Rest In Power Michael Marshall – The Latest Victim of Denver Police Violence

From Revolution News:

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The Denver Sheriff Department has murdered again. Michael Marshall passed away as a result of injuries sustained at the hands of Denver sheriff deputies around 6:30pm on November 20, 2015, after over a week on life support.

What does a community do in the absence of official channels to seek justice? What does a community do in the face of killers who operate with impunity—backed by the State? Killers who, to add insult to injury, pass on the monetary and emotional costs of their brutality to the very city they brutalize.

This is the challenge facing some communities in Denver, and many communities across the United States. But it’s a challenge they’ve faced before.

In 2010, Denver sheriff deputies pummeled, tasered, and beat Marvin Booker to death in the Denver jail. Why? Booker was a 50-something, Black, slender, unhoused, and beloved street preacher, who dealt with mental health challenges, and he didn’t want to give up his shoes.

Marvin Booker wasn’t a threat. He wasn’t violent. And he didn’t need to be separated from his shoes, which were one of his only possessions.

But in the milieu of discipline and punishment, control of bodies, and the breaking of human spirits, Denver sheriff deputies used such force to separate Booker from his shoes that he subsequently died.

Nobody was reprimanded. Nobody was held to account. If you spend time in Denver’s jail today you may be held under guard by some of the same people who murdered Marvin Booker.

Ultimately, it was Denver taxpayers who forked over some recompense as they had to cover the $6 million payout made to Booker’s family.

So goes the cycle of brutality, impunity, and taxpayer burden. And now it begins anew, with a strikingly similar case of brutality to the one that stole Marvin Booker’s life. Michael Marshall, a 50-year-old, Black, unhoused, slender man, who also described himself as a street preacher and dealt with mental health challenges, lost his life at the hands of Denver sheriff deputies trying to restrain him.

Why they were trying to restrain him isn’t entirely clear, but reporting from the Colorado Independent indicates that video footage shows Marshall posed no physical threat to the officers who killed him.

After over a week on life support following his beating at the hands of three deputies, Marshall passed away.

His killers remain unidentified and will likely receive little more than a paid vacation as a result of their actions. But one thing is for sure—the community of Denver will respond.

Following Booker’s killing hundreds of Denverites took to the streets in multiple protests. Marshall’s killing will likely prompt a similar response.

Indeed, concerned citizens already rallied for a press conference and a chance to mourn with family outside the jail in which Marshall was killed.

My question: Isn’t an even stronger response warranted?

At what point does Denver rise up as we’ve seen Baltimore, Ferguson, and other cities in the face of routine police violence? And who will throw the first brick, stone, or Molotov cocktail?

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Because something needs to change.

And in spite of recommendations from independent parties, and a newly appointed sheriff, the jail’s use of force policy remains the same. And now it has again led to the killing of a harmless Black man.

Michael Marshall’s killing happens at the intersections of oppression: Racism, classism, and ableism. A paranoid schizophrenic who may or may not have been able to recognize commands coming from sheriff deputies or police officers, Marshall was held on a bond of only $100 for an alleged minor offense.

If our inJustice System wasn’t racist, classist, and ableist, Michael Marshall would’ve never found himself trapped within the cold concrete halls of the Denver jail where he would be murdered.

If our inJustice System wasn’t structured around the control of bodies, using violence to instill docility, and compelling people to follow rules structured to protect elite interests through arbitrary discipline, Michael Marshall would still be alive.

If our inJustice System truly presumed the innocence of those forced through it, nobody would sit in jail over a $100 bond, and Michael Marshall would still be alive.

If our inJustice System was designed for the people who are most-often forced through it, then it would offer them services to improve their situations, not Tasers and violence, and Michael Marshall would still be alive.

It’s long past time for this to change. What will we do to make sure that happens?

Another world is possible, but it will only come if we fight for it. So, Denver, rise up. Fight for Marvin. Fight for Michael. Fight for all those who came before them, in the hope that fewer will come after.

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Our Palestine statement draws on history of Black internationalism, says organizer

From Electronic Intifada:

Black liberation movements in the US have increasingly been making connections with Palestine. (Mikasi/Flickr)

Black liberation movements in the US have increasingly been making connections with Palestine. (Mikasi/Flickr)

Kristian Davis Bailey is a Detroit-based writer and organizer who recently put together the “Black for Palestine” statement. More than 1,100 Black scholars, activists, students, artists and organizations have signed on, including Angela Davis, Cornel West, Talib Kweli, political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and others.

