Archive for category: #Self-Defense
COMMUNITY ORGANIZING for social justice purposes is, by its very nature, controversial-frequently drawing violent attacks from adversaries and hostility or cold indifference from law-enforcement and other governmental agencies. This paper will discuss the necessity of personal firearms protection in the organizing context, and will cite a number of representative, firsthand examples.
In the mid-1960s, I was a full-time grassroots civil rights organizer for the radical Southern Conference Educational Fund. I directed a large-scale and ultimately quite successful community organizing project in the extremely recalcitrant, poverty-stricken, and intractable segregated northeastern North Carolina Black belt.
The multi-county setting was Klan-ridden and night-time terrorism was common: cross burnings, armed motorcades, arson, shootings. Local law enforcement was almost completely dominated by the United Klans of America in some of the counties and at least strongly Klan-influenced in others.
Halifax County, in which our project started and where our central base existed in the town of Enfield, was the toughest. (Klan dues were collected in the Enfield police station!) Thoroughly hated by the segregationists, I was-as I had been for several years in the hard-core South-on several death lists and received many death threats. And, as I had for years, I carried a .38-caliber Special Smith & Wesson, generally in my attaché case.
Late one fall night in 1964, I left a Halifax County civil rights rally at Weldon and drove back toward Enfield, twenty-odd miles away. Normally because of the terroristic atmosphere, we traveled two or three vehicles together at night but, on this occasion, I was the only person heading to Enfield.
At this late hour, the road was almost always deserted; two miles out of Weldon, however, a large white car came up behind me — showing no inclination to pass. In the bright moonlight I could see several persons therein and knew these were Klansmen.
Although there was no question but that they were quite open to shooting me, I was not surprised that they did not. Months before, we had diffused word on the local grapevines that we, and certainly myself, were armed. They knew full well that I was capable to returning fire — and willing indeed to do so.
Hence they settled for futile efforts to force me into a high-speed chase situation — “revving” their motor practically bumper-to-bumper with mine. But I continued to drive sedately, mile after mile. When I finally stopped in Enfield, with my revolver in my hand, they drove past me, obviously frustrated and cursing. But that was that evening.
One night not long thereafter, a local civil-rights stalwart, Mrs. Alice Evans of Enfield, opened fire with her double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun, sprinkling several KKKers with birdshot as they endeavored to bum a cross in her driveway and, simultaneously, were approaching her house with buckets of gasoline.
When we arrived after hearing the nearby shots, Mrs. Evans had matters well in hand. The Klansmen were gone-to a hospital, we later learned. We gave the cross to the Smithsonian. These are but two instances in a period of time that includes many direct personal examples.
A half-breed Indian, I grew up in the West, principally in Northern Arizona, and in a hunting family. I had my first rifle when I was seven years old and, by the time I was eighteen, I had owned sixty-seven different firearms.
In my early twenties, as I was embarking on my principal life-long career — that of a social-justice organizer — I was strongly influenced by old-time Wobblies (members of the Industrial Workers of the World) and by organizers of the always radical and militant International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers (Mine-Mill). Although committed to tactical nonviolence, these men were also, in the quasi-frontier traditions of our section, equally committed to the use of firearms for personal protection in the face of attacks by company thugs.
In the later 1950s, as I became deeply involved in controversial labor unionism in the rough-and-tumble Southwest, I frequently and routinely traveled armed. And this was certainly my approach in such murderous crucibles as Mississippi, eastern North Carolina and other Deep South citadels in the 1960s and in the South/Southwest Side of Chicago in the 1970s. I am convinced that I’m alive today because I traveled with firearms-and that this fact was generally known.
Direct Firearms Protection
There is no question but that the known existence of pervasive firearms ownership in Southern Black communities prevented much (though not all) massively violent racist retaliation.(1) This was certainly true in the northeastern North Carolina Black belt, and it was true across the South generally.
In a few instances, there were formally organized Black self-defense groups-for example, the Louisiana based Deacons for Defense. Mostly, though, armed self-defense appeared in innumerable ad-hoc and individual examples.
Beginning in 1961, I taught for several years at Tougaloo College, a private Black school on the outskirts of Jackson, Mississippi, right in the heart of the blood-drenched, closed society. I served as advisor to the Jackson Youth Council of the NAACP and as chief organizer and strategy-committee chair of the Jackson Movement, which developed in 1962 and 1963 into the most massive grassroots upheaval in Mississippi’s history and one of the major efforts in the United States of the 1960s.(2)
Along with many others, I was often beaten and arrested in Mississippi but, as the primary civil-rights organizer in the Jackson area, I was a special target. During the Christmas season of 962, soon after we had begun active and open Jackson Movement development, night-riders attacked my home on the Tougaloo campus. One of the shots they fired into our house passed just above the crib in which my infant daughter, Maria, slept. If anything, local law officials were strongly supportive of the night- riders; the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI had no interest in enforcing the Constitution in cases such as ours. Those of us on campus at that point then began standing an organized, armed guard at several strategic locations and let this be known to the news media. The attacks ceased for a long time; when they resumed, the guard resumed, and the vigilante moves against Tougaloo subsided.
In North Carolina, in February 1965, I had become so much a target than even the far-from-friendly FBI and Justice Department became somewhat concerned. An agent came to our home in Raleigh and, indicating an informer in a United Klans “klavern” had reported a conspiracy to bomb our house, concluded by saying the federal government could do nothing about it. Local law enforcement was not reliable.
