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Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
July 17, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
When the system's IN-justice system let the murderer of Trayvon Martin walk free, Barack Obama addressed the nation:
"The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that's a job for all of us. That's the way to honor Trayvon Martin."
First, the killing of Trayvon Martin was not a "tragedy," it was cold-blooded murder, and a concentration point of what happens every day to Black youth everywhere. And the "not guilty" verdict legitimized vicious white supremacy.
Second, this is not about "gun violence." This is about a legal modern-day lynching of a young Black man, and there is a whole history of that—with and without guns. And we don't need a lecture about "gun violence" from the president of a country that assassinates children with drones, invades countries and kills thousands and thousands, and sends killer police into the inner cities.
And then Obama says we should accept this with "calm reflection"—because we are a "nation of laws and a jury has spoken."
In 1857, should people have accepted it when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Black man "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect"?
In 1955, should people have accepted the verdict when a jury acquitted the men who lynched Emmett Till?
No. Not then, not now.
"Calm reflection" in the face of terrible injustice is immoral. Nobody with a basic sense of justice, of right and wrong, can or should be silent, or passively complicit with this outrage. People across the country, from all walks of life, have refused to accept this verdict, and they are right to do so!
And as people stand up and demand justice, that struggle needs to be increasingly linked to building a movement for revolution that puts an end to the system that is the source of outrages like the vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin.
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
The System vs Trayvon Martin
July 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
"Zimmerman was a predator, and Trayvon was his prey. And now it's open season on all of us."
Young Black man in Sanford Florida, July 13
The system has delivered its verdict in the case of the State of Florida v George Zimmerman. Outrage at this verdict has been expressed in many forms by tens of thousands of people across the country, most powerfully in the large demonstrations that filled the streets of cities coast to coast.
The political battle to win Justice for Trayvon is far from over. But this verdict put a legal seal on ugly, murderous social relations of white supremacy—on the brutal oppression of Black people—enforced by the most vicious means. President Obama said on July 14 that "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."
The verdict, and everything it represents, must be rejected and overcome. Yes, the system's courts and legal system have spoken, and Obama has expressed a call for acceptance.
But people have NOT accepted this verdict. Black people, and people of many nationalities, from all corners of the country, from many walks of life, have risen up in protest and expressed their anger in many other forms, from tweets to announcements at concerts.
We must not relent. At stake is whether a declaration that open season on Black youth will continue and deepen; whether any vigilante watchman who decides a youth looks "suspicious" can gun him down with impunity; or whether the Black youth of this society—in their millions—can not just survive but flourish, and be cherished. The real question was not "is it legitimate self-defense or not," but whether racist vigilantes like George Zimmerman will be given a green light to gun down youth like Trayvon Martin.
For almost 100 years, lynching of Black people was routinely carried out in this country to maintain a vicious system of white domination. No justification was needed, any excuse was considered legitimate. Lynching was a bulwark enforcing a deeply entrenched system and culture of open and blatant white supremacy. Lynchers were rarely brought before a court. Even more rarely were they convicted.
Now a Black youth is gunned down by a racist vigilante and is made out to be responsible for his own death. George Zimmerman's brother went on national news on CNN and echoed arguments made by defense lawyers in the courtroom, saying over and over that it was "Trayvon's fault," he shouldn't have been there, he shouldn't have defended himself. He said that what his brother did was completely legitimate.
The murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was a modern-day lynching. The acquittal of Zimmerman expresses a legal legitimization of the oppression of Black people and white "entitlement" every bit as vicious and potentially genocidal as the Jim Crow of the not-so-long-ago past. These are the terms that have been set, this is the crossroads society is at.
The process that led to Trayvon's murder was the system working as it has been set up to work—working so that a Black youth in a hoodie, carrying candy and a soft drink, was profiled, stalked, and gunned down by a racist vigilante who called him a "fucking punk." Working so that no charges were filed against Trayvon's killer until an outcry of protest throughout the country demanded Justice for Trayvon. And now, working in how the court in Seminole County, Florida has declared George Zimmerman "not guilty" in the murder of Trayvon Martin.
So-called "self-defense" laws in Florida and beyond have been passed that basically encourage white racists to shoot Black people under any pretense and call it self-defense.
Of course, the wording of these laws doesn't overtly specify that these laws are specifically intended as a license for racists to kill Black people. But in a society so deeply stamped with white supremacy, that's the subtext. An example: In Jacksonville, Florida in 2010, a 32-year-old Black woman named Marissa Alexander fired warning shots that didn't hit anyone in an attempt to scare off an attack by an assailant against whom she had a court protective order. Unlike Zimmerman, she was arrested and charged with attempted murder. Marissa Alexander tried to invoke Florida's Stand Your Ground and self-defense statutes as her defense—she fired the shots to protect herself and her children—but she was convicted of attempted murder in 15 minutes by a jury and is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence.
When George Zimmerman saw Trayvon Martin, he acted based on the way he and others like him have been programmed by the system to act—he saw a "suspect," a "fucking punk," an "asshole" who "always gets away." George Zimmerman felt he had a license to kill Trayvon Martin, and he did just that.
In his dying moments, Trayvon Martin was treated as a "suspect" and less than human. Police tested his lifeless body for drugs while essentially giving his killer a pat on the back. Police who testified in court backed up Zimmerman's lies and helped him fabricate them when they interviewed him.
And, again reminiscent of the old-style lynching days, when Black people would search the river beds and other places where the bodies of lynching victims were often found, Trayvon Martin's father—whose home was Trayvon's destination that night—had to file a missing person's report to even learn his son was dead. The police and authorities had so little regard for the terrible loss of life that they didn't locate and inform Trayvon's father with whom he was staying until a missing person's report was filed.
Can these abominations be allowed to continue? What does it say about a culture that spawns such hate filled racists as George Zimmerman? What does it say about a legal system that upholds the murder of a 17-year-old doing nothing but walking home? What does it say about political leaders and the system they represent when they say this must be "accepted"?
Let's soberly assess what was upheld in the Sanford courtroom. Opening and closing remarks by Zimmerman's lawyers claimed that Trayvon's "deadly weapon," the sinister tool used in his alleged assault upon Zimmerman, was the sidewalk! One of his lawyers pulled out a slab of cement and dropped it on the floor in front of the jury. He sneered, "That's cement. That is a sidewalk. And that (meaning Trayvon) is not an unarmed teenager with nothing but Skittles trying to get home."
This is not just a ridiculous courtroom stunt. Think of the implications of this almost insanely malevolent claim. Any Black youth walking on a sidewalk could be claimed to be "armed and dangerous" by this standard—and living in a permanent open season—by racist vigilantes like George Zimmerman!
The basic plan of Zimmerman's defense was to put a Black youth on trial for his own murder. Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's lead attorney, turned reality upside down when he made the outrageous, deceitful argument that if anyone had ill will or hatred on the night of February 26, 2012, it was Trayvon Martin. He said the "person responsible (for the encounter in Sanford that night) didn't go home when he had the chance."
This is not simply a case of O'Mara pandering to and helping unleash the most rabidly racist sections of U.S. society, though it is that, and the impact in social media and elsewhere was immediate and no doubt will reverberate and grow even uglier.
But even more, it is an argument by a well-connected attorney, in the most high-profile legal case in years, that an "open season" on Black youth should be upheld by the law. It is an argument for the legitimization of modern-day lynching.
A young Black woman outside the Sanford courthouse expressed what she felt when she heard the verdict. "Anger. Sadness. Shock. Disbelief. One thing I didn't feel was surprise. This is how they've been doing us for a long time. Think about it. How many times have things like this happened to Black people?"
Another woman added, "This is really gonna divide things more than they are. The country is divided, and this trial is gonna divide it more. How can anyone not understand how angry we are? This could have been anyone, it could have been one of our brothers, anyone."
Almost a year and a half ago, Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder. Pleas to "let the system work" and stop the protests began soon after Zimmerman was charged last year, and intensified as the trial drew to a close.
What the whole world saw was precisely how the system works. This is a social system that exploits and oppresses billions of people across the world, and has always had deep, brutal oppression of Black people embedded into its every fiber. The legal system that exists in this country—called "the best in the world" by is defenders—arises from and enforces that system of oppression.
"Justice is blind" is a common defense of this country's legal system. But many people think that the same laws are applied very differently to different people, and to different sections of people—and they are right. Laws like the Florida "self-defense" and "stand your ground" laws that were used by Zimmerman serve as an invitation to the Zimmermans of the world to attack Black people. And they are used very differently against Black people.
There are plenty of racist, hateful judges and lawyers in this country. But the problem goes much deeper than that. And the problem is not just that the law is being applied unevenly. The law is being applied the way it was meant to be applied, the only way it can be applied.
One difference between today and the days of the open, institutionalized and legalized discrimination and repression of the Jim Crow era is that today there is the appearance of equality before the law. Many of the legal barriers that enforced white supremacy have been removed, even in the South. (And yes, Sanford, Florida is the Deep South.)
But the same basic relations of oppression exist, and in many ways the real, actual inequalities imposed on the masses of Black people have deepened in the years since open Jim Crow ended and the New Jim Crow of mass criminalization and incarceration began to take shape.
Massive unemployment stalks the inner cities. The factories and businesses didn't leave because the youth had sagging pants. They left because the opportunity for investment and profit based on profound exploitation was greater elsewhere. And the cities are left to rot; housing crumbling and public housing getting shut down; schools closing, while the remaining open ones are underfunded and overcrowded; prowling police who consider every Black or Latino youth a "suspect."
These are basic realities of life for millions of youth in this society. Now, added to that, a court in the state of Florida, based on laws similar to self-defense laws in every other state, has ruled that these youth can be legally gunned down by racist killers.
