October 22, 2011—National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation
A Fight for the Future, the Struggle for a Different WorldOctober 22, 2011 will be the 16th year people have taken to the streets in cities all over the U.S. on the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.
An epidemic of police murder and beatings, courts of injustice, mass imprisonment, the demonization of Black and Latino youth… All this is not just still going on. It's getting WORSE. With no justice in sight. With no sign this system is gonna put the brakes on any of this without determined struggle by the people.
In 2009 we saw how Oscar Grant was murdered by a cop in Oakland, Calif.—shot point blank as he lay on a train platform. Hundreds of people witnessed it, cell phones captured it, YouTube brought it to millions more. A blatant, cold-blooded murder caught on video. People took to the streets demanding justice. And the system couldn't just let the killer cop Johannes Mehserle off… right away. So they had a trial and, in a highly unusual move, found Mehserle guilty of manslaughter. BUT THEN… after only 11 months he walks out of his prison cell, free. People take to the streets to protest this outrage and are attacked by the cops.
That same month: TWO MORE young Black males are murdered by cops in the SF Bay Area. One of them, 19-year-old Kenneth Harding, shot because the police say he was running away after not paying a two dollar train fare. Shot and left bleeding to death on the sidewalk as the police stand around him in a circle with guns drawn. As Harding writhes in pain and gasps for air, the cops prevent anyone from coming to his aid. Prevent anyone from even holding his hand.
Nineteen years old. And you breath your last breath!? And for what? Why? Because some cops decided you fit some "profile." AND they knew they could get away with it.
An aberration? A few bad apples in a barrel of good cops? The system will deliver justice? NO WAY. This is going on—and accelerating—in cities and towns throughout this country.
Look at Chicago where the cops have shot 47 people so far—just this year—mostly youth of color, including 13-year-old Jimmell Cannon, who suffered four bullets entering his body. You might ask… Or maybe you already know the answer: Have any of these cops been charged with murder or assault? Yes… the answer is NO.
Any description of the USA in the year 2011 must include these phenomena:
Mass Incarceration, 2.3 million in prison… Police Murder and Brutality… Black and Latino youth, criminalized and demonized… harassed and humiliated by the police who "Stop & Frisk" them every single day… prisoners in horrendous solitary confinement, kept in windowless cells and denied human contact—kept in conditions so tortuous they go on hunger strike to demand an end to this inhumane treatment… executions, no matter the facts.
Today, this whole trajectory—enforced by cops, courts, laws, and government officials—is a main and intensifying way Black and Latino people are oppressed by the system. And this repression also affects poor whites and working class people more broadly.
Putting a Stop to "Stop & Frisk"The police occupy Black and Latino communities they treat like "enemy territory." If you're young in these neighborhoods, they're gonna stop you, harass and humiliate you... and IF you're lucky, you won't end up brutalized, arrested, or dead. It doesn't matter what you're doing, if you've got anything in your pocket, if you do or don't got weed. In New York City the police are on pace to stop and frisk over 700,000 people in 2011! That's more than 1,900 people each and every day. And guess what—more than 85% are Black or Latino, and more than 90% are found, even by the cops, to be doing nothing wrong.
"Stop & Frisk" is carried out by the police in many different cities. And what is being done with this goes up against the government's own stated laws. This whole, systematic policy, in effect, is a practice in which a whole section of people are denied constitutional rights.
They tell you in school that the Fourth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, is foundational to the American rule of law. It's supposed to protect against "unwarranted search and seizure" (unreasonable search and arrest). We're told the Fourteenth Amendment is another thing that "makes this country so great." Passed after the formal end of slavery, it's supposed to guarantee that the law and due process will be equally applied to all—which means anyone accused of a crime is supposed to be entitled to a legal process where they can defend against the charges. And no one is supposed to be punished (by the police or anyone else) when a crime has not been proven. BUT these laws and rights DO NOT EXIST for an entire group of people. Statistics—year after year, city after city, official and unofficial—show that for African-Americans, Latinos, and other oppressed nationalities, there is no effective due process.
The Bill of Rights is supposed to apply to everyone, including non-citizens. Yet ALL of these things are being done by the U.S. government. This is totally UNLAWFUL and ILLEGITIMATE.
We need mass resistance, including nonviolent direct action, to put a STOP to the whole policy of "Stop & Frisk." And this can be a powerful way of connecting up with and feeding into October 22.
