sights on International Womens Day. We were determined to have a big march with a celabratory feel led by anarchist women. The one thing that many of us knew: the police had been threatening mainstreem groups saying “what happened on February 15th would not be tolerated.” This was in reference to 3000+ people completely tying up traffic in Downtown Phoenix for hours, and hours. Many of the organizers knew that an all out confrontation with PPD at International Womens Day was not the right step, what we failed to take into account was the simple fact that: the PPD were determined to have a confrontation.
The tension was in the air, 800+ people showed up to the demonstration, there was a festive tone amongst the majority of the participants. There was little to no police involvement for the majority of the march. As we entered the Phoenix Arts District, out of nowhere police officers on horseback attacked, with a column of cops backing them up. Many arrests and injuries were recorded. But most telling, as the police horses advanced, there was Al, clearly confused and frustrated as to what just transpired. What happened was at least at my vantage point, clearly out of his hands. For me, that was the end of the beginning and what would signal years later a complete shift in how demonstrations were managed and who was managing them. If you told me that Al's group in 2000 would be able to thwart, trick and manage something like Occupy into oblivion, I would have laughed. Not only was that not their job, but the Red Squad didn't have those sorts of folks. Maybe it is just my personal experience, but it is very hard for me to imagine the red squad of the past being impressed with the red squad a decade on. And that's not to say that I desire either, it is just my reflection, out of principle. \\