Category Archives: Police

Comments on “The Rebellion Contained: The Empire Strikes Back” by Fire Next Time

by James Frey and Jocelyn Cohn

On March 15, Fire Next Time released a phenomenal statement on the role of city councilman Jumaane Williams and the non-profit group Fathers Alive in the Hood (FAITH) in repressing the activity of anti-cop black militants following the murder of Kimani Gray in the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn, NY.  The piece does not just address Williams and FAITH, but also tackles the role of the state and non-profits in general in suppressing revolutionary activity and fostering already present divisions in the class along racial lines. The piece also lays out some of the tasks ahead for the revolutionary left, particularly for the young black left in the poorest areas of the country’s cities. While we are in almost full agreement with FNT’s post, we wanted to draw out a few additional points, particularly around gender and patriarchy.  FNT’s post can be read here, and the following is best understood after reading “The Rebellion Contained: The Empire Strikes Back”.

This past Thursday in Flatbush Brooklyn we witnessed the events which Will describes in his excellent piece, and find his account to be consistent and the analysis superb. We have a few assorted thoughts to add and will try not to overlap Will’s account. Our piece assumes familiarity’s with Will’s, and the latter should be read first.

First, although this is absolutely implicit in Will’s piece, we wanted to point out that the activities of FAITH (Fathers Alive In The Hood) and Williams were the result of the loss of the ideological battle by Williams and by the peace-loving non-profits in general. Because Williams so clearly lost the ideological battle against anti-cop militancy, he had to resort to physical force, distraction, and intimidation to disrupt the activity–and still he was not successful in getting people to stop marching. Since they were defeated in the ideological battle, FAITH and Williams used their enormous bodies, bull horns, and aggression to literally drown out the voices of anti-cop militants, primarily women. FAITH aggressively tried to get people to stop the march to the precinct and literally commanded people to get into the church. Jumaane and FAITH were there to give the white media something to cling to, NOT to support the black militants and everyday people who are pursuing freedom.

This somewhat successful use of tactical force seems like a defeat for us but really it is a victory. Finally the non profits and politicians cannot hide their structural role and their relationship to the cops. Jumaane Williams had to resort to using physical force to try to stop people from fighting the cops. He has forever showed his role, and the hope is the antagonism between politicians/non profits and the working class has shown itself strongly enough to spread to other arenas of struggle. As Will so eloquently said, the enemy is bigger than the NYPD.

Continue reading Comments on “The Rebellion Contained: The Empire Strikes Back” by Fire Next Time

“There are so many more Troy Davis'”

There has been an enormous amount of attention paid to the execution of Troy Davis and the international outcry that developed in the days preceding his murder. As a native of Atlanta, I was long aware of the case and the campaign attempting to get Troy off of death row. However, the campaign was largely dominated by non-profits and from my understanding, lacked any formal or public critique of Troy’s imprisonment and murder as directly caused by a racist and capitalist social order. As a result, I decided to orient myself towards other political action that had a more explicit political critique and would allow me to meet and develop alongside radicals, not those forever tied to the non-profit industrial complex.

But as news came of Troy’s impending execution, everyone I knew, radical or not, felt the need to act. Not only did we recognize the importance of being able to temporarily suspend our own organizing when sudden and important moments occur, but we also saw how many people who had never acted before were outraged and pouring into the streets (or the sidewalks at this point, because we hadn’t yet learned to take the streets together).  In this piece, I will first attempt to reconstruct my own experiences in the week leading up to Troy’s murder specifically the protest outside the prison on the September 21st. I will then address some of the critiques that have been made about the movement in relation to my own analysis not only as a witness, but as a committed revolutionary. This is a long piece, but bear with me, as I strongly believe this was one of the most important political ruptures many of us have ever seen, especially here in the South.
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How can we advance the anti-police brutality struggle?

Reflections by Nightwolf and Mamos from Seattle Unity and Struggle

The week of August 30th, 2010 saw five people murdered by police throughout Washington State, including John T. Williams. Williams was a First Nations carver who was shot four times by police officer Ian Birk while walking with a closed carving knife and a block of wood.  Birk gave Williams only four seconds warning before opening fire, and Williams, who is partially deaf, may not have heard his commands.

