Revolution #281, September 23, 2012
September 13: Time to Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk... Racial Profiling, Police Brutality and Murder, and the Pipeline to Mass Incarceration
Revolution newspaper received the following reports on actions that took place around the country as part of “September 13: Time to Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk... Racial Profiling, Police Brutality and Murder, and the Pipeline to Mass Incarceration.”
From the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website:
Whistles were heard on September 13 all across New York City; and in Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in other cities across the U.S. Thousands of people were blowing the whistle on stop-and-frisk, on 2.4 million people warehoused in prison, on the torture-like conditions so many are subjected to in those prisons and on the discrimination faced by formerly incarcerated people even after they’ve served their sentences.
These whistles were a declaration of refusing to suffer abuse any longer from the criminal “injustice” system in silence. They were a way for those who bear the brunt of this injustice to join in the resistance to this abuse. A way for people to go from blaming themselves for this abuse to having each other’s back and looking out for each other in the face of this abuse. And they represent another nail in the coffin of stop-and-frisk.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is going forward to build off this important day. We call on all those who hate the way the police harass, disrespect and brutalize people; everybody who sees how going in and out of prison has robbed whole generations of hope for the future; all those whose hearts go out to the millions of people who are forced to live their lives enmeshed in the criminal “injustice” system to join us in building a fight to END MASS INCARCERATION AND ALL ITS CONSEQUENCES!
Plan to be in the streets with us at the upcoming October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
Reports from the Field
Whistle Blowing In Harlem
Whistles sounded in Harlem from mid-afternoon into the evening. About two dozen people gathered in front of the Harlem State Office Building shortly after 3 pm to ring in a new day in standing up to stop-and-frisk and in looking out for each other and having each other’s backs in face of the abuse by the police. For about four hours, some of these people left and others joined. Overall, at least 1,000 whistles and a larger number of flyers went into the hands of people passing by, with some of them staying around for a while to blow their newly acquired whistles.
Young people were especially eager to get their hands on whistles, with groups of high school students and middle school students taking not only whistles for themselves but getting handfuls, and in several cases, bags of whistles to distribute at school the next day. Bloggers who had heard about September 13 online or by receiving whistles earlier in Harlem or in other parts of New York City came out to get interviews and pictures to post up. German TV and a crew from Democracy Now! were among the media that came out to Harlem to record organizers and participants. Several people in wheelchairs came out and spent hours spreading the word about standing up to resist injustice from the police and spreading whistles for people to use in doing that.
The grouping in Harlem included Carl Dix, Jim Vrettos and Gbenga Akinnagbe, all endorsers of Blowing the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk on September 13. Oscar Grant’s aunt and uncle, in New York City for the court appearance in the case of the cop who murdered Ramarley Graham, came by and got their whistles. They were on the way to a vigil for Ramarley and planned to blow those whistles there at 6 pm. Pam Africa of the MOVE organization and Jazz Hayden also joined in Blowing the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk in Harlem.
As 6 pm neared, the Harlem Revolution Club led about 20 people in a march along 125th Street to two large housing projects in Harlem. Together with residents of the Grant Houses, we blew our whistles at 6 pm together with people throughout New York City and in cities across the country. A crew of four or five youth—12 years old and younger—took the lead in getting whistles out in this project. Then the group moved across to the Manhattanville Houses and marched through, with that same crew of youth defying the divisions and historic clashes between the two projects to call on their neighbors to join in blowing the whistle on stop-and-frisk. Older youth joined in marching with us carrying signs and blowing whistles.
At several points during the day, Carl Dix gave an orientation of what we were doing on this day: “Today, people in Harlem, together with people across NYC and in cities across the country, are standing up together to resist the injustice the whole criminal justice system enforces on people in this country. And we will carry this spirit of resistance forward building a fight that can stop ‘Stop & Frisk’ and take on mass incarceration and all its consequences.”
A personal account of the Bronx action from Nancy Van Ness’s blog:
I had written the phone number of the National Lawyers Guild on my left arm in preparation. I might have needed it. When I got to the meeting place, I noticed that Noche, the courageous young activist whom I was to meet for this action, had done that, too.
