The Chicago kidnapping isn’t about Black Lives Matter. It’s about the violence faced by people with disabilities

Mindless violence and hideous cruelty against the disabled has to be condemned by all Americans whenever it occurs

Don’t let racists fool you: The Chicago kidnapping isn’t about Black Lives Matter. It’s about the violence faced by people with disabilities
(Credit: Mila May via Shutterstock/Salon)

A brutal crime in Chicago shocked the nation earlier this week after four teenagers kidnapped an 18-year-old student and tormented him over Facebook Live — punching him, kicking him, and tearing off his clothing while he screamed for help. What made the crime a front page story, however, isn’t that it was live-streamed over social media: The perpetrators — Jordan Hill, Tesfaye Cooper, Brittany Covington, and Tanishia Covington — invoked the name of the president-elect during the attack. “F**k Trump!” the assailants yelled. “F**k white people!”

Since video of the attack went viral, racists have used the footage as evidence of the scourge of black-on-white crime, a phenomenon white nationalist leaders say the media ignored.

Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader infamously referred to as the “dapper white nationalist” in a Mother Jones story published earlier this year, used the incident as a marketing tool in a series of tweets published Wednesday. “This isn’t even the first instance of terrorism against whites by anti-Trump #blacklivesmatter supporters in Chicago,” Spencer wrote, adding later in the day:

“Remember the #BLMKidnapping every time some journalist lies about my white advocacy organization and calls it a hate group.”

In the latter tweet, Spencer refers to a hashtag that trended after the attack, one that attempted to pin the violence on Black Lives Matter, the national network of advocates for racial equality. Deray McKesson, a Baltimore-based activist who has become one of the faces of the BLM movement, tweeted: “It goes without saying that the actions being branded by the far-right as the ‘BLM Kidnapping’ have nothing to do w/ the movement.”

While white nationalists use the incident to stoke fears of black people targeting innocent whites, the truth is that hate crimes against white people are relatively rare. 2012 statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigations show that of the 3,467 hate crimes reported to police that year, 66.2 percent were motivated by racial animus against black people. This is despite the fact that African-Americans make up just 13.3 percent of the U.S. population, according to 2015 statistics from the Census Bureau. Meanwhile, just 22 percent of bias attacks were anti-white.

Instead, this incident is a reminder of the violence that people with disabilities experience in everyday life. The young student, whose name has not been published in the press to protect the privacy of his family, has an intellectual disability, which means that his brain processes information differently than the rest of ours. He was a classmate of Jordan Hill, who invited him over for a “slumber party.”

People with disabilities aren’t often the targets of hate crimes. FBI data shows that just over one percent of people who suffer a bias attack have a mental or physical impairment. Instead this population, which totals over 63 million Americans, is more likely to be the victim of other types of crimes — including rape.

According to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, 80 percent of women with a disability report being assaulted by a friend, family member, or a stranger. That also includes 30 percent of disabled men. Many of these crimes take place in their youth. The WCSAP claims that male adolescents with a hearing impairment are five times more likely than their peers to be a rape survivor. Young girls who are deaf or otherwise hard of hearing are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as girls who aren’t hearing impaired.

When dealing with police, those with disabilities often face a lot of the same struggles that non-white people do, subject to extraordinary, disproportionate harm. A 2016 report from the  Ruderman Family Foundation showed that differently abled persons make up between a third to one half of all people killed by law enforcement every year.

Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old with Down syndrome, was called “Ethan” by his family. He went to see the Kathryn Bigelow film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which details the hunt and capture of Osama Bin Laden, with his caretaker on Jan. 12, 2013. After seeing the movie, Saylor decided he wanted to watch it again and went back into the theater, despite the fact that he hadn’t purchased a ticket. Although his caretaker warned police, who were called to the scene to remove him from the theater, that Saylor would “freak out” if touched, he was dragged out of the facility as he yelled for help.

“Mommy!” the young man screamed. “It hurt! Call my mom.”

Saylor, whose mother was just five minutes away from the scene of the accident, would die of asphyxiation in the struggle with police. As the young man was thrown to the floor and handcuffed, the cartilage in his throat fractured. His siblings remember Saylor as someone who looked up to law enforcement officials as role models, collecting cop badges and other police paraphernalia.

Saylor’s case, which might remind you of Eric Garner, the man suffocated by police officers as he protested that he couldn’t breathe, is one of many.

There’s Antonio Love, a deaf man who was pepper sprayed and tasered by police in the bathroom of a Dollar General in 2009 because he couldn’t hear the command by police to come of the facility. Ernest Griglen, who is diabetic, was brutally beaten by police in 2008 who thought he was driving drunk. At the time of his beating, Griglen was experiencing insulin shock. Six years later, Natasha McKenna, who was schizophrenic, was stripped naked and tasered four times in her cell because she wouldn’t come out of her cell. As she died, she protested, “You promised you wouldn’t kill me.”

In fact, many of the cases of police brutality you’ve heard about in the media intersect with disability in crucial ways. Sandra Bland, who was removed from her vehicle and tossed to the ground following a routine traffic stop in 2015, had a history of depression. The 28-year-old was later found hanged in her jail cell. Laquan McDonald, a Chicago teen whose death made national headlines after being gunned down by a white cop in 2014, had a learning disability, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

These aspects of police violence are rarely reported on, but these details are crucial and often make the difference between life and death. Garner, a Staten Island man who was selling cigarettes on the street when he was assaulted by police, was asthmatic.

As The Daily Beast’s Elizabeth Heideman reports, police do receive training on how to respond to people with disabilities, but that education is limited. Law enforcement officials are instructed to issue simple, clear commands in order to prevent difficult situations from escalating further, like “Get on the ground!” and “Drop that!” But those instructions wouldn’t have helped Love, because he wouldn’t have been able to understand them. This training needs to be expanded in a way that recognizes the unique challenges the community faces and how to handle them.

