Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Strange Fruit Hanging in the Trees, Laying Lifeless on the Street #EricGarner #BlackLivesMatter #Justice4EricGarner #ShutItDown #ThisStopsToday #NoJusticeNoPeace #NYC

Scenes from Times Square. 

During organizing class today, a few of the students started talking about the chilling protest song "Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday. We’d seen her performing the song during a film about music and civil rights movement.  The words are still eerie and resonant.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin' in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin' eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin' flesh

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

Billie singing the blues. 

But today, instead of hanging, they lay in the street and their murdurers are let off, my student explained.  We’d just heard about the news that the police officer who killed Eric Garner was not indicted after illegally choking Garner to death.  Black men killed by cops or killed by a lynch mob never to be convicted.  It doesn’t feel that different, she explained.  Lynching is lynching.

The hate is the same.  My friend LA Kauffman posted a note about earlier in the day on facebook.

The amount of racist hate coming out of white America right now is off the charts. I worked with Rev. Sekou at UFPJ; a longstanding organizer and theorist as well as a minister, he's been doing crucial work in Ferguson since the August shooting of Mike Brown. He got this message on his Facebook page today. Osagyefo Sekou Chris McKee sent me this Facebook message (Vinta, OK) : "Show up in the south we'll find a oak tree for your ass"

The hate is the same.

Yet, there we were in class. Two more student groups had to present on their organizing projects so we stayed n class as they presented on hunger, inequality and the assaults on the supplemental nutrition program and the other group presented on police brutality.   And recall Garner was selling cigarettes to make some extra money.  The police seemed to be punishing him for his income status and struggle to make an extra buck to feed his kids.  The police seemed to b punishing him for being poor, punishing poverty. None of the bankers who cheated the system, crashing pensions and igniting the fiscal meltdown of 2008 were treated this way. : digital anarchy

 Its heartbreaking to see these students face a world where they are treated as targets to be profiled, stopped, frisked, and subject to harassment because of their skin color.  Over two decades ago when I was getting out of school, we thought a jury would convict the police who beat Rodney King.  Riots erupted across the West Coast and a movement was born.

in "From Los Angeles to Seattle: World City Politics and the New Global Resistance"
Roger Keil wrote:

Riot Politics

In the afternoon of the 29th of April 1992, in Simi Valley, in the North of Los Angeles, a jury consisting entirely of whites, with the exception of one Asian man, acquitted four white policemen, who on the night of March 3, 1991, had beaten African American Rodney King so brutally he almost died. The beating had been caught on tape by an amateur videographer and would soon be broadcast to millions of people around the world. On the afternoon of the verdict, Los Angeles erupted into the gravest civil unrest the city saw in the 20th century.

For Keil, the protests were emblematic of something much, much larger.

At this turn of the century, the world is characterized by a political divide and a type of social conflict which runs like a fault line through both the globe in its entirety and through every nation, region, and city of the world. As the first decade of a willfully stated New World Order comes to a close, as we look back on the first ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet system, a new breed of activism and politics has entered the world stage. And in contrast to earlier such events, which tended to spread from one place outward – think of the Paris Commune, for example – the current round of global anti-capitalist activism and anti-globalization politics comes from many points at once. While symbolically enlarged in cases such as the anti-WTO protests of Seattle in late 1999, these conflicts are really ubiquitous, decentralized, and unpredictable... It is my contention that some of the activism we see presently around the world is, in fact, the extension of protest politics which have existed in some form or other in large globalizing cities for some time. Based mostly on the experience of Los Angeles, I will argue that ‘Seattle’ at least to some extent was the consequence rather than the beginning of an urban based movement which has challenged globalization through local action for the past two decades (for an elaboration on the Los Angeles experience, please see Keil, 1998…).

Two decades later, we are seeing a global resistance, streching from South Central to tonight in Times Square. These rots and disruptions are part of a bigger picture and over expanding story of movements extending from Los Angeles to Seattle to Wall Street to Ferguson.

After class, I looked at email to see what was happening.  A  play about Rodney King was at BRiC.

Several posts listed actions.

(marching to Rockefeller Center to shut down the tree lighting ceremony!)


The bike bloc was going to be meeting at Foley Square.  Others would be meeting at Union and Times Square.  So I jumped on my bike to ride to the actions, as we had last week.

A hundred people or so were at Union Square. So, I rode further up to Times Square where the police lead me to the actions.  The police were cordoning off the public space with barricades, and one entrance, where they stood, filtering people in.  After Ferguson, we all have to ask, who owns the streets?  There are other ways to organize urban spaces, which invite interaction and sharing, engagement and conversation, de escalation and other approaches to seeing the world and its people as folks to get to know rather than view as others.  Times Square used to be a place where stores started, where we shared cross class contact.   But it didn’t feel like it was going to be such an occasion tonight.

