New York City vs. MYM Resisters

Revolutionary Worker #985, December 6, 1998

On November 17, a New York grand jury handed down indictments against six people for resisting the police attack on the Million Youth March (MYM). The grand jury was called at the prompting of Mayor Giuliani and his top cop Howard Safir, and it has been "investigating" for over two months. These indictments are one more outrage in a series of Gestapo moves against the thousands of Black people and others who took part in the September 5 MYM in Harlem.

The city tried hard to prevent the MYM from happening at all, but they were unsuccessful. Then on September 5, over 3,000 cops occupied the streets of Harlem. People going to the event were corralled in barricaded pens reminiscent of the days of slavery. The city declared that the march permit expired at 4 p.m.--and at that time police attacked the stage. They shut down the sound system. They maced and beat people and threw them off the stage. Skirmishes broke out as people defended themselves and expressed their anger at this police-state attack. At least three police helicopters buzzed the crowd, at times dipping dangerously low.

The day after the march, a SWAT team of 100 cops with automatic weapons sealed off a section of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. They said they were looking for Shaheed Muhammed (AKA James Washington) in connection with an alleged assault on a police officer at the MYM. Shaheed is a member of the December 12th Movement, one of the organizations that organized the March. The charge against him was the lowest level misdemeanor, but this SWAT team sealed off the entire neighborhood. They busted into Shaheed's apartment and threatened people at Sista's Place, a cafe associated with the December 12th Movement.

Now the grand jury has brought charges against six Black men. Shaheed Muhammad is the only person actually named in the indictment. The other five are identified as "John Doe," "Green Shirt," "Yellow Shirt," etc. One is charged with felony attempted assault and reckless endangerment; the other five with misdemeanors. The way these charges are framed gives the police a green light to go snooping for information--including by encouraging snitches--and to harass anyone who "fits the description."

As we go to press, there is a report that one person has been arrested as one of the "John Does" and will be arraigned on November 30.

Michael Warren, attorney for the MYM, said, "Our position is that the only criminal actions out there were exhibited by the police officers and their bosses--Howard Safir and Mayor Giuliani--who both admitted that they were responsible for what the police did. If [Manhattan DA] Robert Morgenthau had any principles at all, he would indict them for felony assault based on their actions as provocateurs."

Victims of the police attack at the MYM held a press conference the day after the grand jury indictments were announced. These victims, who were pepper-sprayed, maced, beaten and thrown off the stage--said that they are filing a complaint against the city for violating the Handschu Consent Decree. This Consent Decree came out of protests against political police surveillance in the 1970s. It prohibits cops from routinely filming demonstrations as long as a crime is not in process. The cops illegally filmed the MYM, and the grand jury in the case looked at 26 videotapes of the end of the MYM when the police attacked the stage.

On November 23 a "people's tribunal" was held outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan. Organizers and supporters of the MYM indicted Giuliani on various charges, including felonious assault, illegal use of a police helicopter, entrapment, false arrest, contempt, endangering public safety, defamation, and violation of the Handschu Consent Decree. Giuliani was found "guilty as charged."

The system worked overtime to criminalize the MYM--just like they have been criminalizing this whole generation of Black and Latino youth. The police brutally attacked the march--just like they brutalize people on the streets every day. And now they are using their legal machinery to go after the MYM resisters--just like they use their whole system of courts and law enforcement to carry out injustice against the people.

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