This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 20 April 2015 contains two articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.
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– U.S./Iran agreement: A big strategic move in response to shifting necessities on both sides
– U.S.: “Sights and Sounds of 14 April”
U.S./Iran agreement: A big strategic move in response to shifting necessities on both sides
20 April 2015. A World to Win News Service. The following is an abridged version of the article “Neither poison nor antidote” that will appear in Haghighat, organ of the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist).
The nuclear deal between the U.S. and other rapacious world powers (Russia, China, Britain, Germany and France) on one side, and Iran on the other, is an important event. Even if they do not reach any final agreement on the nuclear programme issues, it has opened a new chapter in relations between Iran and the U.S. after 36 years. The end of this chapter remains unwritten and the final results are not predictable, but it is crucial to understand that this deal does not change the nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran nor of the U.S. This deal and their new relations are not in the short and long term interests of the people of Iran and the Middle East, but will likely bring new horrors to the people of this region.
The conditions leading to this strategic shift
The media have been filled with details of this deal, but in their security policy publications the architects of this agreement say explicitly that these don’t really matter. What matters is the deal itself. (See, for instance, Jeremy Shapiro, “Why the details of the Iran deal don’t matter”, http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/order-from-chaos/posts/2015/04/07-iran-deal-details-shapiro.) In fact, the most important part of this deal is the institutionalization of a process whose aim is to compel the Islamic Republic of Iran to enter into closer diplomatic, political and even, or especially, military relations with the U.S. (as is already the case, for instance, in Iraq and in some ways, Syria).
This is primarily the result of a shift in the U.S.’s strategic approach towards the Islamic Republic. United States policy has changed from seeking to marginalize and isolate Iran with the aim of “regime change” to seeking to integrate Iran into the network of political structures that ensure U.S. dominance in the Middle East. The normalization of relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran is a crucial part of the new U.S. approach to the Middle East that some analysts call the “Obama Doctrine”.
President Barack Obama explained his “doctrine” in an interview by Thomas Friedman in The New York Time 5 April 2015: “I’ve been very clear that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on my watch, and I think they should understand that we mean it. But I say that hoping that we can conclude this diplomatic arrangement – and that it ushers a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations – and, just as importantly, over time, a new era in Iranian relations with its neighbours.”
This policy has been developed in response to the conflicts and challenges the U.S. is facing in the world and especially the Middle East. The accelerating collapse and chaos in political structures in the Middle East, the spread of Daesh (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria and the resurgence of Al-Qaeda, the no longer unthinkable prospect of Daesh forces reaching Jordan’s border with Israel, the possibility of civil war in Saudi Arabia, the developing influence of China and Russia in the Middle East and North Africa and, even more, globally – all these factors have forced the U.S. to attempt to reach some sort of working relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The influential columnist Roger Cohen wrote in The New York Times 6 April 2015, “President Obama, through his courageous persistence, has changed the strategic dynamic in the Middle East. As he reassures worried allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, he has also signalled that the United States will pursue its national interest, even in the face of fierce criticism, where the logic of that interest is irrefutable. Blocking Iran’s path to a bomb, avoiding another war with a Muslim country, and re-establishing diplomatic contact with a stable power hostile to the butchers of the Islamic State amounts to a compelling case for an America faced by a fragmenting Middle Eastern order.”
As Cohen says, part of what is tempting the U.S. to pull Iran into defending the structure of its dominance in the increasingly unstable Middle East is the Iranian regime’s own relative stability, its success with political and social suppression and electoral deception, and the coherence of different groups inside Iran’s government. In the Friedman interview, Obama makes it clear that the risk of states collapsing in the Middle East and with that, the loss of U.S. control, is what lies behind the need to adopt a new approach towards the Islamic Republic. He says, “At this point, the U.S.’s core interests in the region are not oil, are not territorial. … Our interests in this sense are really just making sure that the region is working. And if it’s working well, then we’ll do fine. And that’s going to be a big project, given what’s taken place, but I think this [Iran framework deal] is at least one place to start.” [What Obama means by “the region is working” is the preservation of the U.S.-dominated status quo.]
