Chicago #RiseUpOctober Press Conference: Diversity of Forces, Determination to STOP the Horror of Murder by Police

August 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Video: special to revcom

The August 5 Which Side Are You On?/Rise Up October national tour press conference, right in front of the headquarters of the Chicago Police Department, took place on the one-year anniversary of the police murder of John Crawford at the Wal-Mart in Beaver Creek, Ohio. Also, this month marks 60 years since the lynching of Emmett Till, and this weekend is the one-year anniversary of the murder of Mike Brown.

At the Chicago press conference, Carl Dix—representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party and co-founder with Cornel West of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network—was joined by people whose loved ones were killed by police, and others. Speaking at the conference were Carl Dix; Mertilla Jones, grandmother of seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, whose life was taken by Detroit police in 2010; Andrea Irwin and Sharon Irwin, mother and grandmother of Tony Robinson, murdered by Madison, Wisconsin police; Latoya Howell, mother of Justus Howell, murdered by Zion, Illinois police; Joshua Lopez, nephew of John Collado, murdered by NYPD; Hannibal Saleem Ali, uncle of Anjustine Hunter, murdered by Memphis, Tennessee police; Raymond Richards of Brothers Standing Together; and Rev. Gregg Greer, from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and president of Freedom First International. An excerpt was read from a statement sent to the press conference from Ted Jennings, PhD, professor of Biblical and Philosophical Theology at Chicago Theological Seminary.

Carl Dix said afterwards that there were two key things about this press conference: "One was the way it showed in embryo the diversity of the forces taking up #RiseUpOctober—family members of police murder victims, religious leaders, revolutionaries, community activists. The speakers at the press conference included Blacks, whites and Latinos. The other was the determination of those who spoke to STOP the horror of police getting away with murder and the sense that a huge outpouring of people in NYC on October 24 would be a big step toward doing that. This was put forward in especially moving ways by the family members who spoke."

Others who have lost loved ones to murder by police joined those who spoke. They included Gloria Pinex, mother of Darius, murdered by Chicago police in 2011; the mother of toddler Dillan Harris, recently killed by a motorist who was being chased by Chicago police; Cynthia Lane, mother of Roshad McIntosh, who was murdered by Chicago police in 2014.

The gathering of family members was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Their shared grief and outrage, their support for each other and their call for everyone to stand up and stop police murder so that no other family would ever have to face what they have faced. They bear the burden of deep loss made worse by insults and lies from the same system that stole the lives of their loved ones. In the face of a system that is trying to choke them with injustice, they are turning their grief into great strength to fight for justice.

Chicago Press Conference - Which Side Are Your On?/Rise Up October National Speaking Tour, August 5, 2015

Which Side Are You On?/Rise Up October National Speaking Tour in front of the Chicago Police Department Headquarters, August 5. Photo: Special to Revolution/

Carl Dix opened the press conference, saying in part, “Just in the past few weeks, Sandra Bland, Sam Dubose, Rakina Jones in Cleveland, and many more people have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement. There has been a level of resistance to police terror that this country hasn’t seen in decades. But with all of that resistance the killings continue. And the killer cops continue to be exonerated.

“October 24 in New York City is going to address that. We need to take the resistance to this horror to a much higher level. We’re going to be involving thousands upon thousands of people. Delivering a message to the whole country and to the whole world that this green light to cops who brutalize and murder is unacceptable, it must be stopped and we’re gonna be acting to stop it.

“I’m a representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party. We see this official violence as something that is rooted in the fabric of this system and that has been there from the very beginning. From when they dragged the first Africans to these shores in chains and carried out a genocide against the native inhabitants. Up thorough the lynching and segregation of the old Jim Crow era and right down to today where cops and guns have replaced lynch mobs and lynching ropes. We see that it’s going to take revolution–nothing less to end this once and for all and that is something that the party that I’m in and its leader Bob Avakian are working to bring about. Not only to end this horror but all the other horrors this system brings down. And anybody who wants to see this ended once and for all—we urge them to get with the movement for revolution we’re building.

 “But everybody—whatever you think about revolution—everybody needs to be a part of saying ‘police getting away with murder must stop,’ and that’s the message we’re going to take all over Chicago."

Andrea Irwin, whose 19-year-old son Tony Robinson was murdered by police in March 2015, spoke next: “These police are going in and killing people and they’re making up the same exact story. We need to see that this isn’t right, this isn’t justice. My son needed help, he didn’t need gunshots. We need justice. These police officers that think it’s ok to open fire on people, take their lives and go on with theirs—they need to know that they have to be held accountable for their actions. The police departments and the entire cities that represent and stand behind these police officers need to be held accountable. This going to New York, for me, is to make sure that on a national level we start to make some form of a difference. Because if we all stand up together and say that this has to change, they will have to pay attention. And it is power by numbers.”

