Edited by Azizi Powell
This post provides information and comments about the protest chant "No justice, no peace".
This post also provides information about the history of the raised clenched fist protest gesture.
The content of this post is presented for historical, sociological, and cultural purpose.
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Thanks to all whose lives and whose efforts help to make a reality of the ideal of equal justice for all.
Thanks to those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the publishers of these vidoes on YouTube.
THE HISTORY AND MEANING OF THE "NO JUSTICE NO PEACE" PROTEST CHANT
"No justice. No peace." is a call & response protest chant that originated with African Americans. Here is information about that chant's history and meaning:
"No justice, no peace" July 15, 2013 @ 10:13 am , Filed by Ben Zimmer
..."In the '80s and '90s, as J.P. [Villanueva] suggests, "No justice, no peace" was unequivocally understood as conditional, not conjunctive.* I've found examples of the slogan going back to the aftermath of the Howard Beach incident in December 1986, in which Trinidadian immigrant Michael Griffith was killed by a mob of white youths. On Feb. 28, 1987, the New York Amsterdam News reported that "'No justice, no peace' has become the battle cry of the student led movement against racially motivated attacks on African peoples." The newspaper quoted protest organizer Viola Plummer as saying, "from the death of Michael Griffith on, we declare that if there is no justice there cannot be peace."
The following year, on May 11, 1988, the activist lawyer Ron Kuby testified before a hearing on racially motivated violence before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Criminal Justice. Kuby stated:
"In response to the increase of hate crimes by both the police and private citizens, a new civil rights movement has started to emerge in New York. The movement is broad and diverse, but has marched under the slogan "No Justice, No Peace," a slogan which summarizes the frustration and anger of New York's Black and Latino communities. "No Justice, No Peace" remains the solemn promise of an increasing number of people in an increasingly polarized city.
Kuby framed the slogan as a "promise" rather than a threat, but the conditional reading was still clear. After the killing of Yusef Hawkins in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1989, the slogan again came to the fore. A May 13, 1990 New York Times article described protests in Bensonhurst that occurred on the same day as protests in Flatbush over allegations that a black woman had been roughed up at a Korean-owned grocery store. At the Flatbush protest, "No justice, no peace" was paired with the similarly conditional "No respect, no business," i.e., "(If you give us) no respect, (we will give you) no business." And at Bensonhurst, the slogan was rephrased as "Justice, then peace.""
Update: On this website http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/no_justice_no_peace [Entry from May 26, 2005], Barry Popik has a page devoted to "no justice no peace" and provides a couple of examples from 1987 slightly earlier than the Amsterdam News quote given above:
22 January 1987. St. Petersburg (FL) Times, "4,500 march to protest racial attack in N.Y." by Dan Jacobsen, United Press International, pg. 11A:
NEW YORK – More than 4,500 black protesters chanting slogans to the beat of pounding drums marched in Manhattan Wednesday during a day-long demonstration of "outrage" against the Howard Beach racial attack.
With fists clenched in anger, they filled Broadway at 32nd Street, site of a city welfare hotel, then led a deafening demonstration down Fifth Avenue to Mayor Edward Koch's Greenwich Village home.
Chants of "No justice, no peace" and "Mayor Koch step aside, there ain't gonna be no genocide" echoed among the office buildings as police scrambled to line the route.
22 January 1987, Newsday (Long Island, NY), "4,000 March Against Racism But Impact Of Boycott Less Clear," pg. 3:
To the deafening beat of chants, a predominately black army of nearly 4,000 protesters marched down Fifth Avenue yesterday in a declared effort to defeat the notion that blacks will tolerate racial injustice.
The march highlighted "The Day of Mourning and Outrage" for Michael Griffith, who was killed by a car Dec. 20 while fleeing a gang of white teenagers in Howard Beach, Queens. (…)
Chanting "No justice, no peace," the five-block-long stream of marchers, some shaking clenched fists, set off from the Martinique Hotel, a welfare hotel on West 32nd Street. They marched to Mayor Edward I. Koch's Greenwich Village home, a 30-block walk that took an hour."
The article that was first quoted also indicated that the "No justice, No peace" chant was widely used during the Trayvon Martin protests in Sanford, Florida and throughout the United States.
The "No justice, No peace" chants continues to be used in all subsequent largely African American protests, including those which are being held to protest the shooting death of the unarmed teenager Michael Brown on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
*I think that most people who chant "No justice, No peace" believe that chant has a conjunctive meaning: "(If there is) no justice, (then there will be) no peace".
