Stop Mass Incarceration movement plans October month of mass resistance
Last April, three older white women here in the Heights sent out a letter to friends and sympathetic acquaintances calling on them to take up the call of author Michelle Alexander, to help build a social movement against the new Jim Crow. We read Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, and were horrified [to learn] that the war on drugs has caused an astounding rise in the incarceration of people of color for minor drug offenses over the last 40 years. Alexander’s exposure of the blatant injustice at every level of the criminal “justice” system had a profound effect on us. We felt compelled to do something.
We were also deeply troubled by the acquittal of George Zimmerman, and inspired by the “Stop Stop and Frisk” movement in NYC. Our movement, Puncture the Silence-Stop Mass Incarceration, was formed in a living room in Cleveland Heights, where eight older women unanimously endorsed the Stop Mass Incarceration Network’s (SMIN) call for an October “Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror and the Criminalization of Generations,” initiated by Carl Dix and Cornel West.
We quickly planned a showing of the film “Broken on All Sides,” about the movement in Philadelphia at the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland. We began to spread our message through social media and by going out to events such as the Hessler Street Fair, Wade Oval Wednesdays, the Cain Park Arts Festival and others, with informational flyers, dressed in orange T-shirts with our logo on the front. We also held an action to puncture the silence with facts on Larchmere during Porchfest. We have received a very positive response.
Outraged and deeply saddened by the police murder of Michael Brown, on the heels of the police killing Eric Garner, we feel the time is right for this movement. People are saying, “No More!”
We seek to have a significant impact in Cleveland in October, and invite all who want to join the Stop Mass Incarceration effort to join our Meetup Group (www.meetup.com/Grtr-Cleveland-Stop-Mass-Incarceration-Puncture-the-Silence/) and participate in our October month of resistance to all the ugly features of the new Jim Crow.
Nationally, SMIN plans include publication of the SMIN Call in major and smaller newspapers, sermons in all types of houses of worship the first weekend of October, demonstrations on Oct. 22 (in Cleveland meet at 3 p.m. on Public Square), and a day of wearing orange on Oct. 30. Greater Cleveland events planned for October include a pop-up art show on Oct. 17 (at Art Palace, 7201 Kinsman Road), and an Oct. 22 march to Public Square (meet at the Northeast Reintegration Center, 2675 E. Orange St.).
Our Puncture the Silence–Stop Mass Incarceration kick-off and organizing event on Aug. 28 was a big success, with 75 people in attendance. Everyone there agreed that—between then and October, and beyond—our movement needs to get even stronger and more active, with a focus on resistance. The night ended with a determination and spirit to use the kickoff as a springboard to become a bigger part of the national movement to Stop Mass Incarceration. People took stacks of the 5,000 palm cards, ready to go. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and outreach to the people. For more information, and to get involved, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol Steiner moved to Cleveland Heights in 1985, and her two sons graduated from Heights High.