Which Side Are You On?
Rise Up October National Tour—First Stop Cleveland

July 27, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On July 22, the national Tour hit the ground running in Cleveland. Sponsored by Rise Up October, this national Tour is a major step aimed at reaching thousands with the word of Which Side Are You On?/Rise Up October in New York City and organizing hundreds to build for and be in New York City on October 24.

Each day of the Tour was packed with outreach and organizing—with the Tour (led by Carl Dix and a group of people from NYC, and joined by youth and others from Cleveland, Chicago and California) making stop after stop throughout Cleveland.

First up on Day 1: a press conference announces the arrival of the Tour and calls on people across Cleveland to step up. The press conference: Turner Fair emcees and introduces Carl Dix (an initiator, together with Cornel West, of October 24). Then, the families of those whose loved ones have been murdered speak: Mertilla Jones and Carlos Jones (the grandmother and brother of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, murdered by Detroit pigs), Brenda Bickerstaff (sister of Craig Lamont Bickerstaff, who was murdered by Cleveland pigs), Joshua Lopez (whose uncle, John Collado, was murdered by the NYPD). Everyone is stunned as they hear the stories and feel the pain these families continue to go through every day, day after day—and inspired by their determination to fight for justice. Mertilla speaks to this when she tells people that her children and grandchildren should never let this fight die. Al Porter (representing Black on Black Crime), Lavitta Murray an activist for October 24, and Carol Steiner from Puncture the Silence speak to the press. (See  Cleveland Press Conference Puts Spotlight on #RiseUpOctober to Stop Police Terror/Which Side Are You On?) The spirit and message of the Tour goes out over the airwaves...on television and radio. The word of the Tour—and the urgency of organizing a massive demonstration in NYC on October 24—comes through loud and clear to thousands in Cleveland and beyond.

Then the Tour is off to march through the projects in the eastern part of Cleveland. The edge of the march is organizing forces to make Rise Up October a massive demonstration. As they go through the projects distributing palm cards, whistles and Stolen Lives posters, people come out of their houses and shorties grab up the whistles. A Revolution Club member reported: "People came out of their homes and I told them what October 24 was about and why you have to be a part of this. The police did not like that, so they sent police to the projects, and we kept exposing them for what they are: murderers. One pig got out his car to try and throw a football with the children, so we went up to him and agitated that these pigs are murderers and we challenged everyone coming out of their houses, 'which side are you on?' I said, 'look at the pigs acting like they're human.' A lot of people came out of their homes when I was agitating about them being enforcers and a lot of people took papers for the meeting that night at Manna Church. The police followed us all over—police cars everywhere we went. We then marched through the neighborhoods around the church, trying to get people to come to that meeting." The struggle with people day to day is to actually join the organized forces that are working to make October 24 be a truly massive protest.

Manna Church, 7 p.m.: Fifty people, young and old, pile into a storefront church in the heart of the Black community in the eastern part of Cleveland. The participants: loved ones of the victims murdered by police, people from the community, including two who had just heard about Rise Up October that afternoon in the projects and another who was busted during the protests following the exoneration of the pig tried for the murder of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams; people who are members of the church; and people from different walks of life who have been involved in the struggle against police brutality in the city of Cleveland; Revolution Club Cleveland members, and more.

People hear from the emcee, Lavitta Murray, a welcome from Reverend Frank Smith, and a message of support from Tamir's mother, Samaria Rice. Carl Dix presents to the gathering the necessity and aims of the demonstration in NYC on October 24. He is followed by Mertilla Jones, whose granddaughter, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, was gunned down as she slept next to her grandmother; Brenda Bickerstaff, whose brother Craig was shot five times and killed by Cleveland cops; and Joshua Lopez, whose uncle John Collado was murdered by the NYPD. Concluding the program, Carl Dix again comes to the podium and puts the question to all those in church: Which side are YOU on? Making October 24 the massive outpouring that it needs to be depends on you, people who are the hardest hit by police brutality and murder and people from every corner of society, stepping forward and wholeheartedly throwing into building for October 24. After the program concludes, those attending break down into working groups to make plans to organize for October 24 in NYC: outreach, fundraising and a group committed to taking responsibility for providing vast amounts of materials to distribute, renting buses to go to NYC, and everything that the other teams will need to reach out broadly in society, spread the word and organize people to go to NY, and raise the critical funds needed to do all that.

