October: A Month of Resistance

Revolutionary Worker #876, October 6, 1996

"Refuse the Politics of Cruelty...It's time to stand up. It's time to act. We are living in a season when mean-spirited politics and injustice ride high. With cruel and dangerous agendas dominating the election debates, our voice will be heard. Whether we vote or whether we don't, in big organizations or alone in small towns, as many and as one, we will not lie down for this. We say NO! to the politics of punishment, poverty, and injustice."

from the Call to Make October a National Month of Resistance

If the people who have taken up the call to make October a National Month of Resistance are any indication, October could witness a positive rise in the level of resistance.

"The overwhelming response I've been getting has been `it's about time,' R&R! National Secretary Robert Rockwell told the RW. "When I would talk to people about October and our plans to build a movement of resistance, people would say it's well past time that somebody came out with these ideas and people are really taking it up.

"We planned October because we knew it was going to be right before the elections and we wanted people's voices to be heard in the midst of all this debate. Like our call says, we don't take a position on whether people should vote or not, but we do take a position that whether you vote or not, you should become involved in resistance if you don't like the politics of cruelty.

"Even though we had won a stay of execution for Mumia, the whole political climate in the country was getting worse and worse. One of the major things we realized that we had to do was to unite all the people out there who were already resisting. And our slogan `It's all one attack' is a way to help people see the whole agenda, and once they see that, to find a way to work together. The other thing we realized we had to do was to reach out to the millions of people out there who were sick and tired of what was going on but haven't been able to speak out because there wasn't really a movement of resistance or a community of resistance.

"We saw October as a way to announce the presence of this resistance movement. We felt that if people knew that there was a movement speaking out against the situation they would want to search far and wide to find out who it is and want to join up--and they have."

The Month of Resistance (MOR) is taking different forms on many fronts, from art shows and concerts to teach-ins, from religious events to street demonstrations. A wide range of organizations and individuals has united to initiate national days of protest--an important mobilization for Mumia Abu-Jamal on October 1; protests in support of the right of habeas corpus when the Supreme Court opens October 7; a major debate October 17 in San Francisco on affirmative action; a National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers October 26; and a Halloween grand finale. Up-to-the-minute news on the ever-growing list of events is available by E-mail: resist@walrus.com and from the R&R! web page: www.walrus.com/~resist.

R&R! is also supporting major actions initiated by other coalitions, like the October 12 demonstration for Immigrants' Rights, organized by Coordinadora '96; and the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, called by the October 22 Coalition Against Police Brutality. Other organizations like the National Young Women's Day of Action, October 24, have affiliated with the Month of Resistance.

The Fight to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

On October 1, the MOR kicks off in Philadelphia where revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal is facing a major court hearing--a fight to introduce key evidence proving that Mumia was framed in the trial that sent him to death row 14 years ago.

Robert Rockwell told the RW: "Mumia to us is of prime importance. Mumia's case is an example of what the system is trying to do to the people. It would really strike a blow to all the people if Mumia was executed, and ever since we've heard of Mumia's case we have said that we will do everything in our power to ensure that he is not executed."

Steve Hawkins--a Black criminal defense attorney with the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty--linked Mumia's case to the need to fight against recent government decisions that will have a terrible impact for all prisoners and especially prisoners on death row. Hawkins is working to build an action to defend the right of habeas corpus when the Supreme Court opens its fall term. Hawkins told the RW: "The purpose of coming to the Supreme Court on opening day in October is to draw attention and protest the fact that the Supreme Court has done away with, and Congress has done away with, protections that have existed for habeas corpus since Reconstruction. Those protections have allowed innocent people to be able to challenge their convictions--for those who've been thrown in jail because of their political beliefs to be able to seek redress--and all of that now has really been washed away. It is giving someone like Judge Sabo, a former member of the Fraternal Order of Police, a former sheriff in Philadelphia County, power with respect to whether Mumia received effective representation and counsel; whether Mumia's sentence was cruel and unusual punishment, whether his political affiliation with the Black Panther Party was used wrongfully to argue to the jury that he should be sentenced to death because of his political views. Now the federal court, even if they disagreed with Judge Sabo, would have to defer to his opinion, and that has not been the standard in the country since habeas corpus was first passed back in 1867."

