Notes on the Rise Up October Tour in Cleveland

Unlocking the Potential for Rise Up October

August 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the first stop of the Which Side Are You On?/Rise Up October tour in Cleveland. In thinking about this, I went back to the points from “Reflections on June 30 Meeting to Stop Police Terror—October 24: We MUST Change Everything, Beginning NOW“):

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.

Society Beginning to Cleave Apart

Participants in Cleveland Press Conference

Participants in the press conference in Cleveland, July 22.

Carl Dix at Cleveland Press Conference

Carl Dix at press conference

Memorial for Tamir Rice

The memorial for 12-year-old Tamir Rice at the spot where he was murdered by Cleveland Police, and the site of the press conference

In this light, there are a number of observations and lessons which I feel are important to continue to build upon.

First, this is a moment in which society has begun to cleave apart. But the ferment and resistance must go to another level—not just a quantitative other level but qualitative transformation in the nature of struggle. Which side are you on? must become a dividing line for millions. And not just in people’s “hearts,” feelings, and sentiments—as important as that is, but in their actions. In society as a whole, the police establishment and people who want to defend the police should find no quarter wherever they go. Which Side Are You On? should become a watchword throughout society. And whenever there is an outrage people should step up, oppose this system, and say NO MORE! Which Side Are You On?/Rise Up October can and should make this a reality.

Yes, the actions of the police have given rise to broad questioning and compelled many to act, but this resistance needs to take a leap—yes, build on what has been accomplished but we cannot see what we can and need to do as a quantitative continuation of what exists. Millions must be moved to find the terror and murder by police intolerable—and people need to see, in embryonic ways, that this is the product of a system and to fight against that system, in an uncompromising way.

Different people have different ideas about what that system is and the source of the terror and the solution.

The Problem and Solution

Within this overall mix, the revolutionary communists have a core role to play—in bringing the truth to all the people about the nature of this system, the capitalist system, which is the source of and thrives on all these “seemingly without end” horrors. The truth is that the fundamental way to put an end to the horror is through an actual revolution—an emancipatory communist revolution—and that the leadership and work of Bob Avakian (BA) have provided the strategic framework and goals for such a revolution. This needs to be made known to all—the extent to which this connects with people and becomes a reference point will have a huge, defining impact on whether people are willing to accept this world as it is—or not!

In Cleveland, Carl Dix, co-initiator with Dr. Cornel West of Rise Up October and a representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, spoke to thousands... at the press conference, in meetings with different organizations, at the Justice for Tamir Rice demonstration, and at the Movement for Black Lives National Convening.

For many, to hear Carl Dix speak about the crimes of the police, why we must rise up in October, and the revolutionary solution to all the atrocities this system brings down on the people of the planet is to be moved to join the movement for October 24 with certitude and spirit. And more, to be moved to seriously get to the root of the problem and consider the radical, revolutionary solution we need. I saw how this unleashed and enabled people from all walks of life to take up this struggle to stop police terror even as they wrestle with these big questions of problem and solution.

The Moment and the Potential—Not Bound by What Exists

This moment is giving rise to people who yearn to act to stop police terror. Years ago, I saw a documentary on Mississippi Freedom Summer (Freedom On My Mind), and there was one young man who spoke about how and why he joined the struggle for freedom. He described how seriously angry he was, all the time, about how Black people were oppressed in Mississippi. He used to go out into the fields and preach about David and Goliath, scream and just kick trees in frustration and anger, pretending the trees were white folk. At that time, the movement across the South for civil rights was growing. And it was raising the call: Which Side Are You On? And then the Freedom Summer workers came to his town to challenge the whole segregationist setup and gave him the means for his anger to be channeled into real change. And he not only joined the struggle, but became an activist leader in that struggle.

Today, times are giving rise to a new generation of youth and others who are (figuratively) “screaming and kicking the trees.” This is a moment when there are hundreds and thousands who are outraged and want change, many thousands who are looking for a way to put an end to the situation where a death sentence hangs over the heads of Black and Latino people all the time. They think about Sandra Bland, Sam DuBose, Freddie Gray, Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, and Tamir Rice (to name only five). If you are Black or Latino in this society and unwilling to kowtow to the powers-that-be, or frankly even willing to kowtow, you can’t even drive down the street and commit a minor traffic infraction or, as Freddie Gray did in Baltimore, make “eye contact” with the pigs, stand with a bicycle that belongs to your brother or play with a toy gun, as Tamir Rice did, without facing the penalty of death.

Right now, the movement for revolution faces a huge challenge. All these people and more, people from every corner of this country and of all nationalities who are outraged by the daily brutality and murder must be massively mobilized to rise in New York City on October 24. What I saw was just a glimpse of the outrage that people feel and the ways in which it can be tapped into and brought forth. Once again, as that article (“Reflections”) says: “...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...” This is a question sharply posed to everyone—those in the movement for revolution, and beyond that, everyone who refuses to accept the state of police terror. Are we going to start from what exists, putting one foot in front of the other, or unlocking the potential that has yet to be unlocked? Closely intertwined with events and outrages, with activities of a whole range of people and political forces, how we answer this question is the dynamic factor in making Rise Up October what it needs to be.