We were in a section of the Bronx targeted by the NYPD for the stop-and-frisk policy, which produced nearly 700,000 incidents where police, without warrants, stop mostly young men of color mostly in specific neighborhoods, and subject them to humiliating personal searches. The “reason” the city and NYPD give for this practice is to keep guns off the street.
Below is what the Center for Constitutional Rights says about this policy:
“In 2011, in New York City, 685,724 people were stopped, 84 percent of whom were Black and Latino residents — although they comprise only about 23 percent and 29 percent of New York City’s total population respectively. 2011 is the highest year on record for stops. The number of stops represent an over 600 percent [increase] since Mayor Bloomberg came into office. In 2011, 88 percent of all stops did not result in an arrest or a summons being given. Contraband was found in only 2 percent of all stops. The NYPD claims their stop and frisk policy keeps weapons off the street—but weapons were recovered in only one percent of all stops. These numbers clearly contradict that claim.”
Noche and I were soon joined by a few other people, including a legal observer from The Bronx Defenders. The young attorney Cara Suvall was there to see that the police did not impede our rights to protest and to note any illegal behavior of the police should there be any. I always like to see the legal observers on the street with us. At least if things go wrong, there will be a qualified witness to testify what really happened.
A police car drove up and stopped right in front of us as we were taping signs to the railings of the public housing project and park, passing out flyers and whistles to passersby and encouraging them to blow the whistle any time they see the police stopping the young people of the neighborhood. The police took photographs of us from the car and before long a “white shirt,” Lieutenant Jose Torres, showed up. I was standing next to Ms. Suvall, who fortunately was very tactful with him. He was there to “help” us. The only help he could give would be to advocate for an end to stop-and-frisk. Not willing to borrow trouble, however, I did not say that, nor much of anything.
He asked what I understood to be whether the protest would be repeated on some regular basis. I said that I knew of no such plan when Ms. Suvall deferred to me on this. I did not explain that we hoped to empower the entire neighborhood to resist the policy all day, every day, forever or until the policy is stopped, whichever comes first. I could imply with all honesty that I, personally, did not plan to be on that street corner at any regular interval. I hope people in the neighborhood will be there every day.
He withdrew a little and was joined by a van of police who hung out more or less out of earshot for most of the rest of the time we were there. As police encounters for this campaign to STOP “Stop & Frisk” go, this was not bad. Launched last year and spearheaded by Professor Cornel West and Revolutionary Communist Party spokesperson Carl Dix, the campaign still goes on. A chant for it is “We won’t stop till we STOP ‘Stop & Frisk.’” To date, we have not stopped.
This particular action was to support people in the neighborhoods and empower them to lead the charge against this policy. People stopped to talk with us, some already having whistles that were distributed earlier. Many took away whistles and flyers. Some told us stories of the brutality they have seen and experienced. One old man of great dignity walked up to the police and blew the whistle at them then and there. I tried to speak to grandmothers and mothers, as I want to contribute to making a better world for all of our children and know that they share my desires. My heart was especially touched by the adorable little boys I saw, all of whom will be eventual targets of this policy unless we stop it.
Noche was really good with the young men. He knows what they experience and can offer strength to them on how to resist. A young journalist from Columbia University interviewed us and was especially moved by Noche’s story. He is facing years in prison for standing up for people who are oppressed, but there he was on the street again. A reporter and camerawoman from NY1 News also interviewed him. I loved the group of neighborhood people, mostly young men who were grouped behind him as he answered the reporter’s questions on camera.
People who work for two local social service agencies, came out of their offices in the buildings across the street, drawn in part by all the whistle blowing. “How are we to do homework help with a young person when they’ve just gone through an interaction with a police officer that has broken down their spirits with folks who they trust?” said David R. Shuffler, the director of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice. “It’s a real challenge in our neighborhood.” He shared this in an interview with NY1.
Indeed, the shockingly low effectiveness of the stop-and-frisk policy for what the city and police force say it is for, leads people to wonder if it is not really intended to intimidate people of color and criminalize them. A look at prison statistics could give credence to that idea as well.
