The demands of the people of Ferguson, Mo., and their continued fight against racism and police impunity are taking root across the country. This was reflected in this year’s nationally coordinated actions on Oct. 22 “to stop mass incarceration, police terror, repression and the criminalization of a generation.”
About 400 people gathered at Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown Oakland, Calif., on Oct. 22 to join in the national day of resistance. After rallying, the crowd marched to the Federal Building for another short rally, then to the Glenn Dyer Detention Facility. When the march tried to move on to the police headquarters, it was met by a line of Oakland police, armed to the teeth. The crowd chanted, “Move pigs! Get out the way!” After a long standoff, the march reversed direction, headed back by Oscar Grant Plaza and blocked the intersection at 14th Street and Broadway for more than half an hour. Many families of Black and Brown youth killed by police were represented, including the parents of Alan Blueford and James Rivera Jr. and the sisters of Mario Romero. The rally was organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Bay Area.
In the largest anti-racist demonstration the city of Rockford, Ill., has seen in the past year, roughly 75 people marched in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and against the racist targeting of youth of color. The march, which was heavily covered by local press, was organized by the Rockford Anti-Racist Network and the Unitarian Universalist Church. With a diverse multigenerational and multinational crowd, the march stood out as a level of solidarity with oppressed communities not usually seen locally.
Workers World Party and Fight Imperialism, Stand Together supported the event and brought a revolutionary perspective on the struggle, denouncing the entire police force as a repressive arm of the capitalist state and defending oppressed peoples’ right to resistance, whether in Ferguson or Palestine.
In a bold action, dozens of youth blocked multiple lanes of the Downtown Connector interstate expressway during rush hour in Atlanta on Oct. 22. The dramatic blockade was well-organized, with supporters stopping their cars near the Freedom Parkway ramp to allow protesters to get onto the expressway with their signs. Scores of others had marched from Troy Davis Park to the I-75/85 overpass and attached large banners reading “#Black Lives Matter” to the fencing.
Before long, numerous police cars with flashing lights lined up in front of the blockaders. After at least 20 minutes of resisting police orders to move, the youth walked off the interstate with hands and fists raised. No arrests were made.
An earlier rally in the park (formerly Woodruff Park, named for a Coca Cola executive) had featured the parents of Kendrick Johnson, a Valdosta, Ga., high school student whose body was found in a rolled-up wrestling mat in what authorities called an “accidental death.” Johnson’s parents and friends have not stopped demanding justice and a real investigation into his suspicious death.
Other speakers included the youth activists who organized a march of some 5,000 people following Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson and who have gone there to support the people’s resistance to police terror.
Representatives of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, the Askia Sabur Coalition, the Free Mumia Coalition, the Church of the Advocate, the Human Rights Coalition and others came together on Oct. 22 to host a press conference in Philadelphia about the grave consequences of Pennsylvania’s recently passed “Revictimization Relief Act.”
The act, signed by Gov. Tom Corbett in response to political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s recent commencement speech at Goddard College, grants district attorneys unprecedented powers to restrict the free speech of all prisoners under the guise of protecting victims of violent crime from “mental anguish.” Under the law, prisoners who speak out — and their supporters — could be sued, fined and even jailed for doing so.
Patrice Armstead of Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild, who recently traveled to Ferguson in support of the uprising against racist police, discussed the links between prisoner repression in Philadelphia and struggle in Ferguson. She called on all people of conscience everywhere to resist this tide of state repression.
Betsey Piette of Workers World Party pointed out that this is only the most recent attempt in a decades-long campaign to silence Abu-Jamal, “the voice of the voiceless.” Layne Mullett of Decarcerate PA called on the state government to invest in public education instead of mass incarceration and repression of the poor and people of color.
Ramona Africa, the only living adult survivor of the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE organization’s headquarters in Philadelphia, characterized the bill as an attack on all people. She called on all people to realize their collective power and rise up in protest. Derrick Stanley, one of the Dallas 6, spoke about his firsthand experience of inhuman conditions in U.S. prisons.
Some 60 people attended the press conference, which was followed by a protest at City Hall in Philadelphia and a town hall meeting at Temple University. Reporters from NBC10 news and the Philadelphia Tribune were present, along with various independent news sources.
Tommy C., Terri Kay, Dianne Mathiowetz and Matty Starrdust contributed to this report.