Live from Charleston, South Carolina

Updated June 27, 2015, 5 pm | Revolution Newspaper |


Editor’s note: A diverse crew of people including revolutionaries and activists in the Stop Mass Incarceration Network from Atlanta are in Charleston, South Carolina – marching with people, getting out Carl Dix’ Statement “Outrage in Charleston—This IS America” and learning from people. The following are reports from a member of the Revolution Club who is part of this crew.


June 27, 5 p.m.

There is much more to be said than I can fit in to this article, but hopefully I can give you a sense of the importance of what revolutionaries are doing on the ground here in Charleston, along with a snapshot of the city of Charleston itself from the view of some of the people we’ve met over the past week. As we continue to listen to, transcribe and share some of the interviews we’ve done over the past several days, hopefully it will illuminate how people are responding not only to the tragedy itself, but the burning questions around the society we live in and the question of revolution.

Today was a very heavy day. I am sure that many of you reading this watched the funeral service of Senator Pinckney on TV and heard Obama’s eulogy (which I will not get into in this report). The team of revolutionaries that is here in Charleston spent the day on the corner of the park near the arena where the funeral was held. We stood near a group of drummers and a church group passing out bottles of water to the seemingly endless line waiting in the near 100 degree heat to enter the service. Despite the obvious sadness that enveloped the senseless killings that led to the funeral, the mood of the people was upbeat. People were mourning, but also attempting to show strength in the face of such a horror.

The road filled with people trying to enter the service. Another correspondent and I walked up and down the line of people, interviewing them to get their thoughts broadly, as well as their thoughts on what this tragedy exposes about America. The crowd represented a large cross section of people and their responses represented that as well. We talked to several young women, who are students at the University. They were not very aware of the reality that faces Black people in Charleston and the United States, but they were standing outside the church when the shooting happened, and they were very affected by it. We talked with a local filmmaker and local liberal radio host. We met a poet who was close to one of the victims, who was a librarian. We also met back up with Mike, who we met on our first day in downtown Charleston. He got a copy of BAsics. Two Ferguson freedom fighters who work with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network came all the way from Ferguson to attend the funeral and show their support to the people in Charleston.

While I talked with people, our team got over a thousand copies of Carl Dix’s statement, "Outrage in Charleston—This IS America!" into the hands of people attending the service. The crowd, which consisted of mostly older Black men and women, many whom were pastors themselves, eyed the sign we carried with the title of CD’s statement and a quote from the statement:

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?... there is no middle ground in this struggle…If you have an ounce of humanity, you must add your voice to those demanding hat horrors like these STOP! Right Now!

People were happy to see us there and we often found ourselves struggling to hand flyers to the number of people reaching for them as they passed. Many also received palm cards of the dialogue on Revolution and Religion with Cornel West and Bob Avakian.

We’ve learned a lot about Charleston from the people we’ve met in the past week, much more than I will attempt to get into here. The first quote (for good reason) in BAsics is “There would be no United States as we know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.” Charleston bolsters that fact at every turn. Literally, the signs of slavery and the oppression of Black people historically and today are at every turn, from the numerous streets named after slave owners and Confederate generals to the statues and memorials of dead racists like John C. Calhoun that peers over the city.

Charleston, museum where former slave market stood

A museum has been created in the building that once existed as a slave market (see picture) serves as a stark reminder of the horrors that took place in that building and throughout the South. Charleston served as the main port for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, an estimated 40 percent of the total 400,000 Africans transported and sold as slaves into North America came through its port. In 1808, after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, Charleston still remained a major trading port for domestic slaves. As you walk through downtown Charleston, many of the hotels, legal offices, and shops that exist today were once part of the dozens of slave markets just in the small downtown area. A young artist who we met showed us the slave tags (slaves would often be loaned to perform skilled labor on other plantation and the copper or iron tags worn around their necks were used to identify to whom they belonged) that he found inches under the dirt in his backyard….the reminders are literally everywhere.

In the short time that we have been in Charleston, we’ve put the revolution out to thousands of people, and in the process we have met a number of people that are seriously interested in getting deeper into BA and the movement for revolution that he is leading. Some of the people who we have met bought BAsics or the BA Speaks: Revolution Nothing—Less DVD, or have invited us into their homes to watch clips from RNL and Cornel and BA’s dialogue. They range from a young homeless man who is a deep political thinker and organizer to a middle class white woman with two children who has already started reading the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). The range also includes a young white artist who considers himself an anarcho-socialist. It includes a Black carpenter in his 30s who just finished a 13-year prison sentence.

