New York March Against Police Brutality:
Thousands Demand Justice for Abner Louima
Revolutionary Worker #922, September 7, 1997
New York City, Aug. 29--Over 7,000 people marched to demand justice for Abner Louima. They marched in outrage at the torture with toilet plunger that the cops perpetrated on Louima. They marched to demand an end to police brutality--because too many people have been brutalized and murdered by the NYPD and by police across the country. Many Haitians said that the U.S.-backed police and the Tonton Macoutes had carried out this kind of torture in Haiti, and they came to the United States thinking that they had escaped such horrors. In the march were elected officials, religious leaders, revolutionaries, many different organizations and people with political beliefs of all kinds.
The march began at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn with a few short speeches. Abner's doctor gave an update on his medical condition, which had taken a turn for the worse during the night. Abner sent a simple statement, "Kimbe la"--which in Creole means "stay strong." The marchers then crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and headed for the NYPD headquarters in Manhattan.
People came from all over the East Coast and from as far away as Montreal, Canada. A white couple said they heard about the police torture of Abner Louima while on vacation in Brazil. While most in the march were Haitians, there were also people of all nationalities. Many spoke of the need for a movement of broad unity to fight against and defeat police brutality. One shopowner put a sign in his window saying "Petit Bourgeoisie Against Police Brutality." Another middle class man marched with a sign that read, "The Holocaust began with cruelty to man, then extermination camps. Never Again!"
The protest was an outpouring of creativity from the masses. There were homemade signs and street theater. People sang songs from Haiti. A group of drummers beat out a rhythm while others sang "Guantanamera" a capella. One group carried a coffin covered with pictures of Volpe, the cop who tortured Louima, which they alternately "buried" and beat at different points along the march route. People danced to the beat of the songs and the drums--a dance of anger and determination to get justice for Abner Louima.
Parents Against Police Brutality marched behind a beautiful 30-foot banner. The Latin Kings were in the house. The National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights had a contingent. Refuse & Resist! and the October 22nd Coalition distributed thousands of fliers for the October 22nd National Day of Protest against police brutality. One group of over 100 people called themselves Haitians and Dominicans United (historically, there have been sharp contradictions between Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Most in this contingent were Dominicans, but other nationalities, especially Puerto Ricans, joined up. They chanted in Spanish: "P'arriba, pa'abajo, Giuliani p'al carajo!" Many Haitians loved it and joined in the chant.
There were Haitian flags everywhere, and flags from other Caribbean countries. The Revolutionary Communist Party's leaflet denouncing the torture of Abner Louima--in Creole, Spanish and English--was very popular. Thousands of copies of the Revolutionary Worker broadsheet--"Killed In Cold Blood By the NYPD"--were distributed at the march, and many people held them up in the air. There were posters made from an RW graphic of the Statue of Liberty holding a plunger.
The authorities were very worried about this march. Seven police helicopters hovered overhead during the day. At one point, police tried to stop a section of the march from crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. A scuffle broke out, but the police were forced to back down. Cops were stationed along the sides of the march, and the people held signs in their faces and taunted them. Police barricaded the entire downtown area around the Brooklyn Bridge, police headquarters and City Hall so others couldn't join the demonstration. Still, when the marchers came off the bridge, hundreds were already waiting. Later on, as one group of protesters blocked traffic in Brooklyn, over 100 people were arrested.
Thousands felt the power the people can have when they unite to fight against injustice. The march sent a strong message: Police brutality has got to stop now--enough is enough!
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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