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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Racial Justice
Harlem: Condemning the Police Murder of Oscar Grant
Harlem, February 6, 2008—Temperatures were in the low 30s as people gathered at the Harlem State Office Building on the corner of 125th Street and 7th Avenue to stand together with those protesting police brutality in Oakland, California. The corner warmed up as people of different nationalities began to express their deep outrage at the police execution of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, and the oppression of Black people and the crimes of this system more generally. People spoke bitterness, read poems, held placards and banners, debated, bought well over 100 copies of Revolution, and strategized.
Many people had seen the YouTube video or heard about the killing of Oscar Grant. Most people were not aware of the level of resistance that has arisen in the Bay Area. They welcomed the news.
Black high school youth, some of whom had not heard about Oscar, joined those holding placards along 125th Street.
Some Spanish speaking readers of Revolución wrote and held placards that read, “Justicia para Oscar Grant—¡Todo el Maldito Sistema es Culpable!”
A young French woman stood listening to people testify. She too had not known about the murder of Oscar Grant. Minutes later she was holding up one end of the NYC Revolution Club banner that read, “Justice for Oscar Grant—American Democracy = Police Brutality—Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism.” The other end of the banner was being held by a young man who at first said he could not stay but changed his mine after reading the centerfold of Revolution.
An older homeless man watched silently. When he was asked to join the demonstration he said “Look at me. I can’t hold no poster.” He was told, “You can and you have to.” When he put down his placard, “This System Has No Future for Black Youth—The Revolution Does!” an hour later, he told someone from the Revolution Club, “That felt real good. Don’t y’all give up!” He left with a bundle of Revolution under his arm.
A student and actor from a Vermont university performed a moving two-minute monologue in which she gave voice to a victim of a police murder in the last seconds of his life.
Three women from Barnard College wanted to know who organized the rally and how they could get involved.
Folks applauded enthusiastically after Carl Dix read the poetic piece in the centerfold of Revolution #155.
“This system sees millions of youth as nothing but a ‘social problem’—to be constantly dissed, degraded, disrespected.
This system offers the youth no future, no meaningful life, nothing to live for.
But the revolution does.”
A hush fell over the corner when Ms. Dale Batiste took the bullhorn. She sent her solidarity and sympathy to the resisters in Oakland, and to Oscar Grant’s family. She told the crowd that she knew the family’s pain. On an October evening last year the NYPD shot in the back and murdered Dwayne Davis and Kayshawn Forde. They were brothers. They were Ms. Batiste’s sons.
Racism and police murder have no place in the new America represented by the election of Barack Obama, one man stated over the bullhorn, and people should fight for that new America. On hearing this, another man on the edge of the scene stepped up and argued passionately that the murder of people around the world is the America Obama represents. Back and forth followed and turned again when this same guy argued that revolution could be possible only if we got more than a little divine intervention.
One Revolution reader from a public housing project in Harlem buzzed around the corner selling the newspaper, not easily taking “No” for an answer. She struggled with passersby when she addressed the crowd. “I have sons and you have children. This racist system locks them up like animals and kills them like it’s nothing. That could be my child killed by those murderers, or yours. The shoe could be on the other foot. It has to stop! We got to fight this together. And if you are not getting this newspaper and finding out what’s going on and what we can do about it, then shame on you.”
Another woman spoke about the role of the police in setting up, jailing, and assassinating political prisoners.
One man talked about his nephew, 10-year-old Clifford Glover, who was killed by police in 1973. A woman holding a placard that read “We Are All Oscar Grant—The Whole Damn System is Guilty” talked about how her sister’s husband had been beaten and arrested by the police the day before and they had not been able to find him. Another man who just happened upon the demonstration spoke about the police killing his son.
A Black man in his 70s walked through the scene and bitterly challenged, “When are we going to do more than march?” “When?” A struggle ensued over what kind of revolution we need and what meaningful preparation for that revolution looks like.
The speakout/rally here Friday gave expression to Black people’s broad experience with and deep hatred for the murderous enforcement of the “American Way of Life” carried out by the police. It gave voice to the desire for genuine, revolutionary change. It was a statement of heartfelt solidarity with the Bay Area Revolution Club and those fighting the crimes of this system there. We join with you in saying, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
NO MORE STOLEN LIVES!
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