Revolutionary Worker #1173, November 3, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
"Sisters and brothers, it is very important that we are out here today, together with people in cities across the country. It is important because the U.S. rulers are today unleashing a juggernaut of war and repression on us and on the world. And in the face of all that, it is crucial that we step up the fight to stop police brutality. It is crucial because the police enforcers for this rotten capitalist system are beating down, locking up, and even killing our people, even more than they did before."
Carl Dix, national spokesperson for the
Revolutionary Communist Party
and a member of the national coordinating committee of the October 22nd Coalition,
speaking at the New York rally, 10/22/02
For the seventh year in a row, people rallied and marched around the country on October 22 in the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation. From Los Angeles, where 1,200 marched to the LAPD headquarters, to Oakland, Cleveland, New York, and many other cities, a united voice arose from people of many different nationalities, ages, and backgrounds: Police brutality and murder must STOP!
Building for the day, the October 22nd Coalition had issued a striking poster declaring "Police Brutality Did Not Die on Sept. 11"--and bearing the names of over 140 people (known so far) who've been killed across the country by law enforcement since September 11, 2001. The strong presence in this year's October 22 protests of many families of police brutality victims brought home the reality revealed on the poster.
There were those representing victims of police murder since 9/11/01--like Joe Finley, a young Native American killed in June of this year. His aunt, Serena Miranda, told protesters in Cleveland, "Joey was only 20 years old and he was shot while laying on the ground. Twelve times. I feel for every family here who has lost a loved one to a murder like this."
And there were others who have been fighting for many years for justice. Like Nicholas Heyward Sr., who said: "Nicholas Jr. was only 13 years old when he was gunned down by a New York City police officer in September 1994... We must fight! We can't allow these people to intimidate us into believing that a kid of 13 playing with a toy gun was doing something wrong."
Tears flowed as people recalled how the lives of their loved ones were so coldly stolen from them by the killers in blue. At the rally in Cleveland, Brenda Bickerstaff, eyes wet and red, said, "They shot my brother five times in the back. Then he went to his knees, and the cop backed up and kept shooting and shooting and shooting until Craig was dead."
There was a haunting moment in Los Angeles when vocalist Dwight Trible performed a heart- wrenching version of "Strange Fruit," a song about lynchings in the South, as people hung dozens of photos of victims of police murder from trees in front of the LAPD headquarters.
Fierce rage poured out. A correspondent described an intense scene during the march in Cleveland: "The protesters approached the Justice Center and marched right up to the doors and windows. It was a moment when the anger of the people and their hatred of Amerikkkan `justice' got right in the face of the authorities and the killer cops. Family members and others slammed pictures of victims against the windows for all the cops to see. A sheriff came out to tell people to stay away from the windows and doors. But the people kept putting those faces of their loved ones against the windows and yelling, `No Justice, No Peace!' "
And above all, there was the unshakeable determination of the families and others to fight against injustice--at a time when the official word following September 11 is that the police are heroes, that it's "unpatriotic" to question what the police do, and that law enforcement should be given extra powers in the name of "protecting people's safety."
Norma Martinez's son, Gonzalo, was killed last February when cops in Downey shot 34 times at him. She said at the L.A. rally: "We found out going to City Hall that there have been 25 cases of police civil rights violations and murder, and nobody said anything. Everybody is afraid, but we're not afraid. We fight back. We're going to be here until justice is done, and the criminals who killed my son are in jail."
The newly installed LAPD chief, William Bratten, recently declared that he was going to "take the streets of L.A. back." James Lafferty, the executive director of the L.A. Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, had a response: "I've got news for Mr. Bratten. Those streets belong to [the people], and we're not giving them up to him or to anybody. Now more than ever we're going to be in the streets of this city, because we need to be. We need to be in the streets saying `No!' to the vicious war in Iraq. We need to be in the streets saying `No!' to racial profiling."