When things began to slow down at our location and we heard that they were still going strong in Harlem, Noche and I loaded signs, whistles, and flyers into a wheeled cart and got very good at carrying it up and down the subway stairs as we ventured to the area of Harlem north of 125th between Amsterdam and Broadway. We marched about the public housing projects, greeted often with people blowing their whistles in support and distributing more of them to people who didn’t have one along with flyers about ways to use them to help STOP “Stop & Frisk.” I did not see a police officer and wondered why, but also felt glad. This seemed more like a celebration and less like a siege. The fact is, however, that many young persons endure stop-and-frisk in that area as well.
Breaking the Silence in Staten Island
by Elaine Brower
Today I went to Stuyvesant Place and Wall Street, in Staten Island, located a few blocks from the ferry and Curtis High School. This neighborhood is located on the North Shore of the island, which is an inter-racial community, and very politically broad-based. The location is directly behind the 120th Precinct, the largest in the borough.
I carried whistles, flyers and buttons with me, along with two signs; “We are blowing the whistle on stop-and-frisk” and a smaller handmade sign on posterboard that said simply “STOP ‘Stop & Frisk.’” I arrived at the location at approximately 3 pm, and on my way up the street, I engaged a group of mostly Black male youth. They saw my sign and immediately got it, talked to me about their experiences being stopped and frisked multiple times, and told me they know lots of kids who also have been harassed by the police. It was like I opened up the floodgates of their lives and someone was there to listen. After taking flyers and whistles, I made my way to the location where others were to gather. No one arrived, so I started talking to all the kids making their way down the street from Curtis High School. Almost every one of them stopped by me on the corner and was interested in what I had to say about the blow the whistle campaign.
I had up to 15 youth surrounding me at one time or another, talking to me about who they knew that got stopped, and that they were so happy someone was doing something. Some of them thought it was the “law” and couldn’t do anything about it. I explained that it was a “policy” of the NYPD, and it was illegal and violated their civil rights, as well as an avenue to mass incarceration for mostly Black and Latino male youth. The young women had brothers, boyfriends, and male friends they knew who were subjected on multiple occasions to stop-and-frisk. Everyone wanted a whistle, of course, and they mostly wanted orange! But I told them they had to take a flyer and then not only listen to what I had to say about our campaign to STOP “Stop & Frisk,” and how they could participate, but go on the website and read about it. I wouldn’t give them whistles until they got my spiel. And they stood there intently listening and responding with heads shaking and in agreement with the fact that they shouldn’t have to be treated like this. I also told them, especially all the young males who were there, that I wouldn’t be subjected to the same treatment they got. They got that, and had respect for it. I told them I was there to make sure they got the same treatment I did, and only if the community stood together to end this racist policy, would we win.
Before I knew it the entire neighborhood was ringing with whistles! I was alone, and there were three police cars and a van stationed on the corner. Of course two community affairs officers came over to ask me who I was, and if I were an “organizer.” I said I was there to enlighten the youth about their rights, and I was alone. They asked me if “we” were marching to borough hall, to which I replied “if I can organize these kids, sure, otherwise, I was staying put.”
I met the best kids. Interested, smart, wanting to do something, and I also met some adults who stopped to speak with me. One is a newly retired probation officer. He was so excited to see me there and wants to spend his time working with us. I gave him my number, but had no extra hands to get his contact info. I had two signs, whistles, and flyers all going at the same time. He helped me give out a few flyers, and he recounted stories of how sad he was when he, as a probation officer, had seen these same youth who had been arrested by the NYPD under the stop-and-frisk policy, railroaded through the system for a small amount of pot in their pockets, or no ID. He said he was sickened by the amount of cases he saw. I then spoke with a young man who works with the Mayor’s Office Youth Counsel. I was able to give him my contact info. He wants to work with us, and said that his group would also. He hates this policy, and said that the youth group would be very interested in participating in any events we may plan. I spoke with so many young black males who told me their stories. One in particular, very serious, said that he was just stopped yesterday for nothing. He said the police car pulled up alongside him as he was walking down the street and put him up against the car. They asked him for ID and went through his pockets. He was so angry, and said he knew it was because he was black. They didn’t arrest him, and he said he doesn’t carry anything anymore, including a backpack, because they will go through everything. I gave him a flyer, whistle and the phone number of the NLG and told him to call if it happens to him again. He said he would go to the website and maybe give his testimony. He thanked me for being there and listening to him. I told him I would be back with friends and more buttons.
