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Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
On September 13, in cities coast to coast, people blew the whistle on stop-and-frisk, racial profiling, police brutality and murder, and the pipeline to mass incarceration.
As the Stop Mass Incarceration Network put it: “These whistles were a declaration of refusing to suffer abuse any longer from the criminal ‘injustice’ system in silence. They were a way for those who bear the brunt of this injustice to join in the resistance to this abuse. A way for people to go from blaming themselves for this abuse to having each other’s back and looking out for each other in the face of this abuse. And they represent another nail in the coffin of stop-and-frisk.”
Building up to the day and on the day itself, you got a real sense of just how much people really liked the whole idea of coming together and “Blowing the Whistle” on the police, of calling them out and exposing the abuse, the brutality, and murder that they do to people every day—of making a statement that we’re not going to suffer this in silence any more. But this was not just a “cool tactic” that everybody liked. This was a day that actually brought into being beginning shoots of a whole new level of struggle.
Something important struggled to be born on September 13—the beginnings of a resistance marked by a new culture and new level of solidarity, of people coming together with a new ethos of standing together and sticking together to fight the power—as opposed to the mentality of “look out for #1,” “lay low and try to get over and hope nothing bad happens to me,” or “stab someone else in the back.”
September 13 was a day where, in some cases new unity was built, all in order to join together to resist the system.
For example, in New York, Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk was taken up in Harlem where there is a history of antagonisms between two different housing projects. But on September 13, people from one of these projects marched into the other one and were greeted by people, ready to take whistles.
The RCP has a slogan, “Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.” And this is a significant example of how joining together in resistance against the system is the real way the masses can solve such contradictions among the people.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network reported that:
“At least 1,000 whistles got out in Harlem with young people especially eager to get their hands on them—high school and middle school students taking not only whistles for themselves but getting handfuls, and in several cases, bags of whistles to distribute at school the next day. The group in Harlem included Carl Dix, Jim Vrettos and Gbenga Akinnagbe, all endorsers of Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk on September 13. Oscar Grant’s aunt and uncle, in New York City for the court appearance in the case of the cop who murdered Ramarley Graham, came by and got their whistles. They were on the way to a vigil for Graham and planned to blow those whistles there at 6 pm. Pam Africa of the MOVE organization and Jazz Hayden also joined in Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk in Harlem.
“As 6 pm neared, the Harlem Revolution Club led about 20 people in a march along 125th Street to two large housing projects in Harlem. Together with residents of the Grant Houses, we blew our whistles at 6 pm together with people throughout NYC and in cities across the country. A crew of four or five youth—12 years old and younger—took the lead in getting whistles out in this project. Then the group moved across to the Manhattanville Houses and marched through, with that same crew of youth defying the divisions and historic clashes between the two projects to call on their neighbors to join in blowing the whistle on stop-and-frisk. Older youth joined in marching with us carrying signs and blowing whistles.”
Just before September 13, Carl Dix told Revolution: “When people step out and blow the whistle, there’s going to be a new day, a whole different scene on this. Because up ‘til now, too much what it’s been is people suffering this abuse in silence, people taking it and even blaming themselves, or blaming each other, for what comes down, that this is your own fault, that this comes down on you because of what you do. And we have to break with that. We gotta stand up and resist. But we also have to look out for each other, have each other’s backs. We have to stand together against what they do to us, instead of looking out for number one and stabbing each other in the back. There’s gotta be a new culture and a new day.”
And this “new culture and new day” did begin to emerge on September 13. Some of this took place in the neighborhoods. Some took place on the college campuses. And high school students—who know what it’s like to get sweated by the cops day in and day out—enthusiastically took up the call to “Blow the Whistle!”
In Chicago, on one corner on the West Side, as 5 pm approaches there is a countdown over the loudspeaker and real excitement about the nationwide synchronized character of the whistle blowing. At 5 pm it is really, really loud. Maybe 30 people are blowing whistles as more cars stopped to get whistles. One person wrote: “It was striking that the simple message connected in a powerful way with people: the tactic of blowing the whistle, getting others to do the same, and changing the dynamic of what happens so that the police cannot carry out their crimes against the people in silence. This captured people’s imagination and set wheels turning in their heads and they saw it as a thing they could take up on their own. You could just see it in people’s body language and the way that they quickly became much more serious and engaged as they got a sense of what this was about, wanted to get whistles and fliers.”
In California, at Cal State University, Northridge, there was a festive noontime rally that grabbed the attention of hundreds of students—many who were hearing for the first time what this criminal “injustice” system is doing to the people and that there was a way to break the silence on all this. Scores of students blew the whistle, took up stacks of leaflets to take to their classes, grabbed up and paid for extra whistles to distribute. Presentations were done in five classes, which made it possible to get into some depth on the need to build resistance and the big stakes involved with thousands taking up and spreading these whistles throughout the country. And revolutionary communists talked about the BAsics on Campus Initiative as part of this whole mix. Several hundred whistles got out during the course of three days.
In the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles, high school students blew the whistle in front of their school. And at Leimert Park, a center of political and cultural life in the area, whistles could be heard as well. At the high school 100 whistles had been distributed during the week and students were feeling both the importance of standing with the people battling stop-and-frisk in New York as well as being part of a new culture of resistance. A chant popularizing what this was about was controversial and set new terms: “When the cops come through, what do you/we do? Fight the power and blow that whistle!” Some students responded to “what do you do?” by saying “run away!” Others shouted “blow the whistle!” and blew their whistles.
Over 200 whistles were distributed and blown at Castlemont High, a school of mostly Black and Latino students in East Oakland, a community with a long history of police violence against the people, including the recent police murder of Alan Blueford and the Oakland School Police killing of Raheim Brown Jr. outside Skyline High in 2010. At Oakland High, a PowerPoint was presented to three senior government classes by three Stop Mass Incarceration supporters, all recently retired teachers. Over 100 students from many different backgrounds—Mexican, Salvadoran, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Chinese, as well as Black students—told stories of their own experience with the police and authorities.
This was also a day for the family and friends of those who have been brutalized and murdered by the police to stand up and tell their stories—and join in solidarity with others in taking a step forward together in “Blowing the Whistle.” There was a real sense of this day being the beginning of an ongoing, new level of resistance nationwide.
In Anaheim, California: Family and friends of Manuel Diaz, Joel Acevedo, Martin Hernandez, Caesar Cruz, killed by Anaheim police, and Michael Nida, killed by Downey police, with activists, residents of Anna Drive and nearby neighborhoods, and Anna Drive kids, gathered at the memorial for Manuel Diaz on Anna Drive. Genevieve Huizar, Manuel’s mom, said, “We’re tired of police killing our families.... Time and time again, it’s been happening all over the United States. From Montana to Texas, New York to California, everyone blow the whistle! Everyone needs to come forward. Blow the whistle!” Albert Castillo of Chicanos Unidos said, “Today it starts here. We’ll continue doing this, keep that whistle with you!” The event was covered by Channels 52 and 4. In Vallejo, a half hour north of Oakland, a “Blow the Whistle” rally of 30 to 40 people was held at noon in front of City Hall, organized by family and friends of Mario Romero, who was gunned down by Vallejo police a week earlier, while sitting with a friend in a parked car in front of his house.
In Brownsville, where the BAsics Bus Tour went this summer and whistles got out all over, there was a very significant example of resistance during the days of building for the day to Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk. One night, a kid who was being harassed and handcuffed spoke out about his RIGHTS and in the face of this the cops took off the handcuffs and stopped their stop-and-frisk. (See "Coming Together to STOP 'Stop & Frisk': A Story from One Neighborhood" in this issue.)
So September 13 was a day to popularize, build off of, and further grow shoots of resistance that had already developed leading up to the day.
* * * * *
What was accomplished on September 13 must be carried forward. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network calls on “all those who hate the way the police harass, disrespect and brutalize people; everybody who sees how going in and out of prison has robbed whole generations of hope for the future; all those whose hearts go out to the millions of people who are forced to live their lives enmeshed in the criminal ‘injustice’ system to join us in building a fight to END MASS INCARCERATION AND ALL ITS CONSEQUENCES!”
The network is also calling on people to be in the streets at the upcoming October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
* * * * *
See reports on September 13 from New York City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Houston, Cleveland, and Chicago.
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
Revolution newspaper received the following reports on actions that took place around the country as part of “September 13: Time to Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk... Racial Profiling, Police Brutality and Murder, and the Pipeline to Mass Incarceration.”
Whistles were heard on September 13 all across New York City; and in Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in other cities across the U.S. Thousands of people were blowing the whistle on stop-and-frisk, on 2.4 million people warehoused in prison, on the torture-like conditions so many are subjected to in those prisons and on the discrimination faced by formerly incarcerated people even after they’ve served their sentences.
These whistles were a declaration of refusing to suffer abuse any longer from the criminal “injustice” system in silence. They were a way for those who bear the brunt of this injustice to join in the resistance to this abuse. A way for people to go from blaming themselves for this abuse to having each other’s back and looking out for each other in the face of this abuse. And they represent another nail in the coffin of stop-and-frisk.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is going forward to build off this important day. We call on all those who hate the way the police harass, disrespect and brutalize people; everybody who sees how going in and out of prison has robbed whole generations of hope for the future; all those whose hearts go out to the millions of people who are forced to live their lives enmeshed in the criminal “injustice” system to join us in building a fight to END MASS INCARCERATION AND ALL ITS CONSEQUENCES!
Plan to be in the streets with us at the upcoming October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
Whistles sounded in Harlem from mid-afternoon into the evening. About two dozen people gathered in front of the Harlem State Office Building shortly after 3 pm to ring in a new day in standing up to stop-and-frisk and in looking out for each other and having each other’s backs in face of the abuse by the police. For about four hours, some of these people left and others joined. Overall, at least 1,000 whistles and a larger number of flyers went into the hands of people passing by, with some of them staying around for a while to blow their newly acquired whistles.
Young people were especially eager to get their hands on whistles, with groups of high school students and middle school students taking not only whistles for themselves but getting handfuls, and in several cases, bags of whistles to distribute at school the next day. Bloggers who had heard about September 13 online or by receiving whistles earlier in Harlem or in other parts of New York City came out to get interviews and pictures to post up. German TV and a crew from Democracy Now! were among the media that came out to Harlem to record organizers and participants. Several people in wheelchairs came out and spent hours spreading the word about standing up to resist injustice from the police and spreading whistles for people to use in doing that.
The grouping in Harlem included Carl Dix, Jim Vrettos and Gbenga Akinnagbe, all endorsers of Blowing the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk on September 13. Oscar Grant’s aunt and uncle, in New York City for the court appearance in the case of the cop who murdered Ramarley Graham, came by and got their whistles. They were on the way to a vigil for Ramarley and planned to blow those whistles there at 6 pm. Pam Africa of the MOVE organization and Jazz Hayden also joined in Blowing the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk in Harlem.
As 6 pm neared, the Harlem Revolution Club led about 20 people in a march along 125th Street to two large housing projects in Harlem. Together with residents of the Grant Houses, we blew our whistles at 6 pm together with people throughout New York City and in cities across the country. A crew of four or five youth—12 years old and younger—took the lead in getting whistles out in this project. Then the group moved across to the Manhattanville Houses and marched through, with that same crew of youth defying the divisions and historic clashes between the two projects to call on their neighbors to join in blowing the whistle on stop-and-frisk. Older youth joined in marching with us carrying signs and blowing whistles.
