Ferguson ruling ignites prairie fire of protest
Solidarity and power of the people
Nov. 26 — Fifty people were arrested last night in Boston for attempting to shut down Interstate 93. Several were arrested in Providence, R.I., for helping to shut down I-95. Ferguson activists have called for a nationwide walkout from schools and work on Dec. 1.
The governing authorities in Missouri knew they were playing with fire when they bulldozed a grand jury into letting off the cop who had shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson.
And the authorities in Washington, D.C., knew it, too, when the president called on everyone to accept the reality that the killer cop would not even have to stand trial. This meant that the testimonies and evidence about what happened in Ferguson would never need to be submitted to scrutiny and questioning in a public venue; that the authorities could just put their spin on it all and everyone was supposed to accept it.
So they went ahead with this monstrous, racist injustice, knowing how angry a large section of the public would be, but relying on a massive show of armed force to cow any protesters into submission.
What did they think? That they could with impunity beat, club, even shoot down hundreds, maybe thousands of people who refused the orders to “disperse” and went ahead with their protests?
The last two nights have shown what a wonderful thing political courage can be. Personal courage is on display, too, when unarmed young people go right up in the faces of those they know could pull a trigger and blow them away.
But political courage is even more shocking to the authorities, since they rely on the weight, the majesty of the money and institutions behind them to force submission to their rule. Which, in modern times, means the increasingly onerous rule of big capital — the banks and the corporations — over the vast working class, by means of a state that pretends to be democratic, but more and more betrays its fawning allegiance to the 1%, the enemies of the people.
Once their political hold over the people has been breached, the rulers can lose control of everything. That is their greatest fear.
What has been so wonderful about the literally hundreds of demonstrations that hit the streets after the grand jury’s ruling is the solidarity among Black, Brown and white people, mostly young, who are confronting this racist system.
A new spirit is sweeping across the land. There was a suggestion of it when many whites joined with African Americans and other people of color to elect Barack Obama the first Black president.
Many, Black and white, are disillusioned now, not just with him, but with the political machine that contains and controls him. But they have not faded away. Each new generation is showing greater understanding that for anything to change for the better, it won’t happen at the ballot box. A fighting movement has to be built that challenges this rotten capitalist system.
We present here just some of the emailed eyewitness accounts from Workers World activists who participated in the many protests that occurred on Nov. 25. They represent a cross-section of the uprisings that occurred across the country. It appears that most of the protests were organized by women.
A fantastic multinational, young march of thousands swept out of Union Square just after 7 p.m. We took all of 14th Street and headed west to Sixth Avenue. By marching always against traffic, everything turned to gridlock. Drivers were overwhelmingly friendly, tooting, waving, cheering. March turned at Sixth Avenue against traffic, in the streets, no sidewalks. A militant, chanting, unstoppable wave. Then east and down to Houston. Again on Houston, traffic was blocked. March went across Houston all the way to Avenue D and then onto the FDR Drive. Cops seem under restraint orders. An earlier group of maybe 1,000 had left Union Square to go to Times Square and points west. (Sara Flounders)
The entire crowd went against traffic on FDR and paralyzed the cars there. Maybe five or 10 police cars were in the bunch that were immobilized. They had all their flashing lights on but couldn’t move. Crowds of multinational youth swarmed over the cars, venting years of pent-up anger at the cops, and chanting slogans like “How do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D!” A young woman of color took this opportunity to pose on the hood of a police car so her friends could snap pictures of her with her middle finger up in the air.
The FDR is a nightmare even when it isn’t being shut down by a demonstration. While some people were annoyed at not being able to move, there were tons of positive responses to the action, with lots of people honking their horns in support. Most who were giving the thumbs-up were African American or Latino/a, but not all — one white woman with two kids in the back of her car was smiling and honking support. (Toni Arenstein)
I arrived at Union Square as a large crowd of several thousand people was slowly inching its way south along the Broadway side of the square. Every street we marched on became parking lots. We went west to Sixth Avenue and down to Houston, then east on Houston marching on both sides of the road. When we got to the FDR Drive, the procession bottlenecked its way over the overpass and down the ramp on the northbound side, where we scaled the wall on the side of the highway. As the crowd thickened, we occupied the northbound and southbound sides of the FDR and started moving north. As it was last night, the cops maintained a hands-off approach, which was wise of them. Approaching 42nd Street, everyone moved to the uptown side and took the exit ramp. We had an assembly on First Avenue in front of the U.N. for about 20 minutes, including a long moment of silence. We then went west on 44th Street to Grand Central and then across 42nd to Times Square. Some of the motorists who were inconvenienced made the most of it and got out of their cars. They chanted with us. There were many high fives and encouraging words. There were also some very long faces and even a few nervous ones sitting in their cars, trying their best not to make eye contact with any of us. Some people just don’t know whom they should fear. (Richard K.)