This attack isn’t about what people like Spencer want you to believe it is. White supremacists hope to use this incident to stoke the flames of racial hate, but it’s about a society that lacks compassion for people with disabilities and a nation that still doesn’t know how to address it. Too many differently abled people are assaulted, hurt, and killed every year, and their stories rarely become trending topics. It’s time to start telling them.

 

SALON

The socialist history they hide from us

Socialism was put at the center of U.S. politics by the campaign of Bernie Sanders, which confirmed again what people who protest for a living wage or stand up against police racism have been saying for years: The capitalist system isn’t working, and we need an alternative.

At this summer’s Socialism 2016 conference in Chicago, Sharon Smith and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor were the main speakers at an evening plenary session on “The Fight for a Socialist Future.” Here, we publish the speech by Sharon Smith, author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States and Women and Socialism: Class, Race and Capital, edited for publication, in which she talks about the hidden history of socialist organizing in the U.S. and the lessons that history holds for today. SW also featured Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s speech here.

Members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the picket line in 1915

Members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the picket line in 1915

I HAVE a message for all those naysayers who are absolutely certain that the U.S. could never go socialist because the working class is too–fill in the blank here–a) bought off; b) materialistic; c) apathetic; d) self-absorbed; e) pro-capitalist; f) consumeristic; g) reactionary; h) ignorant; or i) stupid to ever join a socialist movement.

To all those naysayers, I feel compelled to say, “We told you so.” And the supporting evidence for this statement can be summed up in two words: Sanders supporters.

Yes, the millions of youth who have flocked to Bernie Sanders and declared themselves to be socialists–that is, committed to confronting the colossal degree of inequality that capitalism produces–have proven that America could indeed go socialist if today’s younger generation has anything to say about it.

This generation–which is saddled with debt and faces living standards lower than their parents, with a future of a series of low-paying jobs–has demonstrated to all that this country, just like all others in the world, is divided into classes, in which the vast majority of people suffer because of capitalism: A system that is driven only by the insatiable quest for profits on the part of a tiny capitalist class, without the slightest regard for human need or for the workers who produce their profits.

But the young socialists of today want to fight all forms of inequality and oppression. Large majorities are against the continued oppression of women and LGBTQ people and against racism. They mobilized in large numbers in support of Black Lives Matter and against the oppression of LGBTQ people, including after the horrific murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just a couple of weeks ago.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the youth of today are giving us exactly the kind of hope for the future that has been missing for quite a long time in the socialist movement. This last year is the first time in many decades that a self-described socialist presidential candidate has won mass support in this country–and that is an enormous tipping point for our side.

Having said that, I want to emphasize that we older folks also have an indispensable role to play in the fight for socialism because a socialist organization acts as the collective memory of the working class. Knowing our history allows us to gain from the experience of those who have fought before us–so we can learn from the victories as well as the defeats of the past.

Without that knowledge of history, we will find ourselves reinventing the wheel every time we begin a new struggle, repeating past mistakes and having to learn old lessons all over again, suffering unnecessary defeats instead of advancing the fight for socialism.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

KARL MARX and Frederick Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”–meaning that class struggle on a massive scale ultimately creates the conditions for socialist revolution.

But the truth is that a ruling class offensive against the working class has been going on for 40 years now–and make no mistake, it’s a bipartisan project, with the aim of lowering working-class living standards and destroying working-class organizations. While the mainstream media tells us that it’s great progress when the Democrats and Republicans work together, exactly the opposite is true: Bipartisanship means that their side is completely united against our side, which is never good news for us.

The one-sided class war of the last 40 years means that today’s generation of young radicals knows only a lifetime of declining living standards, defeat and setback, with very few victories in between.

There has never been such an extended period of working-class retreat and defeat in the history of U.S. capitalism as what we have experienced these last 40 years–this is true. But we need to understand that, as terrible as it has been to go through it, the last 40 years is the exception rather than the rule.

Capitalism created two objectively antagonistic classes in society, the exploiters and the exploited, the capitalists and the working class. Unfortunately, many people even on the left have written off the potential of the working class to fight for socialism because it hasn’t happened in so long. This makes our history even more important to learn and understand.

The working class in this country actually has a long-standing tradition of radicalism. Anarchists, socialists and other radicals played a leading role in nearly every major strike in our history until the radical movement was destroyed by McCarthyism. During the anti-communist witch hunt in the 1950s, Communist Party members Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed just to make an example out of them, and literally thousands of radicals and union militants, from Hollywood actors to the United Auto Workers, were persecuted, prosecuted, fired from their jobs, blacklisted and sent to prison for their beliefs.

This was a conscious assault on the part of the U.S. ruling class that succeeded at physically removing the radical tradition from inside the working class. Since that time, through no fault of its own, the socialist movement has been exiled to the margins of the class that it champions. Until now, that is.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE HISTORY of the socialist movement and the class struggle in the U.S. is barely mentioned in history classes at school–not because the teachers refuse to teach it, but because their lesson plans are scripted from on high by those who have an interest in maintaining the capitalist system. They don’t want us to know about it in case it gives us any ideas about doing something similar.

In reality, the U.S. working class possesses a tradition that has, at certain key points, led the world working class in its heroism and combativity. The U.S. working class movement launched the struggle for the eight-hour workday back in the 1880s, and Chicago was the site of the very first May Day. That holiday is named after the Haymarket Martyrs and celebrated in countries all over the world every May 1. The U.S. is one of the few places where May Day is not celebrated.

