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“Rise Up October” actions in New York say: Stop police terror!
26 October 2015. A World to Win News Service. The following is mainly based on articles in the 26 October issue of Revolution (revcom.us), newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, U.SA.
Three days of actions to demand an end to police terror ended with a march of thousands of people through the streets of Manhattan 24 October. Protesters chanted, “Stop police terror!” and posed the question to people throughout U.S. society, “Which side are you on?” – on the side of the state and the police that serve it, or the more than 875 of African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and other people the police have killed so far this year – about three a day.
The actions began on 22 October in Times Square, the symbolic centre of New York. More than 30 family members and representatives of people whose lives have been stolen by police attended a rally where prominent artists, intellectuals and other voices of conscience read the names of thousands of people murdered by police over the last decade. Their family members told their stories and lent their moral and physical presence to the No More Stolen Lives/Say Their Name project.
That afternoon, several hundred people gathered and marched in the New York borough of Brooklyn to mark the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, an ongoing campaign launched 20 years ago. Among them were family members of people killed by police in New York and other cities, and secondary school students. A student said, “This is something I hadn’t thought about much but I should, it’s a big problem.” Another said, “What’s happening to Black people is genocide.” There were also university students and many others, including a group who came together from a social service agency that works with people with AIDS and the homeless. About half a dozen transgender people came as a group. There was a banner expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people’s struggle.
Other National Day of Protest actions were held in Chicago, Cleveland, Seattle, Los Angeles and Houston, among other cities reported so far.
On 23 October, about a hundred demonstrators joined 17 people who blocked the entrance to the city’s notorious Rikers Island prison, “a torture chamber and debtors’ prison” where thousands of people are held for months and years – an average of 14,000 people on any given night – often because they can’t afford to post a cash bond to be released while awaiting trial for petty charges. They chanted, “Rikers, Rikers, shut it down” and the name of Kalief Browder, a 16 year-old kept in solitary confinement for more than two years for allegedly stealing a backpack. Tortured by guards, he committed suicide after getting out. In front of the people holding the sit-in were enlarged pictures of people murdered by police, including 11 who died on Rikers Island.
The following day’s march through Manhattan began with a down-town rally. Carl Dix, a representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party and co-initiator of Rise Up October (with Cornel West), led the crowd chanting, “I am a revolutionary!” He told the crowd, “Let’s do all that we can to stop the horror of police murdering our people. And then let’s do even more because we gotta stop this.”
West, a prominent theologian, activist and revolutionary Christian, as he calls himself, challenged people: “When you love folks, you hate that they’re being mistreated!” Playwright Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues) declared, “I am tired of living in a country where state violence has created a terror state for Black and Brown people, it is unacceptable!”
Scores of family members and representatives of victims of police murder led thousands of other people as they marched uptown. All along they shared their pain and outrage and challenged everyone to fight. People defied police attacks that seized five people near the end of the march. A contingent of several hundred youth and others took the message into Times Square. Six were arrested.
The #Say her name! contingent carried posters of women murdered by police and prison authorities. Pictures of faces of those murdered by police were everywhere, on signs and banners —calling out for justice and an end to the horror. Unitarians demanded justice, and LGBT activists denounced sadistic police brutality that targets transgender people. There was a striking mix of all nationalities, and representatives of people around the world. There was a sea of signs: “Rise up! Stop police terror!” The Revolution Club both called for and served as an example of “Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.” A chant erupted up and down 6th Avenue: “Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
Students came from around the country. A graduate student and teacher told Revolution, “They’re killing my students with slow genocide.” Youth and others came from the communities of the oppressed, from the East, South and Midwest as well as New York. An example: a contingent from Waukegan, Illinois, representing the struggle for justice for Justus Howell, a 17-year-old killed by police last April, shot twice in the back, and for all victims of police murder.
Unitarian-Universalists (a Protestant group) came from the better-off Upper West Side of Manhattan. A contingent marched from the Holy Ghost Upper Room Filling Station Ministry in the oppressed community of Jamaica, Queens. People from St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Manhattanville, New York, carried a banner that declared, “We are not afraid!” Film director Quentin Tarantino spoke: “When I see murder, I cannot stand by.”
At the end of the march, Dix declared, “You should feel good about what you did but not so good you’re ready to go home, pat yourself on the back, and go back to normal, because normal is the police murdering people, especially Black and Latino and Native people. We have been acting to stop it and it goes forward from today.”
West and Dix have now called for organizing meetings to plan more actions against police murder, including on three dates in late November and early December. “Brothers and sisters, fellow resisters,” their statement said, “You are beautiful. You have straightened your backs and can inspire millions of others. The spirit of Rise Up must go forward – and that spirit needs to be made manifest in struggle and organization.”