Welcoming the MOR, Hawkins told the RW: "Folks are beginning to really think about creative struggle that has us working more together, because in this repressive atmosphere everybody's back is against the wall in ways that are very significant. We'll be working and hopefully participating in a number of events in October because they all do intersect and interrelate, so I think that there is potential and there is reason for hope."

New Alliances/Changing the Climate

In many ways the MOR is turning out to be a real resistance crossover. It has the potential for realizing on a grand scale the positive vibe at RESIST 96 which brought together abortion providers from Florida, militant Black poets from New York, anti-racist folks from Montana, Hollywood people, religious activists against the death penalty, clinic defenders from South Carolina, former Panthers, high school kids from Utah fighting discrimination against homosexuals, Puerto Rican parents from New York against police brutality, and Latino youth fighting for immigrants' rights.

In early September the RW talked to Gideon, a student at Vassar who is one of the organizers of the Ten Days of Truth--teach-ins and debates being organized on various campuses around the country. A major debate on affirmative action is scheduled on October 17 at San Francisco State University. Tim J. Weiss, author of Little White Lies: The Truth About Affirmative Action and "Reverse Discrimination" will take on Dinesh D'Souza, author of the The End of Racism over the question: "Is there such a thing as reverse discrimination?"

Gideon told the RW, "The first time I encountered the idea for these teach-ins was at Resist 96, which was also my first substantial contact with Refuse & Resist!. I was very impressed by the mix of people and the energy that was there and also it seemed to me what they were trying to do was put together sort of unlikely alliances."

Annie, one of the energetic 20-something organizers at the R&R! national office, commented on this phenom: "One of the most important things about the month of resistance is making these new alliances and this really surprising new mix that really needs to play itself out in everything within the month. More and more people are realizing that it is all one attack. David Lester said it two national council meetings ago, that as we got closer to October, it would start sounding like a better idea. And it really is the case.

"We got a lot of mail from kids, off the Rage Against the Machine CD, from all of these states and places like from the rustbelt or places in Texas and midwest states. These kids are really excited about stuff--and from all the different letters you can tell people are really desperate to hook into something.

She offers us a sample, explaining that 70 percent of R&R! mail comes from areas outside the major cities:

A U.S. marine writes: "I bought the new Rage Against the Machine CD. I was reading through it and I came across your address. I wrote to say that I distrust the government more and more everyday. I'm not the only Marine who thinks like this. When I joined they took about every right I had. You can't do anything. All I've learned was how to kill and it is fucked up because I'm only 19."

"As a 14-year-old alarmed by the increasing rate of homophobes, racists, sexists, and overall increase in conservative values in our country, I feel I can no longer just sit and watch," another letter from small town Michigan begins. "I want to know if it is possible for me to start my own mini-chapter within our high school. I could inform students of Refuse and Resist's work, and attempt to destroy prejudice within our area."

"It's not just the young people," Clark Kissinger of the R&R! National Council and correspondent for the RW told us. "I was reading that Patricia Ireland, the president of NOW, was leading a hunger strike outside of the White House. She made a very interesting remark. She said that `We intend to fix the political climate that makes the president and the congress think they can get away with writing off the poor.' I think that's one of the things that we've tried to touch on the most. Because there has developed in this country a political climate that has allowed the government and the right-wing forces to feel that they have the liberty to get away with these things.

"The people are truly disturbed about the climate. They want to change the climate as a whole. And that's what we've set out to do. That is really the ultimate goal of the month of October--to change the political climate in which all our battles are fought, and to go forward from October and stop this stuff dead in its tracks."

Culture of Resistance

"People have to use their own special talents," Robert Rockwell tells us, "Artists can create art of resistance and doctors can stand with their colleagues who are terrorized by the anti-abortionists or who refuse to comply with the anti-immigrant statutes. The lawyers can defend habeas corpus rights. There are all kinds of things that people can do that would all be considered resistance."

