October 22, 1998:
Take the Battle to Another Level

Revolutionary Worker #975, September 27, 1998

Week after week, the outrages pile up.

  • May 19 (Malcolm X's birthday): Charles Vaughn, a 60-year-old Black man and former teacher, is pepper-sprayed and then killed by three shots from the Seaside, California police. Police claim that they were attempting to hospitalize Vaughn when he "lunged" at them with a corkscrew. No charges are filed against the cops.
  • July 7: Human Rights Watch releases a 440-page report documenting an epidemic of police brutality in 14 U.S. cities. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani dismisses the report as "ideologically driven." The media yawns.
  • July 13: Houston police kill Pedro Oregón, a 23-year-old Mexican landscaper and father of two daughters. They shoot him 12 times, 9 times in the back, in a "drug raid" on his house. Neither weapons nor drugs are found. No charges are filed against the cops.
  • August 1: L.A. County Sheriff's Deputies beat to death Danny Smith, a 34-year-old Black prisoner in the L.A. County Jail. According to witnesses, Smith had verbally objected to being transferred from his cell. Smith was the second man beaten to death in the jail in less than a year. No charges are filed against the deputies.
  • August 8: The Department of Justice announces there are now 1-3/4 million people in prison, an increase of 3/4 million people in less than four years--at a time when crime is dropping! Adding in people in county jails, there are now 2-1/4 million people in prison, the majority of them Black or Latino.
  • August 15: In response to the shooting death of a cop, police institute a virtual military occupation of the huge Robert Taylor Homes housing project in Chicago. Police call residents "n*ggers" and "ho's", randomly beat them, and took between 100 and 200 people into custody as "suspects." The Chicago Police Department defends the lockdown as "proper police procedure."
  • August 23: Brooklyn police fire 17 shots at Michael Jones, a 15-year-old African-American youth, hitting him six times. The cops say that Michael had a black water pistol that looked like a gun. No charges are filed against the cops. Mayor Giuliani refuses to apologize or even express sympathy for Michael, who still lies in critical condition. Instead, he lashes out at Michael's parents for allowing him to be out late at night.
  • September 5: After buzzing a peaceful rally with low-flying helicopters, N.Y. police launch an unprovoked attack on the Million Youth March. Giuliani launches a heavily armed police raid on a march organizer, charging him with assault on a cop.
  • What does all this reveal? It shows that the epidemic of police brutality and murder continues to rage. It shows that the insanity of locking up a generation of oppressed youth goes on full force. It shows that basic rights of political expression and even everyday living are being denied to the people. It shows the virulent racism running through the U.S. "justice system." And it demands of us that we join together to DO something, now.

    It also shows reason for hope: in the face of these outrages there has been resistance, sometimes fierce mass resistance. But with all our fighting, there is still a "blue wall of silence"--not only in the police department, but in the media, the councils of government, and society as a whole. The movement against police brutality, repression and the jailing of our youth has to go higher. This movement has to bust out there and put these outrages--and the resistance to them--right on front street in a way that cannot be ignored.

    For these reasons, the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA calls on people to strongly support the October 22nd National Day of Protest To Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation. We call now--just one short month away from October 22nd--on activists and resisters of all kinds to throw their efforts into this Day.

    Two Great Contributions in
    the Fight Against Police Brutality

    Why do we make this call? And why should people respond? To answer that, let's look at what this National Day of Protest means to the overall struggle against police brutality.

    The October 22nd Coalition makes two unique contributions to the struggle against police brutality: the Stolen Lives Project and the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.

    The Stolen Lives Project: Along with the Anthony Baez Foundation and the National Lawyers Guild, the October 22nd Coalition has initiated the Stolen Lives Project. The Stolen Lives Project (SLP) aims to list every person killed by the police since 1990. The Stolen Lives book lists the first 500 cases that have been documented, along with pictures and stories.

    The Stolen Lives Project puts a human face on the victims of these police murders--victims who are invariably murdered twice, as their good names are slandered in the press after the police have killed their bodies. It reveals the utter disregard of the power structure and their enforcers for the lives of the people.

    The SLP has begun to expose the epidemic of police murder. It has begun to blast away the lie that police murder only happens on rare occasions. It exposes the myth of "a few bad apples" in the police department. The SLP has shown how this epidemic has been targetted against minority nationalities (African-American, Latino, Native American, and Asian); and the project is documenting the spread of this epidemic to white working class people in suburban and rural areas and even the white middle class.

