Above: segregated education in 1950′s America; surely we’ve moved on since then?
At Universities UK, Woburn House, 20 Tavistock Square, London WC 1H 9HQ, 5 pm (for 5.30 start) Tues 10 Dec
From One Law for All:
On the occasion of International Human Rights Day we oppose the legitimisation of forced gender segregation by Universities UK (UUK), the body representing the leadership of UK universities. UUK has issued guidance on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.” The document also alleges that universities would be legally obliged to enforce fully, not only partially, segregated seating orders on audiences at universities. Outrageously, the document has been supported by the National Union of Students.
We will meet at 5pm to start the protest at 5.30pm
Speakers will include: Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters), Maryam Namazie (Fitnah and One Law for All), Kate Smurthwaite (comedian), Anne-Marie Waters (National Secular Society), Julie Bindel (Justice for Women), Charlie Klenjian (Lawyers’ Secular Society), Helen Palmer (Central London Humanist Group), Sam Westrop (Stand for Peace), Sean Oakley (Reading University Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society), Georgi Laag (London Atheist Activists Group), Ahlam Akram (Palestinian women’s rights campaigner), James Bloodworth (Left Foot Forward), Erin Saltman (Quilliam Foundation).
A petition against UUK has received more than 7.500 signatures already, and the issue has been extensively covered by the Times, Guardian, Spectator, Indepenent and Telegraph. You can find a collection of the articles below. Sign the petition here: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Universities_UK_Rescind_endorsement_of_sex_segregation_at_UK_Universities/ A detailed analysis of the document can be found here: http://hurryupharry.org/2013/11/23/you-are-a-woman-you-cant-sit-here-uk-universities-condones-gender-segregation/ Follow us on twitter: @maryamnamazie @lsesusash #no2sexapartheid See More
Readers are urged to support this petition against Hunt’s outrageous “hospital closure clause.” However, I feel obliged to say that 38 Degrees have a bit of a cheek in seemingly claiming all the credit for the brilliant Lewisham Hospital campaign, which has been conducted on the ground by local activists and rank-and-file trade unionists, many of whom have not even heard of 38 Degrees…
From 38 Degrees: This is a message from Louise Irvine, a 38 Degrees member and hospital campaigner. Read her message below, or sign her petition here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/hospital-closure-clause
I’m a doctor and part of the Save The Lewisham Hospital campaign. Along with thousands of 38 Degrees members, we stopped health minister Jeremy Hunt from closing services at Lewisham Hospital. Thousands of us chipped in to take him to court, and we won. 
Jeremy Hunt appealed the decision – but he lost again. So now, having been told twice that he acted illegally, he’s trying to change the law!  He wants to bring in a “hospital closure clause” to give him new legal powers to shut A&Es like Lewisham. If he gets this through, none of our hospitals will be safe from his meddling or closure. 
The hospital closure clause will soon be voted on by MPs. We need to persuade enough of them to vote against it. A huge petition will show MPs that the public don’t want them to give Jeremy Hunt new powers to shut hospitals.
I’ve started a petition on the 38 Degrees website. Please can you sign it today, before MPs vote?
It’s a pretty cynical way to respond to our campaign, isn’t it? After losing in court, Jeremy Hunt’s trying to sneak a change into a law to allow him “to dismantle hospital services arbitrarily.”  Even the very best hospitals wouldn’t be safe. This sinister clause is hidden within a much bigger piece of law - presumably he’s hoping that it will go through unnoticed.
A big petition can help stop this happening. When the bill is next debated, we can prove that thousands of us are coming together against these plans. Every signature helps sound the alarm. Every signature is a blow to Jeremy Hunt’s reputation, an extra voice against him getting new powers to shut hospitals.
Jeremy Hunt saw the public outcry the last time the government changed the law to damage the NHS. He saw his predecessor, Andrew Lansley, lose his job. The last thing Jeremy Hunt will want to see is 38 Degrees members coming together again to stand up for NHS.
 38 Degrees blog, Jeremy Hunt beaten in court… again!
 Parliament website, Early Day Motion 656
 The Telegraph, Government wants free rein to close hospitals, claims
H/t: Trudy S
By Roland Wright
A decade ago Paul Hutcheon was an investigative reporter. But now he just hunts with the pack.
