October 22, 2000 5th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality
In the Streets for Justice
Thousands protest in more than 60 cities
Revolutionary Worker #1077, November 6, 2000, posted at rwor.org
The low wail of a conch shell pierced the afternoon skies and drum beats rolled down Broadway as 50 Aztec dancers led the way for the 5th National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation in Los Angeles--2,500 determined people were headed for LAPD headquarters at Parker Center. Before the day was over, the march was attacked by LAPD cops on horses, cops and riot squads firing concussion grenades and rubber bullets and beating people with clubs. But not even this brutal attack could shut down the day, as people fearlessly stood their ground and kept the rally going.
Overwhelmingly young and militant, the marchers were all nationalities and backgrounds, and each brought their own flavor to the mix. Many were new to resistance or had just gotten involved during the protests at the Democratic National Convention this summer. The strong proletarian character of the crowd, and so many diverse people dressed in Black, gave an edge to the march--a sense that a new kind of resistance is taking root.
People who live every day under the gun of the police brought their courage, their desire to put an end to this oppression, and their contempt for the system. Hundreds of immigrant proletarians lined the street, as the contingent from Pico-Union, a large immigrant barrio policed by the Rampart division of the LAPD, marched with a huge banner--calling attention to the police brutality and corruption scandal that has rocked L.A. for months; "La Pico-Union Bajo la bota de Rampart, Vidas Robadas, Vidas Arruinadas, Jamás olvidaremos, Jamás perdonaremos (Pico-Union Under Rampart, Stolen Lives, Ruined Lives, We will never forget, We will never forgive). The Watts Drum Corps and a young girls' drill team set the beat, as the infectious chant from the Watts Committee Against Police Brutality echoed up and down the march: "Who Let the Pigs Out? Oink, Oink, Oink, Oink!"
There were signs that the police were preparing for an assault. When the march reached the front of Parker Center, riot cops were out in full force with clubs drawn. "They're over there with their rubber bullets, waiting to attack you, like they did at the DNC, like they do in dark alleys," a young revolutionary told the crowd. "They know we're watching them. They know we're here in numbers, united, putting our differences aside and fighting for this cause. Show them." As the youth marched to surround the building, they were blocked by police, who disregarded the march permit. The police launched their attack without warning and the POP, POP, POP of rubber bullet guns echoed blocks away.
Dozens of people were hit with rubber bullets, some seriously injured--including a student from UCLA who suffered permanent damage in her eye. Cops on horses advanced on the crowd, hitting people with their long riot batons. Riot cops on foot beat and pushed people while others shot into the crowd. Hundreds of people were pushed back into the main rally area while others were forced down side streets and out of the area when they found many of the streets leading back to the rally blocked by cops.
The families of the Stolen Lives were on the stage speaking about their loved ones killed by the police when the police opened fire--hitting some family members in the back with rubber bullets as they tried to protect the children. Sofia Saldaña, whose son Juan was murdered by the notorious Rampart cops, said, "Now I know what my son must have felt like surrounded by these dogs--I thought they were going to try and kill us." At least four people were arrested--three face misdemeanor charges and one faces a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge.
But the people stood strong, especially the youth who stepped out to protect the rally from the advancing cops. Young women were right up in the faces of the police, calling them out as murderers. Hundreds of youth sat down directly in front of the advancing cops, blocking them from sweeping into the rally. And the rally went on, as family members bravely spoke out--joining people across the country who took the streets, held memorials, marched, sang, and shouted to bring out the truth about how the police had killed their children, brothers, uncles, sisters, and cousins.
This scene of the families and militant youth standing together with their allies against the puffed-up, helmeted enforcers of the LAPD typified a powerful alliance that was manifested around the country.
In more than 60 cities, this 5th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation brought home the reality of the epidemic of police murder and brutality in this country--and the growing and determined resistance to STOP it. Thousands participated: 2,500 marched in Los Angeles, 1,500 in New York, 900 in San Francisco, 400 in Chicago, and significant actions were held in Detroit; Cleveland; Columbus, Ohio; Seattle; Philadelphia; Portland, Oregon; Atlanta, Georgia; Houston; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin, Texas; Cherokee, NC; Hendersonville, NC; Denver; Louisville, Kentucky; Phoenix, Arizona; Providence, RI; Minneapolis/St. Paul; San Diego. And as we go to press, organizers are still receiving reports from other areas.