The statement lays out a framework for Black solidarity with Palestinian liberation and calls for exploring the connections between Palestinian and Black liberation as well as the oppressive linkages between the United States and Israel. The statement calls for support of boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts against Israel and calls attention to Israel’s oppression of African-descended populations in Palestine.

Davis Bailey has written for Ebony, Mondoweiss, Truth-Out and elsewhere. I caught up with him to find out more about “Black for Palestine” and the opportunities and challenges it presents.

Jimmy Johnson: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. Please introduce yourself.

Kristian Davis Bailey: My name is Kristian Davis Bailey and I’m one of the co-organizers of the “Black For Palestine” statement. I’m currently a freelance writer based in Detroit.

JJ: Where were you before Detroit and what were you doing?

KDB: Before Detroit I was a student at Stanford where I was involved with Students for Justice in Palestine at the campus level, across California and nationally.

JJ: Can you tell me a bit about the “Black For Palestine” statement and the process of creating it?

KDB: The statement emerged out of two separate statements that I and my co-organizer Khury Petersen-Smith had organized last summer during the height of the assault on Gaza. We’d each found ourselves unable to publish our statements while the media would pick it up so we figured that this year we would combine our efforts to write a statement on the anniversary of the assault on Gaza which wound up being much bigger than what each of us had organized the summer before.

It is worth noting that some of the key signatories this year had also signed last year. The Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis had signed on to last year’s statement before Mike Brown was killed and connections were being made to Palestine. Hopefully we’ll publish those earlier statements soon.

JJ: You bring up a good connection with the Organization for Black Struggle because the release of this statement is not only the anniversary of the attack on Gaza but also something going on in the US. Can you make that connection? Both your intentions around the timing of the release, as well as the connections you see there.

KDB: It was really important for us to note that the statement emerged out of the past year of solidarity between the Black and Palestinian struggles, specifically: connections people were making on the ground in Ferguson to Palestine. I think none of the developments in the past year would have happened if people on the ground hadn’t themselves started to organically connect what they were witnessing in terms of military vehicles in their communities, being tear-gassed and shot at during protests, if they hadn’t connected those things to what they were seeing in Palestine and if Palestinian organizers hadn’t reached out in solidarity to the people in Ferguson.

What the statement represents is how firm of a connection there is for organizers in St. Louis with the Palestinian struggle. It’s not just a slogan we’ve used at protests but something that people facing the brunt of repression and doing the majority of the organizing on the ground have decided to be a part of themselves. I think that’s why St. Louis is the most represented city on the statement in terms of organizational signatories.

JJ: It sounds kind of like the development and the recruitment of the signatories is really based in joint work that’s being done together.

KDB: Right. Most of the people who signed the statement, whether they’re individuals or organizations, have been actively engaging with Palestine well before the last year. There were a lot of old school organizers who have been doing this solidarity work since the ’60s and ’70s that signed on, in addition to groups like the Dream Defenders which over the past few years have started to engage more with the Palestinian issue. So, I forget what your question is but my answer is “yes” [laughter].

JJ: A Kenyan author named Mukoma Wa Ngugi gave a presentation a few years back at Wayne State here in Detroit and he was talking specifically about relations between African migrants and Black Americans and he talked about the way that white supremacy forms a veil that literally colors the relationships between these two groups but also between all groups, although the details are different for any two groups.

And one of the things he mentioned was that the only way to get past this is to put in work together to supersede and subvert this veil that colors the relationships between, for example, Black folks and Palestinians, Black folks and Arab folks. That sounds a little bit like what’s going on.

KDB: Again I’ll focus on St. Louis because that’s a story I know a little bit about. The solidarity organizing between the Organization for Black Struggle and the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee has been going on for at least three or four years. The two groups both worked together to oppose Veolia being given a contract to privatize the city’s water, both recognizing what Veolia was doing in occupied Palestine and for the danger it presented to the people in St. Louis.

The Organization for Black Struggle was also crucial in a cultural boycott action. I don’t know how many years ago it was but it was Organization for Black Struggle organizers who said, “We will pull out of this event unless these artists are disinvited.” That was the work of very principled solidarity on the part of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee.