Conflicts within the U.S. ruling class
Western pro-imperialist analysts say this deal will face stronger challenges within the U.S. ruling class than from inside Iran’s. The nuclear programme, in itself and its details, isn’t the issue in these political conflicts. Opponents of the deal believe this strategic shift towards Iran will break up the regional power hierarchy. For instance, the previously cited Shapiro, a member of the U.S. State Department’s policy planning staff, writes “This is a fight over what to do about Iran’s challenge to U.S. leadership in the Middle East and the threat that Iranian geopolitical ambitions pose to U.S. allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia. Proponents of the deal believe that the best way for the United States to deal with the Iranian regional challenge is to seek to integrate Iran into the regional order, even while remaining wary of its ambitions. A nuclear deal is an important first step in that regard, but its details matter little because the ultimate goal is to change Iranian intentions rather destroy Iranian capability.”
The controversy about relations with Iran within the U.S administration and between Obama and Congress is just the tip of the iceberg, raising larger issues such as the role the U.S will play in the Middle East and North Africa and the region’s importance for U.S global hegemony. Shapiro writes, “For President Obama, the Iranian deal is not just the centrepiece of his nuclear non-proliferation efforts, but also of his effort to pull the United States back from its involvement in the wasteful internecine struggles of the region. He seeks to re-establish the United States as a balancer in the region, rather than as a direct participant in its endless civil wars. A balancer has no friends or enemies.”
[Actually, the U.S. has played the biggest role in stoking “internecine” struggles in Iraq, where it established and still supports a sectarian government; Syria, where it backed opposition to Assad in a way that helped turn an uprising into a religious civil war; the civil war it launched in Libya; backing Saudi sectarian massacres in Yemen, etc. This is the “balance” the U.S. has brought to the region.]
Obama, in his interview, emphasises the primary importance, from the viewpoint of U.S. interests, of keeping Israel powerful, but he also says, “There has to be the ability for me to disagree with a policy on settlements, for example, without being viewed as… opposing Israel. There has to be a way for Prime Minister Netanyahu to disagree with me on policy without being viewed as anti-Democrat.” But his views about Saudi Arabia are different. He reaffirms the U.S.’s commitment to Saudi Arabia but he also stresses that Saudi Arabia confronts “threats” that are more from the “inside” than “outside”: “Populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances. And so part of our job is to work with these states and say, ‘How can we build your defence capabilities against external threats, but also, how can we strengthen the body politic in these countries, so that Sunni youth feel that they’ve got something other than [the Islamic State, or ISIS] to choose from?”
Here it is clear that one problem facing the U.S. is that some states that are almost entirely dependent on U.S.’s military and political support are inherently unstable. Obama is saying that the U.S. wants to make the rulers of those states deal with this dangerous situation so that they can become more reliable from the point of view of U.S. imperialism’s needs. He warns his allied Arab rulers that they have built their palaces on shaky ground: “They have been making some changes that are more responsive to their people…[But] the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries.”
How is the “Obama Doctrine” supposed to respond to this situation on a regional scale? Obama says that in return for U.S military aid, Arab countries “also need to increase their willingness to commit their ground troops to solving regional problems.” Although never explicitly stated, Obama’s implicit answer is to “make Middle Easterners fight Middle Eastern conflicts”, just as in an earlier period the U.S. tried to “Vietnamize” its war there and pull back from waging full-scale ground warfare by having “Asians fight Asians”.
Part of this requires drawing Iran more deeply into the global imperialist economic system and encouraging more Iranian political and military involvement in regional wars. But this is not in contradiction with arming Saudi Arabia and backing the alliance the Saudis are trying to put together to intervene in Yemen and oppose Iran and its alliances. Obama says explicitly that in the face of Iran’s destabilizing regional activities he will help other countries oppose Iranian interests militarily, while he uses diplomacy to the same ends. He argues that the combination of these two policies, diplomacy on the one hand and military backing for Arab countries against Iran on the other, can change Iran’s behaviour to American advantage by making Iran more plaint to the U.S.
