Violent Protest is an American Tradition, Part 1

On July 8 1965, CORE led a march in Bogalusa, Louisiana. Like many marches, the Bogalusa march had members of the Deacons for Defense on hand to protect the participants. Deacons Milton Johnson and Henry Austin rode alongside the marchers, keeping an eye on the angry white crowd that followed the march.  At first, police escorts were able to separate the marchers from the racist white people who were heckling them; but as the march neared it’s halfway mark, the growing crowd began to throw rocks and bricks at the marchers. When one of the bricks hit 17 year old Hattie Mae Hill in the head, the crowd of white people got closer to her, ripping at her clothes and hitting her. Medics tried to remove her from the crowd, but they were outnumbered. When Johnson was able to pull her into the safety of the car, the crowd targeted him. A white man named Alton Crowe began beating Johnson through the window of the car.

So Henry Austin pulled out his .38 Smith & Wesson and told the crowd to back off.  When they ignored him, he fired warning shots into the air. And when the group of attackers ignored his warning shots, he fired two shots into the chest of Alton Crowe.

The crowd was ready to kill Austin and Johnson, but they were both immediately arrested. Crowe survived, so Austin and Johnson were both able to make bail. Austin found he returned to Bogalusa a hero — at least to the black population of Bogalusa. White politicians did not share the community’s enthusiasm over Austin’s heroism.

Here is how Lance Hill description of the political aftermath of the Crowe shooting in his book, The Deacons for Defense:

 In the wake of the Crowe shooting, [Governor] McKeithen pursued a “plague on both your houses” strategy toward the Deacons and the Klan. He condemned both the violent racists and the civil rights groups as equally responsible for the Bogalusa crisis. But McKeithen reserved his harshest criticism for the Deacons and failed to even mention the Klan by name. The governor castigated [Deacons leaders] Young and Sims as “cowards” and “trash” and declared that “no decent negroes” were participating in the civil rights marches. McKeithen’s appeasement of the Klan was the rule rather than the exception for white Louisiana politicians.

“I think there is blame on both sides….what about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right,’ do they have any semblance of guilt?…You had people that were very fine people on both sides,” said Donald Trump on August 15, 2017, in a press conference discussing the murder of Heather Heyer by white supremacist James Alex Fields.

And the KKK’s response? Hill explains:

“Most whites do not admit it,” wrote the New York Times after the Crowe shooting, “but the Deacons send a chill down their spines.” The truth of this was borne out in subsequent marches. In the days following the shooting the huge mobs of whites disappeared. The Crowe shooting-and an increased police presence-discouraged ordinary whites from attending the Klan’s counter demonstrations. The Klan could no longer organize mass attacks on black demonstrations in Bogalusa. This inability to organize mass direct action protests reduced the Klan to isolated terror tactics and diminished its influence over nonaffiliated segregationists in the mill town.

Sound familiar?

As members of the press like Petula Dvorak write pearl clutching think pieces decrying Antifa’s egg throwing and vehement demands to not be filmed against their wishes, they’re missing a huge historical connection.

Violent protest is an American tradition, and the work of those willing to take on its burden has long been the backbone of the success of the “love and unity” peaceful demonstrators — who often end up being the only ones credited when progress happens.

Though the July 8th march was not the first time the Deacons protected a CORE protest, it was the first time violence had occurred against a white man. The shooting made the white liberals who were funding CORE nervous, and while members of CORE were well aware that some of their activists were alive because of the protection of the Deacons, journalists were instead focused on whether or not CORE had strayed from its ideal of nonviolent action. Ultimately, CORE took the stance that their members would continue to practice nonviolent protest, but they would be potentially protected by private citizens who were armed.

The lesson learned by CORE was that the police couldn’t be trusted to equally enforce the law. In 2018, it isn’t up for debate that people still feel this way, and it’s a hard argument to make that everyone is treated equally. While the FBI is monitoring the home and Twitter account of BLM activist DeRay McKesson, the MPD is guarding white supremacists in front of the White House. Perhaps Dvorak’s cutesy attempt at cluelessness in her suggestion that the police and antifa came to a head on Sunday in front of an Au Bon Pain because they want to “bring back the Triple Cinnamon Scone” would be less disgusting if America’s legacy of trivializing the rights of minorities didn’t exist.