At several points during the day, Carl Dix gave an orientation of what we were doing on this day: “Today, people in Harlem, together with people across NYC and in cities across the country, are standing up together to resist the injustice the whole criminal justice system enforces on people in this country. And we will carry this spirit of resistance forward building a fight that can stop ‘Stop & Frisk’ and take on mass incarceration and all its consequences.”
I had written the phone number of the National Lawyers Guild on my left arm in preparation. I might have needed it. When I got to the meeting place, I noticed that Noche, the courageous young activist whom I was to meet for this action, had done that, too.
We were in a section of the Bronx targeted by the NYPD for the stop-and-frisk policy, which produced nearly 700,000 incidents where police, without warrants, stop mostly young men of color mostly in specific neighborhoods, and subject them to humiliating personal searches. The “reason” the city and NYPD give for this practice is to keep guns off the street.
Below is what the Center for Constitutional Rights says about this policy:
“In 2011, in New York City, 685,724 people were stopped, 84 percent of whom were Black and Latino residents — although they comprise only about 23 percent and 29 percent of New York City’s total population respectively. 2011 is the highest year on record for stops. The number of stops represent an over 600 percent [increase] since Mayor Bloomberg came into office. In 2011, 88 percent of all stops did not result in an arrest or a summons being given. Contraband was found in only 2 percent of all stops. The NYPD claims their stop and frisk policy keeps weapons off the street—but weapons were recovered in only one percent of all stops. These numbers clearly contradict that claim.”
Noche and I were soon joined by a few other people, including a legal observer from The Bronx Defenders. The young attorney Cara Suvall was there to see that the police did not impede our rights to protest and to note any illegal behavior of the police should there be any. I always like to see the legal observers on the street with us. At least if things go wrong, there will be a qualified witness to testify what really happened.
A police car drove up and stopped right in front of us as we were taping signs to the railings of the public housing project and park, passing out flyers and whistles to passersby and encouraging them to blow the whistle any time they see the police stopping the young people of the neighborhood. The police took photographs of us from the car and before long a “white shirt,” Lieutenant Jose Torres, showed up. I was standing next to Ms. Suvall, who fortunately was very tactful with him. He was there to “help” us. The only help he could give would be to advocate for an end to stop-and-frisk. Not willing to borrow trouble, however, I did not say that, nor much of anything.
He asked what I understood to be whether the protest would be repeated on some regular basis. I said that I knew of no such plan when Ms. Suvall deferred to me on this. I did not explain that we hoped to empower the entire neighborhood to resist the policy all day, every day, forever or until the policy is stopped, whichever comes first. I could imply with all honesty that I, personally, did not plan to be on that street corner at any regular interval. I hope people in the neighborhood will be there every day.
He withdrew a little and was joined by a van of police who hung out more or less out of earshot for most of the rest of the time we were there. As police encounters for this campaign to STOP “Stop & Frisk” go, this was not bad. Launched last year and spearheaded by Professor Cornel West and Revolutionary Communist Party spokesperson Carl Dix, the campaign still goes on. A chant for it is “We won’t stop till we STOP ‘Stop & Frisk.’” To date, we have not stopped.
This particular action was to support people in the neighborhoods and empower them to lead the charge against this policy. People stopped to talk with us, some already having whistles that were distributed earlier. Many took away whistles and flyers. Some told us stories of the brutality they have seen and experienced. One old man of great dignity walked up to the police and blew the whistle at them then and there. I tried to speak to grandmothers and mothers, as I want to contribute to making a better world for all of our children and know that they share my desires. My heart was especially touched by the adorable little boys I saw, all of whom will be eventual targets of this policy unless we stop it.
Noche was really good with the young men. He knows what they experience and can offer strength to them on how to resist. A young journalist from Columbia University interviewed us and was especially moved by Noche’s story. He is facing years in prison for standing up for people who are oppressed, but there he was on the street again. A reporter and camerawoman from NY1 News also interviewed him. I loved the group of neighborhood people, mostly young men who were grouped behind him as he answered the reporter’s questions on camera.
People who work for two local social service agencies, came out of their offices in the buildings across the street, drawn in part by all the whistle blowing. “How are we to do homework help with a young person when they’ve just gone through an interaction with a police officer that has broken down their spirits with folks who they trust?” said David R. Shuffler, the director of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. “It’s a real challenge in our neighborhood.” He shared this in an interview with NY1.
Indeed, the shockingly low effectiveness of the stop-and-frisk policy for what the city and police force say it is for, leads people to wonder if it is not really intended to intimidate people of color and criminalize them. A look at prison statistics could give credence to that idea as well.
When things began to slow down at our location and we heard that they were still going strong in Harlem, Noche and I loaded signs, whistles, and flyers into a wheeled cart and got very good at carrying it up and down the subway stairs as we ventured to the area of Harlem north of 125th between Amsterdam and Broadway. We marched about the public housing projects, greeted often with people blowing their whistles in support and distributing more of them to people who didn’t have one along with flyers about ways to use them to help STOP “Stop & Frisk.” I did not see a police officer and wondered why, but also felt glad. This seemed more like a celebration and less like a siege. The fact is, however, that many young persons endure stop-and-frisk in that area as well.
by Elaine Brower
Today I went to Stuyvesant Place and Wall Street, in Staten Island, located a few blocks from the ferry and Curtis High School. This neighborhood is located on the North Shore of the island, which is an inter-racial community, and very politically broad-based. The location is directly behind the 120th Precinct, the largest in the borough.
I carried whistles, flyers and buttons with me, along with two signs; “We are blowing the whistle on stop-and-frisk” and a smaller handmade sign on posterboard that said simply “STOP ‘Stop & Frisk.’” I arrived at the location at approximately 3 pm, and on my way up the street, I engaged a group of mostly Black male youth. They saw my sign and immediately got it, talked to me about their experiences being stopped and frisked multiple times, and told me they know lots of kids who also have been harassed by the police. It was like I opened up the floodgates of their lives and someone was there to listen. After taking flyers and whistles, I made my way to the location where others were to gather. No one arrived, so I started talking to all the kids making their way down the street from Curtis High School. Almost every one of them stopped by me on the corner and was interested in what I had to say about the blow the whistle campaign.
I had up to 15 youth surrounding me at one time or another, talking to me about who they knew that got stopped, and that they were so happy someone was doing something. Some of them thought it was the “law” and couldn’t do anything about it. I explained that it was a “policy” of the NYPD, and it was illegal and violated their civil rights, as well as an avenue to mass incarceration for mostly Black and Latino male youth. The young women had brothers, boyfriends, and male friends they knew who were subjected on multiple occasions to stop-and-frisk. Everyone wanted a whistle, of course, and they mostly wanted orange! But I told them they had to take a flyer and then not only listen to what I had to say about our campaign to STOP “Stop & Frisk,” and how they could participate, but go on the website and read about it. I wouldn’t give them whistles until they got my spiel. And they stood there intently listening and responding with heads shaking and in agreement with the fact that they shouldn’t have to be treated like this. I also told them, especially all the young males who were there, that I wouldn’t be subjected to the same treatment they got. They got that, and had respect for it. I told them I was there to make sure they got the same treatment I did, and only if the community stood together to end this racist policy, would we win.
Before I knew it the entire neighborhood was ringing with whistles! I was alone, and there were three police cars and a van stationed on the corner. Of course two community affairs officers came over to ask me who I was, and if I were an “organizer.” I said I was there to enlighten the youth about their rights, and I was alone. They asked me if “we” were marching to borough hall, to which I replied “if I can organize these kids, sure, otherwise, I was staying put.”
I met the best kids. Interested, smart, wanting to do something, and I also met some adults who stopped to speak with me. One is a newly retired probation officer. He was so excited to see me there and wants to spend his time working with us. I gave him my number, but had no extra hands to get his contact info. I had two signs, whistles, and flyers all going at the same time. He helped me give out a few flyers, and he recounted stories of how sad he was when he, as a probation officer, had seen these same youth who had been arrested by the NYPD under the stop-and-frisk policy, railroaded through the system for a small amount of pot in their pockets, or no ID. He said he was sickened by the amount of cases he saw. I then spoke with a young man who works with the Mayor’s Office Youth Counsel. I was able to give him my contact info. He wants to work with us, and said that his group would also. He hates this policy, and said that the youth group would be very interested in participating in any events we may plan. I spoke with so many young black males who told me their stories. One in particular, very serious, said that he was just stopped yesterday for nothing. He said the police car pulled up alongside him as he was walking down the street and put him up against the car. They asked him for ID and went through his pockets. He was so angry, and said he knew it was because he was black. They didn’t arrest him, and he said he doesn’t carry anything anymore, including a backpack, because they will go through everything. I gave him a flyer, whistle and the phone number of the NLG and told him to call if it happens to him again. He said he would go to the website and maybe give his testimony. He thanked me for being there and listening to him. I told him I would be back with friends and more buttons.
All in all, I spent 40 minutes on the corner of Wall and Stuyvesant and handed out 100 whistles and most of the flyers I had, along with all the buttons, which were a hot commodity, and I made small cards with the NLG phone number to give to them in case they get stopped and arrested. I told them they had to put the buttons on in front of me or they couldn’t get one, which they did proudly!
On my way back to the car, I walked past a deli where some older males were talking. I showed them my sign, and they immediately said “we are with you.” I talked to them, and they all told me they had been stopped so many times by the police and they hated the police. I gave them flyers, and they were so interested in talking to me. One guy told me, as he was getting into his car, that he had been stopped so much, but lately he thought the police had been slowing down on stop-and-frisk. He thinks they aren’t doing it as much. A few of the other guys said the same thing, but also said it’s commonplace for them to see cops stop young Black males, and also stop them. They thought it was a law, but I told them it wasn’t. It was a policy of the NYPD which violated the law. I told that to all of them, because many people don’t understand that this policy is illegal and violates their rights.
I can’t count how many kids and adults I spoke to, and they spoke to me! I was juggling whistles, flyers, posters and buttons the entire time trying to hear them. This is a prime location and I am sure the community can be organized with some outreach.
At first I have to say I was apprehensive to be alone talking about stop-and-frisk to youth who very well knew about it firsthand. But it was an exhilarating experience, and I felt so welcomed and appreciated. All I can say is Awesome!
“Today it starts here...”
In Anaheim, California, family and friends of Manuel Diaz, Joel Acevedo, Martin Hernandez, Caesar Cruz, killed by Anaheim police, and Michael Nida, killed by Downey police, with activists, residents of Anna Drive and nearby neighborhoods, and Anna Drive kids, gathered at the memorial for Manuel Diaz on Anna Drive. Genevieve Huizar, Manuel’s mom, said, “We’re tired of police killing our families.....Time and time again, it’s been happening all over the United States. From Montana to Texas, New York to California, everyone blow the whistle! Everyone needs to come forward. Blow the whistle!” An earsplitting din went up as 30 or 40 whistles blew in unison after someone read from the flyer, “We will no longer stand by silently while people are denied their rights.” Channels 52 and 4 arrived to cover the event. People blew their whistles again. “Today it starts here,” said Albert Castillo of Chicanos Unidos. “We’ll continue doing this, keep that whistle with you!”