Could the decline in the paper’s circulation be in anyway related to the decline in the quality of its journalism?
“Leading Labour MSP Urged to Resign After Taking Part in Unite Demo Outside Director’s House,” read the headline above an article by Hutchinson in yesterday’s edition of the paper.
Over five weeks after the event, the giant inflatable rat used in a Unite protest outside the house of an Ineos director had made a comeback: “Smith was one of 13 people pictured. He was standing next to the rat.”
Hutcheon’s use of the hack-journalist technique of guilt-by-association was positively breathtaking. It ran as follows:
The rat was next to Drew Smith who was next to his aide Michael Sharpe who is the son of Cathie Jamieson MP who is part of Ed Ball’s shadow treasury team at Westminster.
Sharpe, luckily for him, was not standing next to the rat. He was “holding a placard.” A very unconventional activity for someone taking part in … a protest.
Not that Hutcheon actually refers to the event as a protest. Deploying his wordsmith skills to the utmost, he writes instead of “the Unite trade union’s notorious ‘leverage’ demo.”
Another problematic aspect to the article was that Smith was not actually taking part in the protest (not that there would have been anything wrong with his participating, especially given that he is chair of the Labour Trade Union Group in Holyrood.)
The Unite protest coincided with the Dunfermline by-election campaign for the Holyrood seat left vacant after the resignation of the incumbent SNP MSP.
Along with two of his aides, Smith happened to be distributing Labour by-election leaflets on the estate where the Unite protest was taking place.
This certainly makes a mockery of the anonymous “senior party source” quoted by Hutcheon: “A trade unionist with any sense would not have gone within a hundred miles of that protest.”
Clearly, there wouldn’t have been much point in distributing leaflets calling for a Labour vote in the Dunfermline by-election over a hundred miles away in Inverness.
But the bigger problem with the article is the headline reference to Smith being “urged to resign.” By whom was he being “urged to resign”?
Why, none other than Eric Joyce MP!
That’s the Falkirk MP with the chequered history of drunken brawls in the House of Commons and Edinburgh Airport, dalliances with a 17-year-old schoolgirl, drink-driving, refusing to take a breathalyser test, and record claims for parliamentary expenses.
When it comes to speaking out about parliamentarians who should resign, Joyce clearly commands no small degree of authority on such matters! In a comment unlikely to endear him to local councillors, Joyce said:
“The image of a Labour shadow cabinet member smiling as he takes part in a leverage squad outside someone’s home is thoroughly nauseating. He should resign immediately.”
“The Scottish shadow cabinet doesn’t feel like a serious prospect at the moment. Members are content to operate at the level of the local councillor which some of them remain.”
A non-story about a man who stood next to a giant inflatable rat over five weeks ago?
It’s hardly investigative journalism. In fact, it’s not even news.
From Tony Burke:
You will have seen in the media the dispute at the Ineos Refinery and Chemicals plant in Grangemouth Scotland.
Unite members are under attack by their own company who are attempting to impose new terms on conditions on the workforce, ending the company pension scheme, taking disciplinary action against one of our convenors, Steve Deans. The company say they are losing money and need to make changes. Unite has called off any industrial action at the site to allow talks to take place. However, the company continue to issue ultimatums to members, telling them to sign a “survival plan” or they face losing their jobs over the last weekend. Our reps in attempting to find a just resolution have been faced with abuse by irresponsible management.
Protest: for everyone the Daily Mail hates
On Sunday, all the people hated by the Daily Mail – that’s pretty much all of us – are going to turn up at their headquarters, loud and proud about who we are. If you’re a woman, a Muslim, LGBT, a nurse, a socialist, a trade union rep, a disabled person or just someone who doesn’t like hatred being pumped into public life every day, turn up.
This is an upbeat, carnival-type protest, a statement of defiance against bigotry and hatred. So turn up in a good mood, with colourful banners, full of pride about who we all are.
Journalist and campaigner Owen Jones said: “A newspaper that once had the cheek to back Adolf Hitler and the Blackshirts has smeared Ralph Miliband, a Jewish refugee who fought the Nazis for this country, as a ‘man who hated Britain’.
“But the reality is it is the Daily Mail who hates Britain. They hate our proud institutions, like the NHS and the BBC. Their campaign of hatred has targeted women, public sector workers, trade unionists, immigrants, Muslims, benefit claimants, travellers, and other vast swathes of our society.