But none of these calculations will necessarily work out the way the U.S. hopes. There is the very real danger that this policy will stoke the fires of reactionary wars in the Middle East even higher.
Obama calculates that the U.S. can design a “low intensity” war between state and non-state actors in the region while the U.S. acts from a distance – and the skies. His opponents think, on the other hand, that this strategy could lead to putting aside former allies without being able to replace them with more stable allies. Obama’s response to them is that the U.S.’s previous measures in the Middle East not only failed but worsened the situation for the U.S. A quarter century after the end of the “Cold War”, the U.S. has not been able to make the Middle East a stable region under its hegemony. Instead, the U.S.’s power and global influence has been challenged and steadily weakened in the region.
What is the reality? Over the last few decades each imperialist move has done nothing but expand the wars between reactionary states and Islamic reactionary forces, forcing the biggest displacement and exodus of populations and a degree of suffering unprecedented in this region and not often matched in human history.
The “Obama Doctrine” is a big gamble even from the perspective of the interests of the U.S. imperialist ruling class. What it is considered a good thing for one reactionary power will be a bad thing for others. Therefore, there will be powerful forces in the region trying to vanquish this policy. The situation of the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East is part of a global picture: the U.S.’s economic and political power has been declining, newly rising powers like China and revived imperialist powers such as Russia are expanding their influence in all the regions once under U.S. hegemony, including the Middle East, and the U.S.’s European allies are demanding a greater share of the world.
The necessities and challenges confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran
The “nuclear agreement” is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s first step toward normalized relations with the US. President Hassan Rouhani stresses that the preliminary agreement is the beginning of “interacting with the world” and his government’s agenda is to establish stronger relations with both powers that Iran hasn’t had relations with and even with those labelled enemies until now. Rouhani says, “Some think that we must either fight the world or surrender to world powers. We say it is neither of those, there is a third way. We can have cooperation with the world.” (Cohen interview)
These statements represent a new approach to global and regional issues based on a relative consensus within Iran’s ruling class. Selecting Rouhani as president was itself the result of a three-way political interaction between a part of the “pragmatist” wing, the Hezb-e Kaargozaaraan-e Saazandegi (“Executives of Construction”) faction which Rafsanjani represents; a faction of the “conservative” wing, Osul-Garâyân (Iranianian Principalists), represented by Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei; and Western countries. At issue in their conflicts has been how to defend the Islamic Republic against two challenges. The first is how to handle the majority of the masses of workers and peasants, women and oppressed minority nationalities their system oppresses. The second challenge is that the U.S. backs other states in the region that are in competition with Iran.
To handle the first challenge, the main policy is social and security suppression, especially expressed in trampling women’s rights, promoting religion and superstition, and political deception through elections and political manoeuvring. In this political game, they have sometimes used reformist groups and sometimes pushed these groups to the margins. In facing the second challenge, the core strategy of the “pragmatist” wing is to try to regain Iran’s membership in the U.S.’s regional club. The core strategy of the “conservative” group is to continue the policy of making use of the cracks between the U.S., Russia and China.
Karim Sadjadpour, a policy analyst at the Carnegie Endowment, says, “Rouhani aspires to be Iran’s Deng Xiaoping. Rouhani’s mantra is: Preserve the system, fast-forward the economy, open to the world. Rouhani does not aspire to be Iran’s Gorbachev. His thing is adaptation, not transformation. He is of the system, hence his room for manoeuvre. Unlike Iran’s hard-liners, he believes the preservation of Iran’s theocracy is compatible with – perhaps dependent on – normalized relations with the rest of the world, including the United States.” (Quoted by Cohen)
Sanctions were an important lever to force the Islamic Republic to adopt such an approach, in combination with military threats, the cyber-sabotage of nuclear facilities, a vast espionage campaign against the Islamic Republic (revealed by Edward Snowden) and the assassination of Iranian scientists working on the nuclear programme.Yet ultimately, this new approach is a response to the power necessities of the Iranian regime, including the strengthening of its foundations, the same aims the Islamic Republic pursued with its attempt to achieve the capacity to build nuclear weapons.
