Revolution #248, October 23, 2011

STOP "Stop & Frisk"
"I will join Cornel West and Carl Dix…"

The following letter was read at a program around Stop "Stop and Frisk" at Revolution Books in New York City:

Dearest family, friends, and supporters:

On October 21st I will join Cornel West and Carl Dix in a civil disobedience action targeted at stopping the illegal, unconstitutional "Stop and Frisk" policy by the NYPD. 600,000 stops and frisks per year; 1,900 stops per day; 85% of which are Black and Latino; we're talking about a policy implemented by the NYPD that deliberately absolves 4th Amendment rights from whole sections of the population, and criminalizes an entire generation of youth because they "fit the description." This is the other end of police brutality, the pipeline to prison—the slow, relentless obliteration of entire communities.

As someone who has grown to "put the world first" and is influenced by revolutionary communism, this issue is very dear to me. As a Black kid growing up, I was raised to know that after a certain age, I would be considered a threat by law enforcement. With each escalating brush with the police during high school, I was reminded by my mother that the most important thing was safety, and I should remain decent, docile and subservient to police officers, especially in cases of abuse. Weeks before I was to leave to embark on a grant to study overseas, I was assaulted and arrested by Boston Police, and had my grant threatened as the State Department refused (initially) to back me up. I learned in jail that night, that it actually doesn't matter if you know your rights, what you're doing, or if you are decent or not, you will always be a target because of your skin color and socioeconomic status. It isn't a decent kid, bad kid thing, nor is it a good cop, bad cop thing; it’s systemic.

Although the experience of being a Black male informs my decision, I am not doing this because of some personal vendetta against the police, or even because I am directly impacted by this policy. I am not doing this because I've been stopped, and out of interest for myself, or people like me, want to never be stopped again. I am doing this for mothers, like my own, who have to raise their sons to be docile and complacent with police injustice, knowing that speaking up only means more trouble. And, as police forces around the country wantonly murder child after child, there is the ever present fear that their child, regardless of how complacent they are, can just be another life stolen by law enforcement. I do this for the youth, like the ones I teach, who are offered no options under this system, treated as criminals the moment they mature, and who have come to see themselves that way. No parent should have to raise their child this way; no child should have to grow up this way.

We are at a historical moment, similar to 1950s America, where Jim Crow terror ran rampant, and everyone knew it was illegal, unconstitutional, racist, and illegitimate; yet no matter how much mothers trained their sons in subservience, there was always the threat of lynching. It took people like the Freedom Riders, who, through civil disobedience (it was once illegal to have whites and Blacks sit together on a bus) showed people that they didn't have to take it anymore, and that there was a way out of this. It challenged the humanity of those that "just went along with it," and forced them to take a stand. But in this age, civil disobedience is a crucial missing component in the fight against injustice and oppression. Right now, youth all over the world are rising up against the injustices of this system—and many here in New York have taken part in the Wall Street Occupation. It is crucial that we link arms in the struggle and develop synergy between what occupiers are starting to realize are working class problems, and longstanding concerns in oppressed communities, while recognizing the important role civil disobedience plays tactically and principally in galvanizing mass resistance.

This is why I will be presenting myself for arrest on October 21st at 1:30 pm, as part of a symbolic lockdown of the 28th precinct in Harlem using civil disobedience—and I challenge you to join me. More than anything, we need your strength, encouragement, and support in the coming days. Take the pledge, and join in on the civil disobedience action on O21. We also need masses of people to come down to bear witness, and spread the word online and to your contacts. If everyone forwards this along to their lists, we will reach hundreds more by tomorrow! As we are launching a campaign to end the stop and frisk policy, taking it to a higher level necessitates fundraising, so please give, and give generously. This Friday has the potential to be the beginning of a new kind of resistance, a breath of fresh air for the downtrodden and oppressed.

In Solidarity,


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