News Release Archive - Black Lives Matter

Trump in Kenosha

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President Donald Trump is scheduled to travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, where Jacob Blake was shot repeatedly by police in the back.

DENNIS J. BERNSTEIN, dennisjbernstein at gmail.com, @burn_stick
Bernstein is the executive producer of the program “Flashpoints” and just wrote the piece “Don’t Expect Justice for Black People in Kenosha if Sheriff Beth Has His Way.

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, kevinagray57 at gmail.com, @kevinagray
Gray is a civil rights organizer in South Carolina. He co-edited Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence which scrutinizes the impunity of perpetrators of violence to African Americans in U.S. society.

He is also author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics, which connects various issues, such as the drug war, to issues of oppression of African Americans and police violence. The book also lists Confederate and other memorials.

Many of his writings — including his essays “Rolling Back the Police State,” “What It Feels Like to be Black in America” and “Back to the Jim Crow Future” are available at Counterpunch and The Progressive.

Could NBA Strike Fuel New Strike Wave? 

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MIKE ELK, mike.elk@gmail.com, @MikeElk
Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report — which has featured a map showing strikes around the U.S.

He said today: “The NBA strike — which is unprecedented in many ways — could inspire a whole new round of BLM strikes across the United States, much how George Floyd’s murder sparked more than 500 strikes in less than a month. And with Labor Day coming up, the NBA strikes could open the door to a whole new round of strikes in various industries.

“The strikes come as many teachers feel unsafe about returning to teach in classrooms across the U.S. Already, both major teachers’ unions, the AFT [American Federation of Teachers] and NEA [National Education Association] have pledged their financial support to support ‘safety strikes’ over unsafe school reopenings. In June, there were hundreds of strikes.”

Elk’s past pieces include “COVID & Disaster Capitalism: Busting Unions in Baseball” and “As South Carolina Teachers Walkout, 10,000 Storm State Capitol in Columbia.”

Trump and Barr Turn to Joint Terrorism Task Force to Crush Protests

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DAVE LINDORFF, dlindorff at gmail.com
Editor of ThisCantBeHappening.net and 2019 winner of an “Izzy” Award for Outstanding Independent Media, Lindorff just wrote the piece “Tear Gas and Clubs in Lafayette Square Were Just the Beginning” for The Nation.

Lindorff reports: “On June 1, President Trump ordered National Park Police and troops from the District of Columbia National Guard and some other federal law enforcement agencies to drive peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, north of the White House, to clear the way for his Bible-holding photo op. The same day, Trump and his Attorney General William Barr, along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, also placed a call to the nation’s 50 governors.

“A leaked transcript of that taped conversation, published in full by a number of major news organizations [audio], shows both Trump and Barr referring in glowing terms to the way the Obama administration, almost nine years earlier, had crushed the months-long Occupy Movement across the country in a matter of a few days.

“Trump told the governors, many of whose states were experiencing massive protests against police brutality in the wake of the brutal videotaped police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, ‘This is like Occupy Wall Street. It was a disaster until one day somebody said, “That’s enough.” And they just went in and wiped them out. And it’s the last time I heard the name Occupy Wall Street. …’

“Trump was followed at that point in the call by Attorney General Barr, who told the assembled governors that the Trump administration planned to use the same Fusion Centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) the Obama administration had relied on to spy on and then crush the Occupy Movement to shut down the current wave of urban uprisings and protests over police brutality.

“As Barr put it, ‘The structure we’re going to use is the Joint Terrorist Task Force, which I know most of you are familiar with. Tried and true system. It’s worked for domestic and homegrown terrorists, and we’re going to employ that model.’

“It’s important to remember what actually happened with the Occupy Movement, a remarkable protest against inequality, corporate power, and the corrupt Wall Street banks whose recklessness had caused the 2008 financial crisis. Occupy was a spontaneous grassroots protest that sprang up in September 2011 in Lower Manhattan with the occupation of a one-block space called Zuccotti Park located just two blocks north of the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway. That encampment was quickly replicated in over 18 cities across the nation as part of a movement that introduced into popular discourse the class-conscious notion of ‘the 1 percent and the 99 percent.’

