Gladis Areli Hernandez Amaya, an undocumented working class mother, was abducted by state authorities on July 7th,2018 under the pretext of selling hotdogs in an undesignated area near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. After arresting her, state police unnecessarily handed her over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, ICE. Gladis and her family live in Bakersfield and would drive down to South Central LA to make a living as hot dog vendors. Today Gladis is being held in the private ICE detention center in Adelanto. Her husband, Ernesto, and family have stopped selling hot dogs because they fear another police encounter like Gladis’ which has put her in imminent danger of deportation and, consequently, separation from her family. STPLA has launched a campaign in support of Gladis. We have had numerous fundraisers and an action in solidarity with her, which this summation goes over. (Gofundme link: https://www.gofundme.com/free-gladis-from-ice-detention)
Gladis’ case is only part of a larger problem that is fundamental to capitalism and imperialism, specifically in the United States. The US is an imperialist empire which is willing to exhaust all of its resources to protect capital, at home and overseas. ICE is a white supremacist and fascistic organization which exists primarily to protect the US establishment and capital.
The white capitalist ruling class has historically used white supremacy to remain in power. Capitalism needs competition and division; white supremacy helps create antagonisms which force workers to compete against each other for work (which is made all the more limited by imperialist outsourcing), while dividing workers on lines of race so they do not unite against their common enemy, which is the capitalist.
US migration policy is primarily dictated by capitalism; more people are allowed in when the need for a super-exploitable labor force is higher, less are allowed in when it is lower. Although immigration policy is dictated by capitalism, it is still shaped and reinforced by white supremacy – the most exploited immigrants have always been working-class immigrants of color. White supremacy is a dominant aspect of ICE and border patrol. White supremacy is rooted in the US and capitalism by default; the only way to fight it is by destroying the US and capitalism.
We do not merely seek to “ABOLISH ICE” because we know ICE will spring up again, re-branded and repackaged as capitalism does so well. We seek, instead, to ABOLISH THE US. With that, we abolish the constant reproduction of fascistic forces like ICE under different names. We aim to destroy ICE, to fight it with fire, by militarizing the masses and aiming to end the system that bred ICE and the pigs in the first place.
We understand that ICE is a modern-day Gestapo, kidnapping mothers, fathers, and children, denying them the basic necessities, often forcing them to manual labor, and keeping them in cages. As we have stated before, ICE and white supremacy can only be fully smashed once capitalism is. However, this does not mean we will ignore ICE. ICE is a site of sharp contradictions and growing antagonisms between working class immigrants and the state. This is why STPLA is in the process of creating Unidades de Defensa Populares Revolucionarias, or People’s Revolutionary Defense Units to fight ICE. Our campaign in solidarity with Gladis is a step forward in building these units. While it is incredibly important to stand in solidarity with people kidnapped by ICE and to give them everything that we can, we know that we must attack the problem at its root. Our ultimate goal is to make ICE feel more terrified than they make undocumented immigrants feel. We want to terrorize them to the point that they refuse to enter foot in our neighborhoods and communities because they know they will be in danger. When we say we want to fight ICE with fire, we mean fire.
This protest was a step forward in achieving that vision and building up our ICE defense units.
STPLA members arrived around 1 pm to canvass around MLK and Figueroa. We had flyers on Gladis’ case, description of what happened and had a link to donate to the fundraiser. We then informed them that we’d be having the rally at 6 pm. Overwhelmingly people were receptive, while we ran into a handful that were antagonistic, with one person supporting ICE. At 4 pm more of STPLA as well as Undeportables supporters began to show up. We would be joined by Defend North East Los Angeles (DNELA) supporters later in the rally, we appreciate those that came out. Now, too much time was idly wasted by standing around, continuously doing outreach within the area, but this relates to lack of organization that will be expanded on later. Around 5:30 pm more individuals showed up and were given bandannas. Some people were finally designated to pass out flyers and speak to passerbys about why we were there.
Around 6 pm we began to consolidate and make our move to the stadium. We chanted as we marched to the stadium entrance with mass supporters, all with their faces covered with red STPLA bandannas. That’s where more participation occurred, a vendor shouting “Sheriffs y la ciudad, que se vayan a la verga!” (Sheriffs and the city, go to hell!) While at the main entrance an STPLA supporter gave a speech demanding the release of Gladis and an end to the attacks against the undocumented working class families. The event was covered at length by Incendiary News, but we would like to go in depth about the shortcomings.
“All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience.”