Like BA recently said, “There is the potential for something of unprecedented beauty to arise out of unspeakable ugliness…” These people are just a tiny sliver of people who could potentially be brought forward right now to play “a crucial role in putting an end, at long last, to this system.” This is true everywhere, not just in Charleston—the responsibility is on all of us to step up and into this movement for revolution. The potential to see beauty rise out of this darkness is real.

6/24/15 5pm EDT

Greetings again from Charleston, SC. As I write part of our team is heading through back to downtown Charleston to Emanuel AME Church where they will deliver a sign with BA’s "ThreeStrikes" quote to the outside memorial. (Tomorrow the Church will be having a viewing for Senator Clementa Pinckney, the Church’s pastor, who was murdered along with eight members of the Church by white supremacist Dylann Roof.) The team is also delivering the poster to the empty fenced-in field where Walter Scott was murdered. Currently, there is nothing there to remind people of the murder that took place in the grass just a few weeks ago. We thought "ThreeStrikes"would be a fitting reminder and call to action.

Yesterday, we traveled 1.5 hours outside of Charleston to the state’s capital, Columbia. The State House (where Senator Pinckney’s memorial is taking place today) has a fenced-in, padlocked Confederate flag memorial on one side and towering statue of the dead racist Senator Strom Thurmond on the other. South Carolina’s State House has been a place of controversy for years, but this week calls demanding the removal of the Confederate flag flying outside its doors have gained national attention. Civil rights activists have demanded the removal of the flag for years—it was put on top of the Capitol in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Confederate shelling of Ft. Sumter, which began the Civil War and later moved from atop the Capitol to a prominent flag pole in front of the building. But hardly any ruling class representatives in the state and federal government called for its removal. It took the massacre of nine Black churchgoers at the hands of a white-supremacist vigilante for these hypocrites to make a sound about the racist rag. Even now, with an outpouring of support from citizens, major corporations, and Democratic and Republican politicians, they are only “opening debate” on the removal of the flag, which due to a law passed in 2000, requires a 2/3 majority vote to do ANYTHING to the flag. Astoundingly, the law and the padlocks holding the Confederate flag to the pole prevent it from being flown half-mast like the other flags at the Capitol. Even today, as Senator Pinckney’s dead body lies in state, the white supremacist emblem flies full mast above his casket.

(Engraved on the Confederate flag memorial is a quote from William Henry Trescot, who was a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State before the Civil War, was a colonel in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, and then was a U.S. diplomat after the Civil War: “Let the stranger, who in future times reads this inscription, recognize that these were men whom power could not corrupt, whom death could not terrify, whom defeat could not dishonor, and let their virtues plead for just judgement of the cause in which they perished… Let the South Carolinian of another generation remember that the state taught them how to live and how to die, and that from her broken fortunes she has preserved for her children the priceless treasures of her memories, teaching all who may claim the same birthright that truth, courage and patriotism endure forever.”)

Yesterday, South Carolina lawmakers met to decide whether or not to open debate on taking down the flag, and we joined with protesters outside demanding the flag’s immediate removal. The crowd of several hundred, both Black and white, listened to a number of speeches from politicians, civil rights activists, religious leaders calling for the flags removal. We entered the demonstration with a 3' x 5' sign that read: A Statement by Carl Dix, Outrage in Charleston—This IS America! "WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?...there is no middle ground in this struggle…If you have an ounce of humanity, you must add your voice to those demanding that horrors like these STOP! Right Now!" We also carried signs with BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less!