I had to take a neighbor to St. Luke’s Hospital last night. When I got out before midnight, I saw choppers in the sky. Traffic on Broadway was stopped even though lights were green. I met up with several hundred people marching east on 125th Street. Most had marched from Union Square. Some people jumped out of a cab who had marched from Union Square to Bed-Stuy [Brooklyn] and were trying to find another march. Our beautiful colored signs were pretty much the only ones there. People from Grant Houses came out and joined or cheered from their windows. Ended with a rally at the State Office Building. Saw no U.S. media still there, but did live interview with Press TV from Iran. They were interviewing protesters all over the country. (Bill Dores)
We have locked the FDR highway, West Side highway, mass arrests in Times Square and brutality. We shut Sixth Avenue, Seventh Avenue South and Lincoln Tunnel. (Imani Henry, tweet)
Hundreds took the streets, led by the Peoples Organization for Progress. Newark Mayor Baraka, son of revolutionary poet Amiri Baraka, joined the march. (Michael Kramer)
Two days of protests in Philadelphia started Monday night with a gathering at City Hall. A day-after rally on Tuesday started at City Hall with a march. Monday’s day-of demo started when news came down that the grand jury would be announcing its ruling. Numbers swelled to around 500, mainly Black youth but with significant numbers of white youth and adults. A small grouping of ministers tried to encourage the demonstrators to go into a nearby church, rather than stay on the streets. No one complied and a march followed that snaked its way through Center City, blocking most of the major city streets in the process. The youth led the event, which tried to block the expressway, but they were pushed back by legions of police on bicycles. Two people were arrested. On Tuesday the coalition called for a short rally at City Hall to be followed by a march up North Broad to join another organized rally with Temple students from People Utilizing Real Power, an anti-police brutality group. Just before the crowd kicked off from City Hall, a contingent of around 200 students from University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University marched in with red hand prints on their faces. The organizers said they got the idea from seeing a Facebook posting of a demo at the Mexican Consulate last week for the 43 students from Ayotzinapa. Ranks swelled as the march went up North Broad and probably reached over 1,000 as we neared the second rally site, where around 200 to 300 protesters came marching down Broad to join the demos together. A second march after the Temple rally eventually went to the 9th Police District where two protesters arrested on Monday were being held. At a speak-out there demonstrators pledged not to leave until their comrades were released, which happened around 9. Another march followed into Center City and eventually to Rittenhouse Square — home to some of the wealthiest people in the city. (Betsey Piette)
The People’s Power Assembly put on a rally starting at 4 p.m. A radio news report states that five different groups are marching in various parts of downtown Baltimore. The inner-city expressway, which ends at the police headquarters, has been closed down to all southbound traffic. Students from Morgan State-HBCU marched downtown to join our rally. People are still marching. (Andre Powell)
The marches ended at 12:08 a.m. About 1,000 people were on our march to the Federal Building and then to the police station. At the police station we all sat down in the streets. Interstate 83, the major thoroughfare into and out of Baltimore, was successfully blocked for probably 45 minutes. After police moved in big time and pushed us out, we took the march to downtown, blocking at least six different intersections. One protester was hit by a car and had to be taken away in an ambulance. Several racists’ cars were then damaged and a cop car surrounded. We marched against traffic all across the city. (Sharon Black)
A crowd of hundreds came together at Moore Square to protest the Missouri grand jury’s failure to indict officer Darren Wilson. They spoke about their anger over the verdict, told about personal experiences of police brutality, discussed the criminalization of youth of color and the school-to-prison pipeline, called out the names of victims of police brutality, and called for community self-defense against police violence. (Durham Workers World Branch)
Hundreds gathered in downtown Durham for a Black Arts-centered response to honor Mike Brown and all those killed by police violence and to plan for the future fightback. Local poets performed, in between people sharing their raw pain and political talks. The gathering was opened with the burning of sage in solemn remembrance, followed by quotes from Leila Khaled, Alice Walker and Malcolm X. “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head,” said Leyla Brown of local organization Black Is, quoting African revolutionary Marxist Amilcar Cabral. “They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.” Durham residents also marched through downtown past police offices and substations, ending in shutting down the local highway in solidarity with Ferguson. (Andy Katz)
There have been multiple responses to the grand jury announcement, from press conferences of assorted civil rights figures and at least two events at the Atlanta University Center, a Tuesday noon rally at Morehouse College and then a 5 p.m. march to CNN, which then joined a rally at Underground Atlanta.
