Greensboro, North Carolina: WHO SHUT SHIT DOWN? WE SHUT SHIT DOWN!

December 5, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Greensboro:

Last night, only a few short hours after yet another grand jury gave its stamp of approval to the lynching of yet another unarmed Black man, we marched into the heart of downtown Greensboro and SHUT IT DOWN. On very short notice, around fifty people gathered and marched to the very spot where activists fighting racist segregation shut down the same intersection forty-one years ago, and took it over. It took cops about 20 minutes to even show up; meanwhile, there was vocal and visible support from many of the drivers whose cars were stopped. Although 25-30 of us had declared that we were willing to risk arrest and had blocked the intersection while a growing crowd on the sidewalk fully took part by chanting and bearing witness, the cops kept their distance, and blocked off Market and Elm streets to traffic, without arresting anyone. At that point we broke into a loud and celebratory chant: “WHO SHUT SHIT DOWN? WE SHUT SHIT DOWN!”

Right now we are moving forward on the strength of an outpouring of outrage, locally and nationally, that hasn’t been seen in decades. The genocidal moves of this system against Black and Brown people that the Stop Mass Incarceration Network has described since its founding have escalated with the freeing of the murderers of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. However, these same conditions have pushed people into action in massive numbers here and nationwide. Just last week, around four hundred people took to the streets in protest of the non-indictment of the murdering cop who ended the life of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. We took over the streets that night too, marching from one institution of repression to another our voices loud with defiance: from the courthouse, to the police station, and to the jail. At every stop, people spoke from a deep bitterness about the abuses of this system, and how it’s imbued with racism and white supremacy in every aspect of its political and social existence.

People are feeling all of this outrage on a deep level, and expressing it with their presence and their voices. Last night a young Black woman who recently moved here from Florida opened her comments before the march by saying, “The first time a cop called me ‘nigger’ I was five years old.” That hit people hard. She then spoke to how she’d always felt compelled to confront oppression as a Black queer woman, and that yesterday’s ruling made it clear that she needed to join people in the streets. Another Black woman who was interviewed by a TV news station last night while marching arm in arm with several others told the reporter, “The people that we pay taxes to are not protecting us and they need to know we are done, we are tired…I’m hurt, and I have a brother and I’m scared that I won’t ever see him again if he’s stopped by a cop for whatever reason.”

At the same time, people are also expressing hope: not “HOPE” as a cynically misleading slogan for yet another oppressor, but the hope that we can unite on deep, principled levels to confront all of the oppression coming down on people. Many people looked around at the very diverse crowds that had been called into the streets, and expressed the beginnings of a real hope that we can cross boundaries of race, nationality, sexual orientation and gender expression to challenge all of this oppression together. From one facebook post seen after last Tuesday’s march: “Being in demonstrations and participating in protests have been the most diverse area I've ever been in that I've actually felt comfortable. That's why I went to majority black schools because that's where I feel safe. I feel like Malcolm when he went to Africa and opened his eyes to see Muslims were all colors and changed his outlook on SOME things.”

There are tremendous strengths in all of this and tremendous openings as well. Our local SMIN chapter brings out the understanding that these police murders and non-indictments are fundamentally connected to the 2.2 million people locked up in prison, 60% of whom are Black or Latino. We strive to be an example of a multi-racial, multi-national formation that can challenge the very foundations of the racist, genocidal program of this system, and unite with people broadly on that basis. Many challenges are ahead of us, not the least of which is the fact that while cops are being mostly non-violent in how they deal with these protests (outside of Ferguson, at least), that can change at any moment, especially as the protests grow bigger and draw more deeply from the ranks of the people who are being brutalized daily (like in Ferguson). No matter what, though…we keep pushing like we have a world to win, because we do.

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