Cal State University, Northridge: A festive noontime rally organized by Stop Mass Incarceration Network grabbed the attention of hundreds of students—many of whom heard for the first time sharp exposure of how this criminal “injustice” system is doing the people and that there was a way to break the silence on all this. Scores of students blew the whistle, took up stacks of leaflets to take to their classes, grabbed up and paid for extra whistles to distribute. Presentations before five classes allowed us to get into some depth on the need to build resistance and the big stakes involved with thousands taking up and spreading these whistles throughout the country. Revolutionary communists were able to get into the BAsics on Campus Initiative as part of the presentations and as part of this mix. Several hundred whistles got out during the course of three days.
In the Crenshaw area on September 13, high school students blew the whistle in front of their school, people up and down Crenshaw blew the whistle, and people blew the whistle at Leimert Park, a center of political and cultural life in the area. At the high school a hundred whistles had been distributed during the week and students were feeling both the importance of standing with the people battling stop-and-frisk in New York as well as being part of a new culture of resistance. A chant popularizing what this was about was controversial and set new terms: “When the cops come thru, what do you/we do? Fight the power and blow that whistle!” Some students responded to “what do you do?” by saying “run away!” Others shouted “blow the whistle!” and blew their whistles.
Women took up whistles, donating, and blowing the whistle on the spot when a cop on Crenshaw pulled over someone and a woman told how she had been beaten and tased by the police. Another said she hadn’t had a run-in with the police directly, “but I have sons.” At Leimert Park, a woman whose son was recently arrested joined in blowing the whistle and another woman joined in who had seen a stack of flyers in a shop nearby and had picked up the stack and passed them all out. Some people in cars passing by heard the agitation about the NYPD stopping nearly 2000 people a day and whistled out of their car windows or pulled over to get a whistle. All together a couple dozen people took part in blowing the whistle, $35 was collected, and 300 whistles were distributed.
San Francisco, Bay Area: Sounds of whistles piercing the air were heard — from the famous Sproul Plaza at University of California in Berkeley (Home of the Free Speech Movement of the ’60s), to high schools, to the killing fields of police-occupied East Oakland and Vallejo, California.
At UC Berkeley, students and activists, including an energetic group of middle school students held banners, blew whistles and called on passersby to Stop Mass Incarceration, Police Brutality and Murder, and the Pipeline to Prison, where 2.4 million people in this country are warehoused. After that, we went to East Oakland, to join with neighborhood residents in a very loud and visible rally and march from a busy intersection to the Eastmont Mall Substation of the Oakland Police. It was a cacophony of sounds—whistles, loud agitation on bullhorns, and the honking of hundreds of car horns expressing unity with the message. More neighbors joined us, and did a live radio interview with a radio station in Vallejo. One young boy took to the bullhorn, leading the chant, “Hey, hey, OPD, how many kids have you killed today?” Recently, only a few blocks away, Alan Blueford, a few days from graduating high school, was executed by an Oakland pig, while lying unarmed on the ground.
There were activities in high schools, with over 200 whistles being distributed and blown at Castlemont, a school of mostly Black and Latino students in East Oakland, a community with a long history of police violence against the people, including the recent police murder of Alan Blueford and the Oakland School Police killing of Raheim Brown Jr. outside Skyline High in 2010. Many students eagerly took “STOP Stop & Frisk” buttons, MASS INCARCERATION+SILENCE = GENOCIDE stickers and blew whistles. At Oakland High, a powerpoint was presented to three senior Government classes by three Stop Mass Incarceration supporters, all recently retired teachers. Over a hundred students from many different backgrounds—Mexican, Salvadoran, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Chinese, as well as Black students — told stories of their own experience with the police and authorities.
In Vallejo, a half hour north of Oakland, a “Blow the Whistle” rally of 30 to 40 people was held at noon in front of the City Hall. It was organized by family and friends of Mario Romero, who was gunned down by Vallejo Police a week earlier, while sitting with a friend in a parked car in front of his house.
The demonstration brought out not only Mario’s family and friends, but others who have been victims of police murder at the hands of Vallejo’s notoriously murderous police. Vallejo, a city of only 90,000 people, has had—since May of this year—seven shootings by cops, five of them fatal.
On September 13, a small group gathered in downtown Cleveland to Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk, Police Brutality and Murder, and Mass Incarceration! They were activists in the immigrant movement, from Black on Black (a community organization), a Black college student, someone who was on the BAsics Bus Tour and a few Revolution paper sellers. People talked to the scores of youth who gather there, getting 50 whistles out to youth who want to whistle when they see police abuse. One female high school student said, “I want a whistle because at my high school the cops came out in force because of a fight, but mainly the police are out there to mess with us. I’ll blow the whistle at them.” After getting out whistles and talking to the youth, we marched to the [In]Justice Center/Police Headquarters with signs and shouted, “Pipeline to Mass Incarceration, WE Say No More!”; “Police Kill Our Youth, WE say no more” and more.
As we were blowing whistles, a man ran over and said he was a lawyer and loved what we were doing. He said he had been in the prosecutors’ office and just couldn’t stand to defend what the cops do to people. He is now taking up cases of mostly African Americans, many youth. He told how a 2nd grade student was handcuffed because he wouldn’t get up soon enough. He was angry that the police take pictures of youth on the street who aren’t committing a crime. When a “crime” is committed, they show these pictures and when someone identifies a person in the photo, they are charged with the the “crime.” He looked up at the county jail and said, “That is a factory and the product are jailed African Americans.” As we ended, people felt this was a beginning of building for October 22nd actions with a focus on mass incarceration and the need to persevere with the youth to bring them into this movement. A Black activist said, “Why do we do this? Because if we don’t do it, there won’t be a call for anyone else to.”
Revolutionaries set up on a median strip on the edge of a housing project where residents are living under conditions like house arrest. While there is no official stop-and-frisk policy here, neither is there any shortage of that kind of harassment, which goes on daily, at the hands of county constables. A couple of weeks ago, as revolutionaries were just starting to get the word out about September 13, they were—you guessed it—stopped and frisked.
A woman in the area described what it’s like to us a while back: “I would like to speak on police harassment. I am very sick and tired of our Black people—just because we live in low income—we need a place over our heads—doesn’t mean that everybody’s doing things wrong. I’m tired of constables—Precinct 6 or whatever—harassing our children, our young people.They come and snatch people off their bicycles, just cuz they’re riding down the street in packs—three or four. I’d seen...as of yesterday, I looked out my back window, and I seen the police, they zoomed in on the wrong side and fishtailed on four Black guys, only because they were riding a bicycle. They searched ‘em down, patted ‘em down, kept ‘em out there for almost a whole hour—never did find anything on ‘em and they turned em all loose.” So the signs and whistles were enthusiastically welcomed, by project residents, their neighbors, and a lot of motorists, many of whom were coming from two universities nearby. We witnessed a good number of thumbs-up and honks.
Some elementary school-aged kids on bikes came by and wanted to blow whistles. So we explained what this is about. The kids were particularly struck by the 3 strikes poster. Some adults came by and spoke bitterly about how the cops stop people and violate people’s rights. That really resonated with these youth, and they wanted to be part of this. Two boys rode home to get money to buy whistles and came back and grabbed up flyers and copies of Revolution, and were distributing them to the cars, along with some girls who had picked up signs and were getting out materials, and collecting money. With healthy disdain, an 8-year-old explained why she was out there blowing the whistle and participating: “The police be taking people to jail and beating them and they be stopping ‘em and harassing ‘em and asking for I.D.” She added that she likes helping people and donating money.
As we left the kids were still on the corner, blowing their whistles. And people wanted to know when we’d be back.
A sound truck drove around on the west side telling people what this day was all about. On one corner people start gathering and it gets loud and noisy with lots of whistles blowing. As 5 pm approaches there is a count down over the loudspeaker and real excitement about the nationwide synchronized character of the whistle blowing. At 5 pm it is really, really loud. Maybe 30 people are blowing whistles as more cars stop to get whistles.
One person wrote: “It was striking that the simple message connected in a powerful way with people: the tactic of blowing the whistle, getting others to do the same, and changing the dynamic of what happens so that the police cannot carry out their crimes against the people in silence. This captured people’s imagination and set wheels turning in their heads and they saw it as a thing they could take up on their own. You could just see it in people’s body language and the way that they quickly became much more serious and engaged as they got a sense of what this was about, wanted to get whistles and flyers.”
On the south side the whistles were passed out near a subway station next to a community college. Revolutionaries hooked up a sound system and blasted Bob Avakian’s talk, Revolution, Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About and passed out palm cards with quotes from BAsics. A banner was posted up showing “Victims of the Injustice System”: Trayvon Martin, Troy Davis, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, along with Corey Harris and Darius Pinex—two people who had been killed by police right in that area. Earlier in the week a group of women who live two blocks from the Community College had gotten a handful of whistles and flyers, telling how police always try to force them off their own porches. On another street, a block from the campus in a different direction, 100 flyers had gotten out in an hour and people there called up and asked for more.
As it got close to 5 pm—the nationwide time to blow the whistle, some people showed up who had promised they would return, people in their cars reached out to get whistles, and students on their way to or from class stopped to testify about what the police do to them. Some of them waited for the 5 o’clock countdown. At 5 sharp whistles blasted out and kept blasting out. And when the police cars rolled by the volume would just get louder.
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
We received this correspondence shortly before September 13:
This neighborhood has one of the highest rates of stop-and-frisk in this city. It’s a mostly African-American community with a huge concentration of housing projects and many, many people living in shelters, on food stamps, with no jobs, with impending evictions, and constant police terror as well as a lot of antagonism among people because of the situation this system puts them in. Recently when we were out there, two young mothers were telling us how there is what they call “sweep days” where for the same two days every week the cops will come through with even more intensity and stop anyone, and you’re much more likely to get arrested during that time.
Last year when the movement to “STOP Stop & Frisk,” initiated by Cornel West and Carl Dix, had just begun, a group of people—Black and white, young and old, including several Occupy Wall Street protesters—marched through this area to the precinct where many of them participated in non-violent civil disobedience to stand against this racist and illegitimate policy and were arrested. I remember the faces of these freedom fighters as they were put in the police van—right now their trials are still going for bullshit charges. These freedom fighters held their heads high as the handcuffs were placed on them because they stood up, they knew they were right, and they were determined to win. These charges are bullshit because stop-and-frisk should be put on trial, not those righteously fighting to stop it.
One of those arrested was the revolutionary “Noche” Diaz, a hero who has repeatedly stood up against what the police do to people. He is facing serious jail time because this system is trying to make an example of him to send a message to youth that they better not even think about trying to oppose what this society brings down on them. But not only are we not gonna let that go down, by rallying more and more people to demand these charges be dropped, we are saying he is an example of exactly what this generation needs—youth that are coming together to stand up and becoming revolutionaries, getting down with Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party.
Then this summer, the BAsics Bus Tour was on the scene in this neighborhood. When the bus was there groupings of young people, especially the young women who were eager to talk about big ideas and do something meaningful, gathered around to get whistles and “STOP Stop & Frisk” buttons, as well as a number of people getting BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, the handbook for a new generation of revolutionaries, and buttons with an artistic rendering of an image of this revolutionary leader. These youth marched through their neighborhood with the revolutionaries, uplifting the sights and the souls of many who encountered them.