Columbia, South Carolina June 23, 2015

Activists wearing the "BA Speaks REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!" T-shirts and carrying a banner with Carl Dix' statement "Outrage in Charleston—This IS America!" stepped up to agitate and ridicule two racists who were defending the Confederate flag. Photo: special to

As we entered the crowd, we could hear a few people chanting angrily, “TAKE IT DOWN! TAKE IT DOWN!” We followed the chants to the Confederate memorial, where police surrounded a middle-aged Black woman yelling bitterly at two white men in denim biker vests (the bike club on their vests was Brothers Forever) holding signs defending the Confederate flag. One of these fools kept repeating, “That boy that shot those people was crazy. It had nothing to do with the flag. The flag is being stereotyped. It represents our heritage…there’s nothing racist about it.” He babbled on about his “daddy and granddaddy’s legacy” and a bunch of other dumb shit. Reactions to these pro-Confederacy idiots varied—a few (of course this was focused on by the mainstream media) hugged him and told him they loved him and it was his right to speak freely, but most denounced them passionately.

Two of us stepped behind the racists with our banner. One person held a Stop Mass Incarceration Network sign with a crosshair, representing how Black and Latino people are targeted by the police and the system, and the phrase NO MORE! We also made signs with arrows pointing to the pro-flag racists that said, Racist Flag—Racist Fools! The crowd and media were drawn to our signs and our boldness denouncing the racists. Many people snapped pictures of us and many posed in front of us while others snapped pictures. As the official rally ended and a crowd gathered around us, I started agitating about what the Confederate flag and how the “heritage” it represents is all about by paraphrasing BA who sums it up like this [in "RESISTANCE, REVOLUTION, AND WHAT SHOULD — AND SHOULD NOT — BE SUPPORTED"]:

 A lot of these white people in the South say, “well, that flag doesn’t stand for slavery and oppression, that just stands for Southern heritage.” Well, what is your fucking heritage? Your heritage is inseparable from and is founded on slavery and oppression and the Ku Klux Klan. That is your Southern heritage. There could be no South and no Southern heritage without it.

Banner carried in Columbia, South Carolina June 23, 2015

Banner carried at protest, Columbia, South Carolina June 23, 2015. Photo: special to

I also spoke about how we need to draw the line and ask people “which side are you on?” and how important it is that the people of South Carolina are standing up against the legacy of white supremacy and how resistance can transform people. I spoke to how we are building a movement for revolution and how that is what is needed to uproot white supremacy and get to a world without all the horrors of white supremacy. We told the crowd that we are serious about doing this and there is the strategy and leadership to make a revolution worth making. We guided people to check out Bob Avakian, the website and Revolution newspaper. People clapped and many went directly to one of the paper sellers to get a copy of Revolution.

We met a lot of interesting people in Columbia. We talked to two young women from local universities who had braved the 100-degree heat for four days protesting the flag. One of the women had only one kidney, but refused to let this impede her from fighting to take down the flag. We met a guy with a radio show that wants to interview us on his show; he told us about a Confederate museum inside the Capitol building that celebrates the Confederacy rather than provides an objective history. A radical from the 1960s recalled the time he spent in prison for burning the Confederate flag decades ago.

One thing that we are noticing is that despite a number of different voices speaking out in Charleston and Columbia, the message is being tightly controlled by the powers that be. The official narrative is “unity and forgiveness” and little outside of that narrative is being given voice. (It is also worth noting the unconstitutional 60-day prohibition passed by the Charleston City Council banning protesters from being within 300 feet of a funeral. This comes as the Christian fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church has floated the possibility of protesting Senator Pinckney’s funeral on Friday. However, Charleston’s police chief has insisted that this ordinance is focusing on “several groups,” not just Westboro.) Of course, the silencing of voices of resistance is not surprising and underscores the importance of revolutionaries being here at this moment.

At this time we are preparing to do showings from the DVDs of BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less and REVOLUTION AND RELIGION—The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion: A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN.

Stay tuned for updates on these exciting developments and voices from the people.



6/21/15 10PM EDT

After the morning services at AME, our crew has been out in the projects near the church talking to people about Carl Dix' statement “This IS America.” And in the evening, we joined up with #unitychaincharleston—a human chain of thousands of people stretching across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge.

We spent a little time in the projects near the AME Church. Things are rough there. People see death a lot, for all kinds of things. A lot of it looks like people fucking each other over, “old school beefs” and we got into it with people about the big picture of oppression, and how the system puts people in a position where they lash out at each other.

