Police Brutality Did Not Die on 911

Salute to the 7th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, October 22, 2002

Revolutionary Worker #1171, October 20, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org

We revolutionaries in the RCP want to shout out to all the brave resisters on October 22nd, the seventh national day of protest to stop police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. October 22nd has become an important exclamation point to the ongoing struggle against police brutality. The events of 9/11/01 have posed a big challenge to this movement on how to go forward. As Carl Dix, national spokesperson for the RCP, said to the July national meeting of October 22nd Coalition, this October 22nd may be the most difficult, but it is particularly significant.

Most difficult--because it is taking place directly in the wake of the official marking of the anniversary of September 11, 2001. The U.S. government is declaring endless war on the world, and loudly proclaiming the need for extra special "homeland security" to take care of anyone who dissents. The national media is celebrating a patriotic orgy. The official word is that police are heroes, that no one can protest the activities of the police, that, in fact, law enforcement agencies should be given extra powers to take care of "your safety." Stepping out and mobilizing people to come to an October 22nd event in this atmosphere takes courage because it goes against the grain of what people are being told to do.

But as the great revolutionary Mao Tsetung once said, "If you want others to be strong, you must be strong yourself." At a time when people are being encouraged to live in fear, and told to welcome the massive attacks on civil liberties "for their own good," it is more crucial than ever that we step out to stop police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. This is no time to shut up and be quiet. As the stunning new poster put out by the October 22nd Coalition reveals, "Police Brutality Did Not Die on Sept. 11."

This new poster bears the names of over 140 people (known so far) who've been killed across the country by law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001--AND MOST OF THESE CASES HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY IGNORED AND COVERED UP BY THE MEDIA!

The reality is that law enforcement agencies have been unleashed and are on a major killing spree-- this is what the government's increased emphasis on "national security" has brought us! More deaths. From the poster the faces of our people killed by police stare back at us. Who will speak for them now? Powerful actions on October 22nd need to aim to break through this stifling atmosphere, the cover- ups and official lies.

The U.S. "war on terrorism" adds an international dimension to police brutality in the U.S.--because we've seen people disappeared right off the streets with the arrests, detentions and escalating repression on people of Muslim, South Asian and Arab descent. Immigrants entering and leaving the country are now subject to fingerprinting as the government steps up its ability to surveil. Racial profiling, a practice of selecting people for police action based on skin color, is officially back. From the New Jersey Turnpike shooting of four Black youth to the three Muslim medical students stalked by police on a Florida highway, racial profiling is alive and spreading. In post-9/11 America, a criminalized generation meets the criminalization of whole peoples.

We cannot tolerate this.

We will not tolerate this.

The people have real strengths to build on for this fight. For the past six years, people all over the country have come together on October 22. It is a day when we recognize and give appreciation to real heroes--the parents and families of those murdered by police who have stood up and insisted on justice for their loved ones, along with the youth from the ghettos and barrios who have defied rubber bullets at their demonstrations, along with justice-loving people of different nationalities and many walks of life--who must continue to speak out against the national epidemic of police brutality and murder.

Together, we have brought out the reality of the STOLEN LIVES--the thousands of people killed in cold blood by the police over the past decade. October 22 has exposed the daily brutality that comes down against the people on "the bottom" of society, with its racist edge directed against people of color and immigrants. October 22 has called out the way in which the system treats a whole generation of young people as if they were born criminals. On October 22 the people have condemned the practice and policies of racial profiling.

Our resistance has given heart to millions and has begun to open the eyes of millions more. And we had begun to put the powers-that-be on the defensive about the actions of their brutal enforcers. It took tenacious struggle to get to that point because the rulers of this country depend on the brutality of police to enforce an unjust system. The authorities have used the events of 9/11 to reclaim ground they'd lost and, out of the ashes of the World Trade Center, they have chosen, in pursuit of their interests, to resurrect police as heroes. But this is still the land of 41 shots and cops who brutalize are not heroes. We cannot allow them to use 9/11 to justify or ignore brutality by police. We already see what this means:

 In Downey, California, in February, Gonzalo Martinez, a son of immigrants from Argentina, was machine-gunned down by police. He was stuffed into a body bag while still alive. With medical attention, he might have lived. When taken to a hospital 20 minutes away instead of the closest one, Martinez was dead.