The U.S. is also the home of the New York City garment workers’ struggle of 1909 involving 20,000 women workers, all of them immigrants who spoke a dozen different languages and yet managed to unite and strike against sweatshop conditions. That struggle launched the first International Women’s Day, celebrated as a socialist holiday the world over–again, seemingly, everywhere but here.

Most people don’t know it, but hundreds of thousands of working-class people built a grassroots antiwar movement against the First World War in this country–in spite of the fact that the government passed a law called the Espionage Act making it a crime to speak out against the war.

Groups of workers and poor farmers organized and passed declarations like this one by the Oklahoma Socialists society in December 1914: “If war is declared, the Socialists of Oklahoma shall refuse to enlist; but if forced to enter military service to murder fellow workers, we shall choose to die fighting the enemies of humanity in our ranks rather than to perish fighting our fellow workers.”

The U.S. is also the home of the sit-down strikes of the 1930s that built the industrial unions. This was not only the highest point of working-class struggle in U.S. history with the strike wave that built the CIO unions, but it also brought together thousands and thousands of Black and white workers, who stood shoulder to shoulder against a common enemy, on picket lines and in sit-down strikes, on demonstrations to free the Scottsboro Boys–nine young Black men put on death row in Alabama on trumped-up rape charges.

In other words, in the 1930s, thousands of white workers consciously came over to the fight against racism for the first time in U.S. history.

And far from taking a backseat to men in the class struggle during the 1930s, women workers built unions in their own right, and played a leading role in some of the most important strikes that took place.

During the Flint sit-down strike of 1937, when the mostly male workforce occupied the plant to demand a union, socialist women organized the Flint Women’s Emergency Brigade, which was far from a typical women’s auxiliary that limited itself to cooking food for the strikers. On the contrary, the women armed themselves with objects that looked remarkably like baseball bats to fight–and beat–the police and National Guard. That is the power of the class struggle when it reaches massive proportions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE 1930s was also an era of political radicalization inside the working class. And workers who were in the forefront of the class struggle began to break with the Democratic Party–seeing through Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s posturing as the spokesman for the downtrodden, when in reality he stood solidly on the side of saving capitalism during the Great Depression.

Instead, those workers leading key industrial struggles called for a working-class party of their own. The United Auto Workers (UAW) convention of 1935 actually voted down a resolution supporting Roosevelt for president, and instead voted overwhelmingly to launch a national farm-labor party as a left-wing alternative. They only backed down after the CIO leadership threatened to take away their strike funds if they didn’t support Roosevelt.

In fact, at any given time prior to the McCarthy witch hunts, thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of working-class people belonged to a radical political party.

The Socialist Party in the early 1900s reached a membership of 120,000, and their candidate for president, the revolutionary socialist Eugene Debs, got almost a million votes when he ran for president on the Socialist Party ticket in 1912.

It has also been estimated that roughly 1 million workers passed in and out of the Communist Party in the 1930s and ’40s. The party reached 80,000 members at its height, with a membership that was 9 percent Black. And remember that this was still a time when Jim Crow segregation and lynching were the order of the day, showing the possibility for building a multiracial movement in the U.S. today.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the U.S. was the home of a wildcat strike wave that built rank-and-file workers movements like the Miners for Democracy, the Teamsters for a Decent Contract and the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, known as DRUM.

DRUM and other movements like it were significant because they were organizations of Black workers that took on not only the racism of the auto companies, but racism inside the UAW. And they drew in a sizeable number of white workers who walked out of their factories in solidarity with Black workers, in a fight explicitly against racism.

In the 1960s, not only was the U.S. the home of the women’s liberation movement and the Black Power movement that inspired people all over the world to fight against oppression, but the U.S. also gave birth to the gay liberation movement, after the Stonewall Rebellion that also touched off gay liberation movements around the world.

In more recent history, on May 1, 2006, May Day or International Workers’ Day, was celebrated on U.S. soil with mass working-class demonstrations appropriately led by immigrants, who have always played a key role in the U.S. radical working-class tradition. The movement’s most powerful slogan, “a day without immigrants,” showed that its strategy of social struggle was tied explicitly to the power of workers to withhold their labor.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHETHER OR not you plan to hold your nose and vote for Hillary Clinton, or plan to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party, or just abstain from the whole voting process this year, we all actually have a more important choice to make at this point.

The German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg put the choice that we face as that between “socialism or barbarism,” because we’ll either end up with one or the other.

And I’d say we’re getting pretty close to barbarism when refugees are drowning by the hundreds at a time to escape civil war, and then getting stopped and detained once they reach Europe; when UNICEF just predicted that 69 million children will die of starvation and disease by 2030, and half of these children who will die are from Sub-Saharan Africa; when prisons are teeming with poor people and people of color, and yet General Motors executives knowingly killed at least 125 people with faulty airbags then tried to cover it up–yet no one has yet suggested that any of them spend even a minute in jail.

And if you think things can’t get any worse, I guarantee you that it can. History tells us that.

But the same conditions that fuel the potential for the growth of the right also create the potential for the growth of the left. This is the only way to understand the massive support for both Donald Trump and also for Bernie Sanders.

The question is not now and never has been if but when workers in the U.S. will begin to fight back once again–and not if but when it will become possible to build a political party based on the principles of socialism.

We also need to recognize that the working class today is composed of many races, sexualities and gender identities, and is capable of propelling issues of racism and other forms of oppression to the center of the class struggle in ways that would have been unimaginable in the past.

