MLK Day: Thousands Coast to Coast Take to the Streets to Protest Police Murder

January 26, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


On the annual MLK Day marked across the country on January 19, a new spirit of resistance was evident as people took to the streets against police murder and brutality. The following are reports received from some of the protests.


St. Louis/Ferguson
San Francisco/Bay Area
New York
Los Angeles


  • Ferguson, Missouri, Martin Luther King Day 2015. Photo: Special to
  • Ferguson, Missouri, Martin Luther King Day 2015. Photo: Special to
  • Ferguson, Missouri, Martin Luther King Day 2015. Photo: Special to
  • Boston, Martin Luther King Day 2015. Photo: Special to
  • Boston, Martin Luther King Day 2015. Photo: Special to
  • Chicago, Martin Luther King Day 2015. Photo: Special to
  • Chicago, Martin Luther King Day 2015. Photo: Special to
  • Chicago, Martin Luther King Day 2015, National Lawyers Guild 'Indict the System' Protest. Photo: Special to
  • Cleveland, Martin Luther King Day 2015. Photo: Special to
  • Cleveland, Martin Luther King Day 2015. Photo: Special to
  • Cleveland, Martin Luther King Day 2015. Photo: Special to
  • Los Angeles,  Martin Luther King Day 2015 - Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity float '7 Jewels of Injustice.'  Photo: Special to
  • Los Angeles,  Martin Luther King Day 2015 - Family members of Mayra Cornejo, killed by LA Sheriffs, December 31, 2014.  Photo: Special to
  • Los Angeles,  Martin Luther King Day 2015 - Blowing whistles, Photo: Special to
  • Los Angeles,  Martin Luther King Day 2015 - Stop Mass Incarceration Network contingent. Photo: Special to
  • Los Angeles,  Martin Luther King Day 2015 - Aztec dancers.  Photo: Special to
  • New York City, Martin Luther King Day 2015.  Photo: special to
  • New York City, Martin Luther King Day 2015.  Photo: special to
  • New York City, Martin Luther King Day 2015.  Photo: special to
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On January 19, 800 to 1,000 marchers gathered at the old courthouse building in St. Louis for the annual Martin Luther King parade. There was broad “Black Lives Matter,” “anti-police brutality” and “justice for Mike Brown” sentiment among most in the crowd. Many were sporting MLK buttons and “Justice for Mike Brown” T-shirts. But this year’s official MLK event had a strikingly new element—hundreds of youthful protesters steeled and tempered by the last six months of struggle for justice following the police murder of Mike Brown and others, and the grand jury decision to let the killer cop, Darren Wilson, go free.

The official MLK parade, slated to head along Market St. to Harris-Stowe State University for an interfaith service, included numerous creative visuals. One was a banner held by older white religious people of a slave with chains around his neck (1814), a Black man hanging from tree with his hands tied (1914), and the chalk outline of Michael Brown’s dead body (2014). They felt it was very important to connect history with current reality of Black people’s oppression. There was another giant banner with an MLK quote on how the U.S. is the “greatest purveyor of violence in world.” A group of young LGBT people had a banner saying “punishment is not a solution,” speaking out against how students very early (elementary school) are being treated as criminals.

But there was contention among participants. Young veterans of the recent struggles against police terror felt the need to replace the “we’ve come a long way” thrust of MLK celebrations with a much more positive “no business as usual” spirit and content. They opposed the way MLK celebrations are presided over by the city’s mayor and other city officials.

So, a core of these radical activists coalesced a critical mass of supporters and began marching on to a different destination—a homeless shelter, slated to be shut down by the mayor of St. Louis. For them, defiantly standing up against the city’s attempt to degrade the homeless was a more appropriate way to celebrate MLK Day. Efforts to close down a shelter that provides a clinic, transitional housing, and a soup kitchen to the homeless has been the source of friction between activists and the city of St. Louis over the past year.