The United States promotes its democracy and its legal system as models for the entire world. But at the same time, the U.S. holds millions of people in prisons, tortures tens of thousands of prisoners in solitary every day, has criminalized generations of youth, subjects hundreds of thousands of youth every year to the humiliation of stop-and-frisk in New York alone. Most of the people hit by all this are Black and Latino youth. All this is done legally and properly, and in accord with the U.S. Constitution.
For many people in this country, and throughout the world, some important questions of the legitimacy of the whole legal system have been challenged by the way the case of the State of Florida v George Zimmerman has unfolded.
Step back and look at a larger picture of how this murder came to happen, how it was so "easy" and "natural" for Zimmerman to profile Trayvon; how the social relations and the prevailing culture breed the kind of racist, vigilante attitudes that are used to "justify" actions like Zimmerman's, and how the legal system can justify it.
This country is filled with youth like Trayvon. And there also are many people like Zimmerman, people conditioned and trained by this system to hate and fear the Trayvons of the world.
As Revolution wrote in a previous article, when George Zimmerman stalked and hunted Trayvon Martin, and killed him with a shot to the heart, Zimmerman "felt the strength of this system behind him."
Trayvon was part of a "generation of suspects," and that's exactly how Zimmerman treated him, and exactly why Zimmerman thought he'd get away with murder, even be praised by some people for killing a Black youth, a "suspect," an "asshole." But Trayvon and other youth like Trayvon have every right to live, to walk the streets without fear, and to flourish!
Carl Dix has spoken about the possibility of a "slow genocide" of Black people turning into a "fast genocide" under this system, and in particular in the grip of today's plague of mass criminalization and incarceration of Black and Latino youth. The not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman can actually accelerate that transformation into a fast genocide—and mass opposition and resistance to the verdict can and must be an important component of reversing it.
Zimmerman told his story of killing Trayvon several times, and each time he changed it. But one thing didn't change. The way he started. He always referred to the "break-ins" and burglaries that supposedly had been happening in his neighborhood. His lawyers took this a step further and identified the suspects in these alleged crimes as young Black men. They held up a mug shot of one of the youths arrested for a burglary in that neighborhood.
Their entire point was to portray and defend an image of mostly white, middle class people in their gated enclave besieged by legions of Black criminals. Neither the police nor any of Zimmerman's witnesses thought there was anything wrong in him repeatedly describing Trayvon as a "suspect," even though he had done nothing wrong.
These burglaries, in Zimmerman's eyes, and in the arguments made to a jury of people similar to Zimmerman, was justification for the malicious, hateful language he used to describe a Black youth he had never met. His paranoid portrayal of a peaceful community "under attack" from young Black men became his justification for stalking and shooting Trayvon.
The judge had forbidden any use of the phrase "racial profiling" during the trial. Her ruling protected Zimmerman and his lawyers and cut out the heart of how Zimmerman could be prosecuted for the crime of murdering Trayvon. But Zimmerman's lawyers were allowed to repeatedly describe suspects in burglaries as being Black. The unspoken assumption was that Zimmerman thought these "fucking punks" all "looked alike," and all came to threaten the property and lives of the placid subdivision he lived in.
Evidence presented by the prosecution demonstrated the anger and hatred that had been festering in Zimmerman, and the way it became focused on a total stranger, a Black youth in a hoodie, the night of February 26, 2012. To Zimmerman, Trayvon was a "suspect," someone who didn't belong there, one of "them."
Zimmerman's defense was founded in a blatant reliance on white supremacy and entitlement. And every element of how this case worked its way through the legal system meshed to reinforce white supremacy, and to ensure that the case would be charged and tried on terms that benefited Zimmerman. The cops who tested Trayvon for drugs, but not Zimmerman. The law of "self-defense" that allowed Zimmerman to be released by the police five hours after he murdered a Black youth.
As for the prosecutors, they prosecuted precisely as they know how, within the confines of a legal system that has always enshrined and protected white privilege, and in the past few decades has legitimized the criminalization of generations of Black youth.
Not only was this basic framework never challenged by the prosecution, it was upheld. The prosecution proceeded from the same basic assumptions as Zimmerman's lawyers.
For example, prosecutors gushed about how "honorable" it is to be the neighborhood watch captain, what a "positive thing" it was that Zimmerman wanted to be a cop. Even more disgracefully, they accepted and tried to apologize for Rachel Jeantel for not being as polished and smoothly presentable as the white, middle class witnesses.
In fact, Rachel Jeantel provided the most important and credible testimony of the trial. She was on the phone with Trayvon before Zimmerman began stalking him, and as the confrontation began. She was talking to Trayvon when her phone suddenly went dead after she heard Trayvon telling someone to "get off, get off!" Her testimony about their phone call—both when they were on the phone, what Trayvon said, and what he described happening to him—most closely matches the physical evidence.
For this, she was relentlessly hammered by one of Zimmerman's lawyers, and subjected to vicious, hateful attacks in social media. But Rachel Jeantel provided testimony that was the fullest, that demonstrated that Trayvon was just trying to get home when he was assaulted by the gun toting Zimmerman.
An entire reality of life for Black people has become more evident to many people broadly in society. The killing of Trayvon Martin has become a state-sanctioned lynching—duly tried and approved in a court of law.
This case struck such a deep chord with so many people because it concentrates the experience—the hundreds of years old experience—of Black people in this society. Trayvon's murder and the acquittal of his murderer flow from and reinforce an entire set of social relations that are founded in brutal oppression of Black people. The oppression of Black people is served by a feverish outlook of white entitlement" and privilege. This oppression and this outlook have changed in form over the years, but have long been a part of what coheres U.S. society and its dominant culture. It is an outlook built on assumptions and interests founded in great injustice.
We are at a moment in history when white people must step up and reject this mentality, emphatically and decisively, and it is a very positive development that many white people, and people of many nationalities, joined in protests across the country against the outrageous verdict.
The jury, as Obama said, has given its verdict. But the ultimate societal verdict has not been settled. Things many people in this country thought had been "settled" and that society had "moved beyond" have been revealed in a tumultuous, emotional moment to be all around us. This society is not what many people had thought it is, or would have liked to think it is.
Many, many people have been jolted into activity, and have come face to face with the ugly nature of this society—this system. Some things have changed over the years in the forms of oppression within this system. But one thing that hasn't changed is that the system of capitalism imperialism exists on the backs of the suffering of millions, and that brutal, ongoing, daily oppression of Black people is an integral part of that system's functioning.
At moments like this great advances can and must be made in building the kind of force and movement that can actually not just confront but get to the root of the problem. And getting to the root of the problem means Revolution—Nothing Less.
The Revolutionary Communist Party has a strategy for revolution in this country, contributing to and accelerating revolution all over the world. As the RCP says in "On the Strategy for Revolution":
"Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution is a key part of our strategic approach, which provides a way for the Party to unite with and give leadership to people to change themselves as they take part in the struggle to change the world...to lift their heads and broaden their vision, to recognize what kind of world is possible, what their real interests are, and who their real friends and real enemies are, as they rise up against this system...to take up a revolutionary viewpoint and revolutionary values and morals as they join with others to resist this system's crimes and build up the basis for the ultimate all-out revolutionary struggle to sweep this system away and bring in a whole new way of organizing society, a whole new way of being...to become emancipators of humanity."
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
After the Trayvon Martin Verdict:
July 16, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Download PDF Flier
The Not Guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case slammed home the legacy of centuries of slavery and said it's OK to lynch Black youth in America. The target on the backs of Black youth has been given legal justification again.
Millions are filled with rage over this verdict. That rage drove many of us into the streets in cities across the country. Black parents in tears, hugging their children and agonizing over their futures in a society that saw them as permanent suspects—guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. People of all nationalities standing together, declaring they don't want to live in a world like this. This response opens up the possibility for a new fighting spirit.
Whether all this will get shoved back into the stifling normalcy of America where millions hang their heads and suffer these horrors in silence and millions more look away and ignore the howling injustices being perpetrated depends on what we do now. It is a matter of life and death!
The response that's begun—the thousands in New York City who shut down Times Square, the people who stopped a major freeway in LA, and the people in dozens of cities across the country—has to be built on. Many more people who hated this verdict need to be called on to express their rage at it in many different ways.
NOW IS THE TIME! Enough with this system and its savage oppression of Black people. NO MORE of its open season on Black and Latino youth.
And it is a system we're dealing with here—not just an outrageous verdict or racist laws. This capitalist system which arose on the foundation of slavery and genocide is today a worldwide system that enforces lives of poverty and misery on countless millions.
We need to get rid of this system. We need a society and a world where our Black and Latino youth can live and thrive, where women don't face violence and enforced motherhood, where instead of making wars on the oppressed of the world, the new society is backing their revolutionary struggles, where the environment isn't being ravaged but being protected for current and future generations. This kind of world could be brought into being through revolution.
We in the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) are ready to lead in building a movement for this revolution. There is leadership for this revolution in Bob Avakian, the leader of the RCP. There is a strategy for this revolution. Get into the works of BA that envision what the new society would look like and how to bring it into being. Get with the Revolution Club in your area. Go to the revcom.us site to learn deeply why the world is the way it is and how to change it. Get with the movement for revolution the RCP is building. Everyone's contribution matters.
Now is the time to move on doing this. The attention of millions has been riveted on the horrific injustice of this verdict. People are opening their eyes to the reality that these horrors happen again and again. If they see determined fighters standing up and saying NO MORE to all this and spreading the need for and possibility of revolution, it will challenge them to join in fighting the power and to open their eyes to the system behind all these horrors and getting with the movement for revolution to get rid of that system.
To those who see the need to get rid of this system, you need to be everywhere people are calling for justice for Trayvon. In action and word bring to people the understanding that any justice we win will only come through determined resistance, not from relying on the system that has perpetrated all this injustice—while bringing to people the understanding of the source of the problem and the solution.