“As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Washington, D.C.–based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) recalls, the Occupy movement” was targeted by the government. She said, “That’s why you saw encampments wiped out by police with over 7,000 arrests.”

“PCJF, following that shutdown of Occupy, turned to the Freedom of Information Act, seeking all documents relating to efforts to crush that movement from both the FBI and the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Pentagon and other intel agencies. After appeals, the organization received thousands of pages [see BigBrotherAmerica.org] of heavily redacted documents that made it clear that even as the FBI was reporting that the Occupy movement was peaceful, it had been classified as a domestic terrorist threat by both the FBI and DHS, ‘before even the first encampments were set up in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere in mid-September,’ with the FBI already providing detailed warnings of Occupy Wall Street’s plans to Wall Street banks and US corporations as early as August, 2011.”

How Behemoth BlackRock Rigs Finance

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ELLEN BROWN, ellenhbrown at gmail.com, @ellenhbrown
Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling The Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free.

She just wrote the piece “Meet BlackRock, the New Great Vampire Squid,” which states: “To most people, if they are familiar with it at all, BlackRock is an asset manager that helps pension funds and retirees manage their savings through ‘passive’ investments that track the stock market. But working behind the scenes, it is much more than that. BlackRock has been called ‘the most powerful institution in the financial system,’ ‘the most powerful company in the world’ and the ‘secret power.’ It is the world’s largest asset manager and ‘shadow bank,’ larger than the world’s largest bank (which is in China), with over $7 trillion in assets under direct management and another $20 trillion managed through its Aladdin risk-monitoring software. BlackRock has also been called ‘the fourth branch of government’ and ‘almost a shadow government’, but no part of it actually belongs to the government. Despite its size and global power, BlackRock is not even regulated as a ‘Systemically Important Financial Institution’ under the Dodd-Frank Act, thanks to pressure from its CEO Larry Fink, who has long had ‘cozy’ relationships with government officials.

“BlackRock’s strategic importance and political weight were evident when four BlackRock executives, led by former Swiss National Bank head Philipp Hildebrand, presented a proposal at the annual meeting of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in August 2019 for an economic reset that was actually put into effect in March 2020. Acknowledging that central bankers were running out of ammunition for controlling the money supply and the economy, the BlackRock group argued that it was time for the central bank to abandon its long-vaunted independence and join monetary policy (the usual province of the central bank) with fiscal policy (the usual province of the legislature). They proposed that the central bank maintain a ‘Standing Emergency Fiscal Facility’ that would be activated when interest rate manipulation was no longer working to avoid deflation. The Facility would be deployed by an ‘independent expert’ appointed by the central bank.

“The COVID-19 crisis presented the perfect opportunity to execute this proposal in the U.S., with BlackRock itself appointed to administer it. In March 2020, it was awarded a no-bid contract under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to deploy a $454 billion slush fund established by the Treasury in partnership with the Federal Reserve. This fund in turn could be leveraged to provide over $4 trillion in Federal Reserve credit. While the public was distracted with protests, riots and lockdowns, BlackRock suddenly emerged from the shadows to become the ‘fourth branch of government,’ managing the controls to the central bank’s print-on-demand fiat money. How did that happen and what are the implications? …”

Brown concludes: “If the corporate oligarchs are too big and strategically important to be broken up under the antitrust laws, rather than bailing them out they should be nationalized and put directly into the service of the public. At the very least, BlackRock should be regulated as a too-big-to-fail Systemically Important Financial Institution. Better yet would be to regulate it as a public utility. No private, unelected entity should have the power over the economy that BlackRock has, without a legally enforceable fiduciary duty to wield it in the public interest.”

Brown’s other books include The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity and most recently, Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age.