This murder, along with several other recent cases of police brutality against Black and Latino folks in Seattle has sparked a small but vibrant movement against police terrorism.  Here we will analyze the potentials and the limitations of this movement.  While we are very critical of some of the players in this movement, our goal is not to hate on folks- it is to open a rigorous and honest discussion about how we can advance the struggle beyond its current limitations.   We need to advance the struggle because we don’t want more people in our communities to die at the hands of killer cops. Every day we are struggling and organizing against the effects of the economic crisis in our workplaces , schools, and neighborhoods and we need to organize citywide and country-wide networks of resistance  and solidarity to make sure these small embryonic struggles are not shut down through joint repression by the bosses, landlords, and cops.

This reflection is broken into two essays.  In the first one, “The Rainbow Coalition stomps the flames”, Nightwolf analyzes how liberal people of color leaders worked with the cops to try and dampen the explosion of anger in communities of color  following John T. Williams’ death; he puts this in historical context, showing how it relates to the successes and failures of the 1960s and 70s movements against white supremacy.

In the second piece, “Workers spread the embers”, Mamos analyzes some of the small but promising actions against police brutality that have emerged in Seattle the past few months and asks how these actions can deepen and how they can connect to other forms of working class organizing going on in Seattle now.  He  explores the role that  militant worker networks like Seattle Solidarity Network and International Workers and Students for Justice could play in challenging state violence.

While these essays reflect on anti-police brutality struggles, they raise much broader questions that are really relevant for a number of different struggles in Seattle and in other cities.  While these essays may not present a full answer to the question of how to stop police brutality, they are an attempt to prompt discussion about the current political impasse our movements are  in and to think creatively about how to move beyond it.

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A Discussion on Self Defense

Continuing our conversations on police brutality (here and here), the following is from the blog “All Power To The Positive!”

‘Jim Crow’ Self Defense: Personal Protection in a “Colorblind” Society.

Prologue.

I initially attempted to submit this article to a ‘mainstream’ martial arts publication. It was denied due to its ‘racially charged’ subject matter. Lol.

Unfortunately, for those who are specifically targeted in the context of being part of an oppressed minority, this subject matter is NOT funny. And the frosty response to this subject I received, which I had hoped would spark healthy debate amongst my fellow self-defense instructors, speaks volumes to the prevailing attitudes in mainstream amerikkka towards real-deal ‘life or death’ issues that shape the quality and content of the daily lives of oppressed people (and in fact ALL people).

And while many of us rightfully and justifiably criticize the latest imperialist outrage in the Middle East, or how local police act towards groups of protesters/activists/community people on the streets of europe or amerikkka, or how the FBI or CIA conduct themselves on activist’s doorsteps[!] around the world, or increasing attacks on Blacks, Latinos, and Muslims by organized white supremacists, we still often under-report (or outright ignore) violent incidents towards workers, youth, and elders outside the easily identifiable state-sponsored acts of terror. We have difficulty speaking to ‘horizontal violence’, both in its panoramic analysis and in the formulation and implementation of solutions that attack not only the symptoms, but the systemic root causes.

Both the liberals and conservatives, in addition to having historical, and thus ideological, tenure on the planet (this is an empire, after all) as distinct national political tendencies and associated organizations, have a monopoly on state-sponsored violence in which the real politic of the legal standard is essentially this: “What is, or is not, ‘justifiable’ as ‘self-defense’, as interpreted by court precedents in various political periods in amerikkkan history, as viewed through the lens of the current political climate in the area from which the defendant is accused of the offense, the political climate in the area from which the jury is selected and seated, and in the country at large?”.

Based upon the sick ‘logic’ of some of these rulings, and the willingness of much of the public (including the potential targets of oppression) to co-sign to the aforementioned ‘sick logic’ for a whole host of reasons (all related to our relative powerlessness at this time), they have a monopoly on the debate on what constitutes ‘self-defense’ as well. We need to change that, lest we ALL fall victim to it!

For many of us, this is a deeply personal subject. Take note of my ‘nice guy’ presentation to these folks.

Let me know what you think. Let’s begin… – G.L.

