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NYC activists address resisting repression from Palestine to the Tampa 5

By Briony Smith

Three people sit at a panel with microphones in front of them speaking to an audience

New York, NY - On October 18, over 100 activists and community members, representing nearly 20 different grassroots community organizations, packed The People’s Forum in Manhattan for an evening of solidarity and resistance. The event, titled “Defend People’s Struggle: A Conversation on State Repression,” kicked off the East Coast leg of the Justice for the Tampa 5 speaking tour. It centered activists who have been directly targeted for arrest and trumped up charges as part of the increased state repression facing organizers.

The speakers represented organizations from all corners of the movement. In addition to Laura Roriguez of the Tampa 5, the evening’s program speakers also included: Marte White, from Community Movement Builders in Atlanta, Georgia and the fight to stop Cop City; a speaker from NYC-based organization For Our Liberation; Nina Macapinlac from BAYAN USA; a speaker from New York Boricua Resistance; a speaker from the Haitian diaspora organization Rasanbleman Pou Ayiti, and Kaleem Hawa from the Palestinian Youth Movement.

All speakers were united in a clear message: We must defend people’s struggles. Only through steadfast solidarity can we protect ourselves and our movements. The only way to move forward is to fight back.

Laura Rodriguez of the Tampa 5, a group of five Florida students and activists facing felony charges for defending diversity on campus, stated, “Because of organizing, because we are in an organization, and because of the support we’ve gotten nationally, we were able to expedite our release from jail,” she said in her speech. She ended on an optimistic note on the power of organizing and solidarity: “Because of the organizing that we will do on the speaking tour, that we have done, and because of everyone here today, I know for a fact that the charges will be dropped.”

Another key point of the evening was raised by Marte White, a transfeminine organizer involved in the struggle against Cop City in Atlanta. They spoke about the importance of combating lies spread by the enemy, citing the disinformation spread by the Atlanta police in the wake of their murder of environmental activists Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán last March. This point was echoed by Allendy of Rasanbleman Pou Ayiti and Kaleem Hawa of the Palestinian Youth Movement. 

The Rasanbleman Pou Ayiti spoke of the UN Security Council’s decision to authorize the tenth invasion of Haiti in the past 30 years under the pretext of combatting “gang violence,” when it is really an attempt to access cheap labor, land and resources in Haiti. “Whenever the UN Security Council is about to vote on what to do in Haiti, gang violence rises,” he said. “So we can tell clearly, this is to repress the Haitian people whenever they want to mobilize and fight for their sovereignty. We can’t rely on this system, we can’t rely on the mass media, who have shown us time and time again that our independence, our sovereignty, and our liberation mean nothing to them.”

Hawa put it more bluntly: “Do not share the enemy’s propaganda. It’s a very difficult time. We don’t need to give them attention, and we can’t let ourselves be distracted.”

As the final speaker of the event, Hawa delivered a powerful analysis of the current, historic moment in the struggle for Palestinian Liberation. He emphasized the importance of contextualizing current events in the long history of Zionist attempts to exterminate the Palestinian people and inflict maximum human suffering in Gaza. “They are doing this because Gaza is the heart of Palestinian resistance and always has been,” he reminded the audience, “and they need a genocidal solution to the resistance from Gaza.”

Speaking of the political repression faced by Palestinians - within Palestine, and in the near and far diasporas, including New York City, Hawa stated, “Zionism is borderless, and its intention is to eliminate the political Palestinian life.” However, he continued, “The Palestinian armed resistance has shown the world that Israel is as weak as spider web.”

The evening concluded with rousing chants of “Free Palestine!” and calls to action from the organizations participating. In particular, all speakers stressed the importance of joining organizations and standing in solidarity with each other in the ongoing struggle. As Rodriguez put it when speaking to student organizers in the audience: “We must not only defend but continue to push higher. We’re working to create something that’s never been seen before, to create actual power across all of the movements, because only we can lift us up out of this.”

#NewYorkCityNY #Tampa5 #FreePalestine #Gaza #AlAqsaFlood #PYM #PoliticalRepression #StopCopCity