The Days of Philly Freedom Summer
Part 2: Up Against the Convention
Revolutionary Worker #1070, September 17, 2000
This is the second part of a "diary" the RW received from a youth who participated in Philly Freedom Summer 2000 (see RW #1069 for the first part):
As we gather in front of the American Friends Service Center this a.m., getting ready for the Unity 2000 march, I cross the street with others to get breakfast. Walking through the deli, decked out in T-shirts, stickers and buttons, and arms filled with flyers, I overhear a young Black man in hospital scrubs telling his friends who Mumia is. I go over to join the conversation. The first thing the man asks me is if I have ever been out to SCI Greene, where Mumia sits on death row. He doesnît get there as often as he would likeõitîs a long trek and heîs so busy, but thatîs where his father lives. With Mumia. On death row. Mumia is both the exception and the rule. He is the exception because since he was 15 on up through today, he has never stopped fighting for revolution and inspiring others to do the same; this is actually why they went after him. He is the rule in the way he was railroaded, with evidence fabricated, testimony suppressed, brutalized, and denied adequate legal councilõall this is routine. This is the routine that landed this manîs father on death row with a warrant recently signed. The photographs of the man he allegedly killed were stolen from a different caseõbut the lawyer was so uninterested in the case that he didnît bother to challenge them. If there is any question that we need to really expose these killers converging on Philly and the racism and injustice of the death penaltyõit is answered by this conversation alone.
Unity 2000 brings together anyone under the sun who opposes the Republican Party. In this mix, our mission is to really highlight Mumiaîs case and build for the days to come. As we approach the march the 70 PFS volunteersõincluding 20 or so RCYBers who dress in uniform and march in formationõstop, chant, get riled up, and jump and shout for Mumia. Then, all at once, we take off and run at top speed, charging into the marchõchanting "Mumia is fearless, so are we. We wonît stop until heîs free!" We snake through the march, energizing folks as we go, attracting every news camera that has come out for the day. Throughout the rest of the day we are followed by film crews as we dance, drum, charge, and connect with thousands of others with our message of fighting for Mumia and exposing the executioners.
At one point someone on stage sings the Star Spangled Banner. Thatîs the same shit they are pulling inside the convention center. Fuck that and all the oppression and blood it stands for. The RCYB pulls out a flag, tears it with their teeth, spits on it and ignites it. Immediately everyone around joins in cheering and chanting "Burn, baby, burn!" Bring it onõthatîs how we all feel. Weîll torch the flag, weîll spit on the war they are waging against our people here and all over the world. And we wonît let the world watch a fucking festival of killers that goes unchallenged. We will show that there are resisters and revolutionaries. There are youth who will not settle down. The rest of the day we are totally unstoppable.
At one point an ancient Christian fascist dares to drive his self-styled fetus-mobile into the middle of our protests. His truck is decked out in grotesque pictures of mangled "aborted fetuses" with a huge caption reading, "the American Holocaust." The Youth Network runs after him and gathers a hundred or more others as we surround his vehicle. Within seconds, his entire truck is covered with bright orange stickers, "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology." A brave young woman climbs on top of his truck with a matching orange banner. Just then, the man jumps behind the wheel and starts and stops abruptly, dangerously lurching and trying to throw the young woman off the roof. Before he can get far, some youth, showing far less cowardice than the driver, jump in front of the truck. One of them is hit and lays on the ground. Another stays in front, Tiananmen-style. Eventually, the police come over and escort the truck away from the "wild kids" and the woman on top disappears safely into the crowd. About five minutes later the Youth Network tells the whole story live on national FOX News.
R&R! has a slogan: "Itîs All One Attack!" If there was any doubt whether or not the politics of cruelty is all one attack, the Republican Party makes it plain for all to see. We spend the rest of the day showing the connections in the different aspects of their whole agenda and highlighting Mumiaîs case as a concentration of all that is wrong today. At the end of the day, many struggles and confrontations later, we break through the anti-choice "Chain of Life." This is a bunch of Brady-Bunch Christian fascists standing in a row holding signs that read, "Abortion kills Children." We lead others in chanting, "Pro-life? Who you kidding! You kill doctors and you terrorize women!" and "Pray by day, bomb by night, thatîs the tactics of the Éright to life.î " The anti-choicers surround a major fountain in Center City with their signs, which are also eventually covered in the bright orange stickers. We take over the fountain and drive them out. This was the most exhilarating part of the day, a perfect culmination of what all had happened. I step back for a minute and see hundreds of youth splashing and laughingõstill erupting enthusiastically into chants against the patriarchy, against the death machine, against the plastic corner of the planet the powers that be would force us into. All kinds of kidsõuncontrollable and irrepressible. And at the top of the fountain, a member of the RCYB holding high the red flag. All power to the kids who wonît be stopped!