Latoya Howell, whose 17-year-old son Justus Howell was murdered by police in March this year said, “I want to start off by saying injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere. They continue to murder our youth with no remorse. I’m asking you as a community, in our neighborhoods—stand up and don’t just sit behind the television or the computer and wait for someone else to give you their victimized story….Stand up now! Choose a side. Support this because without numbers we have nothing. We need more than just sympathy. Sympathy gets us nowhere but more tears. More bloodshed. We need to stand and stop the police brutality.… My son can’t stand here for himself right now. I vow to stand every day of my life for him and those who have been murdered by police. I can’t do it alone. It could have been your son. It could have been your mama. It could have been your sister, your brother. You think it can’t happen to me—I was one of those—but it did happen. We have to put a stop to it. Challenge the government. If it’s for the people, by the people, then let the people stand. We need to be heard, we need to come in unison. Stand up! Stand for something or fall for anything. I stand. I will stand for justice for our youth. Justice for our Latinos, Blacks, whites—we have to fight, take stands and plant your feet in the ground and let them know we won’t be pushed over.”

Mertilla Jones, grandmother of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, said: “May 16, 2010 the Detroit police did a raid on my house.… They kicked in my door, threw a flashbang… As soon as Officer Joseph Weekly entered the house, he shot Aiyana in the head. He still today claims that I grabbed his gun. I was way on the other side of the room, laying n the floor spread-eagled. I lay on the floor screaming ‘Y’all done killed my granddaughter!’ I lay on the floor and Iwatched the life and the light go out of Aiyana’s eyes.… We have to be leaders. Everybody is sitting around saying, ‘Oh, we should do something about this.’ Get off your ass! C’mon now. I came all this way from Detroit to tell Aiyana’s story. She didn’t just die, she was murdered!… We’ve gotta take a stand. Like the other families said before me, there is power in numbers. More people have to get up and get out and be about stopping police brutality and police killing.”

Rev. Gregg Greer, from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Freedom First International: “We are tired. We want change. Change has to start now. We’re not asking you. This is a declaration and a call for unity. As we come together, as we pull together, we will find justice.”

Raymond Richard, of Brothers Standing Together, a group working with released prisoners: “People talk about ‘Black-on-Black crime.’ That is a major concern. But an even larger concern is that the people who are supposed to serve and protect us are also perpetuating violence throughout the country. We cannot rise up as a people if we don’t stand united. We cannot get the job done by standing on the sidelines watching as Rekia Boyd, as 19-year-old Roshad McIntosh or a 7-year-old child are being slaughtered by the people who swore to serve and protect them. If we want to get the job done we understand there are going to be some risks involved, we understand there are going to be some sacrifices involved. Who here is willing to stand to make a sacrifice for the people? We have been quiet too long, we have been paralyzed too long.”

Joshua Lopez, the nephew of John Collado, killed by the NYPD: “I’m trying to bring awareness. We need October. We need people to rise up. Because if we leave it up to the system there’s nothing going to happen. They’re going to keep killing us. So I think October 24 Rise Up is really very important. We need everybody to come out to New York.”

Hannibal Saleem Ali, uncle of Anjustine Hunter: “My nephew was killed in Memphis, shot down like an animal. He had no weapon. They tried to sweep it under the rug. He was college-bound, his life was snuffed out before it could begin. We’re talking about human beings. Every life is precious!”

Sharon Irwin: “I want to say that the police murdered my grandson [Tony Robinson]. They tried to make him look like a criminal but he wasn’t. I heard the officer testify personally to what happened, and it is nothing like the statement he made days later after the DCI showed him all the evidence, walked him through the scene of the crime and allowed him to rewrite his first statement. We are one people. We are the human race. There are 7 billion of us. If we stand up who could stop us? No one!”

Learn more about Rise Up October

Carl Dix took the mike to wind up the press conference: “We see that the killings have continued even in the face of resistance. What we see in that is that they are doubling down on continuing to back up their killer cops. And we have to take the spirit that these family members are putting forward here and say ‘Are we going to let this go down? Or are we going to step up?’ And that’s what this march is, us stepping up. But stepping up in a particular way, working to bring out how serious this situation is. That’s why we have these families tell their stories. So people can see these are human beings and in many, many cased our future is being snuffed out. Because that’s what the youth are, they are our future. We take banners like this, we show people, this is a widespread problem. We wanna put that problem before people. Some people will tell us, well it makes me uncomfortable to have that problem put before me. But that problem is in front of you, you’re just refusing to look at it and we’re gonna help open your eyes to it. And then we will challenge you to act based upon your humanity, which should demand that you do something about it. Through this, we intend to mobilize a huge march that will send a message to the country and to the world that there is a sizeable number of people who are determined to act to stop it and we’re not stopping in October. October is just gonna be a step to gather even more until this gets stopped. And like I said, we got differences among us about how we approach worship, whether we worship, we are different nationalities and races, but we are together that the horror of police murdering people must stop. We’re gonna act together and work together until it’s stopped."

The press conference was well-attended by media, including: local affiliates of ABC and public television, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reporter, Medill wire service from Northwestern University's School of Journalism, Progress Illinois, Azteca, and The Final Call.


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