Category Archives: Ferguson protests

Chicago and St. Louis Protesters Make Trump’s Nativist Gamble a Losing One in Post-Obama America


chicago-protester

A protester at Trump’s cancelled Chicago rally last Friday

Donald Trump’s inflammatory attacks on immigrants and his incitement of violence against protesters have unleashed social forces that have changed the dynamic of the presidential primary campaign. The cancellation of his Chicago rally on Friday concedes the fact that the groups he is trying to demonize are by no means cowed by his demagogy or by the threats of his supporters, who are prepared to physically intimidate protesters. But by becoming a lightning-rod for white racism, he has created a nativist movement that will only get worse as his campaign continues.  On the Democratic side, the reaction to the Chicago rally has differentiated Clinton and Sanders more clearly than any number of debates on policies.

The energized resistance among nonwhite and immigrant groups who have become active politically to oppose his campaign is an extension of the social coalition that elected Obama. After eight years of a black president, nonwhite citizens feel empowered and enfranchised unlike any other period in American history. These undaunted protesters carry forward the hard-fought victories of the Civil Rights movement, which will have an impact long after Obama’s presidency ends, and will shape the future of American politics for decades to come.

Trump’s rhetoric backfired spectacularly on him when his planned Chicago event was cancelled minutes before it was due to start, once it became clear that protesters made up a large section of the audience.  The New York Times reported: “Hundreds of protesters, who had promised to be a visible presence here and filled several sections of the arena, let out an elated, unstopping cheer. Mr. Trump’s supporters, many of whom had waited hours to see the Republican front-runner, seemed stunned and slowly filed out in anger.” There were a few scuffles with frustrated Trump supporters as they left a car park, but security concerns were said to be over-rated and police denied there was any problem controlling the crowd.

Before the rally was cancelled, a war of words between Trump supporters and protesters had created a highly-charged atmosphere inside the venue, but the altercations remained non-violent even though the event had been provocatively staged at “a giant arena at a richly diverse university in the heart of deeply blue Chicago, guaranteeing he would have protesters and heavy media coverage,” according to the Washington Post. “The audience was the most diverse to ever gather for a Trump rally, a rainbow of skin tones with at least a dozen young women wearing hijabs and a few men in turbans. The crowd was mostly high school and college students from the area, along with a number of local activists and a number of different organization efforts.”

In past events, Trump has publicly attacked protesters, inciting physical violence against them. In Cedar Woods, Iowa, he encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap out of them,” promising to pay for any legal fees, and at one event in North Carolina, a supporter punched a black protester in the face as he was being led out of a rally by police. The man told CNN: “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.” The attacker was later charged with assault, disorderly conduct and communicating threats.

Earlier on Friday in St. Louis, Missouri, Trump was visibly frustrated by a group of demonstrators who shut down his rally for a full ten minutes. “The protest, a coordinated effort involving an estimated 40-50 activists, began with the coordinated drop of a large banner from the balcony of the Opera House. One said, ‘Caution, racism lives here’ and the other said ‘Stop the hate.’ The protest also included about 10-15 people on the lower level ripping off their shirts to reveal T-shirts they’d been wearing underneath with anti-Trump slogans.”

Hundreds of people had gathered around the Peabody opera house in downtown St. Louis, many not able to get into the over-capacity venue while others were there to protest. Videos posted to social media showed Trump supporters hurling racial slurs and anti-Islamic remarks at protesters and reporters, but after the event a few dozen people lingered and engaged in a series of loud but civil debates.

The Guardian’s Sarah Kendzior reported: “St Louis is as beset with racial strife as it was during the Ferguson protests, and both outside and inside the Peabody, veterans of those protests had returned to take on Trump. Protesters held signs and chanted slogans as the crowd angrily claimed them as targets. Trump fans screamed racial slurs, including the N-word, at the protesters of many races and backgrounds. Mothers and fathers put their children aside to get in fistfights with activists, and fellow Trump fans cheered them on. Several Trump fans vowed that the next time, they would come armed. Some warned that if Trump was not chosen by Republicans, a militia would rise up to take him to power.”

Hillary Clinton essentially accepted Trump’s own spin on the events by blaming political division rather than Trump’s inflammatory role. In a statement issued early Saturday morning she condemned “divisive rhetoric” in general without mentioning Trump by name. She then bizarrely referred to Dylan Roof’s shooting of nine African American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. “The families of those victims came together and melted hearts in the statehouse and the Confederate flag came down,” Clinton said. “That should be the model we strive for to overcome painful divisions in our country.” Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. criticized Clinton’s response as “more concerned about the fact that protesters fought back than with the racism and nativism of Trump’s rallies.”

