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BecomeUngovernable – This Problem Isn’t Going Away: Heartless Police Shootings of Unarmed Black Americans Continue Into the Trump Era!

6 May

SAN FRANCISCO—MAY 15, 2015: SFPD officers pat down a black American man in San Francisco. Overall, Black Americans are arrested at 2.6 times the per-capita rate of all other Americans.
Photo Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

To be black in America means to live in a state of constant vulnerability. To be black in America means to be viscerally aware of this vulnerability especially as it relates to interactions with law enforcement. Walking with friends is dangerous. Playing with a BB gun in the park is a fatal mistake. Looking like a “bad dude” could spell the end of your life.

Even leaving a party is grounds for extrajudicial murder.

This vulnerability bears out statistically as much as it does anecdotally. A study from Drexel University researchers found that black people are 2.8 times more likely than whites to be killed during encounters with law enforcement. A Vox analysis of FBI data found that in 2012, black people composed 31 percent of the victims of police killings, despite comprising only 13 percent of the total United States population.

The police violence imposed upon black bodies has taken an especially pronounced toll on black teens: Between 2010 and 2012, black teens were found to have been 21 times more likely than their white counterparts were to be shot and killed by police, according to ProPublica’s analysis.

These trends show no sign of abating. So far in 2017, black people have constituted 25 percent of the police shooting victims, according to the Washington Post.

Out of the 339 people shot and killed by police this year, 85 of them are black—and it’s only May.

Even being unarmed doesn’t insulate black bodies from being on the receiving end of fatal force. A study from the University of California, Davis, found that the likelihood of unarmed black people being shot by the police is 3.49 times higher than that of unarmed whites. This is the case even though, as independent researchers noted, blacks are less likely to constitute an immediate threat at the time of a fatal police shooting than are whites.

The disparities are even starker for black men. Black men composed 40 percent of all the unarmed victims of fatal police shootings in 2015 and 34 percent of all such victims in 2016, statistics severely disproportionate to their mere 6 percent representation in the United States population.

As Justin Nix, one of the researchers, summarized with chilling simplicity, “The only thing that was significant in predicting whether someone shot and killed by police was unarmed was whether or not they were black.” The other circumstances of the shooting were irrelevant.

Evidence of such implicit bias against black men on the part of police is consistent even in video game simulations. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that participating police officers were quicker to draw and use their weapons to shoot blacks than whites in situations that warranted such a response. Almost more troubling was a study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which tested for evidence of a “dehumanization bias” in mostly white male police officers in 2014. Not only were the participating officers determined to be consistently dehumanizing blacks, but there also existed a strong correlation among the officers between exhibiting such a tendency to dehumanize and a record of using excessive force on blacks in custody.

It was against this backdrop of institutional and structural racism entrenched within the justice system that Donald Trump ascended to the presidency. Known for the racist rhetoric that drove thousands to his campaign rallies across the country, now-President Trump has shown no sign of changing his tune. In fact, if anything, Trump has doubled down on his hostility toward black (and brown) people: He threatened to “send in the Feds” to Chicago, a dog whistle so loud that it’s just a whistle. And his Justice Department, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man with his own questionable history of racism, just declined to bring federal charges against the police officers who murdered Alton Sterling, a man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong colored skin.

At the same time, however, the Trump administration has been unwavering in its support for police and has made a commitment, according to the White House website, “to empower[ing] our law enforcement officers.” This is in striking contrast to the administration’s threat that its focus isn’t on making “life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disruptor.” (Hint: they’re referring to the black people exercising their First Amendment rights to demand that trigger-happy police stop killing them.)

With a different black person being killed by police seemingly every day, it can be tempting to fit them into a stream of victims of police violence and consolidate them together into faceless, nameless statistics. But they’re not: They had families, careers, and aspirations.

 

 

In the days between the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 21 and May 4, 73 black people have been shot and killed by the police. Five of them were unarmed, including, most recently, Jordan Edwards.

These are the stories of the other four.

1. February 5, 2017: Nana Adomako, 45, Fremont, California

Police were called to a Verizon Wireless store on the afternoon of February 5th to respond to reports of disruptions and threats on the part of a man later identified as Nana Adomako. Adomako left and shortly afterwards encountered a police officer as he was walking along the street. The officer, who recognized Adomako from a previous non-violent interaction, asked him to stop and sit on the curb. Adomako refused and asked why he was being required to stop. He began making nonsensical comments to the officer. Instead of registering Adomako’s comments as evidence of a mental health issue and thinking of ways to verbally calm him, the officer began to assess how he could physically subdue Adomako. Using his Taser was not an option given Adomako’s bulky clothing, so the officer tried to put Adomako in a control hold. The officer also sicced the police canine on Adomako. Adomako allegedly responded with a punch to the officer’s head after the canine attacked the officer instead of him.

