Black Lives Matter organizer Dubian Ade addresses rally attendes, calling on them to "bring the system down."

Gabriella Lee / Former Sun News Editor

Black Lives Matter organizer Dubian Ade addresses rally attendes, calling on them to "bring the system down."

July 9, 2016

Ithaca Black Lives Matter Rallies Against Oppression, Aims to ‘Bring This System Down’

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Bearing signs that read “White Silence is Violence,” “A Man Was Lynched” or simply “Black Lives Matter,” over 200 Ithacans gathered to rally and march through downtown Ithaca Friday afternoon in the aftermath of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police officers.

The event — which was organized by Ithaca’s local Black Lives Matter organization — joins other protests across the nation after a video was released showing Alton Sterling being held down and shot by police in Baton Rouge, La., and a livestream of Philando Castile moments after he was shot by police in Falcon Heights, Minn. appeared on Facebook. These incidents renewed national focus on the systemic racial biases in law enforcement.

Locals began gathering at the Southside Community Center at around 4:15 p.m., where Black Lives Matter partnered with Congo Square Market to provide music, food and other items for sale as community members spoke publicly about what had drawn them to the rally.

As the rally officially began at 4:45 p.m., the atmosphere tangibly shifted to reflect the anger and sadness in the community as Black Lives Matter organizers spoke emphatically about the inherent injustices embedded in America’s political and cultural institutions, calling for a dismantling of white supremacy.

“One of the gifts of Black Lives Matter nationally has been to revive our awareness of structures of oppression in our society,” said Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo, grad, a local Black Lives Matter organizer. “We must also understand our personal relationships to those structures and recognize that those structures affect different people differently. We are all oppressed under white supremacy.”

Prof. Russell Rickford, history, — another Black Lives Matter organizer — elaborated on Lumumba-Kasongo’s point, saying that not only was it important to uproot the structures of white supremacy, but that of “white supremacy in service of capitalism.”

Overturning capitalism, Rickford argued, is imperative to creating a new system that values human life and needs.

BLM Rally

Gabriella Lee / Former Sun News Editor

Ithacans march along West State Street, towards the Commons.

“I have never been more convinced that we have been called by history to launch a grassroots movement against white supremacy,” Rickford said. “We’re up against an entire social apparatus designed to terrorize us.”

He continued by citing body cameras, community policing efforts and new training programs as only “palliative” reforms to racism in society.

Dubian Ade, another Black Lives Matter organizer, called for “no more reform, no more waiting until tomorrow, no more talking about how I feel … no more empty statements from politicians.”

“We must bring this system down, and don’t for a second think that this is not possible,” Ade said.

At approximately 5:15 p.m. the crowd began to mobilize and march toward the Ithaca Commons with Black Lives Matter organizers leading chants and cries at the head of the march.

In a call and response chant, organizers shouted names of black men and women who had been killed by police, while the crowd responded “Say his name!” and “Say her name!” The names included Sterling and Castile, as well as Shawn Greenwood and Keith Shumway — local black residents who were killed by Ithaca Police in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

As the march progressed down several roads, traffic was blocked at intersections, with police officers stationed every block. Upon reaching the Ithaca Commons, the crowd began chanting, “Black Lives Matter!”

The march concluded at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Commons, where the protesters gathered to listen to members of the public, who hailed from across the country, as well as to the calls to action from the march organizers.

Reiterating his points from earlier, Rickford called on citizens to look internationally and beyond the United States to initiate revolutionary change.

Rickford argued that the continued deaths of African-Americans in the U.S. was a genocide according to the United Nation’s definition of the term, and that it was time to look to other progressive countries and the United Nations to charge the United States with the crime of genocide.

“Don’t look to the United States government to solve the problem,” Rickford said. “They are the problem.”

Concluding the rally, Ade stepped forward to summarize Ithaca Black Lives Matter’s five main calls to action, which included calls for more people to organize and act as leaders in the community, defunding the Ithaca Police Department, new alternatives to the police, organizing at jobs and work stoppages and a strengthening of the local community of people of color.

