The Struggle Against Racism Continues

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A meeting will occur on Thursday December 18th, at Christ Emmanuel Christian Fellowship, 2324 May St. in Mt Auburn at 6:00 PM, unfortunately too late for readers of streetvibes. And a teach-in organized by local activists on Saturday, December 20th, in the Main  Library Room 3A at 11:00AM.

On Saturday tens–maybe hundreds–of thousands demonstrated across the United States in the National Day of Resistance against the racist police state. The protests were only the latest in a movement that has been steadily growing since 17 year old Mike Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, just outside St. Louis, this August. Courageous residents of Ferguson have taken to the streets almost every day, standing up to heavy policing in their neighborhood to fight against systemic racism which is embedded in the core of our society. When Wilson was let off without an indictment in November, and just a week later, when the New York police officer who killed Eric Garner in a chokehold wasn’t indicted either, regular protests have occurred in every major city in the country. Some have called this a new civil rights movement, while others have gone even further, suggesting these actions are revolutionary in nature.

Locally, a grassroots group of organizers, loosely organized as part of the Black Lives Matter campaign, called a solidarity protest, at least the 4th action since the night after the Mike Brown decision. Cincinnati and Ohio’s place in this movement is incredibly complicated–13 years ago, when Timothy Thomas was killed by Officer Roach, angry protesters took to the streets for a week in the largest uprising since the Rodney King uprising in LA in 1992. The protests came after 15 black men had been killed by police over the course of the previous several years. Though the police and city claim to have made changes, these are aesthetic only–today, some 3 or 4 blacks are killed each year by cops locally, and the feverish public relations work of the powerful institutions tends to be effective in sleepy Cincinnati. But a new movement forming as part of the national cause hopefully points in a new direction in the fight for liberation.

Elsewhere in Ohio, the recent memory of the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, killed by a cop when he was playing in a park with a BB gun in November, and the similar case of John Crawford killed in a Dayton Walmart while holding a toy gun, have provided tragic rallying points for the movement statewide.

In Cincinnati, the protest set off from Fountain Square and headed north on Vine Street. Chants of “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe” (Eric Garner’s final words), and “No More Timothy Thomases, No More Mike Browns” filled the air, disrupting the dull Saturday morning downtown. The march moved into OTR before stopping at Washington Park for a die-in. Protesters laid for several minutes, with many choosing to stand in solidarity, as an act to remember the lives of all who are killed at the hands of the police. Half way through the die-in, names were recited by march leader Christina Brown, and the crowd responded “Your life mattered!” When Timothy Thomas’s name was read, it was a poignant reminder of the his killing that occurred just two blocks away in 2001.

A speak out followed, allowing members of the crowd to express their thoughts and feelings, and to discuss what needs to be done. Many spoke of the need for getting children involved in this historical movement, to produce art and music to capture the spirit of the times and asked that white people to think about one’s individual place in this system and movement. Alexander Shelton, a student with UC students against Injustice, spoke about the need to build a better education system at every level and to hold administrators accountable for a more just system. Others played on this education theme: a principal spoke of how students need mentors, a teacher talked about how blaming parents misdirects away from the unequal way that the system is organized.

After one member of the crowd spoke of the need for black men to stop shooting each other, Brian Taylor, wearing a Malcolm X shirt reminded the crowd that the protest is about the state killing blacks as part of a generally racist system, and pushed back against the notion that white allies need to “stay in their lane,” saying “when it comes to the system, we’re all in the same lane.” Taylor went on to remind the oppression of other groups throughout American history: women, immigrants, latinos and how powerful movements were required (and are still required) to break down that oppression.

Another protester took the history a bit further back, tying the current racism at the hands of the police back to the founding of America, which was “set up to benefit a small group of people, by an even smaller group of people.” One of the final speakers reminded the protesters that black on black crime is horizontal violence that happens among all racial groups, with blacks being no different, only appearing to be because of the portrayal of blacks in the media and society at large.

Protesters join arms to recite Assata's chant

Protesters join arms to recite Assata’s chant

These protesters remind us of the need to build a big diverse movement that is active on a number of fronts and educated about a number of issues. Many have spoken about the moment we’re living in as revolutionary, and sometimes it does feel that way. After the speak out, marchers proceeded back downtown, ending at the Federal Courthouse, the site of the first rally following the non-indictment of Darren wilson, and a large protest following the innocent verdict of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2013.

Tying it to the revolutionary spirit, the protest ended with a recital of Black Panther Assata Shakur’s chant that has been embraced by Ferguson protestors: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

This will appear in the upcoming edition of Streetvibes