Fortunately, we lived in the middle of a heavily armed Black community, with neighbors-obviously supportive of my civil-rights work in North Carolina and across the South-who were protective, especially when I was away in the field for long periods of time. We immediately apprised them of the FBI warning, barricaded our windows, and fed our “preparedness” to several grapevines. We were not surprised when the bombing effort never materialized.
Years later in Chicago, in the summer of 1970, I was Southside director of the Chicago Commons Association. This private social-service organization was coordinating a large-scale grassroots community organizing project involving mostly Black, Puerto Rican and Chicano people in racially changing sections of the turbulent South/Southwest Side.
White attitudes and practices frequently exemplified racism often more violent and sanguinary than in the deep South of the previous decade. The Richard Daley machine was openly antagonistic to us and the Chicago police in some (though not all) of the local districts were frequently in league with the racists.
Again, as the prime organizer and the project director, I was special target Police harassment and death threats were common, increasing in direct proportion to the growing power and militancy of our grassroots organization.
One afternoon while I was at work, men with knives in their hands came to my home; their intent was quite clear but a vigilant next-door neighbor with a revolver frightened them away. In three days’ time, I performed more “home improvement” services than the total of everything I’ve done before or since: barring and boarding windows, chaining doors, changing locks.
But my basic reliance lay in my several firearms. When death threats came over the telephone, I now began telling the callers, somewhat to the discomfiture of my gentle wife, that I had a ticket for them, a pass to permanent eternity via my Marlin .444. No men returned to my home and the death threats tapered off.
Firearms as a Force to Compel Responsible & Egalitarian Law Enforcement
In the late fall of 1964, in response to the increasing successes of our northeastern North Carolina Black-belt project, the United Klans of America scheduled a largescale, state-wide rally in Halifax County-very close to a Black residential area. Not surprisingly, posters advertising the affair were conspicuously displayed, among other places, in most law-enforcement offices in the county.
We knew the Justice Department and the FBI would be no help and, early on, we petitioned the state government for state police. This request was not even acknowledged and, with the approval of our local grassroots leaders, I went to Governor Terry Sanford’s office at Raleigh. He declined to meet with me directly but did send in his chief aide.
I was very blunt. I told this person in a cold and angry fashion that either the state would send a large contingent of police into Halifax County a day before the Klan rally, to remain through the affair and at least a day afterward – or our people, armed to the hilt, would have no hesitation about utilizing armed self-defense in the event of Klan violence.
Visibly shaken, the aide left me and conferred with Sanford. He returned quickly to promise the state police. The day before the rally, many state police cars rolled into Halifax County and remained there two days after the event. For our part, we actively and successfully encouraged tactical nonviolence but, of course, we and our constituency continued to keep arms handy. There was no violence except a brutal fight among several Klansmen.
For months afterward, the United Klans continued to hold rallies near Black neighborhoods in Halifax County, and we continued the same effective formula — pressuring the state (later under Governor Dan K Moore), with our people armed and watchful. Eventually, the Klan rallies ceased in northeastern North Carolina and the local Klans faded.
In the South/Southwest Side of Chicago, the known armed state of grassroots people deterred both conventional criminal elements and white racist gangs. In our far-flung community organizational project (almost 300 multi-issue block clubs and related groups organized by the summer of 1973), in a setting where honest police were tired and overworked and the others downright hostile, we set up public citizen “watch-dog” patrols.
Although generally unarmed, these had-regardless of police attitudes one way or the other-primary backup from a network of armed citizenry in the neighborhoods with which the patrols maintained close and constant communication through citizens’ band radios, volunteer dispatchers and telephone linkups.
The effect of this well-known campaign in reducing crime and deterring white racial violence was substantial. Before long, frightened politicians forced through increasingly responsible and egalitarian law-enforcement practices. But the patrols and the vigilance of armed neighborhoods continued.
I am not taking the position that there would have been no fatalities in social-justice organizing, and that none will occur, if organizers and constituents were and are armed. A close friend and colleague, Medgar W. Evers, was shot to death in front of his home one night in June 1963, in the Jackson Movement campaign. But the heavily armed-and known to be heavily armed — Medgar lived for nine effective years after he became Mississippi NAACP field secretary — about nine years longer than most friends and enemies felt he would.
A few days after his death, I was seriously injured – almost killed — in a rigged auto wreck. But I had survived to that point, weathered the injuries, and have endured pretty effectively ever since. And all of our community organizational campaigns over the years have been essentially quite successful.(3)
I am stating categorically that the number of fatalities would have been, and will be, much smaller if organizers and their grassroots groups had been, and are, sensibly armed for self-defense. And the success of the campaigns and the projects themselves have been and will be greatly enhanced.
- A well-known example of racist retaliation against armed Blacks was the Robert F. Williams situation in Klan-ridden Monroe, North Carolina. In the late 1950s, Williams, a Black, organized self-defense groups in conjunction with the local NAACP and with a National Rifle Association charter. This kept the Klan at arm’s length, but in 1%1 the KKK, encouraged by some elements in state government and with the federal agents openly hostile to Williams because of his growing pro-Cuban sympathies, attacked the Black neighborhoods. Blacks resisted, some were arrested, and Williams fled the country. Even so, the armed state of Monroe’s Blacks, which had held the KKK off for years, prevented many Black injuries during that climactic night See Robert F. Williams and Mark Schleiffer, eds., Negroes with Guns (Chicago: Third World Press, 1973).
