July 8, 2012

The Most Important Protest In NYC This Summer

...will be taking place this Wednesday, July 11, across the Hudson River in Newark, NJ. It is the concluding day of a daily picket that the People’s Organization for Progress has maintained over the last 378 days!

Just in the last few weeks I have taken part in a rally against a slumlord warehousing apartments in Queens jointly sponsored by Occupy Queens! and the Hollis Presbyterian Church 99% Club; joined a raucous picket of Con Ed workers locked out by greedy bosses during a brutal heatwave; and marched silently with 9,000 others to protest the NYPD’s racist Stop and Frisk policy.

Each of these demos was plenty exciting and important--and inside the five boros to boot—but I’ll stick by the claim in the title. Let me explain why POP’s Daily Picket for Jobs, Peace, Equality & Justice has been so important.

1. POP launched this daily picket over a year ago with the declared intention of carrying it on for 381 days, the length of the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott that shivered the whole structure of Jim Crow in the South in the mid-1950s.  It seemed insanely ambitious, yet the presence every afternoon of POP pickets, week-in, week out, has provided a link to history, an example of determination and a mobilizing center (as the daily honks from passing vehicles show). This is precisely what the Occupy movement was able to do with its encampments until they were uprooted by the threat, or the reality, of brutal evictions at the hands of the po-po.

2. It is solidly based in the Black communities of Northern New Jersey. With anti-police violence campaigns a highlight of over two decades of struggle, the People’s Organization for Progress is not a staff-driven NGO but a genuine mass organization run by committed volunteer members from the community.  A dedicated core of members of all ages, numbering in the dozens, meets every week to plan, evaluate and learn. The group’s bright yellow shirts and rectangular black-on-white signs are standard features at progressive events in Northern Jersey.

3. The Daily Picket has been built as a broad united front. There are 179 endorsing organizations—some usual suspects like Veterans For Peace and left groups like my own Freedom Road Socialist Organization, but a lot more that much of the predominantly white left is flat-out ignorant of (or ignores?), from the A Philip Randolph Institute of the AFL-CIO to neighborhood watch groups. (See the list here.)  Endorsing groups get speakers at the daily picket line or larger rallies to address issues of special concern to them. One day I attended, we were joined by a dozen or so Verizon workers in red tee-shirts fighting the blunt assault on their unions.

4. Like the Occupy movement, its scope is broad—the four main demands are simple and based on POP’s long work in the community. I want to highlight each for a moment. Jobs—in inner-city Newark, this is a no-brainer, survival today and a future for the youth. Peace—a surprisingly secondary issue in the Occupy movement, but front and center here. Equality—a reminder that all this “post-racial America” business only obscures the continuing oppression and exploitation of communities of color, as well as a battle cry for women and LGBTQ folk. Justice—a reminder of the police brutality cases which POP has made a trademark of protesting.

I hope I have persuaded you that the Daily Picket has been a remarkable and a worthy thing. Now a few words on why you should join hundreds and probably thousands of other people at the closing rally this Wednesday afternoon.

First, while it may not have the size, the impact or the promise that the Occupy movement showed last fall, it embodies many of that movement’s virtues. And, with a track record going back to the ‘80s, POP’s future existence is not in question. Just by taking part, you build up an organization which is a model for the Black community and the 99% as a whole.

Second, if you show up, I guarantee you a healthy dose of inspiration and quite possibly some useful lessons for the days to come.

Wednesday, July 11

West Market Street & Springfield Avenue, Newark, New Jersey
(At the Lincoln Monument in front of the Essex County Court House)
Walking distance from the PATH train, Newark Station

Rally 4 PM
March 5 PM


Gegant said...

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Gegant said...

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