An RSCC member’s memoir of the NYC Trayvon Martin protest on July 14, 2013

903770_667299093298027_556928249_oThe Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC) had been busy focusing most of our energy on the Employment of General David Petraeus into the Macaulay Honors College and the overall militarization in CUNY when the verdict for Trayvon Martin’s killer was announced on the night of Saturday, the thirteenth of July. At that moment some of us were sleeping, and some of us were hanging out, but that all had to stop and we had to get word out amongst ourselves and hit the streets.

The march started in Union sq where we, together with the thousands of people from around the city convened. The RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) and many NGO/liberal forces (i.e, Amnesty International and Peoples Justice) began to take up the task of leading the march into Times Square. During this time negotiations for a ‘peaceful protest’ were taking place with the NYPD. This was phase one of the march. As soon as the crowd began to make its way into the streets the RSCC began to lead chants that expressed more specifically our political line: “The system, is killing us/ they Freed George Zimmerman” and “What is Revolution For?/ Class Struggle, Peoples War!” It became clear from the beginning that the demonstration had taken the character of a parade rather than a protest. The number of angry attendees quickly grew into the thousands (It would be safe to estimate that there were no less than 5,000). The fervor was evident but the militant will of the people was held back and was not able to realize its full potential.

The march was led a few blocks downtown then turned up towards Times Square. Upon reaching Time Square, the march stopped some of the organizers from the Occupy movement and the RCP began to speak on their mega-phones to do a mic-check. Soon into this they commanded the crowd to sit down. Most did not sit down, and neither did the RSCC. Many of us in RSCC remember the violent repression by the NYPD on November 21st at the protest against the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting (when they met to slash more funding to CUNY) in Baruch College. Some of us also remember the police brutality during the climatic days of Occupy Wall Street. We knew that sitting down in the face of NYPD (armed to the teeth in riot gear) would undoubtedly put us in a vulnerable position. It should also be noted that by this time the crowd had suffered grueling hours of marching and chanting in the summer sun, sitting down would only relax our bodies and scatter our energy, disarming us completely. We stood around to listen to those on the megaphone, but most importantly we began to agitate amongst the people and check the temperament of the masses. At that moment it became clear that it was either going to be over or it would begin again at this juncture. The disillusionment of the people who trusted the leaders began to spread and divide those who were pleased with the way it was being handled and those whose message of anger hadn’t been delivered -only frustrated them more. Many people were beyond furious by this verdict; the Zimmerman-Martin case had already polarized the nation. Considering this, we tried to march on, but we were only able to get about 50 people moving, not enough to take the streets. We came back into the crowd and agitated more, as well as spoke to some of the more militant organizers. The traffic from north to south of the square was jammed and police soon began to close in from the east and the west of the square. The crowd started to thin out, almost half of the people left. We had been agitating for an hour amongst the people and at this point we began to march again. This was not part of the initial plan of the RCP or Occupy organizers, but it was definitely on the agenda of the masses and the more militant activists.

Seemingly out of nowhere a fire truck came through the crowd and cleared seventh avenue. It was at this time that a perfect opening presented itself that the people seized and with others began to chant “March!, March!” – so we split this into the beginning of another march and moved northward. About 1,000+ people initially followed, and the police were clearly not happy about this. They repeatedly tried to corral us into the sidewalk, but we were not having it. We marched up through Broadway, Seventh and Sixth Avenues until we reached 59th street where Central park borders. We turned eastwards to avoid heavier police since we knew that there’d be more finance capital for them to protect. We marched up Fifth Avenue, then turned more eastward at some point, until we turned north on Park Avenue. At this point is when the most intense encounter with the NYPD occurred. In the Upper East Side there had been undercover police on long-boards. It was on the intersection of 71st street and Park Ave where the police halted us and then began to grab people out of the crowd. Although the reactionary and racist New York Post claimed we threw bottles at them, no such thing occurred. It may have been possible that the undercover police were the provocateurs, we cannot confirm that at this point. The police were very aggressive, not discriminating between women or men, old or young. They attacked with force and used mace against us. I was a bit ahead in the crowd when I saw that there was commotion. Others of our group noticed it as well and we yelled at everyone to turn back. We ran back to assist those attacked by the NYPD and who were being arrested to minimize our losses. As I came to the front of the confrontation I was immediately shoved by an officer. I then shouted at him, calling them ‘pigs’ and ‘enemies of the people’. As I backed away from the front to check on my comrades, I saw myself being pointed out by the White Shirts to get me. A blue shirt officer dove into the crowd, cutting through like an NFL defensive lineman to grab me. My arm was grabbed and then I twisted away, jumping back into the crowd. Then the whole crowd formed a wall to protect me. I moved to the back and flipped my shirt inside out. I came back to the front where we were still struggling and people had locked arms to avoid arrest. The NYPD arrested about 10 people, but that didn’t stop us, it only fueled us.

