by Greg Foisie
CSULA graduate student and volunteer with Change-Links, Arlington West Memorial, KPFK, Addicted to War, and Occupy Venice.
The Peoples Tribunal Against Racist Police & State Terror established by local community groups including the International Action Center at the Herriot Tubman Center, the World Workers Party and the Los Angeles Workers Assembly was held over a two day period on Friday and Saturday, October 16 and 17, 2015 at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC). This event ñ ìby the people, for the peopleî – served as ìan educational forum on police & state violence.î It used artistic expression, personal recounts, and research reporting to do so. Attendees registered for the free event and Saturday lunch was provided. This conference ended by placing an emphasis on generating action plans to address the unveiled injustices.
Organizers Rebecka Jackson and John Parker and others assisting them did a great job in bringing all of the participants together, many supporters coming from across the US for the occasion. There were too many presentations to describe in a short article, so the following mentions are selected to give the reader a sense of the tribunalís atmosphere and impact.
Many groups sponsored the tribunal ñ a whose-who of local organizations critical of US domestic and foreign policy. Examples included Black & Brown Club of LATTC, Students for Social Justice, Respect Immigrant Students Education (R.I.S.E.), Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Straight Alliance (L.G.B.T.S.), We Charge Genocide LA, Puerto Rican Alliance, Union del Barrio, Banyan-USA, National Lawyers Guild ñ Los Angeles, KPFK Outreach Committee, Unions of Progressive Iranians, Anti-Racist Action, South Central Neighborhood Council, Peoplesí Power Assembly, and many more.
The first day was an evening event comprised of a series of artistic presentations that depicted expression of and support for the victims of violence. While some of the artists were demonstrating solidarity with their presence while not necessarily presenting creative expression specifically addressing the weekendís topics, the majority of the performers presented art that reflected and spoke to the serious nature of the tribunalís themes.
Most moving and poignant were four dance pieces performed by very gifted young dancers. The first titled ìWhat to Send Up When It Goes Downî was performed by Jozben Barrett, Carol Sion, Ariella Siler, Carsissa Pinckney and Rebecka Jackson, and written and directed by Alesha Harris (who also opened the evening with a moving accapella song.) Two of the next segments ìNot in My Name,î and ìI Am a Girlî (narrated by Shama Mirambeau) were portions of a longer piece called ìECHO,î deploying the scenes crafted by the very talented choreographer Bridgette Dunn-Korpela who is currently a full-time dance faculty at California State University Northridge. The dancers were exceptionally gifted and emotionally persuasive, conveying the destructiveness and distress of state-sponsored violence.
Of special note were the spoken words delivered by author and two time national slam poet and grand slam champion Matt Sedillo and poet/musician Tom Earl, both conveying emotion-laded descriptions of the racism and violence motivating the USAís true intent and history. The force of their poetry served to wake up anyone who tuned in.
The second day saw a long series of presentations headed by a panel that included peoplesí lawyers Lynne Stewart (recently released from prison on compassionate grounds, yet she and her husband still with us) and Puerto Rico independence advocate Nelson Antonio Davis, journalist Lamont Lilly, Andre Shirley, and Gloria Verdieu. They presided over five sets of presentations including police and ICE terror, open floor testimonies and solidarity statements, US political prisoners, US Imperialist terror, and militant actions and building community.
There were many moving presentations by many presenters. None were more moving than the testimonies of mothers who had lost their sons to police murder, as depicted by mothers including Genevieve Huizar, Barbara Padilla, Jean Jackson, and Marie Sales. Nikole Cababa spoke on the litany of human rights abuses in the Philippines. Dante Strobino gave a recap of the LAPD Board of Rights and the California Police Officer Bill of Rights. Carlos Monte recounted his persecution by local law enforcement and the FBI for being an antiwar and Latino Community activist. Many more presentations were a part of the recorded testimonies.
The struggles against persecution and imprisonment by Rasmea Odeh, Mumia Jabul Jamal, Leonard Peltier and other political prisoners were presented. A petition for Peltier was presented seeking executive clemency to end his sentence.
Before the end of the day members of the audience chose and went to one of five action planning groups: arts and activism; community healing; journalism and social media; direct political action and community outreach; and education. Their results are to be shared at a future gathering.
In total, the Peoples Tribunal revealed a long list of criminal abuse by various authorities ñ both local and federal law enforcement as well as US military and clandestine operatives in foreign overt and covert operations seeking to impose US foreign policy goals of murder, usurpation and oppression. The feelings from the thoughts shared were anguish at the atrocities of US racism and imperialism and the strong resolve to end them.