On Thursday, July 24th, 2014, the campaign to defend and restore the Guillermo Morales-Assata Shakur Community and Student Center went on a consciousness-raising field trip to Larchmont, NY. Larchmont is, of course, noteworthy for being the home of Lisa Coico, the president of CCNY who oversaw the shutdown of the center, and has been the public face of CUNY’s denial and stonewalling campaign. The July 24th action was designed to bring the Larchmont community’s attention to the issues affecting the CCNY and Harlem communities, and to ask for their solidarity in our struggle.
Larchmont is a small village of approximately 6000 people, located about a half-hour north of New York City. The per capita income of this village is about $110,000. This quiet, sheltered community may not be aware of much of the hardships facing the students and community of CCNY, but the overwhelming majority of those encountered did not hesitate to take a flier, with many asking for further information, expressing solidarity, and promising to read up on the issue. All in all, the action bringing our struggle to Larchmont’s attention must be described as an unequivocal success.
The action started on the streets outside of the Metro-North station, right next to Larchmont’s business district. Everyone involved in the action wore red and had buttons with the MSCC logo. Walking the streets of the business district, the group attracted immediate attention. It did not take long for members of the police force of Larchmont to make their first appearance. Detective sergeant James Cristiano approached the group, claiming the police had received calls about handbills being distributed. Given that there was already a squadron of uniformed police waiting at the Metro-North entrance on the opposite side of the station, it seems unlikely that he needed such calls. Sergeant Cristiano proceeded to proclaim with confidence that nobody by the name of Lisa Coico lives in Larchmont. Finally, he announced that if the group insisted on handing out fliers, there were strict ordinances in place as to where it was and was not allowed to engage in
flier distribution. He failed to clearly outline said ordinances, and had to return to correct himself on at least one point. Before leaving, he reassured that if there were any questions, one could simply flag him down, because, as he said, “I’ll be around.” Throughout the action, police officers followed the group either by car or on bicycle.
This heavy police presence did not impede the action. Proceeding along the streets of Larchmont’s business district, members of the group continued to give out leaflets and speak with people, who, it must be reiterated, were overwhelmingly supportive of the issues being raised. Several said that they stand with us, while others commended the plan to march on president Coico’s house if she refuses to meet with the campaign. The group finished by handing out fliers at a concert that was going on in nearby Flint Park.
Though the group of activists was small, the effect the action had on the town was clear. While the people of the town supported our demands, the police were visibly perturbed, and their heavy presence attests to how uncomfortable they are with political action upsetting the daily rhythm of the community. We went to Larchmont to bring attention to the issues of the Morales-Shakur Center, and to let Larchmont know that if President Lisa Coico fails to act, we will be back, in much larger numbers. The fact that the community is supportive bodes well for the future; the fact that the police are so concerned should remind us all that we can and must push our struggle forward. Imagine how concerned they will be if and when our community shows up en masse!
The lesson, as always, is to make your voice heard. Defend and restore the Morales-Shakur Center! All Power to the People!