This letter was drafted in response to inquiries on a national phone call on the struggle for Justice for Oscar Grant organized by Davey D, Biko Baker, and the League of Young Voters on Wednesday, July 21st.
Per our discussion regarding next steps on the July 21st call I wanted to offer several suggestions to the group to consider.
On Structure: The US Human Rights Network (USHRN) has been in the process of forming a National Alliance for Racial Justice and Human Rights (NARJHR) since the summer of 2009. This Alliance was initiated by Network members the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Black Workers for Justice, Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights, Center for Constitutional Rights, Latin American and Caribbean Community Center, and others, and is seeking to focus on the following racial justice issues and struggles:
Colonial occupation (Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, etc.)
Mass Incarceration (including Drug Policy and Voting Rights)
Gender and Reproductive Justice
Given that we began to address a comprehensive framework that touched on most, if not all of these issues, the Network and the NARJHR Organizing Committee - of which I am a member - offer its framework and incipient structure to this collective as something to consider to help sustain and build this initiative. For more information on the National Alliance please visit http://019d5f5.netsolhost.com/NARJHR/ (please note that this site is currently under construction and is in the process of being transferred to the new USHRN hosting site).
On National Campaign(s): To answer the questions, a) how can we can link our various local efforts and initiatives and b) what are we demanding of the government that will address our issues and begin to transform the relations of power underneath them, I want to point to the following example as something to both model and join. The example comes from a campaign initiative being lead by the Rights Working Group (RWG), a USHRN affiliate, to confront Racial Profiling. The campaigns primary objective is to pass the national “End of Racial Profiling Act” being reintroduced in Congress. For more information see the following link http://www.rightsworkinggroup.org/sites/default/files/ERPA_IssueBrief.pdf. Again, I think this provides us with an excellent concrete example of what can do by combining our efforts.
On the Tribunal Proposal: Building on the groundwork laid on the case of Oscar Grant in Oakland, CA from the Tribunals conducted by the African People's Socialist Party (APSP) and By Any Means Necessary Coalition (BAMN), what me and Davey D want to put forward is a Tribunal proposal that will a) provide clear evidence and contextualization on Oscar Grants murder to pressure the DOJ, b) create space to address the national implications of the murder and the policies that enabled it to help build a national alliance and/or coalition, and 3) internationalize the struggle by including participants such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism and the Universal Periodic Review Process (see below) to further pressure the DOJ and the US government in general to make various reforms. Further, building on the models of the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2007 and Winter Solider in 2008, we want to put forth the following outline:
That we make the Tribunal as simple as possible, but scale it up utilizing interactive technology, to make it affordable and accessible to a broad audience.
That we invite international participants, like the Special Rapportuer on Racism, to be involved and include them in the proceedings via technology like Skype, etc.
That we base the Tribunal proceedings on human rights and/or international law practices.
That we conduct the Tribunal over a three day period, conceptually broken down in the following manner:
· Day One: Testimony, focusing on Oscar Grant and other cases of Police Brutality and Murder
· Day Two: Examining and exposing the Structural Issues, i.e. Racial Profiling, Mass Incarceration, ICE Raids, Structural Un/Under Employment, etc.
· Day Three: Demands, Recommendations, and Solutions, to press upon the US government and the UN
To give ourselves enough time, and hopefully tap into existing institutions of resistance, we suggest that we aim to conduct the Tribunal on or around October 22nd. This would give us two full months (August and September) to organize and coordinate the effort and to publicize it nationally to a considerable degree. However, this developing alliance, but most particularly the forces on the ground in California, would need to come to terms on conducting such an event and then figure out a) who the potential organizing anchors would be and b) how to generate the resources necessary to engage in such an undertaking.
For more information on the Special Rapporteur on Racism and the mandate of the office please visit http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/rapporteur/index.htm. For information on previous engagements of the Special Rapporteur on Racism with US social movements visit http://www.ushrnetwork.org/special_rep.
On the UPR Day/Week of Action: The UPR stands for the Universal Periodic Review. It is a relatively new process of the United Nations country reporting system to evaluate the conduct of the world nations towards meeting their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights. The United States is being subjected to its first UPR review on Friday, November 5th in Geneva, Switzerland. The human rights record of the US will be presented and defended by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder. As I'm sure everyone has noted, this is the same date that Johannes Mehserle is currently set to be sentenced. And with Eric Holder, the head of the DOJ, being a primary presenter, this process provides us with an excellent opportunity to both shame the US government on its inadequate polices and conduct and to pressure the DOJ, and the government on a whole, to make concrete progressive reforms based on our demands.
To fully exploit this opportunity what is being suggested is a national day and/or week of action between November 1st - 4th to influence the Mehserle sentencing proceedings directly and the US's UPR hearing process. Suggested actions would entail:
2. Congressional Lobbying
3. Mass Demonstrations on relevant targets
4. Direct Actions also on relevant targets (Justice Department, Federal Courts, etc.).
Critical to the success of this initiative would be the generation of national and international media. Our media and cultural workers would need to form a solid plan to support, document, and report the activities of this week to ensure there was broad coverage to pressure the government.
For more information on the UPR please visit the following websites http://www.ushrnetwork.org/campaign_upr and http://www.upr-info.org/-United-States-.html.
In Unity and Struggle,
Monday, July 26, 2010