By Cassandra Devereaux
This is from a talk written for a “Political Revolution Potluck” on the Vallejo, CA Waterfront, hosted by Jason Kishineff, candidate for U.S. Congress 5th District, on Saturday, February 22. Cassandra was an invited speaker. State Assembly District 14, for which Cassandra is a candidate, partially overlaps with the Congressional 5th District. Kishineff self-describes as “a member of the Rose Caucus, which are Bernie supporting candidates who are Democratic socialist or left.”
Neighbors and friends,
My name is Cassandra Devereaux. My pronouns are she and her. I am a founding member of Peoples Alliance and am the socialist candidate in the race for the California State Assembly’s 14th District, which covers parts of Contra Costa and Solano Counties including Benicia and Vallejo. I’m running as a member of the Peace and Freedom Party and I’m grateful to be here today. I’m grateful because we’ve gathered to discuss a progressive revolution.
Let’s talk about what a revolution is.
A revolution is a process, not a one time event. A revolution isn’t accomplished from the top down, but from the bottom up. A revolution is the overturning of one system, and its replacement with another. Because we are progressives, the revolution we want is one that brings justice in the face of oppressive systems. We demand justice for the poor, the working class, for oppressed peoples in need of relief from their suffering under cruel systems of exploitation, degradation, and death.
As we know, the Black and Brown residents of this city suffer as fathers, brothers, sons are stolen from them by ruthless murderers wearing the badge of the Vallejo P.D. These killer cops are given cover at the highest levels of municipal government. It is well known that Willie McCoy was shot by six police officers 55 times while he was asleep in his car. According to attorney Melissa Nold, he was shot in the “center of his face and throat and blowing off part of his ear.”
One of the six killers, Officer Ryan McMahn, murdered Ronell Foster a year before, shooting him in the back of the head as he fled. He was pursued for the “crime” of riding a bicycle improperly. Other victims include Mario Romero and Angel Rico Ramos. When Eric Reason was shot in the back (in Vallejo) by an off-duty officer from Richmond, the Vallejo police department treated the incident as they would a shooting in the line of duty by a member of their own force.
One would hope that all of Vallejo’s police killings- giving it the highest rate in Northern California- would mean officers be held under greater scrutiny. Instead, as we know, the city council has given its force a sizable raise, changed rules so that officers need not be drug tested after a shooting, and granted permission to delete emails that might otherwise be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. The city’s elected officials are throwing up obstacles to thwart the pursuit of justice by families of the victims and their afflicted communities. They cannot be trusted to investigate the killers to whom they give paychecks. The Vallejo Police Department must be placed into state administrative receivership to take responsibility for monitoring practices and use of force incidents out of the hands of those who excuse, enable, and reward murder.
Our migrant neighbors, too, are suffering, terrorized by ICE. As we gather, the cogs of a heavily militarized machine turn. Agents armed with state of the art weaponry and hardware descend upon our neighbors like a shadow in the night. These predators sweep families from homes, workplaces, schools, community centers, and places of worship. They separate husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, pull babies from their mothers and shunt them into nothing less than concentration camps. These migrants, most of whom descend from this hemisphere’s original inhabitants, are stuffed into overcrowded cells to suffer degradation and criminal deprivation. In these cages, people sleep on concrete and are told to drink from toilets. Many die in these conditions.
One such death was that of Roxsana Hernández Rodriguez. A transgender asylum seeker from Honduras, she was escaping from conditions where folks like her and me commonly face violence, and murder. She contracted HIV as the result of gang rape by four men. Roxsana crossed the border legally through a port of entry, looking for sanctuary from the horrors she had known. Instead she was caged, denied medical care or water as she grew ill. After many days, she was brought into a hospital where she died. The Transgender Law Center won the right for her to be given an independent autopsy, and discovered that she had been shackled, and suffered blunt force strikes to her body. She came for sanctuary from a part of the world ravaged by over a century of U.S. intervention, and died sick, beaten, dehydrated, and alone, denied the medical attention she needed to survive. She had left those who loved her in Honduras, and was separated from any she met along the 1600+ miles of her journey to seek sanctuary. As she passed from life, none were there who may have cared if she saw another sunrise.
And today as I am speaking, SWAT troops equipped with hardware that blurs any line between police and military are being deployed by the Federal government to sanctuary cities and states. This is a show of force designed to assert power, crush hope, and rule through fear. It is a brutal signal by a vicious state that safe havens will be invaded and destroyed by xenophobic thugs of a racist administration. Part of the revolution we discuss today must be the overturning of our immigration policy, and bringing the architects of this criminal inhumanity to justice.