Unity Chain Charleston

Thousands form a human chain across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge that separates downtown Charleston (where the AME Church is located) from the almost all-white suburb of Mt. Pleasant. Photo: Twitter

Atlanta Revolution Club in Charleston

Revolution Club on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge at Unity Chain Charleston. Photo: special to

Then, in the evening, we were part of what was called Unity Chain Charleston—a human chain of thousands, holding hands, across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge that separates downtown Charleston (where the AME Church is located) from the almost all-white suburb of Mt. Pleasant.  The mission was to show “solidarity and support for those who senselessly died in the AME Church.” 

Thousands of people turned out and linked hands over the span of the two-and-a-half mile bridge, and at times the human chain was four people thick. This event was blessed by the authorities and not an expression of outrage for the most part but at the same time it was heartening to see a lot of people, including large numbers of white people out. And many were outraged.

I talked to a local activist who had been protesting after Eric Garner was killed and he commented on how different the response was compared to protests against police killing Black people. He thought that “maybe a lot of white people were on the fence about Walter Scott, but now they can’t stand on the sidelines.” I asked him about how the media is giving voice to a lot of forgiveness but not a lot of outrage. He told me that hundreds of thousands of people have signed an online petition to take down the Confederate flag at the state capitol. Not surprisingly, a number of the activists saw electoral politics as the way to address things, even as when you got them talking about how awful things are, the very outrages they were angry about are far beyond what any candidate for office is talking about or could actually change. Like mass incarceration of Black people because they can’t pay fines and child support, or Walter Scott who was murdered by police for running from them. We strongly encouraged them to check out and get involved with Stop Mass Incarceration Network.

We were there with our Revolution Club banner and that was an attraction for some.  A young woman who came up to check us out said she came out because she was “just completely tired about being complacent, seeing all the things around me that make me angry.” That the murders at the church were “a big wakeup call” for her. When I told her I was going to make clear to readers she was white, she objected “that shouldn’t matter!” I agreed, but said it was important for our readers to know there were white people in Charleston stepping out to be part of these protests. Jennifer saw us with our banner on the bridge, and went to on her phone on the spot. By the time we talked to her she had started reading the Constitution for a New Socialist Republic in North America there! She had all kinds of things on her mind about what revolution needs to be like, and what “true communism” should be like. I asked her what attracted her to that. She said “I don’t know how to answer that because if you’re paying attention at all, if you’ve got any kind of empathy at all, you’re gonna see this.”


Sunday Morning 6/21 at the Emanuel AME Church

This morning we were among the overflow crowd outside the Emanuel AME Church during the service. The eyes of the world were here, and we were among hundreds who couldn’t fit into the church.

Emanuel AME Church is a church with a tremendous historical connection to the struggle of Black people against slavery and segregation, including that one of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt, for which he was hung in 1822. That, by all reports, is in part why a white supremacist targeted the church for a massacre.

Today, the neighborhood is overwhelmingly gentrified and—outside of some remaining projects in the neighborhood—the Black residents have overwhelmingly been driven out. The neighboring churches, in this segregated city, are white. The leadership of many of these churches encouraged their congregations to join with the congregation at Emanuel AME Church this morning. While the crowd inside the church was mainly Black, those outside from neighboring congregations were overwhelmingly white. And this gave us a chance to connect Carl Dix' statement “Outrage in Charleston—This IS America!" with hundreds of overwhelmingly white people who came on the basis of their ministers encouraging them to be here on the basis of healing. 

Not surprisingly, there was a mixed and polarized response to Carl Dix’ statement. There were people who liked it—the whole thing—from what he says about the role of police and more. Other white people were angry with us about being there—insisting that “This is about forgiveness, why are you all spreading hate?” So some of these well-intentioned white people who came felt sympathy for people dying, and were OK with joining with Black people who were forgiving and mourning, but not so OK with joining with outrage.

Cutting up family confederate flag, Charleston

A white woman brought her Confederate flag to the services for the victims of the racist murder at the Emanuel AME Church. The flag had been passed down through generations in her family and had been on the wall of her kitchen. She said she didn’t want it on her wall any more. A group of white children with scissors ceremonially cut it up. Photo: Special to

One of the most interesting and in some ways inspiring things that took place was this: One older white woman from a different church congregation brought her Confederate flag from her house. This flag had been passed down through generations in her family and had been on the wall of her kitchen. She brought it to the church and said she didn’t want it on her wall any more. A group of white children with scissors ceremonially cut it up.

