After a short rally in East Oakland a car caravan took residents from this hood to the rally in the Fruitvale District, going through neighborhoods where police had killed Alan Blueford and Brownie Polk and many others, and where countless numbers of youth are being criminalized and brutalized every day.
At Fruitvale Plaza 120 people had gathered for a rally, over half young and of all nationalities. There were 15-20 college students from Diablo Valley College, Laney and Merritt College and UC Berkeley, as well as youth from different high schools in Oakland and San Francisco, folks from Occupy Oakland, Food Not Bombs, church groups, several immigrant rights groups, family of victims of police murder and abuse, anarchists, and people from the Revolution Club of the Bay Area as well as members of Stop Mass Incarceration Network who had announced the demonstration in a widely distributed leaflet. The rally was also announced on KPFA radio by Davey D as well as social media including #Occupyoakland.
Glide Church members came with their banner from San Francisco, and Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto took the stage. In July, she had given a sermon from her pulpit inside a mock SHU isolation unit in support of the recent California prisoners' hunger strike against the conditions of solitary confinement. She was passionate as she spoke about the need to act now against the criminalization of the youth, especially because of Trayvon Martin. A Stop Mass Incarceration Network speaker also spoke to this as well as linking it up with the fight to stop torture of massive numbers of people who are locked up.
2013 Youth Poet Laureate of Oakland, Obasi D. Davis, ended the rally with a fiery poem, "Hunting Day"—one of the lines says "Oscar Grant is dead, but I'm still alive!"... and this became the call to begin the march.
About 60-70 people in the crowd took off up Fruitvale Avenue with a lot of fanfare. A couple of people from the East Oakland hood took the bullhorn up with passion, assisting the agitators with chanting, "We are all Trayvon Martin, hoodies up/hoodies up"; "If you don't like Stop and Frisk, let me see you raise your fist"; "OPD what do you say, how many kids did you kill today?"; "NO MORE ... mass incarceration....criminalization"; "Being Black is not a crime, but the pigs still fuck with you all the time"; and several others.
There was a notable increase in police presence at this point as well with a copter in the air and 13 cop cars in a nearby parking lot.
As the march returned to the plaza, a crowd of local residents raised their fists in solidarity. The march continued to the train station itself where Uncle Bobby, Cephus Johnson, spoke beneath the platform where his nephew Oscar Grant was killed by the police in 2009. Uncle Bobby spoke of the importance of acting on the spot when people see police abuse and not just letting it go. He mentioned the arrest and conviction of Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who killed Oscar Grant, as being "not a victory, but historic"... and he mentioned the importance of people stepping up and taking pictures as being very important. He said we cannot just step aside and let it go, but we must ACT to stop these criminal actions of the police.
Latino, Black, Asian and white family members expressed their outrage and determination throughout the day, over the mic, and talking with others.
"They tased him and beat him to death!" "They shot my brother Mario Romero 30 times!" "Ernest was unarmed." "We won't be intimidated." "We were looking for medical assistance for Robert, and my son received death." "We won't stop until there is justice." "We're letting them know that we will not be silenced." "Micah...killed in Reno, Nevada on Christmas Day. Tased 26 times." "I thank all of you for making me strong because I know you are gone through horrible things, cause your pain is as bad as mine."
There was a march to the State Attorney General's office where one person from each family spoke the name of their murdered loved ones and laid a red rose on a stylized casket in front of the doors of the building.
Many of the people had been harassed by the authorities for speaking out and demanding justice—one woman had been pulled over the day before because she had a poster for the protest on her car window. Another woman said she had been stopped by police in her town 42 times, because she had written her brother's name and the cops who killed him across the back window of her car. But this harassment has backfired and hardened the resolve to fight for justice.
People stepped off chanting, “Oink, oink, bang, bang, every day the same old thing...” behind a Stolen Lives truck covered with pictures of people killed by the police and a Trayvon banner that read, “We are all Trayvon, the whole damn system is guilty.”
The march included students, activists, family members of people killed by the police, families with loved ones locked down in prison and in solitary isolation, revolutionaries, and others deeply affected by the murder of Trayvon Martin, sick and tired of the official murder and brutality and the targeting and criminalization of Black and Latino youth. All along the march people at bus stops and stores took up stickers and flyers to spread word of the resistance.
After a few blocks, the march turned off the main street to pass by Crenshaw High School as students were coming out of school. The police, who had been hounding the youth in the area the day before (like they do EVERY day), were trying to derail and control the march and were also inside the school forcing students to leave out of the back door. But this didn't work.