Quite recently, we saw another case where a show of force was used to intimidate people and deter resistance to police rule in the streets of Oakland. Thugs armed with assault rifles and armored vehicles that some have described as tanks descended on mothers and their babies (Moms4Housing) to evict them from a house that was held empty by real estate speculators. The Alameda County Sheriffs Department says their thugs were deployed due to the presence of the Anti Police-Terror Project. I am well familiar with APTP, a community organization, and can attest that they have only ever been nonviolent. Even so, the presence of a grassroots, of a peaceful peoples’ movement is frequently used as an excuse for violence by the police. APTP was invoked as justification to roll in and remind poor, working class, and oppressed people of their might, their ability to inflict violence. And why? To serve the greed of speculators and banks. There exist enough empty dwellings to house everyone.
The banks, the financiers, and the government officials which represent them choose to allow people to remain houseless in order to speculate and manipulate housing markets. They drive up rents, creating the conditions that drive houselessness, for the profit of the few. A U.N. observer described the state of houselessness in the Bay Area as a humanitarian crisis. As such, we must treat it accordingly. Unoccupied housing…. including market rate housing…. must be requisitioned to meet this crisis and put every individual into safe and dignified dwellings.
Overturning the systems which allow wealth and power to create and profit from this crisis is part of our revolution as well.
There is so much more that is to be done. Ownership and control of PG&E must be given to communities to end the irresponsible monopoly that has delivered fire, destruction, and death to the communities under their heel. The solution that serves the people isn’t planned power outages. Only we, the people ourselves, will use these resources responsibly, for the common good. We can implement single payer healthcare at the state level via MediCal for all. We can return California to our old status quo of free college tuition at state universities for every student that wants to learn. We can win this revolution, but to do so we must overturn the system that serves corporate greed rather than human need.
It’s easy to become discouraged when we see shows of force such as I’ve described. As Boots Riley sang, “We got hella people, they got helicopters.” Helicopters, tanks, assault rifles… these things are intimidating, but we have peoples’ power. This a stronger power than any hardware can deliver, but in order to wield it we need to stand together. We need solidarity!
When Julius Caesar was crushing the Gauls, he used a tactic that we know as “divide and conquer.” This is the strategy of dividing people against themselves, therefore rendering them ineffective to withstand an invading or dominating force. We see tactics of division all around us. Racism, sexism, religious bigotry, transphobia, homophobia, and all assorted bigotries are effective tools of division, and we must reject them all in order to win our revolution. We must recognize that these are weaponized against us all in an attempt to keep wealth and power insulated from our solidarity. When we see those on high promoting white supremacy, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and any such hatred, know that this is an act of self-defense against the power that we, together, hold. When the mask of the powerful comes off and the ugly face of hate glares forth, know that we are in a time where halls of government and corporate power know trembling and fear. We can never forget that when we reject hate, we build an unbeatable force that they are right to cower before.
It’s encouraging to see candidates like those here today upholding progressive values. Voting can be a valuable tool. However, we have to keep sight of the fact that while we can vote for a candidate, the candidate is not the revolution.
Yesterday the Oakland Police Commission… a partially independent citizen body… secured the firing of the chief of the notorious Oakland Police force. This was the removal of one figure, not the system she represented. However, this was accomplished due to pressure from below, not from on high. This was accomplished due to the pressure of people’s power.
In 1969 Fred Hampton, Sr. the charismatic Black Panther Party deputy chairman was shot around a hundred times by Chicago P.D. in his home, in his bed, laying next to his pregnant partner. This murder was part of the notorious COINTELPRO, or Counter Intelligence Program used by the FBI to break Black, Brown, and progressive peoples’ movements. A charismatic orator, Hampton famously said, “Socialism is the people. If you’re afraid of socialism, you’re afraid of yourself.”
The revolution is in the hands of the people. This is why I, in the spirit of my socialist forebears, say that revolutions are won from the ground up, by the people for the people. That is why I say that candidates like myself are not, ourselves, the revolution. You are. We are. The revolution is the people. The revolution is us.
Therefore, it is with revolutionary love I speak with you today, and I know that when we leave this park and go our own ways, we will spread our revolution joining across lines that the powerful hope might divide us. Our revolutionary task today is to build solidarity. With solidarity, no system is too formidable to withstand us. We will house all, we will end the rule of fear, and we will win humane flourishing for all.
Again, my name is Cassandra Devereaux, and I am running for California State Assembly, District 14. You can find me online at cassiedevereaux.org and on Facebook and Twitter by following @CallMeCassieD
As the Spanish slogan goes, ¡Venceremos! Together, we win!