Later Saturday morning she called Trump an “arsonist,” but then equated the anger of Trump’s followers with the protesters, marking her as a true member of the establishment. “I know it’s no secret there are people angry on the left, on the right,” she said. “But I believe with all my heart the only way to fix what’s broken is to stand together against the forces of division and discrimination that are trying to divide America between us and them.”

Sanders, by contrast, told supporters: “We’re not going to let Donald Trump or anyone else divide us.” The Chicago Tribune reported: “More than an hour after the Trump event was nixed, Sanders spoke to supporters in southwest suburban Summit. Sanders … said he would defeat the Republican in the general election ‘because the American people are not going to accept a president who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims’.”

In a statement released the following day, Sanders wrote: “Obviously, while I appreciate that we had supporters at Trump’s rally in Chicago, our campaign did not organize the protests. What caused the protests at Trump’s rally is a candidate that has promoted hatred and division against Latinos, Muslims, women, and people with disabilities, and his birther attacks against the legitimacy of President Obama. What caused the violence at Trump’s rally is a campaign whose words and actions have encouraged it on the part of his supporters.”

Sanders’ clarity is in line with the inclusive and egalitarian nature of his campaign. At a rally at George Mason University in Virginia, after a student named Remaz Abdelgader started questioning him about Islamophobia, Sanders invited her on the stage, gave her a hug, then allowed her to speak from the podium. Linda Sarsour, director of a Muslim online organizing platform, and co-founder of the New York Muslim Democratic Club, told Democracy Now that Sanders has “allowed Muslims to be surrogates and speak at a large rally with about 10,000 people. He’s been meeting with people from multiple segments of the Muslim community. He is making—he’s finally saying, ‘You’re part of this—our community. You’re part of our nation. I want to hear what you have to say.’ That’s all we’re asking for.”

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Filed under Bernie Sanders, chicago rally, donald trump, Ferguson protests, Hillary Clinton, muslims in america, primary elections, Uncategorized

Fifty Years after Selma: The Rebirth of the Radical Martin Luther King


This year, on Martin Luther King day, young activists challenged the political establishment’s sanitization and beatification of the Civil Rights leader so that they could recover the radical side of his heritage, using the hashtag #ReclaimMLK to coordinate protests across America.

Fifty years after the struggle King led, the black upper middle class has been integrated into the corporate world and the political establishment. But deindustrialization has created endemic poverty in many African American and Latino communities, and has led to the demonization and racial identification of minority youth with poverty and criminality. Civil Rights legislation has not prevented Black and Latino youth from facing police violence as a fact of everyday life.

At the same time, continuous reduction in the taxes paid by the wealthy has left state bureaucracies largely unfunded. Besides other social ills, racial profiling conceals an economic imperative to raise funds from fines generated by zealous policing of minor infractions – large numbers of citations represent a way to impose extra taxes on the poor while avoiding political fallout.

The new young leadership of the protests against police violence has undergone a rapid political development, coming into conflict with older activists who focus on organizing peaceful marches rather than the more confrontational civil disobedience actions favored by the youth. These new leaders have turned to King’s more radical speeches as justification for their tactics and to deconstruct the ideological narrative of a “post-racial” America.

The group Ferguson Action said in a statement: “We resist efforts to reduce a long history marred with the blood of countless members of our community into iconic images of men in suits behind pulpits.” Dante Berry, director of the New York-based Million Hoodies Movement, told the Washington Post: “MLK was a radical, very strategic and uncompromising in his strive for justice. It’s reclaiming our own history in a way that is truthful.”

The New York Times reported on Martin Luther King day protests in Atlanta, St. Louis, New York City, Philadelphia and Boston: “The [Atlanta] protesters argued that the holiday had become corrupted by corporate involvement, diluting Dr. King’s ideas about economics as well as race. With signs, slogans and shouts, they inserted themselves into the annual parade as it made its way down Peachtree Street, Atlanta’s downtown thoroughfare. … ‘We’re going to reclaim M.L.K.’s holiday!’ Aurielle Marie, 20, an activist and author, yelled at the Atlanta protest. … Similar events unfolded in St. Louis, where several thousand people marched from the city’s Old Courthouse, where enslaved blacks were once sold as property, to Harris-Stowe State University, where the marchers joined a packed auditorium for an interfaith service.”

