Revolution #281, September 23, 2012
September 13: Blowing the Whistle Coast to Coast...
On Stop-and-Frisk... Racial Profiling, Police Brutality and Murder and the Pipeline to Mass Incarceration.
On September 13, in cities coast to coast, people blew the whistle on stop-and-frisk, racial profiling, police brutality and murder, and the pipeline to mass incarceration.
As the Stop Mass Incarceration Network put it: “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.”
Building up to the day and on the day itself, you got a real sense of just how much people really liked the whole idea of coming together and “Blowing the Whistle” on the police, of calling them out and exposing the abuse, the brutality, and murder that they do to people every day—of making a statement that we’re not going to suffer this in silence any more. But this was not just a “cool tactic” that everybody liked. This was a day that actually brought into being beginning shoots of a whole new level of struggle.
New Shoots of Resistance
Something important struggled to be born on September 13—the beginnings of a resistance marked by a new culture and new level of solidarity, of people coming together with a new ethos of standing together and sticking together to fight the power—as opposed to the mentality of “look out for #1,” “lay low and try to get over and hope nothing bad happens to me,” or “stab someone else in the back.”
September 13 was a day where, in some cases new unity was built, all in order to join together to resist the system.
For example, in New York, Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk was taken up in Harlem where there is a history of antagonisms between two different housing projects. But on September 13, people from one of these projects marched into the other one and were greeted by people, ready to take whistles.
The RCP has a slogan, “Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.” And this is a significant example of how joining together in resistance against the system is the real way the masses can solve such contradictions among the people.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network reported that:
“At least 1,000 whistles got out in Harlem with young people especially eager to get their hands on them—high school 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. The group in Harlem included Carl Dix, Jim Vrettos and Gbenga Akinnagbe, all endorsers of Blow 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 Graham and planned to blow those whistles there at 6 pm. Pam Africa of the MOVE organization and Jazz Hayden also joined in Blow 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 NYC 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.”
Just before September 13, Carl Dix told Revolution: “When people step out and blow the whistle, there’s going to be a new day, a whole different scene on this. Because up ‘til now, too much what it’s been is people suffering this abuse in silence, people taking it and even blaming themselves, or blaming each other, for what comes down, that this is your own fault, that this comes down on you because of what you do. And we have to break with that. We gotta stand up and resist. But we also have to look out for each other, have each other’s backs. We have to stand together against what they do to us, instead of looking out for number one and stabbing each other in the back. There’s gotta be a new culture and a new day.”
And this “new culture and new day” did begin to emerge on September 13. Some of this took place in the neighborhoods. Some took place on the college campuses. And high school students—who know what it’s like to get sweated by the cops day in and day out—enthusiastically took up the call to “Blow the Whistle!”
In Chicago, on one corner on the West Side, as 5 pm approaches there is a countdown 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 stopped 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 fliers.”
In California, at Cal State University, Northridge, there was a festive noontime rally that grabbed the attention of hundreds of students—many who were hearing for the first time what this criminal “injustice” system is doing to 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 were done in five classes, which made it possible 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. And revolutionary communists talked about the BAsics on Campus Initiative as part of this whole mix. Several hundred whistles got out during the course of three days.
In the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles, high school students blew the whistle in front of their school. And at Leimert Park, a center of political and cultural life in the area, whistles could be heard as well. At the high school 100 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 through, 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.
Over 200 whistles were distributed and blown at Castlemont High, 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. At Oakland High, a PowerPoint was presented to three senior government classes by three Stop Mass Incarceration supporters, all recently retired teachers. Over 100 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.
New Level of Solidarity
This was also a day for the family and friends of those who have been brutalized and murdered by the police to stand up and tell their stories—and join in solidarity with others in taking a step forward together in “Blowing the Whistle.” There was a real sense of this day being the beginning of an ongoing, new level of resistance nationwide.
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!” Albert Castillo of Chicanos Unidos said, “Today it starts here. We’ll continue doing this, keep that whistle with you!” The event was covered by Channels 52 and 4. 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 City Hall, 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.
Building on Resistance and Taking It Higher...
In Brownsville, where the BAsics Bus Tour went this summer and whistles got out all over, there was a very significant example of resistance during the days of building for the day to Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk. One night, a kid who was being harassed and handcuffed spoke out about his RIGHTS and in the face of this the cops took off the handcuffs and stopped their stop-and-frisk. (See "Coming Together to STOP 'Stop & Frisk': A Story from One Neighborhood" in this issue.)
So September 13 was a day to popularize, build off of, and further grow shoots of resistance that had already developed leading up to the day.
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What was accomplished on September 13 must be carried forward. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network calls 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!”
The network is also calling on people to be in the streets at the upcoming October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
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See reports on September 13 from New York City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Houston, Cleveland, and Chicago.
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