JULY 31^HELL YEAH!
Front page of the convention coverage in the Philly Inquirer: Red flag held high, tons of kids laughing and splashing! Yahoo and AP press online show the RCYB shredding and torching the flag. E-mails from Germany today tell us they saw Mumia everywhere on the news all the way over there. Refuse & Resist! is mentioned, the T-shirt and resist fist and Mumia are signs featured in picture after picture. Staring at the floor covered with clip-outs and photos from the papers, I wonder what this will mean for Mumiaõand for the others. I am sure that the man whose father is on death row wonît miss these stories, and inside my head I am cheering all day. As we walk through G-town in the afternoon, folks across the street tell us that they saw us on TV and say "Right on!"
Today the Kensington Welfare Rights Union marches. Their tent-city was raided before they even set it all up, and today they are threatened with the same force. But, by the thousands, they march anywayõunpermitted and defiantõall the way to the convention center. I know itîs illogicalõand when I close my eyes all I can see is riot cops, cops on horses, in copters, on roof-tops, stationed outside our houses in their squad carsõI know that we are not in control, but I sure as hell feel like we are. They keep trying with everything they got to intimidate us, hold us back, but weõand I mean all of us, the welfare rights folks, PFS, Philly Direct Action Group, the people in these neighborhoodsõare just not going for their shit. Today they try to swoop in and pull someone out from a crowd of youth to arrest him, but the cops themselves are surrounded by 40 or so angry youth shouting, "Let him go!" until they do.
PFS spends most of the day preparing for tomorrowõthe big day of direct action against the criminal injustice system and protests against the death penalty in general and Mumiaîs execution in particular. A hundred or more affinity groups (different organizations or autonomous groupings) are planning direct action all over Center City, and we will be out there with them. The police have made it clear that even stepping into Center City puts you at risk of arrestõpolice-state measures for the biggest fans of police-state tacticsõthe Republicans. We prepare people to take well-considered risks and give them a chance to really get to know the people they will be running with all day.
"What better time than now!"
AUGUST 1^"ALL HELL CANîT^STOP US NOW!"
Fuck it! Today we render billy clubs as useless as magic wandsõtheir "power" of intimidation and brutality as good to us as the pavement under our feetõjust one more thing to walk on. Today itîs even exciting to listen to the traffic reportsõinstead of accidents, "pop-up protests" shut down streets and freeway ramps and totally mess up business as usual! The police, FBI, Secret Service, even National Guard have spent months spying, training and preparing for these protestsõbut they canît keep up with us in the streets. They block us in from one end and we take off, hundreds of us together, running down an unexpected street. Climbing over fences, cutting through parking lots, weaving through oncoming traffic! Everywhere behind us pigs stomp out the smoldering red, white and blue ribbons and flags that had "decorated" the city for days. You can see them inspecting cop cars with broken windows and slashed tires, reading the "FREE MUMIA OR GO TO WAR" and anarchist signs tagged on the squad cars and all over the streets. Tonight some of them will scrub blood-colored paint off the Rizzo statue downtown.
Today the other side gets a taste of what they will have to contend with if they push forward with Mumiaîs execution. The day starts with a press conference in the morning with Jonathon Kozol, Jesse Jackson, Robert Meeropol (son of the Rosen^bergs), Julia Wright and other prominent people. Later there is a procession of people of faith and a religious service against the death penalty and for Mumia. At four there is a permitted rally bringing out broad sections of people. And, of course, there are those who run wild in the streets. The authorities have lost control of their city and canît isolate those who are wild in the streets, because they are connected to something much bigger that is going on. Refuse & Resist! is a part of all of these thingsõspeaking at the press conference and legal rallies, running in the streets with the Black Block and RCYB, and taking it back to the hood by night, bringing the spirit of protest and victory. This is what makes R&R! so specialõbringing together people from all walks of life, to stand up in all kinds of ways, for all kinds of reasons.
All we want is an end to the killing, to the brutality, to the lies. We are chased with clubs and horses and copters and bicycle cops just because we donît sit down and let the killers celebrate in peace. Well, fuck them and all their millions they spent on equipment and preparations to keep us "in line." As the Panthers said, "The power of the people is greater than the manîs technology." And thatîs why we win today.