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- For a full account of the Jackson Movement of 1962-63, see John R Salter, Jr., Jackson, Mississippi: an American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism, (Melbourne, Florida: Robert E. Krieger Pub. Co., 1987).
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- All of my papers covering more than thirty years of grassroots organizing are held in the National Social Action Collection, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison; and at the Mississippi State Department of Archives and History, Jackson. These two collections include a considerable amount of material relating to other community organizational campaigns in which I’ve been substantially involved. Several of these (some recent) have included protective firearms.
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July-August 1988, ATC 15
An interview with the guard leaders of the Peasant, Cimarrona and Indigenous communities about the processes they have implemented since the beginning of the National Strike in Colombia. For them, self-justice goes beyond exercising authority; it means protecting their territory and the lives of those who inhabit their lands.
The post Community Guards: Self-Protection And Peoples’ Autonomy appeared first on PopularResistance.Org.
Truthout, October 14, 2020
With the threat of right-wing violence and other chaos hanging over the election, what does personal and community safety look like? In this episode of “Movement Memos,” Kelly Hayes talks about nonviolence, self defense and the relationships we will need to survive.
Note: This a rush transcript and has been lightly edited for clarity. Copy may not be in its final form.
Welcome to “Movement Memos,” a Truthout podcast about things you should know if you want to change the world. I’m your host, Kelly Hayes.
As an organizer who’s been talking about fascism for several years, I have been contacted by a number of people recently who are concerned about community safety. With the election only two weeks away, the threat of right-wing violence and other manufactured chaos has many people deeply concerned. Reading people’s questions and worries, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my friend Lisa Fithian a couple of years ago, when she was advising some of us on what to do if we were faced with live fire in a protest situation. “Get low and behind whatever you can.” She cautioned us against standing up behind a pole or something similar. “You have to get down,” she said. “What direction are the shots coming from,” she asked. “Is the gun pointed at people, or toward the air?” She said that if we couldn’t tell where the shot was coming from, it was best to stay down, since you might run right into the shooter. She talked about what it meant to realize where the shots were coming from, and whether it would make sense to run, or to try to disarm the person. Two things I remember clearly from the advice she gave: No two situations are the same, and that, if you have to do the unthinkable, and try to disarm a shooter, it’s best not to do it alone. “Think carefully about whether disarming them is possible. If you try, work as a team to spread out around the shooter so they have to deal with you in all directions.”
Nonviolence, Self-Defense and Provocateurs
Fri, 10/09/2020 – 22:58
Jacqueline Luqman: This is Jacqueline Luqman with The Real News Network.
The nation is enduring a long period of unrest. Complete with protests in the streets and violent responses to those protests coming from the police, and from armed individual citizens, as well as organized militias. And while there’s plenty of conversation that needs to be had in organizing spaces about training for establishing tight security for these actions, the question of how do Black people keep ourselves safe when largely white militias have seen our protests against fascism and against racist police terrorism, as their call to mobilize and act against us? We can continue to protest, and we absolutely should. But is it time to have a serious conversation about armed self-defense for Black people? And how do we go about it for it to be effective, and provide us safety?
Here to talk about this with me is Dr. Akinyele Umoja, professor in the Department of African-American Studies at Georgia State University, and author of the book We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement. Dr. Umoja, thank you so much for joining me today. Dr. Umoja, I’ve been wanting to have this conversation for months, months. But it never seemed like the right time because this is a sensitive topic. But I think now is the right time to have it. So, I want to start this conversation, actually, with the topic of gun control because, for so many decades in this country, the conversation about guns and Black people has, oddly enough, been centered around the topic of gun control. So, do you think this framing of the public discussion of Black gun ownership that centered mostly on urban crime has impacted the way Black people have viewed gun ownership over the past few decades?
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: Yes. I think there’s a lot of contradiction, a lot of misunderstanding around this whole effort of gun control and particularly tying it to crime in the Black community. I just want to say that there’s a tension in our community around that particular issue. Number one, historically, that going back to our period of time of being enslaved in this country, it was illegal for Black people to have guns. And then, coming out of emancipation, coming out of enslavement, I should say, into emancipation many of our ancestors wanted weapons to protect themselves, protect their families, as well as to hunt. And since we were mostly rural, and as a way to supplement our diets. But even then, after emancipation, there were different efforts to disarm Black people. But we still, as we fought for some sort of rights, as citizens fought to have the right to bear arms.
On the other hand, I think, and I would say, I’m 66 years old, when I was growing up as a teenager in Compton, California, we started to see guns in the hands of some of the more unstable elements in our community and we had deaths. When I was a senior in high school, I remember I couldn’t go to parties for a certain period of time because there had been people killed at parties.
And then, we always questioned how certain guns got in our community. Automatic weapons, things of that nature. Again, in the hands of not elders in the community, not people who were leaders, community leaders, but some of the youth who sometimes had a criminalized mentality. So, I think that dilemma, and seeing that increase not only where I lived in Southern California, but across the country, particularly with the rise of the influx of drugs in our community that created a feeling of [un-safety 00:04:29] on some people’s part. So, the answer that was posed to us was gun control guns out. Take guns out of the community, gun buyback programs, things of that nature.
