Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Labor Fightback Network Demands Justice for Michael Brown and the People of Ferguson!

Issued by the Labor Fightback Network. [] [] [conference@)]:
A well-orchestrated and coordinated campaign to protect and immunize Darren Wilson, the police officer who murdered Michael Brown, is well underway. It has several facets:
- Drag out the legal procedures for determining whether Wilson should be charged with a crime;
- Portray Wilson as a competent cop with an excellent record and a good family man;
- Focus not on the violence of the state but the disorder on the streets;
- Hold Brown responsible for what the police claim was a scuffle with Wilson over the officer's gun, which preceded the officer's execution of Brown;
- Publicize widely Brown's alleged robbery of cigarillos at a convenience store shortly before the officer shot him in the street; issue to the media a video tape and a 19-page police account of the robbery in a transparent attempt to divert attention away from Wilson's crime;
- Withhold Wilson's written report of the confrontation, other than the alleged struggle near and in the police car;
- Withhold information about gun residue on Brown's clothes -- if any -- which are in possession of the police;
- Withhold evidence, if there is any, of Brown's DNA on the gun;
- Withhold comment on Wilson's whereabouts when he suddenly disappeared from view;
- Make clear that Wilson remained in good graces with the authorities by placing him on paid administrative leave; the police have never announced whether he was asked to surrender his gun and badge;
- Not announcing the results of the St. Louis County autopsy of Brown, other than leaking that he had marijuana in his system (Washington Post, August 18) when we were told that a toxicology report would take weeks;
- Spur the organizing of a right-wing, racist movement in defense of Wilson.
The list above is certainly not exhaustive. But it suffices to make clear that the police, the politicians and the power structure are prepared to wage an all-out fight to prevent Wilson from being arrested and brought to justice.
What is the legal requirement for making an arrest at this point? Or, as Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, asked in the aftermath of the autopsy performed by Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, what else do they need to arrest the killer of my son?
The answer to her question is that nothing more is needed. All that has to be shown to justify an arrest is that there is "probable cause" to believe that a crime has been committed and that the perpetrator is the one being arrested for committing the crime. The results of the Baden autopsy and the statements of eyewitnesses are more than enough to show probable cause.
The Wall Street Journal article of August 19 on the slaying of Michael Brown states "Probe Likely to Take Weeks, Officials Say." NBC News quotes prosecutors as saying it will likely take months.
This will not fly. Justice delayed is justice denied! "NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE!" is the chant most widely heard on the streets.

Need for the Labor Movement, the Civil Rights Movement and All Progressive Forces to Mobilize -
We in the labor movement have a great stake in the outcome of this fight. The same is true of the civil rights movement and all progressive forces. This is a showdown between the racists and those committed to equal rights, human rights, dignity for people of color, and due process.
We cannot depend on politicians and authority figures to make right what is so shockingly wrong. President Barack Obama, Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri and Captain Ron Johnson of the State Highway Patrol are the three most-quoted figures in this conflict. All three have one thing in common: None call for the arrest now of Wilson. Each, instead, urges people in the streets to be calm, orderly, patient and let the investigations run their course. They would like nothing better than to have protesters abandon the streets.
But the opposite is what's needed. The streets should be flooded in solidarity with Michael Brown, his family, and with the African American community in Ferguson and their allies, marching behind a banner that demands "Arrest Darren Wilson Now! Justice for Michael Brown!"
The labor movement and our community partners can make the difference. We cannot afford the kind of defeat experienced in the Trayvon Martin case. It's time now to organize a March on Ferguson and give meaning to the word SOLIDARITY. Let's urge the protesters in Ferguson to hang in there and -- in the words of the great labor song -- "Hold the Fort, For We Are Coming!"

"The Crisis in Ferguson Is Escalating -- Mass Action Needed to Win Justice for Michael Brown and to Defend Civil Liberties and Civil Rights"
published 2014-08-16 by the "Labor Fight Back! Network":
Oscar Grant murdered January 1, 2009 in Oakland, CA; Trayvon Martin murdered February 26, 2012 in Sanford, FL; Eric Garner murdered July 17, 2014 in Staten Island, NY; Michael Brown murdered August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, MO; Ezell Ford murdered August 11, 2014 in Los Angeles, CA.
These are only a few of the numerous police and vigilante executions of Blacks that are becoming more and more commonplace across the country. While this has been going on for many decades, it has reached a boiling point, triggering tremendous outrage as large numbers of people take to the streets to demand justice and hold accountable those responsible for their criminal actions.
The question, as always, is what can be done to counter the horrific killings, which are too often countenanced by those in authority. This is particularly true in areas where depression conditions, massive unemployment, segregation, racial profiling, rundown schools and discriminatory composition of police forces provide the background for the repeated killings.
The situation in Ferguson is a classic case. An unarmed 18-year-old African American man, Michael Brown, was gunned down by a Ferguson police officer, Darrell Wilson, who shot him multiple times on August 9.
There is high tension in Ferguson today, primarily because of the failure of authorities to arrest Wilson and put him in jail where he belongs. Instead, he has been placed on administrative leave with full pay. The chief of police has praised him to the skies as being an excellent officer.
The other major contributing reason for the tension has been the way police used the press conference naming Wilson as the shooter. At the same time, they released still photos of a video allegedly showing Brown robbing cigars at a convenience store just minutes before the slaying. This had nothing to do with the execution of Brown and was an obvious move to deflect attention away from the officer's action and place the onus on Brown. Lawyers for the Brown family called it "character assassination."
Incidentally, the police chief initially stated categorically that there was no connection between the alleged robbery and the killing. Hours later his story changed and every time he appeared with a microphone in his hands he came out with a different version of what happened.
The facts could not be clearer: at the time that he was shot, Brown was yards away from Wilson and posed no threat to him whatever. According to three eyewitnesses, Brown, looking at the officer, had his arms raised, showing that he was unarmed and as a gesture of compliance. But his life was not spared. It was an unjustifiable murder having nothing to do with the alleged robbery at the store.
Even assuming for the moment that Brown did rob the store, the penalty for such a crime is not a death sentence.