Lack of Union Jobs “Obliterated an Emergent Black Middle Class”

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WILLIAM LAZONICK, william.lazonick at gmail.com
Lazonick is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and president of the Academic-Industry Research Network.

He co-authored a new paper: “How the Disappearance of Unionized Jobs Obliterated an Emergent Black Middle Class” for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

See summary blog post: “The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the deep-rooted racial divide that infects American society. According to APM Research Lab, the Covid-19 mortality rate for blacks has been 61.6 per 100,000 compared with 28.2 per 100,000 for Latinos, and 26.2 per 100,000 for whites. It’s another abhorrent statistic to add to the highly disproportionate number of African Americans who are poor, unemployed, and incarcerated.

“The longer life-expectancy of white men compared with black men in the United States has narrowed in recent years, but that is because of a significant drop in longevity of white working-class males, who, even before the pandemic, were succumbing to ‘deaths of despair.’ The fact is that blacks are doing terribly in a nation wracked by extreme economic inequality, which is dragging down the whole working class, irrespective of race or ethnicity. In a nation that once advertised itself as the land of upward socioeconomic mobility through equal employment opportunity, intergenerational downward mobility has become the norm.

“As a new generation has taken to the streets with demands for social transformation, we need to look back a half century to a time when the quest for equal employment opportunity gave rise to an African American blue-collar middle class. During the 1960s and 1970s, blacks with no more than high-school educations gained significant access to well-paid unionized employment opportunities, epitomized by semi-skilled operative jobs in the automobile industry, to which they previously had limited access. Anti-discrimination laws under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act with oversight by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) supported this upward mobility for blacks in the context of a growing demand for blue-collar labor in the United States.

“From the late 1970s, however, the impact of global competition and the offshoring of manufacturing combined with the financialization of the corporation to decimate these stable and well-paid blue-collar jobs. Under the seniority provisions of the increasingly beleaguered industrial unions, blacks tended to be last hired and first fired. As U.S.-based blue-collar jobs were permanently lost, U.S. business corporations and government agencies failed to make sufficient investments in the education and skills of the U.S. labor force to usher in a new era of upward socioeconomic mobility. This organizational failure left blacks most vulnerable to downward mobility.

“Central to this corporate failure was a transformation of corporate resource allocation from ‘retain-and-reinvest’ to ‘downsize-and-distribute.’ Instead of retaining corporate profits and reinvesting in the productive capabilities of employees, major business corporations became increasingly focused on downsizing their labor forces and distributing profits to shareholders in the form of cash dividends and stock buybacks. Legitimizing massive distributions to shareholders was the flawed and pernicious ideology that a company should be run to ‘maximize shareholder value.’ Eventually, the downward socioeconomic mobility experienced by blacks would also extend to devastating loss of well-paid and stable employment for whites who lacked the higher education now needed to enter the American middle class. By the twenty-first century, general downward mobility had become a defining characteristic of American society, irrespective of race, ethnicity, or gender.”

Challenging Monuments to “Colonialism and Slavery”

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Several statues of Christopher Columbus have recently been brought down. In Albuquerque, Steven Ray Baca shot someone at a protest at a monument to a conquistador. Baca has reportedly been charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

ROXANNE DUNBAR ORTIZ, rdunbaro pacbell.net@rdunbaro
Author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United StatesRoxanne Dunbar Ortiz said today: “As the movement for black lives protests against police violence … has spread to every part of the United States and around the world, some have turned to the glaring public symbols of the history that empowers such violence — colonialism and slavery. Statues celebrating Confederate officers and slavers have come down, as well as those of Columbus, who is best known for pioneering European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere and genocide of the Indigenous Arawaks in the Caribbean; he also brought the transatlantic African slave trade, as well as returning to Spain with enslaved natives who were sold on the European slave market.”