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Reflections on Thanksgiving by a Native Revolutionary

-Mamos

So today  is Thanksgiving.   In this piece, Ahiga Kotori, a Seneca revolutionary and a friend of ours here in Seattle reflects on the holiday.  He asks: what do we really have to be thankful for?   Are folks giving thanks for U.S. capitalism and white supremacy, for 518 years of colonial settlement of North America, for a nation built on stolen Native land and an economy lubricated with Native blood? Why, if these do not really benefit people of color? As Malcolm X said, “we didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.”

We have been organizing with Ahiga Kotori and many others this fall demanding Justice for John T. Williams.  Williams, a Native American woodcarver was gunned down by  Seattle cop Ian Birk who claimed Williams refused to drop his carving knife.  Investigations have shown that Williams’ knife was not even open and that Birk shot him in the side after giving him only four seconds of warning.  This, as well as several other recent  cases of police brutality against Latino and Black folks, has sparked a multi-racial coalition of working and poor people  to mobilize against the cops.  We will reflect on this movement and analyze it soon, but for now we’ll leave you with Kotori’s haunting question: “what does John T. Williams have to be thankful for?”  While American society gives thanks for the triumphs of empire, and “progress” forged through the death of indigenous peoples, let’s pause to remember that the state the Pilgrims began to establish still claims the lives of oppressed peoples and this will not stop until we dismantle it and replace it with a new society we can truly give thanks for.

That’s why, unless snow disrupts the bus lines, we’ll be out there protesting, responding to Kotori’s call to action.

This Thanksgiving…..

I was wondering if anybody would be willing to have a protest of some kind?  Because in my opinion, this is just the same as the Holocaust except the difference is, we don’t celebrate the Holocaust. Though the Holocaust was horrible, it was a six year thing. Most of it. Our oppression has been going for 518 years. 78 million have died as a result. When Columbus got here there were 80 million people of different tribes and tongues. This was just in the U.S. territories alone!  Yet by the time the white man’s conquest was over, there are a little over 2 million left. Unlike the Jews of Europe, we barely have our identity.

Growing up in the hood, the main people I saw were Blacks and my cousins, who were full blooded Senecas. That experience had me thinking that maybe all non-Native people shouldn’t leave , leaving us the land. Maybe just whites.

Then I meet some white revolutionaries and now I know there are SOME good white people.

However, now, I see that despite the fact that the white man keeps all minorities down, for whatever reason, people of color who are non- tribal, are celebrating Thanksgiving!

Now in the heart of our struggle we must think about the future, what society we want for ourselves, our future, our, children, we must find a way to coexist as men, women, Blacks, Natives, Irish, Italian, Euros, Jews Arabs, Latinos , Muslims, gay men and women. And actually being able to force all non native people off the continent would be a long and difficult and frankly unnecessary task. So that said, if you all are going to stay, I ask for your help in our struggle as we will help with yours.

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Whither Copwatch?

oscar_grant_shooting

Within the last decade, small groups of individual activists, some part of radical or revolutionary Left organizations, have taken part in organizing “copwatches” in cities across the US and Canada.  Presently, none of us around Gathering Forces are involved in such work (still if we’ve had our share of run-ins with the police in other struggles), though it is a form of organization we are supportive of and believe necessary.  But because of this lack of experience and existing information out there, this post will have more questions than answers.

What copwatching formally entails is observing the actions of the police in the process of routine traffic stops or other encounters, documenting their activity in writing and on video, and collecting names and badge numbers of the officers involved where necessary.  Some may follow this up independently or with other organizations by making complaints or protesting through civilian review boards.  Additionally, some groups do “know your rights” trainings or pass out relevant literature, but it is unclear if most copwatch activities go much beyond this.

The Berkeley Copwatch website claims it is the original copwatch, starting in 1990, but even they have their antecedents.  The historical inspiration for copwatching has no doubt come from the practices of the Black Panther Party, though the Deacons for Defense and the NAACP branch in Monroe, North Carolina led by Robert F Williams had their own forms of armed intervention that was coupled with fighting the Klan and defending civil rights activists.
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Police Brutality in Los Angeles

-Will

Check out this documentary on the police brutality immigrants faced in 2007 in Macarthur Park in Los Angeles.  There is also an important story about what the Non-Profit, CHIRLA, did in this march and after. It raises deep questions about the nature of the Non-Profit complex itself, but that can be explored in discussion.

This piece was made by folks in Revolutionary Autonomous Communities. They have been doing some important work. I hope they update their blog more often so word can get out.