As an organization dedicated to serving the masses, we know that we must reflect on every protest, action, and campaign. Without reflecting, without knowing what we have done correctly and incorrectly, we cannot move forward or grow. It is only with this knowledge that we can criticize, self-criticize, and transform ourselves and our organization to better serve the people and build for revolution. This is why we write summations – for us to reflect and for comrades outside of STPLA to learn from these reflections so that they can unite with we have done correctly and avoid repeating what we have done incorrectly. With that being said, these are our main takeaways from the protest:
- Lack of clear and assertive leadership
Throughout the protest, we consistently ran into problems primarily because we lacked clear and assertive leadership. The majority of us had not been assigned clear tasks for the march. Additionally, most comrades were hesitant to take initiative and did not give clear or direct orders when they needed to. Not only did this hesitancy make us look weak and ineffectual, there were several times where it could have put us or the masses in unnecessary danger. For example, at the very beginning of the protest, we hesitated to take charge and actually begin marching. Although members were displaying the organizational banners and flags, we stood on the street corner with mass members and supporters for fifteen minutes because no one was giving direct orders on how and when to proceed. Finally, orders were given, general tasks were assigned and we proceeded.
We can only imagine how we would have looked to outsiders. A group of masked individuals standing on – not taking or occupying – a sidewalk, haphazardly holding signs and conversing among themselves while others stared blankly ahead, is hardly an image that would inspire our allies or terrify our enemies.
This type of thing happened over and over again. Because there was no clearly assigned leadership giving orders and assessing situations, members who had ideas or suggestions would run from one comrade to the next, asking for their input on everything from mass members holding the signs to taking the streets. Again, this was ineffective, wasted a lot of time, and left the masses vulnerable and confused about what we were doing and what was happening next.
We have criticized ourselves for the lack of leadership at this protest and taking steps to rectify. We see two clear solutions to this problem that must be executed in conjunction with each other.
First, we need a clear, official, democratically elected leadership to assign tasks and give orders. STPLA has not and will not reject the principal of leadership – in fact, we know that it is a tactical and ideological necessity, especially during actions. Can we take an hour to sit down and reach a democratic consensus on escape routes when we are running from the pigs? No! Every revolutionary organization needs predetermined leadership that is seasoned and trained, that can make correct decisions quickly, that can guide the masses and the organization, that can maintain the revolutionary line, and that can be held accountable and criticized by all. Without this leadership, organizations will either devolve into tyranny imposed by an unofficial, and unaccountable leadership, or fall into a fumbling chaos, where nobody knows what to do and nothing ever gets done. With this understanding, we are in the process of electing leadership and solving part of the problem. We must move fiercer toward centralism.
Second, we must develop all of our comrades to become leaders themselves. They must learn to assert themselves, to criticize ruthlessly and freely, to take charge and issue orders when necessary and, above all, have the courage and knowledge necessary to guide the masses.
It is a practical necessity that every member of STPLA develops into a leader. We know that state repression is an inevitable reaction to revolutionary organizing. We know that STPLA has already been targeted, stalked, and spied on by pigs for its revolutionary organizing. We know that as STPLA grows stronger, the state will look to tear it down in any way that they can. And we know that this will include decimating our members, generally through imprisonment. We have seen this happen in the past year, with Comrade Dallas and students supporters of Progressive Youth Organization – Kansas City, who have been charged with fabricated crimes and arrested (To donate or support, click here). If we do things right, we will see comrades arrested and repressed.
So we must train every comrade in STPLA to become a leader and be ready to take on a leadership role when this happens. This includes mass members we are integrating into STPLA. All revolutionary organizations should aim to do the same because it is the only way to replenish our ranks and ensure the organization lives on.
Leaders are not born from the womb but from class struggle. We are confident that as we continue to struggle alongside the masses, we will forge ourselves into leaders.
This protest was particularly disorganized. We created signs with kids and older community members dedicated to Gladis a week prior but failed to use them. As stated before, we were not completely sure of how and when to start. We did not have a discipline and well-organized formation, so there were pockets of space where protesters were left vulnerable to clutches of the pigs. Chants were disorganized and sporadic at times. In the beginning, most of the protesters and even some of us in the rear of the march did not know what was being chanted and did not chant along for that reason. We had two megaphones but failed to bring both. There were sometimes long stretches of time in between chants. We were not clear about how to proceed and how, if and when we would take the streets.
All of this led the masses very vulnerable to being attacked and/or kidnapped by pigs during the march. We are very lucky that this did not happen. However, as revolutionaries, we know better than to count on luck and the stupidity of our enemies. Again, this is why we analyze our mistakes.
We understand that this disorganization had two aspects to it. Primarily, it stemmed from a lack of clear and assertive leadership. This created the secondary aspect, which was a lack of effective planning for the march. Had there been a formal leadership, they could have delegated tasks, ensured that we had definite plans for how to go forward, and created formations for the march. However, there was no formal leadership, so the burden to plan the entire march fell on two or three people who had to convey everything to the rest of the members. These two aspects can be resolved in one swipe and only stress the necessity for assertive leadership.