The question is this, is with some of the legislation and particularly targeting taking guns out of the hands of Black people sometimes the emphasis on taking guns out of our hands, on one hand, makes us more defenseless. Number two, it’s not necessarily a answer to making us more safe within our community. Most of those weapons that I talked about I saw accelerating in our community wasn’t from the purchase of legal guns. It was done oftentimes through the underground economy. I would say, from my experience, what’s going to solve that is us having more community consciousness, us strengthening our families, us developing economic alternatives for our youth. It takes them out of the underground economy into a economy that we can control ourselves and the community. It comes from us beginning to have stronger relationships with our youth again.
Another one of my experiences is when I was growing up, there were street organizations, what people call gangs, in the community, and I saw a lot of conflict. It wasn’t guns, it was really more fist fights, knives, things of that nature. But when we had the development of the Black Power Movement with the Malcolm X Foundation, with the Black Panther Party, with the US Organization, many of those elements joined those organizations, and they began to be involved with more positive activity.
So, the answer for the, what’s called, crime in our community, I would say, happens through us being more organized. It happens through us having economic development. It happens through us strengthening our families. Not someone coming in and taking guns out of the hands of our people, which might create more repression.
We see, at this particular time, that our communities are over policed anyway, there’s excessive policing in our communities, and this will lead to more militarized policing on one level, they’ve become more militarized, and they come into our communities and target our youth. It’s our jobs to, again, work with our youth, work with our families and try to strengthen ourselves, where this doesn’t become a problem for our elders, and for our children, and the community, and people who might be vulnerable. So, that’s what I would say.
Gun control has been used as a weapon. We saw it in Oakland in the 1960s, when the Black Panther Party, as they began to begin to patrol the community and monitor police violators in our community, I should say, when that began to happen there was legislation to take guns out of the hands of the Black Panther Party, and to eliminate their armed patrols. And, in fact, we heard nothing from the National Rifle Association.
Jacqueline Luqman: That’s interesting. It’s interesting that you would end that point there because I feel like through the influence of gun control legislation, and the demonization of gun ownership for some people but, at the same time, the demonization of gun control legislation when it comes to white gun owners these gun buyback programs, like you said, that target particularly poor Black citizens who will turn in a legally owned gun for 3 or $400 because they, literally, need to buy groceries, or pay their rent. And these are things that I lived through, here in Washington DC, through my high school years because I’m 54 years old, so I lived the same experience. So I really do feel like, Dr. Umoja, that we are a population of people who are very skittish about owning guns.
And, aside from that, we have a difficult time being approved for a license for a gun when we try to own one for several reasons. Then, people feel that they would be criminalized for owning a gun, even if they have a license to carry. We’ve seen that happen with Philando Castiel.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: Exactly.
Jacqueline Luqman: And then, through all of that, we’ve got all of that, throw all of that in the pot Doctor, and the summer of 2020 happens. George Floyd’s public lynching by four Minneapolis cops sets off a wave of national protests that have been sustained by even more police killings across the country, and the spread of coronavirus exposing the hypocrisy of capitalism, and the system that it is. But we’ve seen protests against police terrorism before. And we’ve definitely seen the police repression of those protests before. But Doctor, this time, the response of armed white people and organized militias has added an element to these uprisings that I think many people in the streets weren’t prepared for, especially the younger generation. So, I wonder if you think that people should have been prepared for this kind of violent response? And why do you think so many people were caught unawares by the possibility of right wing violence?
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: Well, I think, we went for the okey-doke. And that’s just real. And I don’t just blame young people. We had a movement, a Civil Rights Movement in this country, which was a movement for us to be included into American society. And then, lo and behold, in 2008, we had the epitome of that movement when a Black man was elected president of the United States. And where, as we celebrated, we were told it was a post racial society. Other people did arm themselves. Other people did [inaudible 00:11:15]. And this motion, this reaction, I should say, after the election of Barack Obama to president of the United States is what led to Donald Trump being elected. This reaction of white people feeling the country is being taken from them. Whereas Black people feeling that we’ve achieved, and we have arrived. Whereas we think about it, this consciousness and this awareness of the level of murder, killing of Black people by not only police, but vigilantes and security guards did not start with George Floyd, right?
Jacqueline Luqman: Right.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: We had a tremendous uprising of our people after the killing of Trayvon Martin. And, again, with the killing of Mike Brown. And then, there’ve been several other cases in between that have made our people aware that we’re not secure. The white supremacist going into the church in Charleston, South Carolina, and killing our elders while they’re praying, while they’re there to study the scripture this shows that even our churches aren’t sanctuaries any longer, right?
Jacqueline Luqman: Right.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: And Birmingham in 1963 also tells us that historically, that our churches have been targeted. So, there is a growing consciousness going back to, again, I would say the killing of Trayvon Martin to the day of Black people that we can’t be protected. The government is not willing to protect us. And we have to protect ourselves. We have to protect our elders while they pray in church. We have to protect our children.
But the thing I think we have to do more so than even owning guns, that’s a part of it, I think we have to get organized. That’s the most powerful weapon we have as a people. And this was said by Marcus Garvey over a century ago, it’s organization, that we have to get organized. Some of us are part of organizations already. And the organizations we’re a part of need to have a sense of security. But we have to begin to see as a community, we got to watch our backs, that we have to protect each other.
