Los Angeles, CA

Posted: November 13, 2011 by o22ndp in Area reports 2011

October 22nd in Los Angeles saw the coming together of the spirit and optimism of the Occupy L.A. encampment with the deep, visceral anger at, and determination to put an end to police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of a generation. That synergy brought an electricity to the march and rally that impacted everyone who took part, or viewed it from the sidewalks as it passed by. And it spoke to a statement from the Party’s Message and Call—”The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have”—that was read twice at the rally:

The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world… when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness… those days must be GONE. And they CAN be.

Over 150 people marched from the Occupy L.A. encampment over to Pershing Square, where the protest against police brutality was gathering. Along the way people chanted “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? now,” and “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Police Brutality’s got to go.” They carried all kinds of signs they’d made at the encampment, including silk-screened posters of a cartoon pig in a police uniform; and they carried a banner that read “Occupy L.A. Committee to End Police Brutality.” They moved at double-speed, beating out rhythms on newspaper boxes and anything else metal available along the way. They were old and young, and of all nationalities, and brought a spirit that was infectious.

A week and a half before O22 there’d been a speak-out at the encampment where family members of the prison hunger strikers at Pelican Bay State Prison and other prisons told the hundred or more who attended about the torture of long term isolation in the prisons of California and around the country, and the struggle to end it.

And in the days before O22, after much debate about the role that the police play in society, the decision was made for Occupy L.A. to participate in the march.

A white college student, there with his two friends and part of the occupation, was asked what brought him to the protest: “I think if you’d lived in Birmingham when MLK was marching, you should have been with him.”

Students at one south central high school who’d made plans to walkout or sit-in to support the “Day of Defiance,” were kept from going through with it after the principal threatened one of the student organizers with expulsion.

The speak-out at Pershing Square set the tone for whole march. A South Central high school student got up on the truck with her father. She spoke about her and her family’s experience with police brutality, and about how she reached out to other students at her school to come to the protest. Her father stood with her; when he spoke, he talked about his family’s lifetime of suffering police brutality and prison, and the impact of mass incarceration.

Other family members of victims of police brutality of different nationalities got up and told their stories. A youth spoke for the contingent that came from Fullerton, in Orange County, carrying the horrific photo of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man beaten to death by 6 Fullerton cops.

And the mother of a hunger striker told everyone, “Don’t to be ashamed if your relative is in prison, you need to speak out!”

The march kicked off 500 strong; the Occupy LA forces joining with students from different college campuses, high school students, family members—mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers—and other fighters against the police murders of so many Black and Latino youth. Some marchers had traveled for hours; from as far away as Riverside, Orange County, Victorville, and San Diego. Veterans of National Day of Protest were joined by many others who were learning about and protesting police brutality and murder for the first time.

A group of family members of prisoners part of the hunger strike marched with a banner in support of the prisoners’ courageous battle, with scores of hand written messages of support; and they held up homemade signs reading “Stop Torture” and “CDC Lies, Prisoners Die.” Their presence, and the brave and inspiring story of the hunger strike, had a big impact on the entire protest.

There was a real feeling of being strong together in the street and being able to shout about these crimes. That spirit of strength and defiance grew as it went down 6th Street—they were “on a mission.” “Marching down 6th street gave me goose bumps;” the sister of a Pelican Bay hunger striker told us, “after having felt alone for so long.”

The march stopped in front of the notorious Rampart police station, a few blocks from where Manuel Jamines, a homeless Guatemalan day laborer, was murdered by police last year, sparking nights of rebellion in the community. “Justicia, Justicia, Justicia para Manuel!” rang out. And as the names of all those murdered by L.A. County police were shouted out from the truck there was an outpouring of chalking on the sidewalk in front of the station—”LAPIGS,” “Murderers,” “Stop Killer Cops,” “Stop Killing Our People,” “Stop this Shit!” “Fuck the Police!” Chalk outlines of victims of police murder were drawn on the sidewalk while a young Black man lay on his face.

Perhaps 40% of the protesters were Black youth and other Black people—marching through this community densely populated with Latino immigrants. They took up the chants in Spanish while for blocks along the area of 6th Street where Manuel Jamines was killed, people from the community filled the sidewalks watching intently as the march passed.

The march stopped at the site of this killing. Family members of other victims of police murder climbed up to speak, including telling the story of her son, killed in Lynwood. As this was happening, a group of young Black women came forward with pictures and stencils of Manuel, and with roses and candles arranged a commemoration for him at the spot where he bled to death.

The sense of outrage and deep desire to fight police brutality continued at the rally. Families of the victims of police murders painfully shared their stories—but also their determination to expose these injustices. The sister of Julian Collender described how her parents were locked in the back of a police car watching their son bleed to death on their front lawn; and then how they assassinated her brother a second time with lies and slanders about what kind of a person he was. The brother of Robert Anthony Serrano described holding his brother, shot by the police, while he died in his arms; and how his father committed suicide on the day after what would have been Robert’s birthday.

There was also a sense of people straining to understand where this brutality and murder comes from, and what it will take to eradicate it. “It’s not just some bad cops,” Julian Collender’s sister said, “they’re all bad.”

The statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party on October 22, read by Michael Slate, writer for Revolution, addressed these questions and was very well received. People applauded at different points, including the description of what’s going on in the inner cities as a slow genocide that must stop. And there was applause when an announcement was made about the demonstration and non-violent civil disobedience that had taken place in Harlem the day before—launching a battle to stop “Stop and Frisk” as part of a new movement end to the mass incarceration of especially Black and Latino youth. A number of people came up afterwards to talk about the impact that the statement had on them—many wrestling with the “systematic and systemic” nature of police brutality.

A young man who has been part of Occupy LA from the beginning spoke about the sharp debate that has been going on at the encampment over the role of the police. Arguing against the view that police are part of the 99%, he said, “When you put on that uniform, you’re working for the ruling class.” He said while the police haven’t yet attacked OLA yet, they have attacked other encampments all over the country; and they occupy every single town surrounding OLA. He talked about stopping mass incarceration and also pointed to what had just happened the day before in Harlem. And he ended by calling on the people at the rally to go down to Occupy LA, be part of the dialogue and share their stories and understanding.

A member of the People’s Neighborhood Patrols exposed the police murders, the round-ups of immigrants, the harassment like “Stop and Frisk” that happens every day, and called on people to repeat with him, “All of this is illegal and illegitimate! All of this is illegal and illegitimate!” There was a call to join the People’s Patrols, and half a dozen people who had participated in the march joined the Patrol as they went out that night in the neighborhood following the rally.

The day ended with a candlelight vigil which 75 people took part in.


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