    The Department of Justice, with all its huge resources, has ignored a 1993 law mandating it to compile the statistics on police killings. Obviously, the power structure looks at this information as political dynamite. The rulers worry that this kind of exposure could politically hinder their locomotive of oppression. So it hides these facts. But the grassroots effort of the SLP has begun to unearth this explosive information and get it out to the people.

    The Stolen Lives Project threatens to expose the whole political agenda of criminalization and unpunished police murder and brutality. Who can look at this book and not ask "why"? Who can listen to the stories of the parents of these victims and not question the basic justice of this society? For the many who just don't know the deal--who have bought into the media barrage about "the brave cops against a generation of criminals"-- the SLP could be one huge cause for second thoughts and changed minds. And for the victims and their families and the people in their neighborhoods, the Stolen Lives Project gives proof that right is on their side.

    But this whole incredible project is still not widely known. And since the first publication of the SLP, hundreds of new names have been sent in. The October 22nd Coalition has called for major efforts to get this project much more into the eye of society in the time leading up to the Day of Protest. This is a call that all fighters should support 100 percent.

    The coalition has inspired creative efforts to break the SLP and the National Day of Protest into the national media. In support of the SLP, musicians, actors, and creative people of all kinds--including hip hop maestro Wyclef Jean ("Carnivale"), actor Joie Lee ("Do the Right Thing"), poet Reggie Gaines ("Bring in da Noise/ Bring in da Funk"), actor Danny Hoch ("Some People"), rap artists Goodie Mob, and the hot new L.A. band Ozomatli--have assembled a series of public service announcements for airing on television. Some of these announcements aired on national cable networks last year and the coalition has embarked on an "adopt-a-spot" program for more airtime this year.

    In preparation for the third national Day of Protest, the coalition is calling on people to distribute the SLP in your school, get it around in your community, get it to sympathetic contacts in the media and make sure that people in your network have it. They are calling on people nationwide to raise funds from your school class, your church congregation, or organization to "adopt-a-spot" and to support the work of the SLP organizers to publish and distribute a new expanded edition. The powerful picture of official brutality in the Stolen Lives Project can motivate people to get active and take the streets. And taking it to the streets will turn still more attention to the truths on display in the Stolen Lives Project.

    The Day of Protest

    The NATIONWIDE DEMONSTRATIONS and the call to WEAR BLACK on October 22 draw together all the terrible outrages to show the huge nationwide character of this problem. The Day of Protest honors the humanity of those who have been murdered and gives their courageous relatives and friends a national spotlight for their stories. The Day gives center stage to the youth to express their anger against the rulers' program of brutality, criminalization and demonization.

    On October 22 last year, thousands of people protested in over 50 cities. These protests drew strength from the important local struggles against police brutality. At the same time, they also lent strength to these local struggles, putting them in a national context and drawing national attention to them. All across the country people signified support for the Day by wearing black in their schools, factories, and offices. In many different ways, October 22 has helped build up the resistance and organization of those directly under the gun of police brutality.

    At the same time, October 22 has become a time when folks who do not face police brutality come together in support of those who do. And this is very important. The power structure relies on keeping the middle classes either stupefied or supportive in the face of their assaults against the oppressed. The rulers want--and need--to keep the middle classes confused and lined up against the people on the bottom. This kind of lineup feeds despair and defeatism among our people, and up to now it has allowed the rulers get away with murder--literally. We can't let things stay lined up that way!

    October 22 has begun to break up this political lineup against the people. Of course, this is only just starting. A whole lot more needs to be done. We've got to get to a whole different polarization in society--where a big section of the middle class is not just sympathizing with and supporting the have-nots on the bottom, but actually looking to them for leadership. A lineup like that is key to turning the whole situation around. Actions like October 22 help get to that new alignment and even now strengthen the resistance to police murder and repression.

    This year we have the chance to take the struggle to a higher level. A strong October 22 can further embolden and organize those who live their lives under the gun. It can draw forward those who sympathize and they, in turn, can draw forward others. The whole issue of police brutality can be broken into the media and put before millions more in a powerful way. And the news of a growing movement against it can get out, and act like a magnet to many who feel isolated.

    But none of that will happen unless people step forward to make it happen. A million things need to be done, and every willing hand is needed to do them--starting yesterday. So for all these reasons, the Party not only salutes and supports the work of the Coalition and its activists--we urgently call on all people who believe in justice to join with the coalition's efforts this year.

