The end-of-the-year holiday season in the United States did not slow down the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations demanding justice for the victims of racist police brutality and killings.
Since the exonerations of cop Darren Wilson, killer of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and cops in Staten Island, N.Y., for their murder caught on videotape of Eric Garner, protests have continued across the U.S. Protesters in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and Houston linked these and other cases of police killings and racist atrocities around the country.
‘No business as usual’ for shoppers, cops
On Dec. 20, the largest megamall in the U.S., Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., was taken over by several thousand protesters who crowded the main rotunda on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. They chanted, “No justice, no shopping!” and “While you’re on your shopping spree, Black people can’t breathe,” in reference to Garner, along with “Hands up, don’t shoot,” recalling the murder of Brown.
“Quickly, the mall went into partial lockdown, closing its north and east entrances and locking about 80 stores, trapping some customers inside.” (Associated Press, Dec. 20) Riot-clad police arrested 26 people, most for misdemeanors, while the Bloomington city attorney has announced she will seek charges against the leaders of Black Lives Matter, which organized the demonstration. (mprnews.org, Dec. 29)
Actions took place across the U.S. on New Year’s Eve. Protesters in St. Louis planned a sit-in inside the lobby of police headquarters. They shouted and pushed their way through the doors “only to be met by a line of aggressive police and pepper spray.” (stltoday.com, Jan. 4) The demonstrators posted an eviction notice demanding the cops vacate the premises and relinquish power. About two dozen activists were cited for various alleged acts associated with the protest.
Ferguson activists: ‘Reclaim MLK’
The Ferguson Action Team held a national planning meeting by conference call on Jan. 3. “The main focus was on a national effort to reclaim MLK Day weekend in the rebellious spirit of Dr. King and the movement behind him,” said participant Monica Moorehead, representing the Peoples Power Assembly. “Ferguson activists asked for everyone’s renewed efforts this year to ensure their demands for justice are met.”
She reported that FAT leaders stated, “This means sustained actions, deeper commitments, and further outreach to everyone in our communities. Let’s make 2015 a ‘Year of Resistance for Black Lives.’”
Activists around the U.S. are focusing on three dates for actions: Jan. 15, the date of King’s birthday, as a day of mass resistance; Jan. 18 as a day of reflection, with special emphasis on faith-based outreach; and Jan. 19, a day of direct, mass actions on the official King holiday. Actions on other days are also welcomed.
For a listing of upcoming actions related to MLK, including a link to add actions, go to fergusonresponse.tumblr.com. To sign the “New Year’s Revolution pledge to make 2015 the Year of Resistance,” go to engage.fergusonaction.com/pledge-new-years-revolution. To promote MLK anti-racist actions on Twitter, use the hashtag #ReclaimMLK.
Protests continue across U.S.
Here are abbreviated reports from Workers World Party activists in several cities.
Chanting “Hands down, fists up!” hundreds in Houston marched to the courthouse on Dec. 29 demanding justice for Jordan Baker. The 26-year-old unarmed Black man was murdered by a Houston cop who was not indicted on Dec. 23 for the shooting.
Baker, a college student, worker and father, was shot and killed on Jan. 16, 2014, when he was riding his bicycle through a shopping center three blocks from his house. His family contends he was killed for being Black and wearing a hoodie. The Harris County grand jury’s “no bill” has led to several marches, rallies and calls for justice.
Every single police officer who has shot a resident since 2004 has had his case cleared by a Harris County grand jury. Last year 47 officers were no-billed by grand juries, which included 20 cases where civilians died. Cops were never tried in any of these cases. (Houston Chronicle, Jan. 5)
Declaring “All Black Lives Matter,” Atlanta protesters on Dec. 20 afternoon blockaded a busy intersection where two of the largest upscale shopping malls in the city are located. The multinational group of mostly young people spread large banners on the pavement and then, chained together in a series of lock boxes, laid down on the street, bringing traffic to a stop for some 90 minutes. Thirteen people were arrested.
Organizers noted the inconvenience to thousands of motorists, but stated that as long as Black and Brown people, particularly youth, could not walk safely to avoid police terror, there could be no business as usual.
The previous evening, a die-in was held inside a suburban Atlanta mall as dozens of people laid down on the floor, chanting “Black lives matter.”
There were actions Dec. 27 for Akai Gurley at Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn. Gurley, unarmed, was killed Nov. 20 by police in a dark stairwell at that location. The protests included three rallies, a march of some 500 in the streets and demonstrations at two police precincts. There, people turned their backs on the cops and yelled for the ones on the roofs to “Jump!” A “lie-in” was also held at the second precinct.
A rally speaker from Malcolm X Grassroots Movement stated, “Gurley’s murder was not an accident. It’s the paramilitary approach to policing our community. We refuse to be policed based on race and economics. We charge genocide! We will end this genocide!”
There was no business as usual in downtown Newark, N.J., on New Year’s Eve as students of color from the Eleven25 Coalition at Essex County College and their supporters, including members of the International Action Center, Peoples Organization for Progress and Veterans For Peace, shut down three major intersections starting at 3 p.m. Heavy, early-rush-hour, pre-holiday traffic was stopped for 15 minutes at each intersection. Activists marched in the street from one intersection to the other. Some passersby joined the protest.
Most drivers understood the students’ message about police violence, racism, the capitalist system and “Black Lives Matter” and waited patiently for the protest to move on. Many honked their horns in support — especially bus and truck drivers — while others raised clenched fists in solidarity.
In Boston on Dec. 31, the “First Night Against Police Violence” die-in took place. “First Night” is a New Year’s Eve blowout that includes fireworks, ice sculptures and a parade. A couple hundred demonstrators received wide media coverage because they refused the pleas of the mayor and police to stay away from First Night.
Michael Kramer, Dianne Mathiowetz, Tony Murphy, Anne Pruden and Gloria Rubac contributed to this report.