October 22, 2013: National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation

The Need and Potential to Build Off Real Advances

November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


This year, October 22—the 18th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation was marked by many youth from the neighborhoods coming out and manifesting their outrage—joined by many others of all nationalities and from different walks of life—sick and tired of the whole way this system is carrying out a slow genocide of Black and Latino people through police murders, mass incarceration, and criminalization. There was an angry spirit of defiance and determination.

This was the context for October 22 [O22] this year:

  • Anger still raw and present at the Trayvon Martin verdict. People still reeling with the punch in the gut feeling at how this system has once again, openly declared a young Black man's life is worth nothing, that his killer can go free.
  • A recent hunger strike by thousands of prisoners in California to protest inhumane conditions of solitary confinement. These prisoners called for unity between different races and nationalities, inspired many people on the outside AND and gave searing exposure of how this system is literally torturing 80,000 people in its prison hellholes.
  • Police continuing to brutalize and murder Black and Latino youth—and almost always getting away with it. The system continues to defend and carry out the NYPD's illegitimate and unconstitutional practice of stop and frisk—which targets mainly Black and Latino people to be stopped and harassed for, in the overwhelming majority of cases, doing nothing wrong whatsoever.

All this is part of the illegitimate matrix of police brutality, murder, repression and criminalization of a generation—which is what people took to the streets to STOP on October 22. And this sets the context for understanding what was accomplished on October 22, what it revealed, and what needs to be done now to build off it.

When this system let the killer of Trayvon Martin walk free, all of this welled up and came to the surface. This is why a lot of people said, "We are All Trayvon Martin." Why so many took to the streets, saying, "That could have been me," "Could have been my son," "Could have been my brother."

And many others, not directly under the gun in this way, looked at this verdict and had to ask themselves, "What does this say about America? Is this the kind of society I want to be a part of—when racist vigilantes and cops kill Black and Latino youth and this system lets them get away with it almost all the time?

How Long?

At the O22 rally in Oakland, Uncle Bobby, Cephus Johnson, spoke beneath the platform where his nephew Oscar Grant was killed by the police in 2009. Juanita Young, whose son, Malcolm Ferguson, was killed by a NYPD cop in 2000 and Margarita Rosario, whose two nephews were killed by cops in 1995, marched in the Bronx in New York. In Atlanta, Delzora Wall, mother of Zaus Barnett, who was shot 12 times and killed by the police this year, spoke at the rally. A friend of Prince Gavin, a Black soldier murdered in Tacoma, Washington, addressed the crowd in Seattle.

In Sacramento, California, the rally of 4-500 people was organized by "A California Campaign to Stop Police Brutality," a state-wide network that includes over 50 families of victims of police murder. Latino, Black, Asian and white family members came from all over the state. One mother and grandmother came from Nevada. About 45 family members came from Anaheim alone, where there have been over 40 police shootings in the last 10 years, over 20 of them resulting in a death— every single one found "justifiable" by authorities.

Youth and students also played a significant role in O22 this year. Revolution Clubs in different cities went out to high schools to organize for O22. College students and high school youth were an important and large component of many of O22 events. At the Fruitvale Plaza in Oakland, where Oscar Grant was killed by the police, the rally of 120 people of all nationalities was over half young people, a contingent came from Merritt College and the Black Students Union took the stage as their president addressed the crowd and spoke of Black peoples' very "existence" being threatened by how "the cops are killing us." In Los Angeles, when the march passed by Crenshaw High School, scores of students rushed in and went to the head of the march, despite the police trying to stop them. In Atlanta, when the march went by a Georgia State University building a representative from the GSU Progressive Student Alliance exposed a joint training program between the police in Georgia and Israel. Later a youth from Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance spoke about Obama's detention and deportation of immigrants.

