July 11 — Hundreds of protests, militant marches and highway blockades have been held across the country in the past week as the killings of Black people by racist police continue with impunity. The July 5 murder of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., by two white cops was videotaped and seen worldwide. The day after, police in Falcon Heights, Minn., shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile; his fiancee videoed the aftermath of the gunshots.
In Baton Rouge, some form of protest has been held every day since Sterling’s death. Neighborhood gatherings have grown into marches to the police station. Peaceful protest has been met with cops in riot gear, pounding batons on shields. Hundreds have been arrested.
Five thousand marched in St. Paul, Minn., after Castile’s death and hundreds protested at the Minnesota governor’s mansion on July 7. An into-the-night blockade of Interstate 94 beginning on July 9 ended with police violence and more than 100 arrests.
Scores have also been arrested and threatened by police in various cities as militant demonstrations took place. An uprising against racism and police terror continues to grow. The following summaries from WW activists show the breadth and depth of protest in a few cities across the U.S.
Albany, N.Y.: ‘Enough is enough’
More than 200 people rallied July 8 in Albany, N.Y., organized by the Upstate New York chapter of Black Lives Matter, to protest the police killing of five Black and Latino men in the U.S. in the last seven days: Alton Sterling, Delrawn Small, Anthony Nuñez, Philando Castile and Pedro Erik Villanueva. “We raise up our voices and say enough is enough is enough,” emphasized Patrick Avery, pastor at Kingdom Reigning Worship Center. (timesunion.com, July 8)
The rally ended with a stirring speech by 11-year-old Alicia Clemente. “I’m afraid to walk to school,” she yelled into a megaphone. “I’m tired of being scared. I’m scared to be next. I’m scared of the next. I don’t want to hear ‘Say her name’ every time I turn on the news. I don’t want to see bombs go down in Afghanistan. I don’t want to see it anymore.” — Chris Fry
Atlanta: 10,000 march
Determined demonstrators have marched, chanted, blocked traffic, shut down interstates, danced and sung for hours every night since July 7. These protests covered miles of Atlanta streets, beginning in the early evening and lasting until the following morning. Despite attempts by police agencies to thwart movement with barricades and patrol cars, the marchers have stayed in the streets, joined by new recruits and supported by motorists caught in traffic.
On July 7, some 1,000 people, mostly youth, blocked the Downtown Connector of I-75 and I-85 that passes through the heart of Atlanta. The following day, 10,000 people took over key sites, from the CNN Center to Peachtree Street and Centennial Olympic Park. For more than five hours, thousands faced off against a small army of police and state troopers at the Williams Street entrance to the interstate. Participants represented every segment of the Black community, including families, elders, and faith and Civil Rights organizations.
Black Lives Matter activists were key to six- to eight-hour protests on July 9 and July 10. A dozen or so were arrested. A July 11 action is moving to the affluent Buckhead neighborhood, where two elite shopping malls are located.
While many signs and chants refer to Sterling and Castile, the names of local victims of police violence — Anthony Hill, Kevin Davis, Nick Thomas, Alexia Christian and others — make clear that Atlanta families have suffered similarly and received no justice. — Dianne Mathiowetz
Baltimore: protesters criminalized
On July 8, some 1,000 people, organized by the People’s Power Assembly, shut down traffic coming off Interstate 83 as protesters marched to Baltimore police headquarters.
Two PPA organizers, one of whom is five months pregnant, plus two other people were arrested and handed a number of various charges. Released the following afternoon, one of the four was hospitalized after being attacked and beaten by police.
In an attempt to criminalize and violence-bait protest, the Baltimore Sun printed mug shots of the four, along with their ages and city of residence, in an article in the “crime” section of the website on July 10. In an earlier article the Sun reported, ominously, that along with police helicopters “officers were positioned on rooftops along the route” of the march. (July 8)
On July 9, marchers took over downtown streets and blocked the main police headquarters. They also shut down Interstate 83, a major Baltimore artery, and blocked traffic on East Pratt Street. — Sharon Black
San Francisco Bay Area: ‘Shut it down!’
Thousands turned out in the Bay Area to angrily protest the police killings. In Oakland on July 7, crowds gathered downtown at Oscar Grant Plaza in response to a call by Live Free, the Anti Police-Terror Project and the Frisco 500. People took the street and marched to the Oakland Police Department Headquarters for another brief rally.
The crowd marched up the I-880 freeway off-ramp adjacent to OPD’s headquarters, shut down one side of the freeway and then climbed over the barriers to shut down the entire freeway in both directions. Led by members of the clergy, marchers linked arms at the front of the crowd.
Someone with a projector displayed images of Sterling and Castile on the side panel of a friendly semi-trailer truck. Marchers chalked graffiti about Black lives all over the road and barriers. When asked by a news reporter about someone needing to get through for an emergency, Pastor Michael McBride responded that his people have been in a state of emergency for 400 years.
Protesters shut down the freeway for more than four hours. As they left, they found a display denouncing the police across the entire front of the OPD headquarters. The front doors had been splattered with red paint.