Two hundred protesters occupied the street in front of the homeless shelter where a rally took place. Chants rang out declaring: “Homeless lives matter.” Much of the focus of the protest was on the ongoing struggle for justice for Mike Brown and how it has ushered in a new day. The first speaker suggested that the wave of struggle following the murder of Mike Brown represented the same kind of “revolution” that King represented. While uniting with the desire to take the movement to a higher level, revolutionaries seized the opportunity to discuss BA’s quote from BAsics that states: “…Revolution means nothing less than the defeat and dismantling of the existing, oppressive state, serving the capitalist-imperialist system…” (from BAsics 3:3)

As the rally ended, approximately 25 protesters headed to Harris-Stowe where the official MLK program was taking place. They entered the auditorium waving an upside-down American flag and chanted, “No justice, no peace!” One police brutality activist said, “This program is more of the same.” One Harris-Stowe student added that the university represents the “establishment” and “the politics of respectability.” One well-known blogger presented a similar view on Twitter. “The split is between those who feel like respectability politics isn’t going to lead to freedom,” he wrote. “And that this (King Day) program is respectability.” City officials, a number of students, and others at the event expressed anger that the protesters shut down the event. But a statement on the responded: “Martin Luther King Jr.’s life’s work was the elevation, honoring, and defense of Black Lives. His tools included non-violent civil disobedience and direct action. From here on, MLK weekend will be known as a time of national resistance to injustice.”

Later in the afternoon, 250 protesters gathered at the site where Mike Brown was murdered on Canfield Drive in Ferguson to begin a four-mile trek that went to the Ferguson Police Station and later returned to Canfield. This was part of nationally coordinated protests in other U.S. cities. Surprisingly, there was no sign of the police at the Ferguson police department building. After a spirited march, a rally was held in the new parking lot directly in front of the newly built police station. The names of all the individuals murdered by police in Missouri and Illinois in 2014 were read. Later, protesters occupied the street.


Stanford students and others shut down the San Mateo Bridge. The action involved people and cars blocking the bridge for 28 minutes to symbolize that police or vigilantes kill a Black person every 28 hours; 68 people were arrested. The protest, organized by Silicon Shut Down, a collective of students, stated that the action was “in defense of all Black lives. We stand with Black men and women. We act when Black Queer and Trans lives are threatened. We defend the rights of our Black family when we are poor, disabled and incarcerated.” People carried Palestinian and Mexican flags in solidarity with victims of government-sponsored and U.S.-sponsored violence in Mexico and Palestine. “We chose to inconvenience the weekend commute because the status quo is deadly to the black and brown peoples of this country and can no longer be tolerated,” a student told the Stanford Daily, “We are honoring MLK’s legacy by forcefully reminding Silicon Valley that, decades after Martin Luther King, black lives, and brown lives, and the lives of all oppressed people, still matter.” The Stanford Daily said that students wanted to remind Silicon Valley, one of the wealthiest areas in California, “it can’t ignore oppression in the midst of its own comfort.” 

Oakland Religious Rally – Christians for Black Liberation. In downtown Oakland, ministers and their congregations from many Black churches and some other churches held a Black Lives Matter rally uniting with the hashtag “Christians for Black Liberation.” One woman minister who had helped organize a die-in by religious forces on Saturday at the Grand Lake theater in Oakland after a special showing of Selma told, “How can we turn a blind eye to what is happening to the young people of our community? As a Christian I feel it is my duty to speak up.” Another minister said that he had been racially profiled just last week and that his own son had been racially profiled and jailed. The minister of one of the largest Black churches said that they had been burying Black boys and men for years “way before their time” and that Black people had been subject to police brutality for years and years, but what has changed is that people in Ferguson had stood up and now “we have a movement in Oakland that joins with others across the country – “Black Lives Matter.”

