Pictured: Dr. Cornel West, actual important person and RiseUpOctober demonstrator
#RiseUpOctober took to the streets of New York City for “3 Days of Mass Resistance” at the end of last week, culminating in a giant march through Manhattan on Saturday. Instead of focusing on the campaign and bringing attention to the problems it was trying to highlight, the media and police in New York have sweepingly devoted all their attention towards the participation of Quentin Tarantino and the subsequent boycott of his films by New York’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
Last week, Randolph Holder, a 33-year old African American NYPD police officer, was murdered after responding to a 911 call in East Harlem, according to the New York Post. His death marked the fourth time the department lost one of their own while on duty since last Christmas. Therefore, the march was criticized through the frame of coming just days after an officer was murdered.
The Officer Down Memorial Page logs the number of police killed in the line of duty across the country. That number currently sits at 101, with Holder being the latest. The Counted, a project by the Guardian, currently lists 936 people who have been killed by police in the United States.
The New York Post ran with the headline “Protesters flip off NYPD days after cop slay,” along with a photo of one protester flipping off a detail officer in front of a Bed Bath & Beyond. The Post’s article also includes a quote from Tarantino, in which he says that the killing of Holder was also a tragedy.
President of the Union Patrick Lynch’s statement, released on Sunday, calls for the boycott of Tarantino films. Lynch said that “New Yorkers need to send a message to this purveyor of degeneracy that he has no business coming to our city to peddle his slanderous ‘Cop Fiction.’”
But it must be stressed that Tarantino’s involvement is not important at all. He is just one body with a larger voice due to his privilege as a celebrity. Covering him and Lynch shows just how painfully unfocused the media is when covering #BlackLivesMatter and #RiseUpOctober protests. The voices of two white men are being elevated over the passionate, peaceful voices of hundreds if not thousands of black protesters.
Fox News, The Guardian, TIME, Vanity Fair, Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, NBC News, Deadline, Washington Times, Daily Caller, Mic, The Independent and, according to Google News “213 more articles,” all focus on Tarantino.
On Friday, protesters successfully shut down access to Rikers Island for a short time before arrests were made. RT reported that “a dozen” were arrested during the action, which aimed to bring attention to the horrible treatment of inmates at the correctional facility.
— bluestockings (@bluestockings) October 23, 2015
Other than RT, a search reveals that only News 12 Bronx also reported the action, which came days after a federal judge called for the implementation of intense reform of the facility’s operations. U.S. District Judge Loretta Swain approved a monitoring system, 7,800 cameras, body cameras, and better training and oversight to make sure inmates were being treated morally.
While outlets such as the New York Post said that hundreds of people attended the march on Saturday, updates on social media and RT estimated thousands marched through the streets demanding justice and asking “Which side are you on?”
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) October 24, 2015
Stop Mass Incarceration Network estimated that the march “stretched at least 14 blocks.”
According to RT, police started making arrests around 6 p.m., with protesters taking to Twitter to let those following know that the arrests were violent.
But that shouldn’t be the focal point, either.
If the stories weren’t about Tarantino, they were about the arrests; not about the amount of people who showed up or the pain that family members, who were both attended spoke, wish no one else should have to endure. In fact, most stories seem to gloss over the point that during the three days, 100 members of families who have lost loved ones had the courage to speak, march, and protest.
A press release posted on the Stop Mass Incarceration website yesterday said that “Scores of family members and representatives of victims of police murder shared their pain and outrage and challenged everyone to fight. They led the march. People defied police attacks that seized five people near the end of the march, and six more youth out of a group of a couple hundred youth and others who took the message into Times Square.”
When the media focuses exclusively on violence and celebrities, ordinary people lose their voice. Thousands marched, but only eleven were worthy of a passing mention in many media outlets. As long as this continues to be the case, those who do not already have the megaphone of celebrity status will be forced to choose between violence and violent arrests or continued public ignorance of the issues that threaten their communities. Nothing good can come of this.
Carl Dix and Dr. Cornel West posted on the #RiseUpOctober website stating that the movement must continue.
The spirit of Rise Up must go forward—— and that spirit needs to be made manifest in STRUGGLE and ORGANIZATION. Be out there on November 22, the anniversary of Tamir Rice’s murder. Be out there November 27, to actively boycott Black Friday. Be out there December 3, one year after the cops who murdered Eric Garner were exonerated. Be out there, making a powerful force of the voices of the relatives of those murdered by police.