It should burn in our hearts, that while this fight for justice for Trayvon continues, the police will have murdered many more of our youth, and the system continues to warehouse 2.3 million in prison. The fight for justice for Trayvon is part of the fight against all of this. Thousands of prisoners in California are on hunger strike right now, putting their lives on the line to stop the mass torture of solitary confinement of 80,000 prisoners in the U.S. Their fight, their message needs to spread and inspire the whole movement.
A powerful movement of resistance to stop the horror of mass incarceration can and must, right now, take a huge leap—with hundreds and thousands becoming part of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Without exaggeration, the lives of millions depend on it.
As people stand up and express their outrage, there needs to be a spirit of digging deeply into why I say The Whole Damn System Is Guilty and getting into and getting with the revolutionary way out of the horrors that this system, this country, inflicts on people here and around the world. The slogan “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!” expresses a big part of how the thousands of people whose hearts ache for a radically different world can go to work on the situation right now, speaking to millions today, so that as the struggle unfolds, as the situation here and around the world changes, the thousands who have been organized and trained in a revolutionary way today can become the backbone and pivotal force in winning the millions to revolution when there is a revolutionary situation, to carry the revolution through.
The system has delivered its verdict. We must deliver ours. The movement for Justice for Trayvon must become broader, involving hundreds of thousands of people; it must reach deeper into all sections of society and deeper into understanding of the problem and the solution; and it must become more determined, putting before all: we will not live like this. And, we don't have to. It's time to act.
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
July 17, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A song to sing in the midst of upcoming nationwide protests around the Trayvon Martin Verdict
Roughly to the tune of the chorus “Another Brick in the Wall ”by Pink Floyd
(search YouTube for the tune)
We don’t need no consolation
What we need is revolution!
We don’t need no conversations
What we need is revolution!
We don’t need no contemplation
What we need is revolution!
We don’t need no investigation
What we need is revolution!
(be creative and come up with more ...)
Hey! Leave those kids alone!
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
July 17, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Today is the 4th day of the hunger/work strike and our strength is as strong as ever! There is no end in sight to our efforts here to obtain human rights.
The Revolution newspaper and its coverage of the peaceful protest is what keeps us going knowing we are not forgotten and that the world is watching! So far as of today we have not been weighed nor have we seen a nurse or DR. CDCR and Pelican Bay are not following protocol, instead they make up their own protocol for their own ends. This is now an indefinite strike which will only stop if the five demands are met.
Today the prison began playing a propaganda film on the prison T.V. channel which "warned" of what happens to the body if you don't eat. We laughed, if they were so concerned they would meet our five demands. We have learned from the brave men in Guantánamo Bay that people can last 100+ days on hunger strike so we will continue with our strike!
We are tortured and have been held in inhumane conditions for too long, one way or the other this torture will stop! These control units took enough of our youth, enough of our minds, enough of our lives and it will not continue.
I am firmly moving forward, physically I feel a little lightheaded but the hunger pains are no longer as sharp, I have begun to keep my mind on other things and focus on the goal of ending this torture. I think of the many people who have travelled this path before and who were in a situation like us where the idea of "struggle" takes on a new form, a raw mode of existence which only has two options or two poles which are life or death. No longer are we grappling with abstract concepts, rather our lives are literally hanging in the balance, this is the ultimate struggle where no other options are on the table. This is the complete repression that we are facing from the state and we will not surrender our humanity!
As a prisoner who has experienced close to a decade in solitary confinement not for a crime or infraction but for the state's reliance on an informants false allegations, for thought crimes and ultimately for prison activism, I fully understand this rotten system and its program of national oppression that is unleashed on the mostly Brown or Black peoples.
Although in reality our current prison strikes are essentially working for reforms to change our living conditions and we will obtain some change, our real change will never come about under a Capitalist system. New forms of oppression will continue to rise in different ways and we will only truly obtain a real transformation in prisons when a Socialist society is created, only then will we truly end repression in prisons.
En La Lucha!
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
by Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn, Jr. | July 12, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Across the country, people are waking up to the state of emergency facing the right to abortion. As legislators in Texas push hard to close down 37 of 42 abortion clinics statewide, new laws in North Carolina would close four of their five remaining clinics. Meanwhile, Ohio's recently passed budget could close as many as three abortion clinics. North Dakota, on August 1, may become the first state to effectively ban abortion. Already Mississippi's last abortion clinic is merely an appellate ruling away from closure. We could go on.
If we do not reverse this trajectory now, we will condemn future generations of women and girls to forced motherhood, to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame. Women will be forced to have children they do not want, trapping them in abusive relationships, driving them into poverty, forcing them out of school, and extinguishing their dreams. Women will go to desperate and dangerous measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies, once again flooding emergency rooms and turning up dead women in cheap motels with blood caked between their legs.
We face two divergent roads: Either we seize control of the debate and reset the terms and whole trajectory of this fight; or we continue down the road of "established conventional wisdom," only to awaken before long to an unrecognizable and untenable situation for women. What each of us does matters, and matters tremendously.
It is in this context that we initiated an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Our echo of the Civil Rights Freedom Rides is intentional and fitting. Women who cannot decide for themselves if and when they have children are not free. On the contrary, they are mere child-bearing chattel whose purpose is to serve and not actively choose their destinies.
Volunteers on this Freedom Ride will caravan from both coasts to North Dakota, traverse through the middle of the country into Wichita, and head due south to Jackson, Mississippi. Our aim is threefold: one, we must move beyond localized fights and launch a national counter-offensive; two, we must radically reset the political, moral, and ideological terms of this fight so that millions understand that this fight is about women's liberation or women's enslavement; lastly, and of paramount importance, we must call forth the mass independent political resistance that is necessary to defeat this war on women.
As the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride evolved from conception to genesis, many have responded with enthusiastic and unequivocal support. Regular people from across the country as well as those who have been on the front lines of the abortion rights struggle are joining with us in demanding abortion rights without compromise and thanking us for daring to travel to where women's rights face the harshest threat.
However, some who share our passion for the cause have raised concerns and even opposition to this action. They fear the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will be too confrontational, too vociferous for abortion, and may turn off avenues of support.
Some have argued that it is wrong for people to come into local areas from the outside. Others argue that mass political protest will endanger the chances of winning important court cases and that it is better to rely on official channels of politics.
Because the future of women is at stake, we feel it is critical to address these concerns head on. In fact, it is exactly the faulty logic at the root of these concerns that has contributed to all of us finding ourselves in such a dire situation.
First, while local ground conditions are different and unique in some ways, the fact that every clinic and every state is facing heightened assault is not unique nor is it local. We all face a national assault on abortion rights which requires a national counter-offensive. Not only is it utterly immoral for us to abandon the women living in the states most under direct duress, it is delusional to think that what happens in states like Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Kansas will not come soon to a theater near you. Our futures are bound together and we all share the responsibility to take this on and turn the tide where the attacks are the most severe.
Second, while it is true that a great many people—including many who support abortion rights—are defensive about abortion, they should not be ashamed and this defensiveness and shame is precisely something we must eradicate.
Among the reasons many are defensive about abortion are decades of propaganda by those who oppose women's equality but posture as defenders of "babies"; meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights have too often been conciliatory, muted, and compromising. This must stop. This fight has never been about babies. It has always been about controlling women. This is why there is not a single major anti-abortion organization that supports birth control.
If we want to turn the tide, we have to tell the truth: there is absolutely nothing wrong with abortion. Fetuses are NOT babies. Abortion is NOT murder. Women are NOT incubators.
A great many people are hungry for this message. They are furious and searching for a meaningful vehicle to make their outrage felt. It is only by asserting the positive morality of abortion rights that we can call forth and mobilize the tens of thousands who already share our resolve. Only through direct action and a polemical shift can all of us stand together and change how millions of others are thinking. Shouldn't this emergency situation awaken us to the need to change public opinion, not accommodate it?
History has proven that directly confronting oppressive social norms can be disruptive and scary; yet it is a necessary and uplifting part of making any significant positive change. Many argued that it was wiser for LGBT people to stay closeted until society was more accepting; others counseled against the Civil Rights Freedom Rides out of fear that it would only rile up the opposition, but it was only when people took that risk and got "in your face" that broader public opinion and actions began to change.
We must create a situation where being anti-abortion is seen to be as socially unacceptable as it is to advocate lynchings, anti-LGBT violence, or rape (although, if you listen to some on the Right, rape advocacy is not necessarily off their table). When we reach that summit, we will be on our way to turning the tide.
Third, while court cases are important—even essential—it is only through truly massive independent political struggle that we stand a chance at defeating the truly unyielding and powerful foe we face. Every setback the anti-abortion movement experiences only makes them more determined and every victory only makes them more aggressive. They will not be appeased if we lie low. No court case or election or new law will stop them. Not only has the existing power structure proven unwilling or unable to do so, people who believe they are on a "mission from God" are not bound by human laws and do not yield to public opinion.
But they can be defeated. Forced motherhood is deeply opposed to the interests of humanity. If we get out there and tell the truth, if we resist, if we clarify the stakes of this battle, and if we mobilize wave upon wave of the masses to get off the sidelines and into the streets with us, we can win. There is a tremendous reservoir of people who can and must be called forth to join in this struggle. We have seen this vividly in Texas. Let us not underestimate the potential that exists in every state across this country.
We stand at a crossroads. For the future of women everywhere, let us refuse the worn pathways that have allowed us to lose so much ground. We must not lay low, hope these attacks will blow over, and allow women in some parts of the country to be forced into mandatory motherhood while hoping to preserve the rights of a shrinking few. We cannot continue to foster the attitude that abortion is the 21st century's Scarlet Letter while allowing abortion providers to be further stigmatized and demonized. We cannot recoil from the massive fight that urgently needs fighting at this moment in this time.