At the same time you have a Palestinian member of the solidarity committee whose father is a shop owner in a predominantly Black part of St. Louis and what he had been working on was to take all of the hard liquor out of his store after he was realizing the impact it was having on the Black community in St. Louis. He also set up a couple of initiatives to contribute some of the profits from his shop to local organizing efforts in the community.

I wanted to offer that as a real solid example of what Palestinian solidarity in the US, or not even solidarity but direct action against anti-Blackness looks like, and that’s an example of some of the principled actions and alliances that preceded the Ferguson-Palestine connection and solidarity.

JJ: This isn’t the first statement of Black solidarity with Palestine. Can you contextualize this action a bit in the internationalism of the radical Black tradition?

KDB: Definitely. So Black support for Palestine comes out of the tradition of Black internationalism within the radical segment of our liberation struggle. Malcolm X was talking about the dangers of Zionism in the 1960s. The Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee released its statement at the same time the Black Panther Party was training with the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] in Algeria.

In 1970 you had a group of prominent Black activists or scholars take out a New York Times ad supporting Palestinian liberation from Zionism and some of those signatories also signed our statement today in 2015. So there is a rich tradition of Black solidarity with international struggles broadly, and specifically with Palestine. I definitely contextualize this statement within that broader history of Black internationalism.

JJ: What would you say is the purpose of releasing this statement beyond a symbolic declaration of solidarity?

KDB: There are a couple of things. There is the suggestion that both Black and Palestinian people, and people around the world that support us, can join very targeted campaigns against companies that profit from the oppression of both groups, such as G4S and Veolia. Beyond that one of my individual hopes as an organizer is that this represents the current chapter of the Black liberation movement getting involved in the international arena once again to the degree that we were in the ’60s and ’70s. Because I think a lot of that momentum and a lot of those alliances were very intentionally targeted or repressed in the ’80s up through today even.

JJ: Some of the work being done to reignite alliances that were built between radical groups in the 1960s and ’70s, we’ve seen some attempts of that where there is a flattening effect. For example non-Black people of color using a people of color paradigm and erasing the specificities of anti-Blackness. Can you talk a little bit about the opportunities presented by “Black For Palestine” to engage not only Palestinian liberation but the specificity of anti-Blackness in solidarity?

KDB: Definitely. I’m glad you raised that because one of the points of reference I organize from is the understanding that white supremacy affects different groups in different ways here in the United States. So the anti-Black racism and the anti-Blackness that we experience and live under is of a distinct nature from the anti-indigenous or genocidal policies that indigenous folks here have experienced, is distinct from the experiences of non-Black, non-indigenous immigrants to this country.

A lot of times what happens is the differences between these groups are flattened out where we say “people of color” and we talk about how people of color are oppressed under white supremacy without acknowledging the power dynamics that are at play between our communities — so without acknowledging that every non-Black ethnic group or immigrant group in the United States is complicit in anti-Blackness or anti-Black racism.

One of the things that I hope comes up in discussions is a very critical examination of the ways that Palestinians — or just non-Black people in the United States — participate in anti-Blackness. So that for me represents a difference between joint struggle and maybe solidarity, where under joint struggle we acknowledge the different relations in terms of power between our communities and how that impacts how we relate to each other and how we organize.

So I think there’s a lot of room coming out of this statement for folks to organize around Arab anti-Black racism or for Palestine supporters who aren’t Arab to organize against their own anti-Blackness or their position as settlers in a settler colonial society.

JJ: One thing that stands out among many parts of the “Black For Palestine” statement is the phrasing that “Israel’s widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US, including the political imprisonment of our own revolutionaries.” So can you expand upon this idea of the colonial, carceral state?

KDB: Sure. The first thing I want to talk about is how incredibly powerful of an experience and expression it was to have 10 currently incarcerated political prisoners respond to our call for signatures and sign the statement from behind bars. Their participation in our statement highlights the fact that they’re also a population whose liberation from the prison-industrial complex we need to be fighting for.

Also they represent the internationalism and revolutionary spirit that was intentionally targeted and killed from the 1980s onward. So their participation and inclusion in this statement is a link back to that era, specifically Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli. Beyond that one of the things I’m thinking of about that line on mass incarceration is the need to abolish prisons.