All in all, I spent 40 minutes on the corner of Wall and Stuyvesant and handed out 100 whistles and most of the flyers I had, along with all the buttons, which were a hot commodity, and I made small cards with the NLG phone number to give to them in case they get stopped and arrested. I told them they had to put the buttons on in front of me or they couldn’t get one, which they did proudly!
On my way back to the car, I walked past a deli where some older males were talking. I showed them my sign, and they immediately said “we are with you.” I talked to them, and they all told me they had been stopped so many times by the police and they hated the police. I gave them flyers, and they were so interested in talking to me. One guy told me, as he was getting into his car, that he had been stopped so much, but lately he thought the police had been slowing down on stop-and-frisk. He thinks they aren’t doing it as much. A few of the other guys said the same thing, but also said it’s commonplace for them to see cops stop young Black males, and also stop them. They thought it was a law, but I told them it wasn’t. It was a policy of the NYPD which violated the law. I told that to all of them, because many people don’t understand that this policy is illegal and violates their rights.
I can’t count how many kids and adults I spoke to, and they spoke to me! I was juggling whistles, flyers, posters and buttons the entire time trying to hear them. This is a prime location and I am sure the community can be organized with some outreach.
At first I have to say I was apprehensive to be alone talking about stop-and-frisk to youth who very well knew about it firsthand. But it was an exhilarating experience, and I felt so welcomed and appreciated. All I can say is Awesome!
Sent to Revolution newspaper:
“Today it starts here...”
In Anaheim, California, family and friends of Manuel Diaz, Joel Acevedo, Martin Hernandez, Caesar Cruz, killed by Anaheim police, and Michael Nida, killed by Downey police, with activists, residents of Anna Drive and nearby neighborhoods, and Anna Drive kids, gathered at the memorial for Manuel Diaz on Anna Drive. Genevieve Huizar, Manuel’s mom, said, “We’re tired of police killing our families.....Time and time again, it’s been happening all over the United States. From Montana to Texas, New York to California, everyone blow the whistle! Everyone needs to come forward. Blow the whistle!” An earsplitting din went up as 30 or 40 whistles blew in unison after someone read from the flyer, “We will no longer stand by silently while people are denied their rights.” Channels 52 and 4 arrived to cover the event. People blew their whistles again. “Today it starts here,” said Albert Castillo of Chicanos Unidos. “We’ll continue doing this, keep that whistle with you!”
Cal State University, Northridge: A festive noontime rally organized by Stop Mass Incarceration Network grabbed the attention of hundreds of students—many of whom heard for the first time sharp exposure of how this criminal “injustice” system is doing the people and that there was a way to break the silence on all this. Scores of students blew the whistle, took up stacks of leaflets to take to their classes, grabbed up and paid for extra whistles to distribute. Presentations before five classes allowed us to get into some depth on the need to build resistance and the big stakes involved with thousands taking up and spreading these whistles throughout the country. Revolutionary communists were able to get into the BAsics on Campus Initiative as part of the presentations and as part of this mix. Several hundred whistles got out during the course of three days.
In the Crenshaw area on September 13, high school students blew the whistle in front of their school, people up and down Crenshaw blew the whistle, and people blew the whistle at Leimert Park, a center of political and cultural life in the area. At the high school a hundred whistles had been distributed during the week and students were feeling both the importance of standing with the people battling stop-and-frisk in New York as well as being part of a new culture of resistance. A chant popularizing what this was about was controversial and set new terms: “When the cops come thru, what do you/we do? Fight the power and blow that whistle!” Some students responded to “what do you do?” by saying “run away!” Others shouted “blow the whistle!” and blew their whistles.
