Roanoke struggles display people’s power

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1493

Roanoke, Va. — An intense week of class struggle events in Roanoke, Va., displayed the power of poor and working people to fight back against Wall Street banks, corporations and their servants.

Union YES, Organize the South!

Non-union transit drivers at RADAR, a private company, participated in their first informational picket line on Sept. 26 to demand union representation. The drivers, who transport people with a variety of disabilities and seniors, work for wages just above the minimum wage, with no benefits and challenging working conditions.

Despite verbal harassment by management, the RADAR drivers, with the assistance of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1493, picketed all day outside company headquarters, distributing educational materials, hoisting placards and chanting slogans. Local 1493 represents city bus drivers and mechanics at Valley Metro, the public transportation provider for the Roanoke Valley.

The workers received support from the Roanoke Peoples’ Power Network, various unions, the Southern Workers Assembly and other community groups. The next informational picket is Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2762 Shenandoah Ave. NW.

No more jail deaths!

Dozens of community members came to the Roanoke City Jail on the evening of Sept. 26 to join a picket organized by the Roanoke Peoples’ Power Network. Since 2015, at least six people incarcerated there have died under suspicious circumstances. Sheriff’s officials claim these were all suicides.

The loud picket, with drumming, chants, and banners and placards demanding “No More Jail Deaths,” received major media coverage throughout the Roanoke Valley. Natasha Harper, mother of Clifton Antonio Harper, 22, who died inside the city jail in 2015, and other family members and their allies spoke out to bring attention to the horrific conditions inside the jail and to demand justice now.

Fight white supremacy by any means necessary!

A Fight White Supremacy! meeting sponsored by the Roanoke Peoples’ Power Network took place on Sept. 30 at the Gainsboro Library in the city’s historic Black community. The meeting’s focus was to raise awareness about the fight against fascists in Charlottesville, Va., and to support freedom fighters there and in Durham, N.C., where 14 activists have been charged with multiple misdemeanors and felonies for boldly tearing down a Confederate statue on Aug. 14.

Participants at the RPPN meeting came from Baltimore, Charlottesville, Lexington and other locations throughout southwest and central Virginia.

The meeting kicked off with a powerful rendition of the Sam Cooke song, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and by honoring Heather Heyer, Sandra Bland and other martyrs in the people’s freedom struggles. Then a video was screened that vividly displayed the people’s fightback against the cops and fascists in Charlottesville during the summer. The meeting concluded with a video of the Confederate statue in Durham being toppled.

An RPPN member opened the speakers’ section by stating: “Our focus is to build a completely independent people’s movement, because the rich racists are intent on destroying every gain we’ve won over the past 80 years and are destroying the planet — from pipelines to U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico, to the unrelenting austerity in the Midwest and across the world. …

“Malcolm X once said, ‘History is best qualified to reward our research.’ Thus the fight to smash white supremacy today — especially in the state now known as Virginia — can’t be effective without discussing slavery, sharecropping, lynchings, the betrayal of Reconstruction and the numerous coups against Black elected officials that took place in the South, particularly in the 1890s. The Confederate monuments now in place were mostly built from 1890-1920 as victory monuments by capitalist white supremacists and their servants. …

“We are here to build our power as poor and working people and invite you to join us in any way you can to help us smash white supremacy — by any means necessary — and to build an internationalist people’s world.”

A diverse rainbow of speakers followed and focused on the various struggles against white supremacy now underway in the U.S. and beyond, including the tearing down of Confederate statues; fights against the banks from Detroit to Puerto Rico, anti-union laws and the prison-industrial complex; the fight for LGBTQ and women’s rights; support for National Football League players’ resistance; protests against Gestapo-like Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and deportations; faith-based anti-racist, pro-worker actions; the fight for justice for Kionte Spencer and all those murdered by cops and vigilantes; and related Black Lives Matter struggles.

Participants pledged to continue the fight to crush capitalism and build a world without poverty, racism or war.

For more information about Roanoke Peoples’ Power Network activities and other class struggle events in Roanoke, visit

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