A call put out, "From Up Against the Wall to Up in Their Faces: STOP 'STOP & FRISK'" says:
"In the days leading into the Oct 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, the Network to Stop Mass Incarceration is calling for Stopping Stop & Frisk. We will target this illegal, unconstitutional policy with non violent civil disobedience. If you are sick and tired of being harassed and jacked up by the cops, JOIN US. If you have had enough of seeing your brothers and sisters, your cousins, your aunts and uncles and fathers stepped to and disrespected by the cops, JOIN US. If you don't want to live in a world where people's humanity is routinely violated because of the color of their skin, JOIN US. And if you are shocked to hear that this kind of thing happens in this so-called homeland of freedom and democracy—it does happen, all the damned time—you need to JOIN US too—you can't stand aside and let this injustice be done in your name."
Signatories to this call, so far include: Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party; Cornel West, professor, author and public intellectual; Herb Boyd, author, journalist, Harlem, N.Y.; Efia Nwangaza, Malcolm X Center, Greenville, SC; and Rev. Omar Wilkes.
Criminalization: A Big Lie, A Big DisguiseThe system carries out systematic campaigns of oppression that clearly target Black and Latino people. And then they argue, through their politicians and media mouthpieces: "How can you say this is discrimination? The law is the law and it's being equally applied. More Black and Latino people, especially youth, are getting arrested and end up in prison because they do more crime." This is what they want you to think because they want, and they need, the people to get behind and not oppose what they are doing.
Night after night, we got "COPS" on TV; we got people like Bill Cosby saying the problem is youth are making "bad decisions"; we got preachers who get up and say the youth are to blame and when someone gets gunned down by a cop, this is "god's way." We got prison officials talking like those locked up are animals—and using this to justify torture.
But all this is a BIG LIE and a BIG DISGUISE. A way for the system to target, discriminate and oppress people of color—without making it look that way.
Just look at the "war on drugs" and "drug laws." Equally and fairly applied? NO WAY!
As we exposed in "Marijuana Laws in a World of Oppression and Discrimination" (Revolution #246):
"Over the last 30 years the 'war on drugs' has been the main instrument through which the U.S. government has carried out mass incarceration and the demonization of Black and Latino youth. And a major focus of this war on the people has been arresting people for marijuana. The prison population in the USA went from about half a million in 1980 to 2.3 million in 2006—an increase of over 450 percent. And a huge number of those put behind bars during this prison boom are African-Americans and Latinos, males and females—convicted of minor drug violations, but in many cases given long sentences."
More than 1.8 million people are arrested every year on nonviolent drug charges. From 1985-2000, drug offenses accounted for about two-thirds the increase in the federal prison population, and more than half of the increase in state prisons. Nationally, African-Americans are 13 times more likely to be incarcerated on drug charges than whites, despite similar rates of drug use. From 2006-2008, major cities in California arrested and prosecuted Latinos for marijuana possession at double to nearly triple the rate of whites. Despite equal rates of drug use proportionate to their populations, Latinos are twice as likely as whites, and equally as likely as Blacks, to be admitted to state prison for a drug offense.
And then there is the system's "war on gangs," which also targets and criminalizes the youth. This too is portrayed as something that "fairly prosecutes the law" and is about stopping violence and drug dealing. But this is NOT what the "war on gangs" is about.
Look at the way "anti-gang injunctions" are used in places like Los Angeles. These court-issued restraining orders name specific "members of gangs" and sometimes include a list of "John or Jane Does"—other, unnamed "members" of a gang. A "No Association" clause in many of these injunctions prohibits all kinds of activities, including: standing, sitting, walking, driving, bicycling, wearing certain clothes, making certain hand gestures, acting as lookouts, fighting, drinking, using drugs and gathering or appearing with any other defendant named in the injunction or any other known "gang member" within a specifically defined area/neighborhood/section of a city. In other words, if you're named in one of these injunctions (or become a Jane or John Doe), there's lots of completely legal things you're not allowed to do. And if you do one of these things, you're charged with violating a court order which carries a six-month jail sentence.
In Los Angeles, by 2008 there were 37 gang injunctions covering 57 gangs and 11,000 people (that the cops claim are gang members). In 2010, the State of California had more than 150 gang injunctions.
Through all this, "law enforcement data bases" are built up—even on people who haven't committed any crime—and used to further criminalize the youth and lock them up. This is part of Big Brother. And it's about more than just spying and keeping an eye on people. It is Big Brother who fears potential resistance and rebellion. It is a system that needs clampdown, control and censorship to maintain an unequal and unjust status quo.