You mentioned a book I wrote, We Will Shoot Back.
Jacqueline Luqman: Yes.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: When I looked at those communities in Mississippi during the 1950s and ’60s, they had more of sense of watching each other’s back, of protecting one another, of looking out for one another. And this is something we have to regain. I think, as I said, we went for the okey-doke. We began to believe because segregation laws were eliminated that we were safe. And we believe as we began to elect Black elected officials that we were safe. But no, we need to begin to organize, to protect ourselves.
You’ve heard of the organization, The Deacons for Defense?
Jacqueline Luqman: Yes.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: And I remember interviewing, for my book, one of The Deacons for Defense. And I asked him, “Well, why did they end?” They said they felt when they had Black people now as police officials, then they didn’t need that function of The Deacons for Defense anymore. But he said, that was one of the greatest regrets he had in his life. That they needed to stay organized. They needed to continue to protect our communities. And so, I would say, we have to get organized. We have to get politically conscious. If your organization you’re in right now, don’t have a policy for community self-defense, you need to find one who has that policy.
And I will say this, also, study and research these organizations. If they just popped up don’t particularly go for that because we know in the past, even our enemies have formed organizations to lead our people astray. So, make sure the organization has a track record, make sure that they care about their membership, and care about people in our community. Make sure they have a sense of service of our community and they’re not just trying to become new rulers of our community. Make sure they don’t follow the tactics of our enemy. We don’t need a Black Ku Klux Klan. We need Black people who are freedom fighters, and freedom fighting is directly the opposite of what the Ku Klux Klan is. So, we don’t need more authoritarian leaders in our community. We need to have people who are about serving the community, politically educating people, and helping people to be more liberated.
Jacqueline Luqman: I mean, you answered like three of the questions that I had in all of that. And all of that is so important. And I think the question that always sticks in my mind that I’m sometimes afraid to ask Dr. Umoja because it seems so simple, but sometimes it’s the simple questions that trip people up. So, I’m just going to ask it. People say all the time, especially in these liberation circles, we need to be organized. We need to be organized. I think people on the right understand what that means, because I think they’ve clearly out organized us. But what does it mean for us, in our community, to be organized? It’s one thing to join an organization, but what does it mean in the context of not just liberation, the struggle for liberation, but incorporating armed self-defense in that struggle, and where we might want to fit? And I know you gave a lot of that just now. But how can people understand what being organized means in this long struggle for liberation that is not anywhere near over. It’s more than just being in an organization, isn’t it?
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: Well, you mentioned a long struggle for liberation. So, I would say number one, you have to look at what the leadership of the group is. Is it a group that’s experienced? Does it have experience? Then, if they have experience, what is their track record? How have they been relating to other Black people not only locally, but even in the world? Because we know this is a global struggle. So, what is their perspective not only in terms of policy with Black people inside of the United States, but how do they relate to Black people in Africa? How do they relate to the struggle in Cuba who’s been supportive of black liberation inside the United States and around the world? How do they relate to the struggle of Indigenous people in this country? So, what type of alliances, because we know that we can not fight these battles by ourselves, right?
Jacqueline Luqman: Right.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: We have to be involved in a world struggle, international struggle as both King and Malcolm saw.
So, I think you have to look what’s their perspective on change? How do they see change coming about? But, again, looking at their experience and track record is most important. How do they treat you? And do you have the right to express your point of view? Is there a sense of democracy in the organization, or is it all just top-down? How do they relate to brothers and sisters in the community? How do they relate to our elders? If they say something like, “I’m not my ancestors,” I would run because honoring our ancestors is honoring our elders. Honoring our ancestors is only honoring our history. And we know that those who not do not study their history are doomed to repeat it. So, it’s important that they have a perspective of history.
Again, you might have a younger organization that don’t have experienced leadership. So, do they have a relationship with elders in the community that do have experience? That have experienced things like the counter intelligence program of the FBI and dealing with the police, or being sold out even by Black [mis-leaders 00:00:20:09]? So, these are questions. And that’s why I challenged folks study first to figure this out. Study and examine and leaders, then go and check them out. Excuse me, I said leaders, the organizations. Check them out and see what they’re about. See if they truly trying to serve our people, or is it just about somebody’s ego? So, these are the things we have to check out.
And the thing about the ego is very important because that’s what destroyed many of our movements in the past. If think about an ego, somebody just wanted to be the baddest brother in the community, have as many women as they could have.
Jacqueline Luqman: Tell the truth.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: Or have money. So, we have to check out [inaudible 00:21:02]. It says character is all that’s requisite. So, we have to check out the character of the people who are in leadership of the organization. Sometimes the grassroots, the rank and file members are cool, but the leaders is what you got to pay attention to also.
Jacqueline Luqman: Wow, that is really incredibly important information that goes so far beyond just joining somebody’s organization to say that you are organizing and doing some things-
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: But I will say this too.
Jacqueline Luqman: Yes?
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: If you are already a part of a organization and it could be your fraternity, your sorority, your NAACP chapter, your church, your mosque make sure they have a policy around protecting and defending ourselves. And make sure you have a policy that talks about the liberation of our people inside the United States and globally, because we need to bring as many people together and form a united front. And we need to be protected block by block, by block, by block. It’s not going to be just a small group of people that’s going to bring about the freedom of our people. Or is capable of protecting our folks in what we have to deal with right now. We need to make sure as many people are armed and conscious as possible, and form a network or, what many of us call [inaudible 00:22:31] a united front.
