Revolution #207, July 18, 2010

Revolutionary Anti-July 4th picnic, San Francisco Bay Area

People came together in cities around the country for Anti-July 4th picnics to raise thousands of dollars (in total) for the campaign "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." Below is a snapshot we received of the picnic held in Oakland, California as the community was tensely awaiting the verdict in the trial of the cop who murdered Oscar Grant:

On the 4th of July, the system celebrates U.S. power and domination over the world in an orgy of patriotism and American flags. We said a loud "NO!" to all that in Oakland, California. We came together for a Revolutionary Anti-July 4th picnic to raise funds to support "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" campaign. People were greeted by music, and the image of Bob Avakian decorated the front of the park and flew from t-shirts hanging from the bookstore canopy. Something really different was going on that day.

Some people came who hate everything July 4th is celebrating and who dream of a world without America. People with some knowledge and life experience of what the U.S. has done in Iran, India, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala joined with Native Americans, African Americans, youth and revolutionary veterans to share a delicious potluck lunch, hear speakers, and have fun.

Building for the picnic touched a nerve—a lot of people are angry and fed up with this system and open to revolution against it. A sound truck criss-crossed neighborhood streets announcing the picnic and people ran up to the truck to get fliers. We went door-to-door in the neighborhood and set up displays and tables in busy spots, attracting attention with photos of police brutality and the U.S. wars in Iraq. Several hundred dollars of tickets were sold before the event.

The park is in the heart of the immigrant community, only blocks away from where Oscar Grant was shot in the back in cold blood by Johannes Mehserle on January 1, 2009. People are talking about this everywhere on the streets. What will the verdict be? What will people do? is on everyone's minds. Many stores have boarded up their windows and the police are going around telling merchants to shut down when the verdict is announced. Many people are also upset about the fascistic new anti-immigrant law in Arizona, the shooting of 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico by the U.S. Border Patrol, and the Gulf oil disaster. The picnic took place in the midst of this charged and highly politicized atmosphere.

The picnic generated some controversy. On the day of the picnic, a priest at a nearby Catholic church with immigrant parishioners said from the pulpit that when the verdict is announced about Oscar Grant's murder, people should just stay home. He warned that there were revolutionaries outside and that people should stay away from them because they don't believe in god and we do. When the mass ended, many took leaflets, while some refused.

People helped build for the picnic while wrestling with big questions of revolution.

One woman who we met during the 10-day saturation push studied the statement, liked what it said about the problem, but had questions about the solution, why it said "there is no god" and its emphasis on this leader. She ended up coming early, helped pick up food and said we were the only ones really doing something that makes sense.

Very significantly, much of the food was generously donated by merchants and restaurant owners who were from Latin America or Palestine and know first hand what the U.S. has done to those countries and their people and what it feels like to be oppressed here. They gave bags of tomatoes, onions and cilantro which was made into salsa, rice and beans, sour cream, pounds of chicken, chips, tostadas (a crispy tortilla), pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread) and fruit.

These store owners were sympathetic to the statement's message against July 4th and for revolution. During the 10-day saturation push, some had taken fliers and posters for their windows or counters and donated funds. People expressed outrage about police brutality and the way the police often take away immigrants' cars if they are caught driving without papers.

Once people entered the park, photos from Revolution of police brutality and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drew people into the park who wanted to find out what was going on. A Latino immigrant family came and the father said he had gotten mistreated by the police. A new person had gotten a flier on the street and said she never thought about revolution before, but now thinks it's a good idea because people should stand up to the government. A young woman said she thought the world had to be changed and agreed this is the best thing to do with your life.

Several people said they were really glad to be someplace where people were calling out the U.S. and what it is doing to the people of the world. They were happy to take a stand against America's wars and its crimes.

The program began with a quote from Bob Avakian about proletarian internationalism, "If you can conceive of a world without America..." and an audio from Avakian's Revolution Talk on "What to the Slave is Your 4th of July?" by Frederick Douglass. Speakers condemned police brutality and the unjust recent arrest of two young revolutionaries who were legally observing police. Prisoners' letters were read on "What to the American Prisoner is Your 4th of July?" We heard about Oscar Grant and the trial of Johannes Mehserle. Others talked about the capitalist oil spill in New Orleans, the Emergency Gulf Summit, Arizona Freedom Summer, and Detroit—the police murder of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones and the Social Forum.

One highlight of the event was a beautifully sung performance of Nina Simone's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free." This led to a fundraising appeal which called on people to donate $2,000 on the spot to print 80,000 statements of "The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have" as part of our goal to distribute one million statements throughout the country this summer. The speaker said, "We ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution" now and linked this movement to getting to a communist world. We got a $200 pledge, several $50-$100 donations, a day's wages and many smaller donations for a total of more than $2,100. This event and the raising of funds was an important contribution to the campaign.

A very important part of the picnic was the showing of the Revolution DVD. Groupings of people gathered under a canopy and intently watched "They're Selling Postcards of the Hanging" and "Youth Deserve a Better Future" from the Revolution Talk by Bob Avakian. Some of the immigrants said they didn't know about the lynchings of Black people that happened in this country. One person said he thought nobody should be mistreated in that way and we have to change things. One woman was upset because she had no idea people had been treated that way. Another said he had spent time in prison and wanted to see a change. After watching the talk, several were interviewed to contribute to developing a film to promote the DVD.

More than 75 people participated in the picnic. The majority gathered near the tables, talked with friends and met new people. Some people came who had heard about it days before. Others were attracted to the showing of the Revolution Talk. Some residents of the neighborhood watched and listened from their apartments next to the park. Overall, the wonderful contributions of food, the program, the conversations, the music, people playing soccer and the great company made for an enjoyable and successful event.

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