There is different rhetoric around prisons in Palestine and here in the US but I do think they’re similar enough in the sense that we often don’t think of people arrested for drug crimes in the US as political prisoners but they are imprisoned under a very intentional political system that discriminates against them across every point of the so-called justice system.

The need to criminalize the existence or resistance of populations under settler colonialism leads to mass or hyper incarceration both in the United States and in Palestine and that prison abolition in that context is something we need to center.

JJ: What can Palestinian and Black people learn from each other?

KBD: From Palestinians we learn the importance of struggling for self-determination — a right that Black people in the US have never experienced, from our ancestor’s forcible kidnapping to this continent and the end of the Civil War through today. This is a right that Palestinians refuse to let go of through their sumoud, or steadfastness — and it is a right that Black people must claim as well.

The Black for Palestine statement highlighted the right of return as the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians because it cuts to the core of the “conflict” and is dismissed by Zionists and the US as “unrealistic.” For Palestinians to cling to and achieve the most “impossible” of their calls would be a boon to us, as we still fight for the “unrealistic” demands of reparations for our ancestors’ free and forced labor, or the abolition of prisons and the police.

The call for boycott, divestment and sanctions also models what it might look like for Black people in the US, across our varying political ideologies, to present basic criteria for us to exercise our own right to self-determination and to present basic actions people around the world can take to help us actualize our self-determination.

Our post-civil rights condition and the post-apartheid South African condition drive home the necessity for Palestinians to demand economic restructuring and safeguards both against decades of disinvestment and against neoliberal forces within the Palestinian political class. Full justice for Palestinians makes the case stronger for our own organizing in the US; full justice for Black Americans or South Africans makes the case stronger for Palestinians. I see each of these struggles as my own, because a victory for one group is a victory for us all. That is what motivates my work on this issue.

JJ: What kind of opportunities do you think “Black For Palestine” opens up for organizational solidarity with Black people in Palestine, be those articulated to the Israeli settler society or native Black Palestinians?

KDB: I think it opens up a lot of opportunities. One idea that has already come up as a result of the statement is bringing a delegation of African Palestinians here to the US so organizers can engage with them because too often they’re a population that gets erased from the narratives about Palestine within our own movement spaces here in the United States. And I know that there is already ongoing efforts between groups like the Dream Defenders and Black Youth Project 100 to connect Black and Brown people in the United States with the different African populations in historic Palestine, whether that is Ethiopian Israelis, Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers or African Palestinians.

This work is already happening so I think the statement is just another step for potential organizing between Africans in historic Palestine and Black people in the US.

It is Time We Discussed Abolishing the Police

From CounterPunch:

“If I was an anarchist or even a regular protester,” explained the president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild Ron Smith, “I would probably not want to be infiltrated by the police… Just like the dope dealer on Third and Pike doesn’t want to get busted. That’s the price of doing business. It’s the whole package.” This startling bit of honesty from the Seattle police regarding their imperative to infiltrate and spy on social justice protests came as Ansel Herz, a reporter for the local newspaper The Stranger, questioned Smith regarding undercover cops at a Black Lives Matter protest last December.

For those involved in Left protest movements this is hardly news. I remember my early days in the antiwar movement at Texas Tech University. During the first rallies protesting the invasion of Iraq in 2003 local police with their crew-cuts, wraparound shades, and shirts tucked into Wrangler jeans would “blend effortlessly” into the crowd of college students. Campus police even intruded into a graduate student’s office—much to his surprise—in order to peruse our flyers and posters that were stored there. A year later an investigation by Salon revealed that police had infiltrated antiwar groups in Boulder, Fresno, Grand Rapids, and Albuquerque. A federal prosecutor even demanded Drake University turn over all of its records regarding an antiwar conference held there by the National Lawyers Guild.

Ahead of the Republican National Convention in 2008 Minnesota police in conjunction with the FBI raided the homes of antiwar activists “seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets” according to reports. One of the many police officers who infiltrated antiwar groups prior to the convention would later brag of how protesters “were herded like sheep at the hands of the riot cops.” Ultimately he determined that the “strategy, tactic, and deployments were well planned and extremely effective in controlling [protesters].”