Now is the time for courage, for truth-telling, for stepping out and launching an uncompromising counter-offensive. We have right on our side. We call on everyone who cares about the future of women to join with us in strengthening the national impact and influence of this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Join with us at our kick-off rallies in New York City and San Francisco on July 23. Caravan to meet us in North Dakota, Wichita, Kansas, and Jackson, Mississippi. Send a donation or a message of support. Reach out to individuals and religious communities that can provide safe passage to the courageous individuals who are giving up their summers and putting everything they have into winning a different and far better future for women. Most importantly, let us together take the rough road to victory. It may be less traveled, but only through struggle can we reap the benefits of love's labor won.
To learn more about and get involved with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, go to: http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/
Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution newspaper (revcom.us) and is an initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org)
David Gunn, Jr. is the son of David Gunn, Sr., the first abortion doctor to be assassinated by an anti-abortion gunman, and blogs for Abortion.ws
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
An Update from Pelican Bay Prisoners:
July 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is a statement issued by representatives of prisoners on hunger strike at California's Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) Security Housing Unit (SHU), July 16:
Greetings, solidarity, love, and respect to all our loved ones and supporters.
We want to provide a brief update on our collective struggle to end the torture of long-term solitary confinement. As expected the CDCR has responded to the resumption of our peaceful protest by retaliating against 14 of us here at Pelican Bay, subjecting us to similar escalation as in 2011.
Specifically, on July 11, 2013, we were placed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), where we are subjected to more torturous conditions than in the SHU. Despite this diabolical act on the part of the CDCR intended to break our resolve and hasten our deaths, we remain strong and united! We are 100% committed to our cause and will end our peaceful action when CDCR signs a legally binding agreement to our demands.
Please join us in our struggle to stop CDCR from trying to destroy our lives, and the lives of our families.
We can only win our demands with your support!
PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives
- Todd Ashker, C-58191, PBSP-SHU, D4-121
- Arturo Castellanos, C-17275, PBSP-SHU, D1-121
- Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa (Dewberry), C-35671, PBSP-SHU,D1-117
- Antonio Guillen, P-81948, PBSP-SHU, D2-106
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
July 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We greatly appreciate receiving these letters from prisoners and encourage prisoners to keep sending us correspondence. The views expressed by the writers of these letters are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
From a prisoner at Corcoran CA, 7/9/2013
Just a few quick words 2 convey my regards & 2 let-u-guys know we are, as always, still 2gather.
We just started tha hunger strike, was surprised so many people was on board. Asians, Blacks, whites, Hispanic. It's a beautiful thing.
We'll see where it goes. But it is a beautiful ride str8 up.
Im tierd of being treated like an animal. Tierd of flies all over my food. Tierd of having 2 wait 'til 9:00 at night 2 get mail that has already been at tha prison 4 over 2 weeks. Tierd of them makin' a mockery of tha appeals process. Tierd of seein' them cover each other dirt and deny us our humanity.
What does n-e of us have 2 lose.
PTSD is an understatement 4 me. I can't see past tha beatings, tha bogus SHU terms, tha fact that my release date was 12 years ago until some too tough 4 TV pig thought he'd give me a little rough justice then cry foul when it didn't work out his way.
Im always on edge...NE ways im just sayin'...we have to expose all aspects of this putrid system!
I still disagree wit' your position on Zimmerman. Its not justice 2 see him behind bars...Its not proletariat jail. Fuck their jails period. But I hate 2 see the trial. It's a joke. That man stalked, tracked and executed that young brother simply because he was Black. Fuck what happened after he got his racist ass out of his SUV. Its not a debate!
Its good people brought it 2 tha front stage and refused 2 let Trayvon be anotha freeby 4 this crooked ass system.
I would be surprised if he gets real time as-u-you guys hope.
But I hope it becomes an indictment of this system because he did not deviate 4rm tha outlook of tha police mentality regardless if he acted as a vigilante or not. Its what they think of young Black life. Its how its been and until we sweep this trash ass system N-2 tha dust bin of history its how its gonna be...
Hope your successful wit' getting BA out far & wide! Im wit'-u-on that. Str8 up.
N-E ways take care & remain vigilant. We haven't seen half of what they have comin thru tha pipe line.
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
July 18, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A letter from one the prisoners on hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison to the Prisoners Hunger Strike Solidarity Committee:
July 8, 2013
Today me and thousands of other prisoners in California and beyond have begun our peaceful protest against the inhumane conditions that we have been living under for so many years. This hunger/work strike is an act of desperation that we have chosen where our health is put on the line—even those prisoners with known medical conditions have decided there simply is no other choice for us to stop the injustice that has been the norm in so many U.S. prisons for so very long.
Here in Pelican Bay SHU human beings have been held in living conditions that are sadly unfit for a dog. We are held in solitary confinement, in windowless cells with no human contact for years and decades and for many the rest of their lives will be in this state of perpetual psychological waterboarding. We are being tortured en masse and yet there is no mention of this Amerikan torture, we are given as much notice as some weeds on the side of a highway. But we are living breathing people with families, friends, ideas and aspirations. Some have done bad things and yet many have committed no crimes to be placed in this supermax, our "crime" is having ideas that do not conform to the state. Many are placed in the state's Security Housing Unit (SHU) for having revolutionary ideas or attempting to learn the history of the colonized people in Amerikkka. For this "crime" we are labeled as "gang members" and locked forever in SHU.
What the people of the world must know is that the false label of "gang member" is used to whitewash the reality of the U.S. holding political prisoners in its prisons. It is precisely the reality of us being locked in these isolation torture chambers for thought crimes that defines us as political prisoners. The purpose of us being tortured is to compel us to snitch and compromise others, make up accusations or simply end our resistance against this beast and yet we continue to defy the lash and stand on the same path as others took to resist the oppressor before us. Those prisoners who were captured under an occupied state and who continued to struggle for a better life for future generations and who suffered dearly for this and even gave the ultimate sacrifice, we follow this tradition of refusing to be tortured no matter how strong our captors may be today or what force controls them to do the unthinkable to us. We use the only weapon we have in our separate isolation chambers and that weapon is our will to go on as human beings even if this means our breaths are shortened, if being human means to enact that inherent survival mode that exists in every person on Earth, even if this survival mode leads to our demise then we shall live our last days, minutes and seconds of our lives as humans until our last breath.
A hunger strike is not taken lightly by us, we are not suicidal, rather we hope to save lives. We may not be able to save our lives. But we have come to identify our existence in SHU as a conveyor belt leading into an oven of inferno. And we may indeed by strapped onto this conveyor belt with no way out as we have continued for years to watch our comrades fall into the abyss of the oven in psychosis, suicide or other chronic illness. And we may not be able to stop our ride from dropping us into the abyss but we will stop this conveyor belt for future generations to come. Today this ride stops!
History will decide what side of the battle we fell on, but no longer will we stay silent to this torture. Chicanos today are held in SHU at higher rates than any other peoples in California SHUs, i.e. Chicanos are being tortured moreso than any other prisoners in California. Just as Arab men are being tortured in Guantanamo Bay at higher rates than any other peoples. This phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by Chicano prisoners here in Pelican Bay, it is a part of many conversations going on here and many have drawn strength and inspiration from the hunger strike currently in Guantanamo Bay. We hope to shine the light on U.S. torture a little brighter for the world to see that U.S. "democracy" is really U.S. lynchocracy and we as colonized people, as U.S. prisoners and thus as survivors of capitalism stand with other torture survivors in our common march toward liberation, no matter what form this liberation takes.
What the SHU has done for prisoners is it has made it possible for us to understand where our oppression comes from. This horrific repression has created a reason for us to dig deep and search for the reason why we are held in such unnatural living conditions. Our discovery has led to the realization that our oppression like throughout the U.S. empire and worldwide has a class character, that is as prisoners we exist as a class, a prison class. This realization took years for it to finally be grasped by all prisoners being tortured here. This realization crept cell to cell, torture chamber to torture chamber until after much debate and discussion prisoners finally understand that our oppression unites us and only via a united front will we make progress. Only when we act as a class in a class struggle will we make advances as a class.
It is essential that the public understands that at the heart of our nonviolent peaceful protest lies not some cries for a piece of the pie, we are not wanting in with some corporate parasite or other nonsense, rather at the core of our demands are to stop the torture! At the heart of our efforts is the demand to be treated as human. We are demanding our human rights and not just picketing for this to come to fruition, we are putting our very lives on the line for our demands. It is expected that there will be more strike-related deaths just as there was in 2011. It is also possible that any one of us will not see the fruits of our peaceful protest but we all are going into this fully understanding what this all entails and are at peace knowing that our fellow prisoners will see and experience the changes we know are coming.
Our resistance will never stop, this is a matter of us stopping the torture or dying. If we must continue to resist torture again and many more fall to strike-related deaths then this is the price but our resistance will never stop!
Pains of hunger have now become my companion but this hunger and the pains i feel are nothing compared to my pains and hunger for freedom and justice. And no matter what the future brings from this struggle it's known that we will never be the same because of these strikes, nor will California prisons ever be the same because of these strikes. These strikes because of their very nature have helped to raise the consciousness of thousands of prisoners who yesterday saw the prisoner next to them as the problem but today see the state as the problem and rightly so.
The development coming out of these SHU strikes is enabling a qualitative leap to arise within the prisoners' rights movement and prisoners are growing politically because of it.
Today we throw ourselves to the barricades because we are the ones who suffer the most and have nothing to lose but our torture, we are currently the ones targeted like our counterparts in Guantanamo and others throughout the Third World but the future is on our side and one day we, the most oppressed, will lead in making our liberation a reality just as we are leading in ending our current torture. Our struggles today are practice runs, drills for future struggles for justice. We may be held in these concentration kamps like hulls of old slave ships, but even in these hulls shackled by the foot without food or water, without sunlight or freedom even here we serve the people and resist the oppressor!
