By Frank Chapman
National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression
What does this spontaneous uprising of the masses tell us and how does it relate to our historic struggle for community control of the police?
Of course the most obvious place to start is that this mass uprising is the manifestation of a new awakening of the people to the gross racist injustices that exist in our country.
But isn’t it also a break away from the slavish submission to police and government authorities on the question of racist repression? This uprising is an expression of the mistrust created by an unjust and broken criminal justice system. Spontaneous movements by their very nature are not consciously based on an understanding of the necessity of collective resistance to bring about systemic changes.
The present protest arise out of anger and outrage, their initial stages are outbursts characterized more by desperation and disgust than by organized struggle. At least this is how it seemingly jumped off in Ferguson on a hot day in August.
First the revolts that began in Ferguson were clearly the resistance of African Americans to racist repression and its underlying oppression. In fact it is so obvious to so many that the Black people of Ferguson were justly outraged. How else can one explain the mass outpouring of support from all strands of the peoples’ progressive movement in the United States and around the world?
When the oppressed at the bottom of the social ladder rattle their chains everyone takes notice. Simultaneous with the Ferguson uprising was a spontaneous movement of solidarity coming from the organized and unorganized, from masses of youth in the streets, to militant African American organizations, civil rights groups, labor unions, LGBTQ groups, youth and student organizations the organized left and peace and solidarity movements. Those of us who have lived through and were a part of the African American rebellions of the sixties know from experience that the present uprising has a greater depth and breadth than anything we’ve ever seen.
Now in the wake of the grand jury refusing to indict the cops that killed Eric Garner we see a nation-wide youth led, protest/resistance movement developing with the potential of interrupting business as usual and confronting local and national authorities about doing away with the current racist practices of local police departments and prosecutors.
However, this does not mean that the spontaneous awakening to the need to engage in political struggle is comparable to the sixties. The fight to end Jim Crow, the U.S. legalized version of Apartheid, was clearly a political struggle implying a radical transformation, an institutional rearrangement of society based on racial equality.
The present protestors, while calling for the criminal justice system to hold the police accountable, also realize that they cannot depend on prosecutors to prosecute police. So it is clear that the system needs overhauling and those prosecutors, judges, and politicians are definitely not agents of change for the better. The paradox is clear. We are asking the worm to investigate his tail. We are asking the perpetrators of injustice for justice. What is the solution?
The solution is a democratic one. We the people, the victims and survivors of police crimes, united with the broader democratic forces of the people must organize a massive campaign for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) that empowers the people to hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit; puts communities in control of policing policies and procedures.
This is a political demand that can only be won through mass struggle. This is why it is important to link this demand to the current uprising.
We have in the present mass protest an awakening to the long standing racial antagonism between the police and communities of color as well as an awakening to the antagonistic role of the police to all democratic struggles whether it be workers on strike or peace activists against military aggression.
We do not discount zealous agitation against police crimes, and the demand that police be charged and prosecuted for the crimes they commit; in fact we favor it, encourage it and do it ourselves. But we do not see this as our only task.
Just the other day when we were protesting a police officer said to me, “There are good cops! We are not all bad.” My response was that it is not about good or bad cops it’s about changing a corrupt, racist system of policing supported by government policies (i.e. political repression).
Our historic task is to get CPAC passed into law so we can have an all-elected, all-civilian police accountability council extending to the people the democratic right to institute and execute policies as to how they want their communities policed.
In concluding I would just like to say that some of our allies say to us, “This CPAC thing is a great idea but they (meaning the powers that be) will never go for it.” Well, I believe we can fight back and win if we put our trust in the organized might of the masses. Just as you expect WalMart to resist union efforts to organize the workers we expect the Fraternal Order of Police, the existing Mayor, most of the politicians and the police sponsored anti-violence movement to resist our efforts to build a mass movement for CPAC.
But we know that the overwhelming majority of our people are sick and tired of being repressed, racially profiled, tortured and killed by the police and it is our responsibility to organize this seething discontent of our people into mass organized struggle for a systemic change. This is what the Campaign for CPAC is all about.