Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
From Up Against the Wall to Up in Their Faces . . .
A Movement Has Begun to STOP “Stop and Frisk”
The New Jim Crow just met the new Freedom Fighters
Friday, October 21, 2011. People stood up and said “Enough!” to our youth getting jacked up and humiliated every day by the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program.
The NYPD is on pace to stop and frisk over 700,000 people in 2011, or more than 1,900 people each day. More than 85 percent of those stopped and frisked are Black or Latino, and more than 90 percent of them were doing nothing wrong when the police stopped them. 700,000 youth will be stopped and frisked in NYC this year. This is the first step in a pipeline that has locked 2.3 million in prison.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched from the Harlem State Office Building to Harlem’s 28th Precinct, where more than 30 people were arrested in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. This first action of the campaign to STOP “Stop and Frisk” in NYC is part of a new initiative to build determined resistance to mass incarceration. [stopmassincarceration.tumblr.com]
Those arrested included: Cornel West, professor, author, public intellectual; Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party; Rev. Stephen Phelps, Interim Senior Minister of Riverside Church; Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, Rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church; Debra Sweet, Director of World Can’t Wait; Prof. Jim Vrettos, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; and Elaine Brower, military mom and World Can’t Wait. Among those arrested and protesting was a large contingent from downtown’s Occupy Wall Street. (For more, see “An Audacious Start to the Movement to STOP Stop and Frisk,” Revolution #248, October 23, 2011, available at revcom.us.)
The following is an excerpt from a talk Carl Dix gave on October 23 in Harlem at a meeting to take the struggle against stop and frisk further and organize more actions of civil disobedience. (Excerpt edited by the speaker.)
We had this chant going, we aren’t stopping till we STOP “Stop and Frisk.” And we meant that, but we should get what we’re saying when we say that. Because they are very serious about this, this is not just a policy that someone mistakenly came up with. This is something that’s very important to the folks that run this country. I mean, they see what kind of conditions exist in the ghettos and barrios across this country. They know that those conditions are a result of the way their system operates. And they remember the 1960s, and what happened when Black people had had enough and stood up to fight back against those conditions. They remember how that caught on like wildfire and in the wake of that, a broad revolutionary movement was brought forward. It rocked the system back on its heels. And they want to be able to head that off this time. And part of how they’re doing this is through policies like stop and frisk, catching our youth up in the criminal injustice system, so that they’re all vulnerable and feeling like they can’t act. The rulers of this system are actually aiming to do this. They’re practicing a counterinsurgency before the insurgency starts.
Black people in the U.S. have caught hell since the first African was dragged to these shores in slave chains. The forms of the oppression they were subjected to have changed, but the oppression has continued unchecked. Slavery was a key part of the economic foundation of the U.S., and it spawned laws, customs and ways of thinking that reflected and reinforced the domination of whites over Black people. And this has remained built into the very fabric of U.S. society, from slavery thru Jim Crow segregation and up to today’s legalized discrimination, criminalization and mass incarceration. So we’re challenging something that is very serious for the rulers of this country, and for us too.
I mean, different people express it different ways. Cornel West said “I want the young people to know that we’re doing this because we love them.” That we don’t view our youth as the problem. We don’t see them as predators to be thrown in the prisons and caught up in the judicial system. And that’s a very important sentiment to take. Myself, I come at this in terms of those youth need to step forward and join the emancipators of humanity and be the force that’s gonna get rid of this imperialist system and the exploitation and oppression it brings down on humanity. And we can’t have them trapped up in the criminal justice system and feeling like they can’t act. We have to give them space to stand up, to raise their heads, to resist what’s being done to them, but also to understand where it’s coming from and join the fight to get rid of it. So this is a very important thing that we’re embarking on.
Things don’t have to be this way. Thru revolution, communist revolution, we could bring a totally different and far better world into being, a world where the youth wouldn’t be feared and treated like criminals—guilty until proven innocent. In a revolutionary society where power was in the hands of the people, we could give the youth training and education and enable them to be part of building a new society. And we could involve them in figuring out what that society should be like and struggling over how to run it. It’s way past time for this rotten capitalist system to be gotten rid of thru revolution because we could run things way better than these bloodsuckers.