As the Stolen Lives truck stopped in front of the school, people called on the students to come out and scores of students rushed into the march, grabbed bullhorns, shouted "Fuck the Police" and began dancing in the street. Some students talked about how they were against the murders by police and how they were harassed and treated like criminals. NO MORE! was the cry, and organizers spoke of how O22 was happening in dozens of cities all over the country to put an end to the crimes of this system.
Out came the sidewalk chalk.... and young kids whose relatives had been killed by the police helped get it around to others. Organizers called out the names of people who had been murdered with the crowd responding “presente!” and people started writing names on the street and sidewalk. High school students took part, some drawing pictures and names of their own friends who have been killed or brutalized by police.
Students were dancing in the streets—jumping up and down in the face of the police who racially profile and harass them ALL the time. The joy was infectious, of seeing the youth—who are targeted and usually held down or caught up in bullshit—step out and stand up. People in the march began laughing, celebrating. A woman who had seen the protest on the street and pulled over her car to join in insisted she needed the microphone and repeated what the student had said, and then went on to call out courthouses and police stations by name. A young woman from the school told a reporter how she had been part of a protest for Trayvon Martin and talked about how his murder was so unjust.
One young man said, “It’s like the cops, they come, and they kill the whole society, and people think, they put it on the news as, the kids kill each other. But it’s the cops, you know. The cops, they come, they try to get you late at night, they try to lock you up. I’ve personally been handcuffed for no reason. It’s like you just want to beat the statistics, but there’s no way possible you could beat the statistics.”
The march took off down Crenshaw Blvd, with high school students at the front. The LAPD threatened people, telling them to “stay in your lane” and then drove their cars into the lane, nearly hitting people. But this only made people more energized and defiant.
At the rally, a family member of Marcus Smith, killed by police in Inglewood, said: “He got shot in the back 22 times with his hands up.... It has been unbearable because even after that our family was harassed. The night he got killed, they left his body covered in the backyard for hours. They did not even want to call the medic or anything like that. They wrestled his brother down. They wrestled him down, beat him up, or whatever, and they beat up the mother of his three children that same night..... We got to take a stand, man, and bring this shit together, not just for him but for all of us—our children and the children of the future....”
Wayne Higgins, the attorney for the family of Terry Lafitte, said, “My client was shot in the back of his head when he was on his knees. He was executed. His life was worth something, more than just another Black man dying..... So let’s make a change.”
A poet powerfully called out the history of murders of this system, and a solo musician sang songs of freedom. There were also speakers from Stop Mass Incarceration Network, the People’s Neighborhood Patrols and from Gender Justice LA on behalf of the queer and transgender community.
Throughout the day, people openly wrestled with and discussed how to actively involve more people... how to win many more to hit the streets in a powerful movement that openly refuses to accept police brutality and the criminalization of our youth. People left determined to spread the word and organize others in this fight.
During the rally there was a steady presence of people, including members of the Revolution Club, lined up alongside the speakers holding signs that said: “NO MORE! No More Stolen Lives!” People walking by were recruited on the spot to take up the signs and join in making this determined statement. At one point people listened intently as a speaker held up the Three Strikes poster with the quote from Bob Avakian and went through each of the three crimes of the system: Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin. There were folks in the crowd who were old enough to remember the racist murder of Emmett Till and nodded their heads in remembrance. There were young people who were perhaps putting this all together for the first time, and were riveted by the truth of what the speaker was saying: That’s It For the System—Three Strikes, You’re Out!
Many speakers were parents of victims of police murder, some of whom had been fighting for justice for close to 20 years. These parents exposed and denounced the many ways that the system suppresses and evades the evidence of cold-blooded murder at the hands of their police; they expressed the pain—still achingly fresh—of having a child stolen in such a brutal manner; and through all that expressed their determination to keep fighting, while challenging everyone there to step up the struggle. One of them, Nicholas Heyward, whose 13-year-old son was killed by the police in 1994, said that his experience of trying to work through the system—with elected officials, prosecutors, courts—had brought him to the truth that Carl Dix had spoken, that nothing short of revolution could bring about justice for the people.
After the rally there was a spirited march through the streets of the Bronx, stopping at the notorious 42nd police precinct along the way. The march was welcomed by many in the Bronx, including small shopkeepers and street vendors.
Throughout the march and rally people expressed markedly different views about the source of police brutality and the solution to it. Many talked about how brutality is getting worse, but also that there is clearly growing discontent among the people, though still mainly under the surface. Many thought and hoped that if that could be fully aroused, then the people on top who are responsible for what the police do would make some serious changes. Others recognized that this oppression is so deep in the DNA of the system that it would take a revolution to end it, but still had many questions about whether this was possible, what would replace it, and how to be sure a new revolutionary government wouldn’t end up being oppressive as well.
