Reflections on June 30 Meeting to Stop Police Terror

October 24: We MUST Change Everything, Beginning NOW


July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

I went to the June 30 meeting in New York City to plan a massive political manifestation this October 22-24 against police terror and murder. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since, and wanted to share a few thoughts on the challenge this poses.

Carl Dix
Carl Dix (Photo: Special to

Over 150 people there heard the speakers lay out their different analyses and come together to emphasize that this had to be something on a much higher and broader level than what’s been seen up to now. The plan—mobilizing tens of thousands for three days of action, including both “shutting shit down” on a whole other scale and bringing in many more in support of that—is nothing short of audacious. I go back a long way and have some sense of history, and I can’t recall anything comparable being called around THIS particular outrage.

I came away from the event sparked by what I had heard and the people I had encountered. I have been wrangling with what it would take to really do that and seeing pathways to realize that potential. I think we’re all going to have to think in new ways, and I’m offering these beginning reflections to help further all that.

Another Level of Breadth and Determination

Over the past year, people have begun to move against the outrage of police terror and murder in a way not seen for decades. A movement is taking shape, with many different ideas out there. Major questions are being raised to millions about “What kind of society is this? Why do these things keep happening?” People have been attracted to this—this is becoming a magnetic pole in society. But, measured against the need to really uproot this whole genocidal program (not to mention against the need for a whole new and radically better system aimed at uprooting ALL oppression), all this is still just beginning.

And the system has definitely dug in to fight back against this. Heavy charges have been brought against people for simple acts of non-violent resistance. The police—both as a political force and then in what they have done “on the job”—have hit back, and they’ve been down-the-line supported by the right-wing politicians. The millions in the grip of the sick white racism at the core of this country’s culture have been mobilized to react—we’re only just beginning to see this, and almost certainly this will get even uglier. The liberals like Obama and New York mayor de Blasio promise reforms out of one side of their mouths but then they actually back up the police out of the other AND in what they actually do—remember Obama insulting those who righteously stood up in Baltimore as “thugs,” and his Justice Department backing the pigs in every case of abuse that came to the Supreme Court. (See “The REAL Record of the Holder Department of IN-Justice: Supporting Police Violence in EVERY CASE Before the Supreme Court.”)

The point is, the battle has been joined. But joining the battle is not winning it. And even in the midst of this beginning rumbling, far too many still stand on the sidelines.

Cornel West
Cornel West (Photo: Special to

That’s got to stop. October 22-24 has got to take this ferment to another level—another level of breadth and another level of determination. These three days taken together must include people putting themselves on the line for this, as well as many thousands more out there in support of them, in such a way that it politically stops this country in its tracks and changes the terms and direction of society. It must call out to the world that there is a force in the U.S. that simply will NOT tolerate this... that this force is growing... and that “change is gonna come.” These days must put the rulers of this country back on their heels and give heart and a whole other level of initiative to the people.

The Horror... and the Need to STOP It

You definitely had the sense from ALL the speakers that THIS MUST STOP. There was a critique of this whole society and the people who represent for it from a lot of the speakers—critiques both blistering and deep. Some put forward revolution, though they had different ideas of what this meant. But all pointed to those bold three days in October as a critical watershed, with October 24 as the massively powerful capstone to it.

Nicholas Heyward Sr.
Nicholas Heyward Sr. (Photo: Special to

Families of people murdered by police
Family members of peoplel murdered by police. Juanita Young (at mic), Nicholas Heyward Sr (center) and Joshua Lopez (left). (Photo: Special to

I was powerfully struck—once again—by the parents and relatives of the police murder victims who spoke. Nicholas Heyward Sr. spoke powerfully of how he lost his 13-year-old son, Nicholas Jr., to the bullets of a trigger-happy cop, and how he has been fighting for justice for the 20 years since then, and has not seen justice yet—either in his son’s case, or in the others he has fought. Juanita Young spoke movingly of her son, Malcolm Ferguson, cut down for nothing as he was just entering into his adulthood. No chance, she said, to have children... to live his life. And other relatives of police murder victims also added their voices from the front, or through messages to the meeting.

I thought about this as the evening unfolded. How many more scores of Nicholas Juniors and Malcolms would there be before October dawned? How many more lives were to be stolen? How could this be allowed to continue?

And how many more thousands of young people like Kalief Browder would be fed into the meat grinder? Kalief was the young man being held before trial and tortured with solitary confinement at Rikers Island prison for over two years, and finally driven to suicide just a few weeks ago. Outrageous! How many more young people, whose lives and spirits would be broken, in one way or another, from the very conscious policy of mass incarceration? How many millions have already been ground up... and how many millions more will be fed into it, until we stop it?

That is the reality of this, and these, and nothing less, are the stakes of this. Viewed that way, there is no time to lose.