I want to end by saying to those of us here who have survived all or part of the last 40 years: Thank you for not wavering from your belief in the power of the working class to change society. And to those of you who are new to the socialist movement, who are unjaded and full of optimism, and will undoubtedly carry on the struggle: Thank you for giving us hope for the future of all humanity.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/08/15/the-socialist-history-they-hide-from-us

THE LEFT IS UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO SUPPORT HILLARY CLINTON

hillary-clinton-banks-wall-street

Breaking the cycle of lesser evilism


The astonishing rise of Donald Trump has ratcheted the intensity of this argument to an unprecedented level. His open racism and misogyny has pushed many on the left to rally, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, behind Hillary Clinton’s campaign. We share the disgust and revulsion at Trump that so many have expressed to justify their support for Clinton, and our preference is for a Clinton victory—which at this point is highly likely. As such, socialists should campaign for whomever they want (or nobody at all) without being browbeaten, guilted, or privilege-baited.

Hillary Clinton is a staunch defender of the status quo, and will not be a friend of social movements and the left when in office. We think our time and energy is much better spent on building opposition to her administration now instead of canvassing votes for her.

In practice, campaigning for Clinton entails convincing people that she and her party will move to do a number of things—attacking the finance sector, opposing bad free trade deals,  raising the national minimum wage to $15 per hour, defending and expanding Social Security, etc.—they are not likely to do. Socialists should not undertake this work because it has the potential to undermine our efforts to build a base after the election, when all too often the promised effort to “hold the Democrats accountable” doesn’t materialize.

There is always a new threat from the right to rally against, a new opportunity to insist that maybe this election will really be different. More importantly, institutions like unions that would have the most capacity to enforce accountability pursue a self-preservation strategy that depends upon access to Democratic politicians. If forced to choose between confrontation and access, they will choose access—the same way that most of them chose Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries.

Our dissatisfaction with the old formula goes beyond this seemingly endless presidential campaign. The choice on offer this November shows just how ineffective it has been on its own terms. For decades, Republicans have moved steadily to the right while most Democrats, with the votes of a potential left-wing base safely in their pockets, have moved ever further to the neoliberal center.

As a defensive strategy focused on protecting the institutional infrastructure of the left, it has been remarkably unsuccessful. One only has to look at the labor movement for a measure of its ineffectiveness—union political spending hits a new record high each election cycle, but union membership declines and working class living standards continue to crumble.

We agree with everyone else on the left that social movements are of critical importance. Militant and dynamic movements are absolutely necessary to disrupt the political system and foster the conditions for a new resurgence of the left. To that end, we participate in and support worker organizing campaigns, Black Lives Matter, minimum wage fights, and every struggle against racial, gender, and sexual oppression.

While social movements are a necessary condition for the emergence of a new left, they are not sufficient. A new left needs a new approach to electoral politics, an approach that takes seriously the need to build independent political formations—including new left-wing and socialist parties.

The US has a rich tradition of third party challenges to the two-party system, and they were not simply motivated by a sense of ethical purity. The Liberty and Free Soil parties helped to put abolition on the nation’s agenda, and contributed to the political fissures that resulted in the most successful third party in our history—the Republicans. After the Civil War, new parties of workers, farmers, populists, and socialists put demands for change on the agenda and propelled party militants into office at all levels of government, particularly at the state and local levels. Their success inspired a backlash resulting in the passage of “reforms” aimed at getting these forces out of politics—voter registration, high thresholds for ballot access, bans on fusion voting, etc. These laws, followed by integration of the labor movement into the New Deal coalition of the 1930s, led many on the left to conclude that independent political organization was a dead end. The formula that resulted—build social movements while voting for Democrats—continues to dominate today.

Advocates of the old formula often argue that the two main parties are simply lines on a ballot, or perhaps a “field of struggle” that the left can step on to and potentially win. While these parties are more loosely organized than their counterparts around the world, they still represent recognizable teams of interest groups, donors, and elected officials. While the Democrats and the Republicans have their respective popular bases, their organizational structures and funding networks are dominated by the rich and corporations. This means that each party will, by and large, choose issues and themes that reflect those interests. When Democratic leaders have to choose between articulating the interests of union members and people of color, or those of the financial, media, and technology elites that fund their campaigns, who usually wins? One only needs to compare the needs and preferences of the vast majority with the shape of actual policy to know the answer to that question.

We reject the realignment strategy that has guided much of the left’s electoral orientation for decades. We do not, however, call for an immediate and total break from voting for or supporting any Democratic candidate. We all fervently supported Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, and recognize that he probably would have been a footnote to the campaign if he tried to run as an independent. Voting for Democratic candidates in specific state and local races can be justified in many circumstances.

But if we want to move beyond the cycle of mobilization and retreat that dominates left electoral activity in the US, we have no choice but to build our own political formations, as difficult as that will be. They will have to do what all parties do—run candidates for office, particularly in states and localities where competition between Democrats and Republicans is low. Considering the many institutional barriers to effective independent politics, they will also have to launch fights to change ballot access  laws and other measures aimed at maintaining the two-party duopoly.

Beyond that, they should also focus on building the intellectual and organizational capacities of their base between elections, and raise people’s expectations of what is possible instead of managing them downward. And perhaps most importantly, they must resist the tendency of unions and other social movement organizations to prioritize short-term interests and goals above all other concerns.