In New York City, more than 30 family members, including Saikou Amadou Diallo, the father of Amadou Diallo, joined a young and militant crowd, dressed in Black, to march and rally--in the face of several attempts by the police to intimidate and detain organizers.
Since his 13-year-old son was murdered by a housing cop in 1994, Nicholas Heyward, Sr. has become an outspoken organizer against police brutality. On October 22, 2000, as Nicholas was preparing to MC, the police arrested him at his home at 6 a.m., charging him with failure to pay a ticket for not having his dog on a leash! Lawyers and activists immediately located Nicholas, demanding his release, and escorted him to the rally to speak.
Three days before, six members of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade and five people from the South Bronx were arrested when police broke into an apartment--in a blatant attempt to intimidate people making plans for the protest. This happened in the same building where Malcolm Ferguson was murdered by police in 1999--and just a few blocks from where Amadou Diallo was gunned down in a hail of 41 bullets. In a show of defiance at the October 22nd protest, members of the RCYB and youth from the neighborhood marched together with a banner made and signed by dozens of people in the neighborhood that read: "Amadou, Malcolm, PRESENTE! South Bronx Against Police Brutality."
Organizers from the October 22nd Coalition report that protests this year were marked by intense participation of families who have lost their loved ones. In Detroit, Arnetta Grable, who is on the executive board of the coalition, indicted the local and federal authorities in the murder of her son and the nationwide epidemic. In San Francisco, veteran fighter Danny Garcia stood blocks away from the spot where police murdered his brother Mark, and set a powerful tone for the day: "No more stolen lives!" In Chicago, the father of Earl Hutchinson--killed for reportedly "threatening" police with a plastic fork--told the crowd, "The problem is that we are at war and some of us don't even know it." And in cities like Wichita, Salt Lake City, Cherokee and Hendersonville, North Carolina, family members of police murder victims were the principle organizers for the day.
In several cities, family members drew a moving connection between the police murders of their children and the scenes of Israeli military firing on Palestinians in occupied territory. The case of revolutionary journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal--railroaded to death row after years of exposing police brutality--was a major theme of the protests.
On this 5th annual day of protest, plans for the publication of the Spanish translation of the Stolen Lives book, documenting more than 2000 cases of police murder, signaled a deeper connection with immigrant proletarians who are facing an intense and murderous situation in the Southwest and on the Mexican border--and police terror in their neighborhoods. Immigrants from Puerto Rico to Haiti to South Asia to the Philippines infused an international spirit into the protests. And, in many cities, immigrants rights organizations took part in the national day of protest.
Everywhere the outrage of the youth manifested at how they are treated like criminals. As the anger of the youth exploded in front of the Mission District police station in San Francisco, a Black student told the RW: "We come here because we're involved in different urban subcultures that make us involved in police brutality. We're skateboarders, we're hip-hop, we're students, we're people of color. All of us are affected. Police have brutalized us many a time: illegal searches, DWB, malicious acts like that. We've been accused of many things from robbing banks to vandalism. It feels good to be out here but also to know that it's a national day, not just here, but that people all over the country are taking action today, so hopefully it will have some effect."
In cities and neighborhoods known for an intense level of police brutality and intimidation, people took the streets and took their anger right to the doors of the police stations. In Philadelphia, women whose children had been murdered and railroaded to jail stepped into the street on October 22 for the first time to denounce the police--emboldened by youth who drew chalk outlines of bodies and wrote the names of the Stolen Lives on the streets. In Cleveland, people took their anger to the 4th District police station, infamous for killing people inside and outside the jail. There have been several hangings there and many more that are being found out by the families. And it is a common feeling that if someone's kin gets arrested at the 4th District they get should get there as quickly as possible to try to prevent them from being beaten or murdered. But on October 22, in a scene repeated in many ways around the country, the people of this neighborhood stood together with a new generation of resisters and vowed to end this systematic plague on the people.
Reports reaching the RW indicate that this year there was a deep sense that only the determined action of the masses of people will be able to stop this epidemic and that this National Day of Protest is a time to bring it all together--and prepare for the resistance ahead.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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