Aftermath. We thought the days after the protests would be mellowõbut our tired bodies are still running on three or four hours of sleep a nightÖif weîre lucky. Over 300 brothers and sisters are being held in Holmesburg Prison, which was closed down years ago for its deplorable conditions. They have been beaten and denied medical and legal attention. Hundreds of prisoners refuse to give their names in protest and solidarity with each other, including some who have bail as high as $1,000,000. A member of the RCYB and a volunteer here at PFS, Seven, was beaten and hospitalized on August 1. Back among us now with a broken wrist, her headache is finally beginning to retreat. Every day there are protests outside the jail, where we wait to greet the prisoners as they are released, stand in solidarity with those still being held, and continue calling out the Executioners.
The police are all over usõfollowing us through the streets, parking in front of our houses, driving through our alleys at 4 a.m. We have been visited by "utility companies" who we never called. The same thing happened to the Ministry of Puppetganda before they were raided by police and arrested en masse. As a crew of our people walks down a major shopping strip in Germantownõwhere many shops hang the Mumia Face of Justice poster in their windows and people know usõa police van rolls up and announces on their bullhorn, "Get out of here or be locked upÖ Weîre serious, if you stay on Chelten youîll be thrown in jail." Meanwhile, in Center City, a crew of our people is surrounded by police who take their pictures, copy down their IDîs, and hold them on the street for 15 minutes before letting them go.
In the real world, everywhere in G-town people approach us. A car pulls up and shouts, "Are yîall the rebels?! Fuck yeah!" A group of 10 youth hanging out on a corner greet us, "Are you the ones the cops been talking bout? Donît worry, we got your back," referring to the way the police have been threatening the neighborhood to "get those protesters out of here." We have really sparked the imaginations of the people. They are feeling more emboldened and losing tolerance for the police dictating to them, especially with the beating of Thomas Jones and the murder of Robert Brown so fresh in their minds.
Tonight we have a discussion in G-town, the "hottest" spot that the cops might run up on during the night. We want all the volunteers to voice any concerns or fears that they have, and to have the option of staying somewhere else if they desire. We report on the mountains of positive feedback we have gotten from the neighborhood. Then we do the same about incidents of intimidation and harassment from the police. At the end, one kid speaks about his fears. "They could do anything they want. They could drop a bomb on us right now if they want." This happened, here in Philly, not very long ago. So we get into it. We return to the support that the people have shown us in the neighborhood. We canît have illusionsõwe know the enemy is deadly towards Mumia, and they are going to be just as serious towards us. But also, they only are paying so much attention to us because our work is being effective. As Mao Tsetung said, "To be attacked by the enemy is a good thing."
Mostly, we talk about the strength of the peopleõwhatever happens from here, we are with them and they are with us. They have told us up and down every block of this community for the last two days that they have our backs and want to stand with us. This is why it is the police who are scared. This is why the police are coming at us with their paper-tiger threats and intimidation. This is also why we, by digging in deeper in the neighborhood and also reaching out even more broadly in society, all together, are the ones who cannot be defeated. At the end of the discussion people are asked if any of us wants to stay somewhere safer. Having come to connect with those who donît have the option of going somewhere safe when the cops roll up in their neighborhoods, every single volunteer decides to stay.
"I was in Times Square surrounded by all these arrogant cops who were joking and laughing as Shaka was executed. I remember thinking to myself, ÉI donît ever want to see one of these motherfuckers comfortable again!î Well, on August 1, you could see these cops all nervous and tense, yelling at each other îcuz they couldnît control us! You could see these cops riding their bikes as fast as they could to try to catch up with usõand then just wipe out because they were going too fast. They lost control of their bikes like they lost control of us. Finallyõthey werenît so fucking comfortable!" This is told during our summation meeting tonight. We clap and cheer as people recount the highlightsõthe fountain take-over, the wild actions on August 1, the confrontation at the fetus-mobile.
At the first dayîs orientation we were asked, "Whose future will you fight for?" We answered that question in these two weeks by crashing the Executionersî Ball and bringing into being a glimpse of what the future could look like. Going out to the people, breaking down barriers in society. Getting a sense that those with the guns, the badges and the power are not invincible and not forever. Being unintimidated and unapologetic about wanting to fight. Discovering the broad sections of people, from those on the bottom and youth, to scholars and prominents, who can be brought together in fighting unity. Seeing men really listen to women and struggle together with them to transform the relations in society. Peeking at a reality that is so beautiful and tangible that we donît feel compelled to kill our senses with alcohol and other drugs.
We are not the same people who came here two weeks ago. Something happens when you are invited into a womanîs home and told firsthand how the cops raided at 4 a.m. to arrest her 11-year-old son for an elementary school fight. Something happens when you are a part of a community of youth who are living for something bigger than themselves. Something happens when you go out and fight with everything you got, then come home to people who are inspired to join with you. Three cars in a row gave us raised fist salutes on our walk home tonight. Nothing and no one can to stop what has begun here in Philly.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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