“We’re calling on all those hated by the Daily Mail to join us on Sunday, and to be loud and proud about what they are in a show of defiance against bigotry and hatred.”
Sam Fairbairn, Secretary of the People’s Assembly said: “Miliband announces he’ll scrap the Bedroom Tax and freeze energy prices, the next day the Daily Mail launches a vicious personal attack on his father. Millions are suffering under austerity Britain and this paper has made it clear who’s side they are really on – the corporations and the austerity addicted politicians. It’s the Daily Mail who really hates Britain.”
H/t: Comrades Bruce and Coatesy
March and Rally – Sunday 29 September 2013
Supporters of the National Health Service and all those who want to defend jobs, services and a decent welfare state will be marching in Manchester to deliver a clear message to Conservative Party Conference that we mean to Save Our NHS from cuts and privatisation.
A march and rally have been called by the North West TUC, backed by unions and NHS campaign groups. They’ll be assembling at Liverpool Road (M3 4FP) from 11am, and marching to a rally in Whitworth Park.
The protest will highlight the impact of huge job losses and spending cuts across the health service, as well as the rapid sell-off of the most lucrative parts of the NHS to private healthcare companies – many of whom like Circle are also Conservative Party donors.
The event will also raise concerns about the wider effect that government economic policies are having upon communities across the UK.
Coaches to Manchester are being laid on by groups around the country, with many places subsidised or free. A list of coaches can be found at http://falseeconomy.org.uk/travel/uk/all/t1.
Coach Drop Off Point: The coach drop off point will be on Water Street, Manchester B5225. Coaches should arrive at the drop off point between 09:00 and 12:00.
Advertise your coach
For those looking to advertise your coach and ensure they are full, the False Economy has a section dedicated to 29th September. Register your details through http://falseeconomy.org.uk/nhs299 or alternatively, you can email Jay McKenna at email@example.com with your coach details.
The nearest train station to the form up point is Deansgate Train Station. For those travelling to Manchester Oxford Road or Manchester Picaddilly, there will be police officers on duty on the day who will be able to point you in the direction of Liverpool Road and the march.
Buses will be running on the day, however there will be some alterations due to road closures. These will be published shortly on the Transport for Greater Manchester website www.tfgm.com.
The form up area for unions will be signposted and this information will be circulated prior to the march.
The march is expected to move off at 12:15 and the route has been confirmed with police and agency partners.
It is: Depart Liverpool Road; Turn Left onto Deansgate; Turn right onto John Dalton Street; Continue over onto Princess Street; Turn right onto Portland Street; Turn right onto Oxford Street; Left into Hall Street; Continue round to Bale Street; Turn left onto Lower Mosley Street; Continue down onto Albion Street; Turn left onto Whitworth Street; Turn right onto Oxford Street; Continue down onto Oxford Road; Finish at Whitworth Park.
Short March/Static Demonstration
For those who require a shorter march the two points for will be at:
- Barbirolli Square (outside of the Bridgwater Hall) – This allows for those who wish to join the march to pass the conference centre and continue onto the rally
- All Saints Park (off Oxford Road) – This allows for those who just wish to attend the rally to join the march to its conclusion
Both Barbirolli Square and All Saints Park will be stewarded and policed to ensure that those with mobility requirments will have safe and easy passage in the march. All marchers are asked to respect this.
The rally will start at 14:15 or when the march reaches Whitworth Park, whichever is the later. It is expected to last for approximately 2 hours with speakers and music.
Space for any stalls within Whitworth Park is limited is extremely limited. If any Union or organisation wishes to have a stall at the rally, please email Kara Stevens on firstname.lastname@example.org
Accessible Viewing Area/Sign Language
A disability viewing area will be provided near to the stage to enable clear sight lines to the stage. There will also be sign language provided on the day. This area will be signposted and stewards will direct individuals to this area if required.
At the end of the rally, coach pick up points and the direction of travel to train stations will be advertised on the large screen. Stewards and police will be on hand to assist with dispersal from the park and signposting individuals to coach parking.
