Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Written for Manila Today

In 2008, the world was mesmerized by the victory of Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States. Everybody wanted to follow the example of the USA, a nation that overwhelmingly voted for change. In 2014 the world is horrified by what is happening in the USA: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, the CIA torture report, the regime of mass surveillance. Everybody is desperate to avoid what the USA is experiencing today.

Too bad that the really monstrous things inflicted by the repressive state on its citizens are obscured by bureaucratic legalese and media manipulation. Worse, the resistance of ordinary Americans is depicted as violent, unruly, and irrational. When people complain against police brutality, they are accused of promoting mayhem in society.

In the past few weeks, the riots in Ferguson and other American cities came to symbolize the burgeoning protest movement in the country. The international community responded by expressing solidarity on one hand and concern over the protests on the other. There were those who shared the rage against racism but some chose to castigate the alleged hysteric behavior of the mob.

So what is really the situation in the streets of America? Two things need to be highlighted: Activists are not occupying the streets in order to spread senseless violence. They are doing it because they were provoked by the ruthless attacks unleashed by the police in their communities. Second, the protests are indeed intense but they are generally peaceful.

New York recently grabbed global headlines because of the large rallies that took place there. On December 4, a gathering was organized in response to the decision of a grand jury to exonerate a white police officer accused in the chokehold death of Garner, a black man from Staten Island suspected of peddling loose cigarettes. The chokehold was documented on video.

A large crowd assembled near city hall around 6pm. After half an hour, the main body marched between the city hall and the police department building. Some groups proceeded towards Broadway, some in the direction of Brooklyn bridge, and some lingered in the sidewalks near the city hall park path.

What TV reports failed to highlight that night was that in between marches, the crowd often divided into smaller groups to check on the security of their contingent and to reiterate the themes of the protest. The speeches were fiery and agitating. The chanting slogans were creative and easy to remember:

“Freedom, freedom; all those racist cops, we don’t need them, need them; back up, back up….” “Hands up, don’t shoot. Fist up, fight back.” “The people united will never be defeated.” “NYPD KKK, how many kids did you kill today?”

Filipino groups joined a sidewalk march that passed the Chinatown. As the rally progressed, the crowd became bigger as bystanders and residents eagerly joined the mass assembly. The march already occupied the main street when it neared Union Square. After conducting a short program there, the group merged with other protesters who arrived from other parts of the city. The march resumed in the direction of Grand Central while some activists tried to shut down several New York bridges. The police dispersed a band of protesters by using a military grade sonic weapon, a sound blast that can make people dizzy.

Those who joined the December 4 protest represented diverse backgrounds. Young and old residents, students, workers, professionals, immigrant activists, LGBT – all are united in opposing racial discrimination and police brutality. The coming together of strangers to fight a common enemy already ensured the success of the event. The warmth produced by instant camaraderie among activists from all walks of life countered the cold air of December.

It was a particular protest against the resurgent white supremacy in the US but it also became an occasion to speak out against the various manifestations of injustice and oppression in the country. It attracted the support of all those who were victimized by the system that favors the super rich and old conglomerates of reactionary power and privilege. The night began in solidarity to family and friends of Garner and Brown but as the march grew and crisscrossed the streets of New York, it became something else more beautiful, special and powerful. It became a night to indict the beast known as US imperialism.

US imperialism was named for what it really is: A killing machine that terrorizes neighborhoods, stifles dissent, and promotes militarism to protect the vested economic interest of the filthy few. It is a behemoth that draws sustenance from the blood of the toiling masses. It becomes more ferocious as global poverty and inequality continue to worsen. The fascist superpower resorts to brutal violence to maintain its hegemony inside and outside America.

December 4 was an evening of protest and numerous sub-protests that saw minimum wage workers, debt-ridden students, discriminated LGBT individuals, immigrants separated from their loved ones, and victims of state repression; linking arms and converging in the streets of New York to fight for real democracy, peace, and justice. They were there for Ferguson, Staten Island, and all other towns besieged by racism and police brutality. They were there too in solidarity to all victims of US imperialism whether it’s in Missouri or Olongapo.

Later that night, we learned that protests were held across America. In New York alone, thousands participated in protests all over the city. The following day, other cities in the world also organized solidarity actions. Public outrage has forced the government to announce that it will review the case of Garner. But the momentum of the protests continues to intensify. The protests seem non-stop. A few days ago, Berkeley activists paralyzed a freeway in north California. Staff members of Congress staged a walkout protest. Some local officials organized their own “I can’t breathe” events. Even basketball stars wore practice shirts displaying the protest theme.

Later that night, we learned that protests were held across America. In New York alone, thousands participated in protests all over the city. The following day, other cities in the world also organized solidarity actions.

Public outrage has forced the government to announce that it will review the case of Garner. But the momentum of the protests continue to intensify. The protests seem non-stop. A few days ago, Berkeley activists paralyzed a freeway in north California. Staff members of Congress staged a walkout protest. Some local officials organized their own “I can’t breathe” events. Even basketball stars wore practice shirts displaying the protest theme.

Judging from what I saw in New York where ordinary community members enthusiastically joined the indignation march, the protest movement has the potential to be broader than the ‘Occupy’. This winter dissent could be the spark of a bigger social upheaval.

America is burning. America is rising. Should the world weep for America? On the contrary, we should celebrate the uprising. And more importantly, we should continue and win the struggle for a better world; a world without racism, injustice, and repression.

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