Black Lives Matter Archives - accuracy.org

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

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.”

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

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.”

Statues Tumble

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?

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

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

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.

Rev. Hagler on Trump and Protests

Protestors face off with MPDC officers in riot gear at Lafayette Square following the murder of George Floyd.

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at verizon.net, @graylanhagler
Rev. Hagler is senior pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. and chairperson of Faith Strategies, an interfaith coalition. He tweeted about Trump using militarized forces to clear Lafayette Square so that he could hold a Bible in front of a church — and about how some esteem property over human life.

On Sunday, he delivered a sermon, “Divided We Fail,” saying: “I can’t stop thinking about where we are as a country because I do not see this unity or this sacred essential purpose in our existence as people in this America.”

Describing the death of George Floyd, Hagler asked: “Why didn’t the other cops hear [Floyd’s words, ‘I can’t breathe’] and respond? It was because they protect their own, occupy us, for the purpose of keeping us in our places.”

He spoke of “the long-held truth that whites see the police as their protectors of property and themselves against people who are black and not like them.”

In contrast to how police treat African Americans, he pointed to how “gun-touting white men can storm the Michigan Statehouse. …

“The problem with white America [is the] deluded and myth-based thinking that they built this country and made it wealthy. No, its wealth is because of exploited and enslaved labor” concluding that “unless the nation can confess … it will remain divided.”