By BAR Executive Editor Glen Ford
July 13, 2016
“When murderous attack by agents of the State is a reasonable expectation, then it is totally reasonable to resist the repressive powers of that State by any means necessary.”
A week that began with the Black American psyche shocked and strained to its very limits by the outrageous police murders of Black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, ended with a white mayor claiming absolution for his city and, by extension, white U.S. society in general. “We did nothing wrong. Dallas is very, very good,” Mayor Mike Rawlings told an event honoring the five cops killed by 25 year-old Black Army veteran Micah Xavier Johnson. “I am in awe of our police officers.”
The New York Times was eager to issue an obituary for the movement that has been percolating since a Florida vigilante gunned down Trayvon Martin in 2012. “Black Lives Matter Was Gaining Ground,” read the headline on Sunday, July 10, but “…Then a Sniper Opened Fire.” According to the twisted logic of the ruling class “paper of record,” “Mr. Johnson’s actions could jeopardize the movement’s appeal to a broader group of Americans who have gradually become more sympathetic to its cause after years of highly publicized police shootings.” Translation: The purpose of Black people’s movements is to garner white support. Therefore, protesters must stand down in deference to white sensibilities, lest they be suspected of collectively empathizing with Mr. Johnson.
But Black people and their allies refused to stand down. In Atlanta, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, New Orleans, Nashville, Phoenix, San Francisco – and, of course, in greater Minneapolis and Baton Rouge, the scenes of the crimes – thousands took to the streets to express their righteous, disciplined rage. Many of these protests have continued, day after day and night after night, inspired by the remarkable example of Lavish “Diamond” Reynolds, the girlfriend of Philando Castile.
The world witnessed the young mother’s miraculous presence of mind as she streamed online to call for help for her dying boyfriend, strapped in his seat at her side; alerted the community to the unprovoked nature of the attack by Officer Jeronimo Yanez, verbally confronting the killer cop and correcting his version of the shooting; and, managed to somehow preserve her own life and that of her four-year-old daughter, sitting in the back seat. The crazed and cursing cop kept his weapon trained on Castile, Reynolds and little Dae’Anna, the whole time.
The Minnesota cop’s lawyer maintains that “the shooting had nothing to do with race and everything to do with the presence of that gun” – the registered gun Mr. Castile told the officer he legally possessed, and which he never reached for or touched, as Ms. Reynolds explained in her emergency call to the world.
“Black Man + Gun = DEATH”
The cop is preparing a defense based on the police formula: Black Man + Gun = Death. It is the operative equation in every jurisdiction in America. A homeless man who had been begging Alton Sterling for money reportedly told police that Sterling had a gun on his person, thereby authorizing his execution under the formula – although Sterling never brandished a weapon at the two Baton Rouge police and was immobilized when repeatedly shot point blank, after which the weapon was removed from his pocket.
They are also cynical liars and hypocrites. North Carolina Congressman G.K. Butterfield, the current chairman of the Black Caucus, called a diversionary press conference the day after the armed assault on the Dallas police, attempting to link the gun control debate to both the police killings of Castile and Sterling and Micah Johnson’s retaliatory killing of cops: “Republicans, what on earth — why are you recoiling and not giving us a debate on gun violence?” The legislation the CBC and Obama support is irrelevant to the question of police violence against Blacks, or the Black response to that violence.“
“In Baton Rouge, where hundreds have been arrested in protests over Alton Sterling’s murder, it is as if Ferguson never happened.”
In Baton Rouge, where hundreds have been arrested in protests over Alton Sterling’s murder, it is as if Ferguson never happened. According to a report by Prof. Bob Quigley in this issue of BAR, riot clad police are pointing lethal weapons at protesters, bystanders and journalists, deploying military-type vehicles, and conducting blanket area sweeps with no visible regard for law or civil liberties. Corporate media excuse the Baton Rouge police behavior as an understandable reaction to the Dallas police deaths. The New York Times has not asked the cops to stand down.
Gil Scott-Heron, the late musician-poet, dedicated his spoken word poem “Siege of New Orleans” to Mark Essex’s day of retaliation. On his song “Inner City Blues,” Scott-Heron mixes the “Siege” with his version of Marvin Gaye’s “Make Me Wanna Holler.”
Here are the words included in “Siege of New Orleans”
Did you ever hear about Mark Essex and the things that made him choose to fight the inner city blues
Yeah, Essex took to the rooftops guerilla style and watched while all the crackers went wild
Brought in 600 troops, brand new I hear, to see them crushed with fear
Essex fought back with a thousand rounds and New Orleans was a changing town
Rat a tat tat tat was the only sound, yeah
Bring on the stone rifles to knock down walls
Bring on the elephant guns
Bring on the helicopters to block out the sun
Yeah, made the devil wanna holler cause 8 was dead and a dozen was down
Cries for freedom were a brand new sound
New York, Chicago, Frisco, LA
Justice was served and the unjust were afraid
Because in spite of all the years and all the fears
Brothers were alive to courage found and spreading them goddamn rules around
Yeah, make you wanna holler black people and hold up both your hands and say
If Gil Scott-Heron were alive, today, Obama might put him on his Tuesday night Kill List. Two generations removed from both mass movement politics and any real discussion of oppressed people’s moral and legal right to resist, most Black folks today don’t know quite what to say about Micah Johnson’s act of self-sacrifice and revenge. But many do feel a sense of grim exhilaration.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
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