In Chicago, the crowd of 200 at the rally was overwhelmingly African-American and mainly young. Youth came from two alternative high schools—one school sent almost 40 students on a bus paid for by donations; another had over 15 students. When students from the first school marched up and saw students from the other school there were hugs and cheers. They were joined by both by junior college students from a downtown campus and a class on social justice from a private downtown university brought by their professor. A report from Chicago notes: "This was very significant in a city wracked by cycles of violence between different sets of youth... instead here is a glimpse of something new coming on the terrain (new for O22 too), youth fighting the power and transforming themselves in the process....Other social forces, like lawyers, ministers, other progressive or radical groups helped to make it possible for these youth to take part in O22... If we don't fully appreciate what this represented, the movement for revolution will not be able to build on it, to see it as a harbinger of what is stirring below the surface among many more youth who did not come out that day, while deepening the fight against the police brutality and the jailing of these youth in huge numbers and bringing as many as possible into the movement for revolution."

Many Voices Protest

This year over 50 cities announced plans for O22 and different kinds of people of all nationalities, from different parts of society, came together. People were in a very defiant mood. There were marches to jails, precincts, an ICE field office—to directly expose, condemn and confront the representatives of the system carrying out crimes against the people.

Lots of people came from the neighborhoods as well as activists in the immigrant rights struggle, Black nationalists, people from Occupy, artists, lawyers and other professionals, intellectuals, and people from the religious community. In New York, Reverend Stephen H. Phelps from The Riverside Church in Harlem sent a statement of solidarity to the rally in Harlem. In Oakland, members from the Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco attended with Dr. Karen Oliveto. Oliveto, who spoke at the rally, had recently given a sermon from a mock SHU [solitary confinement] unit in support of the prisoners hunger strike.

There were other expressions of protest on O22, like people wearing black at their workplace and Youtube videos done to promote the day, including one by rapper Jasiri X who announced that in support of this movement he was releasing a new video on O22 called "Crooked Cops." Also of important note is a benefit concert by Arturo O'Farrill, Grammy award-winning pianist and composer and founder of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. In July, at an Evening of Conscience in support of the prisoners hunger strike, O'Farrill talked about how the murder of Ramarley Graham had shocked him and he said: "I'll use my voice, I'll use what I have, the platform that I've built, the orchestra, the music, the records, the composing, everything I can do, I aim towards the purpose of letting people know that things have got to change. It is the most important thing a person can do."

The movement for revolution also had a strong and important presence on O22. The "3 Strikes Poster" with the quote from Bob Avakian was widely distributed. Revolutionaries promoted showings of the film Revolution—Nothing Less! during the building of O22, got out copies of Revolution newspaper and sent people to the website revcom.us. At many O22 rallies the statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party was read. Carl Dix, from the RCP spoke at rallies in the Bronx and Harlem, and revolutionaries spoke in other cities—exposing how this slow genocide can become a fast genocide and that only revolution can bring about a new world free of all the horrors people are facing, and challenging people to get with the movement for revolution.

Great Need, Great Potential

October 22 this year was a good, and important advance. And it gives a sense of the potential breadth of people who can be won in an even bigger and more powerful way to make this voice of determined resistance heard ON A BIG SOCIETAL STAGE—in a way that cannot be ignored, that can change the actual terms of conversation and struggle in society. And that contributes, increasingly, to repolarizing society, and as we say: "Fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution."

More than anything else, it revealed the need and potential, for a movement to change all of society. It revealed the great need and great potential to build a movement for revolution to finally get rid of this system that is responsible for this nightmare of oppression and brutality—and all of the other horrors of the capitalist system, from the oppression of women, to the U.S. wars of empire around the world, to the savage exploitation of sweatshops and child labor and the ravaging of the environment.

Millions of people are already losing sleep about the state of the world, hating the way things are, wishing things could be different—BUT not knowing that in fact, things don't have to be this way AND that there is the leadership and the vision and the plan for how to get the world to a whole other place, to emancipate all of humanity.

So we need to take the real strengths and advances of this year's O22, that more than anything else, showed the POTENTIAL and the NEED to rally many more to take this up—and we need to build off this in ways which can advance this movement in new and strategic ways.

This movement, "To Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation" can and must be a way for tens of thousands today and, in the not too distant future, MILLIONS... to take up this important struggle, for it to grow in its breadth, diversity and determination.

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