Which Side Are You On?/Rise Up October National Tour Organizing Meeting in Chicago

Updated August 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


A key part of the National Tour in Chicago was the organizing meeting on Wednesday night, August 5. Earlier that day, the tour held a press conference in front of the Chicago Police Department headquarters.

Rise Up October 24th logo

The audience of 50 people at the organizing meeting heard powerful presentations from Carl Dix and Rev. Jerome McCorry, national leaders of Rise Up October; from family members of loved ones killed by police; and from other people from Chicago. The main message was “Police Terror Must Stop, Which Side Are You On? We are all standing together saying, we have to step up and take nationwide resistance to a whole other level.” Carl Dix, co-initiator of Rise Up October with Cornel West and representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, began the meeting with this message.

Dix addressed the depth of the problem of police murder and mass incarceration, pointing out that this is part of a genocidal program: “Genocide, this is not hype. When a group of people are put in circumstances where they cannot thrive and survive, that’s genocide. Official violence has been built into this society from the beginning. Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans are treated as criminals and demons.

“How do you deal with genocide? Do you try to put a new coat of paint on the slave chains—or do you get rid of the chains? It’s going to take revolution, nothing less, to end this—and to end the attacks on women, the wars for empire, the devastation of the environment. We in the RCP and Bob Avakian exist to bring that revolution into being and call on you to get into this movement for revolution. I know all of you ain’t there. I am working on you all to get there. And while we talk we need to work together—everybody.

“Which side are you on? Sympathy is not enough, stop sitting on the sidelines. There are only two sides, justice and injustice. Your humanity is at stake. I don’t care who you are. If you are human, you have to feel these are our children being killed. It’s up to us to stop this.”

Mertilla Jones traveled from Detroit to Cleveland and Chicago as part of the tour. She brought home the horrendous reality of police terror. The crowd sat in stunned silence as she told the story of the police raid on her home (the wrong house) that resulted in the murder of her seven-year-old granddaughter, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, and her own arrest. She said, “They did not kill me that day, I’m still here to speak for Aiyana. I want you to know this is real people, we are real human beings. When cops kill and abuse people, they kill a whole family, a whole community.”

Joshua Lopez, who traveled from New York City, spoke of the police murder of his uncle, John Collado, and called on people to take up the fight for Rise Up October. “We need to stand up and say ‘NO MORE.’ We’re tired of this. We need unity. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. This is why I refuse to be silent.”

Martinez Sutton, brother of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd, killed by Chicago police, spoke. Even though the cop who killed Rekia was the first to be charged in Chicago in 20 years, in the middle of the trial the judge threw out the charges and the cop walked away scot free. As Martinez struggled to tell Rekia’s story, Mertilla Jones and Joshua Lopez stepped back up to the front to stand with him and support him. He said: “For three years they dragged us along, only to end in a not-guilty verdict. They are killing us out here. They are destroying whole families. I’m not a lion, I’m not Cecil the Lion. But they treat us like animals, worse than animals. Innocent human lives are taken every day, but they don’t talk about that—they think a lion is more important. A police officer in this country was fired within a week for shooting a dog, but I had to wait for three years and then the cop was found not guilty. This experience has made me stronger. Now is the time to rise up and get up off your butts and get to fighting. It is time for us to rise up.”

Rev. Jerome McCorry, national faith leader of Rise Up October, began with the fact that today is the one-year anniversary of the police murder of John Crawford for being Black and picking up a toy gun at a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. Rev. McCorry did not mince words about what is needed: “There’s been 250 years of slavery, 60 years of Jim Crow, 30 separate but equal. Now we’re being killed in the streets. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

He continued: “It’s revolution time... You can’t fix what’s wrong with modern policing. You have to tear down the foundation. It’s going to take systemic changes. Rise Up October! We have to build this, we have to make this happen...

“One institution that has failed us is the Black church. We’ve got to do new things in new ways. We’re bogged down in the paralysis of analysis. What happened in Charleston... how do you forgive and holler ‘peace’ when you are in the midst of a war? There is a time for peace, but this is not it. The slave catchers became the militia, the National Guard, and the police. They did not lose their thirst for killing. I can’t forgive. I believe forgiveness comes with repentance, and with atonement for your sin. Don’t ask me to forgive when they’re still keeping up the action. I’m sick and tired of prosecutors saying, ‘at least we sent it to the grand jury.’ Justice is when we get convictions.

“I’m hearing from churches, ‘we don’t know what to do.’ I have here a list of things churches and people can do from the Rise Up October Faith Team.”

Nancy, from Chicago Stop Mass Incarceration Network, read from a statement she had written to challenge and move white people to recognize the oppression of Black people and take action to stop it. These are excerpts:

“White America, you have to wake up from your deep sleep. It is clear that countless young Black and now young Brown people are being killed. White America, your silence in the face of these killings is your loud and clear approval of these brutal and murdering events. How does all of America become so disturbingly quiet in the face of these obvious and cruel crimes?

“The police are doing the work of a great and unending white dominant culture... making us feel safe and special and fearful because the targeted group, the lowest group, the poorest group is being subjected to terror and injustice and death or incarceration.

“White America, if you are not loudly saying and acting to stop this evolved brand of enslavement, then you are approving and contributing to its continual terrorizing form.... Your life depends on your awakening. To live in a country that ignores the deaths of its own holocaust is not the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Carl Dix wrapped up the presentations with a rousing call for immediate action. “You have heard the vision, you have heard from the family members and Rev. McCorry why we’ve got to do October 24. You heard them say we don’t just need sympathy, we need action. Who is going to organize to make October 24 a reality? When people say they want to do this, we have to enlist them on the spot. That’s what we are doing tonight.”

Many people said they were inspired by all the testimony, and this galvanized people to take an active part in getting organized at the three main workshops: outreach, fundraising, and logistics for October 24. The workshops dug into the work that needs to be done to make October 24 a reality and reported back to the group at the end. There were a lot of great ideas, and people volunteered to get started on them. All the report-backs emphasized fundraising, because huge funds are required to make this a success. A few highlights are:

A volunteer is already reaching out to Spanish-speaking families whose loved ones were killed by police and is gathering their testimony. She is also reaching out to immigrant groups to be part of the Rise Up October Coalition.

The fundraising workshop proposed raising funds for scholarships for people to go to New York on October 24. One idea was for artists to donate artwork and auction it off.

The social media group proposed national Twitter storm days every week until October 24 as a way to spread awareness and raise funds.

A student who is part of a nationwide Black sorority volunteered to contact them right away to bring them into October 24. She offered to also contact Sandra Bland’s sorority, which had a “Say Her Name” contingent with posters and pictures of Sandra at the huge African-American Bud Billiken parade on Saturday. Black fraternities and sororities could be an important part of both outreach and fundraising on campuses, since “service” is a big part of their mission.

A student suggested she and another student start a Revolution Club at their college as a way to spread both October 24 and the movement for revolution, and as a platform from which to reach out to other student organizations. She proposed having an event as soon as school starts that could be a kick-off event for October 24, with spoken word, etc. She also suggested going regularly to open mics at poetry venues to spread the word and organize youths into October 24.

The faith workshop proposed a speakers bureau to speak at churches and schools.

A student took responsibility for developing an art contest on campuses and art schools for an “iconic” artwork for October 24/Which Side Are You On? with the idea for the winning work to be on the website, posters, banners, etc. They will go to art students at the School of the Art Institute to get the ball rolling.


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