But the Islamic Republic’s policies in the international arena have worsened its internal structural problems. The spread of poverty and hopelessness in the Middle East has allowed reactionary forces like ISIS to attract millions of people, including in poorer areas and oppressed regions in Iran. This terrifies Iran’s ruling class. In fact, ISIS has become a serious threat for the rulers of both Iran and the U.S., and one of the main reasons they see the need to collaborate with one another. Rouhani said in a news conference in Tehran on 4 June last year, “All countries need to embark on joint efforts regarding terrorism… Any time the Americans start to take action against terrorist groups, we can consider that.” “We can work with Americans to end the insurgency in the Middle East.” The Wall Street Journal (6 November 2014) revealed that Obama had written a secret letter to Khamenei in which he “described a shared interest in fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.” This, of course, ignores the fact that the rapid growth and spread of ISIS is a direct outcome of U.S. actions in the Middle East.
The totality of the situation has pushed Iran into re-joining the “international community”, as the imperialist world order is politely known, to find a safe haven, and also to seeking the “privilege” of foreign investment in Iran to remedy the regime’s economic situation. The conservative wing agrees to the nuclear deal to the extent that it facilitates the continuation of the regime and the imperialist powers recognize the regime as a legitimate authority in the region. Both sides, the conservative wing and pragmatist wing, have reached a general consensus that the nuclear agreement is a major step on that road. Obama has stated explicitly that “regime change” is not now on the U.S. agenda.
Demagogic gestures and deceitful propaganda
The Islamic Republic’s new relationship with the U.S. is no more in the interests of the masses of people than the long-standing conflict between them. Any illusions about this issue would only help the Iranian ruling class confuse the masses, remove itself as a target of people’s demands and strengthen the regime’s foundations.
It is evident that capitalist-imperialist economic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank shape Iran’s economy and determine its functioning and position in the world economy. But the imperialists also exert strong influence over the regime in the political sphere. The dependence of governments in the dominated countries on one or another great power is part of the structure of the imperialist world system. For example, at the Geneva conference where the imperialists discussed how to handle Iran, some great powers acted as guardians of the Islamic Republic, namely Russia and China, while others worked in the opposite position. These great powers compete among themselves for the control and conquest of territories. The conflicting economic and political interests of the great powers have given the Islamic Republic the opportunity to pose as more independent than they really are.
The horrible plans behind the U.S.-Iran nuclear agreement will not bring peace but unlimited regional wars. They will not lead to anything but greater population displacement, poverty, social oppression and enslavement of women. The Saudi-led attack in Yemen began the day after the nuclear deal, and there is worse to come. At the same time, the fact that many ordinary Iranians celebrated the signing of the agreement shows both the distrust of the Islamic Republic that still endangers it and the power of dangerous illusions among the masses of people.
There is only one way to oppose all the reactionaries’ moves and plans in the Iran and the region: To launch a revolutionary movement to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran under the leadership of a communist party. Only the creation and spreading of a revolutionary alternative among the various strata of the people around the country can begin to change this dangerous situation.
– end item-
U.S.: “Sights and Sounds of 14 April”
20 April 2015. A World to Win News Service. The following is from the 16 April 2015 issue of Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (revcom.us).
A powerful movement to stop police brutality rose out of the streets of Ferguson, Missouri after the police murder of Mike Brown. It drew on the anger built up when a racist vigilante murdered Trayvon Martin and got a pat on the back from the system. It was fuelled by the unbearable reality that every god damn day police shoot, brutalize, humiliate, terrorize, and murder Black and brown people – from Staten Island to Los Angeles, from Pasco, Washington to South Carolina… and everywhere in between. That movement, last fall, rocked this country like nothing since the sixties.