- Sign up to support the march and rally
- Join the march and Rally on Facebook
- Follow on Twitter at @NHS299
NB: all the above is reproduced from the TUC website
The snappily-named ‘Transparency of Lobbying Bill Non Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’ gets its second reading in Parliament today. It is ironic that a piece of legislation ostensibly intended to clean up politics, will, in reality undermine basic liberties and – in particular – trade union freedom.
Above: this would be effectively outlawed in the 12 months before an election
KEITH EWING explains the issues:
The TUC has expressed serious concerns about the far – reaching consequences of the government’s Transparency of Lobbying, Non Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, due for a second reading next week.
Such concern is hardly surprising, for this is a Bill that not only represents a threat to basic liberties generally, but to trade union freedom specifically. So much for the Illiberal Democrats, who promised that they would be the guardians of freedom when in government.
The Bill presents two major threats to trade unions. Here the concern is with the consequences for trade union electoral freedom, which is not intended to diminish the other threat which relates to even greater – and yet more intolerable – State supervision of trade union membership lists.
But so far as electoral freedom is concerned, the strategy is clear – previous Tory governments having stripped trade unions of their industrial freedoms, the Coalition is now set on stripping trade unions of their political freedoms as well, continuing in the illiberal vein that has already produced secret courts and the harassment of journalists.
The proposed new restrictions are designed to silence union election campaigning, though as the TUC has pointed out, they have much wider implications. It is a nasty and cynical attempt at self-preservation, the law being used purely as an instrument of partisan self-interest.
But although the impact on trade union political freedom is likely to be far-reaching and (as the TUC pointed out last week) wide – ranging, such concerns should not divert attention from the Bill’s central purpose, which is clearly and unequivocally to weaken trade union support for the Labour party at the election in 2015.
Trade unions take part in elections in a number of ways. First, they make substantial donations to the Labour party to help it with its election campaigns. But secondly, some trade unions – notably UNISON – may run their own national campaigns independently of the Labour party.
Other unions will provide grass – roots support to the Labour party at constituency level, helping with the national campaign and assisting Labour parliamentary candidates. Some unions will also make contributions to organisations campaigning against racism and the BNP.
Where trade unions engage in their own campaigns nationally or locally they are already subject to tight legal controls. As ‘third parties’ for the purposes of election law, these controls apply to ‘controlled expenditure’ – a term used to describe national election campaign costs, capped at just under £1 million for each union.
So far the law has not been a serious problem for trade union election activity. That, however, is about to change, with an extremely densely written and confusing Bill proposing to expand the definition of ‘controlled expenditure’, while also reducing the amount of money unions can lawfully spend. Read the rest of this entry »
Above: Bayard Rustin
As the world gears up for the fiftieth anniversary of the great 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, the Social Democrats USA remember the crucial role of Bayard Rustin, and the ”Shachtmanite” organisation, of which he was a member: their role has been figuratively airbrushed out of official histories. Rustin was the key figure linking the Civil Rights movement and the unions:
By David Hacker
The 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington is [this coming Wednesday]. Everyone knows about Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that he delivered at the rally outside the Lincoln Memorial for this event. What most do not know is that the entire march was conceived and planned by the Shachtmanites. A Philip Randolph conceived it. But Max Shachtman also had a hand in the idea for the march. He also chose Rustin to be the main organizer for the march. When Rustin was caught and arrested for homosexual conduct in a men’s room in Washington, Shachtman (though he was a homophobe) outlined for Bayard a defense of his action. Randolph was being pressured to fire Rustin and Southern Senators, such as Strom Thurmond, were attacking him on the issue of immorality. But as a result of Shachtman’s defense, Rustin continued to be the main organizer of the march (though his official position was downgraded a bit.), and he hired many Shachtmanites such as Norman Hill and Tom Kahn to assist him. At the same time, Bogdan Denitch organized the West Coast version of the march in California. At the rally itself, Kahn wrote the controversial speech by SNCC chair John Lewis in which the advanced text contained attacks on the Kennedy Administration and stated that “the revolution is at hand. We will take matters in our own hands and create a source of power, outside of any national structure that could and would assure us a victory…If any radical social, political and economic changes are to take place in our society, the people, the masses, must bring them about.” Then Att. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy said that Lewis shouldn’t be allowed to deliver his speech at the March. Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle, the Catholic prelate of Washington protested that he wouldn’t deliver the invocation for the rally if Lewis delivered his speech. Randolph, King, Rustin, Kahn and Lewis and other leaders of SNCC argued about revising the speech while the rally had already started. Finally, Lewis agreed to a rewritten speech and he was allowed to address the masses gathered at the Lincoln Memorial. (Lewis is now a Democratic congressman from Atlanta.)