In particular, Ade called on the IPD to sell their SWAT truck, which he said was frequently near events attended by people of color but with no purpose but to intimidate and cause terror.

Among the many people who attended the rally, some agreed with the sentiments of the organizers and their call to end white supremacy.

Zillah Eisenstein, a long-time Ithaca resident, writer and activist, said that in light of the recent shooting of five Dallas police officers Thursday, it was still important for people “to feel the power of social collectivity.”

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Upon reaching the Ithaca Commons, the crowd began chanting, “Black Lives Matter!”

“We just have to make so clear that black lives matter unconditionally, always and that we are present to do whatever it takes to restructure and dismantle white supremacy,” Eisenstein said.

Other residents were also motivated to gather and further the cause of the Black Lives Matter because of the local deaths of Greenwood and Shumway. Greenwood’s death — a result of a police officer who fired on him during a drug investigation — has raised questions locally about racial bias and profiling.

Shumway, who had a history with mental illness, was reported by the police to have seized a gun from a police officer before he was shot. However, many still question the legitimacy of the police report on Shumway’s death.

Ade brought up Greenwood and Shumway’s deaths to show how issues of police brutality were not only occurring on a national level, but locally as well.

“If you hear an IPD police officer say anything like, ‘IPD is an exceptional police department,’ I want you to correct them and let them know the blood that is on their hands,” Ade said. “The IPD is somehow, someway absolved from the violence that has been occurring on a national level. No, it has also been occurring on a local level.”

Leslyn McBean-Clairborne (D – 2nd District), a Tompkins County legislator and Deputy Director of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, took the opportunity to speak publicly on the Commons about how the cycle of police violence needed to end.

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Gathered at Southside Community Center during its Congo Square Market event, people listen to speakers during the open mic session before the official start of the rally.

“I fear every time my argumentative husband is driving and we get stopped by the police, because he is trying to say what he is doing right, and I’m trying to say ‘shhh,’ cause we don’t know where we are and what could happen,” McBean-Clairborne said. “This cycle that keeps happening over and over again has to stop. … Not so long ago we were doing the same thing for Shawn Greenwood, and here we are again. It has to stop.”

Jhakeem Haltoum, co-founder of Congo Square Market, said he believed the rally’s large turnout was partially motivated by local response to Greenwood’s death.

However, Haltoum also said that he hoped people left the rally with “a sense of community [and] a sense of unity around the struggle.”

“‘Black Lives Matter’ is ‘All Lives Matter.’ When black lives matter, all of us matter. The unity that we see today is across skin tone,” Haltoum said. “When we collaborate around what has happened to darker skinned people, everybody is getting in tune with their origins.”

Vanessa Aguiar, a teacher at the Finger Lakes School of Massage, also echoed Haltoum’s message of unity and community, adding that she had hoped to gain a better understanding of how she could participate in dialogue on contentious issues.

“I’ve been really personally trying to explore my complacency as a white person and how to get over the barrier of not knowing what to do,” Aguiar said. “This is an opportunity to do something, to talk to people, to be part of a conversation, to show my support.”

  • Tom R

    All lives matter!! Go do something productive.

    • Marcus Conlon

      The organizers ought to be embarrassed by their proposed solutions, some of which would not even qualify as childish:

      “defunding the Ithaca Police Department [and], new alternatives to the police.” REALLY?

      If that’s your solution to ANYTHING, you’re either a complete ignoramus or a delusional naive.

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  • Dave

    Bring the system down!
    So when is that not a divisive statement!
    Black Lives Matter is a hate group that sows the seed of division!

  • Bruno

    Funny how the Sun fails to acknowledge that the officer in the Greenwood case has his house burnt to the ground in what was widely suspected as retaliation.