About two dozen protesters disrupted the St. Louis service, taking the stage and seizing the microphone, chanting “No justice, no peace.” Harris-Stowe student Tory Russell told St. Louis Today: “This program is more of the same,” and accused the university of representing “the politics of respectability.”

The protesters identify with the radical nature of Martin Luther King’s struggle, firstly because he recognized that desegregation in itself would not settle the question of social and economic equality for African Americans; and secondly because he saw behind the imposition of Jim Crow segregation the workings of an imperialist state he called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” King’s genius lay not only in his profound understanding of the political moment, but also in his articulation of the way institutional racism was connected to poverty, corporate exploitation, and imperialist war.

Even though there are many more nonwhite police officers than in King’s time, the structural role of police in suppressing the poor has not changed. While the most publicized shootings of young unarmed black men generally involve white officers, the racial dynamic is more complex. After a major corruption scandal and subsequent reform of the Los Angeles police department in the 1990s, it is today majority nonwhite. But the victims of police killings still tend to be overwhelmingly black or brown. Connie Rice, an attorney who heads a national criminal justice reform organization and was a leader in the LAPD reform, said she found that police officers are more apt to shoot in poor and violent areas. “The biggest common denominator [in police shootings] is [neighborhood] income and class,” she said. “It is compounded by race.”

Matt Taibbi comments that the recent police slowdown in New York that led to a 94 percent drop in arrests for minor offenses unwittingly revealed the economic underside of the de Blasio administration’s “broken windows” policing. “First, it shines a light on the use of police officers to make up for tax shortfalls using ticket and citation revenue. Then there’s the related (and significantly more important) issue of forcing police to make thousands of arrests and issue hundreds of thousands of summonses when they don’t ‘have to.’… Both policies make people pissed off at police for the most basic and understandable of reasons: if you’re running into one, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to end up opening your wallet. Your average summons for a [quality of life] offense costs more than an ordinary working person makes in a day driving a bus, waiting tables, or sweeping floors.”

Politico reports: “‘The primary premise [of broken windows], whether spoken or unspoken, is about policing the poor,’ said Delores Jones-Brown, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. ‘The people who live in a neighborhood with a broken window and can’t afford to fix that window.’ In other words, if the NYPD is policing crimes that might have more to do with circumstance than malintent – selling weed because it’s a way to make money in an unfair economy, squeegeeing windows to afford a meal – then the agency is essentially criminalizing the behavior of New York’s most marginalized and disadvantaged communities.”

The visibility of the militarized police after Ferguson has created a crisis of legitimacy for the police and state forces. Frank Serpico, who was almost killed for exposing police corruption in the 1970s, commented: “citizens across the country are losing faith in our justice system, with brazen acts of police brutality frequently captured on cellphone videos; the militarization of police forces through the acquisition of war-machine surplus; continuing racial tensions coupled with a lack of initiative for community policing; and the sentencing of minor offenders to long terms in for-profit prisons, where they essentially become indentured servants.”

The reforms proposed by liberals after Ferguson are unlikely to change this situation. It’s structurally created by unemployment and the legacy of past discrimination. Institutionalized racism, as Martin Luther King perceived, is bound up with the economic and social oppression of the working class and poor in America. Even though there is now an African American president and attorney-general, police who kill unarmed black youth are still not prosecuted.

The continuing struggle against police violence and for a higher minimum wage is King’s true legacy, and the new, younger, leadership of Black Lives Matter is rapidly developing a political perspective that conflicts with that of the old guard of civil rights leaders. Obama cannot coopt the rhetoric of this new leadership in the way he did the Occupy critique of the plutocracy because the criminalization of poor African Americans and Latinos is at the heart of U.S. domestic rule. Whether the state adopts suppression or liberalization, the protests are not going to stop until minority youth stop getting shot.

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Filed under African Americans, aggressive policing, broken windows, De Blasio, Ferguson protests, Martin Luther King, Mike Brown, New York City protests, Obama, police violence, poverty

Turning Their Back on Americans: Police Unions Disrespect the Citizens They Serve and Protect


Leaders of the protests against the lack of justice and accountability for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner face a highly-charged political situation after the close-range shooting of two patrolmen in Brooklyn by a deranged and suicidal individual, who had no connection with the protest movement.

