Mickey Z. -- World News Trust
Aug. 13, 2012
"Empathy is not simply a matter of trying to imagine what others are going through, but having the will to muster enough courage to do something about it." --Cornel West
On Aug. 7, I took part in a demonstration called Occupy Saks.
(Quick explanation: Carlos Slim -- the world’s wealthiest man with a fortune amassed by exploiting the poorest of the poor in his native Mexico -- is the largest shareholder in Saks Fifth Avenue.)
After rallying and educating passers-by outside, there were rumors of a flash mob happening in the store -- which was ringed not only by Saks security but also by a particularly large contingent of Mayor Bloomberg’s mercenaries.
I entered Saks alone, hoping to get some photos of the action inside. All I was doing was walking through the jewelry department, chatting with salesgirls, but I quickly found myself followed by NYPD and store detectives.
I knew I had committed no crime -- as is the case with all my Occupy-related activity, for that matter -- but also knew this fact wouldn’t deter the Blue Bloc. So, I stayed calm, enjoyed some air conditioning, and began making my way through the eerie silence.
Then, as luck would have it, my 99% button became unfastened from my bag and dropped to the floor with a loud clang.
I reached down slowly, picked it up, and allowed myself a look around to see that I was fully surrounded -- faced with this loudly posed question: “Give me one fuckin’ reason why I shouldn’t take you in right now?”
Without going into specifics, let’s just say I combined a calm demeanor with some fancy verbal footwork and somehow managed to talk myself out of being arrested.
But, let’s face it: It sure didn’t hurt that as a middle class, middle-aged white man, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and backwards Yankee cap, I looked a lot more like the men surrounding me than “the other” they are trained to fear and loathe.
Would I have evaded zip-ties if I were dark-skinned? Yeah, right...
Why are you in the store? What’s in your bag? What’s your button say? Are you a demonstrator? Don’t bullshit me, I know why you’re here and what you’re up to.
For a mere five-10 minutes of my life, the universe granted me a miniscule taste of “stop” and a near-taste of “frisk.” I considered myself already pretty sensitive to such rampant repression but nothing inspires empathy quicker than the cold chill of reality racing up and down your spine.
Thus, in the name of encouraging further empathy -- and solidarity -- I’m re-sharing the following excerpts from a recent article of mine on stop-and-frisk:
New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) Executive Director Donna Lieberman sez: “The NYPD is out of control, and the culture and practices of the Department need a full-scale overhaul.”
No one has to tell those involved with Occupy Wall Street that the NYPD is “out of control.” However, even with all the overt repression being heaped upon occupiers across the globe, we must never forget those communities who have endured for generations under the racist tyranny of the State.
For example: From 2004 to 2011, according to the NYCLU, more than 4 million innocent New Yorkers were subjected to police stops and street interrogations. The vast majority of those being stopped and frisked are black and Latino and roughly nine out of 10 are innocent.
The big picture of holistic justice must never be forgotten and in this case, that means reaching out in solidarity to our sisters and brothers who remain daily -- hourly -- targets of State repression.
It means recognizing and assisting the efforts of the grass roots activists in these communities, learning from them, and when necessary, offering on-site support and sheer numbers in the areas most in need.
Mic Check: Sometimes the first step towards solidarity is showing up.
If you feel righteous outrage at the biased and illegitimate practices of racial profiling and stop-and-frisk; if you believe all our grievances are connected; if you want to link with America's most oppressed communities, it's time to occupy the hood.
If you can envision a culture in which holistic justice is the guiding principle, it's time to occupy everywhere.
If you'd like to reach out and connect with those already incarcerated within the racist and classist Prison-Industrial Complex, check out: Write a Prisoner, Prisoner Solidarity, or the Prisoner Correspondence Project. Let them know they are not alone.
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