The next night a rally began at Chelsea Manning Plaza in San Francisco. Swelling to about 2,000 people, protesters marched to Powell and Market, where people sat down in the street before continuing to City Hall. That rally was co-sponsored by the Answer Coalition, Bayard Rustin Coalition, Justice 4 Alex Nieto Coalition, Justice 4 Mario Woods Coalition, [email protected] Young Democrats of San Francisco, San Francisco Black Leadership Forum, San Francisco BLM and West County Toxics Coalition.
On July 9, a group of recent high school graduates converged for another protest. The crowd grew to about 500 and began an afternoon-long march blocking three different entrances to the Bay Bridge and entrances to a shopping mall and various shops. — Terri Kay
Boston: ‘Unite and fight’
Hundreds rallied July 9 for five hours of protests and two marches. They targeted the Boston Police Headquarters, located in the Black community, then marched through Boston’s oppressed communities of Roxbury and Dorchester.
Protesters remembered police brutality and murders in New England. Many of the families of murdered Black victims attended and spoke, remembering Burrell Ramsey-White, Jeffrey Pendleton and others. Usaamah Rahim’s mother testified that her 26-year-old Black American Muslim son, in a vicious Homeland Security operation, was gunned down by Boston police and FBI agents in 2015 in the Roslindale neighborhood.
The day was organized by MASS Action Against Police Brutality, Boston’s Black community, other communities of color, the Muslim community, the Nation of Islam, unions, fast food worker-organizers, Fight for $15 and other supporters. MASS Action called for a protest on July 13 at Boston Police Headquarters to “unite and fight for our fallen.” — Stevan Kirschbaum
Des Moines: solidarity with BLM
“Des Moines in Solidarity with BLM” demonstrators rallied at Cowles Commons and marched through the streets of downtown on July 8. The event was hosted by Black Lives Matter activist Kaija Carter. Members of grassroots organizations such as Iowa Citizens for Justice and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement also attended. The rally was followed by a march to the Des Moines Police Department.
Attorney Tina Hassane Muhammad of Justice Law Firm, founder of Iowa Citizens for Justice, told WW that the organizers’ goals were to stand in solidarity and to highlight the police terror and systematic racism that are taking Black lives every 28 hours. — Mike Kuhlenbeck
Houston: Sandra Bland, now Alva Braziel
Daily protests are taking place in Houston, sometimes two or three a day, since the killings of Sterling and Castile. Added to those outrages is Houston’s latest victim of “death by cop.”
Alva Braziel, a 38-year-old African-American man, was shot and killed in the early hours of July 9 as he was looking for his stolen horse. Black Lives Matter Houston called a press conference July 9 at Discovery Green, a popular downtown park. As the crowd grew, a decision was made to march to City Hall, where a large rally with an open mic was held. Community members, many of them young people, expressed anger, sadness and outrage. The multinational crowd continued to rally for several hours as Houston cops stood by.
Events have been held at a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in MacGregor Park. Students for a Democratic Society at the University of Houston held a militant protest in front of the Houston Police Department headquarters on July 10 and then marched through downtown. Later that day clergy, politicians and police held what amounted to a love-in for the dead Dallas cops. They weren’t pleased when BLM activists appeared and turned attention to the victims of the police.
July 10 was the one-year anniversary of Sandra Bland’s arrest in Prairie View, Texas. An event called “The Shout” was held at the site where the arrest took place. There is an ongoing memorial there with fresh flowers, stuffed animals and photos. Some of the activists went to the Waller County Jail, where they plan to spend the next three nights holding vigil until the exact time Bland’s body was allegedly discovered hanging in a jail cell on July 13, 2015. — Gloria Rubac
Los Angeles: Black and Brown unity
More than 200 people responded July 9 to a call from Unión del Barrio for an emergency demonstration in front of the Los Angeles Police Department. The protest called for unified responses to police killings of Black and Latino/a people in Los Angeles. About 10 organizations were represented, including Workers World, BAYAN-USA, Brown Berets, L.A. Community Action Network, as well as Black activists and spoken word artists. People blocked the intersection in front of the LAPD, which had an almost invisible presence even when the streets were taken.
ABC’s Channel 7 asked Maggie Vascassenno, of the People’s Power Assembly, why she was there: “I think it’s very important for white people especially to be here today, in solidarity with our Black and Brown sisters and brothers facing tremendous repression.” John Parker, of Workers World Party, talked of the historic unity of Black and Brown peoples, from slavery to the formation of the Black Panthers, Brown Berets and Young Lords. Parker praised the Black Lives Matter movement for sparking a struggle that can only get stronger with greater unity.
Francisco, a Black veteran, spoke of the irony that the ambush of Dallas police was a tactic the shooter had been taught in order to kill people in U.S. wars abroad. — John Parker
New York City: ‘No justice, no peace!’
For four consecutive days, thousands surged into the streets of Manhattan to express outrage over the police murders of Sterling, Castile and Delrawn Small. Massing at Union Square on July 7, protesters headed north on Fifth Avenue facing rush-hour traffic, tying up Midtown and outmaneuvering the cops. Motorists honked and waved support as marchers chanted “No justice, no peace! No racist police!”
