How Do We Relate to the Current Mass Protests Against Police Crimes?

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?

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Organizers Who Met With Obama See Meeting as Affirmation That Movement Against Police Violence is Working

By Kevin Gosztola

Dec 2, 2014 – President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder met with seven black and Latino organizers yesterday to discuss police violence in not just Ferguson, Missouri, but throughout the country. Following the meeting, Obama announced some steps his administration would be taking to address some of the issues raised. Organizers who participated in the meeting responded to the announced steps.

Obama announced there would be a task force that will “reach out and listen to law enforcement and community activists and other stakeholders.” After 90 days, a report with “concrete recommendations, including best practices for communities where law enforcement and neighborhoods are working well together” will be provided to Obama.

An executive order regulating the 1033 program, the federal program where military equipment is provided to police departments, will be issued. Obama will also be proposing “new community policing initiatives,” particularly providing “up to 50,000 additional body-worn cameras for law enforcement.”

Ashley Yates of Millennial Activists United (MAU), who met with Obama, addressed the proposed measures on a press conference call. The body cams, she noted, would not necessarily save black lives from police brutality or from being denied justice. In the case of the young black man, John Crawford, there was surveillance video of a cop gunning him down as he held an unloaded air rifle in the middle of a Walmart. Authorities still refused to indict the officer. It is possible this happens again in the cases of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, whose deaths at the hands of police were also captured on video.

The movement, according to Yates, is for the abolition of the 1033 program. “It is a form of psychological torture to walk down your street and see Humvees posted on the corner. I do not see a need for those in our city,” she stated. She could not believe that these “checks and balances” on the 1033 program had not been issued yet.

Yates also said that there must be youth voices and black people who are activists in the room when the task force meets with individuals to develop their report. “You have to allow space for the people who are affected by the militarization, by police brutality, to define their oppression so we can actually frame the problem correctly.”

T-Dubb-O, a St. Louis hip-hop artist who was part of the group that met with the president, suggested, “He’s the first African-American president of the United States.” Obama should make this “his own issue and have a speech about it. Come out and open his mouth and use the power and influence that he has in that seat. Tell the rest of America that there is an issue. He’s experienced the same issue that we’re facing today. There is an issue.”

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Ferguson protesters in Portland seek to build on, learn from Occupy Wall Street movement

Police move forward towards protesters who were marching downtown after flash bang grenades were deployed in Portland during a Ferguson rally on November 29, 2014. Michael Lloyd/The Oregonian

By Anna Griffin

Protesters who’ve stopped Portland traffic almost daily since a grand jury opted not to indict Darren Wilson began their work back in August. Their goal: to mirror and in some ways build on the Occupy Wall Street movement – but with a more cohesive and ultimately constructive end.

"We’re trying to create something that is going to last," said Teressa Raiford, an organizer of Portland’s Ferguson response rallies. "What you’re seeing is the result of a lot of planning."

Zuccotti Park and the Ferguson, Missouri, street where Wilson shot Michael Brown sit almost 1,000 miles apart. But in terms of their recent impact, they’re practically next-door neighbors.

As they did three years ago, marchers the past week have opted for civil disobedience rather than simply making speeches and rallying in front of Portland civic landmarks. They’ve held "die ins," led police on long, winding marches through downtown, filled Willamette River bridges during rush hour and attempted to seize Interstate 5.

The crowds have included black-clad anarchists and a few Occupy-style protesters in Guy Fawkes masks. The large groups have advocated for a number of causes besides police reform, including a $15 minimum wage, policies to stop gentrification and government disinvestment in multinational corporations. A few of the leading figures in the push to protest the Ferguson decision nationally are the same as Occupy, including Lisa Fithian, who helped put together the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle and was dubbed "Professor Occupy" by Mother Jones magazine.

"It’s similar in that it’s spreading without any central authority, it’s spreading by inspiration, by a compound of desperation and hope with a little bit of euphoria mixed in," said Todd Gitlin, a journalism professor at Columbia University and author of the 2012 book "Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street." "The big changes made by Occupy were at the level of discourse, making the ‘1 percent’ and ‘the 99 percent’ part of everyday language. The quandary for people angry about Ferguson is how to channel this momentary energy into something that makes changes in more than just the conversation"

At the heart of both movements is an overarching distrust of the nation’s political and economic establishment, a sense that the system does not work for everyone.

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