"Robert said it really beautifully," Annie continues. "Every act that you take will be amplified because it's happening in this climate of resistance. Say you're in a small town like in Missouri and imagine on October 1 you see this call everywhere, in the mainstream press, in your schoolyard, and a week later you have this poetry reading in the spirit of resistance and you know it's a national effort, that you're part of a concerted effort and all these people nationally are stepping up against the right-wing attacks. Like I know in New York they're having a couple of nights of lyrical resistance and some film showings--they're a group of artists who want to hook into the month of resistance."

A phone call to Sander Hicks--editor of Soft Skull Press in New York which is co-sponsoring a poetry/spoken word event with R&R! for the MOR--gave us a sense of things happening at the grassroots in the art scene. Hicks explains what he hopes will come out of the Night of Lyric Resistance: "I used to always go to punk shows. And go looking for a certain kind of validation that I wasn't alone. A good show would give me that. And a bad show would be the opposite. And I want this to be a good show. I want there to be a scene mentality--in which you realize that other people give a damn, a really strong good-goddamn, for similar ideals. So I'd like people to come away with not only a document, or a physical piece of paper, a book or something--but a mark on their memory that this show was about a month of resistance. Specifically sort of a heightened, sharper kind of anger."

Performance poet Keith Antar Mason, who has been taking out the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality in the theater scene, mused on the R&R! slogan, "It is all one attack. But the metaphor is a little loose for me. Is it them attacking all of us or is it us making an offensive against them? I want us to really, really begin to understand that we need to escalate and how we begin to escalate is to really understand this notion of a culture of resistance--really give the migrant farmworkers their place in the movement, put down 187, stop the attack on affirmative action, make it safe for women to have abortions, get funding for people with AIDS so they can live better lives. We really have to make a commitment inside ourselves to really understand what we're saying about it's all one attack and really take it to another level."

A National Day of Appreciation

"I think that when people become knowledgeable about one form of resistance that they've opened their mind to understanding about the other forms of resistance, Patricia Baird-Windle told the RW. "I was told at this meeting about a young man whose concern has been police brutality and at the R&R! Courageous Resisters ceremony he heard my story and that of the wonderful abortion defender from South Carolina and he said, `It is all one attack. This is coming from the same people. It's the same hate-mongers.' "

Patricia Baird-Windle is president of the Aware Woman Centers of Florida, an at-large member of Refuse & Resist!, and one of the organizers of the October 26 National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers. Describing how a recent campaign of harassment forced the closing of a rural clinic in Port St. Lucy, Florida--"the population down there is itinerant farmworkers, residential farmworkers who live there, and service workers who service the hotels"--she gave a sense of what the anti-choice assault has meant to millions of women. "I was so proud of that little clinic," she said. "That clinic was very important to me because it served these farm women and the women in the service population. I think the loss to the women is huge, and very, very difficult to quantify."

"National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day is an idea whose time has come," Patricia continues. "And I wish that it had come before the killing of providers, because I think that it might have prevented the shooting and acid attacks and other things that have led to the killing and wounding of so many abortion providers in the United States and Canada.... Doing this day is at once visionary and courageous. And I am tremendously impressed with the courage and the tenacity and the strength that Refuse & Resist! is manifesting."

Mary Lou Greenberg, one of the initiators of the National Day of Appreciation and spokesperson for the New York branch of the RCP, told the RW: "We're trying to recast the current line-up of forces, bringing together on the same side of the barricades, so to speak, people from many different battles, and giving voice to all those who are usually drowned out and silenced by the powers-that-be. The battle around abortion is one of the key fronts and it is a critical step in changing the atmosphere, declaring that the people who make `choice' possible must be honored and supported."

March for Justice, October 12

In addition to the actions initiated by R&R! for October, Resist 96 endorsed several events called by other organizations and coalitions like the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality and the October 12 March for Justice in Washington called by Coordinadora 96--on issues of Latino rights, immigrant's rights, and police brutality.

