NEW YORK CITY, June 17 — More than 200 workers and students gathered to march in the heart of Harlem today, loudly defying an avalanche of capitalist ideas and mis-leadership to condemn the racist New York Police Department and its reign of terror in working-class black and Latino communities. Afterwards, the rally fed into a mass, silent march against the racist Stop-and-Frisk policy of police intimidation and terror. Although both events were confronting similar issues, in many ways they could not have been more different.
Our rally was organized by the friends and family of Ramarley Graham, an 18-year-old black youth murdered on February 2 by racist cop Richard Haste. The Graham family and the support committee, including PLP members, decided to hold the rally here in direct response to the organizers of the main march.
In some back room, Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous — head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) — and George Gresham — head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — made a cowardly political decision. Instead of beginning the march in the heart of Harlem, where the mainly black and Latino population deals with racist Stop-and-Frisk every day, they moved the main rally to 110th street, a mainly gentrified area.
Unlike these misleaders, we don’t fear an angry, militant response from Harlem’s black workers. In fact, that’s exactly what we welcomed! Their anger and hatred of the racist police should be a clarion call for all workers, reminding us that the bosses and their thugs are our class enemies. When workers are united and led by a revolutionary communist party they won’t stand a chance.
Joining Ramarley’s family were other victims of the racist KKKops. The son of Kenneth Chamberlain — a 68 year-old black man murdered by cops in nearby White Plains, NY — came and spoke with marchers about how his father accidentally set off a device warning he was having a medical emergency. The police arrived, kicked down his door and killed him. Also present were people from Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood where Shantel Davis was slaughtered by racist cops.
Meanwhile, the organizers of the main march intentionally downplayed the issue of police brutality, focusing only on Stop-and-Frisk. These phony mis-leaders want to encourage narrow thinking among workers, pleading with us to ignore how racism infects our daily lives, from police murder and Stop-and-Frisk to unemployment and school closings.
However, at our rally multiple speakers linked the litany of racist attacks to the capitalist system. As we heard, racism serves the barbaric bosses in two important ways. First, it allows them to wring even more profit out of the working class. In the U.S., the wages and benefits of black and Latino workers are deliberately kept lower than white workers’, netting the bosses hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars in super-profits. This racist wage system is used as a threat to white workers’ demands, thus driving down their wages as well. A similar situation exists worldwide.
Secondly, racism keeps workers divided, encouraging us to blame other workers for the lack of jobs and low wages, weakening any united struggle. This understanding of racism will never escape the lips of the Sharptons or Greshams. At our rally it rang out loud and clear, giving Harlem residents a communist analysis and a way to fight back.
After rallying, we marched through Harlem, a neighborhood which has been the target of racist police brutality for decades. Here, in 1964, the murder of black teenager James Powell by the same racist NYPD sparked the Harlem Rebellion, the first of the big-city uprisings in the 1960s. Our march and militancy paid tribute to those brave rebels. Instead of silence, Harlem residents heard chants like, “NYPD, KKK, How many kids did you kill today?” and “Racist cops, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!”
Our vocal anger at the NYPD’s racist murders put into stark relief the treasonous ideas pushed by the organizers of the main march. They called for a silent march, muting the anger of the protesters. The effect was tens of thousands of workers and students, united across ethnic lines, meekly walking down the street. The cops and politicians who maintain this racist capitalist system could rejoice at this passivity.
Unfortunately, despite a long-term struggle over the issue, too many in the group felt obliged to respect the decision of the traitorous organizers and remained silent. This is a specific aspect of a more general struggle: instead of relying on politicians and ministers, workers should be won to trusting their own class.
The struggle continues. The Graham family holds weekly vigils which should shame the organizers of the main march. More importantly, it should spark workers and students, committed to multi-racial unity and the militant fight against racism, to hold our heads up high. We’re not silent nor passive. We’re loud and angry. We march through the streets of the Bronx calling on neighbors to join our fight against the racist cops. We indict the whole racist, capitalist system. And we end every march at the police precinct where the racist murderer of Ramarley Graham worked. Here we are the loudest, charging the police with murder and putting them on notice that the multi-racial, international working class is coming for them and their system.
Racist KKKops Are Violent, We Will Not Be Silent!
A small group of PL’ers attempted to break the silent march but the majority of the marchers were reluctant to join us. We then relocated to the march’s end point where a collective sigh of relief engulfed the remaining marchers. They were finally out from under the passive tenor of the day when a crowd of hundreds heeded our call and took up chants of:
“Racist cops, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide!”
“This racist system has got to go, stop and frisk is the new Jim Crow!”
“Killer cops mean we’ve got to fight back!” and,
“Racist cops are violent, we will not be silent!”
When a group of white-shirted cops moved in to silence our bullhorn, we shifted location and new (and physically imposing) friends from the crowd moved to protect the chanters under the red flag. Despite the best efforts of the march leaders to keep the lid on mass anger, we’re proud to say we ended the day as we began it, holding the red flag high and guaranteeing a vocal, militant communist character in the anti-racist movement.
As long as capitalism exists there will be racist police murders in our cities. Within each struggle PLP will inject revolutionary communist politics into each fight whether it’s in one-on-one relationships with survivors of cop terror, in community organizing meetings or in the streets where the masses confront the fascist system head on. Join us!”