Dare to Struggle and Dare to Win!
Free the people! Free the Land!
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
On the Murder of Trayvon Martin and the Outrageous Acquittal of His Killer:
Updated July 20, 2013 8 am | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The whole country was rocked—and is rocking—over the outrageous acquittal of George Zimmerman. This must be a watershed moment. This must become the day that people look back on and say, “that’s when people began to see that you couldn’t reform this shit, and a whole different way—a revolution—was needed.” But that will take STRUGGLE—struggle in the streets that must not be allowed to die down...and struggle against ways of thinking that will take us right back into the arms of the forces that have been carrying out crime after crime after crime... for hundreds of years.
Right now download and print the materials from revcom.us and take them out. Go to the demonstrations that may be called in your city, whoever calls them, and bring this message. Go to where people gather and bring this message. If you can get a few people together to do this with you, all the better. And if a few people turn into 20 gathered round listening and speaking their own bitterness, take that 20 and march to where there are other people, bring this message, and keep this thing going.
Get copies of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, copies of Revolution #144, "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need," the new 3 Strikes poster, palm cards with BAsics quote 1:13. Grab bundles of the current issue of Revolution. This newspaper can be—and needs to be—all over the place. Popularize revcom.us. Agitate, speak out. Go to showings of Fruitvale Station, to laundromats, everywhere people gather. It is not time to go back to normal.
In thousands of ways, and from many different angles, people on the bottom and people of all strata and nationalities are being told to accept this verdict—or to rely on the very system of justice that rendered George Zimmerman not guilty to make fundamental changes. People are being told that the only solution to a basic and foundational problem in this society is to once again turn for redress and justice to the very system that has produced and validated such atrocities. NO! What needs to happen now is for the struggle to continue and advance. Society needs to roil with debate and anger. The new cracks in the cement that glues this society together need to be widened and deepened. The determined fury of people needs to bust through again and again. Thousands are rightly questioning what America is really all about. By standing up and challenging all the ways people have been taught to think about this, people can and must become ever more consciously part of the movement for revolution that is being built right now in this society.
But first, let’s tell the truth about what this system has meant for Black people in this country...from its beginnings down to today. Let’s actually look squarely at what was revealed in the trial of George Zimmerman.
Put it this way—58 years ago a Black teenager named Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi by some white men who decided he had “acted wrong,” and those white men were acquitted. Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till, said “NO MORE” and the uproar that she stoked was one big beginning factor that led millions of people to stand up and over the next two decades rock this country to its foundation. People needed revolution, and many fought for revolution, and many of those heroically laid down their lives—but we got reforms. Now, after all those reforms... after all the promises... after all the excuses... after all the Black faces in high places including even a Black president... a Black teenager named Trayvon Martin is murdered by a white man who decided he was “acting wrong,” and he too is acquitted.
It’s important that we keep fully getting into what actually happened here. It’s important that we learn everything we can about what kind of society this really is and how it operates. It’s important that we not “move on,” and talk about “reforms” and “conversations” and blah blah before we actually deeply get into this and learn what we need to learn.
George Zimmerman decided that Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager walking home at 7:15 at night, looked “suspicious.” He called 911 and without ever meeting or talking to Trayvon Martin, cursed him out as “a punk” and a “fucking asshole.” He said “they always get away”—and everybody knows, unless they consciously don’t want to know, that George Zimmerman was using “they” to mean “Black people.” He got out of his car to stalk Trayvon Martin, despite orders from 911 not to. And then, a few minutes later, George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin with a bullet to the heart.
Stop right there. What does this tell you? It tells you that George Zimmerman had been taught by America to think that every Black person is guilty until proven innocent, a threat, a “problem”... and that every white person has the right to question, judge and hunt down any Black person who rubs him the wrong way. Ask yourself: how did George Zimmerman learn this? Ask yourself: how many times a day do these same vicious assumptions poison social interactions in schools, stores, the streets, workplaces, and—most deadly of all—with the police or wannabe pigs like Zimmerman? Ask yourself: does this have anything to do with how America was built and how it achieved and maintained its vaunted wealth, and the traditions it passed on to justify all that and to reinforce the new forms in which it goes on?
Then there’s the police. When the police arrived they tested the victim for drugs and let the killer—George Zimmerman—go home, that very night. Ask yourself: is this somehow unusual for the police to do? No, this is so accepted—and so integral to this system—that this didn’t even get brought up at the trial! This is how the police are trained, in every city of the country—in any conflict between a Black person and someone who is white, the white person is assumed to be in the right, even if the white person had murdered someone in their own neighborhood with only the flimsiest of stories to justify it. All a white person has to do is to say that the Black person “looked suspicious” and the pigs are right there with him.
What if the roles had been reversed? What if somehow Trayvon Martin fearing for his life had wrestled Zimmerman's gun away and in defending himself had shot Zimmerman? What do you think would have happened? If Trayvon Martin had not been immediately gunned down by the police, which is by far the most likely thing, he would have been sent to prison for a long long time. And in prison he would have joined hundreds of thousands of other Black and Latino youth who have been shipped off to America’s prison system—the biggest, and most discriminatory, in the whole world by far. Ask yourself: if this is the greatest country in the world... if America used to “discriminate” (a word which itself cleans up and covers over a history of kidnapping, rape, enslavement, lynching, humiliation and violence at every turn) but now is supposedly “post-racial” or at least “improving”—how do you account for the explosive growth of America’s prison system (ten times as many prisoners today as 50 years ago), with over half of those prisoners either Black or Latino in a country that is majority white?
It took a massive national movement to even force a trial of Zimmerman. Then what happened? First the media began to work to plant doubts and uncertainty—maybe Trayvon Martin had been doing something wrong, maybe he was a “bad kid,” and on and on and on. How many times did anyone in the mass media bring out the basic points made above about the history and present-day reality of this country? Ask yourself: WHY does the media work so hard to shape people’s thinking and WHY is it always in the direction of justifying what this system does or is planning to do?
Then it came to trial. First the judge made a number of outrageous rulings. First, Zimmerman’s lawyers invoked the Batson rule—which was originally designed to prevent prosecutors from engaging in a strategy dismissing almost all Black jurors without cause and was a rule that people had to fight tooth and nail for. The judge ruled in the defense’s favor—and ruled against the prosecution’s dismissing WHITE people who they felt were prejudiced in favor of Zimmerman. So a rule designed to prevent all-white juries was used to justify... an almost all-white jury! Then the judge said that the prosecution could use the word “profiling” but not RACIAL profiling. In other words you could say Zimmerman was profiling—but you could NOT say that it was because of race. These rulings meant two things: that the jury would be mainly white; and that they would not be challenged in their assumptions and thinking about race. This meant that even if some of the jurors said, “hey, this is clearly a case of murder”—which apparently some did—the other jurors would be sitting there with all the power of hundreds of years of white supremacist, racist thinking that every white person is taught, and they would use that and hammer down those who somehow saw the truth of the matter. This rigged things right from the beginning. What does that tell you about “equal justice before the law”? What does that tell you about how not just George Zimmerman, but the vast majority of whites are trained to view Black people? Here is an example of how “color-blindness” in a society riven by the pervasive, all-round oppression of people due to their skin color works to perpetuate that oppression.
Those decisions alone were probably enough to determine the verdict. But they still weren’t done. Rachel Jeantel—a young Black woman whom Trayvon had reached out to befriend—came on the stand to talk about the trauma of being on the phone as her friend Trayvon told her how he was being followed... and how his voice was suddenly cut off after hearing him shout “Get off, get off.” Rachel Jeantel was then hounded by Zimmerman’s attorney and, almost worse, was made into a target of media scorn and venom. The chorus—which again used all the “polite” but utterly racist code words—was as deafening as it was dehumanizing and disgusting. The level of personal attack focused on how she dressed, how she spoke, and all the rest... the snide sneering of the racist was broadcast from every television in the country. Zimmerman’s lawyers and the media snake-mouths tried to destroy her and when she maintained her certitude and her dignity and then showed defiance of this baiting—and to her great credit, she did—they went after her even more viciously. Make no mistake—this was done both to hammer the jury into the “right verdict” and to prepare public opinion for it AND TO REINFORCE ALL THE RACIST SHIT IN WHITE PEOPLE’S THINKING AND ALL THE DEFENSIVE OBSESSION WITH RESPECTABILITY IN SOME BLACK PEOPLE’S THINKING... while setting up this teenager to take the blame.
But then came the pigs! See how smoothly they backed up George Zimmerman. See how they skimmed over the blatant inconsistencies from one version of his story to another. See how the prosecutors refused to ask them about their egregious bias and intentional “incompetence” and then pandered to the white entitlement ways of thinking and being in this society in the whole way they presented their case and argued it to the jury. See how the jury—conditioned by ten million hours of TV and a lifetime of breathing the air, such as it is, of America—lapped it up. WHY do you think that is? WHAT does that tell you about how America works?
Yet still it wasn’t enough. A parade of witnesses came on to testify about how wonderful George Zimmerman was. And then, as a final blow, the defense was allowed to put on a witness who said that two young Black men had burglarized her house. What the FUCK did that have to do with the death of Trayvon Martin? How in the HELL was that in any way relevant? It wasn’t! All it was meant to do—in this trial in which we are being told “race was not an issue”—was to evoke the irrational, racial conditioning in the jury, instilled by decades of living in America.
In this light, here we have to quote an article we ran right after the verdict, talking about how the defense claimed that Trayvon Martin was armed with a deadly weapon—a chunk of sidewalk, which they waved around in front of the jury. In fact, Trayvon Martin didn’t have a chunk of anything. This demagogue was referring to the fact that Zimmerman claimed Trayvon hit Zimmerman’s head on the sidewalk. As our article pointed out, this means that any Black youth walking on a sidewalk can now be considered armed and dangerous.
