By BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
Black Agenda Report December 17, 2014
“The militarization of local police departments is directly tied to the government’s destruction of the black liberation movement of the 1960s.”
Black Lives Matter Minneapolis protest at the Mall of America, December 20, 2014
At Black Agenda Report we understand the importance of making connections between domestic and international issues and finding common cause with people around the world. That is why we work in partnership with groups such as the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). UNAC didn’t fall prey to the inertia many supposedly antiwar organizations experienced after Barack Obama’s presidential victory. Its members know that the wars abroad and at home occur precisely because of actions taken by Democrats and Republicans working together to advance the interests of the banksters, defense contractors and other malefactors against the interests of people all over the world. This columnist joined a UNAC delegation invited to a conference in Moscow sponsored by the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia.
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I was asked to speak about the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the aftermath of protest which spread from that small town to thousands more across the country. The Ferguson protests seized the attention of people all over the world and gave them a sense of the unvarnished truth of black American life.
Our host organization and members of the Russian media were all curious about Ferguson and what it meant. They asked what our legal system can do to stop police brutality. They wanted to know why the police have military equipment. They were curious about Barack Obama’s relationship with the constituency that supported him the most and why their needs are still not adequately addressed. The questions were many and varied and show that the United States is not the paragon of virtue and benevolent exceptionalism that it claims to be.
“Even children like twelve year-old Tamir Rice armed with toy guns aren’t safe from police murder if they have black skin.”
In my remarks at the December 13th conference I made it clear that the militarization of local police departments is not new and is directly tied to the government’s destruction of the black liberation movement of the 1960s. Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams emerged after the urban rebellions and exchanges of gunfire between the Black Panther Party and police departments around the country.
It is true that the Pentagon’s 1033 Program accelerated the supply of military equipment given to the police, but it was not a new experience for black Americans. Police on the beat, like Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, are a modern day slave patrol, using the slightest infraction or none at all to arrest, assault and even kill on a daily basis.
I spoke not just about Michael Brown but about Eric Garner who was choked to death while crying out that he couldn’t breathe and Akai Gurley whose only crime was taking the stairs in his public housing apartment building when police were on patrol. Even children like twelve year-old Tamir Rice armed with toy guns aren’t safe from police murder if they have black skin.
The world needs to know not only that America’s promise of justice for all is a lie but that it is expressed against the rest of the world, too. The anti-globalization group came into being in response to the United States and NATO attacks on the Russian government and interference in the domestic crisis in Ukraine. It is also ironic that the United States senate report on torture was released during the same week as the Moscow conference. It is not coincidental that a country which developed an officially sanctioned policy of torture is also the world leader in mass incarceration, defense spending and aggression towards the world community.
“White supremacy is followed only by worship of money as the very foundation of American life.”
The United States still occupies Iraq and Afghanistan with troops and has used proxies to destroy Libya, Somalia, Haiti and Syria. Now Russia, though it is stronger than those other nations, has also been marked for destruction by the West. The United States has connived with its ally Saudi Arabia to lower the price of oil and do even further damage to Russia’s energy production sector. Congress has proposed even more sanctions in an effort to destroy that nation’s economy and turn it into a vassal state along with every other country that won’t submit to pax Americana.
What next? That is the question that conference participants often asked. What will happen after Ferguson? How long will the protests continue? It is difficult to make predictions and create hypothetical scenarios, but it is clear that people in a small Missouri town have changed the paradigm.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder will not be given deference should they choose not to pursue federal prosecution in the Michael Brown case. They are finally being taken to task and will not be able to explain a decision to let Darren Wilson get away with murder.
I told my hosts and local media that the American system guarantees presidents like Barack Obama. The person who emerges atop the political heap does so by agreeing tacitly and explicitly to maintain the status quo for the rulers in the 1%. White supremacy is followed only by worship of money as the very foundation of American life. A black president will do as little as a white one, perhaps even less, in order to separate himself the group which arrived in chains and still lives at the margins.
It is important for activists in this country to strengthen their coalitions abroad. It is a vital step in making critical change and freeing people from police brutality, CIA “black” sites, mass imprisonment and the wanton destruction of other nations and their people. There is no substitute for direct and personal interaction. It makes us all less susceptible to the lies and manipulations which do the world such great harm.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.