Women took up whistles, donating, and blowing the whistle on the spot when a cop on Crenshaw pulled over someone and a woman told how she had been beaten and tased by the police. Another said she hadn’t had a run-in with the police directly, “but I have sons.” At Leimert Park, a woman whose son was recently arrested joined in blowing the whistle and another woman joined in who had seen a stack of flyers in a shop nearby and had picked up the stack and passed them all out. Some people in cars passing by heard the agitation about the NYPD stopping nearly 2000 people a day and whistled out of their car windows or pulled over to get a whistle. All together a couple dozen people took part in blowing the whistle, $35 was collected, and 300 whistles were distributed.
San Francisco, Bay Area: Sounds of whistles piercing the air were heard — from the famous Sproul Plaza at University of California in Berkeley (Home of the Free Speech Movement of the ’60s), to high schools, to the killing fields of police-occupied East Oakland and Vallejo, California.
At UC Berkeley, students and activists, including an energetic group of middle school students held banners, blew whistles and called on passersby to Stop Mass Incarceration, Police Brutality and Murder, and the Pipeline to Prison, where 2.4 million people in this country are warehoused. After that, we went to East Oakland, to join with neighborhood residents in a very loud and visible rally and march from a busy intersection to the Eastmont Mall Substation of the Oakland Police. It was a cacophony of sounds—whistles, loud agitation on bullhorns, and the honking of hundreds of car horns expressing unity with the message. More neighbors joined us, and did a live radio interview with a radio station in Vallejo. One young boy took to the bullhorn, leading the chant, “Hey, hey, OPD, how many kids have you killed today?” Recently, only a few blocks away, Alan Blueford, a few days from graduating high school, was executed by an Oakland pig, while lying unarmed on the ground.
There were activities in high schools, with over 200 whistles being distributed and blown at Castlemont, a school of mostly Black and Latino students in East Oakland, a community with a long history of police violence against the people, including the recent police murder of Alan Blueford and the Oakland School Police killing of Raheim Brown Jr. outside Skyline High in 2010. Many students eagerly took “STOP Stop & Frisk” buttons, MASS INCARCERATION+SILENCE = GENOCIDE stickers and blew whistles. At Oakland High, a powerpoint was presented to three senior Government classes by three Stop Mass Incarceration supporters, all recently retired teachers. Over a hundred students from many different backgrounds—Mexican, Salvadoran, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Chinese, as well as Black students — told stories of their own experience with the police and authorities.
In Vallejo, a half hour north of Oakland, a “Blow the Whistle” rally of 30 to 40 people was held at noon in front of the City Hall. It was organized by family and friends of Mario Romero, who was gunned down by Vallejo Police a week earlier, while sitting with a friend in a parked car in front of his house.
The demonstration brought out not only Mario’s family and friends, but others who have been victims of police murder at the hands of Vallejo’s notoriously murderous police. Vallejo, a city of only 90,000 people, has had—since May of this year—seven shootings by cops, five of them fatal.
On September 13, a small group gathered in downtown Cleveland to Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk, Police Brutality and Murder, and Mass Incarceration! They were activists in the immigrant movement, from Black on Black (a community organization), a Black college student, someone who was on the BAsics Bus Tour and a few Revolution paper sellers. People talked to the scores of youth who gather there, getting 50 whistles out to youth who want to whistle when they see police abuse. One female high school student said, “I want a whistle because at my high school the cops came out in force because of a fight, but mainly the police are out there to mess with us. I’ll blow the whistle at them.” After getting out whistles and talking to the youth, we marched to the [In]Justice Center/Police Headquarters with signs and shouted, “Pipeline to Mass Incarceration, WE Say No More!”; “Police Kill Our Youth, WE say no more” and more.
As we were blowing whistles, a man ran over and said he was a lawyer and loved what we were doing. He said he had been in the prosecutors’ office and just couldn’t stand to defend what the cops do to people. He is now taking up cases of mostly African Americans, many youth. He told how a 2nd grade student was handcuffed because he wouldn’t get up soon enough. He was angry that the police take pictures of youth on the street who aren’t committing a crime. When a “crime” is committed, they show these pictures and when someone identifies a person in the photo, they are charged with the the “crime.” He looked up at the county jail and said, “That is a factory and the product are jailed African Americans.” As we ended, people felt this was a beginning of building for October 22nd actions with a focus on mass incarceration and the need to persevere with the youth to bring them into this movement. A Black activist said, “Why do we do this? Because if we don’t do it, there won’t be a call for anyone else to.”