So, no, Zimmerman was not acquitted because the case was hard to prove, as some educated idiots who very well know better proclaim from their perches on television. And no he was not mainly acquitted due to the prosecution’s “mistakes” (though their mistakes were plentiful and serious). And no he was not acquitted because the “system didn’t work this time.” He was acquitted because THE SYSTEM DID WORK—to draw on, to use, to reinforce and to in fact deepen the racism of this society.
The Revolutionary Communist Party has in many other places gone into WHY the system works like this (search revcom.us). How the mother’s milk of America was the blood of Native American Indians, driven from their land and made the victims of genocide, and the blood of Africans kidnapped from their lands and enslaved for generations. Why and how this was driven by the needs of capitalism and then capitalism-imperialism, with its profit-over-all mentality and its expand-or-die “logic of the game.” How the so-called founding fathers were slave owners and defenders of slave owners, and how they brought forward a perverted social order in which white people were endowed with a privileged status in relation to Black people and Native American Indians, and then Mexicans, and how this perverted sense of privilege was backed up by law and violence and permeated every social interaction in the whole society.
We have shown how these ideas and institutions flowed first from the economic relations that hinged on the enslavement and bitter exploitation of generations of Africans and their descendants...
then from share-cropping, with its lynch-mob rule and dehumanizing and violently humiliating codes of “Jim Crow”...
then “the great migration” to the cities and industrial jobs, always last hired and first fired, in the worst and dirtiest jobs when there were jobs...
and today the desolation of “post-industrial” America where millions of Black and Latino youth have no future other than, as Bob Avakian has said, “a boot up the ass or a bullet in the brain.” We have gone deeply into how these were woven into the fabric of the entire system—and then adjusted and re-woven with each succeeding generation, no matter how hard people fought against it.
The only answer is Revolution...Nothing Less! And bringing a whole different world into being. And we have also gone deeply, in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, how all this could be DISMANTLED, UPROOTED AND FINALLY ELIMINATED through revolution, and how a whole new society could be built. (See also Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy and other works by Bob Avakian; special Revolution issue "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need"; and other material on revcom.us.) These are all things to get into, deeply into, now—AS we are fighting the power. In particular, if you at all hunger to understand more deeply what the problem is and what the solution is, you need to get Bob Avakian’s speech BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and watch it all the way through, and you need to start reading BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.
It’s like this: people have been brutalized and enslaved by this system since its founding, and if you ever begin to think that “maybe this time it’s different” the people who sit atop this system and enforce it will be forced both by the workings of their system (its rules, its laws, its logic) and their very nature to show you that the melody may be different, but the bloody fucking song is the same. Poison is poison, no matter how pretty the label. It is time now to face facts, and to set about seriously getting rid of this horror, this hell, that destroys people all over the planet (and the planet itself), day in day out, by the hour and by the minute.
Millions of people described their reaction to the verdict like this: “I’m not surprised... but I’m shocked.” “Shocked” in the sense that Carl Dix described it—like you’d been punched in the gut. “Shocked” in the sense of outraged. “Shocked” in the sense of “can’t take this no more, goddamnit!”
But this time was different. Different than any time since the Los Angeles rebellion of 1992 forced the retrial of the police who had been acquitted of brutally beating Rodney King—despite having the beating recorded on video tape and broadcast the world over! This time the shock began to go somewhere other than right back inside you, festering and tearing at you. After the Zimmerman acquittal, the outrage poured out in the social media, from celebrities and athletes and writers and artists, and—in the streets—from those most victimized by this system and those moved to stand with them.,. and against the system. Righteous acts of defiance rippled from LA to New York and in between. Among millions questions were raised—what kind of a society IS this, anyway? Why does this happen? What can we do about it? And how do I, how do WE, act... NOW?
Other places on this website and in this paper detail the intensity and scope of this resistance, and some of the character of this questioning, this much much needed interrogation and re-thinking of how hundreds of millions and yes, billions, live every day. In terms of what to do now, the answer is to find the ways to intensify and spread this resistance, and to broaden and deepen the questioning and criticism—while bringing the message of revolution, and drawing people into this revolution on many different levels and in many different ways. Where resistance and defiance have manifested strongly, join with those people and fight against the attempts to suppress it, while spreading the message of revolution. Where people have just started to stir, find the ways to build on that. Don’t let it die down. And where people are in turmoil over this, but have not yet acted, reach out to them. Reach out, right now, with this paper, promote revcom.us, and reach out with flyers, posters, stickers and with spoken agitation—right on the street, on buses, at basketball tournaments and movie lines and farmers’ markets... in public spaces of all kinds.
But here it's important to carefully note and understand that a number of forces also got out—and were given platforms—to redirect and misdirect this needed struggle and needed questioning. As for Obama’s disgusting statement right after the verdict, which would be pitiful if it weren’t so poisonous... well, just see our reply. ("Obama Sanctifies Cold-Blooded Murder")
But there are others as well, out and about. Some work for the powers-that-be and make no bones about it—they brag about their connections to Obama and the other gangsters on top. Others come at it from the viewpoint of people who want things to change but can’t see beyond the current system and its dog-eat-dog relations and the values that gives rise to, and can only imagine either slightly changing the system around the edges or changing the faces of those on top without getting at the roots of the problem.
There are those who say we need a “conversation.” What they really mean is “get out of the streets and pretend as if it’s all a matter of ‘listening better ’”—instead of getting to the truth of the matter. As one person said on Twitter, “we don’t need a conversation—America already spoke.” YES—and in the same basic bloody language it’s used for 400 years. No, we don’t need polite and muted conversation... we need REVOLUTION.
There are those who say we must demand an investigation from the Department of Justice. The same Department of Justice that presides over 2.24 million people in prison, that tortures 80,000 of them in solitary confinement, and that runs a school-to-prison pipeline from the ghettos, barrios and reservations straight to the penitentiaries. The same Department of Injustice that invents legal justifications for drone attacks on innocent people in the Middle East and for utterly unconstitutional spying on people, all over the world and in this country as well?!? Investigation?!? Are you fucking kidding? For what—so we can have more months and years of delay and distraction until things die down? HELL NO!! We don’t need investigation... we need REVOLUTION.
There are those who say we need prayer vigils. To pray for WHAT? And more than that, to pray to WHOM? The sooner we put aside fairy tales about how some non-existent god is going to take care of this... any day now... or how the victims of this system have gone to a heaven that doesn’t exist... the sooner we confront the reality that when this system kills people there is no afterworld that somehow redeems them... the sooner, in other words, that we actually confront the real problem—then the sooner we will get to the real solution. Anyway, who decided that African slaves and the descendants of African slaves have to kneel down to Jesus? We don’t need consolation... we need REVOLUTION!
Right now people from all walks of life—from those who face brutality and systematic abuse in their lives on a day-to-day basis, to those who are now recognizing the basic and fundamental injustice perpetrated in this society and questioning if this is the kind of world they want to uphold and live in—all need to be led to keep going up against all the ways that their righteous anger and outrage is being quieted down and derailed. For the revolutionaries this not only means being there in the midst of these struggles, but transforming how people are thinking. It means making real and concrete: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
Download and print the materials from revcom.us and take them out. Go to the demonstrations that may be called in your city, whoever calls them, and bring this message. Go to where people gather and bring this message. If you can get a few people together to do this with you, all the better. And if a few people turn into 20 gathered round listening and speaking their own bitterness, take that 20 and march to where there are other people, bring this message, and keep this thing going.
This must NOT die down. They must NOT get away with this. We must make this into the first day of the beginning of the end of... this system.
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
July 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Download and print the "Three Strikes..." poster, the article "On the Murder of Trayvon Martin and the Outrageous Acquittal of His Killer: THEY MUST NOT—THEY WILL NOT—GET AWAY WITH THIS!!!" and other material in the Revolution EXTRA issue now at revcom.us and take them out to wherever people are protesting and gathering around the Zimmerman verdict. This coming weekend, there are vigils and demonstrations being called by the National Action Network and Million Hoodies Movement in 100 cities on Saturday. Go to actions happening in your city or a nearby city, on July 20 and beyond, and bring out to people the crucial messages from revcom.us.
Info on the Saturday, July 20 protests:
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
Obama on Trayvon Martin:
July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On July 19, Barack Obama delivered a second public response to the murder of Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman verdict. He said, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." He acknowledged "a lot of pain around what happened here." And he spoke—in a very limited way—to some of the indignity, outrage, injustice, and pain experienced by African-Americans. As such, his speech was seen by many who have been outraged by what has been exposed in the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer as a remarkable and unique event in U.S. history.
But when you break down what Obama said, and where he went with all this, the acknowledgement of some manifestations of white supremacy was in the service of upholding, seeking to shore up, and strengthen the system that historically, and today, enforces the oppression of Black people with a vengeance.
Originally, after the verdict, Obama issued a statement calling for "calm reflection." But the trial of George Zimmerman reeked with such a stench of racism—from jury selection to closing arguments to what was getting said on TV and posted in social networks—that it aroused broad and deep outrage and protest. And beyond that, profound questioning of the nature of this society.
As President of the United States, Barack Obama is the overseer of an empire that enslaves billions in child labor in India, deathtrap sweatshops in Bangladesh, and capitalist plantations in Latin America. That installs death-squad regimes and tortures people at Guantánamo. That is destroying the environment, that locks up more people in its prisons than any other nation on earth, and has produced a culture where no woman anywhere in the world can walk down a street without fear of vicious assault.
Obama would have preferred that his first response to the verdict, preaching "calm reflection," would have chilled people out. But as it has turned out, the cut is too deep, the anger too intense, and the credibility of this system stretched too thin for that. Society is sharply divided, with those outraged by the injustice of the "not guilty" verdict refusing to accept this profoundly unjust verdict.
