OCTOBER 22, 1999:

All out!--to stop police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation

Revolutionary Worker #1024, October 3, 1999

October 22, 1999--the fourth annual national day of protest against police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation--couldn't come at a more urgent time.

As people prepare for 10/22, a new scandal has broken in Los Angeles: a cop confessed that he and his partner beat and shot an unarmed, handcuffed man and then framed him by planting a rifle near his paralyzed body. 12 other cops have been suspended, hundreds of cases of arrests and convictions are now in question, and the people are outraged. In New York, police put guns up to the heads of Ramon and David Baez--the father and brother of Anthony Baez who was murdered by cops nearly five years ago--and choked David: all for supposedly running a red light! And in Chicago, the city has still not recovered from two separate police murders in one night in June--where two people died for the crime of "driving while Black." Every day brings new brutality.

People definitely need to answer back to these outrages--and they are--both right away and by building for a powerful October 22. People all over the country are putting up posters, shipping copies of the new Stolen Lives book, holding meetings, talking with organizations and individuals, contacting press, raising money, flyering the neighborhoods and speaking at schools, fighting for permits--doing the intense work that goes into such a protest.

But even as this goes on, we need to ask and discuss some questions: where are we at in the movement against police terror and repression, and the criminalization of the youth? And what must the October 22 actions accomplish this year?

The movement for justice has taken a giant step in the last year. Last September, Amnesty International launched a year-long campaign to expose police murder, cruel prison conditions, the death penalty, and the use of torture devices like stun belts inside the U.S. On October 22, 1998 over 10,000 people protested, including 3,000 in NY and 1,600 in Los Angeles; many more wore black in solidarity. In the following few months people took to the streets to protest the police killings of Brennan King in Chicago, Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California and Amadou Diallo in New York. In New York, people demonstrated almost daily in February and March, and Rev. Al Sharpton organized 1,200 people to be arrested in protest. At the same time, a major scandal over "racial profiling" by state troopers in New Jersey jumped off. In April the Center for Constitutional Rights held a national demonstration in Washington, D.C. Organizations too numerous to be named persevered or jumped into the battle; thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of people took a stand.

Because of this, the issues of police murder and the rank racism of the criminal justice system have erupted all over the news. Even the October issue of Mademoiselle magazine featured "Good Women, Bad Cops," a story on police brutality against women. People are debating solutions ranging from community-based policing to people's militias, from civilian review boards and better training to armed revolution. Even Clinton, the would-be champion of the cops, felt compelled to speak to the issue of police brutality for the very first time in his whole term of office...and to promote his own program of "reform" to cool things out--but the struggle would not stop.

So the struggle has reached a new level. Yet many people in the movement feel sharply conflicted--because, despite the protests, despite the national controversy, despite the political promises...despite all this, the epidemic of police murder has kept going at a high pitch.

Just this August New York cops killed seven people. Cops in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and elsewhere were not far behind. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, forced to rein himself in during the spring, jumped out in the summer with a vicious personal attack against Margarita Rosario, who has become a determined fighter against police brutality since her son and nephew were murdered in cold blood by the police. (These attacks on activists from families of police murder victims are no more "isolated incidents" than any other form of police repression. In addition to the attacks on Margarita Rosario and David and Ramon Baez described above, the cops have also gone after family member- activists like Nicholas Heyward, Sr., Arnetta Grable, teamster Danny Garcia, Jr., WBAI producer Errol Maitland and others.)

This doesn't mean that our movement hasn't accomplished anything. It just means that we have a ways to go before we can force the powers-that-be to back up off their repressive program--before we can really win justice. The power structure and their enforcers have a lot wrapped up in this program and we are in for a hard battle. But to win that battle we have to really build on our advances--and it is a big advance that this movement has made itself felt and forced the issue into society's consciousness in a new way.

Now the movement faces a challenge. To begin with, it must grow still bigger and involve still more people. It must come back against the enemy counter-offensives--making clear that we refuse to be shut down, sold out, pacified, or in any way turned around. October 22 has to mark another step forward in bringing the truth about police brutality to millions and winning them to the side of true justice. There is great potential to do that. Many more people are open to this message. Many more could potentially be won to come out to events, to hold their own events, or to wear black on October 22. And many more beyond them could take the first step of opening their ears, their minds and their hearts to this message. Prominent people and well-known organizations have begun to step out, and can bring along others as well.

