In the Aftermath of Paris

Revolutionaries Represent at UIC Demo "Message for the Mourning"

November 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

November 17—Approximately 150 gathered in a large circle in the Quad at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) today at noon for a demonstration called “Message for the Mourning,” sponsored by campus Muslim student groups with Amnesty International, Black Students Union (BSU), and others in response to the attacks in Paris. Perhaps half, or maybe a little more, were Muslim students, with the young women pretty much all wearing head scarves. There were also Latino, Asian, and white students in attendance.

A number of people spoke—they seemed to all be representatives from the various organizations that endorsed the event—but it was a small bullhorn and at times I could not hear what was being said. But from what I did hear, the message was definitely NOT “pro-American.” One speaker specifically called on people not be drawn into seeking revenge against people in the Middle East, and called for peace everywhere in the world. And speakers drew links to injustices that were being fought in the U.S. The head of the UIC BSU got up and said that things have been happening so fast—protesting in support for students at Mizzou on Thursday, and then again on Saturday, and now coming out in support of Muslim brothers and sisters—that he hasn’t had any time to study and he has mid-terms coming up tomorrow. He was anguishing over this—but it was clear that he felt he had to stand up against injustice wherever it occurred.

The program lasted about 20 minutes and then students signed a banner that was laid out in the center of the ring. So I started to pass out the literature I had brought—which proved to be less than what was really needed—but it all went out. I had run off 70 copies of the new article on Paris (“A Terrorist Attack on Paris, a World of Horrors, and the NEED FOR ANOTHER WAY”) and I had another 70 flyers for the November 21 Tamir Rice demo plus 10 Revolution newspapers. People were very open and glad to get both flyers. The Tamir Rice demo flyers were a particularly hot ticket because the last speaker had posed the question “where do we go from here?” in standing together. It seemed like many there had heard Tamir’s name and some knew the details. But quite a few didn’t. When I asked people if they had watched the video of the police murder of Tamir, a number students said that they couldn’t make themselves watch it. But when I agitated about the horror of what the police did to this 12-year-old kid—and that the murdering cops were about to get a pass from the DA—this definitely got people’s attention. The Tamir flyers got out quickly because a significant number of people took more than one—not big stacks, but based on thinking about how many people they knew that they wanted to get one to, they took a few. What struck me was people’s seriousness.

I ended up getting contact info for 14 students, all of whom said they wanted to get connected with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. And I had a number of interesting talks with groups of students, as opposed to an individual here and an individual there, as has often been in the past. And these were groups of friends who were all into fighting injustice—four young Muslim women, three African (but very Americanized) immigrants, three other young women—two white and one Muslim. There was a sense from the whole event that people were there because they refused to go along with all the horrible things that are taking place—they were choosing the side of resistance.

One of the group of four young Muslim women had just come from a class where they had talked about the Paris attack. The student was upset because a lot of the class had been taking the position that people in the U.S. have to support “our government” in defeating ISIS in order to defend the “freedoms we have in this country.” She didn’t want any part of defending the U.S. government. I asked her if the class was mostly white. She said no—mostly non-white with a lot of immigrants in it. So I asked her what she thought this “freedom” was that needed to be defended. Another student said “opportunity”—I said, “to do what?” A third student said, “To make money.” And they all agreed that was it. I asked them where they thought all this wealth in the U.S.—that people want a cut of—comes from. This made them think. Finally one said, the whole world. I agreed and told them that the U.S. has five percent of the world’s population and had them guess how much of the world’s wealth it consumes. They were going, “I heard that statistic someplace... what was it?” And they knew it was big (over 20 percent)—so we talked about how that happens and soon we were into things they know—the endless U.S. wars, the military bases everywhere. Yet it took a discussion like this for them to really think about how soaked in blood is the “freedom and opportunity” that is dangled in front of immigrants (and others) in this country. They were really thinking about this. We came back to the Tamir demo. They all felt that there was something important starting to happen with students standing up and they want to be part of this. They all also took extra Tamir leaflets, got a copy of Revolution newspaper and gave their info to hook up with SMIN.

In the group with the two white women and a Muslim woman, the Muslim woman said she has been very frustrated because she can’t understand why the young Muslims are turning to Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. The others said they had the same question. I introduced them to Bob Avakian (BA) and explained how he had been working on this very question for a couple of decades. I went back and briefly explained the revolution in China and what a loss it was for the world when it was reversed. I didn’t spend a lot of time on China, but I did use the example of its great achievements—that a woman in revolutionary China could go anywhere, anytime without fear. This really blew their minds. One said, “You sure can’t do that in Chicago today!” I asked them to think about all the things that would have to be different in a society for just this one thing to be true. Then think about what it meant to lose such a place in the world when the revolution got defeated after Mao died. Then I made BA’s point, referencing a journalist, about how back in the day, all these youths who were now jihadists would have been Maoists. But with no actual revolution in the world today, all these people’s hatred of what imperialism has done to huge hunks of the world gets sucked into this reactionary stuff. So that’s why only a revolution is the way out of this—not picking sides between the U.S. and other imperialists on the one hand and Islamic fundamentalism on the other. They had all heard of Tamir Rice and were really glad that there was a protest. They too got a Revolution newspaper and took Tamir flyers and gave their contact info to hook up with SMIN.

I went up to three Black students—two guys and a young woman. Only after I read their names, did I realize that they were immigrants (at least they all had African names) because they were very Americanized. We talked about the Tamir demo, and one guy in particular was very much into coming on Saturday. I brought up what the BSU speaker had said about there being so many protests breaking out that he had no time for school. These three also had a very strong sense that something new was happening with their generation—and they liked it. They liked the idea of their lives being about more than just “getting ahead”—more about justice and what kind of world do you want to live in. I had my BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! T-shirt on, and one of them asked me what that was all about. So I introduced them to BA. I got out a copy of the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America to show what he had been doing for 40 years and how there is an actual strategy and program for a real revolution in this country and we are building a movement to do just that. They all gave their contact info and took extra Tamir leaflets, got Revolution and signed up for SMIN.



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