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I’M WHITE AND AFRAID OF EVERYTHING: SPANISH IS SPOKEN TOO FAST AND I’M SCARED

WashPo profiled a scared white person, and I am just so grateful that I am able to better understand what it is like to be white and afraid of everything. They tracked a young couple, Heaven and Venson, who work at the Bell & Evans chicken plant in Fredericksburg, PA.

She knew she was about to go at least eight hours without speaking English, or probably anything at all, in a plant where nearly all of the workers were Latino and spoke Spanish, and she was one of the few who wasn’t and didn’t.

If only there was something that could be done about this….

[Heaven and Venson] held the embrace, swaying slightly, their world outside the plant’s walls — white, rural, conservative — feeling distant in this world within, where they were the outsiders, the ones who couldn’t communicate, the minority.

Wow. This is pretty fucking dramatic for a description of going into your job of quality checking chicken, holy shit.

Continue reading I’M WHITE AND AFRAID OF EVERYTHING: SPANISH IS SPOKEN TOO FAST AND I’M SCARED

Stephen Miller is Your Smug, Gaslighting Tinder Date

Stephen Miller’s exchange with Jim Acosta on Wednesday was horrific, yet familiar.

Women know Stephen Miller. Stephen Miller is that asshole you meet on Tinder, who wants to send you a message so he can let you know your pictures from the Women’s March are really sexist against men. The kind of guy who says, “WELL ACTUALLY,” or, “let me play devil’s advocate here,” before blatantly insulting you and your intelligence. The one who says your name in a way you can almost see the your name in italics (and maybe all caps) coming out of his mouth — over and over. He’s the guy who walks up to you at a bar, hits on you in the most obnoxious manner possible, asks you questions, and proceeds to spin your basic beliefs into a web of bullshit. He’s the smug jerk who pretends to not understand phrases that are commonly used in the vernacular. Instead, he takes every comment you say completely literally, and suggests you are the dumb one for speaking like a human and not a robot. He’s the kind of racist asshole that he makes you out to be a racist monster — and all you said was, “Hey, I think that black lives matter.”

“Well, actually, Manda, it’s pretty racist that you even see race. Manda, why do you have to bring race into it? And that just shows me, Manda, that you are being racist against everyone who isn’t black, and you’re racist against black people, Manda, because you’re acting like they can’t take care of themselves and need a slogan. And, Manda, just to play devil’s advocate, but maybe cops kill black people more because more of them are criminals.” [insert self satisfied smirk]

Clearly, I’ve been tricked into a first date with a Stephen Miller or two. You live, you learn, you more obsessively Google first dates, swipe left more, and life goes on.

Except we can’t just swipe left or abandon our seat at the bar to get rid of him — because insufferable Stephen Miller is a top White House advisor. And life can’t go on for everyone — Miller might have pretended to not understand that Acosta was using hyperbole when he asked if the English requirement meant the US would only admit people from the UK or Australia, but don’t be fooled: that is Stephen Miller’s wet dream.

It’s truly remarkable how many interviews and statements given by or about members of this administration sound frighteningly similar to things sexual harassers or abusers say to women.  If only we had had some kind of clue, indicating how horrible a Trump presidency would be….

 

Hey, White Women – We DID Vote For Trump!

Like many others, this past weekend I went to the Women’s March on Washington. During the two months of Facebook discussion leading up to the march, I watched as white feminists were introduced to intersectional feminism for the first time. I wasn’t sure how white feminism and intersectionality were going to mesh, but I think that the now viral “White Women Voted for Trump” sign carried around by Angela Peoples was perfect.

In an interview with The Root, Peoples described the response to her sign: “Most [people] were saying ‘Not this white woman,’ or ‘No one I know!'” And it was at that point anger and frustration bubbled up inside me, to the point that I had to take a break from reading for a minute.

“Not this white woman” and “no one I know” are such bullshit things to say. People were bussed in from all over the country to come this event! I live in the blue af DC metro area, and I know dozens of white women that voted for Trump. If no one you know voted for Trump, either people are afraid to be honest with you, or you live in a ridiculously homogenous bubble.