The officer shot Adomako three times from close range. Another officer arrived to help. Rather than immediately calling an ambulance or administering preliminary first aid to Adomako, the two first worked together to handcuff the dying man.

Adomako died at the scene.

The officer involved is on paid administrative leave while the Fremont Police Department and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office investigate the shooting. He’s recovering nicely and no charges have been leveled against him.

According to Adomako’s brother Nana Dwomoh, Adomako was struggling with mental health issues. While Dwomoh asked that light be shed on a still unclear truth, he said his brother “didn’t deserve to die this way.”

2. February 8, 2017: Chad Robertson, 25, Chicago, Illinois

Chad Robertson, a 25-year-old father of two, was traveling home to Minneapolis after attending the wedding of a friend in Memphis. He arrived in Chicago for a layover accompanied by two male friends. The three went inside Union Station for a reprieve from the cold where they were soon accosted by two police officers, who suspected them of smoking marijuana. Noticing that they had left their luggage behind at the station in the confusion of the interaction, one of the men returned to retrieve it. The men were confronted again by the two officers.

 

 

Robertson ran when an officer began checking his pockets. According to Robertson’s lawyer, the officer yelled, “If you don’t stop running, I’m going to shoot you.” And he did. Instead of attempting to pursue Robertson or subdue him with a Taser, the officer fired his gun once, hitting the unarmed Robertson in the left shoulder.

Days later, on February 11, Robertson was in critical condition at Stroger Hospital, paralyzed from his shoulders down to the rest of his body. Nina Robertson, Chad’s sister, said that one of the first things her brother, who had been slipping in and out of consciousness, asked her was, “Why did they shoot me? I didn’t do anything wrong.” After learning of his paralysis, Robertson mourned that the “police ruined my life.”

The police did more than ruin Robertson’s life: They took it. He died on February 15.

Apparently the “insignificant amount” of marijuana on his possession was grounds for murder.

The officer who fired the fatal shot was charged with first-degree murder on February 21. Robertson’s family has filed a federal wrongful death suit.

3. February 13, 2017: Raynard Burton, 19, Detroit, Michigan

In a situation that bears a frustrating resemblance to the murder of Sam DuBose, Raynard Burton was murdered during what should have been a routine police traffic stop. Burton is another victim in a disturbingly long line of traffic stop murders.

After crashing his vehicle into a utility pole, Burton exited his vehicle and ran from the officer. A foot chase ensued, ending at a house nearby. He was shot once in the right side of his chest.

The officer who murdered Burton, who (tellingly) referred to himself on Instagram as “Fatal Force,” remained on the beat despite having a well-documented history of exercising excessive and fatal force. In 1995, the officer was censured for randomly shooting a pigeon with his department-issued weapon. In 1998, the officer fired multiple times at a man who after retrieving money from an ATM made the innocent mistake of attempting to enter the wrong car, that of the officer. The officer somehow evaded punishment for this incident (but not for firing at a bird). Reports of a 2015 incident have recently surfaced in which the officer allegedly fired approximately 15 bullets into the vehicle containing a man who insisted he was unarmed.

That the officer was not fired long before his encounter with Burton speaks to the existence of a bias on the part of police departments toward protecting officers often at the expense of members of the public. For additional evidence, look no further than what happened to Raynard Burton: Burton is dead, while his murderer remains employed by the Detroit Police Department, albeit on restricted duty. An investigation into the murder has been launched.

 

 

4. March 19, 2017: Alteria Woods, 21, Gifford, Florida

Alteria Woods, a soon-to-be mom, was killed in her home by police during a raid initiated by a Florida SWAT team. Officers were attempting to target Woods’ boyfriend and his father, on whom they were serving search warrants. Woods was an innocent bystander. The officers involved should have deescalated the situation until Woods could be removed from the situation altogether or otherwise removed to a position of safety. Apprehending the suspects, at whatever cost, however, was apparently more important. Woods got caught in the crossfire.

Though Woods’ boyfriend fired his weapon, it was ultimately a police bullet that killed her.

