Resistance proves irrepressible—‘Free CeCe!’

Help deliver peoples’ verdict, part 2

Leslie Feinberg arrested in solidarity with CeCe McDonald, Minneapolis, June 4, 2012. Photo: Billy Navarro, Jr.

Leslie Feinberg arrested in solidarity with CeCe McDonald, Minneapolis, June 4, 2012.
Photo: Billy Navarro, Jr.

CeCe McDonald survived a racist, transphobic attack by a group of neofascists, who attacked her and her friends on the streets of South Minneapolis on June 5, 2011.

The attack on her life is still continuing. She has been punished by racist, transphobic repressive authorities ever since.

But CeCe McDonald is still resisting. She organized against white supremacist, transphobic violence, and the school-to-prison pipeline that channels oppressed youths into detention, often privately run for profits and tax dollars.

And CeCe McDonald is still organizing — speaking out courageously against racist, anti-woman, transphobic violence, from a prison cell in St. Cloud, Minn. ([email protected])

McDonald’s struggle inspires protest, resistance

CeCe McDonald’s brave struggle has inspired a broad united front. People from many nationalities, countries, religions, sexes, gender expressions, sexualities, political beliefs — across the U.S. and around the world — agree on this demand: “Free CeCe!”

That demand by tens of thousands is evidence that the prosecutor — Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman — failed to win over the peoples’ jury worldwide.

The monopolized media of the 1% largely buried the arrest, trial and sentencing of CeCe McDonald in silence. But local activists in Minneapolis and the area brought news of CeCe McDonald’s struggle to people all over the U.S. and around the world via skillful and tireless activism and social media work.

As information about the neofascist and state hate crimes against CeCe McDonald traveled via peoples’ networks of communication, virtually every demonstration of LGBTQ+ prides and protests in the U.S. — from June to November — had one sign or banner, or more, demanding “Free CeCe!” Supporters grouped to make solidarity photographs, in which they held signs calling for her freedom.

Activists carried signs and banners for CeCe McDonald in other countries, including marches of pride protests in Bangalore, India, and Glasgow, Scotland.

A united front brings together many struggles. The peoples’ verdict —  “Free CeCe!” — is often seen accompanied by related demands: “Self defense is not a crime! Stop the war against transwomen of color! Fight white supremacy and transphobia! Stop the violence against LGBTQ+ youths! Abolish the racist prison-industrial complex! Destroy prison society! Free B. Manning! Free Palestine!”

The writing is on the walls: ‘Free CeCe!’

The late labor leader John Black — who had fought fascism in Germany — once described what happened on a night when the Nazis briefly turned off city lights in Berlin as an air raid drill.

When they turned the lights back on, the walls of Berlin were covered with painted demands of resistance and revolution.

Today, the demand to “Free CeCe!” shows that resistance is irrepressible.

This peoples’ verdict can be seen in the streets and on walls in cities whose domestic populations suffered and struggled under fascism during the inter-imperialist World War II — Italy, France and Germany.

“Free CeCe” has appeared in stencil resistance art on the sidewalks, streets and walls in Berlin and Paris. Activists in those cities also carried banners and signs, and wore T-shirts demanding “Free CeCe” in marches of pride and protest during fall 2012.

Activists from the Italian LGBT+ group Circulo Pink took over a street in Verona, Italy, Trans* Day of Remembrance, Nov. 20, 2012, to hold an educational sit-in demanding freedom for CeCe McDonald. Activists called on the Italian public to deliver “Free CeCe” messages to Prosecutor Michael Freeman.

Trans activists in six cities in Italy — Bologna, Verona, Torino, Napoli, Viareggio and Milano — issued the joint demand to “Free CeCe!” on World Trans* Day of Remembrance.

In the U.S., activists have also braved arrest to deliver the peoples’ verdict in public venues.

The demand to “Free CeCe!” has increasingly appeared on liberated corporate billboards and subway ads, banners dropped from buildings and highway overpasses, aerosol tags and stencil art, and postering on walls, sidewalks and street signs in cities and rural areas in the U.S. and Canada.

In New York City, the words “Free CeCe!/Free Palestine!” are etched in a concrete midtown sidewalk.

Tagging the jail

I am one of many of McDonald’s supporters who has painted the demand “Free CeCe!” on a wall.

I wrote the peoples’ verdict on the walls of the jail/courthouse where CeCe McDonald was tried and held in custody, at the end of a “noise demonstration” which was sending that message with cacophonous force. I took action publicly, in front of hundreds of activists, many with cell phone and digital cameras and video cameras, and sheriff deputies, who stood yards away.

I spray painted “CECE” first, because I didn’t expect to be able to add the word “FREE” before being arrested.  But I was able to finish. I turned and faced the sheriff deputies. They did not move.  I sat down to rest.

Then I got up and added the word “NOW!” in a second color. I had time to write “FREE CECE NOW!” on an adjacent wall and two pillars. I also wrote “TRAYVON” in tribute. Sheriff deputies, inside and outside the building, just watched without taking action, before finally arresting me when I ran out of canvas.

The only apparent explanation is that they were waiting for the crowd to disperse. But activists did not leave. The “noise” demonstrators grew even more thunderous as I tagged the jail, chanting “Free CeCe!”

Armed deputies feared the crowd

When a group of three deputy sheriffs did move in to arrest me, they used militarized “extraction” tactics. All three held me in numerous disabling, stress positions as they waited for their counterparts inside to unlock the glass doors.

