BY AKILE ANAI
ST. PETERSBURG — Barely a week after the general elections in St. Petersburg, grassroots organization Communities United for Reparations and Economic Development (CURED) partnered with the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement to conduct the Resistance March last Monday, Nov. 13.
The march started at the police station and ended on the corner of 16th Street and 18th Avenue South, the site where a senseless murder took place 21 years ago.
Nov. 13 marked the exact day in history that the Uhuru Movement and the African working class community were attacked by the City of St. Pete.
The way was October 24, 1996, when two St. Pete police officers, James Knight and Sandra Minor, murdered an 18-year-old African by the name of Tyron Lewis. While the police collaborated with white power media outlets to criminalize Lewis and the rest of the African community, it was the African working class that rose up courageously to defend his life.
Following this murder, the black community anxiously awaited the verdict of the two officers responsible for this murder. As the people were getting ready to attend the weekly Wednesday meeting, which that week intended to sum up what the non-indictment of Knight and Minor meant politically, the violent intervention by the city ended in part two of the famous “Battle of St. Pete.”
It’s a scene still etched in the memories of what’s left of the black community. The city shooting every ounce of tear gas they had into the Uhuru House, no regard for the lives of pregnant women and children or revolutionary leaders such as Chairman Omali Yeshitela, the founder of the Uhuru Movement.
In fact, it was clear that they hoped when the haze of the tear gas subsided, the Uhuru Movement would finally be extinguished. However, they foolishly underestimated the strength and the bravery of the African working class.
Every ounce of tear gas, attempted fires, a helicopter and 300 police officers later, the African community was victorious as bloodied police fled the scene as an officer radioed, “Pull the troops back, we’re under heavy fire.”
Killing an African with impunity is supposed to be a normal occurrence under this system of colonialism. That was not the case 21 years ago and it wasn’t the case on Monday as people gathered at the steps of the police station hearing the mobilizing speeches of Liu Montsho Kwayera, the local chapter president of InPDUM, Akile Anai, chairwoman of CURED, and Jesse Nevel, vice-Chair of CURED.
The people took to the streets chanting “Tyron Lewis, Long Live!” and “We, the people, will not accept defeat, we still remember the Battle of St. Pete.”
The African community was ignited. People watched from their homes or cheered on from nearby convenience stores, reciting the chants back at the marchers. Several people joined the march, many others honked their horns and thrust their fists out the window. This display made it clear that the African community is still ripe with resistance!
To conclude the evening, Montsho Kwayera and Anai rallied everyone at the street corner where InPDUM members erected the third community memorial street sign renaming 18th Avenue as Tyron Lewis Avenue.
It was a powerful and energizing demonstration that visibly lifted the spirits of the African community.
While the city government is gentrifying our communities, forcing us into economic starvation and brutalizing/murdering us with the police, our vision of the future is still optimistic.
With organizations such as InPDUM and CURED on the ground, social and economic justice, reparations, black community control of the police and more have been and will continue to be forced into the mainstream discussion.
Because of these organizations, Tyron Lewis will not have died in vain.