The Revolution Club has been out distributing hundreds and hundreds of whistles to people, many of them through people in the community taking stacks of fliers and bags of 70 or 100 whistles and taking responsibility to spread the word. We talked with a group of six young brothers, all boys, maybe 8 to 11 years old the other day. First they wanted the whistles just for fun. I told them what stop-and-frisk is and then said, “Raise your hand if you know someone who has been stopped and frisked”—all but two raised their hands. Then I said, “Raise your hand if you know somebody who is locked up,” and they all raised their hands. Having grown up in an all-white suburb, I wouldn’t have even known what the term “locked up” meant when I was their age. I explained to them that if you went to a white neighborhood, probably nobody would raise their hand and that’s because this society is racist. They all got quiet, then one of them who was sort of the leader piped up and said he’d get the whistles out to more people and tell them what it’s for.
One night when we were out, a couple of people were enjoying themselves on the stoop for a sunny late summer evening and got to talking with us and told this story:
“If you really want to know just come out here when the sun goes down and you will see it all, you will see it all... One of the boys ran around the corner—they were talking, they was, ya know, playing with each other. He threw the wrapper in the garbage and the cop said, ‘Oh you threw some drugs in the garbage.’ For no reason the cops came and harassed them, and put their handcuffs on them for NO REASON, no apparent reason. And when they was trying to explain to them that it was just a candy wrapper, ‘Go in the garbage and see, check the garbage,’ there’s no drugs. And I came downstairs and I saw the whole thing, and, ‘I see you all harassing these kids for no reason.’... And then when the boy started telling them the frisk rights, that’s when they took the handcuffs off the boy, and they had nothin’ on him, they checked the pockets, checked everything—NOTHIN’... they had to take the handcuffs off of him when they realized that the kids started telling them THEIR RIGHTS. They took the handcuffs off then, the stop-and-frisk ended. And because of YOU GUYS, like a couple of days before that, they stood over there and listened to your whole lecture over there at the park—they got the buttons and the fliers and everything—and they started exercising their rights! And they learned it and four days later, it was tested on them, and it was proven that these cops was harassing them for no apparent reason and I witnessed that myself. They took the handcuffs off him and told him, ‘Go.’”
She as well as one of the young guys that experienced this, later told us that they had said to the officers, “This is stop-and-frisk,” and that people started chanting in the group and down the block, calling this out. She also said to us several times about the kids who did this, “They came together, for the first time”—this was very important to her.
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
The document, The New Synthesis of Communism and the Residues of the Past,* by the Revolutionary Communist Organization (OCR), Mexico was written to contribute to the two-line struggle in the international communist movement, as discussed in Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and in the "Letter to Participating Parties and Organizations of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement" from the RCP, USA dated May 1, 2012. There have been various comments on the very cardinal issues of ideological and political line that are concentrated in these documents; we are posting this document from the OCR, Mexico as one important contribution to that struggle.
*Note: this document was originally written in Spanish, and this translation into English was done by the OCR. We are posting this in both Spanish and English.
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
Mass protests and attacks on U.S. embassies took place in more than 20 countries across the Middle East and North Africa last week, including in Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, and Palestine. In Libya, the U.S. ambassador and three other State Department employees were killed. These outbreaks coincided with the distribution of a clip of a film that, as described in media reports, appeared designed to grotesquely and gratuitously offend Muslims.
The actual relationship between the distribution of this video and the range of protests and other incidents is not clear at this point, and circumstances surrounding who or what is behind this video and their motives are murky. But to analyze and understand these rapidly unfolding events, it’s crucial to start not with whatever specific incident triggered these events, but at the beginning of this story with some basic facts and history.
—BAsics 1:3 by Bob Avakian
This is as true in the Middle East as anywhere in the world. For thirty years, the U.S.-backed Hosni Mubarak regime oversaw the interests of U.S. imperialism in Egypt, with torture and “disappearance” directed at any form of protest. The religious fundamentalist, absolutist Saudi monarchy—a model of the vaunted “freedom and democracy” the U.S. brings to the world—prohibits women from public activity, including driving, and recently sent troops into neighboring Bahrain to shore up another torture-based, oppressive pro-U.S. regime. And the U.S. backs Israel, on the land of the dispossessed Palestinian people, as regional (and global) “enforcer.”
All this barely scratches the surface. Newspapers and books could be filled with exposure of the crimes of the United States as well as other imperialist powers like Britain, Germany, France, Russia, etc. Do some online research, and challenge your friends, fellow students, and colleagues to do so as well: Pick any country in the region and check into its history. You’ll find the bloody tracks of “imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism” all over the histories—and present lives—of billions of people in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. (Suggested readings are at the end of this editorial.)
The people of the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia have a long history of courageous resistance to imperialism. But serious setbacks of genuine revolutionary forces over the past several decades—especially the defeat of socialism in China and the coup there that re-imposed capitalism, in 1976—have had a terrible impact on the global political terrain. This remains true even as a new stage of communist revolution is fighting to emerge in the world.
In the Middle East and North Africa, the acceleration of capitalist globalization has displaced tens of millions of peasants and eroded traditional social structures and relations. These traditional structures were rooted in the countryside and in a way of life where peasants were subjected to the exploitation of landowners, ignorance was widespread and enforced, and women were the most downpressed of all—including by the males of the oppressed. In these conditions, both as a somewhat “spontaneous” development along with—in many cases—direct U.S. sponsorship, reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces have achieved significant influence in these oppressed nations.
These forces appeal to those uprooted and displaced by imperialism, and those who acutely feel the oppression of the nations of the Middle East, South Asia, and elsewhere, with a program of going back to an idealized version of the past, in the form of Islamic rule. They posture against imperialism, but only in order to establish a place for themselves in the imperial order; they have neither the program nor the desire to rupture with the entire unjust and destructive order imposed by the great powers.
These Islamic fundamentalist forces do not represent the interests of the masses; those interests lie in the emancipation of all humanity and can only be achieved through revolution against imperialism. Instead, they represent the interests of those classes that aspire to power within the relations of imperialism, and use the masses as battering rams to achieve that aim. This is what is meant when we say that they represent “outmoded strata”—they represent classes and groups whose time has fundamentally passed and who can only look backward. Representing outmoded strata within these countries, their program centers on imposing religious rule and social strictures—all within the imperialist shaped and dominated setup. Where these forces come to power, as in Iran today, they impose their own form of hell-on-earth, including brutal oppression of women, severe repression of critical thinking and expression, and of people overall. And their tactics, as do those of the U.S. imperialists, reflect their fundamental disdain for the masses of people.
For all their anti-U.S. rhetoric, the Islamic fundamentalist forces that rule Iran were initially backed by the U.S. as a lesser evil (from their perspective) compared with more radical and revolutionary forces involved in toppling the murderous U.S.-backed Shah of Iran (as well as those representing other imperial powers of the time). The Islamic Republic of Iran was consolidated in part through the murder of thousands of revolutionaries and the imposition of severe and heartless restrictions on women. The Taliban in Afghanistan and other such forces have their origins in funding from the U.S. when they were fighting the former Soviet Union. It was only as changes came in the imperialist world order, and in how these imperialists saw their interests, that the Islamic fundamentalists came into opposition to the U.S.
Now we are in a dynamic where each U.S. invasion, every drone assassination by the U.S. that wipes out a family, each incident of degrading violence, drives more people into the arms of the Islamic fundamentalists. And each reactionary fundamentalist attack, obscurantist proclamation or oppressive act builds support for imperialism and reinforces its fundamental grip on the planet.
In BAsics 1:28, Bob Avakian puts it this way:
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these “outmodeds,” you end up strengthening both.
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these “historically outmodeds” has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.
The heroic uprisings against U.S.-backed regimes last year in Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries exposed that the current oppressive world order is not set in stone. They inspired freedom-loving people around the world. But they haven’t yet led to thoroughgoing revolutions that uprooted this entire imperialist-dominated structure. That requires revolutionary leadership—communist leadership. And in the wake of these upsurges, U.S. imperialism and other imperialist powers are maneuvering feverishly to maintain and expand their interests, as with their bombing and forced regime change in Libya.
An unjust and unsustainable status quo is breaking apart. But the question is whether something positive for the people can be wrenched out of it. The only way this is possible is by breaking out of the horrific choices of the current situation, and bringing forward another, liberating way aiming to overthrow and transform the root causes of the horrors facing the people—imperialist domination and feudal, patriarchal, and other oppressive traditional relations and the political structures that enforce all this.
In that context, two final points: first, the more that a visible force emerges in the U.S. that rejects the crimes and “justifications” of “our own” rulers, the better the conditions will be for a genuine, liberatory force to emerge in the world. Second, it is crucial to get word of genuinely emancipatory communism—as concentrated in the Manifesto from the RCP, USA: Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage—out into the world.
Bringing Forward Another Way, Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, RCP Publications, 2007.
Communism: the Beginning of a New Stage: A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, RCP Publications, 2008. (Available in Spanish, Farsi, Turkish, German, and other languages at revcom.us/Manifesto/)
Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, Larry Everest, Common Courage Press, 2003.
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
A lot of people are all caught up in the idea that the world is totally controlled by a secret group called the Illuminati. They’ve read all kinds of books and theories claiming to show this is so. We’ve written a longer article that goes into depth on all this—showing how these theories are not only wrong, but poisonous, and lead people away from a real understanding of the problems we face and how to deal with them. (See “The ‘Illuminati’ Is a Myth! Wake Up and Deal With the REAL Problem!,” Revolution #272, June 17, 2012.)
Meanwhile, readers have asked for a short summary. Here goes:
What is the problem?
The idea that there is a group of “Illuminati” (or some other group of super-secret conspirators, or even supernatural beings like vampires or space aliens) who control things is just WRONG.
The problems we face don’t come from a few people perverting the system. The problems we face are all actually built into the system of capitalism—that is, the relations governing how people produce and exchange the necessities of life in modern society.
Here is how this system works: There is a class of billions of proletarians who create the vast wealth of society, but who live on the edge of ruin, owning or controlling very little, if anything. They live only by selling their ability to work. And often they cannot even find a job.
Then there is a much smaller class—the capitalist-imperialists—who profit from the labor of these billions. These capitalist-imperialists employ the proletarians in order to exploit them. That means that they reap enormous wealth from the labor from the workers but pay them only enough to survive; the difference is profit, owned and controlled by the capitalists.
On the basis of that exploitation, the capitalist-imperialist class dominates armed force, and the overall political and cultural direction and character of society. And then there is a class in the middle, owning a little wealth or a skill they can “market,” and scrambling to stay out of the proletariat.
It is the BASIC RELATION OF EXPLOITATION whereby capitalist-imperialists exploit the proletariat—and not currency manipulation, interest rates or other corrupt practices which grow up on top of it—that lies at the ROOT of things.
Exploitation is built into capitalism. That is the first rule for everyone with capital—it only makes money if it is used to exploit others. And the second rule is this: Unless you expand, your competitor will—and you will go under. For these reasons, capitalism has always meant the most brutal, vicious practices: the enslavement of Africans and the genocide of the native peoples of this continent; the plunder and domination of most of the world, enforced by untold—and almost unbelievable—levels of horror and violence; world wars; ecological destruction; the list goes on. And where it has found pre-existing forms of oppression—like the age-old oppression of women—it has adapted and reinforced them for its own purposes.
The political institutions, the armies and the police, the relations where one or a few nationalities dominate other peoples and nationalities, and where men dominate women, the rotten look-out-for-number-one ideas of the culture—all these “serve and protect” this basic set of economic relations. Those relations—capitalism-imperialism—THIS IS THE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM!
But the Illuminati theorists paint it as if there are small, unknowable forces that have corrupted a system that could work just fine on its own. The logic of their argument is that if we only got rid of this small group, then capitalism would work just fine. And sometimes they straight-up trumpet this.
