Stop Police Brutality

4th National Day of Protest Called for Oct. 22

We're Wearing Black That Day...Are You?

Revolutionary Worker #1019, August 22, 1999

On the weekend of July 17-18, organizers for the October 22 Coalition held a national meeting in Detroit. They came from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, New York and Greenville, South Carolina. And they were there to strategize for the 4th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation (NDP 4) on October 22.

The first NDP took place on Oct. 22, 1996. In over 40 cities across the country, thousands of people marched and rallied...wore black in memory of the victims whose lives were cut aloud the names of people killed and brutalized by the police...spoke out defiantly to demand justice. Public service announcements by Wyclef of the Fugees and others spread the message on TV. The day was a powerful statement that brought onto the stage a nationwide movement to STOP the rampant murders and abuses by the police and other law enforcement agencies.

Since then the work of the coalition--and the whole movement against police brutality--has advanced significantly. Last year's NDP was marked in over 60 cities and involved more than 10,000 people. The Stolen Lives Project (SLP)--a joint project of the Oct. 22 Coalition, National Lawyers Guild and the Anthony Baez Foundation--is recognized widely as the best documentation available to show how widespread the problem of police murder is.

In a report to the July 17-18 meeting Carl Dix, national spokesperson for RCP,USA and a member of the Oct. 22 Coalition's National Coordinating Committee, pointed out: "We must take note of how much things have changed on this front. When we began our coalition, there was hardly anybody working effectively to build opposition to police brutality on a nationwide level. In just the past year, we have seen an explosion of resistance all across the U.S. In New York; Riverside, California; Chicago and other cities, hundreds of people poured into the streets to protest outrageous cases of police murder. Hundreds of people got arrested to underscore the urgency of doing something. Also in the last year, several organizations have held national demos against police brutality, including the April 3 demo in Washington, D.C. that our coalition played an important part in. I think our coalition's work has helped contribute to this increase in the level of mass resistance to police brutality."

This heightened resistance has put the government and police authorities on the defensive to some degree. There are federal investigations of several local police departments, and Congressional hearings have been held in various cities. Cops have been suspended, jailed or indicted in a few high profile cases. The U.S. President and Attorney General have been forced to admit that there is a lot of outrage across the country about police brutality.

At the same time, the epidemic of police brutality and murder continues. Every day brings news of more outrages: yet another life snuffed out by police bullets, yet another killer cop walking free, yet another move by the authorities to hound and harass the youth.

Clearly, the Oct. 22 Coalition's vision of a broad and determined movement to STOP police brutality, repression and criminalization of a generation remains very timely and on the mark.

Carl Dix told the activists at the Detroit meeting: "When we started NDP, we were aiming to stop police brutality. We weren't aiming to just get some investigations or hearings or get a few brutalizing, murdering cops punished. And we sure weren't just aiming to get some politicians to say they were `concerned.' The cops ain't stopped beating and murdering people. And the authorities ain't stopped giving the green light to this kind of criminal activity--because the cops are still getting away with it. And since they ain't stopped, we can't stop either. We've got to keep it up, and even take things higher--because the problem we exist to deal with ain't gone away."

In this spirit, the activists at the meeting got down to the task of planning for an even more powerful NDP for this year.

"Let's Get Organized"

The meeting opened with a ceremony of remembrance and dedication for all those whose lives were stolen at the hands of the police and other law enforcement. Several family members then spoke about relatives who were killed by police and about their dedication to the fight for justice.

Brian Smith, whose brother was killed by the LAPD, talked about the daily pain that he and other families go through. He described meeting with various government officials in his search for justice. Through his own experience, he has come to the conclusion that the only way to stop police murder and brutality is by a "grassroots effort": "I'll be honest with you, from my own personal opinion, I don't put that much faith in the federal government. It's really going to depend on the stand strong and fight against this apparatus of racism and hate that's trickling down to the court system, that won't prosecute the individual cops that perpetrate these crimes against victims--victims like my brother, like Tyisha Miller, like Pedro Oregón."

Smith talked of his strong feelings about the struggle against police brutality: "There's a movement around this country that's moving real strong. This movement, it's going to continue to move. And, you know, I'm going to be with this movement, die or live. I'm willing to lay down my life for justice--that's how I feel right now."