We weren’t the only ones challenging the terms of 'healing'—before the disease is cured. One sister came with her sign “Enough is Enough" on one side and on the other "White Jesus isn't Coming Back.” She, too, was the focus of controversy. I talked to her about why she was making this statement here. She said, “They are continuing to mask the underlying hate.”

She said “Black people make 13% of this country, but we are the highest rate of incarceration and death. We are killing each other—because what do we do with the hate? This Kum Bah Yah ain't working for everyone. That white boy was angry, what do we do? I’m not saying go out here and kill anyone, I don’t condone hate to that measure, but we have to be able to express that anger.”

I asked about her sign. She told me, “The Christian mindset is what I have a problem with. Pray to who you want, but don’t be delusional. The Bible has contradictions—it says an eye for an eye. The Bible was written by man. Whose education are we speaking? Our own language? Or what was taught to us. They are trying to condition us to submit.”

With her too, the responses were polarized. She told me she was focused on “those who are struggling in the economy, who have no hope, this next generation, they are the ones who can make change.” As far as the response she was getting? “Everyone coming to me with anger is 23, 24 and younger. Out here, they are trying to cover the anger. This country has been built on Black backs. I’ve been told they have pushed Black people out of this community. We are angry at this gunman, but he ain’t by himself. It would be stupid to think this is just one man with a gun!”

Coming… more, including voices from the community.


Saturday 6/20—Arriving in Charleston:

The sun is beaming on a crowd of hundreds of people lining the street in front of a towering white church. A small group sings an old spiritual in the one-hundred-degree heat. A group of young and old people marching silently, stop briefly to place flowers in front of an old wooden cross that is already surrounded by hundreds of flowers, wreaths, and balloons. Engraved in the wall above the arching entrance of the church is Emanuel AME Church.

The eyes of the world are on Mother Emanuel where just days ago, Dylann Roof, motivated by the white supremacy engrained in and nurtured by this system, carried out a massacre of nine Black churchgoers during a Bible study. This horror is a wound that rests on top of multiple scars that white supremacy has inflicted just on this church over decades.

Many of the people outside the church are holding a sheet of paper with the headline: “Outrage in Charleston—This IS America!”, a statement by Carl Dix. A team of revolutionaries and others are on the ground here in Charleston, South Carolina distributing Carl’s statement, connecting people with the movement for revolution, and seeking to learn more about how people are understanding this tragedy. Below are some initial impressions of the mood of the people and a brief description of some of the things that have unfolded in the few hours we have spent on the ground here in Charleston. More to come soon!


We arrived in Charleston on Saturday and joined a gathering of around 200 in the park near Mother Emmanuel as they spoke and prepared for a Black Lives Matter march by the church and continuing to the The Confederate Museum. On the same day, in another part of the state, at the state capitol in Columbia, there was a protest of hundreds demanding take down that Confederate flag—the flag of slavery. There’s much more to say about that flag and the whole celebration of the Confederacy that pervades the area.

The crowd was young and old, multinational and surprisingly mostly white. An older white man from the South Carolina Progressive Network spoke on the bullhorn at the gathering detailing the whole history of racist terror in Charleston and told the white people in the park, “It is not enough to be white with good intentions. You have to act on those intentions.” He also mentioned a hashtag that many of the organizers used for the event and one that angered some of the racists in town, #VeseyTaughtUs (Denmark Vesey who was hung in 1822, along with 35 other Black people, for planning a slave uprising).

On the march we met a guy named Mike. After talking to Mike (an Atlanta native who moved to Charleston—he told us a lot about life here in Charleston which I will share later), I asked Mike where people hang out and he told us to come with him. He took us to several blocks to East Charleston, a Black neighborhood on the edge of the tourist filled downtown.

At a grocery store outside East Charleston we met a woman whose cousin was murdered inside the church. She took Carl’s statement and thanked us for coming to support the people in Charleston. At the same store we met a couple. The husband was a longshoreman. There is a whole history in Charleston of struggle by the longshoremen who work on the docks. He bought a copy of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, a copy of Revolution, and the Bob Avakian (BA) Timeline.

At 10AM, all of the churches in downtown Charleston rang their bells in solidarity with Mother Emmanuel. Afterwards, we are heading to some neighboring projects to spread revolution and talk with the people (so much more to come).

GOTTA GO! More to come.


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