CHICAGO– On the evening of Saturday, August 12, 2017, well over a thousand people packed a rented hall at Chicago’s International Union of Operating Engineers building as people spilled into the isles and stood in the wings in order to pay homage to the continuing legacy of Palestinian liberation activist, former political prisoner, revolutionary feminist, and inflexible fighter against reaction, Rasmea Odeh.
The event began at approximately 7:00 p.m. CST with an introduction by members of the Arab American Action Network. They welcomed everyone in attendance and gave special thanks to other organizations and individuals who stood by Rasmea during every step of her trial. Many activists with whom our Party has been fighting side-by-side since The Committee to Stop F.B.I. Repression was re-activated in Chicago in 2013 to defend Rasmea: Hatem Abudayyeh and Nesreen Hasan, of the Rasmea Defense Committee, Michael Deutsch of the People’s Law Office, Joe Iosbaker of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) and Frank Chapman of FRSO. and The Chicago Alliance Against Racist And Political Repression (CAARPR).
A brief documentary based on Rasmea’s life in Detroit and Chicago and her participation in various American justice movements was presented. A special focus was given to Rasmea’s work in empowering Arab-American women. It was noted that without Rasmea, many of the women there, young and old, would not consider themselves as activists. Rasmea exemplified to them a woman leader who, wearing both dress and work boots, is as ready to prepare the event as she is to dance; to not shrink from labor or from despair.
At 8:00, an update by Rasmea’s legal team was given. The People’s Law Office and National Lawyers Guild were applauded for their victories gained through struggle: removing the first Zionist Judge, and keeping Rasmea out of Federal prison and U.S. immigration detention. This legal battle was an example of struggle for the progressive peoples, after the first lawyer was fired for their cowardly assertion that Rasmea plead guilty so as to receive a “mere” 8 years, the People’s Law Office instead turned this into a battle to put Zionism on trial, to rightly condemn the state of Israel for their brutal of treatment of Rasmea while she was imprisoned by them via torture and rape, and their hypocrisy in declaring themselves as a “beacon of humanistic, liberal democracy” in the Middle East. The power of the organized people struggling together courageously kept Rasmea out of prison, we stood up to the most powerful reactionary force ever assembled, and we almost won.
From 8:10 to approximately 9:00, Rebel Diaz and KoStarr performed expressing solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement as well as with oppressed nationalities in the U.S. in particular the Black Freedom Struggle.
At 9:00, Frank Chapman was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for decades of service to Black liberation and other social justice causes.
At 9:10, Frank Chapman introduced the legendary Angela Davis. Davis commenced her speech by quoting Fidel Castro on how we must “turn every defeat into a victory.” She stated that Odeh’s deportation, while a setback, is still a victory in that she will not be imprisoned by the US state. In the Manifesto of the Communist Party is is noted that “The real fruits of [our] battles lie, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes.” the campaign to free Rasmea turned her name into a household one. The most important political trial in the country, her struggle united greater and greater sections of the people; communities of not only Arab and Muslim women, but of Filipinos, Black American, Jewish and white solidarity activists, thus strengthening the alliance of all people oppressed by U.S. imperialism. Angela Davis tied Odeh’s persecution with the widespread xenophobia and oppression of women in the U.S. and on the neocolonial front. Davis, who when imprisoned by Nixon on charges of terrorism, insisted that the “Campaign to Free Angela Davis” be renamed “The Campaign to Free Angela Davis and ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS” continued to unite us through connecting Odeh’s struggle and ongoing persecution with the legendary activists Leonard Peltier and Assata Shakur, and communicated imprisoned Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal’s solidarity with Rasmea. Finally, Davis tied in all of these persecutions with the imperialism necessitated by global monopoly capitalism.
Finally, Rasmea gaves her speech, the first part in Palestinian Arabic, addressing the Arab women who represented her community and closest family. Her speech in English primarily compared the Chicago Police, and by extension the reactionary U.S. state, to the repressive policies of the state of Israel to the indigenous people of Palestine.
Rasmea closed by thanking all of her supporters, who gathered from around the country: “I love you, and I always will.”
We must mobilize all our efforts to pack the courtroom in Detroit on the 17th of August for Rasmea’s final sentencing, this will determine when and to where she will be deported, for example, to relative freedom in Lebanon, or in the hands of the Palestinian Authority (Israel) in Jordan.
Whatever the outcome, we, her supporters remain confident that she will continue to fight on, “As Che Guevara said, until victory, always.”
“We will meet again, in a free Palestine!”