“Theres another stupid Ferguson protest,” screamed one Caucasian man, walking through the crowd.

The animosity between the bewinlderred shoppers and those outraged about the verdict was jarring.  As my friend Merve May Parlar noted of the scene.

Photo of Times Square by Merve May Parlar
Parlar wrote: A Tale of Two Cities in NYC tonight; one that is boiling with rage and chanting ‪#‎ICantBreath in its streets, the other gathered around bunch of celebrities and cheerfully waiting for a stupid tree to light up.

We made our way up to the steps at 48th street and the police were cordoning the spaces off.

And slowly. we made our way to Rockefeller Center where more and more police lined the streets,  cordoned off, blocking access to the Rockefeller Center. Few knew how to get there. 

I couldn’t get near the tree, but my friend Suzy Subways overheard a reporter ask:

Inquirer reporter to Ezra: "How long do you think the protesters will be here [disrupting the xmas tree lighting] tonight?" Ezra: "MONTHS!" Radical surrealism for the win!

Some marched West to Columbus Circle and others to the West Side Highway.  Looking at everyone’s faces, there was more despair than I’ve not seen in a long time, weariness and despair.  But people are still out pushing against it.

Looking at all the protests, Leslie Kauffman noted
Something big is happening in the streets. In NYC tonight, multiple marches disrupted traffic all over town, chanting "I can't breathe" and "Black lives matter." People are grieving and fed up and feeling bold.


Earlier Eric Sawyer posted a note on the act up facebook page.

Eric Garners NYPD murders cleared in the Grand Jury indictment - here comes the shit storm - we should propose everyone black arm bands and I CAN"T BREATH STICKERS!! Are we going to march?

"A protest in Grand Central Terminal after the grand jury’s decision in the Eric Garner case. Follow live updates on the reaction to the decision:"

And he joined the die-in which took place at 5:15.

eric sawyer at the grand central diin

urban cusp at grand central 

People Take Brooklyn Bridge with chants of Live: via

As I write this, word on the street is that the Lincoln Tunnel and Grand Central are shut down.  Others are sitting in on the Brooklyn Bridge.
LINCOLN TUNNEL & GRAND CENTRAL SHUT DOWN#NoJusticeNoPeace #EricGarner #IndictAmerica 

Photo by @TheAnonMessage
Still, others are on the way to 1 Am jail support for those arrested along the way. 

The city is shut down. And we’ll be out tomorrow for more, at 5 PM Foley Square in solidarity and rage.  As my friend Monica wrote, Amerca, we have to, we must do better. 

My friend Michael Menser wonders: In 1993 the nypd banned chokeholds. In the summer of 2014 the death of a person named Eric garner was ruled a homicide by the nyc corner. The cause of death was a chokehold by an officer named Daniel pantaleo today a grand jury cleared said officer of wrong doing. There is haunting video of the encounter which shows the persona named Eric garner uttering under duress the phrase " I can't breathe." He threatened no one and several other cops are in the picture . Who and What went wrong?

 Beautiful picture of the demonstration tonight in San Francisco by

Audre Lorde Project and FiERCE posted a message declaring: 

Wake Up, Rise Up!
To those we have lost to police brutality: Eleanor Bumpurs, Tyisha Miller, LaTanya Haggerty, Tanesha Anderson, Aura Rosser, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin . . .

And those we have lost to the communal violence justified by the policing of our bodies: Sakia Gunn, Tiffany Edwards, Zoraida Reyes, Mia Henderson, Kandy Hall, Yaz'Min, Shancez, Terrell Anderson, Islan Nettles...
To the Falsely Accused, Detained and Abused: Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Renata Hill and Patreese Johnson (The Jersey Four), Marichuy, CeCe McDonald and for all the names we do not know.

In the telling of our names, what is most apparent is that our lives are seen as disposable and undervalued.  

We are clear as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non Conforming People of Color that our safety is contingent on the preservation of all Black and People of Color bodies.  We have been righteous in fighting against anti-Black racism & anti-immigrant oppression, that allows for state controlled white supremacy to exist and justify the murder of our people.  The murders of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley and Eric Garner prove that Black lives are seen as dangerous and expendable.  For those of us that are Queer, Trans, Black and People of Color, our bodies, our gender expression and who we love puts us further away from the "norms" and has falsely perceived us as the most threatening, less than human, and even more dangerous of all bodies.  

