Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stolen Lives

One of many October 22 Coalition actions against police brutality -- choose your chant

Today marks the 19th Annual Stolen Lives march against police brutality. Think about that. The 19th Annual March Against Police Brutality.

You would think that after so many years of marches and demonstrations against the culture of police violence that something would be done. But nothing is done. In fact, the situation is arguably getting worse, year over year. 

The statement of the October 22 Coalition in full:
The Call for the 19th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation

here for formatted version in pdf.

On the eve of the 19th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, a defiant new spirit is in the air. In Ferguson, Missouri, people continue to rise up in outrage against the killing of Mike Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old Black youth who was just days away from starting college. Despite the rapid and ruthless militarization of the town by racist police and the National Guard, people defied curfews, tear gas, rubber bullets, and calls for a return to business-as-usual—and oppression-as-usual—by protesting and rebelling for ten consecutive, sweltering nights in August. Thousands from around the country gathered in Ferguson this past weekend to stand in solidarity with the brave people of Ferguson. These are the moments where the decades of racist abuse, criminalization, and police terror at the hands of this system came crashing against fearless resistance from the very people it seeks to control, inspiring justice-seeking people not just nationwide, but around the world. The National Day of Protest was founded to oppose exactly these kinds of abuses. This year, in big cities and small towns, in the face of police brutality, repression, mass incarceration and the criminalization of youth we say, Let the spirit of Ferguson ignite hearts nationwide with an uncompromising passion for justice!

In the United States, this year has seen a litany of state violence, with increasing documentation and coverage making these ongoing atrocities more difficult to deny. Over 800 people have been killed by law enforcement nationwide, at least 200 since Mike Brown, and at least 23 people in one week. Although police criminalization of and violence against women and transgender people is nothing new, they have become more newsworthy of late. There seems to be no level too low for law enforcement to stoop in their violence, whether it is against children and young teens, the elderly, the deaf, or those who are emotionally or mentally distressed.

In New York City, the era of mass criminalization of Black and brown communities through "stop and frisk" was supposed to be over thanks to the election of a supposedly progressive mayor. What de Blasio brought instead though, was the return of William Bratton, the architect of Stop and Frisk! Bratton's highly oppressive "broken windows" style of policing, in which the smallest "crimes" are aggressively policed, has already led to an increase in police brutality and public mistrust. In this year, NYPD's use of "Broken Windows" has led to the highly publicized chokehold death of beloved community member Eric Garner, the beating of an 84-year-old immigrant man for allegedly jaywalking, a chokehold on a 7-month pregnant woman for barbecuing in front of her home, a young man kicked in the head while lying on the ground handcuffed, numerous people beaten for falling asleep on the subway, a raid of Harlem housing projects, and numerous other atrocities. Even some of the most well-known cultural aspects of New York are under attack, as subway performers are being arrested at astonishing rates simply for trying to earn a living as they have been doing for decades. Meanwhile, the same City Council that voted so strongly for police reforms earlier this year has remained silent in the midst of a new "progressive" administration, lifting their voices only to cry out for 1,000 more cops!

We have seen other attempts at creating some modicum of accountability being thwarted or ineffective, such as the gutting of civilian oversight mechanisms and useless federal investigations of police departments by the U.S. Department of Justice, while those who document police misconduct are under attack. But we applaud the different ways that people have risen up and persevered.

Law enforcement departments across the country have come to use on a routine basis the exertion of military enforcement and control in communities that are deemed a "social disturbance." Although there has been a long history of the militarization of police, the revelation of just how much military weaponry has been supplied to local law enforcement by the Pentagon and how the uprising in Ferguson was dealt with are a sobering reminder of the capabilities of law enforcement to exert standing army-like control over the population of non-combatant civilians. It also would be a moral crime to ignore the fact that the intensification of police arms and enforcement is borne out of the desire, on behalf of the state, to quell the expression of people of color in their demands for justice.

Through the unabated organizing and pressure from the people, we can rejoice over the release of political prisoners Lynne Stewart and Eddie Conway (and hopefully soon Sundiata Acoli), but we must continue our fight for the many political prisoners who continue to be unjustly locked up, along with the hundreds of thousands imprisoned for non-violent offenses due to discriminatory practices in the criminal justice system. The U.S. has the highest number of prisoners in the world, incarcerating almost one-third of the world’s female prisoners, and having more than 60% of prisoners being people of color – still a minority of this nation’s population. Despite solitary confinement being internationally designated as torture, over 80,000 languish in such conditions, including some as young as 16. Solitary confinement led to a death sentence for some, and more egregious evidence of torture in prisons are now coming to light. This brazen inhumanity is exemplified by border patrol’s abuse of immigrant children seeking safety within our borders, and the warehousing and deportation of literally millions of immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under such a corrupt system, no imprisonments are legitimate!

The Call for a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation declares that this “will not stop unless and until millions of people, of all nationalities, stand up and say NO MORE, in unmistakable terms. The history of this and every other country shows that without struggle, there can be no positive change; but with struggle this kind of change becomes possible.”

October 22nd is a day that people around the nation have mobilized every year since 1996 for a National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. It is crucial that we bring forward a powerful National Day of Protest in cities and towns across the U.S. to challenge the ongoing violence against the people. This October 22nd, stand with thousands across the country to express our collective outrage, creativity, and resistance in response to the crimes of this system. On October 22nd, WEAR BLACK, FIGHT BACK!

JOIN US if there is already an October 22nd event in your area. CREATE one if you are in an area where there is currently no group organizing. For listings of activities around the country, see below.

I'm not familiar enough with every action in every city listed, but a quick look indicates to me that each of these cities has had experience with absurd levels of police violence that have led to the deaths of hundreds, more than a thousand, every year for decades.

A recent -- and highly evocative -- example was posted on "Killed by Police" yesterday:

(#1635 killed by police since May 1, 2013)
[My summary:]
A suicidal man in Roy, Utah, called the suicide prevention hotline (remember those?)  No doubt due to hotline protocol, the suicide prevention organization notified police. Police arrived at the home of the man threatening to kill himself, and several hours of "negotiations" ensued -- negotiations that often consist of no more than repeated commands to drop weapons and come out with hands up, often accompanied by repeated threats of use of lethal force, and/or deployment of concussion and sound grenades and snipers
"Negotiations" apparently failed, and a SWAT Team was deployed. Shortly thereafter the man was dead, shot by police -- one assumes by a sniper deployed with the SWAT Team -- though the "investigation" is ongoing. The man is said to have been armed, though it is not known whether he ever threatened police or if he shot at them or why the man was suicidal or really anything about the incident except that he was suicidal and he's dead. Yet another killed by police.
 Oh well.

So many things are so wrong on so many levels with this story, but the routine killing of suicidal individuals by police snipers is heartbreakingly repeated again and again throughout the country. It is professional/progressive policy, procedure, and protocol to use lethal force -- generally summary execution by a police sniper -- whenever an armed (or said to be armed), mentally ill or suicidal individual refuses commands to surrender. A term of art has invented: "suicide by cop." Cops are more than willing to oblige. More than willing.

The dead continue to pile up.

I'm all in favor of the October 22 Coalition demonstrations, but after 19 years, you'd think some progress would be made. But it's not being made -- despite the much higher level of public notice and public interest in the problem of police violence in this country.

Something else again is called for.

No comments:

Post a Comment