We then continued marching up the Upper East Side, through Spanish Harlem (El Barrio) into Harlem, and into the Bronx where the march ended at the Bronx Main Court house at 161st street in view of Yankee stadium where we held a speak out against the racist criminal justice system and a moment of silence to honor Trayvon. To much of our surprise, the march afterwards had been relatively smooth compared to the Upper East Side. Our guess is that the NYPD, being the servants of the bourgeoisie, were most aggressive in the U.E.S. to protect them. In El Barrio, Harlem, and in the Bronx, while the NYPD was present they were nowhere near as aggressive as they had been in the U.E.S. This only conveys much more clearly who it is they serve. For the Proletarian and the Oppressed Nationality communities, the NYPD stands for Not Your Police Department.

If we are to speak on the whole political situation: the killing; the verdict; and the neo-colonial relation America has to black and brown people, we must fundamentally ask the deep questions: what difference would it make even if Zimmerman was found guilty and convicted? The system would still be directly or indirectly killing 1 black person every 36 hours by police or vigilante forces; (that is the national average according to a report released by the Malcom X Grassroots Movement). The US would still be the place with the most prisoners in the world – mostly and disproportionately Black and Latinos. The rent and overall cost of living of working class and Oppressed Nationality neighborhoods would still be going up. Employment discrimination would still be affecting Oppressed Nationalities. The list goes on. Without understanding that the entire system is white supremacist, one may be inclined to take a liberal view on the matter, and seeing this as an individual case of a particular jury and state as just a ‘bad apple’ of the system. The fact is, that this killing and this verdict should come as no surprise in America, because America’s history has been one of exploitation, oppression and violence for the various nations that exist within its borders ( especially the Afro-American nation) and those it dominates abroad. But being a Revolutionary and thus radical organization, we see cases like this one as an overt and shameless act of white supremacy. Thus, the killing and the verdict of the Martin-Zimmerman case, along with mass-incarceration, anti-immigrant struggle and generally all domination of oppressed nationalities is part of a system and not isolated incidents in which ‘bad apples’ surface.

There is also the question of class and race. In the U.S. class is a colored issue. The organization of production is not merely narrowly economic, but has much to do with the national oppression and racialization of people, because, as I said above the U.S. is a white-supremacist state. However, to only focus on race is a disservice to all of those a victim of white supremacy. It is not just the Brown and the Black who suffer under white-supremacy, but the poor Brown and Black in particular. Many of the privileged and bourgeois sections of Brown and Black people in the US have allied themselves with white-supremacy for their self-benefit. In regards to the death of Trayvon Martin, there is a vacuum of analysis in relationship to the capitalist system. Zimmerman was a vigilante protecting a gated community. The very existence of such a gated community is already a juncture where we witness economic and structural violence. Capital and wealth is accumulated and sheltered here for those who are of a privileged class of property-owners, who exploit those who the gated community keeps out. We must contextualize this exclusionary economic apartheid as having quite obviously a white-supremacist character – albeit, not exclusively.

What does the gated community represent? The exclusionary tradition of Liberalism generally, but very much the American white-settler-colonialist tradition in particular -in spite of the rhetorical correlation of “free-market principles” and “individual freedom/prosperity”- has always represented a white/male/upper-class power structure. While those privileged enough by race/sex/class are able to shelter themselves in the gated community (both literal and metaphorical), those left on the outside are left to the elements of both the repressive state and the exploitative market. Understanding that the U.S. from its inception had an exclusionary character for citizenship, voting, and ownership; the gated community is a physical representation and a successor of the early expansionist/exclusionary white-settler colonial America.

All this being said, how can one be surprised by the killing? How can one be surprised by the verdict? While a Liberal may see this specific and many other similar incidents as ‘the system not working’, as someone who understands the structure of this system I view this as functioning normally. The only question left is how long before we overthrow the system?

The system kills us in our street,
Trayvon Martin Rest In Peace.