From C. Clark Kissinger:
Join me to shut down Rikers Island on October 23!
I’m writing to you about a burning moral issue of our time—the continuing police murder of our youth.
You to whom I am writing include my old friends from SDS stretching back to 1962 and co-workers on the first March On Washington against the war on Vietnam (1965), people from community organizing in Chicago and work with the Black Panther Party, activists from the early US-China People’s Friendship Association who were inspired by pathbreaking advances in China before the ugly capitalist restoration there, friends who took up the battles here at home as part of Refuse & Resist!, defenders of Mumia Abu-Jamal and prisoners of the 1992 Los Angeles Rebellion, voices of conscience who joined with me in issuing the Not In Our Name statement against the war on Iraq, those who helped make the Bush Crimes Commission into a stinging indictment, and those I have met in my current work as manager of Revolution Books in New York.
I’m calling on you once again, with an invitation and, yes, a challenge.
The horrific epidemic of police murders has already taken over 800 lives this year—disproportionately unarmed young people of color. This is not the result of “rogue cops” or “a few bad apples.” These murders, along with the policy of mass incarceration, are part of a systematic effort to terrorize that section of the population that is most feared by the ruling powers. It is also a stark admission that they have no solution, nothing to offer millions of Black and Brown youth but prison or an early grave. The question now is will it remain legitimate for any cop to gun down any unarmed youth and get off scot-free by declaring that he felt he was in danger?
Emblematic of this whole reign of terror is Rikers Island in New York City, one of the largest jail facilities in the world. It has been repeatedly exposed as a horrific example of depraved conduct by authorities against the poor and oppressed. A daily average of 14,000 are warehoused there, most “awaiting trial.” A simple Google search will turn up dozens of accounts of prisoners being beaten, killed or left to die after unconscionable neglect, while a culture of brutality by guards remains the norm. Go on the internet, look up Rikers Island, and see for yourself. It is “Abu Ghraib-on-the-Hudson.”
On Friday, October 23, I will be joining with other voices of conscience in “Shut Down Rikers!” a non-violent direct action as part of #RiseUpOctober. People of conscience must now put their bodies on the line to stop this depravity and barbarity, else we ourselves are complicit. It is a situation in which we are all asked WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
After over 50 years of political activism, I have also come to see that there is no inevitability about the way society is organized. It results neither from human nature nor the will of a vengeful (albeit non-existent) god. It is the outcome of a historically evolved economic and social system that came into existence for material reasons and can, in the right conditions, be defeated through an actual revolution and lifted off the backs of all of humanity. Those who have applied science to this question, from Marx, to Mao, to Avakian today, have given me an optimism that is based on material reality. The very conditions which torment humanity can provide the basis for putting an end to the long dark nightmare of class society and all oppression.
So I am determined to unite with you and many more to bring an end to this outrage. The October 23 action is part of a larger three-day mobilization in New York called #RiseUpOctober. Inspired by the heroic actions of the youth from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore, Maryland, the New York action will be bringing together the families of police murder victims from all over the country and will culminate in what needs to be a massive march on Saturday, October 24.
Won’t you join me on Friday, October 23, to shut down Rikers Island? At a time like this, can we do less?
Give me a call. Let’s do this together.