Jamaica, Queens: O22 was marked in this neighborhood at a busy pedestrian mall on 165th Street and Jamaica Avenue. Among people here, there is deep anger over the police harassment and brutality, and stop-and-frisk actions. These oppressive actions are hated features of life in this predominantly working and lower middle class African American community. This is the neighborhood—which also has sizable sections of Caribbean, South Asian and Latino immigrant families—where the unarmed Sean Bell was killed, on the evening before his wedding, by plainclothes cops in 2006; and where one of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network’s “stop stop-and-frisk” civil disobedience actions took place in 2011 at the NYPD’s 103rd Precinct. Organized by an activist clergy person known for her outspokenness against police brutality and the incarceration of Blacks and Latinos, five people gathered and distributed flyers, and along with homemade signage, called out the escalation of police violence in the predominantly middle class African American community. A local weekly community newspaper recorded their action.
Some at the protest have been active around issues of police brutality and mass incarceration for years, but for most it was their first protest and they came to it with great energy. There was a joy among the youth in being at an event where the outrages they face every day were recognized and condemned—laughing, almost dancing as the march snaked through downtown. People called out the cops with the chant “Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cops to Jail! The WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM is Guilty as HELL!” Letting everyone know, “WE ARE NOT SUSPECTS! WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS!” and “Being Black (Brown, young, immigrant) is not a Crime, But pigs still mess with us All the Time!” These were two very popular chants. A poster with Trayvon’s face and “the whole system is guilty” were held high at the rally and throughout the march. An office worker who commutes in from the suburb came out to the event. He said this is one of very few times where these youth have a voice.
At the park, the mother of Zaus Barnett, who was shot 12 times and killed by Atlanta police earlier this year, spoke movingly and made the point that this wasn’t just about her son but that everyone was affected. The co-MCs, a spokesperson for Revolution Books and a representative from the NAACP Criminal Justice Committee, read out names and stories of Stolen Lives and led the crowd in the Stolen Lives Pledge. As the march was ready to take off, Copwatch alerted the crowd that someone was being harassed by the police on the street adjacent to the park, so people went over to expose what was going on and call out the police. The spirited march then took to the streets with drums and loud chants, and made several stops through downtown. The first was in front of the Georgia State University building that houses GILEE, the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange—a joint training program between Georgia and Israeli police. A representative from the GSU Progressive Student Alliance exposed the program and pointed out that police brutality and repression are international issues, calling for solidarity with the Palestinian people living under Israeli repression. After marching past the main transit station and a shopping area where many people joined in the chants and raised fists, the march stopped in front of the ICE field office responsible for immigrant “Enforcement and Removal Operations.” A youth from Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance spoke to the crowd about the detention and deportation of immigrants, and said that President Obama could end this horror through executive order but has refused to do so. The final stop was the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center, the main city jail.
A longer speak-out was held, which included two former prisoners, one of whom participated in the Georgia prison hunger strike in 2011, and another who spent 30 years in a Texas prison, including 12 years in solitary confinement. Other speakers included the RCP, Copwatch and the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance, as well as several people who came up to testify about experience with police brutality. The MC also pointed out a few of the nearly 1,000 video surveillance cameras on poles and buildings in the city monitored by the Atlanta Police, who have a goal of installing 10,000 cameras over the next 5 years. And as the march passed the transit station on the way back to the park, a youth came up and got on the bullhorn to let everyone know that a woman had just been beat down by the police at the station earlier in the afternoon, underscoring the pervasiveness of police brutality and the need for massive resistance.
A comrade read the O22 statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party and the need for revolution to actually END police brutality was spoken to and fought for in different ways throughout the rally and march. This was controversial. Not everyone agreed with bringing the need for revolution to the forefront of the protest, and this was reflected in disagreements over chants and tactics during the march. The protesters divided out between those who wanted to understand and end the epidemic of police brutality, including those giving consideration to the need and possibility of communist revolution; and those who wanted the main purpose of the protest to be venting personal frustration at the cops while basically accepting that the nightmare will always continue. Throughout the controversy, there were many who stood with the revolutionaries, and had their back. In a discussion after the protest two young women said they also really appreciated how the revolutionaries had addressed patriarchy and made connections between the different horrors in the world.
The marchers refused to be intimidated by an overwhelming number of cops surrounding the march and planned to go by the East Precinct station of the notoriously brutal Seattle Police Department (SPD). In clear and criminal violation of the people's right of assembly and speech, SPD cops blocked the street and armed with clubs and deadly firearms they prevented the march from even going down the street the precinct is located on. Here people erected a sign with bloody hand prints on it, saying "Seattle Police You Have Blood on Your Hands" and shouted out, one by one, the deadly toll of the names of those murdered by the SPD.
