In case you have not heard, the Minnesota Vikings won the NFC Divisional Game on Sunday, after a near-defeat in traditional Vikings playoff style. Fans were ecstatic. “WE WON!” was shouted everywhere in Minnesota.
Except a few places. Not many of the homeless people were celebrating the win in a warm cozy home with game food laid out for an afternoon of face-stuffing. Not many of the unvisited residents of the state’s nursing homes thought as much about the game as they did about where their families were. A good portion of the minority communities facing possible deportation thought less of a football game than spending perhaps the last day possible with loved ones they might never see again.
By Monday, people in the state’s employment sector that worked on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, were still talking about the big game. The office coffee pots were constant witness to the sometimes hour-long reflections on “where I was and what I was doing” during the big moment of the final play. The first 5 minutes of local news broadcasts focused on people who had left the stadium or turned off the television before victory was clear. As of Tuesday, the 5 most read stories in the Minneapolis Star Tribune are all centered on the Vikings win last Sunday.
“Snipers will be on rooftops and in buildings in strategic places. Officers in head-to-toe commando gear will be on the streets gripping assault rifles against their chests. Minneapolis Police Cmdr. Scott Gerlicher said the influx of federal agents to Minnesota will be the largest in the 52 years of Super Bowl history,” reports the Star Tribune.
All these moves and decisions are being done to protect people going to a sporting event. Remember that sporting events at the professional level are nothing more than a corporation (NFL) selling you their product (football team) as an entertainment vehicle to encourage participation through purchases of tickets, game gear, trinkets and other such memorabilia. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the business model or the consumers of the products.
There was, and still is, a place in our society to come out and enjoy America’s favorite pastime; sports events. But shouldn’t it be done with more balance to the other things that matter greatest in life? If you are fortunate enough to be able to get to the end of your life to gather those that mean the most to you during your final moments, will you ask for your football team or your family?
About the Author: Carol Benedict is an independent researcher and human rights activist. She is also an independent Journalist and a professional member of the US Press Association.
Daniel Shaver, left, was shot to death by Office Philip Brailsford, right, in January 2016. Prominent Black Lives Matter supporters have drawn attention to his death as the latest clear sign that major policing reforms are needed in the U.S. (Photo: @NolanHack/Twitter)
Black Lives Matter activists were among those who used social media on Friday and Saturday to call attention to the case of Daniel Shaver, a 26-year-old man who was shot to death by a police officer in Mesa, Arizona in January 2016.
A disturbing, graphic video of the shooting was released shortly after the officer who killed Shaver, who was white, was acquitted of second-degree murder.
The video shows Shaver following the officer’s instructions to crawl toward him and begging him not to shoot. Continue reading →
The only sounds were those of muffled drums, the shuffling of feet and the gentle sobs of some of the estimated 20,000 onlookers. The women and children wore all white. The men dressed in black.
On the afternoon of Saturday, July 28, 1917, nearly 10,000 African-Americans marched down Fifth Avenue, in silence, to protest racial violence and white supremacy in the United States.
New York City, and the nation, had never before witnessed such a remarkable scene.
The “Silent Protest Parade,” as it came to be known, was the first mass African-American demonstration of its kind and marked a watershed moment in the history of the civil rights movement. As I have written in my book “Torchbearers of Democracy,” African-Americans during the World War I era challenged racism both abroad and at home. In taking to the streets to dramatize the brutal treatment of black people, the participants of the “Silent Protest Parade” indicted the United States as an unjust nation.
This charge remains true today.
One hundred years later, as black people continue to insist that “Black Lives Matter,” the “Silent Protest Parade” offers a vivid reminder about the power of courageous leadership, grassroots mobilization, direct action and their collective necessity in the fight to end racial oppression in our current troubled times.
Racial violence and the East St. Louis Riot
One of the great accomplishments of the Black Lives Matter movement has been to demonstrate the continuum of racist violence against black people throughout American history and also the history of resistance against it. But as we continue to grapple with the hyper-visibility of black death, it is perhaps easy to forget just how truly horrific racial violence against black people was a century ago.