March from Fruitvale Station goes 38+ blocks through East Oakland. Several thousand people gathered at Oscar Grant (Fruitvale Bart) Plaza.  After a rally the march flowed down block after block through East Oakland where thousands of Black and Brown people live in poverty and are brutalized by police on a daily basis. It passed by the liquor store where the police shot Brownie Polk. Teenagers from the hood joined the march. A woman brought her kids out to International Boulevard with a “ Black Lives Matter”  sign they had made a few days before. Latino construction and restaurant workers stopped work to greet the march. The mainstream media said that BART train service was temporarily shut down.

San Francisco March.  About 3,000 people took part in a march, very diverse with people from all over the San Francisco area along with 1,700 people who arrived on the yearly Freedom Train from San Jose. The march was made up of many from civil rights organizations and church groupings as well as many others. Stop Mass Incarceration led chants which were well-received and also led a mass recitation of the SMIN Pledge of Resistance: “Today we pledge/Black lives matter, Latino lives matter, All lives matter! /Mass Incarceration –We say no more! /Police murder—We say no more! /Torture in the prisons—We say no more! /Criminalization of generations—We say no more! /Attacks on immigrants—We say no more! /We will NOT be silent!  We WILL resist! /Until these shameful horrors, really are, NO MORE!” After the march there was a panel presentation entitled “From Selma to Ferguson.” Thousands of copies of the Revolution editorial “The Cold but Liberating Truth About the Police, The Struggle for Justice, and Revolution” were distributed as well as cards about the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian, “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion, and many copies of Revolution newspaper were distributed in the rallies and marches in Oakland and San Francisco. 


By noon on January 19 hundreds of people were gathered at 110th and Malcolm X Blvd. ready to march – high school and college youth, families of three generations, professionals, and others. People were carrying homemade signs saying, "I Can't Breathe," "Black Lives Matter" and others. One youngster had a sign that said, “I Can Breathe...So I Must Speak." Drawing a lot of attention, with lots of people taking photos, was the NYC Revolution Club banner calling for Revolution; with people of all ages from Harlem wearing "BA Speaks: Revolution Nothing Less" T shirts and getting everyone copies of the editorial, "The Cold but Liberating Truth About the Police, the Struggle for Justice, and Revolution," selling Revolution newspaper, and passing out signs, including, "Stop Police Murder… We Need Revolution." One woman, a high school youth, had a bag with the slogan, "Smash the Fucking Patriarchal System!" She was there against her father's wishes, but said she needed to be there. She was elated to hear about the January 22nd protest defending abortion rights and women in Washington, D.C. – she said had an abortion and wanted to be there on the 22nd.

Across the intersection the NYPD amassed police vehicles, cops and metal barriers lining 110 Street. Then, shortly before the march took off, the Revolution Club called for people to gather round their banner and Noche Diaz of the Revolution Club spoke to the large group that quickly assembled. Noche hit hard on the need for and possibility of revolution, to build the movement for revolution now in the midst of the fight to stop police really end this and the system the police serve. He spoke to the strategy for revolution, for being able to win, and that people needed to step forward to join the Revolution Club, to become part of the movement that can lead millions in revolution when the time is right. The impact and challenge rippled through the crowd.

As the march moved through East Harlem and down the major Lexington Avenue it grew to a thousand. People got the revolutionary literature being passed out by the Rev Club and many joined the march off the sidewalk and projects and business places.  Huge pictures of victims of police murder and a giant "Black Lives Matter" rose above the sea of other signs. Chanting rang out continuously for the entire 4 miles through an upscale part of the city. The Rev Club led several chants that hundreds took up especially: "50 Years since MLK/Why we still livin’ this way? /Revolution is what we need/ To Liberate Humanity!” In another section of the march people initiated the chant: "What’s the problem? /The whole damn system/What's the Solution? /Revolution!”

