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Wednesday, 20 March 2013 15:12

On Kimani Gray, and on not walking away


This piece was originally published on Waging Non-Violence.

On Saturday, March 9, New York City police officers shot and killed 16-year-old Kimani Gray in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. After those seven bullets hit him, he lay on the ground and cried out, "Please don't let me die."

Please don't let me die.

It may be one of the most human things I've ever heard, and it makes me want to cry. When I read it I felt like I had said it myself a thousand times before, and had heard the same vulnerability in the words and actions of other people in my life time and time again. It was also the most obvious thing for him to say. The officers shot him seven times — three times in the back. And then, yes, they let him die.

Published in Community Organizing

This piece was originally posted on Waging Nonviolence.

They say the best defense is a good offense.

I Googled the hell out of this phrase but couldn’t find a definitive answer on where it comes from. It’s attributed to everyone from the football coach Vince Lombardi to Machiavelli, Mao, the boxer Jack Dempsey and probably every military strategist in history. Whatever the case may be, the point is a good one, and it’s one that Occupy Sandy — the movement’s ongoing disaster response effort — needs to learn as well.

Two weeks ago I was in my hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, wading waist deep in a murky combination of floodwater, oil and sewage. More than a week later, after finally getting unstuck from New Jersey (even the deepest Jersey pride has its limits…), I found myself in a van full of Occupy Sandy activists delivering hot meals to housing-project high rises in Coney Island during a Nor’easter. We were taking cues from local leaders, and I was amazed at the way people were mobilizing by creating support structures and politicizing one another through practice. In the past few days I’ve helped facilitate trainings for hundreds of people who came to Occupy Sandy hubs as volunteers for relief work, and who left for the Rockaways or Staten Island well on their way to becoming community organizers or committed activists.

occupy-wall-street-0Originally Published in We Are Many: Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation, a book published by AK Press in September 2012.

Reform vs. Revolution

The question of whether movements should fight for reform or revolution is not a new one. It pops up in any time period where people think it’s possible to win one or the other, or both. Thanks to Occupy, the question is on the table again, in this new political climate.

A friend once told me – if you’re struggling to choose between two different options, and you just can’t make up your mind, don’t bother: Just have both. I think he might have meant it in terms of something smaller, like which flavor ice cream to order, but I think we can use that thinking about reform and revolution as well – and many revolutionaries of old have come up with similar answers (Andre Gorz is a good place to start if you are looking for further reading).

Published in Occupy StrategyLab
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 00:00

Making our arrests count

yotamOriginally published on

“The Tombs” is the less-than-endearing nickname for New York City’s Central Booking, the jail you get sent to if you are arrested in Manhattan and set to be arraigned before a judge. This spiraling dungeon below the courthouse at 100 Centre Street is about as ominous as it sounds. Above, the court itself is pristine and immaculate, adorned in mahogany and full of quiet, proper, well-dressed people. But all you have to do is open a door to the back of the courtroom to reveal an underground complex made up of filthy jail cells, violent correctional officers and hundreds of (mainly) poor people (mainly) of color, awaiting their arraignment for anywhere between 10 and 72 hours.

Published in Occupy StrategyLab

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