  • Black Lives Matter has to be stopped. If the blacks put that much effort into there family’s and started teaching them to respect all pepole, again all people. Stop trying to show a superior attitude and s defient poise. Blacks are more prejudice that most if not all whites. Blacks have a higher criminal rate than any race. Hispanics have surpassed the blacks everywhere that is because they get out and work. Hispanics came much later to all areas that blacks. Blacks have to put aside the slavery nonsense. I know some blacks go out, get an education and work and do very well. It is just a percentage that makes all blacks seem lazy & milk the system. This enables them. Just back off and start acting properly, u will see a change. The system works, blacks should get registered and get out and vote. They can express there point over view in that way. Not riots, burning down businesses etc. Stop killing eachother. Stop killing innocent children, they are your future.wake up before you destroy the greatest nation on earth. Don’t like it here, then leave, go to a different country.

  • Silv

    The vast majority of blacks that are murdered are killed by other blacks. Stop dancing in the blood of the fallen by trying to score political points here. If there’s a war against blacks, it’s by blacks, and all of the accusations of white racism in the world don’t change that.

    Police are no more likely to kill blacks during any given encounter than whites. The idea that blacks are disproportionately killed by police has already been shown to be false. The number of blacks and whites killed by police are proportionate to the number of contacts the police have with individuals of each race (with whites actually being killed slightly more often per contact than blacks).

    The police are trigger-taser-club-pepper spray happy in general, and if white suspects being killed served the agenda of the media, we’d be hearing about all of those too. It would be good for all of us if they’d stop behaving like an occupying army and start behaving like “peace” officers… but you know what? Making them all afraid they’re going to be shot by black people is not a good method for trying to convince cops to stop shooting black people.

    Not only that, but “whites” and “the police” are not the same thing!

    If you think that stirring up all this racial animosity is going to somehow benefit us, you’re not in contact with reality. Signs with anti-white messages aren’t going to bring us together and get us to focus on the hopes and dreams and other stuff that we share– they get us to focus on how we’re different, and to see everyone as either a member of “us” or “them” instead of as individuals that think and act on their own rather than as an extension of whatever group some third party has decided to place them in. In what universe does that bring people together?

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  • Karen

    Did you notice how Cornell has plummeted in the rankings? #94 in value for your money. This type of hate is why. I am a graduate, but my daughter visited and hated it. I am so proud of her for seeing through this madness. The idea that she would ever sit in a class run by an ignorant and vindictive professor like Russell Rickford is repulsive. Such hate and extremism is counterproductive and has no place on a college campus. I will use Professor Rickford’s name next time they call for a donation. For this unstable human being to claim white people need to commit suicide is against every goal that Cornell has tried to establish as a respected university and one that encourages sound mind and body. I would imagine any student of Professor Rickford who does commit suicide would bring on a Title iX claim and put Cornell in tremendous legal jeopardy.

    How sad Cornell is allowing racially divisive and dangerous speech to encourage violence. Stop the hate.

    • acturg

      You are so correct.
      The cancer manifested as “political correctness” and “perceived bias by white males towards any other race, ethnicity, or gender” will be the ultimate downfall of such elitist institutions as Cornell.
      When these professors pontificate about how the world should work, when they have been sponges of the system for most of their adult lives it is sickening.
      As long as this continues I too will not donate to Cornell.
      We are not alone. Trust me.

  • Data

    Some research:

    Blacks are less likely to get killed by cops than whites, per black-led Harvard study. BLM is power hungry to flex their victim card and dangerously easily excited by sensationalist media greed.

  • CM

    It’s disappointing to see the comments written here. To the comment above, there is no official federal database documenting shootings by U.S. law enforcement officers. That is why there is conflicting data on police shootings. The only solution to the discord in this country is transparency with law enforcement and the public. There should be a database documenting police shootings and other use of force that is open to the public. There should also be inquiry after every death to examine if there is any wrongdoing. Then if there is wrongdoing from a police officer, then the officer should be able to go to court and defend himself. Transparency is the only answer, maintaining the status quo will only lead to more distrust and violence.

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