Detective Wojciech Braszczok was one of many undercover cops infiltrating the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, a fact that came to light after his unrelated arrest following the release of a video of him violently assaulting a motorist. Braszczok’s participation in the movement went beyond monitoring protests as he insinuated himself deep into the personal lives of Occupy members even attending birthday parties—all the while collecting “intelligence” for the NYPD. Other undercovers in the Occupy movement worked as agent provocateurs “being paid to go to these protests and put us in situations where we’d be arrested and not be able to leave” as Occupy member Marshall Garrett discovered after his 2011 arrest.

During the 2010 protests against budget cuts and tuition hikes on West Coast college campuses university police sent a spy into meetings of the University of Washington based UW Student Worker Coalition. At UC Davis the administration worked with faculty and police to form the Student Activism Team, a taskforce charged with infiltrating and surveilling Left groups on campus. Even more disturbing, a lawsuit filed last year by the Evergreen State College chapter of Students for a Democratic Society revealed further details of a surveillance ring dating back to 2009 and built around John Towery a member of the Army’s Force Protection Service who had infiltrated the Olympia, Washington student group. According to emails Towery was trying to “develop a leftist/anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro” with campus police and police departments in Everett, Spokane, Portland, Eugene, and Los Angeles as well as with various branches of the military.

Last week documents obtained by The Intercept revealed that undercover officers for the NYPD regularly attended Black Lives Matter events. Pictures of activists are kept on file by the department and their movements are tracked. In a statement on these revelations the Metropolitan Transit Authority which has been using its counter-terrorism task force to also spy on Black Lives Matter justified the spying by equating protesters with terrorists. And this is not just the view of local police departments, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force have both been monitoring Black Lives Matter protests across the country showing the dangerous and unfounded link in the minds of police between social justice movements and terrorism.

It is notable that the problem of police infiltration is unique to Left-leaning political groups. Right wing organizations like the Tea Party, the Oath Keepers, and the Ku Klux Klan are more likely to have police as enthusiastic members than moles. Even the FBI’s oft celebrated infiltration of the Klan during the Civil Rights Movement led to more cheerleading for Klan activity than arrests of its members. While police frequently paint Left organizations as violent in order to justify the violation of people’s right to organize politically these right wing terrorist groups are regularly leftunmolested by the supposed keepers of the peace.

There are many people who think the police exist to fight crime. The reality is that the police exist to maintain the status-quo with the rich on top and everyone else fighting for scraps. During the uprising in Ferguson last year comedian Chris Rock commented, “If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” The police represent the first line of defense between the rich and the rioters. Those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement—the latest challenge to the racist status-quo—learn quickly the true function of the police as they are shouted at and insulted by police in riot gear who hem in their marches, as they have their photos taken by police surveillance teams for further investigation, as they deal with the never ending stream of plain-clothes cops intimidating, monitoring, sowing seeds of distrust. Knowing the political role of the police perhaps it is time to stop hoping for reform and start imagining a world without the police.

Black August, 35 Years Ago, To Black Lives Matter, Today

From Popular Resistance:

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Black August, a month of political prisoner activism and commemoration, can help remind us of the nation’s exponentially expanding racist prison system.

Protesters march through the streets of Ferguson. (Jamelle Bouie / Wikimedia Commons)

A year ago this month, the streets of Ferguson, Missouri exploded in the wake of the murder of eighteen-year-old Black teen, Michael Brown, at the hands of white police officer, Darren Wilson. The world watched closely as military Humvees and the national guard armed with tear gas and rubber bullets transformed an otherwise quiet town in the Midwest into a historic battlefront for the Black Lives Matter movement, the present-day Black liberation struggle born after the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman over the murder of the Black seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Since the Ferguson riots last August, Black Lives Matter has radically shifted the national conversation on anti-Black racism and police brutality through massive protests, demonstrations, and online mobilizations that have galvanized a new generation of youth of color in the United States and around the world who refuse to allow the police to turn them into another murder statistic. Just last month, hundreds of Black activists gathered together in Cleveland, Ohio in a historic meeting for the inaugural Movement for Black Lives Convening, which featured panels and workshops on Black labor organizing, queer and trans justice, lessons from the Black Panther Party, among others.

