From Ferguson to Palestine to Rochester: the truth perseveres! Rev. Hagler speaks!
Amid death threats, a change in venue, and pro-Israeli groups applying pressure to stop Rev. Graylan Hagler from speaking on the connections between the Palestinian struggle for justice and the Black Lives Matter movement, Christians Witnessing for Palestine and the Rochester chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace were able to secure a different speaking venue after his invitation to speak at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School had been rescinded. His tallk, "Connecting the dots: Ferguson to Palestine," was given on September 24, 2015, at The Historic German House in Rochester, NY.
Rev. Hagler spoke earlier in the day at the University of Rochester. Rochester Indymedia filmed that talk and did an interview with one of the student organizers. Both will be featured on Rochester.Indymedia.org later this week.
At The Historic German House, Rev. Hagler spoke to a rapt audience of 150+ people who listened to him drop truth and justice as he made the connection between the oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli state and the oppression of black and brown people in Amerikkka by the police.
Part I -- introduction and Rev. Hagler's talk
Part II -- Q & A session
The evening started with a prayer by Rev. Richard Myers. Elaine Johnson from Christians Witnessing for Palestine was introduced, who in turn introduced two speakers before inviting Rev. Hagler to the podium.
Ms. Johnson invited Joshua Dubler, an assistant professor of religion at the University of Rochester, to speak on behalf of the Rochester Chapter of the Jewish Voice for Peace--a co-sponsor for evening event. Before he took the podium, Ms. Johnson called Jewish Voice for Peace "phenomenal" in all of its efforts to make sure Rev. Hagler would be able to speak in Rochester.
“These great enterprises—the United States and Israel—are not inherently virtuous, but nor are they inherently vicious. They are rather, what hence forth, we collectively think of them. No more and no less. This is our power and this is our duty. Can such a principle of collective responsibility truly be controversial to assert? If so, then I'm afraid that controversy is the only option available," said Mr. Dubler.
He continued, "Polemic is always easier than practical prescription. But polemic, and the call for abolition, is where we must collectively begin. To stand up and say 'No!' Not for the security of our homes and for the security of our children and certainly not for the cynical ambitions of powerful men who will not condemn the destruction of someone else's home or the murder of someone else's child. Not by missile, not by bulldozer, not by handgun, and not by nightstick. No to war, no to occupation, no to predatory policing, and no to mass incarceration.”
After Mr. Dubler, Tonya Noel was introduced by Ms. Johnson. Ms. Noel is a member of B.L.A.C.K.--Building Leadership And Community Knowledge--and went down with other members of B.L.A.C.K. to Ferguson last October for "FergusonOctober." Ms. Noel talked about her own journey of connecting the dots between the oppression in the U.S. and the oppression in Palestine.
She said, “My idea of going out to Ferguson [in October 2014] was that this is extremely patriotic. I'm going to take my American-made Jeep and drive across the country and protest because that's the American thing to do. But when you get there and you realize that the system that you've been saluting your whole life—that you think is sworn to protect you—is actually upholding a global system of oppression of white-supremacy is a big pill to swallow." She continued, "What we've learned from that is the resilience of people in Ferguson is the same as the resilience of the people of Rochester is the same as the resilience of the people in Palestine—that they will continue to work and fight to get free.”
"The whole damn system is GUILTY!" a community reportback from Ferguson
After Ms. Noel concluded, Ms. Johnson invited Rev. Hagler to the podium who received a standing ovation.
Rev. Hagler made it very apparent at the start of his speech, after thanking many people and organizations, that he was "not here to destroy anybody. I'm standing here to lift up the dignity and rights of all people in the world."
In talking about some of the connections between Palestine and Ferguson, he noted, as had Ms. Noel briefly, that large police stations around the country have sent their officers to Israel--not to learn compassion and respect, but to be better at counter-insurgency--to become a better occupying army.
He said, "Ask yourself a question if you really want to understand what's going on with Black Lives Matter. How can a domestic police department be trained by those who are trained to occupy a community? You end up as occupiers. That's your mentality. If that's the curriculum you're going in to study, then you're not there to form partnerships with people, you're there to occupy the community!"
In Rochester, NY, not so far away, according to the records access officer for the City of Rochester who handles FOIL requests, 93% of Rochester Police Department officers live outside the city limits while only 6% live within the city limits. It's practically the entire force--and depending on who you are and where you live--it's an occupying army.
Rev. Hagler continued by talking about some of the military equipment that gets shunted to local police departments. "The tear gas used in Gaza came from the same company in Pennsylvania that manufactured the tear gas that was used in Ferguson," he said. "Think about that relationship."
Later on, he seemed to admonish people who told him not to come to Rochester.
"When folks tell me that I should not come to Rochester to speak about this, I'm gonna come anyway," he said. "When you say that, you should know that I'm gonna come. Don't tell me that I can't come some place—oh the hell with that—I'm coming, I'm speaking, I'm doing what God has called me to do."
Before ending his speech by acknoweldging the importance of the affirmation "Black Lives Matter" and linking it with the Palestinians, he let people know that, "We—all of us—need to start speaking out about the injustice. We need to start speaking out about the Palestinians. We need to start speaking out about the injustices that go on in our own communities. We need to start speaking out before we become sensitized to the things going on that hamper and hinder human life."
It was a powerful delivery and a wonderful speech.
Witness Palestine Film Series
The Witness Palestine Film Series is in high gear! See the films coming up at the beginning of October as well as the cultural event scheduled for Friday, October 9, 2015, below.
Related: Threats against speaker are “not the Rochester way” | We believe one voice cannot speak for all Jewish people | New venue found for Palestinian rights speaker after divinity school rescinds invite
Rochester Indymedia is also selling DVD copies of the talk (both the introduction, talk, and Q & A on 2 discs) for a suggested donation of $10. All proceeds go to Rochester Indymedia. For more information, please contact Ted at Knight0440@yahoo.com.