Police Respond to Protests with Violence and Repression -
In the aftermath of the murder, Ferguson residents, while engaging in peaceful mass protest, were subjected to tear gas attacks by police, flash bombs and stun grenades, snipers on top of armored trucks, rubber bullets, AR-15 assault rifles, police dogs, and cops and state police dressed in paramilitary uniforms.
Where did the Ferguson police get all of its weaponry? Most of it -- leftovers from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars -- was donated by the feds as a gift of a half-million dollars. Other cities throughout the country received similar donations, meaning our taxpayers' dollars are being used to help create the militarization of the police, as happened in Ferguson.
In short, Ferguson was under siege by a police/military force out of control. Free speech rights were trampled under foot, and peaceful protesters in the streets felt the need to hold their hands up high in the face of rifles pointed at their heads.
A state senator was hit with teargas, as were large numbers of others whose eyes were burning and watering. An alderman was arrested as were journalists for The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. One reporter, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, was told by a cop, "We will not allow you to write about what is happening here." So much for freedom of the press!
There are only three Black peace officers in Ferguson out of a force of 53. There is only one African American city council member out of six (and he was arrested during these events and held overnight in a jail cell).
Years ago, Ferguson was almost exclusively a "white" city so, of course, all the governing positions were held by white people. But as time went by, more and more Blacks moved into Ferguson so that today Blacks constitute 67% of the city's population. But the power structure remains as it was, with virtually no Black representation in the city's governmental bodies.
Given this, and the plight of Ferguson as a depressed community, it is little wonder that the city erupted as a result of the Brown slaying. The city had become a tinderbox and the protests had grown in intensity, fueled by the police refusing to identify themselves by displaying badges and the cops' long delay in divulging the name of the police officer who did the killing, which the community demanded be made known so that he can be held responsible and accountable.
Was there some rioting as a result of what had occurred? Inevitably, yes. It was born of deep frustration and exasperation flowing from the conditions capped by the murder. But as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Rioting is the language used by the unheard." And since the protests were overwhelmingly peaceful, the police rioting that took place can no way be justified.

So What Is To Be Done?
Confronted by the overwhelming public denunciation of its tactics and abuses, the police supposedly were withdrawn as the primary force dealing with the protesters. Instead this has been turned over to the state's highway patrol. Assurances have been given that reforms will be instituted to ensure that free speech and the right to assemble and march peacefully will be safeguarded. And the name of the officer who murdered Michael Brown was finally released.
These are all concessions to the massive and militant demonstrations which rocked the establishment not only in Ferguson but also in St. Louis, the state of Missouri, and indeed the ruling circles in the country as a whole. It could not be otherwise, given the rallies of solidarity with the Ferguson residents which took place in New York, Washington D.C., St. Louis, Miami, Boston,  Oakland, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Colorado Springs, Decatur, Burlington, Austin, Detroit, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Manhattan, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, Eugene, Brooklyn, Portland, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Montgomery, Des Moines,, and some 80 other cities in the U.S.
This is a time to keep the pressure on and to press forward relentlessly to ensure justice for Michael Brown, defense of civil liberties and civil rights, and the demilitarization of the police.
We cannot take for granted the indictment and conviction of the officer who killed Brown, as we learned in the case of Trayvon Martin. Nor can we assume that all the promised reforms will be implemented in the absence of continued demonstrations in the streets.
Let's not forget that in the immediate aftermath of the murder, Jon Belmar, St. Louis County police chief, stated, "The genesis of this was a physical confrontation . . . during which Brown physically assaulted the police officer." And so the campaign to vilify Brown was launched, as the police rally to Wilson's defense, using the age-old tactic of making the victim the criminal and the criminal the victim. Interviews with a number of Ferguson residents make clear that they see through and reject this insidious maneuver.
The fight of the Ferguson community for justice in this situation, starting with the arrest and imprisonment of Wilson, is one that the labor movement and its allies need to make our own. Therefore, we in the Labor Fightback Network urge a labor movement/civil rights movement initiated "March on Ferguson," so that more of our sisters and brothers at least in the major cities in the region -- St. Louis and Chicago -- can join the struggle in support of demands that these movements can advance.
Solidarity now -- not depending on investigations that can drag on for weeks or even months -- is the key to winning justice for Michael Brown and for all who support the struggle for human rights in Ferguson and everywhere else in the U.S. where racism can only succeed if too many of us are passive in the fight for freedom and equal rights.

No comments:

Post a Comment