October 22: National Protest Targets Police Brutality

Revolutionary Worker #1218, November 2, 2003, posted at rwor.org

For the eighth year in a row, people across the country acted together on October 22nd to protest police murder and repression. As we go to press, the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and Criminalization of a Generation reports that there were marches, rallies, and other actions in at least 40 cities and towns in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

This year's O22 National Day of Protest took place in the context of the marked increase in killings by law enforcement nationwide since September 11, 2001. According to the Stolen Lives Project, police have killed at least 61 people in the NY/NJ area and 49 in Chicago since 9/11--and there is a similar pattern in many other cities. At the same time, the government has been steadily expanding its police-state powers and enacting highly repressive laws such as the USA Patriot Act.

The call for the O22 National Day of Protest said: "We have an opportunity to make a powerful and visible manifestation in the streets and in other ways to oppose this repressive clampdown and break through the wall of silence the authorities have tried to maintain around these outrages. We can drag their crimes out into the light of day so that others may join us in opposing them. Our actions on October 22nd will give strength and courage to people who are resisting and let them know that they have allies."

The following are brief reports from RW reporters and correspondents in three cities. (The October 22nd Coalition national office reports that they are in the process of gathering a round-up of protests around the country; check their website at www.october22.org.)

Los Angeles

The streets of downtown L.A. were half empty because of a week-long bus strike. But hundreds of people found the way to get to Olympic and Broadway for the march to LAPD headquarters at Parker Center. Groups of friends and neighbors car-pooled. Students from the MEChA and Black Students Union at Cal State Northridge rented a bus to come down.

A young woman who brought along two friends said, "Who do you call when you want justice for a police killing somebody? You can't call the police. It's up to the people. That's why it's important for everybody to get together and do this."

When the march jumped off at 3:00, 900 people were in the street, led by Aztec dancers. Right behind marched 15 friends and relatives of Deandre Brunston, a 24-year-old Black man shot down two months before by Compton cops. They joined friends and relatives of other victims of police killings-- George Hernandez, Danny Ray Smith, Javier Quezada Jr., Teddy Alvarado Martinez, and Gonzalo Martinez.

The Watts Drum Corps and others kept up a pounding beat as people chanted, "L-A-P-D/Why do killer cops go free?" and "Police brutality by the hour. What do we say? Fight the Power!"

The multinational march was overwhelmingly youth. By the time they got to Parker Center, there were over 1,000 people--and more kept coming. At the rally MCed by Meri Ka Ra and Champa from the October 22nd Coalition, courageous family members denounced police murder and called for justice. Rev. Andrew Robinson-Gaither of Faith United Methodist Church offered a prayer for "freedom, justice and the lives that have been stolen but not forgotten." Other speakers included peace activist Josh Connole, who was the target of an attempted frame-up by the FBI; Melissa, a young woman whose eye was shot out by an LAPD rubber bullet at the protests around the 2000 Democratic Convention; and Jennifer Ruggiero, who read a statement from her son, political prisoner Sherman Austin. Jazz vocalist Dwight Trible, Sister Samoya, and Dr. Oop performed.

A loud welcome greeted Mitchell Crooks, who was arrested and sent to jail on old charges when he dared to release the video he took of Inglewood cops brutalizing Donovan Jackson, a young Black man. There were representatives from the Youth Student Network of the October 22nd Coalition, Families to Amend California's Three Strikes (FACTS) and the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade. A spokesperson from the Watts Committee Against Police Brutality denounced the anti-gang injunction that has stripped the rights of that whole community.

A week of programs and other events at schools around the L.A. area led up to O22. In addition to the downtown L.A. march, people also marched on police headquarters in Anaheim rallied in San Bernardino.

San Francisco

About 500 people participated in the main march and rallies in San Francisco. A rally at 24th and Mission Streets, the heart of the Latino Mission District, included a "family circle" led by Mesha Monge-Irizarry, whose son Idriss Stelley was shot 27 times by S.F. cops in 2001. People marched to the Mission District police station--where Danny Garcia, whose brother Mark was killed by the police in the Mission, denounced the murderous cops. On a flatbed truck, decorated with anti-police brutality signs in many languages, were Loco Bloco, a drum and dance troupe, and the Brass Liberation Orchestra, providing a solid beat to the protest. The march was led by family members of victims of police murder. The main rally was at City Hall.