    Where We're Coming From

    Many people and organizations, with many different views and agendas, make up the October 22nd Coalition. It is really something to see religious folks, community advocates, union members and officials, nationalists, anarchists, immigrants' rights activists, gang truce organizers, reformers, communists and many others all working together. You have the parents of youth murdered by police working with the young activists of the new generation. One of the coalition's great strengths and accomplishments has been to unite these diverse folks and organizations around the single slogan of "Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation." At the same time, every group and individual within the coalition puts forward its own ideas, pursues its own objectives and publicizes its own battles--all within that framework of overall unity. Coalition members dialogue and often disagree with each other, and then roll together against the common enemy. Indeed, the dialogue and diverse views strengthen the unity.

    So where are we coming from in all this? Our Party believes in justice. We want justice, NOW, for every single person who has been murdered by these brutal enforcers. Those responsible must be punished for their crimes--not next year or next month, but now.

    We also believe that full justice cannot be delivered as long as this system is in effect. True justice would mean an END to police terror. But this system at its very heart is divided into haves and have-nots, oppressor and oppressed. In such a society, the main job of the police is to keep the have-nots on the bottom in a downpressed position. They do this both through general terror and intimidation, as well as political spying and sabotage. The current epidemic of police brutality--the increase in police murder, the stepped-up police-state repression and the criminalization of the youth--are the result of some new twists in the twisted way the U.S. ruling class oppresses the masses of people. But as long as you have exploitation, you will have police terror and brutality. In other words, injustice is built into the very machinery of how this society functions day to day.

    Only one thing can do away with that exploitation and the social divisions that it spawns: revolution. Only one kind of revolution can truly give us a different future than the prison-like future that they offer us: proletarian revolution. That means an all-the-way revolution where the have-nots of society lead the people to bring in a whole different social order, based on cooperation and dedicated to rooting out the dog-eat-dog madness of capitalism and all that goes with it.

    So for us revolutionaries, October 22 assumes a dimension beyond the just resistance to police brutality, repression and the criminalizing of our youth (important as that is). As we join together with people today to fight against the epidemic of police murder and brutality, and to resist the criminalizing of our youth, we are also preparing for revolution tomorrow.

    From our revolutionary point of view, October 22 should be a day to challenge people about what kind of society they want to live in.

    Straight up: do you want to live in a society where armed thugs can take out young men like Anthony Baez or teenagers like Jerrold Hall--youth with so much yet to live and so much yet to give--as if they were nothing? Do you want to live in a society that has nothing to offer a huge section of its youth other than a life on the streets or in prison? A society that treats such youth as animals to be locked into cages? If your answer is no, then we need to talk together about how to transform this society, where such things are "standard operating procedure." We have to talk about how to get to a society where the wonderful potential and creativity of those whose lives are stolen every day, in millions of ways, can finally be unlocked and unleashed.

    We are trying to take care of some of the many needs of the revolution, even as we fight in this crucial battle. Because the revolution has many needs. The revolution needs the unity of the proletariat, the "have-nots" of all nationalities. The revolution will also need to eventually unite a majority of the people, including many in the middle classes. It definitely needs the daring, initiative, and creativity of the younger generation. And for sure the revolution needs a strong revolutionary party, with influence and organization rooted in the proletariat and stretching to many different walks of life. All of these needs can only be developed through the course of uniting with the people in fierce struggle against the common enemy, including battles against the brutality of the enforcers and the criminalization of our youth. So at the same time as we pour our hearts and souls into making the strongest October 22 possible, uniting as many people as possible around its central demand, we also are looking to the future and to making revolution.

    In other words, from our revolutionary standpoint, October 22 should definitely be a day when the people strengthen their fight against being crushed down by the enforcers. We are surely down with that. At the same time, we are down with a revolutionary agenda. For us, the two go together.

    Taking On Enemy Attacks

    The great communist revolutionary Mao Tsetung once said that "to be attacked by the enemy is not a bad thing, but a good thing. . . [I]t proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves." We should anticipate that the rulers and their enforcers will try to slander, suppress and block the October 22nd activities in many different ways. This could take different forms. It could be direct attacks on the coalition. It could be attempts to split the coalition. It could be denial of permits, slander in the media, etc. Or it could be things that seem totally unrelated, but that are designed to shift people into supporting the enforcers and their agenda of murder and repression.

    Let them try. We should not fear them. But we do have to answer them, tit for tat. We should aim to turn every one of their attacks into boomerangs that politically come back on them and expose them for the unjust oppressors they are. We should take every obstacle they set before the people and turn them into stepping stones to uniting still more people against their system's punishing program. The power structure and their enforcers should pay a political price for every attack they launch.

    To sum up: the time is short. The cause is just. The situation is urgent. To everyone: let's go all out to build a powerful national day of protest against police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. On to October 22!

    Revolutionary Communist Party, September 1998

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