Saturday’s funeral of one of the patrolmen, Rafael Ramos, became a police “counterprotest” to the movement, as over 20,000 policemen from around the U.S. converged on the Christ Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn. The solemn event was turned into a different kind of spectacle as dozens of officers turned their backs on New York mayor Bill de Blasio when he gave his eulogy of the slain policeman. This piece of political theater was the latest attempt by the police union and its supporters to stir up hostility to de Blasio’s administration and pressure it into withdrawing support for the demonstrators’ exercise of their constitutional rights.

While the funeral of the two policemen received headline treatment in the media, very little attention was paid to a march of 200 people on the same afternoon in the same New York borough to protest the death of Akai Gurley, an unarmed young black man and father who was fatally shot last month by a police officer in a public-housing project stairwell, or to the ongoing protests in St. Louis against the police killing of another black teenager on Christmas Eve, who allegedly pointed a gun at an officer before he was shot. There is nothing new about the police killings of young black men. But the protests manifest a social change in the African American community, a movement that began with the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. The community will not tolerate more of these shootings, and all Americans are now sensitized to the issue because of the protests that began in Ferguson.

The contrast in the reception of these events corresponds to a political divide among Americans that relates in a complex way to racial tensions. The Washington Post reported that “many black and Latino New Yorkers remained hostile to the police despite the shootings [of Liu and Ramos] … At the same time, though, many New Yorkers embraced the police, rushing to the defense of a department they view as doing the difficult and often thankless job of maintaining order in the nation’s largest city.” The polarization of opinion was displayed at a pro-police rally at New York’s City Hall the Friday before the patrolmen’s deaths: Guardian correspondent Steven Thrasher noted, “There were not many people on the pro-police side, but they were extremely vitriolic, invoking a lot of military imagery and 9/11 imagery and talking about the people who are protesting police brutality as if they were enemy combatants.”

Police supporters are vociferous and inflammatory in their attempts to influence public opinion. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani blamed both de Blasio and Obama for fomenting anti-police sentiment: “We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police,” he said. “I don’t care how you want to describe it: That’s what those protests are all about.” But it was left to disgraced former New York police commissioner and convicted felon Bernard Kerik to spell out the full implications of this narrative: “NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were assassinated over the weekend because their assassin believed the lies perpetrated by de Blasio, Sharpton and others.”

The Washington Post reported that Patrick Lynch, president of the largest police union, said: “There’s blood on many hands tonight … Those that incited violence on the street in the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. … That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor. When these funerals are over, those responsible will be called on the carpet and held accountable.” Lynch had already made thinly-veiled threats of police insubordination to mayoral control, telling officers to slow-roll their work because of a lack of political support and that the department was on a “wartime” footing.

The police spokesmen are demanding the unconditional backing of the political establishment for aggressive policing in minority communities. They perceive their legitimacy as threatened by even the mildest criticism. So despite de Blasio’s numerous statements of support for the police, when in a television interview he described warning his mixed-race son, Dante, not to make sudden movements or reach for his cellphone in an encounter with an officer, it was interpreted as “throwing the police under the bus.”

Josh Marshall comments: “the leadership of the city’s police unions operates on the assumption that the Mayor or the city’s political leaders in general need to show reflexive support and defense of the police department or else they go to war with them. … The protestors who swelled around the city weren’t some kind of alien army. They’re New Yorkers. And the feeling that something deeply wrong happened in the death of Eric Garner was widespread in the city. … As a political reality, no Mayor can ignore that kind of public sentiment. But … these are the people who employ the NYPD, the people the NYPD is sworn to serve and protect.” When de Blasio ran for election on a platform of reforming the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” strategy, he achieved a 72% majority, and Marshall adds that hostility to de Blasio comes from a demographic (whites, Staten Islanders and Republicans) that makes up only a minority of New Yorkers.

However, Corey Robin points out: “The entire New York City establishment—not just De Blasio, but political, cultural, and economic elites—is terrified (or in support) of the cops. … not one of these figures has spoken out against the Freikorps-ish rhetoric emanating from the NYPD. … They’re politically frightened… because they have no sense of an alternative base or source of power.”

