The bold, dynamic street actions which have characterized the Black Lives Matter movement are being adopted in the struggle against mass deportations of refugees — most notably in the Jan. 8 shutdown of Manhattan traffic, a fierce, militant action carried out by ICE-Free NYC.
This Martin Luther King Day in New York, the two struggles united: ICE-Free NYC joined forces with Black Lives Matter activists in a Black-Brown “Reclaim MLK Day” rally which protested outside — and disrupted — Mayor Bill de Blasio’s reading of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last speech, “I Have Been to the Mountaintop.”
De Blasio was attempting to do what so many capitalist politicians do on MLK Day: use the revered mantle of King to establish a phony connection with the very communities they are oppressing.
De Blasio chose St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Brooklyn for this desecration. But New York activists weren’t having it. As de Blasio began reading King’s words, KaLisa Moore of the People’s Power Assembly stood up and said, “No! Do not use the words of Dr. Martin Luther King!”
As two pew rows of Black, Brown and white activists stood up, Moore then mic-checked over de Blasio, saying, “In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we, the Black-Brown community, stand together to reclaim Black and Brown power! We will continue to fight our oppressors!”
Moore continued, “The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and the New York Police Department continue to terrorize our communities,” and here she pointed a finger at de Blasio as she said, “at the hands of you!”
Demonstrators called out the collaboration between the NYPD and other New York agencies to deport migrant workers, a practice that has long predated 2016’s mass raids of refugees. Also, the mayor backs New York’s Police Commissioner Bratton’s racist “Broken Windows” policy, known as “de Blasio’s Stop-and-Frisk.”
As the NYPD rushed to usher out the protesters, Mike Bento of “NYC Shut it Down” said, “‘Broken Windows’ policing is not in the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King! Deportation of immigrant children that are fleeing violence is not in the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King!”
Outside, a militant crowd of 250 rallied with placards that read, “End ICE/Police Terror Against Black and Brown People,” “There Are No Borders in the Workers’ Struggle,” “No Human Being is Illegal” and “Stop Police Terror” — among other placards bearing the names of people whose lives were cut short by racist police killings. Despite the evening’s frigid temperatures, the activists then marched through Brooklyn, accompanied by the people’s band, The Rude Mechanical Orchestra.