Prior to the “Silent Protest Parade,” mob violence and the lynching of African-Americans had grown even more gruesome. In Waco, a mob of 10,000 white Texans attended the May 15, 1916, lynching of a black farmer, Jesse Washington. One year later, on May 22, 1917, a black woodcutter, Ell Persons, died at the hands of over 5,000 vengeance-seeking whites in Memphis. Both men were burned and mutilated, their charred body parts distributed and displayed as souvenirs.
Even by these grisly standards, East St. Louis later that same summer was shocking. Simmering labor tensions between white and black workers exploded on the evening of July 2, 1917.
For 24 hours, white mobs indiscriminately stabbed, shot and lynched anyone with black skin. Men, women, children, the elderly, the disabled – no one was spared. Homes were torched and occupants shot down as they attempted to flee. White militia men stood idly by as the carnage unfolded. Some actively participated. The death toll likely ran as high as 200 people.
The city’s surviving 6,000 black residents became refugees.
The devastation of East St. Louis was compounded by the fact that America was at war. On April 2, President Woodrow Wilson had thrown the United States into the maelstrom of World War I. He did so by asserting America’s singularly unique place on the global stage and his goal to make the world “safe for democracy.” In the eyes of black people, East St. Louis exposed the hypocrisy of Wilson’s vision and America itself.
The NAACP takes action
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People quickly responded to the massacre. Founded in 1909, the NAACP had yet to establish itself as a truly representative organization for African-Americans across the country. With the exception of W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the NAACP’s co-founders and editor of The Crisis magazine, the national leadership was all white. Branches were overwhelmingly located in the North, despite the majority of African-Americans residing below the Mason-Dixon line. As a result, the NAACP had largely failed to respond with a sense of urgency to the everyday horrors endured by the masses of black folk.
James Weldon Johnson changed things. Lawyer, diplomat, novelist, poet and songwriter, Johnson was a true African-American renaissance man. In 1916, Johnson joined the NAACP as a field secretary and made an immediate impact. In addition to growing the organization’s southern membership, Johnson recognized the importance of expanding the influence of the NAACP’s existing branches beyond the black elite.
Johnson raised the idea of a silent protest march at an executive committee meeting of the NAACP Harlem branch shortly after the East St. Louis riot. Johnson also insisted that the protest include the city’s entire black community. Planning quickly got underway, spearheaded by Johnson and local black clergymen.
A historic day
By noon on July 28, several thousand African-Americans had begun to assemble at 59th Street. Crowds gathered along Fifth Avenue. Anxious New York City police officers lined the streets, aware of what was about to take place but, with clubs at the ready, prepared for trouble.
At approximately 1 p.m., the protest parade commenced. Four men carrying drums began to slowly, solemnly play. A group of black clergymen and NAACP officials made up the front line. W.E.B. Du Bois, who had recently returned from conducting an NAACP investigation in East St. Louis, and James Weldon Johnson marched side by side.
The parade was a stunning spectacle. At the front, women and children wearing all-white gowns symbolized the innocence of African-Americans in the face of the nation’s guilt. The men, bringing up the rear and dressed in dark suits, conveyed both a mournful dignity and stern determination to stand up for their rights as citizens.
They carried signs and banners shaming America for its treatment of black people. Some read, “Your hands are full of blood,” “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” “Mothers, do lynchers go to heaven?” Others highlighted the wartime context and the hollowness of America’s ideals: “We have fought for the liberty of white Americans in six wars; our reward was East St. Louis,” “Patriotism and loyalty presuppose protection and liberty,” “Make America safe for Democracy.”
Throughout the parade, the marchers remained silent. The New York Times described the protest as “one of the most quiet and orderly demonstrations ever witnessed.” The silence was finally broken with cheers when the parade concluded at Madison Square.
Legacy of the Silent Protest Parade
The “Silent Protest Parade” marked the beginning of a new epoch in the long black freedom struggle. While adhering to a certain politics of respectability, a strategy employed by African-Americans that focused on countering racist stereotypes through dignified appearance and behavior, the protest, within its context, constituted a radical claiming of the public sphere and a powerful affirmation of black humanity. It declared that a “New Negro” had arrived and launched a black public protest tradition that would be seen in the parades of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter marches of today.
