Reporter's Notebook from Ferguson

Talking to the People About Revolution

September 11, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


On August 29, revolutionaries went out to talk to people in Ferguson, in the neighborhood where Michael Brown was killed. This was a day of many rich conversations where revolutionaries learned a lot. It was a day when many people who had met the revolutionaries out protesting in the streets got to know more about the movement for revolution, the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party he leads. This was a day of people starting to get with this movement for revolution. A reporter from Revolution/ was there and filed this report:


A handful of revolutionaries accompanied by a youth from Ferguson went to Canfield Green, a complex of wood and brick apartments set on a wide street surrounded by green lawns and trees full of thousands of chirping crickets. They brought posters “We Stand with the Defiant Ones,” and a poster with the demands: “Indict and jail the killer cop, fire the police chief, and a complete accounting of all that happened.”  Everyone they met got at least one poster and a copy of Revolution newspaper.

One youth, XX, who came out with the revolutionaries, had been out at the protests in the first days. He really liked and respected the role revolutionaries played in the protests and had marched with them several times – he liked the chants. Later he had listened to the New Year’s message from Bob Avakian and had been challenged to get involved with the revolution. When asked if he knew anyone who could grill, for the picnic the revolutionaries were planning to have on Labor Day he said, “I'm the grill man! You're talking to him.” Out in the neighborhood he helped talk to people and made recommendations for where to go.

The memorial in the middle of the street where Michael Brown's blood had flowed, has become a destination for those who are outraged by the murder and inspired by the resistance, with people coming from hundreds of miles away to see the place where Michael Brown’s young life was so brutally ended.

We met a woman who works in real estate and had been witness to the aftermath of Michael's murder. She talked to us about the recent history of brutality and murder involving law enforcement in the area.

We met a couple who had come from Illinois. The man had on a T-shirt depicting Olympic champions Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists at the 1968 Olympics. When he learned that some people had come from Oakland to stand with the people of Ferguson, he said he had always wanted to go there, because it was the birth place of the Black Panther Party. He said, “The Black Panther Party was originally organized to patrol the neighborhood against police who were not there to serve and protect but to pick up and harass. Same thing happening here. We need to change, we don't want to go backwards. I'm concerned because this happens all over. They've indicted Michael Brown, smeared his memory, but not the officer who killed him. There is a culture of killing young Black men that needs to stop.”

Two young men, 20 and 26, came walking up the sidewalk asked what the revolutionaries were handing, out and when they saw the posters they took some to put up and to give to others. One said he had joined the protests after he saw that it was a demand for justice and that the authorities weren't giving justice. The other youth said “I ain't never seen a lot of commotion like in one time. That's what brought me out. I had to check it out and see what was going on. When I saw it, wow.  At first I didn't believe it was true. You always see these type of events in movies. I was kind of like shocked, for real.” They got serious when asked about how Police Captain Ron Johnson is giving nightly press conferences saying that the protests should stop and about how it's good to see “Ferguson back” to normal. “No. They done shot him. They want us to stop? They did enough. Now it's time for us to do our thing. It's crazy. The cop needs to be in jail.”

At one door the revolutionaries knocked on, two young women were in a hurry, getting ready to go to work in the evening. The revolutionaries explained they had the posters for people to put up to make the point the demands are still unmet, and to stand with those who had risen up. Did the women want the posters? They answered: “Do you have tape?” One gave a donation and the posters went up.

When the revolutionaries were about to leave several older women in their 30's and 40's yelled at them from up the street, “where's my poster?” So they doubled back and more posters got out and up in windows. One woman said “don't put it on the outside, put it on the inside, I don't want nobody stealing my poster.” Another women described being there that day, hearing the gunshots. She talked about other police murders and brutality, how she hated it. A member of the Revolution Club said he was from New York, and the woman asked about Eric Garner (a 43-year-old Black man choked to death by police in New York 23 days before Michael Brown was murdered) and what was happening around that, and talked about how sickening it was to see the video of the killer cop smiling and waving at the camera after choking Garner to death.