In his speech, after listing a few examples of racism, Obama said, "I don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida."
A reader wrote to Revolution off of that:
"NO, Mr. Obama—this is not a fucking narrative or lens through which millions of people are interpreting the situation—this is the legal lynching of a young Black man—The Not Guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case slammed home the legacy of centuries of slavery and said it's OK to lynch Black youth in America. This is the reality that millions of people have been living under for hundreds of years, and it is the reality that millions more are opening their eyes to today because of what this verdict concentrated."
This is an important point in terms of how people understand and act on reality: there IS reality. While the experience of different nationalities within the U.S. is in fact starkly different, it flows out of one underlying reality, shared by all people in this country. The fact that a large section of relatively privileged people in this society are shielded from the grinding oppression imposed on tens of millions in the inner cities of the U.S., and beyond, does not mean such oppression doesn't exist!
The verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder case jolted significant sections of people out of a state of denial or acceptance about the situation Black and Latino people—especially youth—face in America 2013. People broadly are posing or questioning whether, despite all the pronouncements that with the election of Obama this is a "post-racial" society, things really haven't progressed since the days when Emmett Till was lynched in 1955.
At a moment when millions have demanded Justice!, Obama's response can be summed up as "No justice."
Obama made clear that it is very unlikely there will be any further government attempts at any level to prosecute Zimmerman: "I think it's important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code. And law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels."
Obama talked about better training for law enforcement "to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists." But people do NOT need to trust in a system that is gunning down and locking up the youth. People need revolution to get rid of a system that forces Black parents to try to figure out whether to tell their children to not walk too fast or not walk too slow, so as not to be murdered by police or even some racist vigilante!
Obama obliquely referred to the "historical context" that gives rise to a high level of youth violence directed against each other, but he did NOT talk about the SYSTEM that has given rise to the incredible levels of unemployment in the Black community, the terrible schools, and the pipeline from those schools straight into America's bursting-at-the-seams prisons, with over a million Black and Latino people locked up and millions more either under the control of the penal system or else stigmatized for at one time having been locked up.
Obama talked about how to "bolster and reinforce our African-American boys" and give them "the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them"—without ever even touching on WHY they might not feel this way, and covering over the fact that you can convene roundtables and "partnerships" until throats are sore from talking and butts are sore from sitting and it will not do anything that can really alleviate the horrible situation of NO FUTURE faced by the millions and millions of these youth, here in the belly of the American Empire.
Obama ended his talk by telling people we need to continue on the journey towards a "more perfect union."
Millions are correctly outraged by the whole way the murder of Trayvon Martin went down, the way it was justified by the INjustice system, and all the ugly manifestations of white supremacy revealed through that. That outrage is very correct, to say the least! But the solution to that deeply embedded oppression will never be found in the framework of the present system and all the mythology invoked to justify it. That "more perfect union" has evolved from one horrific form of oppression of Black people to another—slavery, Jim Crow, and today the New Jim Crow.
We don't need to "perfect" that union, or this system. We need revolution. Right now that means continuing, broadening, and intensifying struggle against this bitterly unjust verdict and all the weight and horror it carries... and it means continuing, broadening, and intensifying the struggle over what and how people think... how they are processing this all, and getting people ready for what can actually uproot and eliminate all this: REVOLUTION.
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
July 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Saturday night, July 13, in Sanford, Florida, hundreds of people of all nationalities gathered outside the Seminole Courthouse as the jury deliberated. When the NOT GUILTY verdict came down, there was instant outrage. Some people could just not even believe it, that something so wrong had just happened. And across the country, millions who had been riveted to the TV, watching the trial, hoping for justice, were also stunned and angered.
Within 48 hours protests broke out all across the United States. There were large demonstrations, with hundreds and thousands taking to the streets in major cities—including New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco/Bay Area, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. And in smaller cities from coast to coast, including Raleigh, Little Rock, Baltimore, Fresno, Carbondale, New Orleans, Providence, Austin, Charlottesville, Greenville, Albany, and Green Bay, crowds of dozens to hundreds also manifested their outrage.
In a number of cities people blocked traffic during rush hour, disrupting business as usual. Some 5,000 people took over the streets in New York City, forcing traffic to a standstill as the march went from Union Square to Times Square. In Los Angeles, 200 protesters blocked highway 10, taking over five lanes of traffic, for 30 minutes. The LAPD issued a citywide tactical alert and deployed cops in riot gear who fired non-lethal rounds into the crowd. In the San Francisco/Bay Area there were three straight days of protests—in Oakland, there were reports of demonstrators breaking windows, burning U.S. flags and starting street fires.
These protests were by and large very diverse—old and young, people of different nationalities and different sections of society. And there was a common deep, deep feeling that people brought to these outpourings. For some there was almost a disbelief—that something like this could be happening "in this day and age of a Black president." Many had thought that "for sure Zimmerman would be found guilty." But now, this so clearly unjust verdict was challenging the notion that "we live in a post-racial society" and "we've come so far." At the protest in New York City, a white middle class woman, who looked to be in her 40s, had come by herself from New Jersey—she said she was stunned that a verdict like this could happen in this country and that she had come, in part to let it be known that people like her are outraged too.
There were expressions of sadness and people talked about how this is a "tragedy." But the reality is this was NOT a tragedy—it was a cold-blooded CRIME. And others were clearly NOT in the mood to be sad or silent—but instead acted out to show their utter outrage and anger at the total injustice of the murder of Trayvon and that his killer has been allowed to walk free.
When Trayvon Martin was first murdered, people around the country immediately compared this modern day lynching to the 1954 murder of Emmett Till. And at protests in the wake of the verdict many people linked this most recent outrage to the whole history of the oppression of Black people in the USA—and to the present day reality of how Black youth are criminalized in society.
At a rally and speak-out in Harlem one person after another got up to talk about how this verdict has made them, their son and grandsons, and all Black youth the targets of a racist society. One woman said, "They are telling us we might as well be in prison or slavery times—the white man thinks they can kill our children, like selling them into slavery back then, and we are supposed to keep our mouths shut. I'm sick of it. I can't stand this. This is too much."
In Chicago a 77-year-old retired teacher said she was "absolutely horrified" at the verdict. "I feel it puts every single black child in jeopardy from any vigilante who may have a gun. It just is inexcusable. We can't just leave it at that. Something has to come of it that's positive."
A cousin of Emmett Till, who also spoke in Chicago, said that "We've gone from approved killings in Mississippi in 1955 to approved killings in Florida in 2013. [Tilll's] murder illuminated what was being done to Blacks in 1955. Now with Trayvon Martin, it's also another illumination. It's demonstrating to our young people that your rights are being stripped away. It's open season on Black children."
In Atlanta, a woman who was driving by one of the protests stopped and joined the rally to testify about the Moore's Ford Bridge lynching of 1946 and linked it to the modern-day lynching of Trayvon. She is part of a struggle to get the investigation of long-known evidence against the people responsible for this lynching of two Black couples in 1946 which is the last recorded case of a mass, public lynching where over 30 people participated in the gruesome murders.
In the midst of this sharp exposure that points to the very nature of Amerikkka, some people have instead been putting out that what's needed is gun control or what we should really worry about is "Black on Black crime" or getting rid of the "stand your ground law"—pointing things in the wrong direction and ignoring the reality that what's really been revealed by the murder of Trayvon and the acquittal of Zimmerman—is that we live in a whole country and system that has developed from day one and continues to function with white supremacy built into its very foundation.
In a number of cities, where the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and revolutionaries were in the house, people took up the chant, "Trayvon Martin Did Not Have to Die, We All Know the Reason Why, The Whole Damn System Is Guilty!"
At many of the demonstrations people wore hoodies and carried bags of Skittles, and a common chant around the country was "We are all Trayvon!" Students and youth came with signs that said, "That could have been me!" Mothers came with their young sons, speaking out and carrying signs, saying: "That could have been my son!" In Charlottesville, two young Black kids, 11 and 12 years old, organized the protest of a couple dozen people a day after the verdict came down and got their grandmother to help them. In Washington, D.C. a woman told the crowd of 900 people, "My son looks a lot like Trayvon Martin, and he's only six. And I thought, in ten years, is someone going to profile him? What's going to happen, as he's 10, 11, 13, 14? My grandmother fought for this cause. My mother fought for this cause. I didn't think that in 2013 that I would be here fighting here for justice. Because we don't have it."
There is a real sense among millions of people that this ugly verdict has put an even bigger target on the backs of Black and Latino youth and given an even brighter green light to racist vigilantes and police everywhere—to stalk, racially profile, stop and frisk, brutalize, shoot and kill any youth who they deem a "fucking asshole" who "shouldn't get away with it," a "suspect" just because they are young, Black, Latino and perhaps wearing a hoodie. But people are also really grappling with the question over how we should really deal with this horrendous and dangerous reality. Some are trying to figure out how to "survive within it." Mothers talked about how they are now having to even more "have that talk with their sons" about "how to act" so that they won't get killed. But the bigger question does need to be asked: Why should anyone even have to try and have to "survive" within this horrendous reality? What kind of society is it where mothers have to even do this? Why should anyone put up with this when in fact things don't have to be this way! NO—We must refuse to tolerate and put up with this whole situation!
A number of protests targeted courthouses—as symbols of the whole INjustice system responsible for the verdict. In Gainesville, when 150 people marched towards the Department of Justice office, the cops tried to disrupt the protest by confiscating megaphones. But people were not intimidated and when they reached the building they went into the building, climbed three flights of stairs and 50 people occupied the Department of Justice field office while others rallied outside. Some people are feeling like the "system of justice in this country has failed us." One 19-year-old in Atlanta said, "I came out today because a great deal of injustice has been done and I'm very disappointed at our justice system; I'm just disappointed in America." Some are calling for the Department of Justice to now take up an investigation.