The Sanders campaign and the mini-revival of protest activity shows us that millions of people are fed up with the political order and want an alternative to it. Instead of accepting and working within the limitations of the system they despise, why not begin the hard work of offering one to them?

http://inthesetimes.com/features/dsa_clinton_left_support.html

Battle Over Dakota Access Pipeline Should Be the Most Important of the Year

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 A protester against the controversial Dakota Access pipeline project takes a stand before law enforcement officers Oct. 27 as police and other forces attempt to force activists from a camp set up in the path of pipeline construction near Cannon Ball, N.D. (Photo: James MacPherson / AP)

More than a million people around the U.S. have “checked in” via Facebook to Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Cannon Ball, N.D. While this began as an attempt to confuse Morton County Sheriff’s Department officials thought to be digitally surveilling activists, the check-ins morphed into a collective gesture of solidarity. They are also a measure of how deeply the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s fight over the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) resonates with the American public. A similar measure is apparent in how crowd-funding campaigns set up by activists have far outpaced their funding goals—one effort to raise $5,000 ended up generating more than $1 million. Americans who are unable to physically lend their support are eager to participate in some way in the struggle against the pipeline that one New York Times op-ed writer equates with the Keystone XL pipeline fight.

The DAPL conflict is symbolic of so many wrongs and is at the intersection of so many issues that it is no wonder it is shaping up to be the most important contemporary struggle in the U.S. It embodies, in particular, the historic mistreatment of Native Americans, as well as their ongoing efforts to preserve their sovereignty. It is also a matter of environmental racism, given that the pipeline is routed under the water source of a vulnerable minority. Short-term pollution from pipelines and other oil infrastructure, as well as the longer-term pollution of greenhouse gases that affect the climate, are also part of the DAPL story.

In the massive police response against protesters, we are seeing horrifying examples of police brutality and witnessing how state power protects private commercial interest and preserves corporate domination over people. This has engendered domestic solidarity from the Black Lives Matter movement, labor groups and others who consider it a common struggle, as well as international solidarity offered by oppressed communities, such as Palestinians. Many threads are coming together to weave a tapestry of struggle.

The fight to stop the DAPL is a perfect storm of issues, a convergence of ills that represents so much of what is wrong with American society that needs desperately to be fixed. A growing list of celebrities—including actors Shailene Woodley, Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth, as well as musicians Neil Young and Dave Matthews—are lending their star power to the cause and turning their fans on to it.

The fact that our elected officials are so deafeningly silent on this crucial struggle is exactly why many Americans are disillusioned by our electoral system. GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has said nothing about the pipeline project, perhaps because he has numerous business interests tied to it. But Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who ought to be a natural ally to the “water protectors,” as they refer to themselves, had to be shamed into issuing a statement. Indigenous youths from various tribes occupied her campaign office in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently to demand she take a stand against the pipeline. When she issued a statement, it was a meaningless request that “all voices should be heard and all views considered.” Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, spouted similar nonsense in a recent interview, saying, “I think she believes that stakeholders need to get together at this point. … It’s important that all voices are heard.”

Similarly, President Obama, who seems to have very little to lose by stopping the project made a vague comment about it when he was questioned at an international arena in Laos. The Obama administration simply asked Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, to consider voluntarily halting its project. The company, obviously, did not comply. However the president did suggest in an interview this week that “the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.”

The only high-profile elected official who has taken a courageous and moral position against the DAPL is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who wrote an open letter to Obama, calling on him to “take a bold stand” against the project.

It’s not just most elected officials and candidates running for office who are silent. Mainstream corporate media outlets have only recently begun covering the protests at Standing Rock, although they began in April. In September, the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting called out TV networks for their “blackout” of the story. Even with increased media coverage, there has been little focus from traditional media outlets on police brutality against water protectors and journalists and the extreme felony charges many of them are facing.

The fact that the fight over the DAPL is heating up only days before a highly anticipated general election feeds a feeling that there are two parallel universes, one in which a very real set of issues are playing out, and the other dominated by an obsession with poll numbers and email scandals.

But the activists in North Dakota are on the right side of history. Their concerns about short-term pollution were emphasized in two recent, high-profile pipeline accidents: In Pennsylvania, a ruptured pipeline spilled 55,000 gallons of oil into the Susquehanna River when there was flooding from rain; and a gas pipeline in Alabama exploded, killing one worker and injuring five others. It is not a matter of “if” but rather “when” pipelines spill or burst.

In the same year the historic Paris climate accord is going into effect, it will be the water protectors in North Dakota who are taking actions consistent with climate justice, not the heads of state who signed the agreement.

The fight of the year in 2016 is not Trump vs. Clinton. It is Energy Transfer Partners vs. the Standing Rock Sioux. By extension, it is colonial power vs. the indigenous; corporate and state power vs. human beings; and profits vs. people and the planet.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and executive producer of Uprising, a daily radio program at KPFK Pacifica Radio, soon to be on Free Speech TV (click here for the campaign to televise Uprising). She is also the Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit that supports women’s rights activists in Afghanistan and co-author of “Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence.”

TruthDig

Taking the struggle forward in Columbus

Will Myers and Haley Swenson write from Ohio’s capital city on a surge of protests against police violence–and the questions about strategy now facing the movement.

Protesters speak out in the Columbus City Council room (People's Justice Project)

Protesters speak out in the Columbus City Council room (People’s Justice Project)

IN SPITE of the movement-withering heat of election season, Columbus, Ohio–the political center of a swing state–has seen an upsurge in the struggle for Black lives.

The demand for justice for Tyre King and Henry Green, two of the most recent victims of the Columbus Police Department, was at the heart of two simultaneous direct actions that upset business as usual in Ohio’s capital city on September 26.

One protest–organized by the People’s Justice Project (PJP), a nonprofit organization that is part of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative–took over a city council meeting, leading all council members to exit their own meeting.

The other demonstration, called by the Ohio State University Coalition for Black Liberation (OSU4BL), a campus-based coalition of student and alumni, stopped traffic on a major street near the OSU campus during the evening rush hour.

The two actions were some of the most confrontational and confident the city has seen in the history of Black Lives Matter organizing. They show that many people believe justice can’t wait, even during election season, and that Black Lives Matter is a movement with the power to mobilize people in unlikely places.