Jacqueline Luqman: Wow. And the last question, Dr. Umoja, and I encounter this question quite a lot from people who are newish to the liberation struggle, or at least the protest movement that is the latest iteration of the actual liberation struggle that we’ve been in all our lives. This question of non-violence, I get it all the time. I organize with antiwar folks and other people, who have different focuses in challenging the system. And they always say, “You have to declare that you are going to be non-violent, or else we don’t want to organize with you.” How do you handle those kinds of stances? The equation of self-defense with violence, and the demand that we repudiate violence in protecting ourselves in our struggle for liberation.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: Well, if that’s what they want to do just allow them to do it. But those of us who believe that we have to protect ourselves and protect our community, maybe even protect them if necessary, The folks that are non-violent because as I looked at the struggles that happened in the 1960s, the many of the ways that non-violent people survive was through the protection of people who believed in armed self-defense. In many communities you’re not going to get support from the police. The police was the Klan oftentimes, right?
Jacqueline Luqman: That’s right.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: The federal government did not have their back, for the most part. So, it was people in the community who provided protection for folk. But I would say, let them do what they believe they have to do. Non-violence can be an effective, disruptive tactic. We saw it in the city and movement. We saw it during the freedom rides and things of that nature.
But, at the same time, there are those of us who want to make sure that, again, our elders can pray in church [inaudible 00:24:34]. That our children are protected. There are some people who are not going to listen. The philosophy of nonviolence is that, ultimately, that you can transform the hater to being somebody who could join us in beloved community. And there are some people who that’s not going to work with. And we don’t want to lose our lives in that process. And we don’t want to see other people lose their lives.
But, at the same time, I commend brothers and sisters who want to fight on that level. And we, certainly, support your right to make that choice. But, at the same time, they have to support the right of Black people who want to be safe, who want to be healthy, who want our children to be healthy. And who believe our Black lives matter, and willing to use any means necessary to make sure that our lives are protected and safe.
Jacqueline Luqman: We definitely want to build that community, that beautiful community. And we would welcome those who would want to be a part of that community. But we have to be very clear that there are some people who do not want to be a part of that beloved community. And we need to have a plan for what we do about that.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: Do we think Donald Trump wants to be a part of that community? I don’t think so.
Jacqueline Luqman: See, I wasn’t going to say that.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: There’s some Proud Boys and other groups, we think they … and they’ve had a chance. I mean, Dr. King has been dead since 1968, so that message has been out there. And Black people have certainly reached their hands out to these haters to form community. But no, that hasn’t happened. And there’s still a significant amount of this country who are not embracing that. And, again, we have to make sure we’re safe.
Jacqueline Luqman: Well, I really do appreciate the time that you’ve spent with me today, Dr. Umoja, to break this issue down because, like I said, it’s a sensitive topic. We have to be careful about how we talk about these things in public, especially since we know that we’re targeted. We know that having a conversation about armed struggle, and arming ourselves draws more attention to ourselves. But, I think, we’re at that point where we just have to have the conversation, and set some things straight, so that we can map out our own path toward liberation. And if people want to join along, that’s wonderful. But at least everybody knows where we stand right now. So, thank you so much for joining me today and having this discussion with me, Dr. Akinyele Umoja, Appreciate it.
Dr. Akinyele Umoja: Thank you, Jackie, for having me, for having this conversation. And we’re going to say to the audience to take this conversation to your family, take it to your friends, take it to the barbershops and beauty shops, and whatever organization or religious community you belong to. We need to have this conversation in our community. As Jackie said, it’s too late already, but we got to get prepared, we got to get organized.
Jacqueline Luqman: That’s right. As Kwame Ture said, “We have to organize, organize, organize.” And this is Jacqueline Luqman with The Real News Network. I am definitely my ancestors in the belly of the beast, Washington DC.
The post Is it time to talk about armed self-defense for Black people? appeared first on The Real News Network.
October 9, 2020, 2:35 pm
Communes are the most basic unit of the political system of North and East Syria. They are established in Article 48 of the Social Contract, which defines the commune system as “the essential basic organizational form of direct democracy. It is a system that sets out an organizational and administrative framework within which to make decisions and management. It works as an independent body in all stages of decision making.” As well as acting as a democratic body, the commune also is the organization through which basic necessities are obtained and distributed. One of the earliest functions of communes was the pooling of resources to buy collective generators to provide electricity. Now they serve as an access point for subsidized diesel and bread, as well as the first port of call for many administrative issues.
The three core pillars of the communes are outlined as:
- Self-defense (xwe parastin): protection of the commune
- Education (perwerde): changing mentalities and empowering people
- Conflict resolution and consensus building (li-hevkirin): addressing conflicts within and between families, reconciliation or referral to relevant justice institutions
Read the rest at Co-operation in Mesopotamia
Right-wing activists rally at Cox Park in Louisville, Kentucky, in preparation for a march to the Louisville Metro Hall on September 5, 2020. | Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Counterprotester clashes are detracting from one of the largest social justice movements in history.