Part of getting ready and in position for this kind of revolution involves fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. And struggling to STOP “Stop and Frisk” is part of that. This is not something that they will easily back away from. And I want to go back to the early ’60s on this for a minute because I’m actually old enough to remember when Jim Crow segregation, lynch mob terror that enforced it, was the order of things. You know, whites-only bathrooms, whites-only water fountains, lunchrooms; excluded from sitting at the front of the bus, and all of this kind of stuff. And that just seemed to be the way things were. You thought there was nothing you could do about it. Then all these young people were getting on the bus and saying we ain’t moving to the back. The hell with this, we’re not putting up with it anymore. And they put a lot on the line. But that’s what it took to create the kind of situation where things could be transformed.
We gotta actually say, who’s gonna be today’s version of the Freedom Riders? Who is gonna say this is intolerable, this is unjust, we’re not gonna put up with it anymore? And I’m putting that challenge out today because if we’re gonna go forward some people have to actually step up and play that role. They have to say, I’m going to be today’s version of the Freedom Riders, I’m going to put something on the line to see to it that something happens, to see to it that this is dealt with. And looking at this we have to look at it in the way that youth of that generation did. Because if you remember anything about the Freedom Riders, they weren’t all Black. There were some young white people that went down there and it wasn’t because they were being made to ride in the back of the bus. It was because when they learned that because of the color of their skin, people were being subjected to that kind of abuse, they were like, I can’t live in a society like this. I can’t just sit by and know that this is happening and just ignore it. I have to join in the struggle to do something about it. I have to stand with these Black youth who are saying they’re tired of taking this bullshit.
So that’s what we need today. We need some people to stand up and say, I am going to be today’s version of the Freedom Riders and know what that means. It means we’re going forward with this civil disobedience. We’re going into Brooklyn in about a week and a half. So some people gotta be the people who do this. I’m going to do it with you. I’m not backing away one bit. But we need some of you all to stand up and say I’m doing this, I will put my body on the line. And that’s very important because we are aiming to win this battle, to STOP “Stop and Frisk,” to force them to just scrap this policy—it’s no damn good, it is unjust, it’s illegal and unconstitutional and human beings should not have to put up with this stuff. But the way that that’s going to happen is not just talking about how bad it is, not just lobbying some politicians, or something like that. Direct action, dramatic action, what we did on Friday, has to continue.
We’re going to continue something that’s been started, that has the potential to create a thing where people all across the country are looking at this and saying, “You know what those people in New York are doing? We could do that here.” There is injustice going on all across the country. There are certainly attacks targeted at Blacks and Latinos all across the country. And similar to the way the Occupy Wall Street movement spread like wildfire, we want to create conditions where this can spread.
We also need to create conditions where here in New York City, churches are setting a day of Bear Witness where they invite their congregants, or people who aren’t their congregants, to come and talk about how the police have abused them with stop and frisk and to tell those people that we’re not putting a stigma on you, we love you, we celebrate your humanity and we stand with you. And then off of those days of Bear Witness, the churches themselves set the day that we are going to the police precinct, or to the mayor’s office, and we are doing civil disobedience as part of STOP “Stop and Frisk.” We want to create a scene where on campuses students are forming committees to STOP “Stop and Frisk,” doing actions on campus, coordinating actions together and maybe even setting a national day of students to do this. We want to create the conditions where lawyers, social workers, other groupings of people are talking about how they could act together to take this up.
That’s what we’re looking to do because a door has been opened by what we have done and it’s very important that we not let that door be closed, because if that door gets closed it will be worse than before. Because people have been told all their lives, you can’t do anything about what the government does. Now we’ve done some things that have given people some hope, they got glimmers in their eyes that maybe we could do something. But if we let it dissipate and don’t follow through then they’re going to be like, yeah, I guess they were right, nothing can be done. And as somebody who has been, all my adult life, fighting to end the injustice people face here and around the world, that is a message I don’t want to be a part of delivering. But we also don’t have to deliver that message. We can deliver the other message, which is yes, things don’t have to be like this, yes, we can stand up to injustice. Yes, we can do something about this bullshit that they bring down. We could deliver that message by coming out of this meeting today organized to carry this campaign forward.
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