But for those committed to opposing police violence in Columbus, the newfound strength of the struggle has led to questions about strategy and tactics after the city’s Democratic Party machine tried to corral the movement into a non-threatening source of votes in an upcoming election for Franklin County prosecutor.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

HENRY GREEN was shot seven times on June 6 by plainclothes police officers Jason Bare and Zachary Rosen, who, according to the surviving victim, didn’t identify themselves after jumping out of an unmarked van and confronting the two.

According to police, Green drew and fired his weapon first. For months, police refused to release any details about the shooting, including how many times Green was shot, even to the victim’s mother.

The escalation of resistance to police brutality in Columbus came after 13-year-old Tyre King was shot three times on September 14 by officer Brian Mason. Mason chased King as a suspect in an armed robbery in which $10 was taken. An independent pathologist’s report concluded that it was “more likely than not” that King was shot while he was running away. According to initial police reports, King drew a BB gun that looked like a real gun.

No officers have been charged and no independent investigation is underway in either case. The only person facing criminal charges in either case is 19-year-old Demetrius Braxton, who was with Tyre King the night he was killed.

On September 19, a delegation of faith leaders delivered five demands crafted by PJP to the Columbus City Council, calling on its members to defund the police department in multiple areas:

— Discontinue the Summer Safety Initiative, a supposed anti-gang initiative, and reinvest its budget into community-based violence prevention strategies, trauma services and youth programming.

— Allocate at least half of the $300 million police and safety budget to prevention, intervention and community-controlled policing.

— Reallocate the $33.4 million bond package that the city is floating to pay for police facility improvements and substations, and use the funds instead for trauma recovery services in neighborhoods hardest hit by violence.

— Work with a task force that includes community members, experts in criminal justice reform and violence prevention, and family members of the victims of police shootings to reinvest the funds.

In addition, the delegation called for independent investigations and transparent prosecutions in the deaths of King, Green and all future victims of police.

Given the evidence that initial police reports are filled with misinformation meant to justify police actions rather than accurately inform, the call for independent investigations opens up a necessary alternative to allowing the cops’ story to stand unchallenged.

But even in cases with strong evidence of police wrongdoing, killer cops are rarely prosecuted–so the call for independent investigations is fundamentally limited.

Coupling this final demand with the call for the city council to reallocate tens of millions of dollars from police to low-income communities is an appropriate strategy in a city that dedicates one-third of its budget to police, while nearly 18 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The city’s investment in police militarization has led to disinvestment in public services that most benefit poor and Black neighborhoods.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ONE WEEK after this initial airing of the PJP’s demands, close to 250 people filed into the next city council meeting to send their message again.

This time, the anti-police violence opponents focused on ending the “Summer Safety Initiative,” which was responsible for the presence of the plainclothes officers who shot and killed Henry Green.

As Green’s mother, Adrienne Hood, wrote in a letter to Columbus’s main newspaper, the Summer Safety Initiative “has a long history of being implemented strategically in gentrifying areas. Poor people and Black people who live in or near neighborhoods targeted for development are not only priced out of their homes, but policed out of their neighborhoods.”

But it was clear that City Council had no intention of addressing community members’ concerns. When protesters interrupted the meeting to ask City Council President Zach Klein to answer to the demand to end the Summer Safety Initiative, Klein evaded the question and threatened to have everyone escorted out.

Ignoring this threat, a group of activists approached the front of the room and unveiled a banner. Police filed in, but made no threats, and the city council members packed up and left the room. For 20 minutes, protesters controlled the council room, their chants of “No justice, no peace, no racist police!” echoing through the building.

At the same time as the city council occupation, hundreds of Ohio State University students, alumni and campus-area community members led by OSU4BL marched through campus to protest police brutality and raise awareness of King’s life and tragic death.

When the crowd reached a major intersection nearby, people entered the street and formed a large square to block traffic in all directions. They held the space for 13 minutes–one minute for each year of King’s life–in the middle of evening rush hour, despite pressure from police and racist jeers from some drivers.

The group then proceeded to march to the OSU student union, where protesters staged a 13-minute-long die-in. The protest concluded with a rally in the same space, where members of OSU4BL spoke about King and other victims of police brutality, and the importance of continuing the movement and building independent political organization.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

FACED WITH this unexpected upsurge of protest while elections for key public offices were approaching fast, Democratic Party leaders in Columbus scrambled to respond.

One week after the occupation of the council room, Zach Klein and every member of city council posed with members of PJP at a press conference on the steps of City Hall. Klein and fellow council members promised to re-evaluate the Summer Safety Initiative–and little else.

On the one hand, the city council’s embrace of PJP organizers shows the power of the direct actions the week prior. Yet there is little reason to believe there is anything behind Klein’s words except damage control and electoral ambition.

Klein, a former Republican and ex-member of the Federalist Society, is the Democratic candidate for county prosecutor, running against a Republican incumbent who has held the office for a decade and a half. The need for votes explains why he would stand with Black Lives Matter protesters.

But it’s clear that Klein and Columbus’ Democratic machine in general can’t and won’t challenge police killing Black people with impunity. After the PJP press conference with Klein, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, also a Democrat, came out against discarding the Summer Safety Initiative, showing quite clearly that even if city council members have sincere hopes of changing policy, other forces will stand in the way.

Years of effort by Columbus activists to get the city to establish a civilian review board for police misconduct haven’t resulted in any progress, even though Columbus has the second-highest rate of police shootings per capita in the country. And Democratic leaders in Columbus have a long history of covering up police brutality.

Supporting a Democrat as a progressive alternative to a Republican on the issue of police brutality is a strategic dead end–that reality is underlined by the fact that in cities with Democratic prosecutors, the police still virtually never face criminal charges for killing people.