A new Pew Research Center poll released this month further shows how Black Lives Matter is transforming the racial views of Americans (and particularly white Americans) in astounding ways. According to the poll, 59 percent of U.S. citizens believe that changes are necessary to afford equal rights to African Americans, up from 46 percent just last year, with a majority of whites (53 percent) agreeing. Black Lives Matter and related mobilizations across the country have forced white Americans to take racism and police brutality seriously to the point where most of them have come to agree that that police treat Blacks less fairly than other groups. That hot, tragic summer day in Ferguson and the riots they gave birth to last August launched a crucial movement to remind the world that Black Lives Matter.

Yet, as we take a moment this August to honor Ferguson and the past, present, and future of the Black Lives Matter movement, it might be useful to take a moment to recognize another important moment in the history of the Black freedom struggle taking place this month: Black August. More than thirty-five years ago, Black August was created by Black political prisoners in California’s infamous San Quentin State Prison in August 1979 to commemorate the long legacy of prison protest and other forgotten events in the history of Black freedom struggles. As cofounder Shuuja Graham told historian Dan Berger, “We figured that the people we wanted to remember wouldn’t be remembered during Black history month, so we started Black August.” In August 1971, Black Panther leader George Jackson was killed in a prison uprising, while his younger brother was killed the previous August attempt to free three prisoners. August was also the historic month in which Haitian slaves rebelled and launched the Haitian Revolution (August 21, 1791), initiating the successful destruction of chattel slavery on the island and the world’s first independent Black republic, and the month that Nat Turner led a slave revolt in southern Virginia (August 21, 1831). As a “kind of secular activist Ramadan,” as described by Berger, Black prisoners fasted, read, studied, and engaged in physical training and self-discipline. As Mumia Abu-Jamal notes, “August is a month of meaning, of repression and radical resistance, of injustice and divine justice; of repression and righteous rebellion; of individual and collective efforts to free the slaves and break the chains that bind us.”

Over the coming months, Black August’s origins within the prison system can help remind us that as Black men and women are being murdered by police on the streets, hundreds of others are being shipped away and locked up in the nation’s exponentially expanding penitentiaries. The United States has the largest prison population in the world—even larger than China or Russia—and Black Americans constitute a disproportionate percentage of that population. According to the NAACP, African Americans comprise 1 million of the 2.3 million total prisoners in this nation, and are incarcerated six times more than whites. Even though Blacks and Latinos compose one quarter of the national population, they comprised 58 percent of all prisoners as of 2008. Although 14 million whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug, African Americans are being sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites thanks to racist drug policies beginning in the 1970s. As of 2001, one in six Black men had been incarcerated, but if current trends continue, one in three Black men born today can expect to be imprisoned at some point in their lifetimes.

Black August can also help us remember that big money is increasingly behind this prison-industrial complex that devalues Black life. The past forty years have witnessed an unprecedented boom in incarceration rates in the United States. According to a report published by the National Research Council, the prison population grew from 200,000 to about 2.2 million between 1973 and 2009, which meant that the U.S. held about a quarter of the world’s prisoners. The period of prison privatization emerged in the 1980s when neoliberal policies began to expand across the globe, with the first U.S. private prison business operating in Hamilton County, Tennessee in 1984 under the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Today, privately run prisons are ubiquitous across the nation, even being dramatized on screen as seen in the last season of Orange is the New Black. Meanwhile, on the backs of Black and brown prisoners, CCA reported US$1.7 billion in total revenue in 2011 alone.

And Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the beloved “lesser of two evils” for many progressives, is just as mired in this racist monster of the private prison system. Last month, it was reported that Clinton was accepting contributions from known lobbyists for two of the country’s largest private prison corporations, CCA and the Geo Group, in addition to her usual donations from Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry. In light of this news, it’s no surprise that Clinton refused to address issues of structural racism when she was confronted by a group of Black Lives Matter activists in New Hampshire earlier this month. “She was not willing to concede that the inherent anti-blackness in the policies that were enacted to address problems is the cause of the problems we have today,” activist Julius Jones stated.

In the streets or behind gray prison doors, Black August offers a moment to focus and honor the long African American freedom struggles that are the current movement’s predecessors.

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View  the original article: www.teleSURtv.net/english

“If I Die in Police Custody, Burn Everything Down!”