What most history books do not tell you about is the Socialist Party conference that was held in Washington after the rally was over. It was entitled, “Socialist Party National Conference on the Civil Rights Revolution”. This was a 2 day affair held at the Burlington Hotel from Thursday August 29-Friday August 30, 1963. (The SP had a party for Marchers and Conference participants on the evening of August 28th after the conclusion of the March on Washington and rally.) The first session was Thursday morning with the theme: “Toward Full Equality in a Progressive America. Chairman of the session was Richard Parrish ( who was the chairman of the Civil Rights Committee of the United Federation of Teachers, Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers and Treasurer of the Negro-American Labor Council. Parrish was also running on the SP line for a special election for NYC Councilmember at Large in Manhattan and was supported enthusiastically by all factions of the SP.) Speakers were Norman Thomas, Floyd McKissick, Chairman of CORE (spoke in place of James Farmer, who was in jail in Louisiana), A. Philip Randolph and Congressman William Fitts Ryan (D-NY), a leader of the reform Democrats. Special remarks by Samuel H. Friedman, SP VP candidate in 1952 and 1956 and former editor of the Socialist Call. The afternoon session was entitled: “The New Phase: A Prospectus for Civil Rights.” Chairman of the session was long time SP activists Seymour Steinsapir. Speakers were Bayard Rustin, Deputy Director March on Washington. Responding to Rustin’s address were Robert Moses, Field Secretary, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, Ike Reynolds, Task Force, CORE and Tom Kahn, Staff, March on Washington. The evening sessions theme was “A Political Strategy for Civil Rights. The sessions’s chairman was Eleanor Holmes, now DC Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. She introduced the conference’s keynote speaker, Max Shachtman, who spoke on the topic, “Drive Out Dixiecrats For Jobs and Freedom.” Responding to Shachtman’s address were Ernest Calloway, President, St Louis Chapter of the Negro-American Labor Council, and Wiloughby Abner, Vice-President, NALC, National Staff, UAW. The final session of the Conference took place on Friday morning. It’s subject was “Fair Employment-Full Employment. The chairman of the meeting was Warren Morse (a name I am unfamiliar with). Speakers were Lewis Carliner, Assistant to the Director, International Affairs Dept., UAW, Norman Hill, Assistant Program Director, CORE, Cleveland Robinson, Secretary Treasurer, District 65 RWDSU, Co-Chairman of March, Herman Roseman, Economist. Closing Remarks and Summary by Norman Thomas.
Thus, well known figures took part in this conference. such as leaders of CORE, SNCC, Randolph, Rustin, Norman Thomas, Norm Hill, Kahn, prominent folk singers like Joan Baez, etc. But my main point is that the Shachtmanites, militant civil rights leaders, labor, were all united seemingly in the same broad realignment movement of the democratic Left. SDS was still also a part of this coalition, despite of Harrington’s tirade against them over the Port Huron Statement, the year before. As long as the Shachtmanite-militant civil rights alliances continued, it would be counter-productive for SDS to seem to be against this realignment coalition. This is the very positive aspect of the Shachtmanites activities in the SP that too many are unfortunately not aware of. Harrington was not at the March. He was in Paris writing his second book, The Accidental Century.
David Hacker is Vice Chair of Social Democrats USA. The above article is excerpted from a book he is writing about Max Shachtman. Historical note: The Socialist Party in existence in 1963 would be renamed Social Democrats, USA in 1972. Harrington chose to leave the organization at that time. But organized labor stayed and so did Bayard Rustin, becoming National Chairman.
More on Rustin’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, and his subsequent political evolution, here
Gary Younge in the Gruan doesn’t even mention Rustin’s Shachtmanism
As marchers assemble in Washington to honour the memory of Martin Luther King and the continuing relevance of the 1963 March For Jobs and Freedom, the US Socialist Worker (once, but no longer, affiliated to the UK SWP), has published this important report:
Taking our struggles to Washington
Elizabeth Schulte, Laura Lising, Gaston Lau and Ann Coleman report on local organizing for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
BY AUGUST 1963, brave civil rights struggles across the U.S. South had thrust the ugly face of Jim Crow segregation–symbolized by the scenes of police attacking Black children with German shepherds and high-pressure fire hoses in Birmingham, Ala.–into the national consciousness.