There’s no one weird sect of my white friends that chose Trump; they range from people I went to a small private elementary school with to former University of Maryland classmates. Almost my entire fucking family voted for him! I’m also one of the most vocally pro-BLM white people that I personally know, and I have been flooding my newsfeed with “hands up, don’t shoot” since Ferguson’s unrest, and a countdown to Trump’s reign starting from “Mexicans are rapists.” I’ve written for Cop Block, I write for liberal immigration lawyers, I have ripped apart both criticism of Baltimore’s uprising and praise of O’Malley on local and national platforms. I have lost work contracts and friends over my militantly pro-black, pro-woman opinions. And even with all of this, people still casually tell me they voted for Trump. Not only would it never cross my mind to give a negative response to a sign someone on my side is holding, but come on. If people tell me they voted for Trump, then I know they told other people. “Yup we sure did, and I know a fuck ton of them that I’m trying to work on,” is the most truthful response.

After Freddie Gray died, I gave up a travel heavy contract I had to write a book about the social, racial, and economic history of Baltimore and how these things culminated in the death of Freddie Gray. Because here is the thing: plenty of people who look like me would rather listen to me tell the history of the black experience in Baltimore instead of listening to, you know, black people. I am a white woman, and consequently I still benefit from white privilege.

So white women! Don’t step on people’s toes or put words in their mouth or act like you understand another’s struggle as though you’ve lived, but DO acknowledge that we benefit from the color of our skin. Take time to learn, and then act as a facilitator to help bridge communication between your fellow white feminists and the vast array of other types of feminists that exist. Don’t get distracted or bitter about signs pointing out that white women don’t show up to protest when black women are shot by the police, or by signs that show the actual statistics of who vote for Trump. Those things are accurate, and you don’t get to be salty with someone for delivering an accurate message.

I am here to share facts and data to help people begin to grasp the challenges faced by those who are less privileged than they are. I am NOT here to defend my fellow whites to communities already marginalized by white people. So what if someone thinks I might be a Trump voter because I’m white? Boo. Hoo. Hey, I’m gonna guess it fucking sucks more to have cops think you’re an armed threat just because you’re black.

Let’s not make #NotAllWhiteWomen the new #NotAllMen. White women benefit from white supremacy, and we need to acknowledge that. Otherwise we are just like the guys who think that sexism and the patriarchy are real, but THEY aren’t sexist so they aren’t part of the problem.

Maryland Police Reform: More Than Prosecuting Freddie Gray’s Killers

In the aftermath of the April protests, the Maryland General Assembly created the Public Safety and Policing Workgroup. The work group has been meeting since June, and the theme seems to be disconnect between government and people — whether it’s cops and citizens or delegates and constituents.

The MGA’s take place in Annapolis, MD – over 30 miles from Sandtown-Winchester. It’s a 40 minute drive or 2-3 hours on the extremely limited public transit that connect the two regions. During the first meeting, I heard some lip service about having meetings in different regions of the state, but the published schedule has always shown the meetings will all be in Annapolis.

The General Assembly’s reform group is composed entirely of lawmakers — a decision that, in my opinion, severely limits their capability of understanding of what’s going on. Senator Catherine Pugh responded to criticism that the group is made up entirely of lawmakers by saying, “this is not a commission. This is legislators looking at potential legislation we can put in place.” If a commission is what it takes for more citizen involvement, then maybe that’s exactly what the group should have been. 

During the course of the MGA’s dog and pony show, I have attended town hall meetings in Baltimore — for the death of Tyrone West, for the investigation the DOJ is conducting in the city. The faces I see at these meetings are not the same faces I see at the General Assembly. Where are these lawmakers who have been tasked with police reform? For reasons that cannot be explained, Delegate Jill Carter was left off the roster — yet she is the most active on the topic of reform. Delegate Carter has spent weekends running meetings that introduce citizens to the DOJ members tasked with auditing Baltimore. She is respected and recognized among those that most need to get their stories heard…yet she was not offered a spot in the group. Without her presence, it is hard for me take the work group seriously. 

Maryland is home to one of the most extreme Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights; it has a lot of provisions that protect cops when perhaps they shouldn’t be protected. For instance, the hearing board that determines if action should be taken against an officer is composed of fellow officers. One police representative informed us that police work is highly specialized and cops are highly trained. Because of this, the LEOBOR provision that police should be the ones to judge other police is acceptable. “Who should judge us? Plumbers? Electricians?” I guess his highly specialized training didn’t cover what a jury is.