THIS IS WRONG. The problem is NOT that some people are cheating; the problem is the rules of the game itself.
The only solution lies in a whole new “game”:
This is what communism is all about... and this is what humanity needs.
To put it another way: suppose you have a garden that is overrun with deadly weeds. If you just go through with a lawnmower, chopping off the tops of those weeds, you will at first think they are gone; but within a little while those weeds will grow right back. If you really want to get rid of the weeds, you have to dig them out by the roots. Only then can the garden flourish. The Illuminati theory keeps you focused on the top of the weeds; communism gets you to the roots.
To get to communism we need revolution... not just a change of rulers. And we need a scientific view and method to enable us to build a movement for revolution and then—when conditions emerge to do it—to actually dismantle the institutions of the old power and bring into being a new power. A scientific viewpoint and method based on understanding the world as it really is and transforming it and learning more as we do... not some poisonous bullshit that points things in the wrong direction.
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
Week of September 17
This is a regular feature that gives an ongoing picture of the multifaceted campaign BA Everywhere, and the variety of ways that funds are being raised and the whole BA vision and framework brought into all corners of society. Revolution newspaper is at the hub of this effort, publishing reports from the campaign, and playing a pivotal role in building an organized network of people across the country coming together to make BA a household word. We urge our readers to send in timely correspondence and photos on what you are doing as part of this campaign to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
A contingent of revolutionaries went to the protests at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to put revolution and Bob Avakian on the map in the midst of a very politicized atmosphere. March on Wall Street South, a coalition of activist groups, organized a rally and march through downtown Charlotte on Sunday, September 2, a few days before the official start of the convention. Charlotte is the finance capital of the South with the international headquarters of Bank of America and the East Coast headquarters of Wells Fargo, two of the four largest banks in the country. According to march organizers, these banks have some of the highest foreclosure rates as well.
Duke Energy, also headquartered in Charlotte, was another focus of the protest. Duke Energy is the largest utility company in the country, and one of the most damaging to the environment, with dozens of coal-fired power plants, most of which burn coal produced by the devastating method called mountaintop removal mining. Duke also has many nuclear power plants.
Downtown Charlotte looked like a police state. Police barricades lined both sides of the entire march route. There were more police than protesters. Police were on foot and on bicycles. The bicycle cops had their bikes lined up end-to-end, forming a second continuous barricade on both sides of the march, inside the metal barricades. Convention delegates and onlookers were lined up watching the march go by from behind the barricades.
The march through downtown was very vibrant, with lots of signs and banners. Chants rang out from different parts of the march that stretched for several city blocks. One of the largest and most colorful contingents in the march were the immigrants. They wore butterfly wings with the words "Migration is a Human Right" written across the wings. The "Undocubus," a bus that had traveled across the country for six weeks starting from Arizona, brought dozens of undocumented people to the DNC with "No Papers, No Fear" painted on the side of the bus. They were joined by many other immigrants from around the region and country. World Can't Wait brought a model of a drone that really stood out and got a lot of attention, and the Stop Patriarchy contingent had quite an impact, particularly with their stickers which a number of the spectators along the route were wearing, "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" and "If you can't imagine sex without porn...You're fucked."
The BA Everywhere contingent was small but noticeable. We all wore the T-shirt that says "I am part of the thousands working on the revolution," and we carried oversized enlargements of the front page of Revolution newspaper, "Obama Has No Future for the People...The Revolution Does," the front cover of BAsics, the image of BA, and September's quote from BAsics 1:3, "The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism." We were able to get out a thousand palm cards of BAsics 1:3 and promoted the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) to the people watching the march, reaching out to them over the police barricades.
On Monday, September 3, a music and street festival called Carolina Fest was held on closed-off downtown streets. A free annual festival, this year it was billed as part of the DNC festivities, and it attracted thousands of people to downtown, including delegates, Democratic Party activists, and a cross-section of Charlotte area residents. And the Revolution was part of the festival too. We set up on the street with the large images that we had carried in the march the previous day, and we put a plastic milk crate upside down on the ground in front. One person got on the milk crate and did some loud agitation, while we got out thousands of the palm cards and sold copies of Revolution newspaper, BAsics and the Constitution.
The agitation started with "The Republicans are no damn good, but the Democrats are no damn good either. Humanity and the planet need Revolution!" and then ran down what the Obama administration has "accomplished" while in office: accelerated mass incarceration, police murder of the people, disregard for the environment, attacks on fundamental rights as well as abortion and birth control, deporter-in-chief of immigrants, expansion of the wars/drones, foreclosures and unemployment, etc.
It definitely stirred things up! A lot of people turned their heads or stopped in their tracks to listen. Some people didn't believe what we were saying but were willing to check out the facts in Revolution newspaper. Others agreed with our exposure of Obama but were caught up in the "lesser of two evils" trap and focused on how horrible Romney would be. Some hardcore Obama supporters only wanted to talk about healthcare, or actually spoke favorably about what the U.S. is doing around the world. There were right-wingers appalled that we were promoting revolution and communism. And there were some people who were very surprised but refreshed to come across a group that was out there in the middle of the DNC exposing the Democrats and posing a radical alternative, who engaged around BA's vision of communism, checked out BAsics and the Constitution, made small donations and took palm cards to distribute themselves.
At one point, there was an intense exchange between two friends, two young Black women who had stopped to listen. One woman wouldn't have any of it—didn't want to hear anything against Obama, and was pulling on her friend to keep walking. The other woman started arguing and said that she had spent a year in the military in Iraq as a medic, and everything we were saying about the wars and the drones was true. She told her friend to go on without her, and yelled "don't call me on my cellphone either!" This was no everyday scene. People stopped to take pictures. Reporters asked for interviews. We engaged with all viewpoints, sold a lot of newspapers as well as some copies of BAsics and the Constitution.
Over the two days, we got interviewed by over 10 media outlets including the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte TV news, New York Times, London Times, Al Jazeera, Havana Times, Australian Financial Times, National Post from Toronto, and a Florida A&M student media project.
Throughout the rest of the week, there was an un-permitted anti-war march, an Occupy encampment in a local park, and a civil disobedience action where several of the undocumented immigrants bravely got arrested in front of the arena where the convention was being held. Revolutionaries were invited to go to several college campuses in the area during the week, which was a great opportunity to get out hundreds more of the palm cards as well as newspapers, and deeply engage with students on these campuses.
The most striking observation throughout our time in Charlotte was how thick and pervasive ugly American chauvinism was. Not only was it being unleashed from Obama and the top representatives of the Democratic Party at the podium inside the convention, but it was also taken up unquestioningly by the ordinary person in the street, and the "America first" mentality even defined the framework of many of the oppositional groups protesting outside the convention, with concerns narrowly focused on how the issues affect Americans. The one palm card that we wish we had brought in addition to the other materials was the one with BAsics 5:7 and 5:8—"American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives," and "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First."
BA: A Contended Question at the DNC Protests
The short orientation piece in Revolution #278, "BA—A Contended Question," was very helpful in preparing to take the BA Everywhere campaign into the mix at the DNC protests in Charlotte. A very noticeable development was that BA was much more known among a variety of people we encountered from a number of different cities—an indication that the BA Everywhere campaign is having an impact. Here are some examples of the range of viewpoints on BA that we encountered:
A letter from two paper sellers on a BAsics Mini-Tour in Detroit:
After reading about the police killing of a Black homeless man in Saginaw, Michigan, in the September 13 Call for Nationwide Resistance to Racial Profiling, Police Brutality and Murder and the Pipeline Leading to Mass Incarceration, we drove there as part of the mini-tour in Detroit. We drove into the city of 51,000 and made it over to the small shopping plaza where Milton Hall, 49 years old, was killed. We saw two wooden crosses and a note from a friend of Hall's and some memorial items.
As we were standing there by the memorial, a Black woman, Jackie, walked up and said she was with her granddaughter and saw the whole horrible killing of Milton Hall, someone she had known for decades. She said he was not violent, "wouldn't kill a fly," he would ask for a cigarette and that was it. It all began when Hall stopped at a gas station, allegedly had a hassle with the clerk about a cup of coffee. The clerk called the police. Meanwhile, Hall walked across the street to River View Plaza shopping center, which he often frequented.
The police came to the plaza, the EMS came too, as though the pigs were planning to do harm to Hall, or worse. The police lined up, guns drawn, and the video someone took (which was later broadcast on CNN) shows they yelled at him to drop some kind of knife he had. Then as Hall was walking away towards a shuttered Chinese restaurant, the 46 shots rang out and Milton Hall lay motionless on the blacktop. The cops claimed that he was threatening because he would not drop the knife. According to eyewitnesses, it is unclear if he followed that order or not. The police threatened to let their police dog on him. They didn't do that; they unloaded their guns on Hall.
Of course, the pigs will always say their victim was threatening them and they were only killing in self-defense. NO! NO! and NO! The lawyer for Milton Hall's family said, "They [the police] controlled the location and the space between themselves and Milton. There was absolutely no indication of imminent threat." "It appeared to be a firing squad dressed in police uniforms," Jewel Hall, Milton's mother, told CNN from her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. "They did not have to kill him. He had not done anything. He was not violent. He was not a murderer. He was not a criminal." Jewel Hall said her son had once trained as a civil rights activist, been an avid reader and played football. He had lived in Saginaw for 35 years and received Social Security disability payments for a mental illness, but "he knew his rights." "Everybody knew him. The police knew him well," she said. "So that's another question: they knew him, so why? Why did they kill him?"
After telling us about the trauma her granddaughter goes through if she merely sees a cop car or a cop and the widespread horror people feel about it, Jackie told us to go over to a high-rise she stays at where lots of people will want to talk to us. So we did and met many people who knew Milton and were outraged at what happened. One man knew him from living in a homeless shelter together, others knew him from his walking around the area, maybe asking for a cigarette. People said he did not communicate much with people, stayed to himself but was as some said, "a kind and gentle soul." Almost everyone asked the same question: "Why did they kill him? He never bothered nobody." So we got into the question of why and that there is an alternative to this system of horrors, the capitalist-imperialist system whose enforcers shot Milton 46 times. We read BAsics 1:24 and 2:16 where Bob Avakian lays out the role of the police under this capitalist-imperialist system. People nodded their heads in agreement and many went back to talking about what happened to Milton. Clearly they couldn't get over the pain and hurt and the simmering outrage that was being expressed as they told how police killing in Saginaw is not new. In the past year or so the police killed Bobby Merrill Jr., 38, by shooting him several times with a Taser; Andre Jones, 18; and Keontae Amerson, 24, killed after a traffic stop.
To give people a sense of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution and the importance of resisting such outrages, we talked about how they can right now be part of building a movement for revolution and gave them "12 Ways That YOU Can Be Part of Building the Movement for Revolution—Right NOW" cards. We read from BAsics and showed the video of the BAsics Bus Tour and clips from Bob Avakian speaking in '69,'79, and 2003.
One woman, Tisha, called from her window, "I want to see the tape." As she listened intently to BA, when he says, "What kind of system is this?... I say no more," she said, "I was thinking of young people, I was thinking that we lack prayer and we have to fight together, if not it won't end. The police brutality and murder to white, Black and Latino, it is happening everywhere, I am so sick of it. We are fighting back." There were times where people read out loud from BAsics. There was a feeling that BA and his re-envisioned revolution and communism had brought hope to people, but not a sense that we could get to a state power through revolution where pigs killing Black people would be a thing of the past. In a beginning way, people now know that Bob Avakian is a leader for the people seeking to be free of this oppression, now know that we all need to build the movement for revolution and that it can be done. People there took hundreds of BAsics 3:22 palm cards to get out in the two high-rise buildings.