The last year has seen an intensification of police brutality in the Bay Area. Just weeks earlier, cops who called themselves the Oakland Riders walked free when their court case ended in a hung jury--despite testimonies by dozens of people and even two police officers about these cops' brutality and other crimes. In a city that is 40% Black, this jury had no Black people on it. A few days after the hung jury, Oakland cops murdered 20-year-old Terrence Mearis while he was in his bed.

Earlier this year, on April 7, cops fired dangerous projectiles at anti-war protesters and longshoremen at the Port of Oakland. In August, cops ran amok in the Black neighborhood of Hunters Point in San Francisco.

In July, San Jose police killed Cau Thi Bich Tran, a 25-year-old Vietnamese woman and a mother of two. The police claimed that they were threatened by the 90 lb., 4'11" Tran because she was holding a vegetable peeler. This murder has touched off much anger in the Vietnamese community, and the O22 Coalition has been closely involved in the protests.

People active in the protests against the murder of Tran were among the great mix of people marching and rallying together on O22: high school youth from Oakland, longshoremen, day laborers, homeless people pushing shopping carts, two of the four major candidates for S.F. mayor, Muslims, families of victims, people working for reform of police, civil libertarians, attorneys, and others. Many people wore blue triangle stickers with the names of Arab, Muslim, and South Asian immigrants arrested by the INS and Department of Justice since 9/11. There were anarchists, revolutionary communist youth, and anti-war activists. Speakers addressed the protest in Urdu and Vietnamese in addition to Spanish and English.

The O22 in San Francisco was co-sponsored by the O22 Coalition, Idriss Stelley Foundation, and Police Watch and endorsed by many groups and individuals.

New York City

"For me, getting rid of this mess comes down to rising up and making revolution --getting rid of this system and everything foul that it brings down on the people. And it means after that revolution, going on and building a whole new world and a whole new society on the ashes of this messed-up one. A world where no more is there a handful of rich people who get rich and richer by squeezing the great majority of people. Where no more is it that whites lord it over people of color. Where no more is it that men dominate and suppress women. Where no more is it that one country runs the whole damn world. That's the kind of society I think we need to live in, sisters and brothers. But if we want to live in that kind of society, we've got to fight for it.

"Now, when I say this, I know there're gonna be some people who say, I'm down with you on this thing of fighting police brutality and some of these other injustices, but you might be going a little too far with revolution. Well, I say to you, I've been out here struggling with this monster for a long time and I'm convinced it's gonna take revolution to bring it down. But if that's too far for you, but you hate this injustice, then let's join together and fight it. Let's do that, because it's going to take the efforts of many, many different kinds of people to put this monster in check. And while we're fighting to put it in check, fighting police brutality and all this other mess it brings down, let's continue to discuss and debate. What's the source of this? Where did it come from? Who causes it and how do we deal with it? And I think it's through that debate -- combined with all of our resistance to this injustice -- that's how we're going to bring a whole different way of life into being for people here and around the world, sisters and brothers."

Carl Dix, National Spokesperson, Revolutionary Communist Party, speaking at the O22 protest in New York City

This year's demonstration was very determined. Three hundred people of different nationalities rallied and marched--many of them high school and college students. Youth provided security for family members of the victims, who spoke of their pain and suffering after losing their loved ones at the hands of the police. A rally at City Hall was followed by a march past police headquarters.

Since 9/11, the system has been on a campaign to rehabilitate the image of the cops, especially in this city. They have been declared heroes who can't be criticized. This has made it harder for some to step out against police brutality. Meanwhile, over 60 people have been murdered by police in the New York City area since 9/11.

So it took courage for the members of 15 different families--parents, children, lovers, friends--to speak out on behalf of their murdered loved ones at. Parents whose children had been murdered since 9/11 stood side-by-side with those who have been fighting for justice for many years.

There were statements of support from various organizations and individuals, including Refuse & Resist!, South Asians Against Police Brutality, Not In Our Name, Haitian Coalition for Justice, National Lawyers Guild, Welfare Poets, Black Panther Party, City Councilman Charles Barron, Blue Triangle Network, and ANSWER. Many speakers drew connections between police brutality targeted especially against Black and Latino youth and the demonization, surveillance, detention, and deportation of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian immigrants.