In New York City, where our organizations live and organize, we have seen the impact of racist, classist and capitalist policing on our communities for decades.  In the early 1990's, former Mayor Guiliani promoted the now infamous "Quality of life" policing practices based on broken windows policing. There are camps on both sides arguing for and against the effectiveness of such policing practices. As organizations that work with Queer and Trans people of color communities, we know these policies disproportionately impact our communities through racist/gender policing.  Our communities are the most targeted by discriminatory practices of policing and Stop & Frisk that lead to Black and Latino men being incarcerated and Black women being the fastest growing prison population. The United States is a country built on white supremacy, colonialism, slavery and genocide, it has attained wealth, power and privilege from the massive removal and displacement of our communities through deportation, criminalization, and policing.

The fact that Eric Garner was killed due to suspicion that he was selling "loosies" (single cigarettes) is an atrocity in itself.  Based on broken windows policing theory and practice, Eric became a target due to the irrational fear that communities of color, that Black people will only continue to break the law, to escalate, and be out of control.   Whether or not he was selling "loosies" is irrelevant when we compare these quality of life crimes to more heinous crimes that are constantly overlooked or justified. This includes: when banks are allowed to engage in predatory practices that target communities of color and force groups to remain in poverty; when Detroit can declare bankruptcy on a city of mostly black communities and then take away basic rights such as water; when corporations are allowed to abuse other countries and depress US economies; when the US Military continues to back and support Israel's oppression of Palestinian people and land.

While our work is important and has made critical change, it's not enough. We need to wake up, we need to rise up.  In the words of Audre Lorde - "We were never meant to survive." We need to be prepared for this hyper level of policing; we need to develop safety strategies for ourselves and our communities that uplift's our survival and existence. We've been resilient in our movement strategies & in our organizing traditions. We've been at the center of this work for decades.  It's the legacy of our ancestors, the legacy of the civil rights movement, the legacy of the uprising of Stonewall, the legacy of the migrant farmworkers movement and many others. We have been here and we will continue to be here.  In this moment, what are we willing to do to be free?
~ Written by Cara Page, Executive Director of The Audre Lorde Project  
& Krystal Portalatin, Co-Director of FIERCE

In Solidarity,
The Memberships, Staff and Board of The Audre Lorde Project and FIERCE   

Statements by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and the Council Progressive Caucus
Re: Grand Jury Decision on Eric Garner Death

Speaker Mark-Viverito: 

"This was a terribly disappointing outcome and is not reflective of the events that led to Eric Garner's death.  What makes this even more infuriating is the frequent lack of accountability, which is why I urge the U.S. Department of Justice to launch its own investigation. 

The use of excessive and lethal police force against people of color is a persistent problem nationwide and we must recommit ourselves to building a more just city and society where all people, regardless of color, are treated equally by law enforcement.  Locally, Commissioner Bratton must expedite the retraining of NYPD officers ...  so we can ensure that incidents like the one that led to Eric Garner's death never occur again.

During this painful time, it is imperative that New Yorkers come together rather than allow frustration and anger to boil over and divide us.  The Garner family has asked that any demonstrations be peaceful and everyone should respect that call.  My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Eric Garner.  My fellow Council Members and I remain committed to fostering healing in our communities."

New York City Council Black, Latino and Asian Caucus:

"The New York City Council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus stands united today to denounce the Grand Jury's failure to hold New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo accountable for the death of Eric Garner.

The death of Eric Garner by an illegal chokehold is only one example of unwarranted practices and the use of excessive force exercised by some NYPD officers. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Garner family who now join the ranks of the families of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown who have not only tragically lost a son, husband and father, but have now been denied justice. 

We are outraged that the Grand Jury failed to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner.  The failure to recognize that black and brown lives matter is evident throughout all five boroughs, as New York's communities of color suffer the brutality of  hyper-aggressive policing and are too often denied meaningful accountability of officers who to choose to use excessive and deadly force. 

We demand accountability for officers who use excessive and deadly force in communities of color throughout our city."

New York City Council Progressive Caucus: 

"Members of the Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council are extremely disheartened by the outcome in the case of Eric Garner.  The grand jury decision to no indict the officer responsible for his death is a disappointing one.  Members feel that a major injustice has been committed and that the challenges regarding police and community relations is one in dire need of solutions.  Council Members agree that the result in the case of Eric Garner's death is another racial injustice stemming from systemic problems including institutionalized discrimination, hostile relations with public safety agents and failed police accountability."


No comments:

Post a Comment