Resisting Stop-and-Frisk and Supporting Abortion in Harlem

"We Will Not Accept Slavery of Any Kind"

November 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From readers:

The night after a federal court issued a stay of a lower court ruling that elements of stop-and-frisk amounted to racial profiling and were unconstitutional (see "Statement by Carl Dix on the Federal Appeal Court Ruling Re Floyd vs City of New York")—you could hear little groups at the bus stops and outside the projects discussing this. The court ruling was a big message to the people. The reactionaries were crowing their victory, and the people had been slapped in the face. On the cover of the NY Post the headline was "Frisk You!"

Another major attack on the people, however, was being rarely discussed—the rolling assault on abortion. There were people in Jackson, Mississippi, defending the last abortion clinic in the state against a siege by fundamental Christian fascist forces, and a federal appeals court had just issued a ruling that is leading to the immediate shut down of as many 13 abortion clinics in Texas.

We went out with the orientation that the ruling class legitimacy on both these questions must be challenged. "We Will Not Accept Slavery of any Kind!" was at the heart of the matter. We had to draw people's attention to the emergency in Mississippi and draw the links to the program of new Jim Crow and slow genocide against the Black and Latino people.

On the sidewalk was chalked "No Mayors, No Presidents, No Gods! It's Up to Us! We Will Not Accept Slavery in Any Form!" Passersby were called over to sign a banner that said "It's Up to Us! STOP Stop-and-Frisk! No More!" and some in the middle of crossing the street turned around and came back when they realized they were being called on to participate. Some of the African drummers who often perform in the plaza pointed to the poster with Bob Avakian's "3 Strikes" quote and said that they considered their drumming to be an extension of this movement. We also put "Abortion on Demand Without Apology" signs on the posts lining the walkway, and planted a big color "3 Strikes" poster with "Abortion on Demand Without Apology" above it. A speaker on a stepladder drew out the links and called on people to step up and join the movement for revolution.

Soon a swirling scene emerged—people of all ages and nationalities signed the STOP Stop-and-Frisk banner. Knots of people, with individuals holding just-purchased copies of Revolution newspaper, talked with revolutionaries all over the plaza. People took turns posing for photographs in front of it with their fist in the air. One of the Central Park Five (five innocent Black and Latino youth convicted in a lynch-mob atmosphere of a brutal crime in the 1980s), with his young daughter on his shoulders, stopped and took a picture in front of the banner. Some white youth doing a school project on stop-and-frisk, a mother with two young daughters, an older white man with long white hair and a beard took a turn. A photojournalist, well-known in Harlem, stopped to watch the scene and take pictures. He went up to the speaker and shook his hand: "You're motivating the people," he said. A young white couple listened for quite a while to the speaker boldly arguing for women's right to abortion, its connections to the oppression of Black people and that another world is possible. Especially the young woman was greatly impacted. New connections were being made.

An older Black man came up to two revolutionaries and said, "What you're doing means a lot." His eyes were filled with pain, as he described the daily harassment he is subjected to from police. He lives in a small town, and the police there know him, know his name, live in his neighborhood and yet when they see him they demand his ID and search his backpack "They try to make us feel like we're two inches high. They won't let us live. Anything we do, anywhere we go. No one will help us. We're fighting for the children, not for ourselves. We can't let our kids grow up like this." Meanwhile the police began massing and talking among themselves, getting out their ticket books. A commander joined them, but they ended up watching a few yards away, the whole time. There seemed to always be people filming the scene, including a photojournalist from France who stayed a long time and was very affected by what he saw.

A young woman with the Revolution Club called on people to add their message to a statement that read: "To the doctors, nurses, clinic staff, patients and people defending the last abortion clinic in Mississippi—THANK YOU for your courage. You are not alone! From Harlem, NY." Groups of people were constantly gathered around the statement. She struggled with people over concepts that, in most cases, were completely new to them. "A fetus is not a baby, it is a subordinate part of the woman's body, while the woman is a fully developed human being with memories and future plans. A woman should be able to choose an abortion for any reason and a woman's role does not have to include motherhood." She found that most people were approaching the question from the standpoint that the right to abortion should exist because there was so much poverty or in the case of rape. People that disagreed with the right to abortion were in most cases willing to engage in debate.

"This is like Woodstock here!" said an older Black man. "All these people coming together and speaking out!" He added "Men! Mind your own business. From a man" on the message to be sent to Mississippi. Some of the other messages were: "Women of Mississippi—My heart is with you in this fight for our choices and right to access to safe abortions! Stay strong—with love and peace." "I think women should be able to do what they want with their bodies because they have just as much of a right to freedom as men. There is no reason to differentiate between people and treat them different because of their gender or skin-tone!" An African woman wrote, "Every woman has a right to make choices in relation to her own body and well being." Then she exclaimed, "These people who want to end abortion and birth control should come to Africa and see all the homeless, hungry children roaming the streets! What will happen to the children that they force women to have?"

For some, STOP Stop & Frisk was spontaneously an easier issue to relate to, and they stopped to sign that banner. They were also encouraged and struggled with to sign the statement being sent to Mississippi. This was challenging to many people. Some, often but not exclusively men, continued on their way instead of going over to this scene around the abortion statement. Some groups of friends struggled among themselves. One woman in her 20s said, "I support the right to choose, but I am against abortion." Her friend argued with her, "But look how social programs are being cut, many women cannot afford to have children." Biblical literalism and ignorant woman-hating views were not heard in this liberated zone, but one important section of people—middle-school aged Black teenagers—were overwhelmingly found to be against abortion and unwilling to discuss their views. One young woman in her 20s gave a taste of the barbarous indoctrination young people are subjected to: the pastor of her church had shown a video of a supposed "abortion" where a baby was born alive and the woman was asked if she wanted the baby or not, and when she said no, the baby was euthanized with a lethal injection. This was exposed as being part of the "anti-abortion porn," which too much characterizes what young people are familiar with. We realized the crucial importance of bringing out placards with pictures to scientifically illustrate the truth about what a pregnancy is and what an abortion is.

Another woman in her 30s discussed the connection she saw between the reinstatement of stop-and-frisk and the attacks on abortion. She said, "In truth I think we are moving toward communism." It was clear from the context that she meant fascism and actually did not know that it is completely different from communism. When we explained the truth, she said what she wanted was a world of "full equality" and that she really wanted to come to the dinner next Saturday that will preview the new film Stepping Into the Future: On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World and celebrate raising big money to spread BA Everywhere.

A man in his 30s who had been in prison for 20 years since age 17 and had been recently released—a phenomenon that we regularly run into here—stopped to talk about "how it seemed that people are not fighting back like they used to." He spoke about reforming police practices. When revolution was posed in opposition to reform, the discussion changed. "But I don't think the people are ready for that." Through the back and forth over the leadership we have, the movement to project and promote this, and the role he could play in building this movement for revolution, he bought a ticket to the dinner party.

People were beginning to make important connections in the midst of this scene Saturday. It was an expression of people wrestling with not accepting slavery in any form.

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