But the powers-that-be lashed back. With beatings and arrests. With slander and lies. With bullshit about what a dangerous job it is to go out and murder Black and brown people with the full backing of the system. With entreaties to “have a conversation” coupled with threats. December came with stepped up repression and threats, and the movement got chilled.
So the question that had to be answered: Are the powers-that-be going to shut this all down? Or would people regroup, get back in the streets, and begin to take the movement against police murder to a higher level?
To quote our editorial: “The demonstrations against police murder on April 14 marked a new beginning for the struggle against this outrage. This is crucially important, for without mass struggle there can be no progress whatsoever and the powers-that-be will just hammer people into the ground. Further these demonstrations had important potential significance for revolution – for finally getting free of a society in which murder by police continues to go on daily and more, and people continue to be oppressed more generally… a society in which the lives of Black and other oppressed people are treated as if they do not matter. A14 was a great day, a great beginning – and now the challenge is to learn the lessons and take it further.”
Among the cities where protests shut shit down: New York City; Chicago, Illinois; Greensboro, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Los Angeles, California; Houston, Texas; the San Francisco Bay Area; Springfield, Massachusetts; Stockton, California; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Cleveland, Ohio; Pasco, Washington; Trenton, New Jersey; Detroit; Michigan; Ferguson, Missouri; Birmingham, Alabama; and Madison, Wisconsin. There are too many stories of defiance to recount here, and reports are still coming in, but the following gives a glimpse of what happened.
There were marches of a thousand and more. And actions by a handful who got it, and who didn’t let the fact that everybody else doesn’t stop them. 1,500 marched in New York City, tying up the Brooklyn Bridge and busting into world news coverage. In Birmingham, Alabama, three defiant ones with a Black Lives Matter banner shut down an intersection, caused a major commotion, and went to jail. In over 20 cities and on dozens of high school and college campuses, there was no business as usual on April 14. Protests took different forms, with different forces and views in the mix – determined and defiant that police murder must STOP and that this would not be a day of business as usual.
The largest protest took place in New York where, starting last December, the mayor has felt it necessary to defend every instance of police murder and brutality, and to viciously slander and attack just protest against police brutality. Two hours before the main convergence a crew of about a dozen people, a mix of veteran revolutionaries and people from the neighbourhood, gathered in Harlem to spread the word and mobilize more people to come down. An older man tapped out a beat on a hand-held drum which had a saying from the Bible. He had lived in Harlem since Malcolm X’s time and proudly remembered seeing him on the street; he said that things had only gotten worse since then.
At Union Square, Cornel West, who along with Carl Dix initiated the call for April 14, called out to a thousand people: “Let the word go forth here and now. It’s a new day in New York City! It’s a new day in the country! And it’s a new day because when those who some call everyday people straighten their backs up, they’re going somewhere. Because folk can’t ride your back unless it’s bent. And when you take a stand, when you’re willing to take a risk and tell the truth… and the condition of truth is always to allow suffering to speak. And when suffering speaks, the powers that be have to respond in some way. And there’s been too many folk, not just murdered, not just systematically disrespected and we’ve reached the point where we can’t take it any longer!”
Speaking of the challenge, Carl Dix told the crowd in Union Square: “Now, when you say you’re going to stop something as serious as that, you gotta get organized. That’s why Cornel and I formed the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. It exists to build resistance to this genocide that’s coming down. It’s a slow genocide right now, but it could speed up at any moment. If you want to see this genocide stopped then you need to get with us. The Network, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, has people who come at things differently – we don’t all believe the same things, we don’t all practice and think the same way – but we all think that police murdering people, that people being warehoused in prison, treated like less than full human beings must stop, and we come together to stop it. Look, if you feel that way, then you need to join with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Sign up on the sheet with it, come out to the next meeting and be part of building up the resistance that can stop this shit.