The four-hour rally at Underground drew about 3,000 people. It filled the plaza and the broad sidewalk across the street. It was organized by youth of color, women and lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer folks from SONG (Southerners on New Ground), It’s Bigger Than You — which organized the 5,000-person rally and march at CNN right after Mike Brown was killed — and the Gen Y project, with help from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. At the end of the Underground rally, several hundred people started marching on Peachtree. As has been reported over and over, several windows of a Wells Fargo bank, a restaurant and a hotel were broken. There were at least four arrests at the Interstate shutdown and perhaps another two dozen more during the course of the night. At least two reporters got arrested when cops just grabbed people off the sidewalks. (Dianne Mathiowetz)
Over 500 people took over the streets of Cleveland to protest the police murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police and in solidarity with the rebellion in Ferguson. The Cleveland Shoreway was shut down for over one hour by the militant, multinational demonstrators. Public Square in downtown Cleveland was also blocked by the youthful activists. (Susan Schnur)
“We are here to stand in solidarity with the efforts of Ferguson where it is about justice for Michael Brown. However, it is also more broadly about the issues of state violence against Black communities. In Madison it looks like mass incarceration. We outnumber every city in the nation in terms of locking up Black men and Black women. That’s a problem. Something needs to be done about it,” said Brandi Grayson of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition at a community event on Nov. 24.
The next day multinational protesters from the coalition and members of numerous student, labor and community organizations protested at the city jail in Madison and then occupied the County Board meeting room. The South Central Federation of Labor issued a call to support the majority youth and students leading the protests, many from local campuses including the Madison Area Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Workers World Wisconsin Bureau)
Members of the immigrant rights organization Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES), the Black Student Union, Progressive Students of Milwaukee, the American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 82 and others participated in a “Solidarity with Ferguson Die-in” at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Student Union on Nov. 25. Students chanted, “We are Michael Brown” and “Hands up, don’t shoot!,” dozens fell to the floor for a few moments and then a speak-out took place.
YES and Voces de la Frontera issued a statement that read in part: “Our struggles are connected, from Ferguson and Ayotzinapa to Milwaukee and Racine, and we must stand together as one to stop police violence against our communities. Voces and YES urges community members to join the protest movement led by Milwaukee families affected by police killings, the Coalition for Justice.”
A multinational rally of hundreds led by youth and students and supported by members of many labor and community organizations took place at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee. A march to the Grand Avenue Mall, the Bradley Center and other locations followed. Red Arrow Park is the site where 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton was shot 14 times and killed by Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney on April 30. Manney has yet to be charged with any crime. The rally, sponsored by the Coalition for Justice and led by the Hamilton family, demanded justice for Mike Brown, Dontre Hamilton and all the other victims of police terror.
Other protest actions took place at the Kenosha County Courthouse steps Nov. 25 and in Oshkosh. (Workers World Wisconsin Bureau)
Somewhere around 1,500 to 2,000 marched. We heard there were 39 arrests. We blocked I-580 at three different points in succession. Cops shot some rubber bullets at supposed looters. Tear gas was used on people on the freeway and also later, mostly on Broadway, at a Starbucks and Smart N Final. At least one bank window was smashed and various graffiti put on some stores. (Terri Kay)
More accounts will be posted on workers.org as they come in.