The killing of Milton Hall had brought lots of hurt and lots of outrage at the pigs. As we left, there was word of plans to protest the killing.
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
On July 10 and 25, the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force carried out a series of coordinated military-style raids on activists' houses in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. Heavily armed SWAT teams used flash-bang grenades and in at least one case drew guns on people as they invaded their homes.
In the wake of these raids, a federal grand jury has been convened in Seattle and has already issued subpoenas in an attempt to force five people to testify.
The whole way these raids and grand jury investigation are being carried out is under a veil of secrecy. According to the Seattle Times, the U.S. Attorney's office in western Washington "has sealed all legal documents concerning the subpoenas and search warrants issued to seize evidence and provided no comment on the investigation." The raids seem, however, to be connected to targeting and suppressing radical opposition in the Occupy movement in the wake of events in Seattle on May 1, when hundreds joined the national Occupy protests and strikes. In the course of these protests, some businesses and a federal courthouse had their windows broken out.
A warrant in connection with one of the raids obtained by the Stranger, a Seattle weekly, specifically mentioned the FBI was in part looking for "anti-government or anarchist literature or material": The Stranger also said that the FBI "rifled through bookshelves" during the raid. In these raids the FBI has seized computers, cell phones, thumb drives, clothing, literature, etc.
It has also been reported in some of the local press that the FBI has approached activists to try to turn them into informants or to ask them who they associate with.
There has been important beginning resistance to the government's repression. A statement against the raids and grand jury investigation has been released by a Portland-based group called the Committee Against Political Repression has been signed by many organizations and individuals.
Two people from Portland who were ordered to appear before the grand jury made a public statement saying they would refuse to cooperate with the grand jury investigation and would not testify except to give their names. They were allowed to leave but have been required to reappear before the grand jury again in mid-September. Protests have been held in Seattle against the raids and grand jury investigation. The Seattle National Lawyers Guild has spoken out against the government's actions. It has called for dropping the subpoenas and has brought up how grand juries are used as fishing expeditions and are aimed at suppressing political dissent and have a chilling effect on people.
It's important for people very broadly to oppose and resist the government raids and grand jury investigation.
For more on what a grand jury is, see the article "What Is a Grand Jury and What Threats Does It Pose to Activists? The Grand Jury—The Grand Inquisition," Revolution #215, October 31, 2010.
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
Interviews from the NYC BAsics Bus Tour
The day started out hot and just got worse. There’s something unique about New York hot—like mid-July, temperature somewhere near 100 degrees coming together with the heat generated by 8 million people squeezed together, walking, working and living. Then put it together with humidity so high that the air seems visible and taking a walk feels like moving through a steam room. And just when you think you can’t take no more, there’s a summer afternoon rainstorm. It’s one of those special rains where the sun stays shining while water balloon raindrops hit the streets and cars with big plops and hiss as they evaporate into a layer of steam floating back off into the sky. It was a day when knowing the beach was just a train ride away made life seem so different, so good and so full of possibility—especially when you’re 16 years old and heading out with a few dozen of your closest friends.
I walked through the rain and down into the subway station at 125th and St. Nicholas looking to get the A train out to one of the far ends of Brooklyn. As I walked down the steps to the train platform I could hear a loud roar—not a train coming into the station but an angry crowd running and yelling in my direction. When I reached the platform I had to jump out of the way of a gorilla sized, red-faced New York Transit cop dragging a Black youth no more than 20 years old up out of the subway station by his neck. The roar I heard came from a crowd of the youth’s friends running after the cop, demanding their friend’s freedom. There were about 40 Black youth, men and women, African-American youth as well as many African and Caribbean immigrant youth. As they ran towards the cop an army of police—many of them New York City street cops—seemed to come out of every corner of the station. Some plainclothes cops even crawled up out of the train tracks like rats. They descended on the youth, pushing, shoving and beating them back. But the youth refused to back down. They stood face to face against the police line and shouted at the cops. They yelled about injustice to the other people waiting for a train. The youth were angry as hell and made their case to anyone who would listen. I looked beyond the crowd and saw the ruins of not just a day at the beach but all kinds of dreams and hopes—smashed Styrofoam coolers, broken radios, backpacks split open so clothes, towels and bottles of lotion scattered across the platform, shards of broken memories before they ever had a chance to form.
One of the youth came up to me to make sure I knew what was going on. His eyes were bright, his face a mix of anger and deep pain. I asked what happened. He told me they were all school and neighborhood friends. They had planned this day at the beach for awhile and everything was in place for a moment where nothing else mattered but fun and friends. They were laughing, messing around and listening to music while they waited for the train. Suddenly, a cop came up out of nowhere and decided to start pushing people around. The cop grabbed one of the youth and dragged him away with no explanation. That cracked everything open. The young brother talking with me was 17, a senior in high school. His voice trembled with rage and tears welled up in his eyes as he demanded answers, “Why did they do that? Is it because we are going to the beach? Is it illegal to go to the beach? Is it because we are Black? Is it illegal to be Black?” He turned to try to retrieve some of his belongings and then turned back to yell “Yeah, we’re Black. We’re human beings! We have rights!”
Eventually the cops dispersed the youth—forcing small groups of them onto whatever train pulled into the station and then ordering the engineer to quickly take off.
* * * * *
An hour and a half later I was in Brownsville. Carl Dix was scheduled to speak about the fight against stop-and-frisk on a street corner in Brownsville later that day. I walked down one of the main streets to get a sense of the neighborhood—lots of used furniture stores and small “Mom & Pop” corner shops. Public housing projects of different sizes pop up everywhere. In fact, public housing in one form or another is the main form of housing in Brownsville and the neighborhood has the highest concentration of New York City Housing Authority developments in the city, 18 of them at last count. A little more than 116,000 people, mainly Black, are crowded into just over two square miles of space.
Brownsville is one of those neighborhoods where everyone talks—on corners, in front of stores and on stoops. Everyone has an opinion and argues for it. When I first arrived the volunteers from the BAsics Bus Tour had already fanned out around the area getting out Bob Avakian’s book BAsics and building for actions against stop-and-frisk. Whistles—as part of “Blowing the Whistle on Stop & Frisk" were getting out all over the place. On one intersection a group of women gathered around a halfway parked car and debated each other around how to look at stop-and-frisk. Across the street a group of old-timers sat on broke down kitchen chairs with throw pillow seats and argued about the police and their role in society.
There’s something about whistles and giving them out as part of fighting the power. You can get them out all over the place and do it in a way that is almost invisible. But then, especially when the whistles are meant to be blown as part of calling out stop-and-frisk, making a way that people can stand up against this fascistic and racist assault, stand with the people being harassed by the cops and do it collectively, this invisible army is suddenly jumping out from every corner. A week after the whistles were first given out in Brownsville you might hear them any time of day or night.
* * * * *
James lives on one of the back streets in Brownsville. His front stoop is always crowded with people, mostly family and friends. I first met James on a day when bus tour volunteers marched down his street, agitating and then stopping to talk with people about building resistance to stop-and-frisk, revolution, BAsics and Bob Avakian. The people hanging out in front of James’ house were excited to hear all this. But then, a man about 30 years old burst out the front door, yelling at the volunteers, telling them that they need to move on, that if they wanted to do something good, they should go and organize against what the police are doing in that neighborhood. This was James. He was over-the-top angry and clearly had no idea what was really going on.
Someone managed to get a copy of BAsics—opened up to 1:24: “The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.”
James’ eyes were riveted on the page. He was deep in thought and his whole mood changed. He quietly asked how much the book cost and immediately bought a copy. James’ family and friends grabbed up whistles and I made arrangements to come back and talk with James later.
James is just about to turn 30 and has lived in Brownsville most of his life. When I first got back in touch with James, I asked him what changed him around after reading that quote from BAsics and what made him want to buy the book right away. James looked at me like I should already know the answer and said, “It was something that hit me, man. I felt like it was more in that book, for me, for people to know. And I like to send a message. I mean, like if I get something from you, I’m not gonna hold that in, I’m gonna tell somebody about it.”
He started talking about what it’s like living in Brownsville. “It's rough. It ain't easy, but it's rough. I mean, all my life, I always seen police like take advantages of the community. And they always had to blame everybody for one man's mistake. I mean, they judge you by the clothes you wear, or whether you say 'hi' or 'bye' to 'em. Now, [if] the police ride by and see me sitting here talking to y'all, they assuming that I’m serving y'all something or giving y'all something. They assume it. And I don’t think that be right, man. I think there's one nation right here and we all in it together.”
I asked James what he thought about stop-and-frisk. His eyes got angry as he talked about this. “If it ain't stop-and-frisk, it's a stop. And they've already got their guns drawn to young boys about 12, 11. They draw their gun before they even ask any questions. It's like that, man. It hardly be nobody getting hurt around here. If it do be somebody getting hurt they get to live to see another day. There probably be a fist fight, a ambulance called. But they [the police] just bring a little too much into the situation. They draw they guns too fast. They don't even know if anybody got anything, a weapon or anything on 'em. And it be more than one. They like the biggest gang in New York City. The biggest gang in Brownsville, you ask me.”
I asked James if he knew how many times he got swept up in all this. He voice gave away his exasperation. “Too much. From growing up? How many times? I really can't even count. But I could say the last few times, they just jump out and frisk me just because of I been here for too long... They lock you up for open container, riding the bike up the one-way, having a razor in your pocket even though you might've came from work. They'll lock you up for stuff like that.
“All that is just building up a young man's reputation, a rap sheet, I say. So then when god forbid that they do get caught up in a situation that they can't get out of, they gonna make it seem like he been doing this all his life. And it ain't really like that. Like you can walk around with, um, you can just be coming from work and got a screwdriver on you. They gonna make it seem like you was out to kill somebody. It ain't really like that."
James did time in prison and talks about how so many other people in the neighborhood have also spent time in prison. I read him BAsics 1:13, the quote about how the system condemns generation after generation of young Black and Latino people to oppression, misery and oblivion even before they are born. James loved the power of saying “No More of That!” But he had a hard time wrestling with the idea that this system already has a future set out for so many millions of Black and Latino people, himself included. “Nah. That's what they think, they has each and every last one of us futures figured out. But I don't think it's like that. I don't think that they—I’m gonna keep it on 'I.' I don't think they got my future figured. Like, they plan on thinking that I’m going to go back and continuously do the same thing. I’m grown. You know, I’m about to be 30 in a couple of more days. I’m grown. I don’t think that they got my life figured out. But it's like every time I turn around they try to bring me down. And only one that could do that is me.”
James and I wrestled over what it meant that the oppression of Black people is systematic and systemic and how one of the ways it’s expressed is in things like stop-and-frisk and the pipeline to prison. I asked what he thinks is going on with all this. He thought hard on that. “Since I was young, since I can even remember, I been seeing the same thing go on. And on and on and on. It's like a revolving door, man. And like, even if you go and serve your time for your mistakes, you'll come out thinking that you gonna go the right path, but they still drag you in...
