On the Significance of the October 22 Protest in Chicago

November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader

The most striking aspect of October 22, 2013, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and Criminalization of a Generation in Chicago [and perhaps not fully captured in the initial coverage] was the participation of youth from the oppressed neighborhoods, Black youth in their teens and early twenties... as many as 70 youth stamped the character of 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.

Chicago is a city where the police routinely chase groups of Black youth out of downtown, even when they come to parade their outfits on Easter. So it is a big deal for these youth to come out to protest, most doing so for the first time. And marching through the heart of downtown Chicago at lunch hour where they can be seen and heard by thousands. They were joined by family members of people killed by the police as well a faith based community group which works with ex-offenders and at-risk youth on the west side of Chicago. Two members of the Revolution Club who have had children murdered by police played important roles in protecting the integrity of O22 from attempts to disrupt it.

There were youth from two alternative high schools. Some of the students at these schools have been ordered by the courts to attend the school as a condition of not going to juvie/jail. This school sent almost 40 students on a bus that was paid for by donations. Another school had over 15 students and their teachers take part, having to make their way by public transportation. When the students from the first school marched up and saw the students from the other school waiting for them there were hugs and cheers to see each other there. These youth were joined both by junior college students from a downtown campus and toward the end by a class on social justice from a private downtown university brought by their professor. In addition and very importantly, there were about 30 people from the faith-based community group who were of different ages and who added real spirit and discipline to O22.

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. At both schools Revolution newspaper was used in building for the day.

The turn-out seems to represent both the ongoing response to the murder of Trayvon and the extreme police clampdown/occupation taking place in many neighborhoods on the south and west sides of the city. The call for "hoodies UP" resonated with the simmering outrage that still exists over Zimmerman's acquittal and the fact that these youth are made to feel like suspects all the time by the police. This was even being taken up even by at least one security guard at school—"O22 is hoodies up day right?" the guard would call out. When the kids asked about the school dress codes which ban hoodies, the teachers said bring them in your back pack and we will put them on, on the way to the demonstration.

The extreme repression against the youth is also a big part of the picture. In the name of stopping violence among the youth, the police commit big-time violence against the youth regardless of who or what they have done. Many students knew one of the few dozen people from Chicago pictured on the "Killed by Police" banner. In interviews with high school students, one thing repeated over and over was that the police can do ANYTHING to them, including kill them—and nothing will happen to the police. They put their heart into the chant, "We are not suspects, we are human beings." More echoes of Trayvon.

In some of the Chicago neighborhoods targeted by police, their practice isn't STOP-And-FRISK, it is STOP-And-JAIL.

In building for O22, a 22-year-old young man talked to a revolutionary about what the police do to the young men in the park where he hangs out: If you are standing in the park, they arrest you for soliciting (they had tried to arrest people for trespassing but the guys told them, "It's a public park—we are allowed to be here.") If they are standing on the sidewalk, they are arrested for trespassing. If they are standing over by the store they are arrested for loitering. It used to be that after 8 hours you would get out. But now they say you are a gang member so you have to post bail. And then when you go back to court they take a portion of the bail as a fine. He says he has "about 100" of these charges on his record. When the regular police round them up they tell them, "don't complain to me, the white shirt told us to do this" meaning that the orders came down from the commander to go out and round up a bunch of the young men. He and two of his friends made a video calling on people to participate in O22. He has begun to get into BAsics and Revolution newspaper, as well as watch some clips from BA Speaks: REVOLUTION-NOTHING LESS!

There were speeches and poems from the students and community group, a family member of a relative killed by police and a statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party. All were well received and the crowd would up the noise every time the word revolution was mentioned.

Again, I don't think we can underestimate the importance of taking to the streets of downtown in the middle of lunch hour and proclaiming NO MORE and the impact it had on the youth themselves as well as those who saw and heard them.

While there were not lots of other social forces (like lawyers, ministers, other progressive or radical groups, etc.) who came out on O22, we should also recognize those social forces who not only came out but made it possible for these youth to take part in O22 in the first place. The teachers made a big difference. At one school the students wrote poetry and two youth performed their poems at O22. At another school revolutionaries and activists building for O22 spoke at the school. Again we should not fail to appreciate that it is not a small act for these teachers to help these youth find their voice, a powerful voice when they are so under the gun of the police.

The scene at the downtown O22 rally and march: not surprisingly, Black people on the streets were more openly supportive, but there were still a number of people of different nationalities who were expressing their support including giving the fist (even some white businessmen), getting the Revolution newspapers, O22 flyers, etc. There were people, especially young people, who joined in on the spot. And even if all that were not the case, STILL the youth standing up together in noticeable numbers is a CRITICAL ingredient to changing the mindset of the broader population that has bought into the lies spread by the powers that be that the problem is the youth and not the system that denies them a future.

The revolutionaries are putting a lot of emphasis on getting back out to all the groups of people who came out. Stacks of Revolution newspapers are going out to the schools, the groups who came out, etc. Arrangements to show the DVD at the schools (high schools and colleges) are a real priority. There are two parks where the youth broadly know about the revolution, where some of the more advanced have watched the DVD etc. and who built for O22 and which are in areas where there is intense conflict among the youth... there needs to be big advances in showings of the DVD. Everywhere we need to be enlisting as many of these youth into revolution clubs and into a systematic relationship to the movement for revolution.

Also, there is a collage of pictures from O22 in the making—some pictures from Chicago and some from around the country—an 11X17 full-color poster. The idea is to make multiple copies and get these together with the 3 Strikes poster distributed in quantity for all the students and other groupings who came out to O22 so they can post them up at school and at home. This should help keep what they accomplished that day from fading too far into the background. This was an important beginning.

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