A Powerful Element of Rise Up October

Courage and Determination of Those Who Lost Loved Ones to Murder By Police

November 9, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a person working on the Task Force to Bring 100 Families to Rise Up October:

In late May, Carl Dix and Cornel West called a mass meeting in New York City to begin planning for Rise Up October. A public Call initiated by Carl Dix and Cornel West followed, and immediately the Call to be in NYC on October 22-24 began to strike a chord with a cross section of people, notably families whose loved ones were killed by police. Over several months numerous family members from many regions of the U.S. endorsed the Call, and began saying they wanted to be in NYC to say “STOP police terror!”

One family member put it this way: “October 22-24 is a great idea—it’s PIVOTAL! People think there is justice served because some cops are indicted. No. True accountability isn’t happening, not in California and not in the U.S. Not from the Sheriff’s ‘investigations’ and not from the District Attorney’s or the Federal Justice Department. Rise Up October is more than a stance, it’s resistance, and it’s urgent. There can be no more waiting. We have to be in NYC. On April 14, the walls were caving us in—we had to break out. Now, what are we going to do about it? It can be hard to ‘get it’ if it’s not happening to you—everybody has to ‘get it.’ I’ll be in NYC in October and I am bringing people with me.”

The mission of Rise Up October was to mobilize thousands to be in the streets to put the demand Stop Police Terror before all of society here and around the world, raising the challenge: Which Side Are You On? when it comes to police getting away with murder. We set out to compel people to no longer tolerate this genocidal epidemic, and one important part of this was to force people to confront the actual reality and human cost by putting the stories of the lived horror of police murder in front of millions of people, with the objective of stopping these crimes.

Acting on the desire of these family members who answered the Call to be among the thousands in New York City for Rise Up October, a call went out to bring family members of 100 people murdered by police to NYC, and a Task Force was organized to work with many people to make this happen. Given the difficulties of cost of travel and housing for people to come from all parts of this country, this was a challenge. The fact that this is a grassroots movement funded only by contributions of individuals who support the cause meant that the only approach was to take out very widely the mission of Rise Up October and the need to make it possible for these families to be in NYC. And a key element of this was to combine the efforts of the families themselves with many others to do this. This not only helped raise the money, but it also was a means for breaking open the debate of Which Side Are You On? with many more people, involving them in being on the right side when they stepped forward.

The opening salvo of Rise Up October was a dramatic, moving event in Times Square on October 22. No More Stolen Lives: Say Their Names on October 22, the National Day of Protest to STOP Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, where more than 30 families were joined by artists and prominent voices of conscience. They “came to share the stories and outrages, pain and anger of losing a loved one. They came to support each other, and have the backs of those fighting for justice. They exposed the crimes of the police, and shined a bright light on the epidemic of STATE TERROR especially against Black people, Latinos, and Native Americans.” Afterward, several hundred people marched in Brooklyn—the most populous borough of NYC—where the NYPD has killed dozens.

On October 23, family members were part of the action to #ShutDownRikers when they went with 100 others to the entrance of Rikers Island, the second largest jail in the U.S., supporting and cheering those who took nonviolent action to close the gates to Rikers for over an hour. On October 24, family members were at the front of the march, calling on bystanders to “get off the sidelines.” Most carried portraits of their loved ones, and dozens spoke at rallies at each end of the march.

It is inspiring to see how many different people responded to this call, and contributed in many ways. Contributions came in from all over to the crowd-funded campaign to raise $100,000 for Rise Up October, one major component of this to bring the families. The Task Force and many volunteers worked with family members and others to work through what was a complex task. The way this was done was a new thing, and while there were difficulties, the spirit of working together to solve problems did result in a very powerful manifestation which gave a platform to these families to bring their stories to the world as a very dynamic part of Rise Up October.

The courage and determination of loved ones of those whose lives have been stolen, who have suffered terrible loss, been demonized, threatened and often isolated—and yet who still took to the streets so that no one else will suffer this—was an essential element of Rise Up October. Many of them have been alone in fighting for justice for their loved ones. By joining with thousands of others in forcing society to see the faces—and say the names—of the stolen lives, and calling on others to join this fight, they strengthened the whole movement. In turn, the families drew strength from being a part of an action with so many diverse groups of people who took their side.

A family member said: “Rise Up October brought worldwide attention to what is happening in the United States. It isn’t right police are getting away with murder. Now people are finding out about it not just in New York City or Detroit, but Malaysia and other countries. People around the world will see this is not the ‘land of the free’ and the ‘home of the brave.’ They will see we have much more in common, that there is injustice here, as well as internationally. Everybody can see there is a large number of people going through this. You can’t go through one African-American family that hasn’t been affected by mass incarceration and police brutality. Rise Up October is bringing a new era. It’s getting out into Main St. Rise Up October hit with power and I’m happy about it.”

The spirit of Rise Up! Which Side Are You On? Stop Murder by Police! must continue, nationwide. Since Rise Up October numerous families have asked “what’s next?” and expressed a desire to step up the fight to stop murder by police. We need to combine the efforts of the families with ALL who are determined to put an end to this genocidal program—an approach central to Rise Up October—and do this with the united objective of making new leaps in changing the whole political landscape in such a way that more and more people, ultimately millions of people, take increasing initiative to make it unmistakably clear we refuse to live in a society that sanctions murder by police.


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