“Now, those of you who know me know that I’m a revolutionary communist and that I will always tell you that things don’t have to be this way. We don’t have to put up with police murdering our youth. We can end all of this stuff, but it’s gonna take revolution, nothing less, to do it. That is what I am out here for, that’s what I’m working on. That’s what the Revolutionary Communist Party and its leader Bob Avakian are working on…”
Marching from Union Square, picking up people as they headed to the Brooklyn Bridge where those young and daring enough hopped over high fences and streamed into lanes of traffic.
In Los Angeles, after a rally of nearly 1,000 people, dozens of protesters determined to keep shutting it down on A14 to stop police murder stayed in the downtown area through rush hour. Twenty of them sat down in a very busy intersection downtown stopping the Blue Line Metro train, backing up street and freeway traffic for over an hour.
In both San Francisco and Oakland, California,protesters stormed into City Halls, confronting the powers-that-be and media with posters of those whose lives had been taken by police. In Portland , San Francisco, and Oakland freeways were shut down or blocked. In Stockton, one of the busiest intersections was shut down. And there were defiant, determined protests in other places as well.
Out of the schools…
High school and college students broke out of dozens of schools and shook up business as usual in their schools, and in society.
In Los Angeles, a teacher told a young woman she was “too small to make a change.” She responded: “Look how many people I got to walk out with me!” Students at Kenwood Academy in Chicago staged an exuberant walkout, and two were arrested. Over 30 students walked out of Brooklyn Friends High School to march in New York.
In Madison, Wisconsin, high school students and others shut down East Washington avenue for hours – several were arrested, including a member of the media whose camera was destroyed. A statement by Young Gifted and Black said, “Community members are outraged but unsurprised by this gross display of state power by the Madison Police Department.”
There were die-ins at the University of California in Los Angeles, Amherst (Massachusetts) and the University of Wisconsin (Madison). Students walked out and rallied on campuses including Washington University in St. Louis and Columbia U7niversity in New York. At John Caroll University in Ohio, the Black Student Union reported that police “tore down our signs advertising this event.” About 30 students at Seattle Central College (SCC), a working class community college with many Black and multinational students, walked out of class after a smaller group of students, organizers and people from the community marched and chanted through the hallways, up and down staircases, and held die-ins and speak-outs in the halls and cafeteria. During a speak-out in the cafeteria, a Black male student went on about the real problem is “Black on Black crime”. This was taken on by a Black woman, who encouraged people to not be tricked, saying that this is a lie to get people to think that Black people are less-than-human animals. The SCC students then marched to a nearby Catholic university, where they picked up a couple dozen more people –o ne said “I had to join because those are my people (the faces on the banner), you are my people (the protesters).” The students joined 200 people blocking major streets in downtown Seattle during rush hour.
At the University of California in Berkeley, 15 students took a determined stand at the main entrance. That determination, including in the face of other students who resented having their routine disrupted, compelled dozens more – with up to 75 people physically blocking the entrance. A correspondent made an important observation: “This made a critical difference, it turned from symbolic protest to a real shutdown. And shutting down the thoroughfare of these students rushing pell-mell to lunch or from one class to another is something. This is a wave of hundreds, probably thousands, streaming through in a matter of 10 minutes or so, and it is often very frustrating to try and reach these students in this mode – blinders on, seemingly oblivious to anything but where they’re getting next. So that herd-mode was turned on its head and stopped – forcing students to stop and confront this and think about it for real. As one Black student said: people can ignore a leaflet or a rally or a conversation, but they can’t ignore this!” The correspondent added, “It really struck me that some of the sharpest ideological struggle has to go on with those people who think they already know, or they’re already opposed to racism so they’re cool or doing all they can. Most of the UC students were respectful and basically supportive, a relative few tried to bust through the lines.”