“And like I said before, they catch people up—if you ain't got a ID that say you from here, you trespassing. They taking you to jail. If you ride a bike up the wrong street way, you going to jail. Whatever. You can get caught smoking a cigarette near the park, you're going to jail. And there's a lot of stuff that if you do, that I don't feel like you should be able to go to jail for. But they got it in their head that you're going to jail. And that's how they give us a rap sheet. And they fill our rap sheet out when nobody ain't got no crime, no conviction. And then you get the rap sheet and never been convicted of none of this. But they done got your rap sheet looking like you a mastermind of a whole bunch of stuff—like you meant to do this or knew not to do this and still did it.”
I asked James if he ever dreamed about being able to live in a different world. His eyes lit up. “Everybody done dream! I want a life where there's no dying, no killing, like everybody just living. A life with nobody dying, no robbery, no murders, no rapes. I believe everybody can get along. I mean, just to make this nation even better.” I told James that I think we need to get rid of all nations and build a whole new world—and especially this nation that is slaughtering people and poisoning the planet every minute of every day. He thought about that for a minute and came back with this: “But then we gotta add up—some people need to be molded, man, 'cause if we do change the world, there's some people changing as well.”
We kicked that around a bit as I looked for BAsics 3:17. We talked about how people have to be transformed as they change the world and in order to really change the world. James liked that but had some doubts. “It ain't but much you can really change about a human being, a person, period. You can change the thinking process, but you know that always that stinking thinking gonna come up. Even if there's no wrong way to do nothing right. So you really gotta—you really gotta be dedicated to the change. A lot of people don't dedicate theyselves to the change.”
I read James BAsics 3:17: “People say: ‘You mean to tell me that these youth running around selling drugs and killing each other, and caught up in all kinds of other stuff, can be a backbone of this revolutionary state power in the future?’ Yes—but not as they are now, and not without struggle. They weren’t always selling drugs and killing each other, and the rest of it—and they don’t have to be into all that in the future. Ask yourself: how does it happen that you go from beautiful children to supposedly 'irredeemable monsters' in a few years? It’s because of the system, and what it does to people—not because of ‘unchanging and unchangeable human nature.’”
James considered the quote deeply and then said, “I’m thinking right now. I feel you gotta change the surroundings, people, places and things. 'Cause everybody don't think the same. I don't think nobody think the same. But some people be on the same page. Some people they be on the same page and some of us don't. Some of us ain't looking for no change 'cause they might feel that they embarrassed of a change 'cause they been doing this since they known life itself.” I asked James if he thought we could make a revolution in a place like this and he answered, “The more the merrier. We overpopulate all the negativity, I figure we win and they lose.”
We had been talking for quite some time and James had to split soon. I reminded him that all of his family and friends who were hanging around his stoop on the day we first met were now wearing whistles as part of the “Blow the Whistle on Stop & Frisk” campaign, and I wanted to know what he thought about this campaign. James talked while he walked back towards the sidewalk. “Yes, see, with a lot of people, because I seen a lot of people blowing the whistles. They been blowing the whistles when police stop-and-frisk for no apparent reason. And they blowing them just to make other people aware of what's going on, so they won't be left there by theyself. I feel that was a good thing. It was a good thing. You know, you got some people that blow them just when they see police saying something to somebody, get to blowing them...”
We started to say goodbye and I turned to James and said humanity really needs this revolution we’ve been talking about, really needs this movement. But before I could finish James interrupted with, “Yes, we do. 'Cause it's too many young Black men getting hurt. It's just a little bit too much. And they getting away with it. And some of them don't even be having a record or court appearance about nothing. And they just judge us wrong.”
I told James that this revolution is still small and not strong enough and if he really means what he’s saying he needs to be part of making this real. James smiled and said, “I’m there. No questions asked. From the book [BAsics], the book is a good book. I didn't really go through too much of it, but everything I went through in the book, it made me think about a better life tomorrow. Yeah, I had people reading the book the other night and I seen it in their eyes and everything that they was reading, that they was thinking, because a lot of the stuff that's going on in that book is true. A lot of it is true. And all I do is just sit there and think. I have a open mind, you know? And stop thinking about self. And you think about the bigger picture, like the bigger picture is us, and we all we got."
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
This summer has seen a scorching heat wave across the U.S. More than 40,000 individual high temperature records were set this summer. Cities like Atlanta and Nashville broke records for the highest temperatures ever. The first six months of this year in the U.S. were the warmest in 132 years of recorded history. Wildfires of size and intensity never before seen have scorched parts of Colorado and New Mexico. Drought has engulfed two-thirds of counties in the U.S. The devastation of corn and soybean crops has sent food prices skyrocketing. These price rises under the workings of this system create a real danger of another food crisis like the one of 2008 that caused massive suffering and hardship among the planet’s poorest people.
These events come after other massive heat waves in recent years—in the U.S. last summer, in Russia in 2010, etc. The Russian heat wave was the worst in 1,000 years of recorded history there, according to the Russian state weather ministry. It killed thousands of people and caused hundreds of damaging wildfires.
For years scientists have been predicting that, as the planet warms and the climate changes, there will be increasing extremes in weather, more destructive and frequent storms, and vast transformations in climate such as expanding drought. Now there is increasing evidence that these changes are already upon us. Climate change is caused by the warming of the earth from the build-up in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases that are produced by the burning of oil, coal, and gas and other practices that are rooted today in the functioning of the capitalist-imperialist system.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that of the 13 warmest years globally, 11 of them were the years 2001 to 2011.
A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by climatologists James Hansen and Makiko Sato points to evidence globally for the last 61 years showing that in the last three decades, as the average temperature of the globe has slowly risen, extreme weather events have soared and expanded to cover 10 percent of the globe. This is an increase of 50-100 times from the previous three decades. Speaking of the U.S. heat wave in 2011 and heat waves in Russia in 2010 and Europe in 2003, Hansen says, "These weather events are not simply an example of what climate change could bring. They are caused by climate change. The odds that natural variability created these extremes are miniscule, vanishingly small." (Washington Post, August 3, 2012) While other scientists argue it is still not possible to say definitively these extremes could not have happened except as a result of global warming/climate change, it is clear there is an increasing trend of heat and drought extremes as the planet warms.
Things are happening in global climate that have never been seen before. Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben pointed to a rainfall at 109 degrees F. that happened in Mecca, Saudi Arabia this year. He called this the "hottest rainfall in the history of earth. In his book Eaarth, McKibben lists other unprecedented storms. "In the last half decade we've seen the earliest forming Category 5 hurricane ever recorded (Emily 2005), and the first January tropical cyclone (Zeta 2006), the first known tropical cyclone in the South Atlantic (Catarina 2004) and the first known tropical storm ever to strike Spain (Vince 2005)." A New York Times op-ed article by Charles Blow ("Farewell, Fair Weather", New York Times, May 31, 2008) said "According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, there have been more than four times as many weather-related disasters in the last 30 years than in the previous 75 years."
These kinds of weather extremes—heat waves and droughts, flooding and monsoons and more devastating and more common storms—are disproportionately affecting people in the countries of the "Third World," those countries oppressed by capitalism-imperialism.
Global warming and climate change is transforming the face of the planet and causing increasing extinction of species. Polar ice is melting at a rate never before seen. Arctic sea ice was at the lowest level ever recorded in August of this year ("Arctic sea ice just hit a record low. Here's why it matters," Brad Plumer, August 28, 2012, washingtonpost.com). 70-95% of the melt of the Arctic since 1979 was caused by human practices according to a new study in Environmental Research Letters. The melting of ice is already damaging a tremendously rich ecosystem that is important to life on the whole planet and threatening to destroy it over the next decades. The way of life for whole peoples in the Arctic ecosystem is being undermined. Melting of ice in Greenland and Antarctica is raising sea levels with much greater damage to come unless there is a dramatic turn away from burning fossil fuels quickly. According to James Hansen (Storms of Our Grandchildren), the last time the Earth was 2-3 degrees Celsius warmer than today (and if business as usual continues predictions are that the temperature increase will go beyond, even quite a bit beyond that over the next century), the sea level was 25 meters (82 feet) higher than today. About a billion people now live at elevations of less than 25 meters, spread along the world’s coastlines and on islands.
These climate changes are part of an overall environmental emergency—the destruction of forests and other natural habitats and ecosystems, the extinction of species far above normal "background" rates, the acidification of the oceans and killing off of ocean life, pollution and degradation of air, water and soil, etc. Climate change is the leading edge of this, causing its own damage and also interacting with and making worse these other impacts. The hard truth is this is just the beginning.
An impending environmental catastrophe confronts the world. Without massive and urgent changes to drastically cut the burning of fossil fuels, climate change will become much more devastating and can become unstoppable. And yet the capitalist energy companies of the planet already have plans to extract and burn five times more oil, coal and gas in the reserves they already own than the upper limit set by climate scientists of what can be burned without causing truly devastating warming of the earth. McKibben points out, "Yes that coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it’s already economically above ground—it’s figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony." These reserves are worth about $27 trillion. ("Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math," Rolling Stone, July 24, 2012)
This reality begins to point to the deeper dynamics of why capitalism-imperialism can do nothing to truly address and deal with this threat to the planet’s ecosystems and to humanity itself. It’s not just about money or greed or even "the corporations." The situation today is the inevitable outcome of a system whose whole heartbeat and functioning is based on approaching everything—all of the natural world and people—as commodities to be bought and sold or used to pour into more growth and production for profit. This drives a process of ruthless and relentless competition among all the capitalist powers to win out against the other, to grab, slash and burn before the "other guy" gets it.
More people are now recognizing the danger of climate change, and in a sense there is a moment to seize. But this needs to go a lot deeper. There is tremendous urgency to transform the situation so people are seriously facing up to the actual danger posed by climate change and the overall environmental emergency, and beginning to get clear on how the system is the source of this problem—and that things don’t have to be this way. Only revolution that defeats and sweeps aside the current ruling power, when conditions for doing that have been brought into being, and establishes a radically new socialist state power, can actually open up the way for dealing with the global environmental emergency for real. There is a great need for increased and more determined resistance on this front, and to link this resistance closely to building a movement for revolution that can bring actual hope of saving the planet from the most devastating changes to come. There is a viable way out, through the new synthesis of communist revolution brought forward by Bob Avakian and the principles for a new system and a new way of protecting the environment laid out in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). (Also check out online Revolution's special issue on the environment at revcom.us/environment.)
As BA puts it in his talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, "This system and those who rule over it are not capable of carrying out economic development to meet the needs of the people now, while balancing that with the needs of future generations and requirements of safeguarding the environment. They care nothing for the rich diversity of the earth and its species, for the treasures this contains, except when and where they can turn this into profit for themselves.... These people are not fit to be the caretakers of the earth." (BAsics 1:29)
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
From a reader:
The first 3-1/2 years of Obama’s presidency have been a bitter disappointment for many people who had been swept up by Obama mania. Yet still... Romney and the Republicans he leads can seem even worse to many people. But it’s a lethal trap spun out of deceit, illusion, and willful blindness to think that somehow Obama is “less worse” than Romney.
Take a brief look at what Romney and Obama represent on two key issues—the use of torture and detention without trial as instruments of U.S. policy, and the mass criminalization and incarceration of Black and Latino youth.
During a debate among Republican presidential candidates last November, Romney didn’t address the topic of U.S.-sponsored torture. But immediately after the debate his top aide “clarified” Romney’s position, sending a message to reporters that Romney “does not believe waterboarding is torture.” Romney has said on numerous other occasions that he doesn’t think “it’s wise...to describe precisely what techniques we’ll use in interrogating people,” and then he adds with a straight face that he “opposes torture.”