The huge multinational and multigenerational crowd headed to Ninth Avenue, then marched across 42nd Street to Times Square. They held that famous intersection until 8:20 p.m., when police attacked, arresting more than 40 people. Nonetheless, protesters stayed in the streets until well past midnight, marching north to Harlem, more than 100 blocks from the starting point.
On July 8, demonstrators took to the streets in anguish and rage in many parts of the city, including Harlem and Union Square. On July 9, 1,000 marched from the Brooklyn Bridge to Union Square, where they held a brief rally, and then marched throughout the city. There were a few arrests at Union Square. Demonstrators repeatedly went around the barricades that cops spread across intersections. Marchers took over Fifth Avenue and then 42nd Street until they reached Times Square. Bystanders on sidewalks and in cars clapped and yelled in support. The march went on for hours and eventually shut down the Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive.
On July 10, hundreds of demonstrators marched through Midtown with their fists raised, chanting “Black lives matter!” — Bill Dores, Kathy Durkin and Brenda Ryan
Philadelphia: ‘Racism and capitalism are intertwined’
On July 6, the REAL Justice Coalition (RJC) and the Black and Brown Workers Collective (BBWC) responded immediately by calling a “no business as usual” march through Philadelphia’s busy downtown shopping district streets, eventually occupying the on- and off-ramps of the I-676 expressway. Seasoned activists and first-time demonstrators spoke out against police terror for an hour before cops began threatening arrests. Twelve people sat down in a line across the on-ramp. After cops arrested the 12, 50 supporters waited outside the police station until they were released.
On July 8, hundreds marched for four hours through North Philadelphia, growing in numbers as they passed through many neighborhoods. Marchers held short rallies wherever there were crowds, and many who didn’t join listened and raised their fists. Outrage against police brutality, poverty and mass incarceration is so common that most people of color easily understand why someone would start shooting at cops, as in Dallas the day before.
At the intersection of Erie and Germantown, Shani Akilah of BBWC got the crowd chanting “Racism and capitalism are intertwined.” Protesters then surprised the police by getting on the Broad Street subway bound for City Hall. When bicycle cops later confronted demonstrators at a Center City intersection, protesters briefly surrounded the police. When the cops saw they were surrounded, they quickly retreated.
In the third Philly protest in four days, RJC called a Rage Against Police Terror march on July 9 in the oppressed neighborhood surrounding the notorious 25th Police District. Hundreds of activists and Black and Brown area residents marched, stopping at intersections where people were congregated for short open mic rallies. Many residents raised their fists as marchers filed past with a banner that read, “You have nothing to lose but your chains.”
Up to 300 participants marched right up to the precinct steps, then stood toe-to-toe against a line of cops for an hour, chanting between revolutionary talks by RJC and BBWC activists, as well as North Philly victims of police crimes. Cops were visibly angry but did not respond. — Joe Piette
Rochester: Police riot
On July 8, 400 multinational demonstrators stopped traffic in a series of protests in Rochester, N.Y., which began about 4 p.m. at the Liberty Pole downtown and lasted until nearly 1:30 a.m. the following day. The demonstrations were led by BLACK (Build Leadership And Community Knowledge), a local African-American youth group affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The main confrontation came at about 10 p.m. when demonstrators blocked the intersection of East Avenue and Alexander Street in a gentrified part of the city filled with upscale nightclubs and bars.
Although the protests were thoroughly peaceful, city police showed up in full riot gear. In a showdown of more than two and a half hours, they arrested 77 people, including two African-American TV reporters from the local ABC affiliate. The station’s general manager, Chuck Samuels, speculated this was racial profiling: “There were white TV reporters standing right there near them and they were not handcuffed. Whether it was [profiling] or not, I don’t know. But how can you not raise the question?” (democratandchronicle.com, July 10)
The police used considerable violence. There were images of one demonstrator with blood pouring from a head wound and reports of demonstrators treated in nearby hospitals. The cops sent squads to forcibly take down individual demonstrators, even though they had complied with orders. — Gene Clancy
Seattle: War on Black America
More than 1,000 protested the war on Black America on July 8. The multinational demonstration, called by Black Lives Matter, marched to the federal building, the federal courthouse and Seattle police headquarters. Marchers tried a quick rush to take Interstate 5, but were blocked by a huge force of cops, who used stun grenades and pepper spray to repel the militant action.
The march also protested the February police killing of Black community member Che Taylor. Investigations have revealed that the gun taken from Taylor’s car had been registered to a county sheriff, raising suspicion that it was planted. Taylor was out of the car, hands up, when he was shot. — Jim McMahan
(WW photo: Stevan Kirschbaum)
(Photo: A. Harper)
(WW photo: Joseph Piette)
(Photo: Kaylee Knowles)
(WW photo: Maggie Vascassenno)
(WW photo: Gloria Rubac)
(WW photo: Stevan Kirschbaum)