Up the street, a group of people sat under a canopy and handed out water. A man in his 30’s explained that they had organized themselves to help fellow residents after Michael Brown's murder, when many people were afraid to go out, felt locked into their homes by the police cruising and posting up all over the area. People feared for their safety, especially for their kids' safety. So they set up tents, got food and water for the complex and generally helped people through all of this.

The young brother who worked the tents from the very beginning said: “If they don’t indict the cop things are going to go up,” and “Yes we need to build resistance.” He said, “We have given the rest of the world a license to stand up.” He got a copy of BAsics and took a number of posters to put up in his apartment complex.


After that the revolutionaries went a short distance to West Florissant Street. They met some men sitting in an area with tents. Some of them have organized into a group called the Lost Voices. They were in the parking lot designated as a place where people could be stationary, where they did not have to keep moving, so one man slept there overnight on his book bag, saying “I'm not leaving.”  More people started staying. People started bring food, water, clothes which they distributed to help the struggle. “We're a group of individuals who are likeminded, doing this to fight for justice for everyone, white, Black, Mexicans, Hispanic, whatever race you are. We're doing it for everyone who has been treated unfairly, and who also has suffered brutality from police officers. Unlawful imprisonment, unjust arrests.” They showed us their library: Slavery by Another Name, The Warmth of Other Suns, At the Dark End of the Street,” and other books. They took a copy of BAsics for the library.  One man talked about how he had been locked up twice during the protests. He said that many people who had been arrested during the protests were still in jail because of warrants they had, mainly for non-payment of traffic fines, “a tactic they are using to stop the protests – “that's why many who were strong supporters out here aren't here no more.”  He spoke about authorities and others bringing in “a big broom and a big dustpan,” talking about healing and calm and trying to quell the protests.  And he said he was down for the long haul, “I'm 42 years old, I've spent 17 years in prison. If I die out here, that's ok.”

People we met were intrigued to hear about a movement for revolution being built. Some listened to the New Year's message from Bob Avakian, commenting: “He's breaking it down. Telling it like it is.”

After a brief thunderstorm, revolutionaries returned to the street after dark. At the first pass the streets were almost empty. About to leave the area, the revolutionaries heard chants in the distance, and saw about 20+ young people marching quickly, chanting “Hands Up, Don't Shoot.” The revolutionaries joined the group o f mainly young men, some young women; mostly Black but some white youth as well.

The march flowed into the street, people were excited, jumping. A county police K-9 SUV came toward the march, lights flashing, and the march crossed the street to march in the opposite lane. Two more K-9 units stopped by the small march, youth faced off, and after a minute or two the police moved away. People were chanting, “We young, we strong, we're marching all night long.”

Afterward many people remained nearby, a couple others were shooting hoops in the near blackness in the parking lot, others were sitting around in groups of threes and fours, discussing and struggling over many questions and enjoying the warm night.  The young guy, XX, who has been running with the revolutionaries off and on during the last two weeks was eager to engage more deeply. What was this revolution about? Why did they always hire police who had a history of brutality? Were there good and bad police? When revolutionaries brought up that this systematic repression was because we are ruled by a capitalist system and we need a communist revolution, one man asked if we couldn't just combine the best aspects of capitalism and communism, ‘cause some people like one and some the other. This was discussed – about how this system is totally unreformable and that we need revolution, nothing less.

Two women were also sitting close, really seemed to be looking for a way to fight this. One looked at the centerfold from the newspaper that shows Ferguson, Gaza and children being detained for crossing the U.S. border. She focused on the pictures of the children, “they put them in JAIL? That ain't right. They should get them in homes, take care of them.”  A revolutionary got out his phone, and four heads bent to watch the video, “BA Through the Years.”  During the video one woman said, “This really means we got to do this now, he's been talking about this for a long time.” The spirit was that “we are the ones who are going to change the whole fucking world.” When BA was talking about people thinking this is the only world possible, trying to be big dogs in a dog-eat-dog world, one woman said “oh, that's a quote,” cracking up during the part about someone who settled for being the “baddest broke-leg motherfucker”...instead of getting down and stopping people's legs from getting broken. One said “that's what we need to do.” They really liked the very end when BA talks about how we are capable of much greater things than this. “That's right.”  One woman said “Thank you, I needed to hear this!”

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