Good morning. We’re gathered here to resist the epidemic of abuse from law enforcement that has struck our communities. These aren’t just problems in policy but reflect the inherent sickness of the system itself.
This conference is needed now more than ever. So-called “Peace Officers” have organized themselves into associations and unions that hold unchallenged political sway, legitimizing and protecting their ability to inflict unrestrained force. Working class communities across the U.S. have fallen victim to a campaign of extra-judicial killings by police that claim, on average, between one and two lives per day. We’re here today to organize and strengthen our ties across geographical boundaries, cultures & communities.
Here in Oxnard, 7 officers cruelly beat Robert Ramirez to death on June 23, 2012, after family friends called 911 for medical attention. Then, on October 13, Alfonso Limon, Jr. was shot down in a so-called “incident” involving 9 cops while he was out for a jog. 2 of those cops were also implicated in the homicide of Robert. We’ll be marking Limon’s death, along with all victims of police brutality, this evening at 6:30 in the center of Downtown Oxnard at Plaza Park, and we’ll be marching tomorrow through La Colonia with the Ramirez family and other families of victims from across California.
Our government loves to talk about public executions in countries like Iran but meanwhile, here in the States, officers like Johannes Mehserle and John Moody are able to brazenly execute young men like Oscar Grant and Ernest Duenez, only to serve less time than a minor guilty of shoplifting or worse, receive paid vacation in the form of administrative leave. Clearly they either they see some of us as less than human, or humanity simply isn’t an issue for them.
To those countless martyrs who’ve fallen prey to these extra-judicial killings, we raise our fist and say “REST IN POWER.” You didn’t die in vain, and your spilled blood hasn’t evaporated or washed away —it sank deep into our streets and into our hearts, and became embedded into our memory and consciousness.
Our only goal here is peace; this is what makes life worth living—just ask the families here today! Without peace our communities become gripped by anxiety and they deteriorate. But “peace” isn’t possible when we’re facing direct aggression and the trauma of stolen lives. We’re not gullible; we don’t confuse “peace” with state-sanctioned pacification and repression – that’s why we’re here today. Our slogan is “No Justice, No Peace” – this is why we fight.
We need to tie together the various components that are in play:
There’s the prison-industrial complex, where U.S. citizens are incarcerated in numbers far exceeding those of any other country in the world and people are forced to work in conditions of modern-day slavery.
There’s the terror that’s been imposed on our undocumented brothers and sisters. Under the Obama administration, deportations have skyrocketed and a war has been escalated against migrantes.
The poor themselves have been criminalized. Whether it’s mental illness, drug addiction, an inability to pay child support, a lack of documentation for economic refugees, et cetera – all these problems, rooted in poverty and desperation, have become equivalent to high crimes.
Then there’s driving while black or brown, or walking while black or brown, both of which we’ve seen are capital crimes in the eyes of the pigs.
These problems are inseparable from the nature of capitalism itself.
Just about all of our elected so-called “representatives” have been silent on the issue. When they pander for votes they flatter us and promise us all kinds of pie in the sky, but in the end they’re just like the cops: keys that are held in the pockets of wealthy elites, and their words are as useless as the rattling noise made by keys. They won’t hear our demands unless we build our strength independently and hold their feet to the fire.
The media has also been complicit, acting as Xerox machines for DAs and police agencies across the country, and showing a permanent bias in favor of these killers.
Those of us that have built this conference are resistance organizations and families who do not collaborate with the police or accept dirty money or corporate grants, and we reject attempts to contain us and manage our dissent. However, we need to be careful about organizations that aren’t completely independent from the powers that be, because conflicts of interest run deep – and so does the corruption that sometimes hides behind smiles, nods, and fist-bumps.
In closing, we’re happy to have organized this historic conference with the gracious help of Oxnard College MEChA. (Applause!)
We’ll end this opening by reading a bit of the Mission Statement of Todo Poder al Pueblo Collective, which formed in 2010:
“A realistic analysis of who benefits from our oppression will clearly show that the head and heart of our movement must be the community and it is our present unorganized state which allows the migra, police, and politicians to bully us. History and experience have shown that unity and organization are capable of transforming a situation of passive acceptance into one where people are able to defend themselves from a position of strength and can take the initiative in the fight for a dignified future. An optimistic, assertive, and self-determined people are capable of overcoming the fear, hostility, and general corruption of those who take aim at us.”