On the other hand, we all face the question of doing this in a way that keeps this movement true to the grassroots. The October 22 Coalition has aimed to help build a nationwide movement to STOP the brutal murdering police and the criminalization of an entire generation of young people--nothing less. But those in power not only have the "tough cops" like Giuliani, they have "slick talkers" like Bill Clinton--who tells us he "feels our pain" when confronted with this issue, but tries to mislead the movement into dead-ends and traps. The powers-that-be aim to pacify the middle classes--who are beginning to be concerned about the police-state atmosphere--in order to once again isolate and silence the people who have faced the hard edge of this program for years.

So the powerful, the powerless, and those in between will be watching on October 22 this year, more than ever before. Because of this, October 22 must witness a strong statement. More people, from all walks of life, must show both their concern and their anger on the 22nd. The national day of protest must both broaden AND intensify the struggle, making clear that people are not satisfied with honeyed words and petty crumbs.


While bringing in many new people and organizations, the protests this year should stay true to what October 22 has come to stand for over the past few years. The thousands who demonstrate in the large cities, the hundreds and even tens and twenties in the many smaller cities--and those thousands who wear black in solidarity--all combine in one single, powerful national statement. They call out what is happening as a NATIONAL EPIDEMIC.

This national protest draws strength from all the local battles against police brutality and gives strength back in return, putting them in a national context and drawing national attention to them. On October 22 all kinds of organizations with many different programs and demands come together around one unifying slogan; they bring their strength to the protest and also get a chance to put out their own ideas, programs, and demands.

October 22 stands for UNITY. People of all nationalities and colors join against the racist edge of police repression. Native-born people hear the voices of their immigrant brothers and sisters speaking out against the particular ways that the repression comes down on them, and show support for that struggle.

October 22 stands for the YOUTH--it is a day when young people infuse their spirit of militance and defiance into political life, and this spirit is respected.

The Day of Protest HONORS THE FALLEN--these actions recognize the humanity of those whose lives have been stolen by law enforcement and gives their courageous families and friends a platform for their stories.

At the same time, October 22 has become a day for people who do not routinely face police brutality to support those who do. And this is extremely important. The power structure relies on keeping the middle classes fearful and passive, as the system assaults the oppressed. The rulers want--and need--to keep the middle classes lined up against those on the bottom. This kind of lineup feeds despair and defeatism in the grassroots. Now, through struggle, that lineup has begun to change. This October 22 must take that change much further.


Several years back, the October 22 Coalition, the Anthony Baez Foundation and the National Lawyers Guild initiated the Stolen Lives Project. This project tried to document every case of police murder during the decade of the 1990s.

There is actually a law mandating the Department of Justice to do the very same thing. But they have never lifted a finger--they claimed they didn't have enough money! Meanwhile, this grassroots effort has so far compiled over 2,000 cases of police murder, in a powerful new edition of the Stolen Lives book. And the people have done something the government could never do--they have done this book with truth and with heart.

This book should awaken many people who may think that the murders of Amadou Diallo and Tyisha Miller were "isolated incidents," or who just may not understand the depth and extent of the epidemic. Even many of the activists who worked on the book say that they themselves were shocked by what they found. This book is undeniable proof of what is going on; at the same time, it shows the humanity of the people whose lives mean so little to the system that they do not even rate being a statistic!

In our opinion, the new Stolen Lives book should be a major part of the message of October 22, 1999. The more broadly it gets out leading up to the day of protest, the more powerful the protest will be. Anyone with the least bit of concern for social justice must have this book. It must get to a broad range of organizations: organizations based among peoples of color, human rights organizations, religious congregations of all denominations and nationalities, unions, immigrants' rights organizations, student organizations, lawyers' organizations, and then out to their members. It must find its way into major bookstores. Journalists and opinion-makers need it on their desks. The banners and artworks that have been inspired by the Stolen Lives Project must be seen on the evening news come October 22.


