for Jesus Chuy Huerta, Derek D. Walker, Tracy D. Bost, Jose A. Ocampo, and so many others lost.
“The police are the absolute enemy.” –Charles Baudelaire
“The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the class itself.” –Karl Marx
“Fuck the police, let’s hold court in the street.”–many
Since last we were in large numbers on the sidewalks and streets of Durham, much has been said and written about the marches of Nov. 22 and Dec. 19. Now, on January 19th, two months after Jesus “Chuy” Huerta died in the custody of the Durham Police Department, there has been a vigil called to commemorate Chuy’s life. There also is a march prior to the vigil, in order to be visible in our grief, anger, and collective power. We urge those who have not been to previous marches, and who maybe have been quick to criticize the nature of previous marches or who have just been late in recognizing the significance of these demonstrations, to come and demonstrate true solidarity.
It is telling that the vigil organizers have tried to separate themselves from the planned march in every possible way. It is telling in several ways, the first of which is because the Huerta family was supposed to have been the organizers of the vigil. But that was never the case, and it might as well be said. Yes, the church vigil is several things at once: It is the chance for a grieving family to memorialize their son, brother, uncle, cousin, at their preferred place of worship. But it is also quite an opportunity for certain groups and sectors of the population in Durham—let’s call them containment coordinators—to bring their prefabricated ideas to a situation they know little to nothing about. Durham Congregations Associations and Neighborhoods (CAN) and the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham (RCND) used language in the vigil invitation to make the vigil about their ideas and to effectively, and, they hope, decisively, contain the rage of the family and to thwart the active rage of young people—Chuy’s friends and peers—and put them back on the sideline where the masters of the city want them. The Huerta family is resolute, however, and so are the rebels young and young at heart who have stood their ground and stood up to the bullying police at the first two demonstrations.
By the use of phrases such as “to respect the dignity of all Durham residents” and emphasis on words such as “reconciliation,” CAN, RCND’s Marcia Owen, and others are attempting to throw a city-wide wet blanket on the white-hot fire of popular rage and grief. Their machinations are an attempt to privilege over all others their preconceived ideas about what needs to be done. What that is, however, we still don’t know. Holding hands with each other, including the glad-handing politicans and Chief Jose Lopez, appears the order of the day. Groups like CAN, or like the “progressive” city councilman Steve Schewel, who are so eager to reconcile with the police, the very institution which kills and criminalizes our youth—even in, or especially in death—are not to be trusted. Their methods are anti-democratic, and anti-youth. Further, it must be pointed out that these leaders have close relationships with the police. Mayor Bill Bell, or councilman Schewel, or Schewel’s former newspaper The Independent, may not personally care for brutality—it upsets their liberal sensibilities—but they are invested in policing the city heavily. In order for Durham to thrive as a new urban playground for developers, foodies, and hipsters, the pigs must do their dirty work and displace and criminalize black and brown youth. The corner of Trinity and Washington, where Chuy was picked up the night of November 19, is ground zero for the gentrifiying reality of downtown and environs.
This march, and efforts moving forward, are not only about Chuy, they are about everyone. The object, contrary to the control that Schewel, Bell, or a group such as Durham CAN try to exert, should be to lessen the ability of police to have control over the people, but also it should be to say there will be no rich white life in this city while youth can get killed in the back of police cruisers or men can be killed by the cops in their front yard.
The vigil, and really all efforts by the forces of containment since the November 22nd march, and especially since December 19th, has been to write young, angry people out of the equation. While in media coverage they try to stress the involvement of agitators, it’s not fear of the bogeyman anarchists and communists that has them worried. Rather, the fear that trumps all others is that of a potential mass of multiracial youth, marginalized and criminalized more than anyone—the edge of precarious labor– who are thinking and acting for themselves, who are pissed off but are ready to seize roadways and who knows what else. It is this self-activity and growing consciousness among young folks that frightens the police, and even more so the managers of discontent, such as politicians like Bill Bell and Steve Schewel, along with liberal/progressive activists in groups such as Durham CAN. They are afraid of young black and brown people, and with alliances made in the street through struggle, but they can’t say that, so they talk about agitational literature (from I-OA or other people) being the reason for the cops teargassing people on December 19th. As if everyone can’t see through the fact that the cops dressed up for a riot weren’t going to try to make a riot to justify themselves.
We affirm the decision to march again because we affirm the importance of people in motion because they’re sad and angry and maybe, just maybe because we want to liberate ourselves. From others who might be first understanding the importance of the struggles against the police, we urge respect and solidarity and we hope you will join us.
Justice for Chuy means justice for everyone.
January 19, 2014