The “Silent Protest Parade” reminds us that the fight against racist violence and the killing of black people remains just as relevant now as it did 100 years ago. Black death, whether at the hands of a Baton Rouge police officer or white supremacist in Charleston, is a specter that continues to haunt this nation. The expendability of black bodies is American tradition, and history speaks to the long endurance of this violent legacy.
But history also offers inspiration, purpose and vision.
Ida B. Wells, James Weldon Johnson and other freedom fighters of their generation should serve as models for activists today. That the “Silent Protest Parade” attracted black people from all walks of life and backgrounds attests to the need for organizations like the NAACP, following its recent national convention, to remember and embrace its origins. And, in building and sustaining the current movement, we can take lessons from past struggles and work strategically and creatively to apply them to the present.
Because, at their core, the demands of black people in 2017 remain the same as one of the signs raised to the sky on that July afternoon in 1917:
May Day strikes are planned nationwide, from rural communities to major cities. (Image: Design Action Collective)
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and allies are expected to strike and protest on Monday, taking part in what organizers are hoping will be the largest national strike since the May Day demonstrations of 2006.
“I definitely think this is going to be one of the biggest May Day marches,” Kent Wong, executive director of the UCLA Labor Center, toldThe Nation, which noted that “[t]he turbulent Trump era and draconian attacks on immigrant communities all but guarantee a bigger and more passionate turnout than usual this year.” Continue reading →
Demonstrators in Arizona, such as these workers striking for higher wages at a Walmart in Phoenix, could face racketeering charges and asset forfeiture under the law passed by the state senate. (Photo: Deanna Dent/UFCW International Union/flickr/cc)
At least 19 U.S. states have introduced bills that attack the right to protest since Donald Trump’s election as president, an “alarming and undemocratic” trend, U.N. human rights investigators said this week.
Maina Kiai and David Kaye, independent U.N. experts on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression respectively, are calling on lawmakers in the United States to stop the “alarming” trend of “undemocratic” anti-protest bills designed to criminalize or impede the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. Continue reading →
Dust off your fax machine. The FBI is planning to take a big step backward for government transparency.
As of March 1, the Bureau will no longer accept Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests via email. Anyone seeking public records from the FBI will have to use a new online portal — or send requests via fax or snail mail.
Online FOIA portals may seem like a good idea in theory, but government agencies make them difficult to use — with way too many burdensome requirements.
Lake St. bridge between Minneapolis and St. Paul on 1-27-2017. Photo: Screenshot from Fox 9 livestream
Yesterday afternoon, activists gathered on a bridge over the Mississippi River to protest the Trump administration”s executive order concerning the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines. It took place on Lake Street Bridge, near where Marshall intersects with Lake Street. To those not familiar with our city, this is where Minneapolis and St. Paul meet, over a river that has been polluted by industrial and agricultural runoff to the level that fish consumption advisories are common. The protest was peaceful, with the police shutting down access to the bridge from either direction and redirecting traffic to protect all citizens, including the protestors.
As many of you may know, Occupy World Writes is based in the Twin Cities. When most people think of Minnesota and the people who live there, they usually have two preconceptions about the place. The first is that it resembles the Arctic Circle during the winter (which it occasionally does), and that the people are basically decent, caring human beings. “Minnesota Nice” is one of those catchy phrases that our state tourism departments love, and use to their benefit.
We monitor local actions, on the ground or via social media feeds, where we can also examine different angles and hear perspectives from all sides of an issue. We also monitor the comments to see what kind of reactions the community that’s watching have. We were shocked, saddened and outraged by what we were reading. Some examples:
“Run ’em down!” “Arrest them all!” “Go get a job!” “This is ASSAULT if I can’t drive where I want to!” “It’s all the fault of those BLM people!”
In other words, “WAAH! You’re inconveniencing me! I have to drive a whole two or three miles out of my way! How DARE you!”