Right in front of the huge Bloomingdale store and high end offices and shops the whole march did a massive die-in. Everyone streamed into the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the UN, including pre-school youth still carrying their small cardboard signs, an older man from Harlem with a walker, who then gathered to hear a powerful hip hop rap and a wide range of speakers including Iris Baez, the mother of Anthony Baez who was murdered by the NYPD in 1994 in a chokehold.  One theme of several of the brief talks was at one point expressed by a youth, that "Yes, this is MLK’s birthday, but we are here to say that we are not going to be here 50 years from now with this police murder and mass incarceration still going on."  A young woman, referring to the Obama regime said, "First we heard…'Yes We Can' it’s 'I can't breathe'!"


Among numerous Chicago MLK day commemorations, there were significant events aimed at marking MLK Day with protest against the ongoing injustice facing Black people—in contrast to focusing on talking about “how far we’ve come” and readings of the “I have a dream” speech.

On Thursday, January 15, the Chicago United People of Color Caucus of the National Lawyer’s Guild, (TUPOCC) in solidarity with #blacklivesmatter held a noon hour protest to “indict the system” at Federal Plaza in the Chicago Loop business district. “The system is not broken. It is doing what it was designed to do” stated the online call. Over 50 lawyers, law students, legal workers and clients carried signs, each beginning, “Indict the system for:” followed by a series of things ranging from mass incarceration to massive spying to attacks on women and immigrants. Then a big scroll listing these grievances was unfurled. Each one was read and a people’s judge pronounced his verdict: “The U.S. is GUILTY!!”

That cold and snowy evening, hundreds of people showed up at a progressive high school/middle school near the University of Illinois for a rally and march to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center to demand that the juvenile inmates be freed. It was sponsored by an intergenerational coalition of activists and community members that included many grade school, high school and college students. The core of the march was Black youth and some of their teachers from the progressive school. The spirit of these young kids inspired the crowd. One of the school’s teachers opened up the event and the main MC was an articulate and engaging 12-year-old student. He spoke bitterness about the conditions that Black and Brown students face. The crowd of youth at the center of the rally cheered and chanted. Other speakers included a young Black poet that performed a fierce spoken word piece about how the system is killing him and others from the local spoken word scene.

Protesters then marched to the notorious juvenile detention center. Along the route the march had a real effect on people. Cars honked and people leaned out of the windows joining in with the chants. Once at the detention center, protesters marched around the building then assembled at the entrance to the center chanting to the youth inside. A group called The Light Brigade lit up a string of lights 20-30 feet wide: “FREE US ALL.” And then they illuminated the words, “Indict the System" four to five stories up on the wall of this dungeon. Silhouettes of the youth could be seen banging on the windows inside and jumping up and down.

On Monday, Jan 19, the Coalition Against Police Violence and Total Blackout for Reform held a rally drawing several hundred people to the Water Tower in Chicago's upscale Magnificent Mile shopping district. After a short rally, with one speaker challenging the audience that we have to fight police terror "until we win"—the mostly young protesters headed down the sidewalks among shoppers from all over the world. They waved signs and chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands up don’t shoot”—periodically pausing for 4.5 minutes in memory of the 4.5 hours Michael Brown’s body was left lying on the ground after police killed him.

At all of these protests, the editorial, "The Cold, but Liberating Truth About the Police, the Struggle for Justice and Revolution" got out broadly, along with information on the Dialogue Between Cornel West & Bob Avakian: “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion."


60 people took part in the "4 Mile March" actions on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 19. Student organizations from Cleveland State University, Progressive Student Action and Student Socialist Society helped organize the day to protest the police killings of Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Melissa Williams, Timothy Russell, Mike Brown, Eric Garner and many others here and around the country. The march began where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed at the Cudell Recreation Center and then took over a main street to downtown. We stopped at an intersection disrupting traffic for a time. Along the way a few of us got out hundreds of the editorial from, “The Cold but Liberating Truth About the Police, the Struggle for Justice, and Revolution” to people and stores along the way. As we approached the Detroit-Superior Bridge to downtown the police began moving on us, telling us to march only in two lanes of the bridge. At this point, a marcher said that this day is in honor of Martin Luther King and his actions of civil disobedience so no we will stay in the four lanes. We locked arms and walked. As we marched on the bridge the police arrested three people. They grabbed the one man and hit him with an elbow to the ribs and then punched him hard in the stomach, forcing him to hit the hard cement.  

