Interview with Noche Diaz:
Revolutionary Communist Defies Ban at the University of Chicago
November 6, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Noche Diaz is a member of the Get Into the Revolution National Organizing Campaign and Tour. On October 26, the University of Chicago and Chicago police violently assaulted and arrested him for revolutionary speech inside a campus cafeteria. And then, in addition to pressing charges against him that carry a full year in jail, the University of Chicago and Chicago police issued a permanent ban against him and threat of arrest if he set foot back on University of Chicago campus property ever again. On November 1, he and the Revolution Club and others with him defied that ban.
Noche Diaz (center) at the University of Chicago, November 1. (Photo: Special to revcom.us)
Revolution: On November 1, you defied that ban at the University of Chicago. Before getting into what happened, why was it essential to do that?
Noche Diaz: It was important to come back on campus to defy the ban for probably some of the same reasons why they felt it was important to institute the ban. We were actually bringing a very important message—not just a message, the reality—that America was never great! It was founded on genocide and slavery. It has expanded through the basis of wars of domination that have destroyed the lives and entire societies of people all over the world.
And there is an election season right now where people are being told to choose between a fascist monster like Donald Trump and an imperialist recidivist war criminal like Hillary Clinton. These are not just criminal choices in their own right, of bad people, but they are criminal choices of a criminal system that has to be overthrown. And we’re on tour to organize people into this revolution, and get organized for the time when we can actually overthrow this system, as soon as possible.
This needs to be something that students need to relate to broadly speaking, on campuses and universities, and at the University of Chicago. For one thing, everybody has to confront that reality. Look, this is not just the history of America, it is current reality. It takes new forms. Look at what’s going on with the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline, with the Sioux people at Standing Rock—this is a continuation of this genocide, and also a marriage of that with destroying the environment and destroying the water, all for the blind pursuit of profit, and all driven by the logic of capitalism and this whole system.
At the same time, police murder and mass incarceration continue to go on and on against Black people and Latinos. And the police consistently and continually get away with this kind of murder. You have this massive crisis throughout the world of millions of refugees fleeing their homelands, because of destruction wrought by imperialist wars and the unleashing of Islamic fundamentalist forces offering nothing but horrors for humanity and no way out.
This is the reality. This is the world people live in, which is largely kept from people. Or, to the degree that people get in on wrestling with it, it’s all on the terms of how to get in on this system and, in different ways, in the interests of this system. Or, for some of the better people, how to do some good for some people but never dealing with what the actual problem is, what the source of it all is, and what’s the actual solution to this.
So we are there to bring a very different message to people, and as the most important part of this, we were introducing people to Bob Avakian’s new communism, and the leadership he is providing for this revolution. He’s the most radical leader on the planet. The most liberating revolution leader—the most scientific. These are ideas that challenge conventional thinking, not only in this society, but even within the communist movement. He has developed the framework for a new society, on the road to real emancipation. And he is leading a party, and a movement, that is getting ready for an actual revolution right here in the belly of the beast.
This is the message we were there to take out. This is the message they were trying to stop us from connecting up with the students. That is why we needed to defy that ban, together with the fact that it is unacceptable to have a university touting itself as a bastion of “free speech” and a place where there is an exchange of ideas and doing this. The same day we went to defy the ban, it was announced that University of Chicago is the number one university in the country for intellectual diversity. My ass! So, it is especially outrageous for them to rule out radical thinking, and especially outrageous and unacceptable that they do this while they proclaim themselves number one in intellectual diversity and tout their “freedom of speech” and all this garbage and nonsense. That’s the main reason we thought it was important.
And then, look, we aren’t just spreading a message, we are out to recruit people into this revolution. And this is going up against the dominant thinking that justifies all this oppression and exploitation. This is a radical challenge to this system and its authorities. And it’s not going to advance and develop in any other way than taking on the ways they try to suppress and repress people who stand up to their injustices, and who call them out and challenge them where they are supposed to be unchallenged.
So we felt like this was absolutely necessary for those two reasons.
And, they need to become part of this revolution, which will not take place any way other than being able to resist the repressive measures that come out against this revolution. Because at the end of the day, for all their talk of democracy and freedom, this is in fact a dictatorship. All these terrible things they do are enforced with brute force, both with the gun for the masses of oppressed people, and with the intellectual hammer, where radical discourse is bullied out, or repressed the way we were. And the terms of discourse are totally locked within the confines of “make America great again” or “America was always great,” and choosing the lesser evil within that.
