10/22/99: We Demand Justice
National Day to Stop Police Brutality
Revolutionary Worker #1029, November 7, 1999
Los Angeles--a sea of black moved through the downtown streets together--to the rhythms of drums and whistles and chants. In the front, the family members of those murdered by police marched together, sharing their deep sense of sadness and defiance. Here, on this day, no one felt alone, no one felt forgotten. These streets were filled, alive, with the powerful grassroots demand to STOP this hated epidemic of police brutality that has stolen so many lives and unjustly targeted a whole generation.
That night on L.A.'s TV news, the major media HAD to deal with the sentiments and demands of the people. And the October 22nd march was there, on channel after channel--mixed in with the continuing coverage of the death squad actions of the notorious LAPD Rampart division.
October 22nd was a powerful step forward for the struggle of the people. 3,000 in Los Angeles, 1,700 in New York City, over 700 in Chicago, over 600 in the San Francisco Bay Area--and hundreds more in city after city. National organizer Carl Dix told the RW that more than 10,000 participated in rallies and marches on this 4th Annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Reports are still coming in. It is already clear that actions were held in over 60 cities. And that now, in its fourth year, this movement has grown and deepened in many ways.
Everywhere, the parents and families of police victims were in the front ranks. Their numbers have grown--as new people have learned about this movement and have stepped forward, to unite, to expose official police lies and demand justice.
Everywhere the youth were a powerful force--determined and spirited, calling out the police enforcers and walking tall together. There were contingents from high schools and colleges. There were rallies and activities on campuses from University of Texas in El Paso to Ball State in Indiana, from UC Berkeley to the University of Georgia in Athens. In Chicago, dozens walked out of a local public high school. There was a punk gig in Honolulu, with over 150 kids dressed in black.
The sisters and brothers of this new generation were fierce and loud in their desire for a different future and a different world.
The national office of the October 22nd coalition has started the work of summing up this intense day of protest. "Powerful and successful" they call it in their newsletter. And they remark on the many ways this movement has taken root and how many different forces now raise their voices together.
In addition to the major marches in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco--significant actions were held in Detroit, Portland ME, Richmond KY, Minneapolis, Berkeley, San Jose, Denver, New Haven, Miami, Athens GA, Atlanta, Honolulu, Baltimore, Springfield MA, Kansas City MO, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Binghamton NY, Plattsburg NY, Asheville NC, Greensboro NC, Cleveland, Columbus OH, Kent OH, Tulsa OK, Eugene OR, Portland OR, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Greenville SC, Rockhill SC, Dallas, Houston, El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Seattle, and Washington DC. As we go to press, new reports are still arriving daily from still more areas.
Many more national organizations joined in--adding their social weight to the fight against police murder. The American Civil Liberties Union handled the very successful press work in Los Angeles. Amnesty International focused on police brutality at their Midwest Regional Conference, and a major contingent from the conference joined the Chicago march. The NAACP and the National Council of Black Lawyers participated in important press conferences for the Stolen Lives book. And major national organizations were there and active in the many marches, including La Resistencia, Refuse and Resist!, National Lawyers Guild, Food Not Bombs, the Nation of Islam, the Revolutionary Communist Party and Anti-Racist Action.
This year the mobilizations in Los Angeles and Chicago included significant participation by clergy. In L.A., several churches mobilized their congregations to march, and there was a contingent of clergy, including from the First AME Church and the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Important actions were held in the U.S./Mexico border regions--exposing the murderous actions against immigrants. In the Rio Grande Valley, three community centers in the border colonias held noon vigils to remember those who have died at the hands of the immigration agents and police. Coordinadora 2000, a major national coalition for immigrants rights, endorsed the National Day of Protest. And in the Los Angeles march, immigrants rights groups formed a contingent together that included the organizations CARACEN and CHIRLA.
Important new breakthroughs were made in the mainstream media. It has become harder for the ruling class press to simply ignore the epidemic of police murder and the powerful movement against it. In city after city, intense police scandals and outrageous police murders have forced this issue into headlines over this past year.
In the days leading up to October 22nd, public service announcements for the national day of protest appeared eight times on Black Entertainment Television (BET). And on the day of protest itself, the October 22nd marches pushed their way into the local print and TV news. The L.A. march received national coverage and it was impossible to miss in the L.A. media.
Articles on the new Stolen Lives book appeared in Essence magazine, Jimmy Breslin's column in New York's Newsday, Jill Nelson's column in USA Today (on 10/22 itself!), the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington, DC Afro-American, the Daily Challenge in New York, the San Francisco Examiner, Rap Pages, and more.
In several places, the police moved in, hoping to contain or even stop these actions. The October 22nd Coalition newsletter writes, "All of the areas, large or small, new or old, were characterized by a very serious determination to express their outrage, and not get diverted from their purpose...people were firmly united and stayed strong, even when confronted with intimidation." In Minneapolis, October 22nd protesters were pepper-sprayed, and three were arrested. In Portland, Maine, police tried to block a torchlight parade of 30 youth on the county jail--and when the marchers refused to stop seven were arrested. One sister shouted, "Stop police brutality!" as she was handcuffed and loaded into the police wagon.
This year, October 22nd was even more closely tied up with the struggle to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal--who was railroaded to death row after years of exposing police brutality in Philadelphia. Mumia's face and name appeared on banners in city after city. In Portland Oregon, police had broken the arm of an activist during the October 15 Mumia march, and their brutality became an important focus of the 200 people who marched on October 22.
The October 22nd Coalition took this moment to remember their national Mission Statement which says: "The National Day of Protest aims to bring forward a powerful, visible national protest against police brutality and the criminalization of a generation. It aims to expose the state's repressive program. It aims to bring forward those most directly under the gun of police brutality AND to also reach into all parts of society bringing forward others to stand in this fight against official brutality. And the National Day of Protest aims to strengthen the people's organized capacity for resistance in a variety of ways."
Clearly October 22, 1999 went a long ways toward bringing that into being. People are uniting, speaking out--fighting for justice and for an end to this police terror. The silence is breaking. The routine lies and coverups are shredding. The lying police murderers, their "blue wall of silence" and their approving superiors are being exposed in city after city.
October 22, 1999 was a powerful step forward, for the people, for their movement of resistance, and for our dreams of a new future worthy of human beings. It was one important, proud step in the long road of struggle that lies ahead.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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