As we got to the end of the bridge, the police blocked us in with their cars and said we could not go on. Outrageous. We got through and many of us joined others in a march on the eastside of the city along Martin Luther King Drive, blocking traffic there and having a vigil where the police killed Tanisha Anderson on November 12. There was a real mix of people from family members of Tamir Rice, Black and white students, some youth and activists from the Black and immigrant communities and supporters of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Throughout the march loud chants rang out as we marched, getting the attention of onlookers. A young Black woman chanted, “We don’t need no oppression/We need revolution/We don’t need no racist cops/We need revolution,” and people dug it.  In summing up the day a revolutionary said, “We were defiant. We shut the bridge down. Our demeanor was aggressive and when the police told us to get on one side of the bridge we didn’t. We stayed at our own pace. Frankly, I don’t give a shit what they say. Let them know we are not afraid to stand up against them.  This has to stop, the police killings, and we will have to stop it.”


There was a big turnout for a 4 mile march – about 1,000-1,500 marched through downtown and did two die-ins by the public gardens and in front of the Statehouse where the names of people killed by the police were read off and repeated.  The crowd included college and high school students, Unitarians from the suburbs and many communities and veteran anti-war and other activists.


Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of South Central Los Angeles for blocks and blocks for this year’s Martin Luther King "Kingdom Day" Parade. There were high school marching bands; all kinds of decorated vehicles; and large contingents of LAPD, CHP, and other cops. Among all this there were also many others who marched determined to continue the political storm that has shaken the country in recent months of protests against police murder.

Near the very front of the parade was a striking contingent of older Black men all dressed in suits and ties, each holding their own, identical sign—"Black Lives Matter." They called themselves "Suits in Solidarity." Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest Black fraternity in the country (whose members have included MLK, Olympian Jesse Owens, Justice Thurgood Marshall), had a sizable contingent. Along with college students from UCLA, USC, and many of the other universities in Southern California and beyond, they had a float with a large sign that read "7 Jewels of Injustice." Under it were the photos of seven Black youths killed by police, including Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice. Under the photo it read: "Black Lives Matter to Alpha Phi Alpha." And there were many individuals carrying their own signs in the parade: "Civil Rights Matter," "Black Lives Matter," and others.

Near the end of the parade there were about 200 protesters, including family members of Mayra Cornejo, Tyler Woods, and several others killed by police—with lots of signs in at least three loud contingents, organized by groups including the Martin Luther King Coalition; the Youth and Justice Coalition; and one organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN), the LA Revolution Club, and Stop Patriarchy. The Revolution Club passed out thousands of copies of the editorial, "The Cold but Liberating Truth About the Police, the Struggle for Justice, and Revolution," and Revolution newspapers got out to many along the sidewalks.

SMIN got out hundreds and hundreds of whistles (used to call out the police) to people, who immediately put them on, and often began blowing them on the spot! And behind this contingent, people were putting on the sticker, "No New Year Under this Old System—We Can't Breathe!"

People who are part of the Stop Patriarchy network passed out fliers calling on people to “get on the vans” to go to the SF Bay Area on January 23-24 to demonstrate to defend a woman’s right to abortion and challenge the "Walk for Life" organized by the anti-abortion, anti-woman fanatics, and passed out the sticker, "Abortion On Demand and Without Apology."


In years past, the annual Martin Luther King Day rally and march in Seattle has often had an atmosphere of celebration. This year, with events in Ferguson, Missouri, and all the other recent murders of Black youths, there was an air of frustration and anger, and also a spirit of defiance and determination. There were well over a thousand people there. A large Black Lives Matter contingent was prominent and made their voices heard.