Revolution: Before you went back on campus, there were some very important expressions of support, right?
Noche Diaz: Yes. Very importantly, very quickly, some prominent voices came forward to condemn this attack. The video of my arrest and the message I gave while I was being put in the police vehicle was shared and spread by many, many people on social media, including important voices like Chuck D, who also commented that I happened to be bringing more logic to the discourse than the whole presidential campaign. You had the actor Gbenga Akinnagbe, the actor best known for his role in The Wire—and who has also put himself on the line opposing stop-and-frisk and standing up to injustice—he also made a comment while sharing that video.
And then there were major and important statements of support from Cornel West and Ed Asner. Ed Asner is an alumnus of the University of Chicago. He issued a powerful, provocative, and insightful statement talking about the Trumpification of the University. I recommend people read that statement, it’s available at revcom.us. Think about what he’s speaking to there. I appreciated his support and also him throwing in on the problem.
There were others too—reverends from New York and professors who I’ve had the opportunity to work with in the past and who issued statements of support. And Rev. Kim Ziyavo, of the Blessed Dorothy Day Mission and The United American Catholic Church, she expressed support and committed to come, and did come—she joined with us on the day itself in defying the ban.
And, of course, the Revolution Club in Chicago had my back and was out there with me, and that was also important.
There needed to be more from students themselves, besides just in whispers saying they found it outrageous and didn’t think it was right—which some of them did. That’s some of the problem we’re dealing with. I was thinking about Ed Asner’s point about the “Trumpification” of campus, the unleashing the backward students, and passivity of the better ones.
Revolution: OK, so let’s get to what happened when you went back on campus!
Noche Diaz: So we arrived, and gathered up with the Revolution Club in Chicago, and Reverend Kim, and we marched onto the campus in the middle of what they call the Quad, the central courtyard area, where everyone passes through. We walked in with a crew of nine or more of us, including Gloria Pinex, whose son was murdered by the police in Chicago.
We went onto campus and defied the ban. Police were out on campus, but the police kept a certain distance for reasons they felt they had to. We went to the center of the courtyard. Myself, and also the young woman who was brutally attacked by police when I was arrested—and she was hospitalized—spoke. She spoke, and announced who we were.
I issued a statement to the students: America was never great. We need to overthrow this system, not vote for it. And challenging students to get into Bob Avakian. And I spent some time walking through with people why this matters, and what they do at this time matters.
It was good that a large number, 40 or 50 students, gathered and heard that message. Some knew about it. Some were attracted, on a nice sunny day, hearing the message of revolution, of communism, of the Get Into the Revolution National Organizing Campaign and Tour, and get into the revolution! I spoke for 15 minutes or so.
After I presented some things, a couple students [laughs] rushed up with their American flag. I said thank you, hold that up because this is the flag I was talking about. This is the flag that flew over all the crimes this country committed here and around the world. This is the flag we burned in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention. This is the flag that deserves no respect. And this drew out some of the better students to make some noise in opposition to them celebrating the flag.
And then we had a combination of debate and Q&A, with some of the backward ones but also some of the better ones who wanted to weigh, and wrestle with, and critically challenge what we were saying about communism, and what is new about Bob Avakian’s new communism.
There was a nice scene for a while of a dozen or two students, along with the revolutionaries, exchanging in this kind of way. And there were people going around with a petition to drop the charges, because there is an ongoing struggle. I’m still facing the initial charge of criminal trespassing. And the ban is still in effect. We defied the ban but it is still in effect. Some students signed the petition and it has to be taken up in a bigger way.
One great thing, in the student newspaper The Maroon, they ran the two stories side-by-side: "Communist Plans to Defy Ban" and "University Ranked First for Intellectual Diversity."
Now there have been some pieces in The Maroon attacking this. But the game is afoot. There is a real engaging with the students. Things were opened up. Things are more controversial and more sharp—it was not that people heard us and were just welcoming us. It did matter to bust that open. We need students who can engage with ideas, to do intellectual work, to do critical thinking. We need them going to work on the problems of the revolution and the problem facing humanity. It’s not OK for us to say too many of them are in a bad place right now and later for them. Both because there have been interesting things that have been going on among students over the last year, but also because we need them to much more be weighing in on what’s going on in the world, and critically thinking about what’s going on, and engaging this new synthesis of communism that Bob Avakian has been developing, which is really a foundation for a whole new wave of revolutions throughout the world. It is a major breakthrough in human understanding that has to be critically engaged and taken up by people, not just here but around the world.
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