Thursday, October 23, 2014

What happened on O22 - the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality?

Actions against police brutality were scheduled in at least 68 cities in the U.S. and around the world and news of what happened is just beginning to come in.  Highways were closed in Atlanta; downtown LA traffic was stopped for hours.  Students walked out of high schools.  College student groups marched.  There were die-ins, speeches, performances, poetry and more.  For the latest stay in touch with:

Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
Revolution Newspaper:

There's also a lot of mainstream coverage of events.  Just google "Stop Police Brutality protests" and variations of that. 

Here's a photo report of what happened in Honolulu.

At UH-Manoa:  Two banners created by a young artist and friends were hanging from the 2nd floor of the Art Department building facing McCarthy Mall, where 1000's of students pass by.
Displays of photos of victims of police brutality were put up on the mall.  This one was at Hamilton Library.  As soon as the displays were up Campus Security showed up saying there was a complaint from the library.  It turned out to be bogus, and the real complaint was from a bureaucrat from Buildings/Facilities.  We stood our ground but had to take this one down, and one had to be moved.  The others stayed because faculty and students jumped into the argument and spoke up for "free speech."  Security even tried to say we couldn't pass out leaflets calling on students to join the march in Waikiki that night, but when we referred to the recent 9th Circuit Court Decision and picked up the phone to call a lawyer they backed down and we continued to leaflet.

This is one of the photo displays on McCarthy Mall.  Lots of students and faculty stopped to talk about police brutality - many relating their own stories.

 A Black student:  “I’m from South Carolina and I get stopped all the time for ‘driving while Black’.   Yeah, it happened in South Carolina too, but way more over here.”

 A white student:  “I was sitting in front of a church at 6:30am waiting for a bus when this cop says I can’t be there.  I talked back cuz a church is a sanctuary and there wasn’t a sign saying you couldn’t be there.  The cop knocked me down and kicked me.   I had a couple of broken ribs.    One guy saw it so I thought I could charge the cop with police brutality.  When I went to court the judge said he had to take the word of the cop.   I lost a year of my life because of what that cop did.”

A Hawaiian man working on campus:  “I see they’re hassling you cuz they’re pissed [referring to UH security] – but when cops are pissed off with us in Waianae we get it way worse.”

Photo display on a construction wall on King Street.  

As the march began in the front of the Honolulu Zoo a crowd from Hula's Bar began clapping and cheering.  A driver passing by pulled out a conch and began to blow, and the homeless in front of Starbucks stood up and raised their fists.  One said “I was at McDonalds when they shot Kollin Elderts.  Cops can do anything they want in this town and they can get away with it.  Us – we can’t do nothing - hardly breathe -  and we get brutaled.”

About 35 people marched through Waikiki, chanting loudly.  "No Justice, No Peace!"  "Stop Police Brutality has Got to Go!"  "Hey HPD what do you say, how many women did you beat today?!"....

When the march approached the front of the Waikiki Police Substation a new chant went up:  "Hands up!  Don't Shoot!"  and an agitator read the Pledge from the Mass Incarceration Network on her bullhorn.

While relatively small, the march was greatly strengthened by a contingent of "law warriors" from the Richardson School of Law who not only joined up, but were energetic and loud and came carrying their own creative signs  (photo of their contingent to the right),  We were also joined from a man who flew over from Maui to join us because there wasn't an event there.
All along the route tourists and shop-owners alike raised their cell phones to take pictures.  One guy with a go-pro joined for a few blocks, and several for the whole route.  There were lots of cheers, and few jeers.   Some joined the chants; some clapped.  This is remarkably different than in the past, when many people looked puzzled, there were more jeers, some asked "what happened?" and others were bummed out because we were interrupting their get-away vacation in paradise with a reminder of the horrors of police brutality and mass incarceration...  This time they all seemed to know what the march was about, and the majority were happy to see us there.

What's changed?   That people rose up to protest the murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and most of all Michael Brown.  That people in Honolulu have consistently demanded justice for Kollin Elderts. That people are daring to raise their cellphones and record police crimes and are demanding justice!

A checker player along the route said:  “Yeah, it happens every day, but people only hear about it when someone raises hell.”  His friend continued: “That’s what’s happening in Ferguson – revolution.  Just like the shirt says – revolution!   That’s what we need!” 

So what does this beginning spirit of resistance mean?   It means that we have to be ready to speak out and act on every incident of police brutality and repression.  It means that people have to be ready to act when the grand jury delivers indictments in the cases of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.  It means continuing to demand justice for Kollin Elderts and all victims of police brutality in order to make it impossible for the police to continue to act with impunity.

As Carl Dix, the co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network said in his speech at the NYC march at Times Square: " means continuing to build resistance to the horrors of the criminal “injustice” system until mass incarceration and police terror are really no more."

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