Saturday, September 5, was supposed to be the day Louisville reveled in one of its most celebrated traditions — the Kentucky Derby — the coronavirus notwithstanding.
Instead, much of the attention on the city that day was directed to just outside the dirt track at Churchill Downs, where the Louisville Metro Police Department and the National Guard assembled tall barricades in anticipation of protesters calling for results in the Breonna Taylor case, which has seen little movement in the seven months since the about-to-be-27-year-old was fatally shot by police in her home. Protesters showed up — and so did armed militia.
While there were no spectators in the stands (fans were all virtual), hundreds of armed members of NFAC — the Not Fucking Around Coalition — positioned themselves on the grass outside the complex hours before the event. The group of Black men and women assembled with weapons and announced themselves to the police as “the response not the threat.”
“We had hoped to come back to Louisville to celebrate a victory with these people. We had hoped that [the Taylor case] would have been closed,” the group’s leader, John “Grandmaster Jay” Johnson, said at Saturday’s event. Some in the Black community had previously urged Churchill Downs to cancel the Kentucky Derby to show solidarity with the fight for racial justice.
But the group dispersed before the Derby even began when a white militia group appeared. Though Johnson told reporters he had an agreement with local police departments about NFAC’s presence, he said the agreement was breached when that other armed collective — who said they were there to protect the city against NFAC — was allowed in the same space.
Meanwhile, a few miles away in downtown Louisville, Black Lives Matter protesters clashed with members of the far-right armed militia group American Patriots USA earlier in the day. Protesters carried Black Lives Matter flags and chanted “Breonna Taylor” as the counterprotesters carried Trump Keep America Great flags and chanted “USA” and “Back the Blue,” referring to police.
Protests against police violence and for racial justice have been happening around the country since May, when video of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd went viral. While counterprotesters have been showing up in cities for just as long, in recent weeks, tensions have gotten more heated and violence at the hands of extremists has turned fatal.
That same Labor Day weekend, protesters and armed militia gathered in the streets of other cities in the wake of other deadly clashes. On Labor Day, more than 1,000 supporters of Trump, including Patriot Prayer supporters, QAnon conspiracy theory supporters, and members of the Proud Boys, gathered in northwest Oregon to express support for the president and Aaron Danielson, a Patriot Prayer supporter who was killed in a clash the previous weekend in Portland by Michael Rienoehl, who considered himself an antifa supporter.
Protesters also clashed with police and counterprotesters in Rochester over the previous police killing of Daniel Prude, leading to the resignation of top law enforcement officials.
“We first went out thinking it would be a peaceful protest, but things turned on the first night,” said Danielle Ponder, a public defender based in Rochester who has protested every night since the video of Prude’s killing was released on September 2. “We were met with pepper spray completely unprovoked. It was like war, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We can’t stop now, and I hope this empowers people to demand more.”
The intensity and frequency of these clashes makes it apparent that there will be more to come as summer draws to a close, and with two months until Election Day. And protesters have made it clear that they will not stop until justice is delivered. Far-right counterprotesters, on the other hand, are feeling greater pressure to maintain the status quo of a Trump presidency. Add local and federal officials calling in more police or the National Guard as a solution, and tensions only rise. The chaos could result in more division and deaths, taking the focus off one of the largest civil rights movement in history and its mission to seek justice for Black lives.
Why clashes are on the rise and in the headlines
A new report from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project, in collaboration with Princeton University’s Bridging Divides Initiative, identified 7,750 Black Lives Matter protests from May 26 through August 22 at 2,400 locations across the US. An examination of these events found that 93 percent of them remained peaceful while protests at about 220 locations turned “violent” — defined as the destruction of property, and including clashes between protesters and police and counterprotesters. The report also found that in these places the violence was restricted to specific blocks of the city and not widespread.
Yet, despite the fact that protests remained largely peaceful over the course of about four months, the report warned that a hyper-polarized environment spurred by state forces that take “a more heavy-handed approach to dissent” will only make non-state actors “more active and assertive,” and that counterdemonstrators will “resolve their political disputes in the street” ahead of the election.
“Without significant mitigation efforts, these risks will continue to intensify in the lead-up to the vote,” the authors wrote.
The report also noted the National Guard had been deployed across the country at least 55 times since the killing of George Floyd in late May, which has only inflamed tensions. It also found that government forces disproportionately used force — fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray, or beat protesters with batons — when intervening in Black Lives Matter protests, relative to other kinds of demonstrations.
In Portland, for example, federal agents were sent to ostensibly keep the peace in July, but instead used excessive force and detained people in unmarked vehicles, only reescalating tensions. After the deployment of Department of Homeland Security agents in Portland, “the percentage of violent demonstrations has risen from under 17% to over 42%, suggesting that the federal response has only aggravated unrest,” the report states.
Counterprotest activity is also on the rise, a trend that can quickly escalate the number of violent clashes, according to the report:
Between 24 May and 22 August, over 360 counter-protests were recorded around the country, accounting for nearly 5% of all demonstrations. Of these, 43 — nearly 12% — turned violent, with clashes between pro-police demonstrators and demonstrators associated with the BLM movement, for example. In July alone, ACLED records over 160 counter-protests, or more than 8% of all demonstrations. Of these, 18 turned violent.