During another police Q&A session, police from all over the state explained their hiring practices and requirements. In all jurisdictions, using marijuana more than five times over the age of 21 permanently disqualifies someone for police service. One delegate asked a young representative from the Maryland State Police if this was practical; the police say they would prefer to have college graduates on the force, and marijuana has been decriminalized in Maryland. The officer replied that “these disqualifying factors are disqualifying factors for good reason….they need to understand their actions do have consequences.” There you have it – the mindset is so strong in the police force that the public electing to decriminalize an activity cannot make the cops change their minds.

I saw a lot of people express confusion about the protests that happened last week in front of the courthouse as we waited to see what if Judge Williams would dismiss the charges against the officers who killed Freddie Gray. “Aren’t they getting what they want?” people asked. Well, yes and no. We have a very long way to go before we’re getting what we want — this is bigger than one case. As we move toward Thursday, understand we are worried about more than a change of venue. We’re worried about the system that has been put in place to “fix” the problems.

I guess as long as the MD State Troopers are giving out recruitment brochures when you're pulled over, we have problems.
I guess as long as the MD State Troopers are giving out recruitment brochures when you’re pulled over, we have problems.

Take Flight

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but it’s only because there has been a ton of work to do. I’ve been going to committee meetings for police accountability in Annapolis, Baltimore, Fairfax County; I’ve been reading and researching and planning out what the next step is. One really awesome thing I’ve done during my writing absence was go with my friends to film their music video in Baltimore. My friend Cory has been protesting with me (and even came and stood by thecamera during my CNN interview to support me!), and he was inspired to create this video. My shirt is from Bmore Love, and all proceeds from their shirts go to Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore. Video by Dexter Jason Delfin Visuals.

Ferguson Police Department: Probably a Bunch of Awesome Guys

If you search “Ferguson” in Google news, you’ll see journalists taking back the negative things they said about the FPD, numerous comparisons of Ferguson to Benghazi, and now an officer who says the stress of Ferguson protests caused him to drive drunk. What you won’t see much of is discussion of the DOJ report on the Ferguson Police Department.  To be fair, I found that the CIA torture report was an easier to get through (though much longer) read. The 105 page PDF took me an unusually long time to get through, but now that I have read it…well, I wish I could say it was shocking. It’s definitely some fucked up shit.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 4.30.45 PM

The FPD created  an environment in which the sole purpose of the police force was to make money for the city. If that sounds reasonable to you, please recall the purpose of the police is to protect and serve the citizens, not to rob your of your rights via your wallet. How does a $571 fine for tall grass or a $302 fine for manner of walking sound? To me, it sounds fucking absurd. To the FPD? Reasonable! Of course, I guess absurd crimes deserve absurd fines — after all, what is manner of walking? Since 95% of the people arrested for it were black, one can assume it’s for being black while walking.

In a city with a per capita income of $21,000, it doesn’t take a Mensa scholar to realize that forcing citizens to pay $571 for having weeds in the yard might be an impossible task. Fortunately, the city found a way to fix that: you can be arrested for not paying your fine in full and on time — many times people are given court dates within a week, so hopefully everyone in Ferguson just stockpiles all their extra pennies in case the police decide to fuck with them. Of course, police often incorrectly write the court dates or times on the citations, so even if you do have the money to pay…you might still get a warrant! Pretty messed up, huh?

But wait! There’s more! Let’s imagine you’ve been given a ridiculously high fine and you want to pay it, but you can’t afford to pay it all at once. So you send the court $20 or $50, with a letter explaining why.  Joke’s on you! Ferguson wants its money, and it wants its money NOW! The court has repeatedly rejected partial payments from citizens, claiming it can’t process them. Nothing says “we care about protecting the people we serve” like locking away old ladies for not mowing their lawns!

Oh, hold on! I’m wrong. I know what makes it clear you care about the citizens you serve: fuckin tasing them for no reason!

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 6.05.44 PMThe report repeatedly drives home the fact that the FPD uses their ECWs (Electronic Control Weapons) as the only option. While other police are trained to diffuse situations, the FPD fires their ECWs first and worries about consequences later — oh, wait. Just kidding. They don’t worry about the consequences, because there is no accountability. Almost no one bothers to fill out the reports when an ECW is used, and if they do it’s so poorly done they might as well not. Keep in mind there’s an easy way to track whether or not you fired your ECW: you have to replace the cartridge.

But it’s okay. I’m sure if the DOJ investigated other police departments, they’d be golden. I’m sure this is a one off situation that isn’t deserving of national attention. Those crazy race and class baiters should be ashamed of themselves!

Ah, yes. Totally reasonable.