- Failure to integrate ourselves with the masses
When we began the protest, we were not consistently physically integrated among the masses – although this was a task assigned to many core STPLA members, that each of us be close to mass members at all times. But at times, we were disorganized and clumped relatively close to each other. As a result, we could not clearly communicate with the masses about what we were doing and about what they should be doing. Not only did this leave the masses vulnerable, but it weakened our cause and could have potentially damaged our relationship with the mass members who came out to our protest.
However, we resolved this by the end of the protest. Although we started off with many of the masses staying silent as we chanted, we ended with them showing off their militancy and courage. They, too, unleashed their hatred of pigs and ICE as did we, ignored orders given by the pigs at the Coliseum, and even initiated their own specific calls for revolutionary violence against Los Angeles County vans that confiscated street vendors’ equipment. We saw the overwhelming majority of the masses, most masked up, take the streets without hesitation.
If we are not near the masses, we are apart from them. We know now that we must physically be spread out among the masses and that we cannot simply command them from one point to another. We need to engage them, give them tasks to do and roles to fulfill.
- The growing militancy of the masses
Despite our criticisms, we would consider this to be one of the most successful protests that we have had. This is because of the increasing militancy of the masses, principally. The masses proved themselves to be the true heroes, capable of boundless creativity. They never hesitated and, at points, were two steps ahead of us with their militancy.
Before the protest, we had printed out extra STPLA bandannas for everyone attending. We explained to everyone there why it was so important to cover their faces. Nearly every person in attendance had a bandanna, including children. We see this as a progressive development in spreading security culture and preparing the masses for the reality of state repression.
The street vendors that showed up in solidarity with Gladis were among the most militant of the protesters. They led their own chants against the pigs and ICE, eagerly took up road flares as we passed them out, holding them high and defiantly in the face of the pigs, and called for revolutionary violence against local government. This call for revolutionary violence was one of the high points of the march. The street vendors understood very clearly who their friends and enemies were. The mass links we are establishing with the oppressed and persecuted street vendors are some of the strongest and most trustworthy relationships we have ever nurtured. There will surely be more writings on this new developing street vendor campaign in the near future.
Reformists have told us time and time again that revolution will never kick off here because the masses do not want violence. We know that the reality is that these reformists do not want violence, that they are terrified, and that they want to project this fear onto the masses. The masses, who are beaten down and attacked in every aspect of their lives by the capitalist state and its friends in arms, might be hesitant of militancy at first. But as the contradictions sharpen, as the people transform, and as we prove our loyalty to them, this hesitation crumbles.
Quantitative changes lead to qualitative leaps. Every small instance of courage adds up and develops into something greater. It is our job to take these moments of bravery and fury and organize them, to turn the masses terrorized by the pigs and the government into soldiers that, in turn, will terrorize the pigs and the government.
- The rebellious nature of children
Children played a much larger role in the protest than we had ever thought they would. They were incredibly enthusiastic and excited about everything. They covered their faces with bandannas, held signs for us, chanted along with us, kicked and beat our Trump piñata, took the streets and faced down the pigs with just as much courage as their parents.
All of this happened with little to no organized political education. We can assume that most of the children attending knew that Gladis had been taken by ICE, that ICE was bad, and that Trump was bad and connected to ICE. This knowledge was enough to bring out the rebellion that it did. We were able to nurture this rebellion by praising the children and giving them tasks and responsibilities.
But how much more could this rebellion have intensified if the children were really aware of what was going on? If they had even a rudimentary political education about capitalism and oppression? The oppressed youth have always been the most rebellious and forward-thinking. It is our job to nurture this as much as we can, to empower the children, and teach them to be courageous leaders. After all, they are the future.
Overall, this protest was successful in mobilizing the masses and nurturing their militancy. The masses are not lacking at all – they are capable, courageous, daring, and militant. Even in small doses, this is everything. It is up to us to organize and harness this energy and bravery and turn it against their ultimate enemy, which is capitalism-imperialism.
We believe that the Unidades de Defensa Populares Revolucionarias are a step forward in the right direction. It is not enough to act after ICE has kidnapped someone. We do not mind holding fundraisers or events, but we know that they are not enough and it is difficult to provide the families with all of the resources they need, however hard we try.
We must attack the problem at its root and stop ICE from taking people in the first place, by any means necessary!
The masses have nothing and are faced with enemies at every turn. But all of these enemies, including ICE, are crushable and once you realize the masses outnumber the enemy, they are weak. They are paper tigers, as Chairman Mao said. They seem fierce and undefeatable because they have capital and tear gas and machine guns and wield no conscience. But in reality, they are nothing. They use their weapons so violently against us because they are afraid of us. They are small. We are massive. They are afraid of what will happen if we realize our full potential and organize against them. They are afraid of what will happen when we seize power.
The people outnumber the pigs, one hundred to one. There is no enemy the people cannot take on if they are organized and armed, physically and ideologically. And we will be with them every step of the way, ready to do whatever it takes to smash the root of their oppression.