Originally posted to IT’S GOING DOWN:

Across the US, in response to the outpouring of rebellion in the wake of a tidal wave of police murders, a handful of cops have been charged, several have been fired, and a few have simply quit. Those in power, from president Obama to the local police chiefs, rush to make cosmetic changes to an ever militarizing police force. They hurry to buy police body cameras while at the same time departments spend millions on decommissioned military vehicles and weapons to suppress future rebellions.

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They say the conversation on policing and race and America has changed, but the daily reality of American life continues to produce piles of dead bodies and millions of people incarcerated. Since Mike Brown’s murder by Ferguson police, over 1,100 people have been killed by law enforcement in the United States.

We aren’t in a crisis of policing – we’re in the middle of a war.

“That’s the Only Way Motherfuckers Like You Listen!”

At the same time, due to the ongoing rebellions in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Oakland, those in the “opposition,” from the unions, to Jackson and Sharpton, to the Nation of Islam, have all intensified their rhetoric. The commemoration for the ‘Million Man March’ is entitled, “Justice or Else!” The recent disruptions of the Presidential debates, from Sanders to Clinton to Bush all point to a growing anger at politics as usual and an acceptance of more radical action. But these protests also continue this idea that if “justice” is not served, there will be consequences. “If you don’t negotiate with us, we’ll set the rabble loose!,” say the activists and politicians in waiting.

But it hasn’t been the ‘leaders’ of the official Black Lives Matter group, the New Black Panthers, or any of the leftist parties that have pushed the current uprisings; the revolts has by and large been carried out by the people themselves and the youth in particular. In Baltimore, it was high-schoolers who trashed cop cars and threw stones at police, driving them out of the neighborhood. In Ferguson, it was the neighborhood of Canfield which fought back every night for weeks in the face of a military occupation. It was a collection of graffiti writers, youth of color, and anarchists who held the streets and blocked freeways in Oakland for close to a month.

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During these rebellions, the “official” organizations, whether the Democratic Party or the non-profits, were all trying to smoother the uprisings. Now, they hope to turn this energy into votes and new members. But while the official groups try to match their rhetoric to the actions of the people, all they have as leverage against those in power to make changes is the actions of the people they hope to drown out. “Listen to us and we will make sure there isn’t a riot,” they say. “Make these changes, put us in power, and there won’t be an uprising.”

But things must change, everything must change.

The riots were just the start, we must go much further.

“Rise the Fuck Up! Shut that Shit Down!”

Buildings have been burned, freeways have been blocked, and millions of dollars of property and police equipment has been destroyed. “But nothing has changed,” we hear people say over and over again. And they are right.

With each cycle of revolt, things only seem to get worse. The anti-war movement, the student movement, Occupy, and Black Lives Matter – all of these moments were largely based around the idea of exacting a cost on a system in order to push it to make structural changes. From blocked freeways, to burned buildings, to shaming hashtags, “Here, have a taste of our anger,” was our mindset.

But those in power became quite adapt at making changes – changes that didn’t amount to shit. Their rhetoric changed; they said words like, “the 99%” and “Black Lives Matter,” around election time. They put cameras on police, but in the end the cameras are still pointed at us. They took healthcare away from prisoners and diverted it into higher education. They passed laws upping the minimum wage to $15 in several years time; keeping us squarely locked in poverty. All the while, this society continues to break down and the ecological system continues to hurtle us towards apocalypse.

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The militant movements of the last several years have been failures because they have only sought to generate reforms from the present system, even if they didn’t make demands. We went into the streets knowing something was wrong, but in the back of our minds we hoped those in power would listen to us and make changes.

Those in the Left groups with their newspapers claimed we lacked a vanguard party to guide us. The unions claimed we lacked representation in the workplace. The churches and mosques said we lacked moral superiority in the face of state violence. The non-profits whined we had a poor outreach strategy.

The riots, blockades, occupations, and shut-downs failed because they didn’t go far enough.

Revolutions that go half-way, dig their own grave.

“If I die in police custody, don’t let my parents talk to…Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, or any of the motherfuckers who would destroy my name.”

Being a revolutionary in the present terrain means knowing that things aren’t going to get better; that currently there are no reforms that the system can grant that will get us out of the current crisis. Those in power will continue to offer only more repression, surveillance, incarceration, and policing to quell in rebellion, while also attempting to placate to popular anger by attempting to offer cosmetic changes or “expand the dialog.”