Dunbar also wrote the book Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New MexicoShe continued: “In New Mexico, which was first colonized by the Spanish in 1598, the descendants of those first settlers have in the past several decades erected statues of the genocidal conquistador, Don Juan de Oñate, as well as annually celebrating what they call the entrada, the arrival of the gifts of Christianity and European culture to people they considered savages. Actually, the Indigenous Peoples in New Mexico, called Pueblos, live in small city states with multi-storied communal homes made of adobe or cut granite and practiced irrigation agriculture all along the North Rio Grande River. The Spanish reduced the 98 city-states to 21 within ten years of ‘arrival.’ Today, most of the New Mexico state, county, and cities/towns, as well as the police are controlled by the Hispanos, as the descendants of the Spanish invaders call themselves. On Monday, June 15, one of these Hispanos shot into a group protesting the Oñate statue in Albuquerque, seriously injuring two protestors.”

Statues Tumble

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Sam Gillies via Storyful

ADAM HOCHSCHILD, adamhochschild at earthlink.net
Hochschild has written about the conquest of the Congo in his King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa.

He said today: “As the impact of the video of George Floyd’s killing continues to ricochet around the world, one result has been an epidemic of toppling statues. In the United States, longstanding monuments to Confederate generals have fallen. In Belgium, statues of King Leopold II, the ruthless colonizer of the Congo, have been splashed with red or taken down, and in Australia a mountain range named after him lost its name. In Britain, a statue of Edward Colston, a Bristol merchant and slave trader, was tossed into the city’s harbor.”

Hochschild specifically mentions the statue of Edward Colston in his book on the British antislavery movement, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves.

“When people get shocked by an injustice today,” says Hochschild, “it’s only natural that they look around and realize that, on all sides of us, we have symbols of injustices in the past. We would be shocked if Germany had statues of Hitler in prominent places, but Leopold, like Hitler, was responsible for millions of deaths. I sympathize with the Belgians who want to see him gone. Congo today still suffers from the legacy of its ruthless colonization, and some modern corporations — Unilever, for instance — have roots that go back to the forced labor system founded by Leopold. And in so many ways, in Britain, the United States, and other countries, we are still dealing with the heritage of slavery.”

Hochschild teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley, and is the author of ten books.

Is the Solution Defunding the Police, Or Community Control?

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MAX RAMEAU, afrimax at niainteractive.com
NETFA FREEMAN, netfa at ips-dc.org, @Netfafree
Rameau and Freeman are writing a book, Community Control Over Police, and just wrote the piece “Community Control vs. Defunding the Police: A Critical Analysis” which was published by Black Agenda Report.

They write that it is “undeniable that policing in the U.S. is out of control and outrageously overfunded. Since 1977 crime has continued to fall, but police budgets have almost tripled to a staggering $115 billion per year.”

But, they argue, “Defunding the police will not abolish the police. Far from purging classism, racism and patriarchy from its ranks, defunding the police is likely to bring them back in their purest form and with a vengeance.”

They note that historically, “the shift from private security to public utility created the contradiction that allowed civil rights organizations to fight for equal protection under the law, public transparency and other reforms. Of course, this did not end police brutality or alter the fundamental function of police as protectors of wealth and enforcers of the will of the ruling class, but turning the police into a public utility did provide some important tools necessary for the reduction of harm and heightening contradictions when those harms came.”

They point to other examples around the world to illustrate their argument: “South Africa is a modern capitalist country that is mostly post-industrial and features pockets of development that mirror the wealthiest western nations. Yet, the government there does not spend anywhere near the amount of resources on police as the United States. So how do upscale malls, financial districts, wealthy white neighborhoods and other configurations of the ruling class protect themselves from the majority of residents living in poverty? They hire private security firms to enforce the rules of the establishment — not the laws of the province or country.”

Rameau is a Haitian-born Pan-African author and organizer with Pan-African Community Action. Freeman is on the Coordinating Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace and an organizer in Pan-African Community Action which published a longer version of their new piece.