Day 2: It's been eight months since 12-year-old Tamir Rice was murdered by a Cleveland cop two seconds after he got out of his pig car and the Justice for Tamir Rice Coalition has called for a march to the Cleveland In-justice Center to rally and deliver a petition with 60,000 signatures demanding that criminal charges be filed against the pig who killed Tamir.

After a morning of reaching out to those they met on Day 1 and others in Cleveland, a contingent of people organizing for Rise Up October forms up with the Tour at its head. The Tour has brought a powerful sound system and the contingent takes the street chanting, "Tamir Rice, Which Side Are You On? Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, Which Side Are You On? Sandra Bland, Which Side Are You On? Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cops to Jail--The Whole Damn System Is Guilty." A report from the Revolution Club member on the tour: "People looked on as we marched through the streets. People took Rise Up October cards. Before we even marched, a guy hooked up with us and said he wanted to know more about this. He bought a Revolution--Nothing Less! t-shirt and joined us on the spot. Another guy who had been at the meeting at Manna Church hooked up with us and put on the Revolution--Nothing Less! shirt, too -- the wield and accumulate forces for revolution always in our orientation."

When the contingent arrives at the beginning of the march for Justice for Tamir Rice, it swells, joined by Mertilla Jones and her grandchildren, and others who have come to the convergence and who join to carry the large Stolen Lives installation (banner?) through the streets, and who later signed on to build for October 24. People march on the streets to the criminal center for In-justice. At the rally, a range of people speak--from the Tamir Rice family, a union leader, a representative of the Nation of Islam and more. Carl Dix speaks towards the end of the rally, invited by the family of Tamir Rice, and calls on the protestors to join and build for the massive demonstration in New York City: Which Side Are You On?/Rise Up October. As a part of his speech, he gives a moving tribute to the courage of the Tamir Rice family and all the families of people who have been murdered by the police for continuing to fight through their grief and pain for justice.

Following the speeches, a delegation enters the In-Justice Center to deliver the petitions. And, as people waited for the delegation to return, Mertilla Jones and Joshua Lopez spoke about the murders of their loved ones by police. A poet performed. And Carl Dix spoke again, this time more deeply going into the necessity for October 24 to mark a leap in the resistance to police terror and murder and speaking to why he, as a revolutionary communist, is taking up this struggle as a part of preparing to make revolution—which can put an end to murder and brutality by the police and all oppression once and for all.

The petitions were successfully delivered and when the family comes back, Latonya Goldsby, Tamir's cousin, calls for the second phase—gathering 40,000 more signatures in the coming months.

The Revolution Club member reports: "After that [the demonstration] we went to a restaurant and summed up what the day was like. We came to the conclusion that October 24 was out there in a really big way... After that we went to the projects and marched through the middle of them chanting " Indict, convict send the killer cops to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell!" Kids came out of their homes and hooked up with us and we got plenty of whistles and October 24 cards out. The police rolled through and we blew the whistle on the pigs. The pigs rolled out, the kids were too excited. We told them that these whistles are for the pigs when they roll up. We got October 24 out there in a big way. The kids asked when were we coming back? We said soon. The kids asked could they go with us? They were so young, maybe from eight to 12, and it was a lot of them. We went to a rec center and the rec director hated us out there. I asked him, "which side are you on?" The pigs rode up and down the street. And the kids kept blowing the whistle on killer cops. People were coming out from all over the place to hook up with the Tour and the revcoms. The two guys that hooked up with us and put on the Revolution—Nothing Less! T-shirts said they want to go on the Tour with us. These are great developments. After the projects we went to Manna Church to have a meeting with Carl Dix. The meeting was good. Everyone is excited about going to the Movement for Black Lives National Convening tomorrow. I just can't wait till tomorrow. Now I got to get some rest."

As we write this, the Tour's stop in Cleveland is concluding. More news to come!


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