There is an alternative source of power in the determination of the African American community to end acceptance of the daily killings of its young men, that insists black lives do matter, and that has gained support among most young Americans of all ethnicities. The group Ferguson Action pushed back immediately against what it described as “cheap political punditry,” and #BlackLivesMatter added: “we are rooted in the belief that Black people in the U.S. must reassert our right to live be well in a country where our lives have been deemed valueless.” The day before Christmas Eve, about 700 demonstrators defied de Blasio’s call to pause protests until after the funerals of the two officers and converged on Fifth Avenue, blocking traffic. Protester Argenys Tavaras told the Gothamist: “Mayor de Blasio didn’t start the protest, and he doesn’t tell us when to finish.” Joo-Hyun Kang, of Communities United for Police Reform, said “Silencing the countless voices of New Yorkers who are seeking justice, dignity and respect for all, is a mistake.”

It remains to be seen whether de Blasio will turn to this social reality for support against the voices calling for the suppression of protests, but the resistance to police killings is going to intensify and the protest leadership will not back down.

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Filed under African Americans, aggressive policing, De Blasio, Eric Garner, Ferguson protests, George Zimmerman, Mike Brown, militarized police, New York City protests, police violence

After Ferguson, New York City: the End of the Age of Obama


Angry demonstrations erupted in New York and at least seven other US cities on Wednesday against a Staten Island grand jury’s refusal to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner by holding him in a chokehold last July. They joined the groundswell of protest against the exoneration of Darren Wilson, who shot dead unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson. Uncontrolled and unpunished police violence against people in black communities is a raw nerve that runs through American society, and stems from the strategy of aggressive policing of mostly minority victims of globalization who have been segregated from middle-class suburban areas. As Wilson said in his testimony to the St. Louis grand jury, poor black communities are regarded as hostile territory and their inhabitants are the enemy.

The New York Times reported that many protesters in Manhattan “expressed their outrage with some of the last words Mr. Garner uttered before being wrestled to the ground: ‘This stops today,’ people chanted. ‘I can’t breathe,’ others shouted.” According to the Associated Press, “Hundreds converged on the heavily secured area around the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting with a combination of professional-looking signs and hand-scrawled placards reading, ‘Black lives matter’ and ‘Fellow white people, wake up’.” The Washington Post reported “They shut down the Lincoln Tunnel. They shut down the West Side Highway. They shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, where officers threatened them with arrest if they did not move as a helicopter hovered above. … In Philadelphia … protesters disrupted the city’s Christmas tree lighting, shouting ‘No justice — no Christmas!’ ”

This followed a week of protests against Michael Brown’s killing, which reached into shopping malls on Black Friday, and student actions on campuses nationwide under the slogan “black lives matter” on Monday. Hundreds of St. Louis schoolchildren joined the campaign on Tuesday, for them the first day back at school after the grand jury’s decision. At the start of their game on Sunday, five St. Louis Rams footballers displayed the “hands-up, don’t shoot” gesture in solidarity with the protesters.

The Guardian published an eye-witness report of the Black Friday demonstration at St. Louis’ Galleria Mall. “Within one hour of kicking off marches through the packed-with-shoppers mall and staging a series of actions, including one where dozens of protestors lay down on the ground … the entire shopping mall was shut down. … Two black female Macy’s employees enthusiastically burst from the department store and joined in on the march, shouting ‘Fuck it, shut this shit down’ to the wild cheers of encouragement from protesters, who in turn echoed their cries.”

In Oakland, California, protesters shut down the subway system for two hours by chaining themselves to a train. In New York, Dante Barry, an organizer at Center for Media Justice & Million Hoodies, told Democracy Now: “a group of organizations, Million Hoodies, Rockaway Youth Task Force, some students from Columbia University and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, put together a protest … called Blackout Black Friday. We’re targeting Macy’s, the largest shopping center in New York City and also has a history of racial profiling around black people. We were targeting and we shut down Harold Square, Times Square, had about 1500 folks that turned out just for this one action at 1:00 p.m. About seven arrests.”

Nationwide demonstrations on Monday maintained the momentum of the protests. The New York Times reported: “people walked out of their jobs and classrooms with their hands raised, the gesture that has become a symbol for the death of Michael Brown. … In New York City, the police made several arrests as demonstrators undertook a meandering march from Union Square to Times Square. Demonstrators blocked streets in other cities. In Washington, protesters closed the 14th Street Bridge and lay down in front of the Justice Department. At Harvard Law School, some 300 people gathered and chanted, ‘No justice, no peace,’ and hoisted a banner reading, ‘Your peace is violence’.”