In the nights following the police shooting of Jacob Blake on August 23 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, armed counterprotesters visited the city to purportedly protect it from looting and vandalism. One such vigilante, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, fatally shot two people and injured another, and was later charged with first-degree intentional homicide. This unrest would give rise to more unrest in Portland where Trump supporters clashed with antifa members — both groups separate from peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters — resulting in the death of Danielson.
Clashes will only continue to increase if police and state and federal officials continue their heavy-handed approach to demonstrators. “The current administration seems to thrive in the context of disorder, so you can imagine that there’s going to be more, which is just going to spin off confrontations,” University of Michigan political scientist Christian Davenport told Vox.
The recent clashes have historical precedent, rooted in the urban disturbances of the 1960s and ’70s. Beginning in 1964, tensions between Black demonstrators and law enforcement caused riots across cities like Rochester, Philadelphia, and Newark. By 1967, hundreds of cities had experienced long, hot summers marked by urban rebellion and unrest.
Ponder, too, sees the resemblance to the civil rights movement. “State troopers were out there with tanks and dogs!” she said of the current Rochester protests. “I’m out there wearing a T-shirt and jeans and we are being met by people flanked in complete military uniforms and officers in riot gear. It felt like a complete war zone. At one point we ran into a church. And I just kept thinking, ‘We’re hiding from our government in a church.’ They even pepper sprayed the outside of the church!”
Because of these historical connections, there are dueling performances, Davenport said. “To what extent can protesters stay seemingly nonviolent but persistent?”
While the Black Lives Matter protesters are there to draw attention to systemic oppression, the presence of the far-right counterprotesters represents a desire to resist social change. “These people aren’t upset. They believe they are protecting that which they see as the natural order. They see these other people as the heretics and the threat,” Davenport said.
And the increased presence of other non-state actors, like antifa and the NFAC, serves to “openly intimidate perceived ‘enemies,’” like the counterprotesters, according to the report. Though violence has not erupted every time these groups are present, tensions can escalate quickly.
In the end, counterprotest dynamics tend to squeeze out middle-of-the-road protesters. “We then have a race, not to the middle, but to the extremes,” Davenport said.
Making things more complicated and further compromising peaceful protesters is that right-wing counterprotesters and the government have overlapping interests. Some are there with guns, touting a need for law and order like the president does and chanting “Back the Blue” to signal their support for the work of law enforcement.
In one video from Labor Day weekend, a counterprotester told a Black Lives Matter supporter that they were there to support the police but not the “bad eggs” in the police force. “We’re not out here defending the actions of them fucking bad cops. At all. They need justice. But at the same time, we can’t blame the actions of just a few on everybody.” Flying next to the counterprotester was a large Trump 2020 flag.
“You have an ill-informed group that’s already hostile and a group that has way too much information about their lives and they’re frustrated about what’s going on and you stick these people out in the street with a lackadaisical police effort, this does not bode well,” Davenport said.
Why activists will keep organizing ahead of the election and after it
Through all this, Black Lives Matter protesters have never shied away from their demands: The desire to completely rethink how criminal justice and law enforcement systems function in America.
Ponder says their demands are clear in Rochester. Protesters are calling for the resignation of Mayor Lovely Warren and Deputy Mayor James Smith. They’re asking that the officers involved in Prude’s killing be prosecuted — Prude, who had a clinical history of mental illness, died after officers put a mesh “spit hood” over his head — and that the city enact “Daniel’s Law,” which would prohibit officers from responding to mental health calls for help.
They’re also asking for the immediate demilitarization of the police, since 86 percent of all adult arrests in Rochester are misdemeanors. Last, activists are calling for the defunding of the Rochester Police Department, which receives about $100 million per year. The school district’s budget was recently cut by about 20 percent while the police department only received a 5 percent cut, Ponder said.
And they will continue to be out in the streets, much like 93 percent of peaceful demonstrations across the country, until their demands are met. The election has little bearing on this.
While the election is often thought of as a nice end point used to facilitate mobilization, the difficulty with thinking about Black Lives Matter only in the context of the election is losing “the deeper narrative that folks are generationally upset,” Davenport said. “It’s not every four years. It’s several decades worth of stuff that led us to this point that Democrats and Republicans are responsible for.”
Whether Black Lives Matter activists will choose to shift strategy in an effort to position themselves away from right-wing agents provocateurs, particularly ahead of the election, is still left to be seen, but questions about the connections between clashes and the election may take away from the deeper goals of the movement.
“What would this turn into if Black Lives Matter and associates could say, ‘Let’s shift the nature of our confrontation with violence-generating agents in a way that allows us to put forward pressure but doesn’t allow our behavior or presence to be manipulated in a manner that could potentially lead to something that facilitates this other narrative. Let’s not participate in what has become the anti-performance of our grievance. We’re not going to be fodder for this war machine,’” Davenport said.
Ponder, meanwhile, is thinking about change that needs to start locally in Rochester — “There are thousands of people who could have been Daniel Prude because our officers continue to dehumanize the Black community” — but also hopes the movement will continue to uplift and inspire young people, despite the repeated clashes with law enforcement and counterprotesters.
“I have never seen such a Black movement. I have never seen so many young Black people in the street protesting,” she said. “I hope this empowers them to demand more from their elected officials. And I hope they become the elected officials to really shift the paradigm and transform our system of policing and criminal justice.”
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The post The Inevitable Whitelash Against Racial Justice Has Started appeared first on The Nation.