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NYC panel on political repression and the Trump administration

By staff |
January 18, 2018
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Jessica Schwartz, an organizer with CSFR, speaking at NYC panel on repression. (FightBack!News/Rafael Justo)

New York, NY - Organizers gathered at the International Action Center, Jan. 16, for a panel called “After J20: Fighting Back Against Political Repression.” The panel was organized by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression – NYC (CSFR) as part of the #DaysOfRage. The #DaysOfRage is building towards a final rally on Jan. 20, which is the one-year anniversary of the inauguration of Trump.

The purpose of the panel was to bring up cases of political repression during the Trump era, and how organizers fought back for victories.

The panel was emceed by Michela Martinazzi, an organizer with the CSFR, who began the event by explaining why the event was important in this time. Martinazzi stated, “Because what is political repression? It’s when the state attacks people who are actively organizing to dismantle a system - it’s targeting based on one’s political beliefs and actions. It takes on a different character than other state attacks, such as attacks on gender or race, and therefore must be organized around differently.”

The first speaker was Leilani Dowell from the Worker’s World Party. Dowell gave an excellent and in-depth overview of the case of the Durham Fighters – a group of activists who tore down a Confederate statue back in August 2017. These organizers initially were facing felony charges but, as Dowell explained, through organizing their charges were dropped to misdemeanors. Dowell finished by saying, “Since that statue came down in August, we coined that phrase ‘do it like Durham,’ which is a statement we can get behind. It’s an understanding of militant struggle and never ceasing organizing despite what the racist state put against them. We have to incorporate that in our bodies, souls, and organizing until we tear down the rotten system.”

The next speaker was Christian Valencia, one of the 200 J20 defendants arrested during the Jan. 20, 2017 inauguration protests. Valencia explained the details leading up to the mass arrest of and blanket felony charging of the 200 people.

Talking about the J20 case, Valencia stated, “It’s been difficult because many people have dismissed the J20 defendants as a bunch of people causing trouble and wrecking stuff. And not getting that it’s actually very important, regardless of the politics involved, because that was the first clash between the real resistance, and not the coopted Democrats’ resistance, and the Trump administration.” Valencia then finished by saying, “We can’t really be [engaged] in sectarianism right now because we’re all in the same boat. We’re all fighting against this regime. They don’t care what our ideological differences are. They just care that we’re against them.”

The panel was finished with Jessica Schwartz, an organizer with CSFR, who elucidated on different cases of political repression and the different tactics that were used to win those respective cases. She brought up the cases of the Anti-War 23, Carlos Montes, Rasmea Odeh, the Jax5, and the Holy Land 5. Schwartz stated, “As activists, we must organize campaigns that target laws and institutions that seek to repress us into complacency. As we’ve seen from history, with programs like COINTELPRO, the enemy is always watching and ready to wreck our movements from the inside. However, it is up to us to remain strong and fight back, never cowering in the face of the enemy.”

The panel ended with a brief Q and A and the chant, “When activists are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!”

The final action for the #DaysOfRage is this Saturday at 4 p.m. at Grand Central Station. All the groups who organized for the week of action will be attending and protesting Trump, his administration and the evils of capitalism.