Note that J.P. Villanueva, the person who asked about this chant on that blog, wrote that "No Justice, No Peace" meant that if there is no justice, then there will be riots. I strongly reject that interpretation, and would use the word "protests" instead of the word "riots".
I think that the conjunctive meaning of "No Justice, no peace":(There is) no justice (and there is) no peace" is a misinterpretation of that chant.
Note that during his press conference in Ferguson, Missouri on August 15, 2014, a press conference about the unrest in that city that was sparked by the shooting death of an unarmed Black teenager by a White policeman, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said that "until there is peace, there can be no justice". I think that this is an inept, unfortunate transposition of the "No justice, No peace" saying. Did Governor Jay Nixon understand what that saying means, and did he really mean what he said?
For the historical record, the saying "Hands up. Don't shoot" is a new protest chant that is said while holding both arms up in what is universally known as the "I surrender" pose. This chant was first used in August 9, 2014 and is alleged to be the last words and actions of Michael Brown Jr.
These examples are posted in chronological order with the oldest videos given first.
Example #1: No Justice, No Peace
MakeBanksPayCA Uploaded on Sep 28, 2011
IF WE DON'T GET NO JUSTICE, YOU DON'T GET NO PEACE. Activists fighting bank foreclosures are chanting at the property auction in Oakland, CA. This is a part of a week of action against banks like Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, US Bank, CitiBank and others that are making the rich richer and the poor poorer by not paying their fair share. www.makebankspaycalifornia.org
Example #2: Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin - Union Square, New York City
AllThingsHarlem, Published on Mar 21, 2012
Here is a video snapshot of the Million Hoodies March for Trayvon Martin in Union Square, New York City on March 21, 2012.
The speaker is Brian Jones a Teacher, Writer and Activist we interviewed during the rally and march. He connects the killing of Trayvon Martin to Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow and the view of black and brown men as criminals. The results of this criminalization has not only led to the mass incarceration of black men but also the murder of them like what happened with Trayvon Martin.
Produced by Still Here Harlem
Transcript of Brian Jones comments:
"This is the product of the perpetration of the idea that some people are not worthy of justice um and that those people are overwhelmingly young and Black and male. And that the best place for them is prison, and if not prison, then what Michelle Alexander describes as a kind of invisible cage of post-felony conviction life. And that’s what George Zimmerman thought when he saw a young man walking down the street with Skittles. He saw what our society has taught him to see. He saw someone who was already a criminal, and as she argues so cogently in her book, to be young, Black, and male is to be a criminal, basically nowadays. And so that’s, that’s what this is a product of. And the criminal justice system is always afraid of these cases. They’re always afraid to really get into it and have real justice served. Because to do so would reveal the depths to which this goes in their system. And every time claims of racial violence and patterns of racial injustice have been brought to court, they have said Yes, that is the pattern. However, we cannot admit it. Because to admit it would be to condemn our whole thing. And, I think that what’s happening is that that condemnation, that sense that the whole thing being rotten is becoming more and more clear in the minds of millions and millions of people. That’s what the era of mass incarceration really means- You have a mass of people involved in this thing. And the more people you involve in it, the more people begin to figure it out. And so that’s the flip side of mass incarceration. Now, a whole mass of people have a reason to think it through, critically, and to come to understand it, and now what we are seeing is to fight it, and to get into the streets and challenge it. And I think that‘s why we saw such an outpouring [of people] here in the streets today, an unbelievable outpouring."
Transcribed from the video by Azizi Powell. Additions and correections are welcome.
Example #3: No Justice No Peace
Marc Polite, Published on Aug 25, 2013
Marchers chant No Justice, No Peace at March on Washington 2013
Notice a protestor's raised clenched fist toward the end of this video. Here's some information about the history of that symbol:
"The raised fist (also known as the clenched fist) is a symbol of solidarity and support. It is also used as a salute to express unity, strength, defiance, or resistance. The salute dates back to ancient Assyria as a symbol of resistance in the face of violence....
Assyrian depictions of the goddess Ishtar show her raising a clenched fist. A raised fist was used as a logo by the Industrial Workers of the World in 1917. The graphic symbol was popularized in 1948 by Taller de Gráfica Popular, a print shop in Mexico that used art to advance revolutionary social causes. The symbol has been picked up and incorporated around the world by various groups who perceive they are oppressed...
The black fist, also known as the Black Power fist is a logo generally associated with black nationalism and sometimes socialism. Its most widely known usage is by the Black Panther Party in the 1960s"...
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