In Detroit speakers included families of Black youth who had been murdered by the police—including some who exposed how the U.S. INjustice system does NOT deliver any kind of justice. People gathered to call for "Justice for Trayvon Martin" and to also call for justice for 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was shot to death while she was sleeping during a police raid in 2010. And now, three years later, on June 16, a judge declared a mistrial in the trial of the only cop to be charged in the case and no other cop involved in the raid or any responsible officials have even been charged. Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, who witnessed her death, spoke at the rally and vowed to stay in the fight for the long run. She said, "I'm out here to fight any way for the other Aiyanas that's to come because it ain't stop at just my grand-baby."
In Harlem people were very moved when Khorey Wise, one of the Central Park 5, stepped forward to speak at the rally—also giving a stark example of not only how the U.S. justice system cannot be relied on to deliver justice, but how it is part of a whole repressive apparatus that has railroaded and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino youth. Wise was falsely convicted at age 16 together with four other youths, in the middle of a lynch mob atmosphere, for an attack on a young woman jogger that the police knew they did not commit—and was unjustly imprisoned for 14 years.
Millions of people also voiced their outrage at the verdict using social media. For example, some people posted the youtube video of "Strange Fruit" (not the Kanye West version!); others posted statistics about murders of unarmed Black people (including by police) as well as information about protests.
One correspondent to Revolution who follows music blogs noted that the posts they read were starting to change by Monday—that "people were still talking a lot about the verdict, but the line put out by Obama, et al that this is a country of laws, and we have to abide by the ruling but if you want things to change you have to elect different officials, etc. was beginning to get some traction, especially with the older people but with some of the younger musicians as well. By the middle of the day a lot of people were posting that this was about gun laws(!), downplaying the racism aspect."
In the hours after the verdict there was also lots of protests on Twitter from actors, musicians, athletes and other celebrities. Actress Ellen Page tweeted ""If u really believe racism isnt a massive problem, that the oppression of minorities is not a horrific and systemic issue. U R in denial." Miley Cyrus tweeted twice, "No justice. No peace. The world is a scary place." Rihanna tweeted: "A child was gunned down for no reason! And nothing about that sounds like murder? A system cannot fail those it was never built to protect" These tweets were one part of the way so many people, including influential people in different spheres of life, expressed their outrage at the not guilty verdict.
On Sunday morning, right after the verdict, Young Jeezy uploaded a new track—"It's a Cold World (A Tribute to Trayvon Martin)." On Saturday night, immediately after the verdict came down, at a Q&A, Michael B. Jordan, who stars in the new film Fruitvale Station—about the Black youth Oscar Grant who was murdered by a white cop in 2009—said, "My heart hurts so bad right now. I wasn't going to come after I found out about George Zimmerman getting acquitted. It broke me up."
Some professional athletes sent tweets out against the verdict: Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat tweeted: "How do I explain this to my young boys????" Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons wrote, "Fucking Zimmerman got away with murder today wow what kind of world do we live in." Marcus Vick, Michael Vick's brother wrote, "My people's did 2 years over some bullshit when this dude took a human life. Y'all MF's sick." Marquise Goodwin of the Buffalo Bills wrote, "I'm in Florida now. Dk if I should walk around with a hoody here. Seems like it's just ok to get popped in this state!" Chris Baker of the Washington Redskins wrote, "He is guilty of something there is no way he should be a free man our Justice system is a joke I'm disgusted our system has failed us." Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins wrote, "America justice system is a joke."
Revolution #310 Extra July 18, 2013
by Larry Everest | July 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
As of July 18, day 11 of the California prisoner hunger strike, the Department of Corrections (CDCR) is reporting that 1,457 inmates in 15 state prisons continue to refuse food, and 48 inmates in three state prisons refused to participate in their work assignments.
On July 8, prisoners across the state of California went on hunger strike for their basic rights and humanity—in particular an end to long-term solitary confinement and other basic demands. For the next several days nearly 30,000 prisoners across the state took part—nearly three times the number as 2011. The hunger strike has deep support within the prisons. On July 11, the CDCR reported that 12,421 prisoners were refusing food; on July 13, 6,370 prisoners were hunger striking and 714 refused to go to work; the next day 4,487 were on hunger strike and 731 refused to go to work.
The CDCR only counts prisoners as being on hunger strike if they miss 9 consecutive meals, so prisoners going on and off fasts are not being counted. Nor do these numbers count the prisoners in County facilities across the state who are striking.
Deeply stung by the 2011 hunger strikes, the CDCR is retaliating more viciously this time around.
"The Department of Corrections has declared this a mass disturbance," Michael Montgomery of the Center for Investigative Reporting told an audience at Revolution Books in Berkeley on July 17. "So anyone participating in it can get written up for a rules violation." This can add time to prisoners' sentences and take away basic necessities which prison authorities label "privileges."
The CDCR has singled out prisoners they have identified as leaders, seeking to break and further isolate them. On the fourth day of the strike they removed 14 prisoners, all of whom are signers of last summer's Agreement to End Hostilities Among Racial Groups—and put them in Ad Seg (the hole), without access to their legal papers, television or radio. "All but one are on hunger strike; the other—Louis Powell—is fasting as a Ramadan practice (not eating during daylight hours) but not completely fasting," Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity reports. This is clearly an attempt to prevent these men from knowing what is happening in the outside world, and denying them news of the strike itself. Their legal papers relate to a federal class action lawsuit against the state of California that contends solitary confinement is a violation of prisoners' Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment.
"They [the CDCR] have also said that the leaders of the hunger strike, that this is a gang action," Montgomery added, "because these are gang leaders, and they could face very serious disciplinary actions. Ironically, participation in this strike could be considered gang activity and could be used to prolong an inmate's time in these special units."
But prisoner representatives say they "remain strong and united!" in the face of this brutality. In a July 16 message, the Pelican Bay State Prison—PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives stated:
"Specifically, on July 11, 2013, we were placed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), where we are subjected to more torturous conditions than in the SHU. Despite this diabolical act on the part of the CDCR intended to break our resolve and hasten our deaths, we remain strong and united! We are 100% committed to our cause and will end our peaceful action when CDCR signs a legally binding agreement to our demands."
On July 18, the Los Angeles Times reported that four prisoners were being treated for medical problems. Also, Marilyn McMahon, executive director of California Prison Focus, who is on the mediation team between prisoners and prison authorities, was informed July 17 by fax from CDCR that she was banned from visiting the striking prisoners and banned from all California State Prisons. The letter included a check mark next to the words "The person's presence in the institution/facility presents a serious threat to security." McMahon told the Los Angeles Times, "I am a target because I do help them communicate with the outside world. We are a way of prisoners breaking through the black box."
Attorney Carol Strickman wrote on July 18:
"Our legal team is reporting that hunger strikers at Pelican Bay are being frozen. The prisoners who have been moved to Ad-Seg, as well as prisoners still in SHU, reported yesterday that it is 'freezing cold' in their cells. The prison is pumping in cold air and keeping doors to the outside open. It was very cold in the Crescent City area yesterday. The visiting room was also cold, though not as cold as the cells. People who are fasting are already cold. SHU prisoners have very thin clothes and thin blankets. [You may recall that their incidental demands back in 2011 were for 'watch caps' and for the right to purchase thermal underwear, because of how cold their concrete cells are.] Extreme temperatures are a torture method."
The families of hunger-striking prisoners are extremely worried for the health and lives of their loved ones. One family member told the Stop Mass Incarceration Network that she worried that even Friday's National Day of Solidarity with Prisoners might be "too late" for her brother, and that she felt like marching onto a freeway and blocking traffic like protestors had done in Oakland and Los Angeles after the George Zimmerman verdict. Former prisoners have also told SMIN they're worried that the CDCR could cut water off to the cells under the pretext there was contraband in the cells.
Dolores Canales, mother of a striking prisoner, told Democracy Now! (July 17),
"My son is housed maybe in a cell where the prisoner there before him might have took his own life or went mad. You know, my son is housed in a cell that, just as Jules Lobel was saying, there is no window. You don't know when day transitions into night. You just go by the food tray that they slide you, if it's a breakfast tray or a dinner tray. And to know that even their yard, it just exists of another cell. They bring them out, and they put them in another cell surrounded by 20-feet brick walls and the sky covering covered in Plexiglas. And I think, for me, that is just the most troubling, that I feel myself at times as if I'm buried alive, as I feel myself that I wake up in the night and I can't breathe and I have anxiety, because I just imagine what it's like to be entombed day in and day out in a cement cell like that."
She also said that she pleaded with her son not to go on hunger strike and he said to her, "Can you tell us another option? Can you tell us what we can do that would make a difference, you know, to change things? Because if you have a better solution, I'd love to hear it."
Mediation team member Laura Magnani, of the American Friends Service Committee, says "she has been in weekly contact with corrections officials, but that the officials have expressed no willingness to open discussions about the current strike." (Los Angeles Times, July 18)
The California prison authorities' cruel retaliation against nonviolent hunger strikers, and their refusal to seriously consider their just and basic demands, points to the reality that U.S. "democracy" rests on a whole system of mass incarceration and systematic abuse and torture in prisons in California and across the country. The power of those who rule rests on systematically suppressing and incarcerating millions of oppressed people and it's not something they'll back off of unless very broad and powerful support for the prisoners is built, and the crimes of the system are exposed throughout society.
The prisoners want to eat, they do not want to die, but they refuse to live "buried alive" and "entombed" in isolation units. Their hunger strike is the only means they have to take action. People on the outside must stand with these courageous people and do all we can to fight for their demands and for an end to solitary confinement and mass incarceration.
Go to: www.stopmassincarceration.net to get involved and support the prisoner hunger strikers.