O22 Holds National Strategy Session for 2001

Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation!

Revolutionary Worker #1093, March 4, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org

10 a.m. sharp. A woman steps forward and lights a candle in memory of those killed by the police:

"We wanna put light back into our hearts and souls, and keep it in memory of our loved ones and prevent it from happening to another family member."

The candle burned throughout the weekend. People from different cities shouted out the names of people killed by police, and others responded with "¡Presente!" People memorialized these victims and declared their opposition in a variety of artistic and other expressions, including poetry and musical performance. Libations were poured and prayers were spoken. Finally, everyone rose and, with their fists in the air, repeated the Stolen Lives pledge, to fight on in the memory of those taken from us.

This opened the sixth National Meeting of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. 150 people gathered at Faith United Methodist Church in south Los Angeles. People came from many different cities: Atlanta, Houston, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, the San Francisco Bay Area, and also from the Carolinas. The theme of the February 2-4 meeting was "Rising Despite Sharp Attacks."

"It's hard, when you're in the middle of a great historical moment, to understand that you're in the middle of a great historical moment," James Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild, a co-sponsor of the Stolen Lives Project, told the gathering. "You, me, us, we really are in the middle of a great historical moment. It really can go either way: that's what makes it a great historical moment. It's an opportunity, it's a challenge, that we dare not miss."

The whole weekend was marked by struggle and discussion on the way forward. The main plenary session on Saturday the 3rd was kicked off by Carl Dix, a member of the Executive Committee of the National Coordinating Committee and National Spokesperson for the RCP: "This year, sisters and brothers, through your work and the work of people like you all across the country, there were over 70 cities, over 12,000 participants on October 22nd itself. But even more than that, we have to look at what our work has contributed in terms of changing the terms of the fight around police brutality here in this country."

In every city, ordinary, everyday people who have lost loved ones to the cops have found the strength and support to fight for justice for their sons, daughters and relatives. Family members have rallied other family members and helped them stand up under the guns and clubs of brutal, murdering police.

The system has responded to this growing and broadening movement with brutal and cowardly attacks. A special group of presenters told the meeting of how the LAPD attacked the NDP march in Los Angeles with rubber bullets, clubs, horses and other weapons. At a legal, permitted march at the Parker Center police headquarters, the police assaulted and pushed protesters before they were stopped by a solid mass of people sitting down in the street. Four people were arrested.

Nicholas Heyward, Sr., whose young son was murdered by the police, was scheduled to emcee the October 22 rally in New York. That morning, he was arrested on a months-old warrant for walking his dog without a leash. New York police also raided a planning meeting a few days before the march and arrested everyone, putting guns to people's heads. Timothy X, a speaker on October 22 at the Greensboro, North Carolina rally was busted two weeks later when the cops illegally searched his car after a traffic accident.

The authorities employed another method of attack against Arnetta Grable of Detroit, Michigan. Following October 22, 2000, the state offered her $2.5 million to settle her lawsuit against the killer cop who murdered her son Lamar. When she refused to accept the offer--determined to take the case to court and expose the brutal killing of Lamar--the authorities tried to declare her insane.

"They wanted to declare me incompetent," Arnetta explained, "put a strange person that I had never seen in charge of my son's estate, remove me as head of the estate and with the pretense of looking out for the best interests of my son's daughter and my minor daughter. They were going to accept the money in the name of the children and just move me out of the way." Supporters packed the courtroom and the authorities' plan to have Arnetta Grable declared incompetent was defeated.

The epidemic of police brutality is continuing. More names are being added to the Stolen Lives book--which lists over 2,000 people killed by police authorities since 1980. Last year the cops who shot Amadou Diallo 41 times were acquitted. The only officers so far to go on trial for the LAPD Rampart scandal were found guilty by a jury, only to have their convictions thrown out by a judge a few weeks later. The fact that all this is still going on was underlined for one delegate to the National Meeting from the Midwest when he ran smack-dab into racial profiling--stopped by Federal Marshals changing planes in Chicago and told he "fit the description of a drug money courier."

October 22, 2000 was a day that was met with police repression. But it also was a day that saw heroic resistance to that repression. In L.A. hundreds stood firm in the face of the police, defending the people and defending the movement against police brutality. Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd of the October 22nd Coalition in L.A. told the meeting, "I want to commend all of the people, all of the warriors, all of the soldiers for freedom, for standing their ground, for refusing to be cowed, for sitting down in front of the horses, and sitting down in front of the riot police, and refusing to be broken."

Dozens of copies of the video showing the police attack in L.A. were given to activists to take back to their areas. The families of the Stolen Lives project wrote a letter protesting the LAPD's actions. "It's not an attack on L.A., it's an attack on all of us," a family member from the Bay Area said near the end of the weekend. "It's a message they try to send that 'If you try to protest about police brutality, this is what's going to happen to you.' Well, this is where it's up to us to get this information out, that this is the way your system is working."

The basic answer of the Coalition to the LAPD and other agencies that have attacked the movement against police brutality is even more determination to step up and expand the struggle. "The Coalition's response to these attacks is to take our movement even higher," one young woman said at the end of the weekend.

There were plans to translate the Stolen Lives book into Spanish and expand distribution in both languages. There was a special part of the plenary on the fight to stop the execution of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. The Youth and Student Network of the Oct. 22nd Coalition announced the formation of several new chapters across the U.S.

The whole weekend was marked by an atmosphere of respect and unity. People talked and struggled over some sharp questions--questions raised by police attacks on the movement as well as the growth and success of the fight against police brutality. There were speakers from different organizations and perspectives and a lot of people echoed the sentiment of the teacher from L.A. who said, "It is absolutely essential that we have a diversity of views and a diversity of ways of expression." At the end of the meeting, people were united and resolved to build for O22 2001 and continue the fight to stop police brutality.

"It's holding the ground we have taken," Efia Nwangaza, a member of the National Executive Committee, said of the outcome of the national meeting, "as well as reaching out to new forces by being as inclusive as possible. Holding the ground is a major position, not retreating on the issue, and not letting opportunists within the movement either undermine our confidence in the righteousness of our cause and our approach or to divide us."

One of the young voices, a woman who attended her first October 22 in the streets of L.A., said, "I can't wait for the day when O22 is not going to be a National Day of Protest any more, it's going to be a national holiday. The marches aren't going to be marches, they're going to be parades of victory."

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