But what would a revolutionary strategy look like? What has already taken place in the streets that can show us a way forward? In the past several years, across the world, from Oakland to Egypt, we’ve seen the proliferation of various tactics and strategies – all responding to a historical moment of crisis that defines our era.

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We have seen the proliferation of occupations, whether in camps, squares, or buildings. These communal spaces serve as a vehicle to get organized from and meet the needs of the insurgents involved. We saw this in many Occupy camps, in Tahrir square, and in Ferguson around the burned QT building. All insurrections need bases of operations; they need space. But we have to push and expand this space, into schools and universities (such as in various occupations across Chile and Europe), in occupied union halls and workplaces (such as in Greece), and into public areas and whole regions (such as in Turkey at Gezi Park, throughout the Rojava Revolution in the autonomous region of Kurdistan, indigenous blockades of pipelines such as across Canada, and at the ZAD in France).

Autonomy is power.

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Beyond just being a place where people talk and make plans, these places need to expand the communal activity of people organizing themselves and meeting their needs directly. But such space will always need to be defended. Whether it is the streets of Ferguson from the police and the National Guard, or the occupied Egyptian squares, rioting has been the offensive capacity by which people have defended themselves from government forces and expanded their territories.

“Let them know, that my sisters got this!”

Rioting, in a defense and offensive capacity also allows people to attack the infrastructure of the enemy: namely the police, surveillance systems, and the like. However, beyond bank windows and burned patrol cars, the use of blockades has proven to be a very effective tactic in shutting down the flows of capital, stopping the construction of a project, and preventing the movement of state forces. We can see this most spectacularly in the indigenous struggles in Canada (such as the Mi’kmaq and Unist’ot’en), where Native groups are setting up encampments to stop the development of fracked oil pipelines.

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But these tactics by themselves are just that, tactics. Blockading a freeway against white supremacy might be the start of a longer revolutionary struggle or a way to gather our forces, but simply going onto a freeway and hoping that something will materialize (or worse yet, someone will listen,) is delusional thinking. If we want to build a revolutionary force capable of destroying this system of domination, white supremacy, and exploitation, then we have to think about tactics in terms of a strategy.

Thinking about a strategy means paying attention to the situation we are in both locally where we live, but also nationally and internationally. We have to think about how the Left and those that try and control social struggles will react and try and hinder our efforts. We have to think about how the state will try and repress us for attacking the social order.

But above all, we have to think about how our actions can grow, expand, become more powerful, and ultimately link up with others across the social terrain.

 

The above text has been condensed into a flyer which you can download below. Use the box to fill in a link to local projects. 

Whole page. Quarter sheet.

Remember the dead – Solidarity for the living by Brandon Baxter.

From Cleveland 4 Solidarity:

Originally published in Wildfire: Issue 2

Remember the dead – Solidarity for the living by Brandon Baxter.

Every day we spend in these cages is a day of our lives we will never get back. They are limited in the same way that there are only so many fingers on our hands; limbs on our bodies.

  • All the cherished memories we will never have.
  • All the moments we won’t have to hold onto.
  • Each day, a piece of our lives, torn from us, like cutting off our fingers, one knuckle at a time.

The police once killed with impunity. Today they answer to the mob, The People’s Justice.

But the sad reality is that if Michael Brown were arrested and given a life sentence Ferguson would have never burned. He would have been mutilated, one day at a time. No one would have known his name, not even when he died in prison.

As of writing, the oppressed riot in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the police. The Left will, as always, attempt to recuperate this momentum. Indeed, I have read articles by these liberals defending looting as a legitimate form of protest.

…of protest…Is that all this is? Demanding reform; police accountability? Is this a problem to be solved by taxing the People hundreds of millions of dollars to put a body camera on every cop on the beat?

That’s the narrative we’re up against. And if the mob isn’t challenged to make a deeper analysis of the web of oppression it’s beginning to fight against, that is the reality we will face: more cops and an even more omnipresent surveillance state.

If Freddie Gray hadn’t died but were sitting in a holding tank, would there be any less reason for what’s taking place in Baltimore today?

  • We must remember the dead. But the living are dying.
  • Every day.
  • Let’s try being a little less reactionary (it makes us predictable, taking away the advantages of spontaneity).

Let us channel this righteous fury into concise decisive strategy in our fight for the living.