BROOKLYN, NY — Students, mainly black and Latino, and teachers at a local high school here — located in a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood — have been battling racist attacks inside and outside the school. Every day after school the racist NYPD quickly herds students out of the neighborhood.
Before Thanksgiving, when an underage female student and her friends tried to leave a subway car because they feared a fight was about to erupt, a cop in that car yanked her back in. Her friends defended her, saying she’d done nothing wrong, that the cop’s action was illegal. They wrote down his name and badge number. Seeing students stand up for each other angered this racist cop. When the train pulled into the next station, he ordered the young student out of the subway car.
Her friends, and passengers on the train, told her she didn’t have to go because she’d done nothing wrong. But she went, fearing arrest and further abuse. About a dozen of her friends followed her, which angered the cop even more. He called for back-up; almost immediately a dozen racist cops came running down the stairs. They maced and beat the students, arresting six.
Four were underage and taken to the precinct and then to a juvenile detention center for the night, where they were further harassed and verbally brutalized with racist remarks. Three are CHALLENGE readers, which partially influenced their will to fight back.
When PLP members at the school, heard this story, we responded immediately, first calling the parents of those arrested. Consequently, we were able to accompany the students and their parents to a court hearing. The students, never offered legal aid, were instead offered a “deal”: community service and a sealed conviction! Such is capitalist justice: get harassed, maced, beaten and locked up by racist cops — the “crime” being black or Latino.
PLP members encouraged and supported the parents to fight the case and demand a lawyer. Despite the DA’s scare tactics, and because the parents had a prior relationship with the teacher/debate coach of their children, the parents resisted the “deal” and await a trial date.
Back at school, a PLP youth club took an anti-racist petition to the Student Government Association. It linked the racist attacks on the Jena 6, the NYPD’s brutal murder of Kiel Coppin, the cops’ racist attacks on students to the racist pizzeria owner across the street. Hundreds of signatures were collected the first day!
During the petition campaign, a debate on metal detectors in the school occurred before the entire student body. One side argued safety required having such detectors. The other side exposed the racist nature of these detectors.
They eloquently explained that besides metal detectors being ineffective at catching many metal objects, the main reason to eliminate them was their use to teach control and obedience to authority.
One debater argued, “Although we all won’t get 95’s in all our classes or pass all the Regents exams needed for graduation, we will all leave this school knowing how to “assume the position.” This shows that the main reason school exists is to train us to follow orders, like prisoners.” (This fits in with the bosses’ need for obedient cannon fodder in imperialist wars and for cheap labor.) Another debater used statistics from the NYC Lawyers’ Union website revealing that 82% of students attending high schools containing metal detectors are black and Latino. Hundreds of students and many teachers wore stickers distributed at the debate, stating: “Students not Suspects! Fight Racism!”
This modest increase of class struggle has helped expand our CHALLENGE distribution, though inconsistent, to 75 per issue. Two new students have joined a study group. Since one student’s arrest and our response, she began meeting with a PLP study group again. She will attend the next PLP club meeting and has her mother’s full support. Four PL student members have led the campaign.
Still, we must strengthen our organizing. The anti-racism campaign must include the Apartheid pizzeria owner across the street from the school; he refuses to allow our students to eat there. We’re planning to more vigorously approach the building’s other two schools; the petition is being passed around in one. We’ve also taken the petitions to mass organizations, provoking political discussion that’s changed some of their thinking, increasing our experience in doing this.
The anti-racist campaign has not yet blossomed, but 2008 promises more opportunity to win these youths to the Party while advancing the class struggle within their schools.