My daughter, Jenn (the RFC’s Grantmaking Coordinator), and I spent last weekend in Rochester and Buffalo attending RFC receptions as part of our 20/20/20 program. We call it 20/20/20 because we will celebrate the RFC’s 20th anniversary by holding at least 20 events around the country during the 20-months that started in September. We managed to beat the snows and catch the tail end of one of the best fall color seasons we’ve had in the last decade.
At each reception I told my personal story, described how it gave birth to the RFC and reported that the ongoing repression and the Bush economic depression have increased the demand for our support. The folks at the Rochester event described their own recent brush with authoritarianism: several had been arrested and/or harassed by police earlier in the month.
On October 7th, 2009, the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the current Afghan war, the Rochester chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) staged a peaceful protest calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. The noisy but peaceful action of less than 100 people started with speeches in a park and was followed by a march to the center of town. As they crossed a bridge the activists were confronted by a phalanx of police who arrived in no less than 40 police cars!
The police attacked the protesters without warning, singling out a young black man in the center of the crowd for no apparent reason other than the color of his skin. A dozen protesters were arrested and two required hospitalization. The incident was filmed by an independent media (IMC) film crew and is available at http://blip.tv/file/2695340. The video shows police throwing non-resisting students to the ground and arresting them without provocation. As often happens in these situations, the two students who were most severely injured are facing the most serious charges of resisting arrest and attacking a police officer.
This was one of several stories I heard about the brutality and racism of the Rochester police while I was in town. On the 300 mile drive home to Western Massachusetts I couldn’t help wondering if the police took their cue from the barely suppressed violence and hate spewed by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Fox News. Unlike the TV blowhards, the police have guns, badges, the power to arrest and the authority of the state behind them.
How many of these cops and others across the nation, have been pumped full of post-9/11 hysteria for almost a decade and are primed to explode? How many of you have your own stories of similar events unfolding in you areas? I invite you to bring these outrages to light by posting comments here.
I fear that given this climate, the RFC will face a seemingly endless stream of new applications for many years to come.