Revolutionaries got out hundreds of copies of the new statement, "The Cold but Liberating Truth About the Police, the Struggle for Justice, and Revolution," and people seemed to be thirsty for information, new views, and proposals. Several hundred palm cards also got out about the Dialogue last November between Cornel West and Bob Avakian, “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion.” These cards made for some significant interactions and discussions. Martin Luther King was very religious, and religion was on the minds of many attending the rally. These discussions ranged from a former Black Panther who had helped distribute Mao's Red Book back in the day, but these days is trying to use religion to change the world; to a white man working for social justice at his Unitarian Universalist church. Connections were made to discuss showing the Dialogue to different groups.

The local October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality had called for people to come with signs demanding justice for Oscar Perez-Giron, a young Latino man and immigrant recently murdered by police in Seattle over a $2.50 train fare. Friends and family of Perez-Giron were there and we joined them, bringing out to people the need to fight this whole epidemic of police brutality, the nature of the system responsible, and the need for revolution. People related to this, and helped with chants about revolution in Spanish. We also interacted with a Spanish-speaking contingent for the 43 students recently murdered by police in Mexico.

After the main rally and march ended, many got on buses to go home. But others wanted to keep demonstrating and a couple hundred people gathered to take the streets and intersections. They were making it clear this was no MLK day of "business as usual"!

Seattle Police Department (SPD) bicycle cops rushed to form a line to stop people but many made it through the line. When one protester who did not turned around to answer his phone a cop ran up and pepper sprayed him in the face! He is a teacher and Black Student Union adviser at a local high school. Protesters linked arms and walked towards the police line chanting. Police attacked other people. A young Black woman who was video recording from the sidewalk was also pepper sprayed in the face by a cop. Witnesses say she was completely nonviolent, not threatening, on the sidewalk with arms up, doing nothing wrong or illegal. A young Black man who has been a visible organizer in this protest movement was taken down on a sidewalk, landing in the street where his face hit the ground and broke his glasses. When asked what he was arrested for, cops said, "assault." This incident happened after the protest was over and people were leaving.

There is a video published in the media of one protester, already blinded by pepper spray and slowly groping his way to the sidewalk, being sprayed over and over again, then jerked from behind and flung down hard into the street. There is a photo sequence posted on social media of a young white man walking down the sidewalk with his hands in the air and back to police. Bicycle cops come up behind him and a cop flips him up and over a low concrete wall, onto a hard surface. There are visible injuries. Then he is arrested! A middle-aged woman, a doctor, reports that when she asked to be allowed to provide medical aid to an injured protester, she was shoved down in the street by cops, hitting her head. In addition to the swarms of bicycle police, unmarked vans full of armored cops with long, heavy-wood hitting poles rushed about and deployed at various sites.

While SPD was inflicting this storm of violence on the marchers, another group of protesters went onto Highway 99 and chained their arms to each other inside pipes so they could not easily be removed. We joined this protest and got their flier, which said, "We are a group of white people, primarily Jews and queers, calling on our communities to stop and take note of the constant and devastating injustices committed by white supremacy." Their goal was to shut down the freeway for the four and a half hours that Mike Brown was left in the street. The highway was closed for about two hours while the police came in and cut the pipes and chains. Meanwhile, yet another group also shut down portions of Interstate 5 for short periods of time!

The events of this day were a significant escalation of attempts to suppress this movement. At least 19 protesters were arrested. There are widespread reports of police generally vamping on peaceful people, pepper spraying, shoving, tackling, and arresting. Witnesses say SPD cops did "snatch and grab" arrests of people having a visible role in the protests. This is AFTER a recent big Seattle City Council meeting where the SPD was confronted for targeting protest leaders. Apparently the SPD is making it clear they intend to continue targeting people as a method to suppress this movement.


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