Justice for Trayvon Martin: Reports from Baltimore, Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul

The following reports are from organizers in First of May Anarchist Alliance.  The Minneapolis report has contributions from IWW  Fellow Worker, B.

Baltimore Report

Report by M.B.

A member of M1 attended a Trayvon Martin Rally and March in Baltimore Maryland. The route was a half mile, originating at the Baltimore Harbor/Former Occupy Baltimore Encampment and ended at 7pm at city hall.  The estimated attendance was 1,200 – 1,500.  The city and most of the activist community anticipated a few hundred people at most.  The event was publicized by the local All People’s Congress/Workers World Party and progressive African American Religious Leaders rather than the traditional leftist milieu, the crowd was made up almost entirely of first time activists, families and youth.

Justice for Trayvon Martin Baltimore Demo

Baltimore is approximately 78% African American and has a history of influential civil rights actions coupled with a history of race violence and oppression and profiling.  Currently, they have coupled with raising awareness and the march for Trayvon Martin with the saving of Reed’s Drug Store.  Reed’s was to location of an important civil rights era lunch counter occupation by Morgan State University Students; the location is slated for demolition for creation of a “superblock” gentrified development.  Their strategy and organizing efforts exceeded my expectations as getting more than a few hundred to turn out to anything in Baltimore is virtually unheard of.

The outpouring of nontraditional activists and the growing awareness of such inexcusable crime and victimization creates a defined radical shift in an ever-shrinking, economically strangled city.  Coupled with the staggering foreclosure rates, decline to employment and rising uncertainty; the spontaneous outpouring of unrest in response to Trayvon Martin’s murder creates a momentum that will not be ignored.  It is essential that the anger and outcry of racist murder not turn back to complacency.  Anarchists should work in support of their community’s momentum and encourage dialogue rather than splintering off to themselves.  Trayvon’s cries for help shook the world and we as Anarchists should be making sure no one forgets it.

Detroit Report

Report by C.R.

I went to the Trayvon Martin Rally on Monday.  When I got there, around 6:20pm, there were already about 80% of the estimated 1000-1500 present.  The majority were black with some speckles of white supporters.  From what I could tell, there wasn’t an organized Occupy presence.  I was somewhat disappointed there weren’t more people there, but large nonetheless.

Speakers  talked about voting, god, police protecting citizens, and that we should all join together to fight injustice regardless of color.  The only thing that struck me was that a Latina woman, Jane Garcia spoke at the rally.  Couldn’t hear what she said exactly but I think I heard:  voting and god.  It was a diverse crowd in terms of age, women, men, and children.  The crowd in general were in support of the speakers (who were politicos, police, and from the religious community).  I saw MECAWI (Michigan Emergency Coalition Against War and Injustice) and BAMN with their flags.

Report by M.P.

Justice For Trayvon martin Detroit Demo

My neighbor who is a nurse at the city jail called and asked if I wanted to go with her.  Yes, and so we rode down together.  She brought 2 posterboards and a green marker.  She asked me to buy some Skittles and Arizona iced tea.  We got there about 5:15, as people were beginning to arrive and setting up.  We made our posters — hers said “I Am Trayvon Martin” and mine said “Justice for Trayvon, Fight Racism Now”.

The leadership of the rally was extremely conservative — pledge of allegiance, the Lords Prayer, Police Chief Ralph Godby (who said, “it could have been my son”), NAACP chair Wendell Anthony, Detroit 300, City Councilwoman Joann Watson, Rev. Ed Rowe, UAW,  Jane Garcia as a speaker from the Latino community.

Jessica Care Moore performed an excellent poem that tied this murder to all the Black murders through time, lynching, etc.  A student from Cass Tech high school read a poem he wrote (“It could have been me”) that moved us all.

The crowd — about 1000 — filled Hart Plaza.  Families and children, junior high and high school students, groups of teenagers.  I saw people from all races — mostly Black, some white, Latino, Arabic (women wearing habibs).  Moratorium Now had an organized presence, as did BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) and UAW Local 600, also the Melanics (“If you don’t hate us, why are you killing us?”)  and members of Occupy but with no banner or any other indicator of who they are.  Occupy had called and held a meeting the previous Thursday with the Coalition Against Police Brutality, Moratorium and LRNA (League for a Revolutionary New America) people with the outcome to have a rally that broadened the issue, but there was no indication at this rally of that meeting.  I saw 2 people from my union (UAW local 909), one of whom had a pack of condoms along with his pack of Skittles (referencing the death of Michael Haynes, killed over an argument about the price of a pack of condoms at a local BP gas station).

Justice For Trayvon Martin Detroit Demo

Many people had pictures of murdered children, tying this violence to Trayvon’s case.  Some had signs referencing Michael Haynes.  There were mostly hand made signs.  The crowd was pretty calm — cheering the speakers, going with the flow, leaving quietly at the end of 2 hours.  That said, the mood was upbeat, as if something is stirring.  People were proud they came out and proud Detroit made this showing of respect.  They were responding to the increasing scapegoating of Black youth and the devaluation of Black life.  I believe Occupy has opened a public discussion that includes the ideas of rallying and marching to get justice and the Black community is utilizing this space.  The angriest people in the crowd were mothers — women with children who appeared ready to take this whole thing further.

Minneapolis Report

Report by K.

Thursday, March March 29th 5,500 people (police estimates) gathered on a plaza at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to stand in solidarity with Trayvon Martin and against profiling, police brutality and racism in general – as part of the national call for “Million hoodie marches”.