“Run ’em down”: Vehicular manslaughter is a crime in Minnesota, as it is in all US states. To cause bodily injury with intent by using a motor vehicle against a pedestrian is also illegal. The protesters were there legally, as proven with the law enforcement officers protecting them.
“Arrest them all!”: In order to be arrested, a person must be breaking the law. These people were protected BY the police, not trying to escape them. Law enforcement understands that 1st Amendment rights and peaceful protests are completely legal. To arrest people for NOT doing anything against the law is an overreach, at best.
“Go get a job!“: Assessing one’s employment status by appearance alone is not a skill – it is a judgement. The activist community around here is the same as it is in most big cities across this country – very diverse. Most are employed; everyone who works, works hard. Some work 2nd or 3rd shift, some work over the weekends and have other days off during the week, and some are retired or full time students between class schedules. When people go to a sporting event, we don’t look at all the spectators and say “Go get a job!” Maybe this what these people CHOOSE to do when not at their jobs.
“This is ASSAULT if I can’t drive where I want to!”: Assault is defined as an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. We have not been able to assess how motorists in cars across the city were “assaulted” by people standing on a bridge.
“It’s all the fault of those BLM people!”: The people we observed in the footage were not African American. They appeared to be a diverse group of white, native, latino and other sects that represent a cross section of the greater metro area. Many of the posters and other supporting demonstration gear was identical to what was seen in Standing Rock and Sacred Stone Camps in North Dakota, where people in the Twin Cities swore their solidarity with the water protectors.
What we observed the most was the total disconnect between what should be an obvious 1st Amendment right being exercised, and the assumption that this was somehow “illegal” and should not be allowed.
It does not seem to have occurred to any of those criticizing this action, that when the Bill of Rights was written, it was done so very methodically, in a certain order, for a reason. You would not need 2nd Amendment rights if you did not have 1st Amendment rights worth defending.
Black Lives Matter protest against St. Paul police brutality. Photo: Fibonacci Blue [CC BY 2.0,] via Wikimedia Commons
This month marked a historic shift in the way climate change is communicated. Black Lives Matter (BLMUK) blocked City Airport in London to highlight that the climate crisis is a racist crisis. With half a million plus views on YouTube and interviews on BBC, the action has led to a torment of indignation, rage, mixed with the usual blatant racist abuse on the YouTube and Guardian comments threads. Even “progressive left” voices seem to have deemed that mixing climate and race is inappropriate, confusing, and counterproductive. I want to argue the exact opposite.
First it is necessary be clear about the science on climate change. Most people including many left activists seem to still subscribe to the notion that climate change is some vague threat that is going to happen at some point in the distant future. As one well regarded young activist friend put it “at least I will be dead by then”. Continue reading →
PORTLAND OREGON – NOV 17: Police in Riot Gear Holding the Line in Downtown Portland Oregon during a Occupy Portland protest on the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street November 17 2011
United States — Lurched back and forth in the ever-quickening spiral of an American empire circling the drain, we — as a people — have chosen battle lines on nearly every issue from politics to foreign policy, domestic surveillance to policing.
Thrust back into national focus, the last issue — policing in the U.S. — might even surpass in contention the ongoing race to the White House. And it stands to reason, with the world lashing out against failed globalism in its various nefarious incarnations — largely driven by American exceptionalist military presence nearly everywhere on the planet — the empire sees expediency in heading off a possible insurrection. Continue reading →
“All he has is a truck. A toy truck. I’m a behavior therapist at a group home,” Charles Kinsey pleaded with officers, holding his arms in the air and trying to help an autistic patient before he was shot. (Screenshot)
Charles Kinsey, a black man and caregiver at a group home, was shot by police on Monday in North Miami, Florida.
Cell phone video footage released late Wednesday showed that Kinsey was lying on the ground, holding his arms in the air to show he was unarmed, and trying to help a distressed autistic patient in the moments before he was shot in the leg.
“As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me, is what I was thinking. Wow, was I wrong,”said Kinsey to local TV station WSVN from a hospital bed on Thursday. Continue reading →