Robert Rockwell told the RW about R&R!'s plans for the October 12 March: "Immigrants are under tremendous attacks right now--from the welfare bill, even legal immigrants are now being denied food stamps. And we felt it was essential for us to stand up with immigrants at this march. And we feel that not only the immigrants but everyone who stands up with immigrants should be at this march. We put out a call for all of our chapters to organize for people to come. And we know that there are busses being planned by other groups. I know that the New York chapter is organizing a bus. We wanted to have a special presence at this march. We are forming a resistance contingent in cooperation with La Resistencia which is one of our affiliate organizations. And La Resistencia has been very active on the border issues. But we are going to be uniting and getting out to the people and addressing some of the issues as we see them. So we are going to be there as a special contingent marching. And anyone who wants to join our resistance contingent is welcome."

October 22: National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality

At a San Francisco press conference--one of several press conferences held on September 24 and 25 by the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation--Richard Marquez from Housing Not Borders drew the links between police brutality and the attacks on immigrants. "We see as of yesterday 50 immigrant workers were rounded up and are presently awaiting deportation hearings in S.F. This type of militarization occurring on the border and in central cities of California is directly related to the beatings of the two Mexican immigrant workers in Riverside, Alicia Vásquez and Enrique Funes Flores. In the spirit of combativity and resistance, we ask people on October 22 to wear black and to build this National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality--linking the broader, the most oppressed sectors of society to defeat INS and police brutality."

In Chicago, Ramona Africa said, "It is only us, the people, who will put an end to police brutality." And at the press conference in New York, where more than 100 people have been killed by police in 18 months, Attorney Ron Kuby, an at-large member of the R&R! national council told the press: "It's our hope that October 22nd will be the beginning of movement against police brutality."

Endorsed by the Resist 96 convention, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality on October 22 is an unprecedented national alliance to deal with the terrible problem of police brutality facing the people. Marches are planned in several cities. Organizers are calling on people all across the country to wear black that day and have commenced the process of compiling a national list of people who have been killed by the police in the last few years.

Carl Dix, one of the initiators of the National Day of Protest and a national spokesperson of the RCP, told the RW: "We think that this National Day of Protest has to represent a significant leap in the organized capacity of the people to resist. There is already a good deal of resistance out there to police brutality on a number of fronts. In a number of cities people have organized to take on individual instances of police murder and police terror--from the Johnny Gammage case in Pittsburgh, Parents Against Police Brutality in New York, protests in Los Angeles against the murder of Jose Gutierrez and a number of other instances in San Francisco, Atlanta and many other places. Then you had the response to the Mexican Rodney King case, the beating of Alicia Soltero and the other immigrant by the sheriffs outside of Riverside. You had the outpouring around the Fuhrman tapes. And going back even before that you had the Rodney King case and the L.A. Rebellion. So there has been quite a bit of resistance but we have to step this up.

"What we have to do with this National Day of Protest is bring together the rage that those under the gun have about how they're being dogged by the cops...unite with others who themselves may not be under the gun but who ain't for that kind of brutality and that kind of repression being meted out to people...and together step out and display that we ain't gonna take this anymore.

"We have to get the call to wear black on that day way out there. It's got to be the kind of thing where millions of people wake up on October 22 knowing that today is the day that the people are going to do something in opposition to police brutality. This day has to push the problem of police brutality out there front and center in society for everyone to see."

To that end, organizers for the NDP have produced Public Service Announcements available for television broadcast. PSAs feature musicians from Goodie Mob and the Fugees and Reg E. Gaines, a leading poet in the Spoken Word Movement and lyricist for the Tony Award-winning play, "Bring on da Noise, Bring on da Funk" who offers this message:

Under the Color of Authority
Men in Blue Commit Brutality
Sitting Watching Silently
These Images I See.
It's Not Fiction
It's Fact
If You Dare Fight Back
On October 22nd
Wear Black


"I believe that if people sense that society is going in the wrong direction, we have to do everything in our power to change it, and that means even to the point where it could possibly change your life," Robert Rockwell told the RW, "If you don't like the way things are going you have to do anything you can to change it. And so that's what we're asking people to do. And I think we have to figure out ways of giving voices to all these people. I do believe that there are millions of people out there quite literally who hate the way our country's going."

"So that's the challenge that we've put out to people."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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