Revolution #265, April 8, 2012

Harlem, NYC

In the Face of Police Attack, High School Youth Demand Justice for Trayvon Martin

We received this correspondence:

On March 27 in Harlem, as students walked out in 50 Miami high schools and students around the country went into the streets chanting "We are All Trayvon Martin," high school students in Harlem took steps to stand up alongside them. The NYPD, being the pigs that they are and doing "police work" as they normally do, rampaged through the streets chasing down youth for no other reason than just being young and Black. In doing this, they managed to incite a spontaneous protest, and then moved in to arrest a young man who is a well-known and respected member of the People's Neighborhood Patrols, and who has been at the forefront of the struggle against the NYPD practice of stop-and-frisk. This young revolutionary communist has been arrested multiple times and is clearly being harassed and targeted by the NYPD.

Upon his arrest, people were mobilized to call the NYPD to demand his release without bail. He had been held for over a day without being charged. Local clergy, community activists, students, people from the projects and local politicians called and let the NYPD know they can not take the revolutionaries away from the people. He has now been released and is facing two trumped up misdemeanor charges—designed not only to keep him entwined in court proceedings, but to "accumulate" a record on him.


Black and Latino youth are de facto not allowed to congregate in public spaces in this so-called free country. There is no right to assembly; there is no right to even relax in a public park. Police practice is to clear public spaces where kids gather to hang out with their friends, listen to music, rap, dance and get boisterous. In Harlem, stop-and-frisk picks up in the hours after school. On March 27 students came out of school and to bus stops to find the revolutionary communists in a popular Harlem park distributing Revolution newspaper.

Students grabbed up multiple copies of the Revolutionary Communist Party statement "On the Murder of Trayvon Martin" and a poster with the now iconic picture of Trayvon that said "We are All Trayvon Martin—The Whole Damn System is Guilty" and "Get With the Real Revolution." As some students talked about this and others just hung out, school police and city cops suddenly appeared, and demanded that they leave the park.

As more and more cop cars arrived, the police starting herding the students like cattle down the sidewalk and out of the area. A young man said under his breath, "Why they always treat us like this?" The police pushed the students, about 100 strong, down a grassy hill out of the park. The students started holding the poster of Trayvon over their heads and as they crossed the street a spontaneous chant went up from the youth, "We want Justice! We want Justice!"

Something new, important, and inspiring was happening right there on the spot. In the next block, more students joined as they came out of school. Young guys were yelling "Put your hoodies on!" Kids were forcefully pulling their hoods up and yelling "We are all Trayvon Martin!" There were kids on both sides of the streets. It was not one march, but four or five groups, totaling about 200 kids in all.

One student took all the flyers that a young revolutionary was carrying, and started distributing them to everybody. At the intersections, some guys stopped in the middle of the street, facing the cars and held the posters up. There was talk about a "hoodie day" and a walkout in the next days.

Now there were police vans with their sirens on, following the students. Cops jumped out of the vans and ran at the kids, threatening them: "keep moving, keep moving, do you want to be arrested?" while they shouted on bullhorns from the vans, "If you stop you spend the night in jail!" Every young person the cops saw was being forced out of the area and the police did not even pretend the students had done anything illegal. They harassed students for the distance they were standing from the bus stop, for coming out of the store talking, for going into the store instead of leaving the area. Cries of "we're not doing anything wrong!" and "We're not moving!" were mixed in with "Justice for Trayvon!" When the cops harassed the youth who was distributing the flyers, he very pointedly held the flyer up in front of the cop's face, turned and moved on.

About four blocks from the park, the police presence fizzled out. On his way back to the park, the young revolutionary met other groupings of youth. Some students came up to him, "Do you know what just happened? The police just threw a Black child through the window" at the bank a block from the park. Shattered glass was all over the sidewalk and the bank had a hole in the plate glass on the side of the front entrance. People gathered at the corner outraged and the cop stationed there tried to pacify them: "The officer told him to take his hands out of his pockets. The kid did not do so, so the officer didn't know what he might have in his pockets. And he miscalculated the force that he used when he put him up against the window." This only further enraged the people, one of whom said, "We don't want to hear anymore of that bullshit. This has to stop!" People and students broadly also commented about a 15-year-old young man that had been shot in the back by police a few blocks away on Sunday evening.

A short while later police cars and vans screeched to a halt across from the park where a young woman ran toward the subway. The cops caught her and cuffed her. Suddenly the area was once again full of dozens of cops surrounding and advancing on the students waiting for the bus near the subway with more arriving. The young revolutionary who had been talking to people about the Trayvon Martin statement from the RCP and their plans for a hoodie day, spoke up for the students and was thrown to the ground, handcuffed and arrested.

Students asked the next morning about the young revolutionary, and said that people were talking about what he had done standing up for them. The next day people took hundreds of stickers that said "I'm with the real revolution" for hoodie day that was called for Thursday. On Wednesday, a high school in Spanish Harlem walked out with the support of teachers. On Thursday a hoodie day was held with large numbers of students wearing hoodies and stickers. At most high schools in Harlem this was met not with support and encouragement for students responding to a vitally important political question of the day. There was not encouragement for students wanting to stand up against a blatant injustice and learning to change the world or fight for a better future, but with "rules" and intimidation meant to teach students hopelessness and to enforce an atmosphere where you are coerced to accept it. Many students were told they had to take their hoodies off. One student took his hoodie off only to reveal a t-shirt with the "We Are All Trayvon Martin" poster plastered to the front and was threatened with suspension. School administrators warned students that anyone who walked out would be suspended. On Friday handfuls of students gathered to sum up the week and joined the revolutionaries in taking posters and Revolution out into the neighborhood.

As the whole country and the world watches the results of the Sanford police investigation, waiting to see if the man who shot down Trayvon Martin is even charged... people are continuing to make plans for ways to resist this—not just in Harlem but all over the country. The people have every right to speak out and to act against injustice and against rules and laws and police practices that are completely illegitimate. People must continue to stand up for Trayvon Martin, for the revolutionaries in their midst who are being targeted and for the students being intimidated from taking their future into their own hands. These students are daring to build and be part of building a movement that could really put an end to this outrage and countless others that spew forth from this system by sweeping this system away through revolution.

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