Woods’ cousin Kaleasha Johnson remembered Woods as being more like a sister than a cousin, whose easy laugh meant that there was never a “dull moment.” During an interview, Johnson said that Woods was on a path toward success. Woods was on the honor roll at Sebastian River High School, where she was dually enrolled in high school and college classes.

Johnson expressed the difficulty of coming to terms with the loss of her cousin: “I’m numb. She can’t be brought back.” Echoed Woods’ aunt Arlene Cooper, “We don’t know what to do, no closure.”

Dozens of protesters took to the streets outside the scene in hopes of achieving some sort of justice for Alteria, even if it came in the form of better relations between the black community and police.

The Indian River County officers involved are on paid administrative leave while the investigation into Woods’ murder continues.

Paid Leave More Common Than Justice

The outcomes of these stories might offer the impression that paid administrative leave is the dominant form of punishment for fatally shooting the unarmed instead of prosecution. Such an impression would not necessarily be misplaced: the prosecution of law enforcement officers is exceedingly rare. This is in no small part due to the fact that they are empowered by law to exercise a wide degree of latitude in using force. Those who are prosecuted need only utter five words that amount to a “get out of jail” card: “I feared for my life.” Law enforcement officers on trial must demonstrate that they used fatal force in response to an imminent threat that made them reasonably determine that their lives were at stake. As rare as prosecution is, conviction is almost even more infrequent.

Ebony Slaughter-Johnson is a freelance writer, a former research assistant at the Institute for Policy Studies, and a recent graduate of Princeton University, where she majored in history and received a certificate in African American Studies. Her work has appeared in AlterNet, U.S. News and World Report, Equal Voice News, and Common Dreams.

 

 

Source: This Problem Isn’t Going Away: Heartless Police Shootings of Unarmed Black Americans Continue Into the Trump Era | Alternet

 

#BecomeUngovernable  We will never be Free while the Rich Rule Over Us!! The “Rigged System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does – beungovernable .com 

Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump;  #BecomeUngovernable

24 Feb

The great American radical showed how ordinary people mattered more than stars – a lesson today’s celebrities could do with learning.

These are strange times for popular music and politics. On the one hand, the opposition to Donald Trump now extends so deeply into the entertainment industry that the president struggled to find any real talent willing to play his inauguration.

On the other hand, it’s by no means clear what difference most anti-Trump interventions by musicians actually make. After all, during the election, the galaxy of A-listers backing Hillary Clinton spectacularly failed to generate either turnout or votes, with some pundits even suggesting the campaign’s reliance on celebrity power legitimised Trump’s claim to fighting “liberal elites”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of music and the uses of fame over the last few years, as I’ve worked on my book No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson.

The son of an escaped slave, Paul Robeson graduated Phi Beta Kappa on a scholarship from Rutgers before studying law at Columbia university. He was arguably the greatest footballer of his generation (some say of all time); he played basketball professionally and was seriously tipped as a heavyweight contender to fight Jack Dempsey. He was handsome and impossibly charismatic, spellbinding, prize-winning orator, who could sing in over 20 languages, including Russian, Chinese, Yiddish and a number of African tongues.

Robeson launched his vocal career in the mid-1920s with reinterpretations of spirituals, the “sorrow songs” of the American plantations. The spirituals expressed the misery of slavery through biblical themes but their innate ambiguity also allowed Robeson to voice the preoccupations of the Harlem Renaissance.

For instance, Go Down, Moses celebrated the release of the Israelites from bondage. But when Robeson sang “let my people go”, his audience understood the challenge to all present-day pharaohs.

Likewise, the exquisite Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child emerged out of the familial separations of slavery. Robeson’s rendition, however, also spoke to the experience of the Great Migration, the process in which African Americans left their homes to flee north for jobs and an escape from racist violence.

 

 

In 1930, Robeson played Othello in London. At that time, the part was always given to a white actor in dark makeup on the more-or-less explicit basis that a black man could not convey the deep humanity of Elizabethan tragedy.

Robeson’s critical and popular triumph not only reshaped Shakespearean theatre, it also struck a blow against the assumptions underpinning Jim Crow America.

You can hear Robeson explaining and performing the final monologue from Othello in this concert recording:

Though Robeson became a huge Hollywood star (in films such as Show Boat, Sanders of the River, The Proud Valley and so on), he consistently struggled to find parts worthy of his talents.