 In New York City, from August 26 to September 1, four people in Brooklyn were killed by police who justified each shooting with talk of stopping criminals and "deranged" people. The shootings took place in the days leading up to the Caribbean Day Parade, a heavily policed event that draws millions of Caribbeans, African Americans and others to Crown Heights, an area known for rebellion and unrest.

 In Endicino, CA, video footage captured police beating a young man already in handcuffs, recalling the brutal beating of Rodney King that was not supposed to happen again.

This, too, is a time when people are being told to sacrifice to defend "the American way of life." The stories in the Stolen Lives book, the faces on the new Stolen Lives poster of people killed by law enforcement, the horror of the extent of the repression and killings going on, raise questions: Just exactly what is this American way of life, and is it worth defending? Are racial profiling, police brutality and murder, attacks on immigrants, permanently built into the American way of life? Why is it so hard to get simple justice when cops so blatantly murder people?

As revolutionaries, we welcome people digging into the big questions of what will it take to be free, what kind of a system are we up against, who are our friends and who are our enemies, and what can we do? The struggle of the people to stop police brutality has accomplishments. We've learned about what it takes to unite a movement, forge alliances with different struggles and movements, expose the reality of police brutality before millions of people, win precious victories, and in a very beginning way, put a powerful enemy on the defensive. We can't and we won't stop now.

Yes, we face big challenges now--but we must remember that the fight to stop police brutality has never been easy. The experiences of a movement to stop police brutality strengthens us, and for families with lives shattered by recent police killings of loved ones, these strengths can give solid ground for them to stand on, find compassion, support and a means to fight back.

Taking on police brutality and calling out the mounting repression can help disrupt the rulers' abilities to spy 24-7 and suppress the righteous political activism of masses of people, and in so doing, create openings for others to step forward. Staying firm and going forward when the going gets tough will show people that this fight is for real.

How long will cops be allowed to brutalize and go free, while our youth go to jail? How long will the pigs in the hood and the American military "cops of the world" be allowed to defend the same rotten setup? How long will we have to keep on fighting?

The cold, hard, but liberating, truth is that this power structure can never solve the problems of the great majority of people.

There's a lot riding on how things go right now. Think of what it would mean, in today's situation, if the rulers get challenged over their right to brutalize the masses. The challenges to take all this on are big, but so are the opportunities to forge links of common cause among different sections of the people.

We revolutionary Maoists think it will take a great struggle--requiring us to turn our communities into strongholds of resistance and reach out throughout society--to really stop the power structure and their enforcers from degrading and brutalizing the people. Every day we confront the reality that this rotten system will never jump back without a fight. Some people are stepping into this fight for the first time, some have stepped away, and some are feeling the weight of the juggernaut and the hard knocks of the authorities' campaign to shove police brutality under the rug. It will take a lot of effort to wage this struggle, but it will mean so much to do it in ways that are not counted merely in numbers. Persevering in today's political climate takes heart and will give heart to those living under the gun of police brutality and to those who want it to stop. There are people and organizations with different outlooks and solutions who want to see police brutality stopped. October 22 has been the day to draw all that together. October 22 is the national day of protest to unite all who can be united to stop police brutality, and we are proud to be among them.

Sisters and brothers, on October 22nd, the RCP renews our commitment to stand with the people to wage this fight--not to sell out or turn back, no matter what the enemy uses to come at us, whether it be bullets or bribes. We are willing and prepared to take on the responsibility of helping to build the understanding, organization, unity and fighting capacity of the people and to carry this fight all the way through.

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