For many participants, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom represented a coming together of the different battles for civil rights, as well as many people inspired by those struggles. The unexpected and unprecedented turnout of some 250,000 people showed the reach of the movement.
On the 50th anniversary of the famous march where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, the situation is different, of course. We aren’t witnessing the crest of a mass movement. In fact, many of the gains of the civil rights struggles of half a century ago, like legalized desegregation in public schools and housing, are being eroded. And thanks to the popularity of the idea that we are living in a “post-racial society”–as evidenced by the fact that an African American occupies the White House–opponents of racism often find themselves struggling to push the conditions that Black America endures into the national spotlight.
But the murder of Trayvon Martin last year gave a clear picture of racism in “post-racial” America–and the outpouring of anger after his murderer George Zimmerman was acquitted in July showed the potential for protest, even if they were relatively short-lived. As a result, what might have been mostly a commemoration of the 1963 march 50 years on has taken on a new spirit and urgency.
At least some people will come to Washington this year to speak out about the often localized civil rights issues of today that they have been organizing around–against stop-and-frisk and racial profiling, against police violence and the New Jim Crow, for jobs and union rights, for housing and education justice, against voter ID laws and disenfranchisement, against the relentless austerity agenda.
The August 24 march represents the first time in many years that established civil rights organizations like the NAACP and National Action Network (NAN) have called for a national mobilization and put real resources behind it. Unions have taken up the call–around 15 unions have endorsed officially, including the American Federation of Teachers, AFSCME and the United Auto Workers.
The weight of established liberal organizations in the official apparatus of the demonstration means that some of burning issues on marchers’ minds will be addressed from the speakers’ podium, but others will not. After all, many march organizers like Rev. Al Sharpton of NAN have so far failed to criticize the Obama administration, despite how little it has delivered for Black America.
But the same was true of the 1963 March on Washington, at least as radicals of the day, like Malcolm X, viewed it. Yet the 1963 demonstration is remembered not only for the famous words spoken from the front of the demonstration, but for the spirit and determination of the demonstrators.
There’s no way to tell how many people will attend this year, but reports from around the country indicate the march is inspiring more people to get on the bus than anyone expected a few months ago. In some cities, organizers say spaces on buses are selling out fast.
Lauren Byers of the University of Florida chapter of the Dream Defenders, a group of antiracist youths who occupied the Florida Capitol for a month after Zimmerman’s acquittal, said, “We are named after that historic speech by Dr. King, and we understand that the dream he died trying to accomplish has yet to flourish into reality.”
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IN NEW York City, buses are filling up fast. The United Federation of Teachers booked some 25 buses, and the seats were quickly taken.
Many longtime criminal justice activists are traveling as a group from New York and marching together with the formerly incarcerated and other longtime activists. Anti-criminal justice system activist and socialist Lee Wengraf said she was excited about how march organizing is drawing together people around issues of solitary confinement, conditions at the prison on Rikers Island, police brutality and other similar issues.
Constance Malcolm is one of them. She’s the mother of Ramarley Graham, the unarmed 18-year-old who was shot and killed by New York City police in his home. Since her son’s murder, Constance and her family have fought for justice for their son, along with the families of other victims of police violence. Last week, a grand jury refused to re-indict the police officer who killed Ramarley.
Constance explained the importance of attending this march:
We want to go to Washington because this is where Eric Holder, the head of Justice Department, is. We want him to take up Ramarley’s case–not just look into it, but take up this case. We want them to know who Ramarley is in Washington. The same way that Trayvon Martin became a household name, we need them to know that Ramarley was here. It was a police officer who murdered Ramarley, and Zimmerman was a wannabe police officer.
The everyday racism of the NYPD were in the national spotlight last week when a federal judge ruled in Floyd et al v. the City of New York that the department’s stop-and-frisk policy violated the constitutional rights of its hundreds of thousands of victims each year. The cracks in the criminal justice system are showing.
