October 22, 1999
4th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality,
Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation
Revolutionary Worker #1028, October 31, 1999
As we go to press, the RW is getting initial reports from around the country on the 4th National Day of Protest against Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation. Thousands participated--wearing black, taking to the streets. In city after city, the families of police victims were a powerful presence. Their solidarity, determination, and unstoppable demand for justice marked the day and inspired others. With them in great numbers were youth from the neighborhoods, high schools and colleges--determined to speak out against the way they are targeted and abused by police. They were fierce in their desire for a different future and a different world.
Political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal was there in the streets with us on October 22. His face greeted people from posters and banners and his name echoed in chants. The fight to stop the execution of Mumia has become a powerful part of this growing movement against police brutality.
In city after city, the police have been exposed and targeted with repeated protests through much of the last year. And it has become harder for the authorities to simply cover over the constant murder and abuse by the police. In New Jersey, the scandal over racial profiling by police on the highways continued to boil in the news. New scandal rocks the LAPD--as the death-squad-like activities of the CRASH gang unit came to light. In Chicago, two traffic-stop murders of Black youth in the same day left City Hall besieged for weeks. In New York, the barrage of police bullets that killed Amadou Diallo and the volleys that killed a distraught Hasidic man drove home the utter heartlessness of the killers-in-blue.
The struggle and outrage of the people have forced such police crimes into the headlines. The publication of the powerful new edition of the Stolen Lives book last month has placed a powerful new weapon in the hands of people--and triggered reporting in different media across the U.S. In the week before 10/22, for example, editorial columns by Jill Nelson in USA Today and Jimmy Breslin in Newsday reported on the 2,000 police murders documented in this Stolen Lives book.
Awareness, outrage, activism and determination have risen sharply around police brutality. And this was felt, concentrated, and accelerated on this fourth, united, countrywide day of protest--October 22, 1999. Actions for October 22 were planned in over 50 cities. Next week the RW will carry more complete coverage. For now, here are some initial highlights.
In Los Angeles the march could be heard before it was seen--"Fight Back! Wear Black! Fight Police Brutality," ĦAlto a la brutalidad de la migra y la policía! Over 3,000 people marched through the streets of downtown L.A.--men and women of different nationalities, mainly young but with a healthy number of older folks. Thirty Aztec dancers led the march, followed by a Stolen Lives float, a large flatbed truck decorated with large poster board photos of people killed by the police. Family members made up the first big contingent in the march and gave it an especially moving and powerful character. Many other contingents followed. Supporters of the Catholic Worker pushed black shopping carts carrying pictures of Margaret Mitchell, a homeless woman shot by LAPD. Groups of immigrants carried black umbrellas painted with the slogan "Stop police brutality" in English and Spanish. The Watts Committee Against Police Brutality was led by the Watts Drum Corps, made up of shorties from the projects. They had practiced for the march for weeks and were joined by members of the band Ozomatli.
At the rally in front of LAPD headquarters, relatives of those killed by the police spoke out and really brought home to everyone why they were out there. At one point, people turned from the stage and faced the cop headquarters directly, threw their fists in the air and chanted "Murderers, murderers, no more!" and "ĦAsesinos, asesinos, no mas!"
As the march passed out of New York City's Union Square, a powerful contingent of families of police victims formed the first ranks, accompanied by an honor guard of youth. Behind them came more youth--from colleges and high schools all over the city and the surrounding areas. And behind that the special Mumia contingent. The march took the street down Broadway--with power and spirit. From the youth came chants that defied and mocked the police: "KKK, PBA, Same Shit, Different Day!" For blocks they shouted, "Hey hey, pigs! How many kids did you kill today?" By the time the crowd arrived at City Hall--lair of New York's notorious Mayor "Adolf" Giuliani--they were 1,700 strong.
Over 600 people marched and rallied in the San Francisco Bay Area--starting in the Mission District and marching to the Civic Center downtown. Families of at least 15 different people who have been murdered by law enforcement were present--and many spoke. Dan García, brother of Mark García who was murdered by police, told the crowd, "Today is not just a day against police brutality. Today is a day to STOP police brutality!...I want each and every one of you--be loud, clear, and get the message out. And everybody that's looking out their windows, or out their doorway, bring 'em in. Tell them to join us."
In Chicago, 700 people filled Federal Plaza. People carried a gray coffin with a bouquet of red roses affixed to the cover, for all those lives that have been stolen by law enforcement. The crowd was a mix of people from different nationalities and walks of life and from diverse communities. There were college and high school students--including contingents of 40 to 50 a piece from three different high schools. Residents of the Cabrini Green and Robert Taylor Homes projects were in the house--people struggling against police brutality as well as the threatened demolition of their homes. Members of Amnesty International joined in the march, officially listed as the opening activity of AI's three-day Midwest regional conference which included an opening plenary on police brutality.
The city denied a permit to march in the streets and there was a large presence of police--on foot, on horses, on bikes and in squad cars. But this couldn't crush people's spirits. The RW reporter in Chicago wrote: "For the victims of brutality, it was a day to open their mouths and speak their minds--to share not only their pain, but the strength of coming together. It showed in the attitude of the young man on the mic, warning the police to not mess with the protest. It showed in the group of young sisters, their fists flying in the air and eyes shining with joy. It showed in the defiant words of a white youth who ran over to join the march as soon as he heard chants against the police. It showed in the eyes of the middle-aged man who gently rocked back and forth during the rally, cradling a picture of his nephew who had been gunned down by police."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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