Observations from the Tour

I was new to Cleveland, but observed that as the tour hit the streets, it unearthed people of all ages who are seriously angry and ready to fight back. There were people who had been involved for some time, those who knew of this movement but had not been active, and brand-new forces who were drawn into the struggle. The Revolution Club played a dynamic role in this... going out among the masses, taking the message that Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism, and Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution to many, many people—from the projects to the downtown streets of Cleveland and reaching out to people of all ages, Black and white, and organizing people into the movement.

PALMCARDS quote from Bob Avakian

Palm Card BA Quote, front

Palm Card BA Quote, back


PDF (with cropmarks and bleed for print)
JPG (no cropmarks)   front   |   back

Members of the Revolution Club recruited and joined with youth from Cleveland to wear their T-shirts promoting BA Speaks: Revolution—NOTHING LESS!, and distributed palm cards with the powerful quote from BA and dozens of copies of Revolution newspaper as they went out into the projects and neighborhoods and into the Movement for Black Lives National Convening. BA’s quote—and the bold projection of this leader to a wide range of people—stirred up controversy wherever it went out, demonstrating once again the dynamic role that the revolution and its leadership play as people raise their heads and step into the struggle and wrestle with the path and possibility to really change this system. But this was only a glimpse. In summing this up, it is clear that much, much more could have been done to get this quote into the hands of hundreds and hundreds of people, to lift people’s vision to the way the world could be, to the revolution we need and the leadership we have. And much more could have done to draw people into the movement we are building for revolution.

Wherever the tour stopped, with the Revolution Club at its head, women and men stepped forward ready to challenge the system and throw in with Rise Up October. The Rise Up October movement holds the potential to be a decisive beginning to the end of terror and death by police—and people want to make this a reality, wholeheartedly. And they have lots of ideas. There are many, perhaps unanticipated, but important and creative ways that people who take this up are finding to spread the word and organize others. And all this is a critical part of the ways in which Rise Up October can become a mass, nationwide movement.

The stop of the tour in Cleveland was just a glimpse of what is possible: family members joining the tour and advocating for Rise Up October in the press conference, at the mass meeting and at the Justice for Tamir demonstration; church members boldly speaking out and connecting up and enabling Carl Dix to meet and speak with the 8th District Black Congressional Caucus, and representatives of civil rights and religious organizations; people from the neighborhoods and the Black community stepping out to take up the struggle in the projects, to blow the whistle, going to the Black Lives Matter National Convening to struggle for Rise Up October, and more. Carl Dix also spoke at a town hall meeting for Tamir Rice. These are precious opportunities for this movement to expand. Maybe it begins with “tell us where to go and what to do,” but much more is possible as people from all walks of life get into and make a commitment to Rise Up October, to goals that are greater than any individual, and to putting themselves on the line to achieve those goals.

Unleashing All Positive Elements

Here’s my thinking: Just as that young man decades ago in Mississippi jumped into and took up the struggle and said “Goddamn, this is it,” hundreds now need to know there is a place for them to join this movement, to strategize with others and develop the ways and means to organize and lead others. This can be done in small ways, and in larger ways. In Cleveland, people stepped forward in different ways. People living in the projects distributed materials to others in their neighborhoods and blew whistles. A minister volunteered to speak to a congregation at another church. Inspired by the Revolution Club, others donned the BA Speaks: Revolution—NOTHING LESS! T-shirt and marched through the streets with the Rise Up October contingent in the Justice for Tamir Rice demonstration.

A woman I met has written and developed a performance piece about the brutality of the police that she wants to perform at all kinds of venues. Another motivated by the coming together of her religious convictions with a hatred of what the police perpetrate day in and day out began to reach out to all she knew to spread the word, call upon people to support Rise Up October, meet with Carl Dix, and raise funds for this effort. A man who is talented at spreading the news on social media blasted out the press conference to thousands.

Representatives and members of organizations in the community attended the mass meeting and spoke out at the press conference. I would add that the press conference broke way into mainstream media—got good and substantial coverage on three TV stations, PBS, and the main Cleveland newspaper—which is a reflection of the potential impact of breaking through and creating a scene in the context of what is going on right now in society.

Moved by the urgency to say NO MORE—stop police terror... murder by police must not be tolerated, new leaders can and should step forward. Yes, people will have their own ways of doing this but that’s what this movement needs... people and organizations finding all kinds of ways to reach out and draw that basic dividing line: Which Side Are You On?/Rise Up October—Stop Police Terror. If people are moved by this, and moved to challenge millions to take sides, then there is not only a place for them in this movement but real needs they can meet—as organizers for Rise Up October.

Ask yourself—wouldn’t it be an essential advance for efforts to be initiated and led by those who are wholeheartedly building for Rise Up October even as they promote this in their own ways and with their own understanding of how to pose the question: Which Side Are You On?

What Exists... What Is Possible

One key lesson that the experience of the tour in Cleveland brought home to me was that proceeding from, settling into, or making plans based on what one conceives to be the limits of what is possible (based on we have done before and looking at that as what can be mobilized now to radically change the terrain) would be a grievous error. There are thousands who are yearning to be free—and our plans need to aim to reach and organize those thousands. Understanding that there will be a struggle to realize that objective. This struggle may be hard-fought, that is what it will take to make Which Side Are You On? a dividing line in all of society.

To flood the streets of New York City with thousands protesting on October 24, the Which Side Are You On?/Rise Up October movement can and must tap into the serious anger and outrage of tens of thousands—and unleash them to take this up as their own.



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