As a musician, he enjoyed more freedom. Critics urged him to embrace a traditional operatic or classical repertoire, but his deepening political commitments led him to identify as a folk singer, assiduously learning languages to perform the songs of different cultures in their original form.

“The artist must take sides,” he announced. “He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

That declaration was made in the context of the Spanish civil war, a conflict that Robeson, like many others, recognised as the last opportunity to prevent the advance of fascism. He travelled to the Spanish front line in support of the International Brigades, a multiracial, anti-fascist army based on volunteers drawn from almost every country in the world.

In besieged Madrid, the desperate Republicans quite literally deployed Robeson’s music as a weapon, rigging up loudspeakers so that his bass baritone carried to the fascist trenches.

But it was probably in America in the 1940s that Robeson used his celebrity most effectively, in a prolonged campaign against segregation that predated the more famous boycotts of the civil rights era.

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For instance, in a concert in Kansas City, Robeson stopped singing when he realised that, contrary to what he’d been promised, his audience was divided along racial lines. When the booking agent apologized, the victory spurred a broader campaign against discrimination in the state. As the historian Gerald Horne says, “Robeson was a kind of Pied Piper of anti-Jim Crow, journeying from city to city inspiring fellow crusaders.”

In the 1930s, Robeson had visited Moscow and the apparent absence of anti-black feeling amazed him. For the rest of his life, he remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviet dictatorship, backing the regime even as news of Stalinist atrocities spread.

Not surprisingly, during the cold war, red baiters in the US increasingly targeted him.

By 1952, Robeson had become, in Pete Seeger’s words, “the most blacklisted performer in America”. The FBI intimidated promoters to deny him venues while radio stations refused to play his records, which were no longer available in the shops. He couldn’t sing at a commercial hall, no producer would put him on stage, and his movie career had long since come to an end. Worse still, the state department denied him a passport, trapping him inside the US.

The destruction of Robeson’s reputation dates from that period, a time when attending a Robeson concert became a suspicious act and sporting records were surreptitiously revised to disguise his past achievements.

Many other figures smeared during McCarthyism – Albert Einstein, Langston Hughes, Charlie Chaplin, WEB Du Bois, etc – have been subsequently rehabilitated. Robeson’s ongoing obscurity stems from his obstinate refusal to recant or back down.

“I am a radical,” he insisted, “and I am going to stay one until my people get free to walk the Earth.”

Called before the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956, he was asked why, given his beliefs, he remained in the United States.

“Because my father was a slave,” he replied. “And my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear”’

When he won his passport back in 1958, he embarked on a worldwide tour. You can glimpse something of Robeson’s effectiveness as a political singer in the film that survives from his visit to Australia.

 

 

Famously, Robeson gave the first ever recital at the Sydney Opera House – a concert delivered to the trade unionists constructing the building.

In that performance, Robeson sang Ol’ Man River, his best-known track.

The song – from the musical Show Boat – was composed with Robeson in mind by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, as a conscious imitation of the spirituals. Robeson initially thought the role of Joe in Show Boat to be demeaning – before changing his mind and then utterly dominating both the stage show and the subsequent movie.

In their original form, the lyrics spoke of phlegmatic African American resignation to misery and oppression.

Ah gits weary

An’ sick of tryin’

Ah’m tired of livin’

An’ skeered of dyin’,

But ol’ man river,

He jes’ keeps rolling’ along.

In Sydney, Robeson sang instead:

But I keeps laffin’

Instead of cryin’

I must keep fightin’

Until I’m dyin’

When he mouthed the word “laffin’’’, his lip curled in scorn; at “fightin’”, he punched his fist in the air, making clear to the listening unionists that he had in mind their shared enemies: the employers and politicians for whom an uneducated labourer in Sydney was no better than a black man in Tennessee.

The song now suggested that what was inescapable was not resignation but human dignity – the desire for freedom that persisted, and would prevail, like the mighty river itself.

In 1960, construction workers were not respectable. Concert halls did not cater to labourers, whom few considered deserving of fine music or sophisticated entertainments.

So, with the gesture at Bennelong Point, by transforming – if only for a lunch hour – their worksite into the musical venue it would eventually become, Robeson made a statement characteristic of his life and career.

You aren’t, he said to them, simply tools for others; you’re not beasts, suitable only for hoisting and carrying, even if that’s the role you’ve been allotted. You’re entitled to culture, to music and art and all of life’s good things – and one day you shall have them.