But the crowd surged forward and surrounded them — roaring “Let them go!”

In that moment, the unarmed demonstrators and the armed repressive forces with badges, became aware of the temporary shift in the relationship of forces — of the potential power of the people, united.

I felt the grip of my captors loosen a bit — I could feel their fear.

The sheriffs behind the glass doors were hesitant to unlock them. They had to push against the force of the demonstrators in order to open the doors enough to squeeze me through.

Activists wrestled with the doors to keep them open and get inside. As deputy sheriffs finally locked the doors, activists banged on the glass walls, demanding “Let them go!”

More than one activist later reported that the thought of “unarresting” me had occurred to demonstrators.

That mood of struggle is visible in the camera and cell phone photos, and video footage from outside the jail that night, during which many activists loudly delivered the peoples’ verdict: “Free CeCe!”

Law of the 1% denies right to fight back

The law of the 1% routinely denies the right of oppressed peoples to self-defense against racist and anti-LGBTQ+ assault.

For example, the New Jersey 7 were arrested in New York City in 2006.

“The New Jersey 7, young Black lesbians who defended themselves against a vicious anti-lesbian attack, were arrested and four of them sentenced to from three-and-a-half to 11 years in prison,” Imani Henry wrote, in an article supporting CeCe McDonald. (workers.org, April 11)

Performing artist Flotilla DeBarge was arrested in New York City in 2006, after a physical and verbal attack by two people in a nightclub. DeBarge has appeared in movies, on Broadway and off Broadway. (worldofwonder.net)

DeBarge reported that the man also hurled an anti-Black epithet. (timeout.com )

Witnesses agreed that DeBarge did not start the fight; but she finished it. “I took off my shoe to defend myself,” Flotilla DeBarge stated.

DeBarge was charged with four counts of assault in the second degree, a felony.

Among its provisions, second-degree assault requires that the person intends to injure “by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument” — her high heel. (timeout.com, Jan 24 2008)

The man and the woman who attacked DeBarge were not charged.

Oppressions spark resistance

The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in August 1966 in San Francisco, and the four-night Stonewall Rebellion in June 1969 in New York City, were united actions of “illegal” resistance — by those struggling against “legal” police repression; against the institutionalized oppressions of nationalities, sexualities, sexes and gender expressions; and against wars for profit at home and abroad.

The most oppressed and impoverished LGBTQ+ youths — trans*, youth of color, homeless, pre-teens and teenagers — led those “illegal” uprisings against police repression that helped bring mass LGBTQ+ protests and pride out into the streets in struggle.

Today, I am inspired:

  • by youths across the U.S. — from South Minneapolis to Anoka, Minn., from Oakland to Philadelphia — who are leading struggles against neofascist bullying and racist police terror;
  • by Black leaders in Selma who recently lay down in front of cement trucks to block the building of a memorial to the founder of the Ku Klux Klan;
  • by undocumented workers who declare themselves “sin papeles, sin miedo/without papers and without fear”;
  • by those who are answering a racist campaign in subways and buses by covering up those billboards with pro-Palestinian and pro-Muslim  statements — from San Francisco to New York City;
  • by the mass arrest of the entire Disability Caucus of Occupy Wall Street, united in their demands for accessibility and social justice, outside the billionaire mayor’s Manhattan mansion;
  • by grand jury resisters, and those demanding “FBI: Hands off the progressive movement!” — from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest.
  • by those who are braving arrests to protest prisons and wars for profit; by anti-drone activists in Syracuse, N.Y., and Pfc. B. Manning — locked up in a Pentagon prison for allegedly leaking evidence of war crimes by the military brass.

Jail the bankers — free CeCe!

I extend my solidarity to the Occupy MN activists who are facing charges — including “riot” — for peacefully defending the Cruz family home from foreclosure.

The banks have police protection to steal the equity that working people have already paid in mortgages and force people out of their homes.

“We’re getting the message: the city of Minneapolis would rather put time and resources towards prosecuting those fighting foreclosure than address the crisis or hold accountable the financial institutions responsible,” said Susan Kikuchi, an organizer with Occupy Homes MN. (occupyminnesota.org)

Occupy Homes MN’s website notes that “the city of Minneapolis spent over $42,000 on police forces at the Cruz home; and 37 people were arrested in acts of civil disobedience, including hip-hop artist Brother Ali.”

Rachel E.B. Lang, a local attorney working with the Occupy Homes movement, vowed, “The legal defense team will fight these absurd charges tooth and nail.”

On July 24, 2012,  the Occupy MN website continues, “Chants of ‘drop the charges’ echoed through City Hall this afternoon as 60 community supporters rallied to demand City Attorney Susan Segal drop all charges against anti-foreclosure protesters from the Occupy movement.”

The 99% — of all generations — need jobs, homes, health care, education, recreation, vacation — not racism and reaction, police brutality, racist mass incarceration and prisons and wars for profit.

Send a message to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and his political appointee, City Attorney Susan Segal:

“Drop all charges against the anti-foreclosure activists!

“Stop FBI & grand jury investigations of anti-war and labor activists!

“Free CeCe McDonald!”

Mayor R.T. Rybak — twitter: @MayorRTRybak; email: [email protected]; fax: (612) 673-2305; phone: (612) 673-2100

City Attorney Susan Segal — email: [email protected]; fax: (612) 673-2189; phone: (612) 673-2010

The writer is facing trial on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis with a charge of 3rd degree gross misdemeanor. Read part one of her peoples’ verdict at workers.org.