Revolution #242, August 14, 2011
On the 2011 NY Stolen Lives Induction Ceremony
From a reader:
On July 17 the New York October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation held its annual Stolen Lives Induction Ceremony with close to 75 persons of many nationalities attending. As activists, friends and new supporters gathered, one could feel the solemnity and sense of loss combined with a determined air of purpose. Many were introduced to the October 22nd Coalition and the Stolen Lives Project only a few days before.
|Stories of Stolen Lives
The Stolen Lives Induction Ceremonies are held every year, and they are an important part of building urgently needed resistance to the thousands of lives of a criminalized generation stolen by the system's brutal enforcers – the police. The following are the stories of the lives honored this year in New York:
• Brianna Ojeda, 11, died due to the actions of Brooklyn police on August 27, 2010. Brianna had suffered a major asthma attack. When Carmen, her mother, asked a police officer for assistance after he pulled her over as she was rushing her daughter to the hospital, he laughed in her face and detained them. Brianna died before she reached the hospital. Briana’s family was presented by Danette Chavis, mother of Gregory Chavis (killed by NYPD October 9, 2004).
• Montique Smalls, 39, was an amateur boxer from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. He was shot and killed by police on February 21, 2005. According to Montique’s daughter's grandmother, Ruth Hesterbay, officers searched his body for an weapon and then when they did not find one, she said she watched as they took a gun out of their van and put it next to Montique's body.
• Johnathan Smith, 27, was killed by police on March 18, 2011. Another Boerum Hill resident, he was handcuffed and beaten to death by NYPD officers in plain view of 20 to 30 outraged neighbors. There has hardly been a peep from the media about this incident.
• James Whiteshield, 17, died on January 19, 2007. He died after being detained by the Seattle, Washington police on an inactive warrant, which raises serious questions of his arrest. His induction was presented to his aunt live via Skype.
The music and lyrics from early Gil Scott-Heron also filled the air. I was reminded of the lyrics from one of Scott-Heron’s earlier songs, "Did you hear what they said? They said another brother's dead." We were honoring three brothers, and one young sister, who are dead due to the actions, and inactions, of the police, those who are "sworn" to protect and serve. Entering you were met by Stolen Lives banners on the wall and photo exhibits, including some featuring Monica "Kathryn" Shay, the O22 national office coordinator who, only a week and a half earlier, had died from a tragic shooting. (See Revolution #239 and online at revcom.us.)
Since the last Stolen Lives Induction Ceremony in July 16, 2010, police in New York and New Jersey have killed at least 29 more people; and countless hundreds throughout the country. On this day of the 2011 Induction Ceremony, Brianna Ojeda, Montique Smalls, Johnathan Smith, and James Whiteshield were inducted into the Stolen Lives Project. (See sidebar for their stories.) Nicholas Heyward Sr., father of Nicholas Heyward, Jr. (killed by NYPD September 27, 1994), from Parents Against Police Brutality and the October 22nd Coalition, welcomed all the family members present, "You are not alone, and we are always here to support you... We are not allowing [these injustices] sitting down. And it is up to us to be advocating and fighting."
The Stolen Lives Induction Ceremony is an important part of building urgently needed resistance to the literal stealing of thousands of lives of a criminalized generation by the system's brutal enforcers – the police.
Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party, and co-founder of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, spoke to why O22 came into existence—to bring about a movement of resistance to the nationwide epidemic of police brutality, to provide a firm platform for the victims and families of police brutality and murder, and to bring broader forces—that is, those not under the gun of police brutality—to stand with those who suffer from this brutality in this fight.
Carl spoke of O22 stalwarts who were no longer with us. First he paid tribute to Monica "Kathryn" Shay; Carl then spoke of the late Akil Al-Jundi, one of the original Attica brothers, and a co-author of the O22 mission statement. This year 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the historic Attica prison rebellion. Carl continued with a challenge for new people to step up and fill these voids.
Speaking of the Pelican Bay prisoners' hunger strike, Carl linked this in the context of the need for dramatic resistance to mass incarceration overall, and the need to build a movement for resistance that is part of a movement for revolution. People applauded each time revolution was mentioned. Carl proposed that the Induction Ceremony go on record in support of the prison hunger strikers, which people united with by loud applause.
Also speaking was Ralph Poynter, veteran activist and life partner of people's lawyer, Lynne Stewart, who is currently in federal prison, sentenced to 10 years for her work representing one of her clients. Ralph called for greater resistance to police brutality, and demanded freedom for all political prisoners in this country. He said, "Lynne Stewart spent the most of her adult life as an activist, and a lawyer, defending those who believed in self-defense and self-determination. She's in jail because she defended those who defend themselves." Ralph continued on the subject of mistreated political prisoners from the 60s era who continued to be held behind prison walls, "So many brothers and sisters have died at the hands of the prison system. [Political prisoner] Marilyn Buck was left on a gurney in the hot sun for eight hours, and she had cancer! This is death by medical practice. So many of our political prisoners die at the hands of the prison system. We must mount a movement to free all political prisoners."
Ralph then presented the Stolen Lives Induction to the family members of Montique Smalls. The grandmother of Montique's daughter said of the police murder of Montique, "They do nothing but lie on the Black people and the Puerto Ricans. They're no good and it’s time for a change. We must learn to stand together and fight together for our young men and young ladies."
A live video presentation from the Greensboro (N.C.) October 22nd Coalition of those killed in North Carolina was made via Skype. The Alliance of Conscious Documentarians, a group of activist artists, spoke. One of the hip hop artists who had performed spoke of developing a First Response Team to provide resources and assistance to victims' families to help them wage campaigns for justice. The People's Neighborhood Patrol in Harlem, and also the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and Copwatch were recognized.
The Induction Ceremony closed with a collective reading of the Stolen Lives Pledge led by Nicholas Heyward, Sr.:
"We pledge that the life and humanity of these Stolen Lives will not be forgotten. We pledge that their highest hopes and aspirations will live on in us, and that we will seek justice for these and all the Stolen Lives. In this way we pledge that their memory will stay alive in us and will inspire us to fight for justice and a better world."
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