Response to September 11th Jazz Funeral March
From Gulf Coast to Gulf War, From New Orleans to New York:
The World Can't Wait - The Bush Regime Must Be Driven From Power!
Yesterday's beautiful outpouring of people's spirit, music, mourning demonstrated powerfully the basis to build very rapidly a movement that can drive the Bush regime from power - and the urgent necessity and stakes of doing so. The outpouring's size, energy, and breadth stood out as an indicator of the potential of this moment while the repression of the police - clearly prepared to arrest hundreds - and the white-out of the media stood out as an indicator of the severe new norms being bolted into place.
Hundreds turned out for a Jazz style funeral procession through the streets of NYC. Dozens of professional, and exceptional, horn-players and drummers, along with hundreds of deeply saddened but strong-spirited marchers showed up. A coffin with the words New Orleans on the side was carried at the front and the band struck up a slow, mournful dirge. The procession snaked around Washington Square Park, picking up strollers and others lazing in the afternoon sun. Banners demanded, "Rescue not Repression" and announced, "The World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime!"
Then, in keeping with the New Orleans tradition, the music switched abruptly, becoming upbeat and celebratory. Marching turned to dancing, hand-waving, booty-shaking, and an occasional hoot here and holler there, all while layer upon layer of horns belted out the passions of our gathering.
But, just as we all reached the north side of Washington Square Park dozens of NYPD showed up with helmets, batons, and handfuls of plastic "riot cuffs" - an essential tool for mass arrests. Behind them were parked multiple paddy-wagons with the doors open and ready. Back a bit further were rows of cops on motorcycles.
There is no one who could make an argument that this type of police force was there for anything other than suppressing a political message and a form of resistance which would have connected deeply and sparked resistance which in this politically parched and fraught time-period could spread like wildfire.
On Real Time with Bill Maher this past week George Carlin spoke what millions feel when he pointed out that "the real looting in this country takes place in the transfer of the wealth from the poor to the rich, I'm sorry that you don't like class and the truth, my friend, but you're stuck with it! Class is class, and the poor have been systematically looted in this country. The rich have been made richer under this criminal fascist president and his government." He was of course, immediately ridiculed and challenged by James K. Glassman, for making a comparison to Nazis. But Carlin again got tremendous applause when he responded, "Fascism, when it comes to America it will not be in brown and black shirts, it will not be with jack-boots, it will be in Nike sneakers and smiley shirts!"
Of course, Carlin is not the only one getting out there and speaking the outrageous truth right now. Everyone has already been buzzing about Kanye West's statement on NBC's live fundraiser for the Gulf victims that, "George Bush does not care about black people."
The fact is that the very legitimacy of the Bush regime - including the fact that it came to power in the first place through a stolen election which systematically suppressed hundreds of thousands of Black voters!!! - is up for question in the eyes of millions.
This is why, I am convinced, the very basic and absolutely righteous endeavor of a jazz funeral procession for the city of New Orleans, the many who needlessly died, and the hundreds of thousands who were displaced was so "threatening" and deemed worthy of such massive repression.
As one marcher pondered to me, "Imagine if these police spent this much energy and organization trying to save lives and rescue people rather than suppressing and repressing those of us demanding that the government stop allowing people to suffer and die."
What ended up happening in the street is that the musicians and mourners persevered, breaking up into small groups and heading up to Union Square and reassembling and playing and dancing and attracting the attention of thousands more. The police sent their paddy wagons, squad cars, and batons up to encircle and threaten again.
Perhaps our procession could have taken the streets and the police would not have really arrested all present. Perhaps even if this had happened it would have been worth it. Certainly people are facing much worse in the streets of New Orleans and the surrounding areas.
But what is also certain, to end where I began, is that what transpired yesterday is an indicator of both directions the future can go and what is required of all of us right now.
On the one side, there is the potential for millions to come onto the political stage and drive out this regime, and the necessity to launch this as one concerted effort bringing together all our strength, puncturing the atmosphere and establishing a different dynamic in society where we are not always overwhelmed and put on the defensive.
On the other side is a future where even in the face of mass murder by criminal governmental neglect, the people are not allowed a funeral procession, not allowed to raise questions, not allowed to hold those responsible accountable, not to mention the rest of what the Bush regime has in store for the planet, science, the Supreme Court, etc.
As it says at the end of the Call for the World Can't Wait - Drive Out the Bush Regime, "The future is unwritten. Which one we get is up to us."
All out for November 2nd. The world cannot wait!