Joseph “Jazz” Hayden of the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow in New York City explains that if activists are going to win this fight, we’re going to have to push forward our own demands:
The people initiating this march, I don’t know that we should be restricted to their agenda. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were products of mass demonstrations. The movement brought into question U.S. foreign policy around the globe–whether it was about democracy and fairness and human rights.
With that in mind, I looked at the Floyd decision that was just rendered in New York against stop-and-frisk and the announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that he wants to reform federal sentencing laws and mandatory minimums. I think the Obama administration is aware of this mass population of predominately people of color descending on Washington. I think that has our first Black president concerned.
I think that these are incremental reforms–giving the appearance of moving in the right direction and finally recognizing the issues that impact poor people of color, which he has ignore totally throughout his administration. This march should be done for the purpose of holding their feet to the fire. We need to ask why haven’t they addressed the issue of mass incarceration in the U.S., of growing poverty, lack of affordable housing.
Moreover, said Hayden, the march is an opportunity to make connections toward building a national movement. “We saw the grassroots response to the Trayvon Martin decision, which led to demonstrations in over 100 cities across the country. Imagine if we were organized in 100 cities across the country. Anytime we decided we wanted to put something on the national agenda, we could put it out there instantly.”
Yusef Salaam of the Central Park Five–innocent Black youth who were framed for a high-profile rape and assault in 1989–spoke to the demands of the original march that remain unmet:
I think we can be sure that we are still in need of Jobs and Freedom, which are inclusive of our civil and economic rights. The progress we need isn’t satisfied by piecemeal gains for a few, but requires advancement for all. Marching lets the world know we are still at odds with a system that refuses to allow for this gain to take place.
Enough is enough! I want a brighter future for us and future generations, as I’m sure our predecessors wanted for us. As a member of the Central Park Five, I know all too well what it means to wear skin of a darker hue in a system that sees it as beneath them and as a tool of exploitation. Enough is enough!
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IN CHICAGO, activists organizing to attend the march are drawing the connection between the 1963 march’s demand for “Jobs and Freedom” with the unfinished fight for economic and racial justice today. At a meeting at the Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, activists invited attendees to join their Chicago Labor Freedom Riders caravan.
Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Recording Secretary Michael Brunson began the meeting by talking about the real legacy of the civil rights movement:
It was not until I did studying on my own that I learned how deeply concerned Martin Luther King was with the issue of labor. He not only spoke about it, but you must never forget that he lost his life when he went down to Memphis to stand with sanitation workers. So like the memory of the march, the memory of Martin Luther King himself has been condensed, circumscribed and sanitized.
Dr. Timuel Black, a 94-year-old veteran Chicago teacher and labor activist, described his own education as an activist:
Watching my father and his peers as they began to participate in union activities of United Steel Workers and later the United Packinghouse workers, I began to learn that in unity, there is strength…We began to organize…and we could tell the people that controlled the jobs: If you don’t hire us at a decent wage, we’re going to put you out of business.
Black attended the March on Washington in 1963, and when he got back, he helped organize a successful boycott movement in the Chicago Public Schools to demand equal education for Black children.
Brandon Johnson of the CTU’s Black Caucus explained how the gains in the fight for public education in the 1960s are being undermined today:
This attack on public education is very much an attack on Black labor. Public education and public-sector jobs are overwhelmingly held by Blacks, women in particular. So these conversations about privatization of public education are very much a threat to the working class, to middle-class Black families…
We have to make sure that the conversation about public education, housing, transportation and so on isn’t separated from racial, social and economic justice.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that guts the 1965 Voting Rights Act, seven Southern states have passed or implemented new restrictions that target people of color. This was very much on the mind of Martese Chism, a registered nurse at Cook County Hospital and member of National Nurses United.
Chism told the story of how her great grandmother Birdia, along with fellow Charleston, Miss., Freedom Riders, traveled to Jackson, Miss., in 1965 to give testimony at a voting rights hearing, despite death threats from the Ku Klux Klan. “On the way back home, just outside of Greenwood, Miss., their car was forced off the road,” she said. The women were removed from the car, marched to the edge of the wood and killed, and their bodies were mutilated. As Chism said:
Fifty years later, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act that Birdia and Miss Hamlet testified in support of has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court…Striking down the 1965 Voting Rights Act is like striking down hypertension medicine for a hypertension patient…We are riding for my great grandmother Birdia, for the schoolteacher Miss Hamlet…and for Main Street. Get on the bus.