Plus, in this coming election, a longtime anti-racist activist in Columbus, Bob Fitrakis, is also running for county prosecutor as a Green Party candidate and with an explicit Black Lives Matter agenda. Unlike Klein, Fitrakis has promised to appoint independent prosecutors in cases of police shootings; to stop jailing individuals for drug-related crimes and provide treatment instead; and ultimately to jail killer cops.

After the friendly press conference with PJP organizers and city council members, a crowd of about 150 marched to the current Republican prosecutor’s office and protested outside–a further symbol of a shift away from the direction of the protest one week earlier that shut down a city council meeting.

PJP organizer Tammy Fournier-Alsaada promised the crowd that activists would not continue to work with the city council if they felt it wasn’t serious about meeting activists’ demands for a changed Summer Safety Initiative.

Meanwhile, other forces in the city have continued meeting to discuss next steps for grassroots organizing in Columbus–with many activists determined to keep the pressure on Columbus officials and ensure that the Democrats’ political ambitions don’t crush the momentum and potential they’ve seen in the past weeks.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/10/12/taking-the-struggle-forward-in-columbus

Black Lives Matter Founder on Charlotte: We Need ‘Police-Free Communities’

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BY ANDREW WHITE

Editorial intern at Complex. Sharing life’s narratives from a passionate perspective for Complex Life.

SEP 23, 2016

Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

Three days after the new broke that Keith Scott was killed by a police officer in Charlotte, Alicia Garza, one of three founders of the Black Lives Matter organization, says she hasn’t watched videos of the incident that have made the rounds through media and fueled intense protests.

“I’ve chosen not to,” Garza told Complex in an exclusive interview. “I think we know what it looks like when somebody is murdered.”

Instead, Garza says she’s has been paying attention to the protests that began Tuesday evening. Those protests turned violent Wednesday with the fatal shooting of one protester by another civilian. Despite the previous night’s shooting, protesters were back out Thursday and continued to demand justice for Scott.

Garza says, with so much media focus on the violent elements of the protests in Charlotte, many have lost sight on the injustice that sparked them.

“The thing that people get so concerned about is how do we stop the violence in Charlotte, but yet we’re not thinking about the fact that there’s been violence in Charlotte since way before whatever is happening there has happened,” Garza says. “The brother who was killed is a form of state violence. He was killed and the police will not release the video. The police are not taking accountability for the violence that they enact in our communities and yet there isn’t as much outrage about that as there is about some broken windows and lost property.”

According to Garza, those who are concerned with violent protests in Charlotte should focus instead on the conditions that create them. Indeed, studies find that not only is the city of Charlotte intensely segregated by race and income but as of 2014, 70 of Charlotte’s 79 high-poverty tracts were majority non-white. In fact, the median income for white families in the city is 86 percent higher than for black and Latino ones.

“How do we stop violence, looting, and riots? The way that we stop that is by making sure that people have the things that they need to thrive,” Garza says. “When people are systematically denied their right to adequate housing, adequate schools, to adequate food, to dignity—this is a response and a reaction that we should absolutely expect.”

Garza also proposes an unconventional solution to brutality by law enforcement in Charlotte and around the country: “police-free communities.”

“Ultimately, policing in and of itself is problematic,” Garza says. “I know that in this country we give a lot of veneration to police. In the ethos of this country, police can do no wrong. And if and when police do wrong, it’s a case of individual bad apples, as opposed to a corroded and corrupt system… Quite frankly, many of our [Black Lives Matter] members are continuing to investigate what it would mean to have police-free communities. I think what we’ve continued to see over time is that no moral appeal is actually stopping the deaths of black people, whether they be armed or unarmed.”

Finally, Garza told Complex that in the midst of so much attention paid to cases of black men killed by police, it’s important that those interested in the movement for black lives not lose sight of the black women who’ve also lost their lives to violence, like Korryn Gaines in Baltimore and Kayla Moore in Berkley.

“This is a perfect moment for us to have each other’s backs,” Garza says, “to call out the names of people who have been killed like the brother who was killed in Charlotte and the brother who was killed in Tulsa, but to also remember that this isn’t just a problem impacting black men, but it’s a problem that is impacting black people. For us to advance on this front, we have to bring everyone along with us.”

Complex

This Election Is Hillary Clinton’s to Lose, and She’s Screwing It Up

 Hillary Clinton raised $143 million in August—and still finds herself in a tight race with Donald Trump. (Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP)

You could not pick a worse, more inept, inexperienced or offensive joke of a presidential candidate than Donald Trump. The United States has become the butt of international ridicule over our very own “Kim Jong-Un.” Any candidate running against Trump from the opposing major party with a pulse ought to be beating him in the polls by double digits. But Hillary Clinton isn’t.

The Democratic nominee is barely ahead of “the most unpopular presidential candidate since the former head of the Ku Klux Klan,” and a recent CNN poll puts her at 2 percent behind Trump. Granted, it is only one poll, and several other recent polls have found her a few percentage points ahead. Still, no Democrat could ask for an easier Republican candidate to beat. In the history of American presidential races, it is likely we have never had a more comically unsuitable figure as Trump nominated by a major party. And yet Clinton is struggling to come out ahead.

The Democrat’s ardent supporters—those who have championed her from Day One—claim that we live in a sexist country and that her gender is what is standing in the way of most Americans embracing her. They assert that the media and her critics hold her to an unfairly high standard. But in a country where white women have benefited far more from affirmative action policies, how is it that we easily elected the nation’s first black president twice, only to stumble over a white female nominee?