George Floyd’s Killing, Martin Gugino’s Abuse and Witness Against Torture

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JEREMY VARON, jvaron at aol.com, @WitnessTorture
Varon is professor of history at the New School and an activist with the group Witness Against Torture. He just wrote the piece “Martin Gugino – The ‘Buffalo Protestor’ and our Friend,” which states: “None of us is surprised that it was Martin meeting the police line in a posture of non-violence. Martin is gentle, principled, and undaunted. Allied with the Catholic Worker tradition, he is also deeply committed to a tapestry of causes, from fair housing to immigrant rights. Guiding his activism is belief in the sacred power of non-violent resistance to injustice. If that makes him an ‘agitator,’ as Buffalo’s police chief slandered him, then the world needs more agitators.” [See accuracy.org news release from Monday: “Today, Sentencing for Pacifist Jailed for Protesting ‘Omnicidal’ Weapons — Supported by Activist Thrown to Ground by Police.”]

Varon continued: “In his eulogy for George Floyd, attorney Benjamin Crump named what was done to him as ‘torture.’ It was a striking description I had not heard before. Floyd’s lynching needs no added indignity to stir our outrage. But torture has a special sting, both because of its willful cruelty and its supposed alienness to America.

“For years, we in Witness Against Torture vigorously protested what was in fact America’s systematic use of torture after 9/11. Like other human rights groups, we wanted the detained men to be subjects before the law, with basic protections and access to U.S. courts. In our work, we did not think much about race.

“Yet Black Lives Matter and other activists impressed on us an uncomfortable truth: that many of the abuses in War on Terror prisons, like solitary confinement, are routine in America’s domestic prisons, holding predominantly people of color. Access to the law, moreover, is no guarantee of justice. Sometimes the law is the problem.

“We began to see torture as part of a continuum of state violence, including in its racial aspect. Almost exclusively, the victims of post-9/11 torture have been brown-skinned Muslim men, demonized with the label ‘terrorist.’ Despite the innocence of most of the men historically held at Guantanamo, the law has been all but useless in freeing them. No one responsible for their torture has been held to legal account, including during the Obama administration. Going forward, our group sought to highlight the parallels between domestic and overseas abuses in a vast system of dehumanizing violence.

“Dismantling anti-black racism is today’s urgent priority. But abuses of power crave synergies, making other causes relevant. Recall that President Trump is an avowed supporter of torture.”

Police Should be Under Community Control

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NETFA FREEMAN, netfa at ips-dc.org, @Netfafree
Freeman is a policy analyst with the Institute for Policy Studies and an organizer with Pan-African Community Action. He was interviewed late last year on FAIR’s program CounterSpin: “Community Control Over Police Should Be a Democratic Right.”

He said today: “People most impacted by police repression have a legacy of struggle that should inform what demands any allies support. Black radical tradition of the 60s and 70s has conceived of and fought for Community Control Over Police (CCOP) as a solution and this was readopted by the more contemporary Movement for Black Lives policy platform released in August 2017.

“CCOP would make other demands, like ending qualified immunity or defunding the police redundant and unnecessary. These sorts of reforms are a deterrent away from the more grassroots and power shifting demand for CCOP. With CCOP, communities would be empowered to hire, fire, set priorities and duties of the police, as well as establish the consequences for misconduct. CCOP is actually a democratic human right to self-determination and a recommendation to the U.S. by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent in 2016.”The other reforms can be won without achieving any power shift at all, but will invariably compel proponents to claim a relatively easy victory [rather than] shifting power to the people most impacted.

“As an institution with origins in the slave patrols and, at the turn of the century, private security agencies hired by owners, policing is about enforcing the laws of white supremacy and capitalism.

“All U.S. armed forces — whether police, National Guard, active-duty military — serve the same essential purpose, to protect the settler colonial and imperialist paradigm. The distinction between them is like that between the FBI and CIA; one enforces domestic domination and the other foreign.”

Freeman is also on the coordinating committee of the Black Alliance for Peace, which works on a host of issues, including calling for shutting down AFRICOM.