Breadth and determination
There was an inspiring breadth to the events. At the core, dedicated activists in the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, and revolutionary communists for whom the struggle to end police brutality and murder is tightly integrated into building a movement for revolution that will end all oppression. This core included people who saw the Dialogue, “Revolution and Religion”, with Bob Avakian, the leader of the movement for communist revolution, and the revolutionary Christian Cornel West. Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party and others associated with the RCP were an unshakable force, giving backbone and heart to those who looked to them for leadership, and a compelling challenge to a wide range of forces, and – including through alternative media and breaking into the mainstream – reaching millions. Revolution Clubs in several cities were a critical presence, rushing to the front of the struggle, and inviting people into the movement for revolution and communism.
There were the courageous families of people whose loved ones were taken from them by police murder. Some were brand new to the struggle. Others, like Nicholas Heyward Sr, or Juanita Young have been fighting police murder for as long as twenty years – not just for their own sake but for everyone else as well.
Those who catch the most hell and voices of conscience
In New York City, activists supporting the 43 Mexican students from Ayotzinapa kidnapped by the government marched – their banner with the faces of the 43 missing victims in painful synergy with the huge banners of victims of police murder in the U.S. and infusing the march with a global consciousness.
The mix varied from city to city, but in many places, the people who catch the most hell on a daily basis in ameriKKKa were on the cutting edge. In infamous Ferguson, Missouri, Black youth were literally dancing in the street in front of the police station on April 14, and in Chicago, the majority of the 300 who took to the streets were Black people. One high school student who said he marched because “The police are continually killing black children and nothing’s happening. So today we are going to march. I am going to march for my black people.” In a number of cities, including Cleveland and Stockton, those in the streets were in large part from communities of the most oppressed. And there were people of all nationalities and walks of life who stood with them.
A still-small but all the more inspiring representation of voices of conscience from the arts, entertainment and politics lent moral strength and made it harder to attack the protests, and harder to turn away from them. Several important statements of conscience were issued in advance of the day.
On the 14th, poet, journalist and human rights activist Rose Styron issued a statement: “The shooting of unarmed blacks, Hispanics and poor youths on the streets of America, and the long-term incarceration of young offenders are among the most flagrant examples of failure in our policy and justice systems. March on today!”
At Georgia State in Atlanta, rapper Jasiri X got on the mic as students blocked a walkway with a banner of photos of victims of police murder. Residente from the musical group Calle 13 tweeted a photo of himself with Cornel West and Carl Dix at the rally in New York.
Jazz great Arturo O’Farrill spoke in New York City: “It’s very simple – you have to connect your life, you have to connect your art, you have to connect your job, you have to connect your soul to something that is bigger than you. You have to connect all of this to justice. You connect to caring, to loving, to loving one another and demanding better of the NYPD, the SFPD, the LAPD. If we don’t demand better from them, they are paid to govern and protect us. We cannot sit idly by while they kill our children. No more! No more killing young Blacks and Hispanics! This moment has to end!”
Legendary feminist Eve Ensler was at the front of the march in New York City. She issued a powerful statement that included, “I am here today in outrage and sorrow. I am here to say no to the racist epidemic of police murders of black and brown women and men and children that continues despite massive protests and outcry. I am here to say we must escalate our efforts and our resistance to these gruesome shootings. I refuse the 8 bullets in Walter Scott’s back, the 12 bullets in Michael Brown’s chest, the 4 Taser shots that killed Natasha McKenna. I refuse the knee in the back that smashed Tanisha Anderson, the 2 bullets in Yvette Smith, the 23 bullets in Malissa Williams, the 2 bullets in 12 year old Tamir Rice’s chest, the bullets fired into Meagan Hockaday just 20 seconds after they arrived in her home. I refuse the bullets of a police state that continues to murder the oppressed rather than lifting their conditions. I call on every white person who has the privilege of walking the streets without fear of being snuffed out by those who brazenly exercise their license to kill, to walk out today and every day until our brothers and sisters are safe and free. I stand with a broken heart for the families, for the friends for the terrorized witnesses, for their sorrow and loss.”
