MLK Day: Protests Target Murders by Police—and Revolutionaries Bring in the Real Solution

January 25, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


On this year’s MLK Day, January 18, aside from various official events and commemorations, there were defiant actions in different cities where people took to the streets to protest murders by police, racism, and to raise other demands. And in some places, revolutionaries who were part of the actions connected people with the movement for an actual revolution and the leadership for that. The following roundup of some of the protests is based on news reports and correspondence from our readers.

San Francisco Bay Area

Around 4 pm, protesters drove onto the Bay Bridge in several cars and stopped. Strong chains were strung through the cars and across all five lanes—completely stopping westbound traffic for about 30 minutes on this heavily used bridge that connects Oakland and other East Bay cities with San Francisco. Twenty-five protesters were arrested.

A statement from the Black.Seed Collective, which carried out the action, said, in part: “Over the last few years, we have seen San Francisco and Oakland destroyed by police murders, rising housing costs, rapid gentrification, and apathetic city officials. Last year, we saw dozens of police murders throughout the Bay Area; since June of 2015 in Oakland alone there have been eight Black men murdered by police.”

While the media quoted drivers upset at being stuck in traffic because of the action, there were others who placed the “inconvenience” in a larger context—like one woman who tweeted: “Stuck in traffic trying to get onto the Bay Bridge, but I don’t mind because #BlackLivesMatter.”

Around the same time, not far from the action on the Bay Bridge, a freeway off-ramp in Emeryville was blocked as part of a march by hundreds of people that began in downtown Oakland.

Minneapolis-St. Paul

Protesters block bridge spanning the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., demanding justice for Jamar Clark and Marcus Golden, January 18.
Two groups of protesters braved freezing temperatures to block a bridge spanning the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., demanding justice for Jamar Clark and Marcus Golden, January 18. AP photo

On an afternoon with freezing temperatures, two groups of protesters blocked the Marshall Avenue-Lake Street Bridge that spans the Mississippi River between St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The marchers going onto the bridge from the Minneapolis side demanded justice for Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old Black man killed by police last November 15. Many witnesses say the cops handcuffed Jamar, knocked him to the ground, and shot him in the head. Immediately after the murder, a couple of hundred people took over the outside of the police precinct, defying the cops and declaring a “no cop zone.” The determined encampment at the precinct continued for several weeks, including in the face of white supremacists who opened fire on the protesters, wounding five of them.

The marchers from the St. Paul side demanded justice for Marcus Golden, another 24-year-old Black man, who was murdered by cops in January 2015. Last May, a grand jury declined to indict the cops involved in the shooting. Monique Cullars-Doty, an aunt of Marcus Golden, said, “This is a tale of two cities. This is not a pretty tale. This is an ugly tale.”


From readers:

Cleveland. Photo: Special to Revolution/

Through the freezing cold, 60 people came out to protest the decision to not prosecute the cops who murdered 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and the police murders carried out throughout the USA. Students and activists marched through downtown. After two hours, they ended at the Justice Center. Several members of the Cleveland Revolution Club carried a banner with “Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism/Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” There was also an event at the United Church of Christ Headquarters honoring MLK and Tamir Rice, called by United Pastors in Mission. The event demanded the ouster of the prosecutor who pushed through the decision not to indict the cops who killed Tamir, and for special prosecutors to investigate future killings by cops. A Revolution Club member got out flyers calling on people to come to the celebration of the major new work by Bob Avakian at Cleveland Revolution Books, as well as Revolution newspapers and a flyer of BAsics 1:24. There was a sense at this event that even though people there are working for reforms, many were open to an actual revolution because the horrors of the capitalist-imperialist system—from the wars waged by the imperialists, to attacks on abortion rights, to police terror, to attacks on immigrants, and more—are relentless, and people feel that.


From readers:

MLK breakfast in Chicago
Outside the hotel where Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held his "MLK Interfaith Breakfast." Photo: FJJ

A number of different forces called for a boycott of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s MLK Interfaith Breakfast. The participation of a group of ministers, who organized people to NOT go and got into the media with their call in the days leading up to the event, added to the climate of resistance that continues in Chicago in the face of snowballing revelations of police murder outrages. (See comprehensive coverage at The Police Murder of Laquan McDonald in Chicago and the Coverup. The Whole Damn System Is Guilty!) Outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel in McCormick Place, a huge convention center where the breakfast was held, a number of these ministers held a press conference. They were joined by a group of about 40 protesters, overwhelmingly Black—defiant, spirited, and determined to block the front door of the hotel. They linked arms, refused to move, and spoke out against Rahm Emanuel’s cover-ups of police murders.

Bishops Larry Trotter, Tavis Grant, and James Dukes were among the well-known ministers who had called for the boycott of Emanuel’s MLK Day breakfast. They spoke to more than 50 other church leaders and the event’s scheduled keynote speaker, author Isabel Wilkerson, about being part of the boycott. Wilkerson, author of the widely acclaimed book, The Warmth of Other Suns, on the Great Migration of Black people from the South to the North, did cancel her appearance.

The police tried to keep people on the sidewalk away from the front of the hotel, but we were able to get through their lines and link arms across the long front entrance to the Hyatt Regency. There was intense outrage over the recently released video of the murder of 17-year-old Cedrick Chatman, shot as he ran away from police, and all the unrelenting police murders of unarmed Black men and women and the continual cover-ups of Rahm Emanuel and the whole system of injustice. Anyone who dared to go through the blockade was met with “Shame on you!”

There were many different political activists there, but what stood out and had real impact was the Stop Mass Incarceration Network banner, which captured the spirit and mood of the people: “Indict All the Murdering Cops & EVERYONE who was part of the cover-up.” There were chants of “16 shots and a cover-up,” “Justice for Laquan, which side are you on?” and “Indict, convict, send Emanuel to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell!”

A member of the Revolution Club spoke about the videos of the police murder of Cedrick Chatman—how, after killing Cedrick, the murdering pig put his foot on his body lying on the ground, like a hunter with a prize kill. He read from the statement “More Police Murder... More Murdering Police Go Free. This Cannot Go Down Like This! This Cannot Go On!”: “Black people have been kidnapped, murdered, enslaved, exploited, Jim-Crowed, lynched, segregated, rioted against, discriminated against, beaten, scorned and slandered, imprisoned, bitten by dogs, lied to and lied on, soft-soaped with hope and promised and tricked, sold out and shot out and shot down in the streets, and just goddamn brutalized and killed over and over, since day one. And here we are going into 2016, and nothing has changed. How long?!? As long as the system that did all this and does all this still stands....” Many people responded viscerally with “speak the truth!” The Revolution Club member brought out the need for revolution—and the leadership that we have in Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. He challenged people: “The world truly doesn’t have to be this way. People should seriously get into Bob Avakian.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel’s breakfast was also interrupted on three occasions as individual protesters shouted during the program. They included the Rev. Matthew Ross, a South Side minister who shouted, “16 shots and a cover-up!” as he was escorted out of the room, a reference to how many times the Black teen Laquan McDonald was shot by white Officer Jason Van Dyke... Ross, who was dressed in black and wearing a clerical collar, said, “I did what I did because when I take this collar off, I look just like Laquan McDonald.... We’ve had enough.”

When the breakfast was almost over, and the blockade began to wind down, people gathered in little groups, talking about where could/should all of this go. Copies of Revolution newspaper and flyers for the upcoming Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) Midwest Conference were gotten out widely. And we called people’s attention to the new major work from Bob Avakian.



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