The night was transformative for a number of people. One young student had expressed fear of marching in a protest against police brutality precisely because of the violent nature of the police—by the end of the march, she was at the very front. Two of the speakers who lost loved ones to the police were not sure if they could speak, but each found their courage after hearing the testimony and speeches of others. Two young men, one Latino and one white, during the march had together carried a very large placard listing hundreds of stolen lives nation wide.
The march took off through the courthouse district to the county jail—some held homemade signs, others carried the Three Strikes posters. More people had joined in by the time the march got to the jail and several people came up to the mic to tell their stories of brutality at the hands of this system and to deliver their message of NO MORE! One young woman said, “There are so many ways they control you, they got you on paper, on parole, but we can’t be afraid to speak out!” Emboldened by this outpouring, other people came up to speak. One Black man told how he was assaulted by the police when he was 19, and then spent 23 of his 44 years in jail, for something he didn’t even do. Dramatically pulling his partial dentures out of his mouth and waving them before the crowd, he described how the cops beat the shit out of him, knocking his teeth out. Another man yelled. “Fuck the Police!” pointing to the jail and said, “They beat you up in there!” He pulled up his shirt to show marks where he had been tased. At the end of the day, people were energized with what we accomplished, and several people were moved to check more into BA and the movement for revolution.
Before the rally began, a banner with the quote “No more generations of our youth...” (BAsics 1:13) drew people. A young person started to call on people to sign it. Soon there was line of people waiting to sign.
Many different people spoke at the rally. An organizer for the immigrant community spoke about the attacks and killing of immigrants and massive deportations going on under Obama. Some mothers and relatives of loved ones killed by the police spoke about how the fight against police brutality and murder has to get stronger and that they are committed to being part of doing that. Members of a Black community group that has fought against and exposed police killings spoke. Others spoke about how they have experienced profiling and brutality at the hands of the police and are glad to have met up with this protest. One woman spoke on a vicious attack on her niece and how she went to jail for it. A Revolution seller read the RCP statement. As the words of the statement rang out, some people responded to the need for revolution, applauding and speaking out several times. When it said, “When people no longer have to say 'how long' and they can walk in the liberating sun of a whole new day," people smiled and clapped to hear of an alternative to this system of horrors.
The march took off, leading with a banner, “Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation,” a huge picture of Trayvon Martin, and lots of signs and pictures of those killed by the police. We marched to the Justice Center, a target people feel deeply about because of all the injustice that goes on there. Prisoners crowded to a window with fists in the air and we returned the same, chanting, “Prisoners are HUMAN BEINGS.” People marched on chanting loudly and with deep conviction, like “Killer cops by the hour/What do we say/Fight the power!” and more.
There were different sentiments among the people there. A Black man in his 20s was drawn to revolution. He marched and carried the banner. He said he thought what we were saying about revolution was right. He said he was going to a community college to take a speaking class to be able to speak to people about these things. Another Black man, maybe in his 30s, spoke with outrage about a friend who is in prison. He carried the banner and said it was an honor to do it.
On the morning of October 22 about 30 lawn signs with facts about the prison system lined sidewalks and displays of large photos of victims of police murders were strung on clotheslines between palm trees along the central mall. A small crew passed out leaflets, armbands and chalk on the mall for three hours, and at noon a small but loud and energetic march demanding Justice for Kollin Elderts wound through campus. When the campus security police confronted a young student leading the march and told her she was disturbing classes and was facing arrest she righteously responded: “This is a protest. It should disturb students” and refused to back down. Since the march had reached the endpoint the guard backed down and she wasn’t arrested.
Kollin Elderts was a 23-year-old Hawaiian man who was murdered in cold blood by a U.S. State Department Agent at McDonald’s in Waikiki during the 2011 APEC Conference in Honolulu. The trial of the U.S. agent in July-August 2013 ended with a hung jury and has been re-scheduled for summer 2014 while the agent is back on the job at the State Department. The murder of a Hawaiian youth by a U.S. federal agent tapped into deep anger over the role of the federal government in the continued occupation and militarization of Hawai`i and the government no doubt hopes that delaying the trial for more than two and a half years after the murder will be long enough for the people to forget but a movement is coming together to continue to fight for justice for Kollin Elderts.
650 leaflets were distributed, about 50 students put on black armbands; some took chalk to write their own messages and throughout the day people stopped by the photo displays to read about the people who had been murdered by the police. Some shook their heads in disbelief; some said they just felt sad and some were angry. Some shared stories about their own experiences. Several faculty said they were talking about police brutality and the U.S. prison system in their classes, and one said he was using Revolution newspaper for coverage and facts.