The "war on drugs," "war on gangs," "stop and frisk," "mass incarceration"—all work together, are all part of a whole trajectory, in which millions of people, especially Black and Latino youth in the inner cities, and others as well, are entrapped in a whole web of the unjust, unfair, illegitimate and repressive U.S. judicial system—from juvenile detention, to imprisonment, to the torture of solitary confinement, to the branding of "ex-cons" who are systematically denied jobs, housing, financial aid, and the right to vote
Resistance from the System's Deep DungeonsThis year's National Day of Protest (NDP) comes at a time when mass incarceration continues to ruin the lives of millions of prisoners, and deliver heartbreak and misery to millions more who are denied fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. This year's NDP comes in the wake of the execution of Troy Davis, at a time when the system is pressing forward with its barbaric use of the death penalty—evidence and innocence be damned!
This year's NDP also comes in the midst of an intense and inspiring struggle by prisoners against the cruel, torturous treatment of solitary confinement.
For 20 days, from July 1-July 21, prisoners at the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison in California went on a hunger strike—demanding to be treated like human beings, demanding the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) end their barbaric, inhumane conditions of imprisonment.
These prisoners risked their very lives, in the most isolated and repressive conditions, to let the world know about their struggle. And they were not alone. Some 6,500 prisoners in facilities across the state took part in some way. On the outside, there were rallies, press conferences, statements, and other expressions of support for the prisoners' demands. And all this shined a bright and indicting light on how this system is torturing prisoners, not just at Pelican Bay but in solitary confinement prison units all over the country.
When the hunger strike was suspended, the CDCR said they would review the prisoners' five demands. But prisoners now say the CDCR's response to their just and reasonable demands has been completely unacceptable and the hunger strike is set to resume on September 26.
These prisoners are waging a courageous struggle against the barbaric reality of what mass incarceration means in the USA. This inspiring fight from behind prison walls can be a spark and model for the movement against mass incarceration, police brutality, and repression. And it needs to be amplified and connected up with the struggle and goals of October 22.
People on the outside have a moral imperative to NOT stand by while such immoral, inhuman acts are being committed against these prisoners. Broad support for the hunger strikers needs to be built among many different kinds of people in society, including students.
Powerful Resistance on NDPProtest and determined political resistance against the total illegitimacy of "Stop & Frisk," the outrageous injustice of mass incarceration, the systematic criminalization of a whole generation; and support for the prisoners who are rebelling in the darkest, most horrible dungeons of this system must come together and find forceful and creative expression, leading up to and on October 22.
This horrible system brings horror down on the people. This system criminalizes the youth and offers them no kind of future. For that alone, there is a need to resist and fight the power, with the goal of putting a STOP to all this and bringing about real change.
Many people look at this world, this society, and despair at the situation of the youth. There is deep concern for a whole generation of Black and Latino youth who can't get an education, who don't have jobs, who spend their whole life caught up, beaten down, in a web of police, courts, parole officers and prisons. They worry about what this means for the future of the people as a whole.
Indeed, the struggle against "Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation" has everything to do with what kind of future we will have. This struggle is part of fighting for a different world—where brutality and murder by the police, the barbarity of prison solitary confinement are things of the past. Where the youth and people of all nationalities and ages actually have a future, a way to be productive in society, to be intellectually stimulated, to contribute to humanity with their full potential. To be a part of the struggle to emancipate ALL OF HUMANITY.
As we said in Revolution #246:
"We need varied and creative expressions of determined resistance which demands an end to police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. And which boldly confronts the powers-that-be. And within that mix of resistance and protest there needs to be a powerful revolutionary current. We need to: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. We need resistance where people really stand up to, question the legitimacy of the current order and bring forward a different way things could be and people could relate to each other. And this can play a role in unleashing more resistance and among broader forces, including people who may not be ready to take such action and/or do not think revolution is the solution. This kind of resistance could dramatically transform the political terrain—uniting many different sections of society, and emboldening the victims of this brutality and murder who feel isolated and demonized. People standing up, working to bring a whole new world into being, heartens people and gives them a sense that they too can stand up and that such resistance could really matter." (See "All Out For October 22, 2011: National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation")
October 22 needs to be a day to connect all the pieces of the whole "war on the people" being waged—to powerfully expose and speak out against all these elements in the accelerating repression coming down, especially on Black and Latino youth. In the past, high school students have walked out of school on O22 and college students can play an important role in organizing such actions. Teachers and professors should hold discussions and invite people to come talk about the significance of this day and the importance of this struggle. Churches should open their doors for speak-outs. And very importantly—in the weeks ahead as we go all out to build for NDP, we especially need to get out to the high schools and colleges. There is a tremendous amount of potential here to mobilize people to manifest on October 22. And these youth and students can add a whole lot of power and energy to NDP.
On this day, in the streets, coast to coast, we need big and resolute expressions of our determination to really STOP the many ways this system brutalizes, represses, criminalizes, and imprisons the people.
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