Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best of Decade part 1

Alright y'all, the decade is coming to an end and I've been busy thinking up cool ideas to bring it to a close in the blogosphere. So I've decided to share my best of the decade with you. You should check in every day and you will find a new entry from now until the end of the decade. (10 in total) What are the topics? You will have to tune it to find out. So here goes the first one:

Best Demonstration attended by Me: Impromptu March in response to the acquittal of the four police officers that shot Amadou Diallo -Albany, NY 2000

I want to make clear that when I use the word "best" here I am referring to the energy of the people during the demonstration. It's hard to use the word "best" to describe anything to do with the trial of those police officers. I have lived in Albany for years and it's not often that we have major national news stories here. At the time of the trial, there were news trucks lining Washington Ave. The only other time I've seen anything like it was the Elliot Spitzer Sex Scandal. To get an idea of how big a story this trial was, I've provided a link to the transcript from Larry King Live on the day of the acquittal.
If you don't know who Amadou Diallo is, well that is a shame (not shame on you, shame on our society for not keeping his name in the forefront of everybody's mind). He was killed in 1999 by four police officers. They fired forty-one bullets at him; nineteen struck his body, killing him. He committed no crime; he was merely on his way home from work. They asked him who he was and he responded by pulling out his wallet, and they "mistook" it for a gun and fired 41 times. The defense attorney for the officers applied for a change of venue, claiming that the cops couldn't receive a fair trial in the Bronx. The trial was moved to Albany.
Thousands of people demonstrated across the street from the courthouse during the trial. I was one of them. Some days there were only a few heads and other days there were hundreds. Al Sharpton came on more than one occasion. Rosa Clemente, recent Green Party Vice-Presidential Nominee, was one of the chairs of the local organizing group, the Justice for Diallo Committee (J4D). Most of us were well aware that the cops may be acquitted, but I can say I was shocked when it actually happened.
The mood outside the courtroom was anger and disbelief. Our numbers grew. Eventually there was a large group and we needed something to do. We marched up Washington Ave. and the numbers kept on growing. We marched down Lark St towards Clinton Ave, and decided to take over the street. The police, trailing behind, didn't do a thing. I remember feeling like it was our city. Eventually some of us were arrested voluntarily and we had a brief encounter with the Albany Courts before our charges were dismissed. After some time, people moved on.
I learned a lot from that time period. I've learned how there can be an ebb and flow to things. How there can be tremendous amounts of energy one day and none at all the next day. I've been apart of powerful movements for social change. I've witnessed some intense demonstrations but I've never felt the power of my community and the possibilities of our strength, the way I did that day. I hope I will again soon and I hope it doesn't take someone to get killed for it to happen.

Honorable mention: A16 IMF/World Bank Demonstration -Washington D.C. 2000; Millions for Mumia -Philadelphia 1999 (It didn't actually happen this decade but it's my list)


  1. Although I loved the Millions for Mumia March that is still cheating, even if it is your list.

    I would add El Grito de Lares, Puerto Rican Indepednence demonstration in NYC Sept. 23 2007.

  2. If we are using the standard of energy, then one of the best demonstrations I have been a part of was an anti-war action in NYC in '07. At the time I was organizing with Students for a Democratic Society ("the new SDS") and that spring we planned a direct action focused on a military recruitment center in Manhattan. We had two separate groups of students, youth, and community activists leaving from separate locations. Both marches converged in front of the chosen recruitment center and about 30 activists entered the center, sat down, and occupied the center, completely shutting down its operations. Outside others took control of the street, chanted, handed out literature to bystanders, and spoke with the media. Legal observers, like myself, kept watch as the NYPD poured onto the scene.

    At the end of the day about 20 activists were arrested, though through our legal efforts we were able to get all charges dismissed. You make a great point, however, about the ebb and flow of things. At the time I thought the anti-war movement had tremendous momentum and potential. After that action I felt that if such demonstrations could be replicated throughout the country the war effort could literally be shut down. Unfortunately with the election of Obama the anti-war movement has largely petered out. We are still in Iraq and we are expanding our presence in Afghanistan.

    *Honorable Mention: RNC 2004*

  3. I wish I was at the Grito de Lares Demo, if I was I would definitely add it. It sounds like the action Colin attended was also cool. RNC 2004 is not on the list because I attended the terrible part that included thousands of people with Kerry Pins. I heard the next day there were some pretty cool actions.