The problem is not her gender. Of course, many might refuse to vote for a woman (as I’m sure racist Americans refused to vote for Obama simply because he is black), but many more might vote for her because she is a woman. While there is no way to be certain that the two forces cancel each other out, Clinton’s gender is not her biggest liability. Her refusal to even attempt to embrace bold progressive values and her inability to read the simmering nationwide anger over economic and racial injustice are the larger obstacles to her popularity.

In positioning herself first and foremost as what she is not—Trump—Clinton is picking only the low-hanging fruit. My 9-year-old son could make fun of Trump in clever ways, and does so routinely. For Clinton to fixate on Trump’s endless flaws suggests that her own platform has little substance. For example, in a recent speech she said of Trump, “He says he has a secret plan to defeat ISIS. The secret is, he has no plan.” While these kinds of statements might make for funny one-liners, Clinton’s main credential is that she once led the State Department, and she did so with such hawkishness that Americans who are weary of endless wars are not impressed by the experience. (Not to mention that she was caught telling lies about her private email server while secretary of state.) If she proposed diplomacy over war, a plan to exit Iraq/Afghanistan/Syria, a promise to withhold weapons from Saudi Arabia, a commitment to Palestinian human rights, and so on, voters might sit up and take note.

On domestic issues, Clinton is failing to articulate a progressive vision as well. A recently leaked memo revealed that the Democratic Party views Black Lives Matter as a “radical” movement and should not “offer support for concrete policy positions.” Troy Perry, who wrote the memo, now is part of Clinton’s campaign team. Rather than quickly rebutting the memo and affirming her full support for the movement, Clinton has remained silent. Meanwhile, BLM issued a pointed response, saying, “We deserve to be heard, not handled.”

Black voters tend to vote Democratic—a fact the party has taken for granted for decades. But if Clinton wants to earn those votes, she could take a page out of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s book and visit (or send a representative to visit) the ongoing occupation of Los Angeles City Hall by Black Lives Matter activists. BLM is calling on Mayor Eric Garcetti to fire Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck over a spate of killings by officers that has made his department the most violent of all departments nationwide. Instead, Clinton goes to Beverly Hills for a fundraiser to hobnob with wealthy donors and celebrities, including Garcetti.

Clinton has also failed to offer bold thinking on the hot-button issue of immigration. Trump, in a recent controversial visit to Mexico, reiterated his bizarre plan to build a border wall and have our southern neighbor pay for it. Though Clinton stands nowhere near such a plan—and does not embrace Trump’s announcement to ban Muslims—she does share with him some troubling aspects of an inhumane, enforcement-heavy approach to immigration, including the use of biometric data to track the undocumented. She has gone on record as saying, “I voted numerous times when I was a senator to spend money to build a barrier to try to prevent illegal immigrants from coming in. … And I do think you have to control your borders.” She also voted for a 2006 bill that called for a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border that’s only a few hundred miles shorter than what Trump is proposing. If Clinton wanted to excite her Latino base, she could take a far bolder stance, admitting that she was wrong on her earlier positions and offering a humane vision, more in line with the one Bernie Sanders articulated that won him broad support.

Rather than reaching out to American voters on such issues, Clinton has been busy pandering to one particular community: the uber-rich. According to a New York Times article, she has made multiple trips to wealthy enclaves over the past month alone. In addition to Beverly Hills, she has visited Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons, rubbing elbows with celebrities and other rich elites. Just in August she raised more than $140 million through such fundraisers—easy fodder for the GOP to criticize in a new set of ads.

While making herself accessible to America’s upper classes, she has made herself almost completely unavailable to the press. Until Thursday, Clinton had not held a single news conference in 2016, inviting the unflattering comparison to President George W. Bush, who came under fire for avoiding interactions with the media. Bush was skewered for acting like he was hiding something, afraid the press might ask hard questions that would invite a blundering response. Clinton, one could argue, does not need to win over the press—most mainstream outlets already embrace her nomination and are pushing hard for her election. A recent article by Paul Krugman in the Times is a prime example. Ordinary Americans, however, continue to be unimpressed.

Perhaps Clinton feels that she can win without trying. After all, she has said publicly to her supporters, “I stand between you and the apocalypse.” She is positioning herself as a better option for president than the apocalyptic one. But that’s not saying much. And perhaps that is the point.

Maybe Clinton thinks she does not need to win over ordinary Americans. She knows she has the support of the Wall Street elite, the Pentagon war hawks and even a growing number of Republicans, one of whom implored his fellow Republicans to save the party by voting for Clinton.

And yet all of that may not be enough, as the polls are showing. What Americans are looking for is bold, visionary thinking that acknowledges how broken Washington, D.C., is at our collective expense. The majority of Americans do not want measured, lukewarm progressive positions that keep systems intact. This is why Sanders, in calling for a “political revolution,” attracted so many new and independent voters, especially young millennials. This is why Trump is gaining traction, because between the two major-party candidates, his pathetic piñata-inspiring figure is offering the bolder rhetoric.

If Clinton loses this election, it will not be because Americans are dumb, racist misogynists who would cut off their noses to spite their faces in refusing to elect a sane woman over an insane man. It will not be because too many Americans “selfishly” voted for a third party or didn’t vote at all. It will be because Clinton refused to compromise her allegiance to Wall Street and the morally bankrupt center-right establishment positions of her party and chose not to win over voters. This election is hers to lose, and if this nation ends up with President Trump, it will be most of all the fault of Clinton and the Democratic Party that backs her.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the host and executive producer of Uprising, a daily radio program at KPFK Pacifica Radio, soon to be on Free Speech TV (click here for the campaign to televise Uprising). She is also the Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit that supports women’s rights activists in Afghanistan and co-author of “Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence.”

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