People took heart from the courage and determination of others. At one point in the New York rally of over 400 people, Juanita Young--whose son Malcolm Ferguson was shot dead by a cop--came forward with her arm around a woman dressed all in black. The MC, Abellard Louisgene, introduced the woman as Netanya--she had been engaged to Gidon Busch when the young Jewish man, suffering from mental illness, was gunned down three years ago by the NYPD. In a quiet voice, Netanya said, "I'm here representing a family who is still fighting for justice, as all these families are."
Earlier, Abellard had said that Netanya was too overcome with emotion to speak. As Netanya and Juanita walked off stage arm-in-arm, Abellard took the mike: "Do you know where she got the courage to get from behind the stage, to come up here to say two words to you? It's from you, people! From your cheers and from your pride, screaming out `We want justice!' " Abellard then held up an October 22 poster and pointed to one of the faces pictured on it--her 23-year-old brother, Georgy, killed last January by seven bullets from police guns.
The energy of the new generation could definitely be felt on Oct. 22 around the country. Among the 500 protesters in the heart of downtown Oakland were about 70 students from the School of Social Justice, an alternative high school in East Oakland. Practically the whole school had turned out--including the principal, Wilson Riles Jr., who spoke at the rally. A student from the school said, "My school is out here today because we receive mistreatment and we'd like this to stop. A lot of people have been killed because of police brutality.... And if they don't listen, we don't care--we're still going to fight to the end." Kids came from Thurgood Marshall high school in San Francisco--where just a few days earlier police in full riot gear beat and arrested students after a routine fight had broken out.
In L.A., Black Student Unions, MEChAs, and Asian-Pacific student groups from campuses all over the region mobilized in large numbers for the day. The Watts Drum Corps beat out the rhythm for the chants in English and Spanish.
Tee, a youth from the Watts Committee Against Police Brutality, proudly spoke about the Ribbon Day last August--when 1,500 people in Watts wore black and brown ribbons in an inspiring statement of Black and Latino solidarity against police brutality.
Sherman Austin reported that people are walking into Infoshop, a Long Beach anarchist bookstore, describing how cops pulled guns on them and beat them just for wearing black and "fitting the profile" of anarchists. "Police have been waging this outrageous war against the people--not just anarchists, but any kind of political dissent," Austin said. Last January, 18-year-old Austin became the first person arrested under the U.S. government's highly repressive PATRIOT act when federal agents raided his home and seized computer equipment and political literature associated with his raisethefist.com web site.
Since September 11, 2001, Arab, Muslim, and South Asian immigrants have been under intense attack from the government and law enforcement--subject to racial profiling, secret arrests and detention, and deportation. Defending these immigrant brothers and sisters--and linking this with the fight against police brutality--was an important theme this October 22.
In Oakland, Marisa Ascar of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee said, "Seeing all the names and faces of people killed by the police reminds me of where I just came from: Palestine, Gaza, the Occupied Territories. The police can define you in any way they want under any pretext. So it's under this pretext of `terrorism' that you have people being thrown away. It's just another excuse--war on drugs, war on terror, whatever the case may be."
Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA), said, "The immigrant community is under siege.... After September 11, the situation of immigrants from the Middle East has gotten worse. Immigrants are much less safe since September 11."
In New York, the presence of a large number of South Asian people at the protest reflected the outrage and resistance against the unjust detentions of many Arab, Muslim, and South Asian immigrants. Monami Maulik from the South Asian group DRUM shared accounts of the horrible treatment that hundreds of prisoners are suffering at New Jersey detention centers. On their chests, many protesters wore blue triangles with the names of detainees.
On the way to City Hall, the New York marchers stopped at the Federal Building, headquarters of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). As protesters stepped up one-by-one to the mike to read the names on the blue triangles, the people shouted back "Presente."
As darkness closed in on the day, the protesters gathered in front of City Hall, just a few blocks from "ground zero." The names of the people killed by law enforcement around the country since 9/11/01 were read aloud, again to the resounding shouts of "Presente."
Police brutality did not die on September 11--and neither did the people's anger and struggle against it.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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