According to some accounts, by the end of the performance, men in the crowd were silently weeping.

What made Robeson’s interventions so powerful?

First, and most obviously, he was an extraordinarily gifted artist, over and above his politics. When the critic Peter Deier described Robeson as “the most talented person of the 20th century”, he wasn’t exaggerating.

Second, though Robeson had no compunction about using his fame, he was committed to a politics of social change from below. He didn’t simply urge his fans to donate to a charity or check their personal privilege. On the contrary, he assured them that they themselves had power – and they should use it.

Thus, in 1938, he explained to a journalist how ordinary people mattered more than stars:

During one of my films I was struck by this very forcibly. There was everybody on the set, lights burning, director waiting, head of the company had just come on to the set with some big financial backer to see how things were going – and what happened? Everything stopped. Why? Because the electricians had decided it was time to go and eat, they just put out the lights and went and ate. That’s my moral to your readers.

Third, Robeson persistently sought to connect disparate issues and link varied oppressions, in a manner that’s rare today.

For instance, his film The Proud Valley is based on a comparison that Robeson often made between Welsh mining towns and African American communities.

Likewise, on his Sydney trip, he insisted on meeting with Indigenous activists – and then, in his public appearances (such as in the clip below), raised Australia’s brutal history in the context of the anti-colonial struggles taking place everywhere at that time.

 

 

 

 

Fourth, when Robeson urged his audience to become active, he could often direct them to groups and campaigns through which that activism might be made meaningful. The Opera House concert, for instance, was arranged by trade unionists – and, as a result, Robeson’s performance gave a direct spur to workplace organisation.

That’s an obvious difference between Robeson’s era and the context in which artists are speaking out against Trump in 2017.

In the United States, as in Australia, the trade unions and the radical movements to which Robeson oriented during the latter half of his career have either declined or disappeared, leaving something of an organisational void for grassroots activism.

Under those circumstances, it’s easy for musicians and other celebrities to see themselves as the sole agents for change – and then engage in the sort of self-congratulatory posturing that helps Trump more than it hurts him.

At the same time, significant campaigns do exist, and they’ve been given new impetus by Trump’s victory. The Black Lives Matter movement, in particular, was both reflected in, and reinforced by, hip-hop music in particular – and it’s not surprising that rappers have so far produced some of the best musical responses to the Trump presidency.

As many people have noted, in 2017, we’re entering uncharted political waters. But that doesn’t mean we can’t draw on the resources of the past. As the cultural resistance grows, it’s worth looking back on the giant legacy of Paul Robeson. No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow is published in Australia by Scribe

Source: Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump | Jeff Sparrow | Music | The Guardian

 

 

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The System is Rigged. Solution? Blow up the System!

17 May

 

It is rigged by Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Ag, the military-industrial complex, etc, which own most everyone who runs for president in the two major parties.

To guarantee that only acceptable, bought-and-paid-for candidates survive the primary process, the political party operatives throw up huge roadblocks, ones which require astronomical amounts of money to surmount, assuring that only candidates who have establishment money at their disposal are able to proceed toward the nomination.

Additional safety checks are superdelegates, made of up elected officials, lobbyists, and establishment political hacks, plotting a primary schedule that works to run up victories by well known candidates versus unknown ones, setting convention rules that almost guarantee insurgent candidates can neither win a nomination or control the party platform

The result is that the ultimate winner is always someone they have a hook in.

Their worst nightmares are Trump and Sanders, as they have hooks in neither.

Normally, the electorate cannot be won over by a gadfly leftist or a populist demagogue. This year, however, the electorate is very pissed off, affording traction where such was a political unlikelihood,

A socialist insurgent is close to toppling Hillary and a populist demagogue defeated all the establishment candidates on the Republican side.

The establishment is now in full panic mode, and throwing the kitchen sink at Trump, while praying Sanders stops attacking Hillary.

Charles Koch endorsed Hillary over Trump, signaling the establishment to start circling the wagons around her.

Nearly every candidate who has sucked at the teat of Wall Street is now being yanked into the denunciation of Trump, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. Wall Street is collecting its favors.

Yes the system is rigged. And the only way to unrig it is to blow it up, which simply means defeating the system’s candidate.

We must defeat Hillary Clinton.

 

Source: The System is Rigged. Solution? Blow up the System!

 

 

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The “System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does – Progressive News, Books & Blogs – fah451bks.wordpress.com

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Author’s Notes:

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