Last year the police tried to stop people in the housing projects of Chicago and L.A. from coming to the demonstrations. People were pulled over, harassed, put up against the wall and handcuffed, and in some cases arrested for old warrants just as they were boarding a bus to the demonstration. We think that the coalitions have to take responsibility to prevent that sort of thing this year, through alerting the press in advance, uniting legal observers and so on. They should prepare for other attacks as well--from the open denial of permits to the illegal videotaping of demonstrators, or to last-minute phony campaigns about "crime waves"--all of which have been used against October 22 in the past. We should make such attacks backfire and boomerang by taking them on--and, in doing so, we can unite even more people in struggle against the authorities.


Many different people and organizations, with different views and agendas, come together on October 22 around a common slogan and demand: 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 and pursues its own objectives within that framework of unity. Coalition members dialogue and often disagree with one another--and then roll together against the common enemy. This has been a feature of October 22 from the start, and we believe that this kind of open dialogue and diversity strengthens the unity.

So where are we coming from in all this? Our Party believes in justice. We join with all those who demand justice, NOW, for every single person who has been murdered by the enforcers.

We also believe that this system can never deliver full justice. True justice would surely require an immediate end to police terror. But a society divided at its heart into haves and have-nots must suppress those who have nothing but their hopes for a better life. In the U.S., with white supremacy deeply woven into the social fabric, that force inevitably has a nasty racist edge. The result is an epidemic of police murder and an insane program of mass imprisonment, directed mainly against youth of color.

Today those who run things openly brag that the U.S. is a capitalist society. This only means that the people with capital--the class of people which controls the machinery and resources to create wealth, and can thus compel others to work for them--run society. The capitalists control the political power, including the police. They use the police to keep those they exploit and otherwise oppress "in line." It follows that so long as we have capitalism, we will have police terror and brutality. The police are part of the machine that the capitalists use against those they exploit. If you want to see justice, that machine must be destroyed.

That means revolution--proletarian revolution. The proletariat is that class which owns nothing but its ability to work and is exploited by the capitalists. The proletariat is the working class, the "have-nots", the poor--made up of every nationality, though the poorest proletarians are disproportionately oppressed nationalities and immigrants. The proletariat must and will lead the people to bring in a different kind of society--one based on the common ownership of the means of creating wealth--and dedicated to rooting out all the dog-eat-dog madness of capitalism. It is the historic mission of the class-conscious proletariat to create a new political power, resting on the armed strength of the masses and dedicated to preventing the return of exploitation, racism, and all the rest. This new power will have no need of police brutality and will not tolerate it, and will justly punish those who've committed it in the past.

Put it this way: what kind of society do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a society where Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times because he did not understand English, or where Tyisha Miller was murdered sitting unconscious in her car--because just being Black is "probable cause"? Do you want to live in a society that has nothing to offer a huge section of the youth but life on the streets or in prison? Or do you want to be about getting to a society where the potential of those whose lives are stolen every day, in millions of ways, can be unleashed?

So for us revolutionary communists, October 22 assumes a dimension beyond the immediate resistance to police brutality, crucial as that is. As we join together with people today to fight against this epidemic, and to resist the criminalization of our youth, we are also preparing for revolution in the future, when the time is right.

As we give our efforts for October 22, we are preparing for the revolution too. The revolution needs the unity of the proletariat of all nationalities. The revolution needs the support of millions of people, including many in the middle class. The revolution needs the daring, initiative and creativity of the new generation. The revolution needs an atmosphere where people are thinking and acting politically about resisting the authorities. And it needs a strong revolutionary party, with influence and organization rooted in the proletariat and stretching to many different walks of life. All of these things can only be developed through uniting with the people in fierce struggle against the common enemy, including battles like October 22. So at the same time as we do our part towards making October 22 as strong as possible--uniting everyone who can be united around its central demand--we are also looking to the future and to making revolution.

In other words, from our revolutionary point of view, October 22 should definitely be a day when the people strengthen their fight against being crushed by the enforcers. We are down with that. At the same time, we are down with a revolutionary agenda.

For everyone: the resistance has begun to break through, but the system and their enforcers are in effect and coming at the people. We need to hit them again, harder. October 22 is just weeks away--let's everyone bring their ideas and activism and resources together to make this National Day of Protest broader, stronger and more compelling than ever. All out for October 22!

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