On the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation

Reverend Jerome McCorry on the Battle for Justice for John Crawford and the Month of Resistance

September 29, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


The following is an interview Revolution/revcom.us recently did with the Reverend Jerome McCorry, who has been leading the initiative for a nationally coordinated weekend of sermons against mass incarceration during the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.


Revolution: First, why do you think the October Month of Resistance is so important?

On September 22, people marched from the Walmart to the county courthouse where a grand jury let the murdering cop walk free. AP photo

Rev. McCorry: I think many, many people need to be part of it. Two and a half million people being locked up in this country is a total atrocity. We have the highest prison population. In the world. There's no doubt about that. We have an invisible war called the war on drugs that has been disproportionately aimed at Black people, just like everything else. So when we look at those numbers, and the fact that we have the most incarcerated people in the world, it's a disproportionate number.

There's a real problem here. And Americans should really be outraged. When you look at the numbers, you look at the causes, you look at an unjust war on poor Americans that is disguised as a war on drugs, we should be concerned.

We've got to turn this around. Even if we have to get a UN resolution on this. We have to get other nations involved. We are not an island unto ourselves. We bill ourselves, and we sell ourselves in this nation as we're the greatest nation in the world. And I'm not so sure I've bought into that.

Revolution: In particular, this is a plague upon young Black and Latino people especially...

Rev. McCorry: That's correct. It is a plague upon Black and Latino communities. These are clearly targeted populations. It is clearly something that must be addressed by all Americans.

Revolution: You were one of the main initiators of the Faith Based Initiative for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Can you talk about this?

Rev. McCorry: Yes, absolutely. What we have done is we have set up with churches across the country, synagogues, temples, mosques; we have asked them to engage in a movement that would end the kind of atrocities we're now facing. When you talk about ending mass incarceration, you're not just talking about those who are locked up. You're talking about racial profiling, you're talking about terror and abuse, you're talking about police brutality. You're also talking about mistreatment in prisons.

We think that there has to be a response from the spiritual community that leads a movement much like the civil rights movement of the late '50s and early '60s. As we engage the faith community in this effort to stop these atrocities, the criminalization of this generation—we want messages of hope, messages of love, aimed at putting an end to mass incarceration. Our faith institutions play a tremendous role in the educating of people, so these are opportunities in October where people can engage this.

What we've done, we've prepared responsive meetings, litanies, sermon topic ideas, and we're asking congregations across the nation, over 500 congregations, to participate. We're asking people to preach and to teach, to stop these atrocities. And we're asking people to engage in the effort to end mass incarceration and those things that go along with it. Specifically the criminalization of this generation.

John Crawford, murdered by a cop in an Ohio Walmart on August 5, with his mother, Tressa Sherrod. AP photo

Revolution: Can you talk about the fight you and others in Ohio have been involved in around the brutal police murder of John Crawford, and now the refusal of the grand jury to indict the killer cop?

Rev. McCorry: Absolutely. On August 5, the situation was here's a young man, and now that the tape has finally been released everyone can see ... here's a young man who's in a Walmart store, and who's handling a product in the store. Who's walking around the store and not really a threat to anyone. A young man who is on the telephone. Police officers came in and literally opened fire before even giving a command or otherwise engaging this young man.

After the grand jury decision came out, I was asked the question if I was disappointed that there was no indictment. Asking me if I was disappointed means I would have been expecting something else. Unfortunately, the mood and thinking in this country is not to indict law enforcement almost no matter what they do. They do this over and over and over again. It's very hurtful when people think there isn't any justice when they are victimized by law enforcement.

So for this Ohio jury not to indict these police officers means, unfortunately, that we can expect more of this in our country. Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to the Crawford family. But these are the kinds of injustices we have to fight each and every day.

Revolution: The religious institutions that are going to be participating in the "Sunday Sermons" the first two weekends of October—these represent people and institutions with influence in different communities. How do you see this affecting society and people's thinking on mass incarceration and criminalization?

Rev. McCorry: When you talk about that many religious groups and organizations, and we're very fortunate to have had a major response from the Jewish community, a major response in the Muslim community, and the Christian churches have come on board in a major and new kind of way. This is an effort to engage faith institutions in what needs to happen. It's about educating and about allowing people to understand what these atrocities are all about.

We have all been taught to respect authority—law enforcement certainly chief among that. People all too often don't want to question them. And the facts show that, unfortunately, we're at war with law enforcement. More what I mean is, war has been declared on the people of this nation. We think the faith community has a tremendous responsibility to address what's going on.

And when I'm talking about a war, I'm talking about a social war. I'm talking about the fact that we have a certain demographic who has been targeted. People of color have been targeted by unfair, unequal enforcement of the law, and profiling, and that kind of thing. So, the church community, the faith community, must speak to these kinds of issues. The responses have been overwhelming, and it's ironic how a number of clergymen have said to us, "We understand there's a problem, but we're not sure what to preach." I think even in our education institutions where we train our clergy, our seminaries, our Bible colleges, we need to teach a new theology, and that is a true theology of liberation.

We need to study a liberationist theology as we begin to come together. We begin to teach tolerance and understanding within our churches that says we must engage in a movement for justice regardless of people's backgrounds, regardless of where we think people have come from. And I don't think we've done a very good job of that. And so we plan even after October to engage the faith community in this effort to stop mass incarceration and end these atrocities.

Revolution: The Month of Resistance hopes to go beyond just a day of protest, important as that can be, to change the situation societally...

Rev. McCorry: There's no doubt about it. I say to people in my travels, my journeys, I say to congregations, this is the start of a movement whose time has come. I think that October 2014 will be a major kickoff to a new day, and a new movement being enacted in this country. And it will do more to bring us together. When you fight these kinds of injustices, oftentimes people say, "Well, that makes you anti-police." And I tell them, I'm not anti-police and I don't think any of us who represent the faith-based community's efforts are anti-police. What we are is pro righteousness. And pro righteousness says there's some corrective action that has to be taken. And it's going to take the power of the people to bring that about.

October 2014 absolutely must be used as a starting point, not an ending point.

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