For a day thousands of students, faculty and staff were forced to wake up to the reality of police brutality and the horror of U.S. prisons.
50 people rallied and marched through the Smith Homes. Speakers spoke about the everyday harassment and recent murders by police—in Charlotte of Jonathan Ferrell (who had just been in a car wreck and was seeking help and was gunned down) and in Fayetteville of 16-year-old Shakur McNair who was objecting to the treatment of his mother after police were called to settle a domestic dispute. The march stepped off chanting "Shakur didn't have to die, we all know the reason why—the whole system's guilty".
At the conclusion of the march, several more spoke, including a youth and student group from the Beloved Community Center about continuing the fight against police brutality. Another speaker asked people to help with the Stolen Lives Project. A speaker from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network urged people to join in this sharp battle that has reached epidemic proportions nationwide including neighborhoods such as this. The RCP statement was read and copies were handed out all day to participants and spectators.
The day concluded, as it does every October 22, with the mother of a victim of police murder leading everyone in saying the "Stolen Lives Pledge."
The MC of the rally announced that this was part of the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality. There were more youth of different nationalities, a number of whom spoke bitterness to the crowd.
A revolutionary addressed the rally. He represented himself as a supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party and told the audience that what he had to say might be controversial to many but needed to be heard. He presented that the murder of Denis Reynoso and the grief his fiancé and family were going through were not isolated but part of a broader systematic assault aimed overwhelmingly at Black and Latino youth that was rooted in this system, and drew on the Ramarley Graham murder in New York City as another recent example—police barging into his home and gunning him down in front of his family.
He came back to the point that it is this system that is the source of these outrages and we cannot expect to get justice from this system. Then, in an extremely important point, he spoke about how Denis had joined the U.S. Army because that is what you are taught that you are “suppose to do” and was sent to Iraq to be part of the vicious military machine of U.S. imperialism imposing and enforcing the very same oppressive conditions on people around the world that Denis, himself became the victim of.
This was very controversial point—one of the main arguments being raised by the family and friends was that Denis didn’t deserve to die because he was a vet! The main photo of him on T-shirts and posters is in his uniform. Previous speakers included in their comments the fact that Denis didn’t deserve to die because he had “served his country.”
Revolution received the following correspondence:
The Murder of Denis ReynosoFrom readers:
Lynn, Massachusetts is a small working class city of 90,000 12 miles north of Boston. Over the past 25 years, it has gone from almost 100% white to very multi-national with 12% African American and over 30% Latino, mainly Caribbean. Over the same period, the major employer, General Electric, has reduced its workforce by several thousand. Unemployment in the city is three times that of Massachusetts as a whole and twice the national average. So there is an aging (and shrinking) white population and a younger and growing African-American and immigrant population.
While only a few miles north of Boston and well within the dense urban ring around the city, Lynn is geographically isolated and a world apart from the Boston/Cambridge environment that is promoted nationally—of elite universities, high tech start ups and bio-medical centers. Police brutality is a common occurrence in the Black and immigrant communities but is seldom reported in the Boston media.
On September 6, Lynn police entered the home of Denis Reynoso, a 30-year-old Dominican American, and shot and killed him in front of his 5-year-old son. The police were responding to a “disturbing the peace” report that had been filed after Denis had reportedly gotten into an argument outside his home with a passing motorist. The three police on the scene entered his home with guns drawn and claimed that Denis had lunged for one of the officer’s guns. After shooting Denis three times and while waiting for an ambulance, the police searched his home for drugs or weapons (none were found) and stripped his son’s blood stained shirt as possible evidence. Denis died in the hospital a few minutes later.
The police involved were briefly suspended and the police department launched an internal investigation which is still ongoing.
Denis’s fiancé and the extended family and friends were both stunned and angered by the official story. Denis had tried to live his life the “right way,” joining the army, doing a tour of duty in Iraq, later transferring to the National Guard. He had recently become engaged to the mother of his two children and was working as a clerk in a local post office. He was soft-spoken and well liked in his neighborhood.
Denis’s fiancé started a “Justice for Denis” Facebook page and hooked up with a couple of local activists connected with “Defend the 4th (Amendment),” a local group of activists, law students and professors who are involved in the battle against illegal search and seizure of individual’s homes.
Together, the family, friends and local activists, collected money to print “Justice for Denis” T-shirts and stickers. They called for an October 5 “Justice for Denis” rally that marched through downtown Lynn to the police department with their demand for an independent investigation.