Revolutionaries set up on a median strip on the edge of a housing project where residents are living under conditions like house arrest. While there is no official stop-and-frisk policy here, neither is there any shortage of that kind of harassment, which goes on daily, at the hands of county constables. A couple of weeks ago, as revolutionaries were just starting to get the word out about September 13, they were—you guessed it—stopped and frisked.
A woman in the area described what it’s like to us a while back: “I would like to speak on police harassment. I am very sick and tired of our Black people—just because we live in low income—we need a place over our heads—doesn’t mean that everybody’s doing things wrong. I’m tired of constables—Precinct 6 or whatever—harassing our children, our young people.They come and snatch people off their bicycles, just cuz they’re riding down the street in packs—three or four. I’d seen…as of yesterday, I looked out my back window, and I seen the police, they zoomed in on the wrong side and fishtailed on four Black guys, only because they were riding a bicycle. They searched ‘em down, patted ‘em down, kept ‘em out there for almost a whole hour—never did find anything on ‘em and they turned em all loose.” So the signs and whistles were enthusiastically welcomed, by project residents, their neighbors, and a lot of motorists, many of whom were coming from two universities nearby. We witnessed a good number of thumbs-up and honks.
Some elementary school-aged kids on bikes came by and wanted to blow whistles. So we explained what this is about. The kids were particularly struck by the 3 strikes poster. Some adults came by and spoke bitterly about how the cops stop people and violate people’s rights. That really resonated with these youth, and they wanted to be part of this. Two boys rode home to get money to buy whistles and came back and grabbed up flyers and copies of Revolution, and were distributing them to the cars, along with some girls who had picked up signs and were getting out materials, and collecting money. With healthy disdain, an 8-year-old explained why she was out there blowing the whistle and participating: “The police be taking people to jail and beating them and they be stopping ‘em and harassing ‘em and asking for I.D.” She added that she likes helping people and donating money.
As we left the kids were still on the corner, blowing their whistles. And people wanted to know when we’d be back.
A sound truck drove around on the west side telling people what this day was all about. On one corner people start gathering and it gets loud and noisy with lots of whistles blowing. As 5 pm approaches there is a count down over the loudspeaker and real excitement about the nationwide synchronized character of the whistle blowing. At 5 pm it is really, really loud. Maybe 30 people are blowing whistles as more cars stop to get whistles.
One person wrote: “It was striking that the simple message connected in a powerful way with people: the tactic of blowing the whistle, getting others to do the same, and changing the dynamic of what happens so that the police cannot carry out their crimes against the people in silence. This captured people’s imagination and set wheels turning in their heads and they saw it as a thing they could take up on their own. You could just see it in people’s body language and the way that they quickly became much more serious and engaged as they got a sense of what this was about, wanted to get whistles and flyers.”
On the south side the whistles were passed out near a subway station next to a community college. Revolutionaries hooked up a sound system and blasted Bob Avakian’s talk, Revolution, Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About and passed out palm cards with quotes from BAsics. A banner was posted up showing “Victims of the Injustice System”: Trayvon Martin, Troy Davis, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, along with Corey Harris and Darius Pinex—two people who had been killed by police right in that area. Earlier in the week a group of women who live two blocks from the Community College had gotten a handful of whistles and flyers, telling how police always try to force them off their own porches. On another street, a block from the campus in a different direction, 100 flyers had gotten out in an hour and people there called up and asked for more.
As it got close to 5 pm—the nationwide time to blow the whistle, some people showed up who had promised they would return, people in their cars reached out to get whistles, and students on their way to or from class stopped to testify about what the police do to them. Some of them waited for the 5 o’clock countdown. At 5 sharp whistles blasted out and kept blasting out. And when the police cars rolled by the volume would just get louder.
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