The renewed focus on police killings of unarmed people has made the public acutely aware of police abuses of power, which jeopardize the social consensus that gives police their authority and government its legitimacy. It brings home starkly the fact that citizens are not equal under the law. Police violence against African-Americans is not new, but Ferguson shocked Americans not only because of the killing of an unarmed man, but also because of the scenes of defiant protesters facing police using military weaponry and armored vehicles that were reminiscent of military clashes in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Eugene Robinson notes that “misuse of this power [to take life] is at odds with any notion of limited government. … it is hard to escape the conclusion that police in this country are much too quick to shoot. … The Michael Brown case presents issues that go beyond race.” Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, expressed a similar view. He said: “The underlying issues here are broader than just race. This goes to the foundational relationship between law enforcement agencies and the communities that they’re sworn to serve and to protect.”

Despite the crisis in this foundational relationship, the right wants to double down on police repression. A spokesman for the Ferguson police union, Jeff Roorda, voiced police fury at the St. Louis Rams players’ show of support, demanding they be disciplined (which was refused). “Cops have first amendment rights too,” he said. “As the players and their fans sit safely in their dome under the watchful protection of St. Louis’s finest, they take to the turf to call a now-exonerated officer a murderer, and that is way out of bounds.” Columnist Sally Jenkins commented: “The implication was clear, that only police protection keeps the mob at bay, and if that protection was withdrawn, well, who knows what could happen.”

The threat of chaos if state forces are restrained from using lethal force in black communities is a narrative quickly taken up by politicians such as former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. While in the rest of the world crime is understood to be correlated with poverty, Giuliani informed Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, who is black, that “black-on-black crime” was “the reason for the heavy police presence in the black community. White police officers won’t be there if you weren’t killing each other 70 percent of the time.” Giuliani was responsible for the introduction of “broken windows’ policing in minority neighborhoods, aggressively prosecuting low-level offences, a philosophy responsible for many of the fatal encounters with police.

Obama has not challenged this identification of blackness with criminality. His diffidence signals an acceptance of this narrative; while his administration perceives a threat to the social consensus, Obama, like Hamlet, cannot act. He is constrained not just by his nature, but also by his ideological ties to the militarized security state. The Guardian reported “In brief remarks on Thursday, Obama said he had spoken with De Blasio about the Garner case and added: ‘Too many Americans feel a deep unfairness when it comes to the gap between our professed ideals and how laws are applied on a day-to-day basis’.” But aside from the creation of yet another task force, he has not implemented any concrete proposals to make police accountable for unjustified deaths.

While the protests forced the president to bring carefully selected movement leaders and law enforcement to a dialogue at the White House on Monday, the New York Times reported: “Obama stopped short of curtailing the transfer of military-grade gear to local law enforcement authorities and continued to put off a visit to Ferguson. Instead, the White House tried to channel the rage over the fatal police shooting of a black teenager there into a national debate about how to restore trust between the police and the public. … The limited nature of the White House response also reflects the reality that transferring military-style surplus gear to police departments remains politically popular in Congress and in the municipalities. … The militarization of police has been part of a broader counterterrorism strategy of fortifying American cities, which took root after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has become a reliable source of federal largess for local authorities.”

In a CNN interview, Princeton professor Cornel West concluded: “I think Ferguson signifies the end of the age of Obama. It’s a very sad end. We began with tremendous hope and we end with great despair … because we have a Jim Crow criminal-justice system that does not deliver justice for black and brown people, and especially black and brown poor people.” He added that there had been a kind of class war and a kind of racial war against black and brown youth. “The sad thing is,” he continued, “we have a black president and a black attorney general, we have a black head of Homeland Security, but not one federal prosecution of a case against a policeman killing a black youth under the five-and-a-half years where we’ve had all black folk in place.” Racial progress “has affected primarily a black upper middle class and above, but the black working class has been devastated, the black poor has been rendered more and more demonized … so the issues of economic status and class are fundamental here.”

These issues are why local protests against police use of lethal force, such as the shooting of 12-year-old African American Tamir Rice last month in Cleveland, have found a national focus in the campaign for justice for Mike Brown and have merged with movements for a living wage and worker rights. Many of the protests are multiracial and are creating new leaderships that go beyond existing leaders who generally have ties to the Democratic party and Obama. It heralds the creation of a new politics of resistance to state surveillance and state violence that is inclusive and pluralistic.

UPDATE: And the protests continue to grow. Thousands of people rallied Thursday in Foley Square in Manhattan, and headed for the Brooklyn Bridge before splitting up into a number of groups and spreading out.

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