This speech was given to open the No More No Knocks rally in Murfreesboro, Tennessee which was planned by the Middle Tennessee State University YDSA and featured a number of activists and local progressive candidates. The event was held directly in front of a statue honoring Confederate generals and a courthouse dedicated to a KKK Grand Wizard and Confederate General.
Let’s talk about why we’re here. In the short term, we are here to show our support for Senator Raumesh Akbari’s bill in the Tennessee state senate to end no-knock warrants in the state of Tennessee. In case, you haven’t heard of a no-knock warrant before, you’ll be shocked that they are even legal in the first place. These warrants give the police the right to burst into your home at any time of night without even announcing themselves as police or asking for entrance!
At their best, when these warrants go off without a hitch, they allow an unacceptable level of state power where armed police are allowed to violate our privacy at any time of day or night. It further empowers the police state in the War on Drugs and deepens the class and race divides that have poisoned this nation from its inception!
At their worst, we get tragedies like the Breonna Taylor case, where plain clothes officers burst into an innocent woman’s home in the middle of the night and shoot her dead because her partner had the nerve to try and defend their home from intruders! And then, of course, our broken joke of a criminal justice system decides that that woman’s life — that black woman’s life — matters less than the drywall that made up her walls. This is the legacy and everyday practice of no-knock warrants and they have no place in Tennessee.
It is our goal, in the short term, to end this barbaric practice. But our long term goals, and the long term goals of all of the Democratic Socialists of America are far more ambitious. It’s these long term goals that bring you folks here to this rally today. It’s these long term goals that drove the folks at the People’s Plaza, who joined us today alongside our brilliant brother and comrade, Jama Mohamed, to bravely occupy the Ida B. Wells plaza in Nashville, Tennessee despite the fascistic attacks on their free speech and their right to vote by our weak, wannabe authoritarian Governor, Bill Lee!
So what are our long term goals? We have only two: to reject the heartless, neoliberal system in which we find ourselves today and to demand a socialistic project of the future which is focused on radical love, democracy, solidarity, and the value of human life.
What do we reject? We reject a system which refuses to value black lives. Which refuses to value black trans lives. Which refuses to value the very lives of our LGBTQ+ community, of our Black communities, of our latino communities, of our Native American communities. We categorically reject an economic and political system which places no value on human life beyond the value which can be squeezed out of it in an Amazon warehouse or at the Wal-Mart checkout line!
Instead, we must demand a project of the future. We must demand a future which puts the beauty and complexity of life in all of its wonder above the profits of a tiny few at the very top.
We must reject a system that crams our poor and working class brothers and sisters into underfunded schools to be arrested by overfunded police and rot in private prisons in the name of profit. We reject a system which brings the overwhelming weight of state power down upon our black and brown communities for the crime of being poor!
We demand a system which brings it’s punishment down upon the police who murder our black and brown citizens. Folks like Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and the countless, nameless, protestors who have faced the full muscle of the police state in protest after protest in our great state of Tennessee, around the nation, and around the world. We demand justice, and we keep on with the cries of “no justice, no peace.”
There is power in a phrase and I love that phrase because it makes two great points.
First, it says that without justice for Breonna Taylor, without justice for George Floyd, without justice for our black and brown and working class brothers and sisters, there can be no peace. It speaks of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the “positive peace” which is the presence of justice. Without justice there can be no peace.
But it also says something much more powerful. It says that without justice, we will give you no peace. Without justice for Breonna Taylor, we will not leave these streets. Without justice for George Floyd, we will not leave the Ida B. Wells Plaza. Without justice we will be back out here again, screaming and singing our hearts out because, just as Dr. Cornell West said, if we don’t say something, the rocks themselves will cry out!
If they try to cut our power, we’ll have a bullhorn, and if they take the horn, we’ll yell, and if they tape our mouths shut like they did to the great Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers when he tried to defend himself in court, then we’ll dance or stomp or do whatever we gotta do. Because without justice, there can be no peace, and without justice, we will give them no peace.
I’ll close with this key point, another quote from another brilliant Black Panther, Fred Hampton, who said that “you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight it with water. And you don’t fight capitalism with black capitalism, you fight it with socialism and solidarity.” We are here to fight in solidarity and to fight for the better future which we demand. We demand it from our elected leaders, but we must also demand it from ourselves. We demand that we ourselves commit to a world of radical love, democracy, and solidarity and we reject any system which does not provide us these things.
We reject hate, we reject inequality, and, above all, we reject the idea that these weaknesses are laws of nature which cannot be changed. Hate can be defeated, systemic racism and inequity can be defeated, fear and racism can be defeated. In fact, they must be defeated and they will be defeated.
They will be defeated by solidarity, by democracy, and by a vision of socialism which leaves no one out and affirms the value of every life. The value of working class lives, of LGBTQ+ lives, of women’s lives, of latino lives, and today we stand for black lives!
We reject a system to which black lives have never mattered and we demand a system in which they do!
Brendon Donoho is the Founder and President of Middle Tennessee State University’s YDSA and a self-described libertarian socialist.
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