The crowd was more than half Black, with lots of whites, Asians, Latinos, and other nationalities as well. This was the largest mainly Black protest in the Twin Cities since the Rodney King verdict and Rebellion in 1992.  There were lots of Black students, but also many youth and families that were clearly not students. Most attending wore hooded sweatshirts. Some brought their own signs. The energy was amazing as people felt their power.

Many different people spoke and it wasn’t always easy to hear who each person was. An African-American woman wearing an “Occupy the Hood” sweatshirt was the main MC. There were speeches by Black faculty, Black fraternities, an Asian poet who mentioned the case of Fong Lee a Hmong teen killed by the police, Occupy our Homes campaign, and many others. The main message was “No More!” “We must stand up against these injustices”.

No politicians spoke that I saw (I could be wrong). Brother Ali, a popular local rapper who is Muslim and white (albino in fact) spoke. It was one of those speeches that was a pretty eloquent call for white folks in the audience to acknowledge racism and take action against it.

SEIU staff and their “Workers Center” spin-offs (who were mostly white) provided the identifiable security, which was kind of weird. The Nation of Islam was thanked from the stage for providing Medics. Socialist Alternative and the SWP each had literature tables. The IWW had one of our big banners and about a dozen-person contingent. I saw several other friends, anarchists, Wobblies and members of FRSO(Freedom Road Socialist Organization).

I attended with J—, a co-worker and Wobbly. We saw but could not get to the IWW contingent flying red & black flags on the other side of the plaza. It was too packed. One of J—‘s close co-workers was planning to attend with her family.

At one point I thought I heard folks from the front (The IWW, I think but not just) chanting “We wanna march!”. The organizers let the huge crowd march, and many groups of marches including folks around the IWW were chanting militantly, but the mach was circled harmlessly back to the rally plaza without getting out on to the streets and off of campus. J— and I left after that to catch the bus.

I had got a feeling that this rally was going to be huge, when some of my non-activist friends started buzzing about it on Facebook. From what I can tell Facebook was the main organizing tool of the rally, although there may have been some leaflets on campus or some promotion on Black radio that I missed.

Earlier in the day I had asked my union Local (I am in an oppositional relationship with much of the union executive) to endorse the rally and allow the Local’s Solidarity Committee to bring the Union’s banner to the event. The Local President tried to rule my motion dead. As a result the motion lost with a close vote but it was good that it happened and got on the record.

I was very encouraged by this rally. It was a great show of force for Black solidarity and an expression of the growing desire for the Black community to put its stamp on the emerging movements.

After I left a break-away march was initiated that got out into the streets. Here is a report (with permission) by Fellow Worker B. of the Twin Cities IWW:

A group of about twenty IWWs, Occupiers and assorted radicals who all gathered around the IWW banner found ourselves towards the back of the march around the plaza that K. mentioned. As we got towards the far end of the plaza away from the speakers stand, some folks decided we were going to break off and continue into the streets. We walked passed a marshal and stopped to make our next move, encouraging folks to come with us. The break-off group was initially about 20 folks, mostly white youth. Very quickly though, a couple of black folks responded to the calls to march elsewhere and joined us, and encouraged other folks to come with them.

Before long, we had about 300 people and marched through the University for a few blocks. We then swung back towards the rally, which was just about ending, and headed northeast passed very edge of the rally and onto University Ave. We picked up more people at this point, despite marshals from the rally screaming at people not to join us.

By the time we hit the streets for real, I would estimate we had at least 500 people, about 75% black youth, 15% families with kids and the rest mostly-white radicals. We took all three lanes of 4th St SE and then after doubling back, all three lanes of University. It was a ton of fun, shouting militant chants about Trayvon Martin and racism as well as explicitly revolutionary slogans which were quickly taken up by much of the crowd.

Initially, the radicals who proposed the breakaway march had talked about marching downtown, but before long the IWW banner and most of the radical contingent were scattered throughout the march and decisions were being made by the younger black folks who were running the march. Instead we went up the length of Dinkytown, raising hell on Frat Row and generally having a blast.

There were a few minor incidents during the march. A few of the marshals from the main rally, mostly Occupiers, took off their vests and joined us.

One, a person who I don’t know, got into an altercation with an Occupier and UAW grad student organizer that ended up with the grad student getting attacked and put into a headlock by the marshal’s friend. They were quickly separated (I didn’t see this, just heard about it afterwards) by others and things continued on. A few drivers were not interested in letting us take all three lanes of a one way street and tried to push through the crowd but were stopped by persistent marchers and in at least one instance, had ice tea cans tossed at them (appropriately enough).

The march was a really great experience and for me was an awesome way of taking issues like racism and responses to racist violence away from the “professional organizers” and towards average working people of color.

While initiated by mostly (but not exclusively) white radicals, the march quickly took a turn towards being organized and run by black youth, many of whom it was clear had never participated in a march or rally before. I personally have gotten a bit of flack from folks I know who were either marshals or speakers, and am continuing to hear from them. . . . Some apparently want to have a meeting with me and other folks who were involved in the march to get a sense of why we did the breakaway. To be blunt, whatever. The meeting will probably happen but we made the right call and I would do it again in a heartbeat, it’s the most fun I’ve had since marching in Madison last spring. I think the professionals on the left are mostly pissed because a group of radicals worked with a large mass of politicized people of color in ways that outflanked their preplanned (and frankly rather long) rally. I guarantee you that if you polled the people who attended the rally last Thursday, everyone who went on that march would tell you it was the highlight of the event.