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IN BOSTON, back in 1963, organizers were only able to provide one bus to go to the March on Washington, and most people who wanted to go had to find their own way there. This year, the Boston branch of the NAACP is organizing four buses for the march.
At a meeting in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood on August 15, victims of police violence spoke about why the August 24 march was an opportunity for individual campaigns against police violence, led mostly by family members, to connect with other organizations and individuals to lay the basis for future organizing efforts.
Wayne Dozier is the grandfather of DJ Henry, a 20-year-old Pace University student who was shot through the windshield of his car by a Mount Pleasant, N.Y., officer in 2010. Through the family’s organizing efforts, it has been revealed that police conspired to lie about what happened the night Henry was killed.
After sharing the story of his grandson, Dozier pointed to a pin for Ramarley Graham on his shirt. He wears the pin to remind him that our struggles are connected, and that judges and courts from Boston to California support police violence. “March on Washington with a new cause and sense of purpose,” he said. “We need to question why we have more Black men in prison today than we had slaves in 1850.”
In May, Anwar Luckman was riding his bike when Brookline police surrounded him, causing him to crash, and then pepper sprayed and handcuffed him. Now, Anwar is facing up to $700 in fines or two-and-a-half years of prison. “It has to be a collective effort,” Anwar said. “We need different shades and shapes of people so we can’t be overlooked.”
Other attendees at the 75-person meeting included Carla Sheffield, mother of Bo (Burrell) Ramsey-White, a 26-year-old who was murdered by Boston police in August 2012, as well as mothers from Legacy Lives On, a nonprofit for family members who have lost loved ones to homicide or street violence.
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IN WASHINGTON, D.C., networks of activists have come together over issues related to criminal justice and are planning a special feeder march for the August 24 demonstration.
The activists first connected at an event celebrating the abolition of the death penalty in Maryland in May, which brought together former death row prisoners, antiracist activists, death row lawyers and people who have been part of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and other criminal justice activism.
Afterward, a handful of people started meeting to discuss launching a new campaign, building on the changed political climate following the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia in 2011 and the popularity of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.
When George Zimmerman was acquitted in July, activists organized rallies, meetings and speak-outs. When a report was released revealing rampant racial profiling in D.C., activists organized a press conference linking the struggle for justice for Trayvon Martin and an end to racial profiling by police. There, they called for a rally and march on the morning of August 24, which would then link up with the 50th Anniversary march.
Momentum for the feeder rally and march has been building, say organizers, with a packed forum on August 15 where community members spoke out about their treatment at the hands of the D.C. police. TeOnna Ross, who was distributing flyers the weekend before the rally, said:
As people of color, we know we can’t trust the police, and we teach our children to watch out for them. But the statistics in the report made the issues come to light in a new way. The report and the forum and the rally are all ways to pull people into this struggle against racial profiling.
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ON THE West Coast, activists are organizing their own actions on August 24 to coincide with the March on Washington.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, working-class Blacks, Latinos and Asians are being pushed out of the city centers and into suburban ghettos. Over the last 30 years, the Black population of San Francisco has fallen from 14 percent of the population to 4 percent.
Between 2008 and 2012 alone, 1,465 homes in one of the last remaining Black neighborhoods, the Bayview neighborhood, faced foreclosure–84 percent of which have been conducted illegally. As gentrification spreads across the Bay, the Black population in Oakland has dropped by a quarter over the past decade.
In the face of the housing crisis, the city of Oakland has increased its police department budget by $90 million since 2001. The priorities are clear, and the plight of Black and working-class people have been once again put off to the side.
In response, members of the Coalition of Black Trade Unions and Bay Area Black Worker Center have organized a solidarity action for August 24 in Mosswood Park, a historic meeting place for the Black Panthers.
Organizing efforts have been drawing together different pockets of anti-racist forces. For example, the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP has voted to endorse the August 24 action. The organizing has also incorporated younger community members, such as students from the University of California-Berkeley Black Student Union.
Local activists hope that efforts like these that will lead to future struggle and lay the ground for an ongoing fight against racism.