Making Plans to Reach Out Wide

After the speakers, we broke into work teams. I went to the outreach team, which had at least 50 or 60 people at it. Person after person got up, putting out ideas and offering resources. This vision of something really massive and resistant in October had struck a chord with them, and they wanted to make it happen. One person spoke from a union; a young woman talked about the transsexual community and forces there doing work on this; a young guy talked about the different neighborhoods to go to, and the need to get on the subways to reach people. Another woman thought she could get a room in her church for the initiative, and also made plans to get out to artists; an artist responded with what he was doing among immigrant communities. Yet another person talked about tenant organizations in the South Bronx, as well as religious networks he was part of, and got an answering call from another tenant organizer in the same workshop. There was a real spirit in there of “let’s make this happen.”

People from the Revolution Club put out ideas and plans on where to reach out with this and talked about the need for people to get into the scientific and revolutionary answers being put forward by Bob Avakian—and they also called on-the-spot for a militant confrontational action the next week. This spirit and practice—both digging into why this happens and the need for revolution and at the same time getting directly out to the people hit hardest by this and calling people into action against it—brings something essential and irreplaceable to the table for October.

Some people made a point of saying that while they appreciated the speakers, they themselves were NOT revolutionaries, and that we would all have to reach out far more broadly than the people in the room to really do this. This was said in a mainly good spirit—you got the sense that the people who came by and large REALLY wanted to find a way to fight and to make this happen, and wanted this to be as broad as possible. There was a real earnest spirit to the wrangling. And it seemed to be pretty much understood by everyone that we’re going to need a lot more people of all kinds of views taking this up, and soon, to have the stop-in-your-tracks, change-how-you-think-and-what-you’re-doing, make-the-rulers-jump-back impact so urgently needed.

As people went around the room, putting out different ideas and offering different kinds of resources to this effort, I thought to myself that this movement was going to have to be really good at ORGANIZING. Getting people’s ideas onto the floor and recording their names and ways to contact them is just a beginning. People’s efforts and ideas need to be drawn on and sifted, cross-fertilized and knit together into something very powerful—and not in two or four weeks, but now. In fact, we have to be not only ready but aiming, right on the spot, to draw people into things—whether people from this broad movement are flyering or mounting some kind of resistance to police terror, either planned or spontaneous. They then in turn become part of things then and there, and work to draw in others. That has to be much more the “style,” or the “signature,” of this movement.

There have to be simple ways for everyone to take a hand, and to communicate their ideas. Again, there simply cannot be a situation where people are made to wait “until someone gets back to them”—things are too urgent, people’s ideas and enthusiasm at this meeting were too alive, and no effort or positive impulse can be squandered or left on the vine.

Organizing and Strategizing Go Together

Revolutionaries need to strategize with people as they organize. This doesn’t mean just figuring out who to reach or what to do to get an immediate task done. It involves constantly going back with people to why these actions in October are so crucial. That means going back to just how horrible and built-into-the-system, how illegitimate and unnecessary these police murders and terror and this regime of mass incarceration are, and why these happen... how this is linked to the other outrages that distort and mutilate and make an early and often horrific end to people’s lives, here and around the world... why the fundamental interests of most people don’t lie in maintaining this and how this could be ended through revolution... Revolutionaries should be frank on how we are building this to contribute to putting an end to this forever, through revolution, even as we know—and in fact work for—the broadest number of people to get out there to seriously fight this NOW. To paraphrase BA, the fact that we see how utterly unnecessary this is, how it is kept in effect by a reactionary system which has long since outlived its time, and how crucial it is that people stand up now as part of building up the strength to get rid of it... that makes us burn all the hotter.

All this—done in a lively and scientific way, engaging with people’s ideas—should actually lead to more creativity, more people drawn in to take a part, and more drive and efficiency (and less wasted effort). This is part of leadership.

This also means seeking out people and groups who are doing things around this—whatever they are doing, so long as they view their efforts as directed at stopping police terror and abuse and murder. That should be the dividing line when we pose the question: “Which Side Are You On?” There can be and needs to be all kinds of views about what kinds of changes are needed in society and how to go about them and how to view the police themselves. We can and certainly should talk frankly, and struggle about, larger questions as we work together (and we can and certainly will wrangle out differences over HOW to best mount these days of action). We can talk with some of the leaders at the same time as we reach out to the people in these groups. And we can’t take “no” for an answer—there is too much at stake here, for millions, and we have to keep going back to that. The point is this: everyone must get together to end police terror and this means uniting the broadest number of people around that, even as we bring forward our full understanding.

I thought to myself: this is NOT going to be—it can’t be—business-as-usual in late October... This is going to be, and it has got to be, some whole other thing. Too much is at stake. And if that is to be so, it sure can’t be business-as-usual building it. We’ve got to take the best of everything we know, and then we’ve got to learn a whole lot more. The basis is there—there is a NEED for it in society—and there are growing numbers of people searching for a way to act effectively on it. WE have to be up for this.



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