Danny Garcia, whose brother Mark Garcia was murdered by the San Francisco police, stressed the importance of the kind of strategizing and planning that people were doing at the meeting: "How many here are committed to stop police murder? First things first. It ain't gonna stop unless we get organized. You understand what that means? No matter what you're gotta get organized. Cause if we don't, we're not going to go any further, it's going to run out of steam... First things first, brothers and sisters, let's get organized."

Families of those killed by police and unjustly imprisoned play a very active and crucial role in the Oct. 22 Coalition, and this was evident at the two-day meeting. As Carl Dix told a correspondent for the Pan-African News Wire, "These are the people who can tell you what the real deal is. I mean Iris Baez, the mother of Anthony Baez who was murdered by the police in New York. The parents of Amadou Diallo, and all the other family members of police murder victims... When they speak it carries a certain weight because they have lived through it, and they are suffering as a result of this right now."

Aiming for a Powerful NDP 4

According to the National Office of the Oct. 22 Coalition, the meeting in Detroit was marked by "wide ranging discussion that both grappled with how to build a more powerful NDP 4 and went into what direction our coalition should take in the future." Activists from different areas shared successful experiences in their organizing work. Task forces on particular topics--family members, youth, faith community, fundraising, legal, press--met and gave reports.

The Oct. 22 Coalition and the movement against police brutality has grown over the past year, and many new forces have begun to get involved--and they have brought different views and approaches to the fight against police brutality. According to the National Office, there was discussion of various proposals at the national meeting. And a consensus was reached: "We should continue our tradition of being a coalition that embraces groups and individuals who promote different solutions to this problem. As a coalition, we are united around exposing police brutality and building opposition to it."

The National Office also reported that a consensus was reached out of discussions about this year's Oct. 22: "There was overall unity on aiming for an NDP 4 that surpassed the power of the previous ones. It was also agreed that the SLP book should be a centerpiece of the work to do this, and the family members should be the key force to unleash in all the work to build NDP 4. It was also felt that we should emphasize the `criminalization' aspect of our slogan more and have a bigger role for youth at NDP itself. [And] involve religious institutions and leaders in NDP 4 along with other diverse groups and individuals, especially through taking SLP to them."

The first edition of the Stolen Lives book documented more than 500 names of people killed by police and other agents of law enforcement. As the July newsletter from the Oct. 22 National Office pointed out: "Stolen Lives provides important and compelling exposure of the nationwide epidemic of police brutality and murder. For people who've been killed, their families and loved ones, and communities under the gun, they speak through the pages and tell their stories, and get a platform to speak out even more broadly. Among people who don't deal with police brutality in their daily lives, this book shows that it is more than just a `few bad apples' or some `isolated incidents.' Many such people will be moved to join the struggle against police brutality and stand with those under the gun when they see the shocking scope of the epidemic."

The national meeting set plans for a focused week of activity to make a big splash with the upcoming release of the new edition of the Stolen Lives book. The new edition contains 2,000 cases of people murdered by law enforcement agents since 1990, many photos of victims, and descriptions of age, nationality and circumstances of death.

Another important decision at the July 17-18 meeting was to officially endorse the Mumia 911 Day of Art for Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Sept. 19-25 Week of Awareness for Mumia. In his report, Carl Dix talked about the unique contribution that the Oct. 22 Coalition can make in the fight to stop the execution of Mumia: "Because our members include so many victims of police brutality and survivors of police murder victims, we can speak with authority to the fact that cops create phony confessions and conspire with prosecutors and judges to suppress evidence and frame people up and send them to jail all the time, just like they did in Mumia's case. We need to bring this to light for everybody to see. And we need to build support for Mumia's case as a coalition that is building for a National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality. Approached in this way, the two efforts can help build each other."

The Call for NDP 4 was issued after the meeting. The Oct. 22 Coalition is gathering signatures for the Call. There are plans for nationally coordinated press conferences to release the Call with signatories.

"Turn Up the Heat"

George Morris's son Kevin was killed by the Chicago police--shot in the back of the leg and head. The cop who pulled the trigger has only received a one-year suspension from the force. At the July 17-18 meeting, Morris said, "We're not going to win this battle by ourselves, we've got to join with everybody.... We're going to do it with the Stolen Lives book. We're going to do it going out and speaking at different colleges and wherever we're allowed to speak at. We're going to have car caravans through different communities. We're going to stop at every vacant lot, every playground where there's a bunch of kids hanging out, and hand out literature and talk to them. That's how we're going to turn up the heat. There's many different ways. A diamond has many facets--and we are a diamond.... We must continue to struggle. We must turn up the heat--and we can do more."

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