Romney defends detaining people indefinitely without trial and opposes closing the U.S. torture dungeon at Guantánamo. He said, “And, by the way, I want to make sure these folks are kept at Guantánamo. I don’t want the people that are carrying out attacks on this country to be brought into our jail system and be given legal representation in this country. I want to make sure that what happened to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed happens to other people who are terrorists. He was captured. He was the so-called mastermind of the 9/11 tragedy. And he turned to his captors, and he said, 'I’ll see you in New York with my lawyers.' I presume ACLU lawyers. That’s not what happened. He went to Guantánamo, and he met GIs and CIA interrogators, and that’s just exactly how it ought to be.”
But what about Obama? Didn’t he promise to close Guantánamo as soon as he took office in 2009? Yes he did. He’s promised to close Guantánamo twice, in fact, when he first ran for president in 2008, and again in 2012, since the Democratic Party platform Obama is running on is once more making that promise in this year’s campaign. As of today, Guantánamo is still up and running, with 168 “detainees” held in its cages.
But the Obama administration has already gone much further—in deeds, not just words—in protecting and defending torturers from the Bush years, and extending its “right” to imprison people in other countries. As the New York Times reported on August 30 this year, “Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Thursday that no one would be prosecuted for the deaths of a prisoner in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, eliminating the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the C.I.A. Mr. Holder had already ruled out any charges related to the use of waterboarding and other methods that most human rights experts consider to be torture.”
Earlier this year, Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which grants to any U.S. president the power to detain any person, including U.S. citizens, indefinitely and without charge or trial for associating with a broad and vague category of people, including those who have nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks or terrorism.
As for holding people without trial in prisons across the planet, in March this year, the U.S. government and its Afghan puppet Hamid Karzai announced an agreement that said the U.S. would turn over control of the massive prison complex at Bagram Air Base to Afghanistan. But just this week, the Pentagon declared that the U.S. will continue to control prisoners there “for the indefinite future” and to “hold and screen newly captured Afghans for a time, ensuring continued American involvement in detention and interrogation activities.”
Romney is promising to do things Obama sometimes says he opposes—but in reality has been putting into practice for years.
And regarding the issue of mass criminalization and incarceration of Black and Latino youth in this country, how are the candidates for “the highest office in the land” addressing the shameful situation in this country that has the highest incarceration rate in world history, and where there is an epidemic of police brutality and murder that plagues inner cities from coast to coast?
Well, neither one of them has ever indicated in any way that he sees these outrages as a problem.
Their silence on this question is deafening. And the question must be asked: for anyone who cares about the future of the youth in this country, for anyone who is concerned about humanity and its future, for anyone who cares about the health of the planet itself, does it make any difference who wins this election? Would things be even worse for masses of people in this country and around the world if the pack of rabid warmongers, torture advocates, racists, and woman-haters headed by Romney came to power?
The short answer is no.
The presidential candidates, and even more the terms of this election—the terms of participating in the “political process” that U.S. imperialism offers—are deadly enough: would you like your poison straight up, or would you prefer it sweetened now and then with some honeyed words?
But even more, just by participating in this charade of “choice between two candidates”—by voting for either candidate, in other words—the role of the voters is to put a stamp of “legitimacy” on the entire process, and every monstrous crime against the people of the world and in this country that it commits.
Romney and Obama are contending to see which of them will preside over a political and military framework that defends and extends the most vicious, blood-drenched system of capitalism-imperialism in the world. The political machines they lead bring forward different bases of social support, but both act in the interests of that system. They work diligently to present and frame issues and topics of “debate” on the terms of that system.
And they work even harder to draw people in on those terms. Whoever wins this election will sit on top of a mountain of bones of the people killed and lives destroyed by the juggernaut of U.S. imperialism, and will be prepared to commit even greater crimes in the years and conflicts ahead. Whoever wins will say that these murderous acts are to “defend the American people” and represent the “will of the American people,” as expressed through the election.
As the Revolutionary Communist Party says, “Stop Thinking Like Americans and Start Thinking About Humanity!”
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
From the staff of Revolution Books Atlanta:
Adam Shapiro, a great friend of ours and a friend of the revolution, passed away suddenly last week. He will be sorely missed. Adam was best known as the radio host of “Current Events,” a weekly progressive news and call-in show on community radio station WRFG in Atlanta. You could always count on tuning in Thursdays at noon for an hour of informative and challenging topics, often provoking a wild mix of call-ins from his eclectic audience. He regularly featured guests from a wide variety of progressive political viewpoints including the Revolutionary Communist Party and writers for Revolution newspaper.
Adam was a movement activist through and through. He dedicated his life to changing the world and was involved with many groups, holding leadership positions at WRFG, in the blind community, Georgia Green Party and Democratic Socialists of America. He encouraged and promoted broad resistance and jumped right in at the get-go when groups such as Refuse & Resist!, the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, and World Can't Wait were launched. He was a regular participant in discussions at Revolution Books, providing insightful comments, sharp but friendly criticisms when he disagreed (often), but also welcoming challenges to his own thinking in the process.
He grew up in New York and was greatly influenced by the struggles of the 1960s and the folk music scene. He particularly loved Phil Ochs, whom he emulated by learning to play guitar. Adam and his guitar were a fixture at open mic nights, WRFG benefits and a variety of political events, including several fundraisers for the BA Everywhere campaign. He carefully tailored his song selection to the nature of the event. We therefore enjoyed Phil Ochs-style incisiveness and biting satire through Adam’s performances.
Several words that come to mind when describing Adam are: dedication, struggle, integrity, thoughtfulness, honesty, humor and principle. He withstood no small amount of pressure against his inviting revolutionary communists and followers of Bob Avakian to be frequent guests on his show. Instead of backing down under this pressure, he sought a fuller understanding of the content of Bob Avakian’s vision of revolution and communism (and in the process gained a great deal of respect and admiration for BA), and encouraged others to engage with it as well. In this, he represented and fought for standards and principles within the movements of opposition that are sorely needed in this time.
Adam touched our hearts, made us laugh and taught us much. Perhaps the greatest thing we learned from him was how to work and struggle together with mutual respect, while recognizing our significant political and ideological differences – but never shying away from arguing, debating and discussing those differences, in the interest of seeking the truth and furthering the cause of emancipating humanity.
Adam's signature sign-off was: “Freedom is a constant struggle. Information is power. Speak up while you still can. The hour is getting late.”
Adam Shapiro lived a life worthy of a human being. These words from the Phil Ochs song “Do What I Have to Do” describe his attitude well:
All around the country, trouble in the air
And I hear the voices calling me.
Asking “do you know and do you care?
Do you know and do you care?”
So I’m a-gonna do what I have to do
Say what I have to say.
And I’m gonna be what I have to be
Now won’t you come on along with me?
Won’t you come along with me?
Revolution #281 September 23, 2012
Letter from a Reader in L.A.
This summer the "new and improved" LAPD revealed once again that its cruel and vicious nature is unchanged.
Alesia Thomas, a 35-year-old Black woman, takes her two children—one 3 years old and the other 12—to the LAPD Station in South Los Angeles. She tells police that she is a drug addict and feels she cannot care for her children. The police station is supposed to be a "safe haven" for abandoned babies. She is doing exactly what the system tells her to do to keep her children safe from harm. The police, as if mocking her, go to Thomas' home to arrest her for child endangerment. The video recorded by the police cruiser camera, which has not been made public, shows what happens next (the description is from the LAPD): one officer sweeps Thomas' legs from beneath her while two others handcuff her hands behind her back. Two more officers are called and a "hobble restraint device"—an adjustable strap—is tightened around her ankles. They try to get Thomas into the back of a patrol car. One woman officer threatens to kick her in the genitals if she did not comply, and then follows through on the threat. Thomas is put in the squad car and dies there.
Utterly infuriated and cursing under my breath, I flashed to BA's response to the police murder of Tyisha Miller, shot 12 times by Riverside, CA police as she slept in her car.
"If you can't handle this situation differently than this, then get the fuck out of the way. Not only out of the way of this situation, but get off the earth. Get out of the way of the masses of people. Because, you know, we could have handled this situation any number of ways that would have resulted in a much better outcome. And frankly, if we had state power and we were faced with a similar situation, we would sooner have one of our own people's police killed than go wantonly murder one of the masses." (from BAsics 2:16)
The police killing of Alesia Thomas happened on June 22 and only came to light in August because the investigation of the death revealed there was videotaped evidence. In the same period, two more LAPD incidents happened within a week of each other and became public because they were caught on video.
Ronald Weekley, a 20-year-old Chemistry/Pre-Med student at Xavier University in Louisiana was home in Venice, CA, for the summer. He was skateboarding near his home and according to police was on the wrong side of the street. He ignored the police coming toward him because he thought they were going to question some other youth nearby. As he opened the door to his house he was tackled from behind by the four cops. A cell phone video shows the police piling on him and one punching Weekley repeatedly in the face. Weekley went unconscious. He suffered a broken nose, fractured cheekbone, and a concussion. He is being charged with felony resisting arrest stemming from supposedly riding on the wrong side of the street. Weekley's attorney, Benjamin Crump, who is also the attorney for Trayvon Martin's family, asked at a press conference, "Was he (Weekley) stopped because he was on the wrong side of the road, or was he attacked because he was the wrong color?" Weekley is African-American.
And again: Two LAPD officers pulled over Michelle Jordan, a 34-year-old white woman, registered nurse and mother of two, because she was driving with a cell phone in her hand. This is considered an infraction. She parked and got out of her car. The cops claim she failed to comply with orders to get back into her car so they slammed her to the ground and handcuffed her. While cuffed, they slammed her to the ground a second time because—her husband said—she swore at them. A parking lot surveillance video recorded the whole incident and shows the officers doing a fist-bump after the second take down—a lesson passed from the 22-year veteran commander to the 10-month rookie on how to handle women who talk back.
As if these are not enough to make you want to scream, two more incidents surfaced from earlier this year. In May, LAPD was called to help an actor from the porn industry who was threatening to commit suicide. The police called an ambulance and accompanied Marland Anderson, a Black man, to the hospital. Anderson arrived at the hospital in critical condition with brain damage and died five days later. The autopsy released this summer reveals "neck compression." Experts suspect the police used a chokehold, or sat or stepped on his neck. The second incident happened in April when a distraught, but cooperative, Deutsche Bank executive was picked up late at night in a working class part of LA by the LAPD and ended up in the hospital with face bones broken in 15 places. The executive recently filed a $50 million dollar lawsuit against the LAPD.
In the quote above from BAsics 2:16, BA makes this very important point:
"[T]he role of their police is to terrorize the masses, including wantonly murdering them, murdering them without provocation, without necessity, because exactly the more arbitrary the terror is, the more broadly it affects the masses. And that's one of the reasons why they like to engage in, and have as one of their main functions to engage in, wanton and arbitrary terror against the masses of people."
This is why on September 13 everyone who hates the brutal murdering pigs, the racial profiling, the mass incarceration; who wants to see a nationwide movement change the political terrain and contribute to building a movement for revolution—you must answer the Call for Nationwide Resistance to Racial Profiling, Police Brutality and Murder and the Pipeline Leading to Mass Incarceration. On that day, PEOPLE MUST BLOW THE WHISTLE and say: "WE WILL NO LONGER ACCEPT ALL THIS INJUSTICE IN SILENCE!"