Everywhere people carried giant 10-15 foot-long banners of the iconic “Stolen Lives” poster, compelling others to stand with the marches. Wherever the Stolen Lives banner went, it drew a line in the sand. People saw faces they knew, and loved. People who hadn’t a clue as to the extent of police murder were shaken up. Nobody could just walk on by.
Voices of faith
Religious forces were an important part of the strength of the day. Speaking in Union Square in New York City, Reverend Calvin Butts declared, “I have come today to represent with members of the clergy from all five boroughs. The power of the church must stand with the people in this because we can no longer watch our young people be shot down. I’ve watched this for over 40 years. And we get the same story each and every time. Enough is enough! And we must, we must, stand up! We must stand together because power is the only thing that power understands. Shut it down!” Reverend Butts helped mobilize a coalition of clergy from around the city that marched together on April 14.
Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Network of Spiritual Progressives spoke in both Oakland and San Francisco. He said, “In this society there is a racism that is deep and embedded and has not gone away. We have to recognize that every specific manifestation of that racism has to be stood up to and fought against.”And, that “The only way to counter this is to have a different world view that says that we are all in this together… That there is a fundamental unity and that unity has to extend to all the divisions in this country but to recognize our fundamental unity with all people on this planet.”
Reverend Amos Brown, San Francisco branch president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was in the crowd in San Francisco on April 14 and said, “I know that business as usual has been interrupted, but there comes a time when we the oppressed must rise up.”
A contingent behind a banner from St. Paul and St. Andrews United Methodist Church was in the crowd in New York’s Union Square. Frederick A. Davie, M.Div., Executive Vice-President, Secretary to the Board of Trustees at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York sent out an email that included: “Students, faculty and staff are welcome to make their own choices about attending the Shut It Down Rally tomorrow in Union Square at 2 pm…. Serene and I are fully supportive of this event, as we are horrified by the killing of primarily black and brown people by law enforcement in our nation. If you do decide to attend the event, please be safe and exercise care.”
Pigs acting like pigs
In many places, the authorities, who send their police out to kill every day, sent their police to attack the protests. In Cleveland police brought out horses to corral and attack the protest. There were dozens of arrests in New York, and at least two people were seriously injured in vicious police assaults. In Cleveland, Ohio, police brought out horses to corral and attack the protest.
Over a dozen people were arrested in Springfield, Massachusetts, and authorities published the names, faces, and addresses of those arrested. A protester defiantly responded, “The mayor needs to be here, see this, be arm-in-arm with us and standing up with this to let the system know we are no longer going to sit back and watch our black and brown children get killed.” And when asked about the arrests, he said, “That’s how much it means to us, that’s why we put our lives on the line. This means so much to us, we’re fighting to survive.” There were dozens of arrests in other places as well. Having the backs of (defending) those attacked and arrested is critical to defending and building the movement.
Being part of this was transforming, for all involved. At the emergency meeting in Manhattan to make plans to respond to the police attacks, where there was controversy over whether it had been right, and worth it, to actually shut it down on the Brooklyn Bridge, a 16-year-old woman high school student who had been arrested said that A14 was “the best day of my life.”
Heard around the world
April 14 was heard around the world. The press in Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America gave significant coverage to the protests, and people heard about them around the world from going to revcom.us. And people around the world are attuned to the state of struggle in the empire built on genocide, slavery and unjust wars.
A Revolution reader from South America wrote: “I am very proud about what you did on A14 (and what you are doing now). I am watching photos and videos that you are publishing, it is very inspiring for me to know that there, in ‘the belly of the beast’ as you say, the people are beginning to awake. It is important for the world that in the USA, people in general and revolutionaries in particular, have a very strong movement for the revolution, it is important to publish more of the A14 in order to break the block out of the official media, the media of the imperialist bourgeoisie, that never will talk about the movement that is borning now, ‘the American spring’, that will remove the very base of the imperialist system.”
All this shows, more than anything else, the potential for the movement that was revived and strengthened on April 14 to burst out on a whole other level.
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