Tag Archives: race

The South and the Death Penalty

by KurtFF8

The recent execution of Troy Davis has caused many to again discuss the merits of the death penalty in the United States.  (It also sparked a mass march in New York City that was met with a heavy handed police response). According to the Daily Beast, the South has the highest execution rate in the country, as well as the highest murder rate.  On top of that, the incarceration capital of the world is a southern city: New Orleans.

These renewed debates not only bring into question broad topics like the death penalty itself, but they should also let us contextualize them in a regional sense.  We should begin asking why is the South the home to so many problems still (to throw yet another one in there: the South is “bearing the brunt” of the US’s raising poverty rate).  There are plenty of answers to the question of why the South faces these problems.  But one thing should be quite clear, it is something often repeated on this site: the South remains an important part of the country to organize progressive forces.

Amongst the many lessons we learned from the Troy Davis incident (to steal the ANSWER coalition’s article title), we should also add the lesson that the world pays attention to the South, not only to the injustices that happen there but to the folks that organize against those injustices.

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Filed under African Americans, ANSWER Coalition, Atlanta, Georgia, inmates, Leftists in the U.S. South, National Oppression, New Orleans, Prisoners, prisons, racism, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, United States

Tell President Obama to take action to save the life of Troy Davis

Taken from the ANSWER Coalition’s website

The Obama/Holder Justice Department should launch a federal civil rights investigation right now into the case of Troy Davis and seek a stay of his execution that is scheduled for tonight at 7pm.

President Obama, who routinely lectures sovereign governments abroad about civil rights and human rights issues within their countries, has until now said nothing to the state government of Georgia that allowed racist police forces to intimidate and coerce witnesses in the effort to execute an innocent Black man.

It’s not too late to act. The clock is ticking before an innocent man is put to death.

Send a letter right this second to President Obama and Attorney General Holder insisting that he speak up and use the authority of the Presidency to prevent this outrage. Tell President Obama to order a Federal Civil Rights investigation into the case of Troy Davis.

You can also call the White House switchboard and tell them that you want President Obama to initiate a federal civil rights investigation and seek a stay of execution. Call the White House at 202-456-1414.

Background to the case of Troy Davis

More than 1 million people have signed a petition in support of Troy Davis. Demonstrations have taken place around the country and the world. Even the former director of the FBI has said that this execution is an injustice and should not go forward.

Of the nine witnesses, seven have recanted or altered their version of events. Five have signed statements saying they were coerced by police to testify against Davis, a common element of many racist “legal lynchings” targeting Black people. Three witnesses said that another man confessed to them that he killed the police officer.

The execution of Troy Davis shows with full clarity the true character of the racist legal system in the United States—its complete failing as any arbiter of justice.  Davis has accessed all allowed avenues of appeal in the U.S. justice system in his quest not be put to death, an innocent man.

The members of the politically appointed Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, impervious to any accountability to the people, have decided that they wish for Troy Davis to die. With their announcement today that they have denied clemency to Troy Davis, he is on course to be executed this Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 7pm Eastern, in the state of Georgia.

Absolutely no physical evidence has been found that implicates Davis in the killing. No murder weapon has ever been found, exposing yet another major gap in the prosecution’s case. This is the fourth time the state of Georgia has set an execution date for Davis, who was wrongly convicted of killing a police officer in 1989.

The ANSWER Coalition has been joining with hundreds of other organizations in demonstrations throughout the country in recent days and weeks.

There is worldwide opposition to Troy Davis’s execution. On Sept. 16, coordinated protests took place in cities all over the United States and the world.

Over 650,000 signatures in support of Troy Davis were delivered to the parole board. Now, over 1 million people have signed petitions in his support. Prominent signers include South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, more than four dozen members of Congress, and many celebrities.

The decision to deny clemency to Davis reaffirms the unabashed racism and bankruptcy of the justice system. We are staying in the streets to demand justice! Stop the execution of Troy Davis! End the racist death penalty!

Send a letter to President Obama and Attorney General Holder right now demanding that the Justice department order a Federal Civil Rights investigation into the case of Troy Davis. Prevent the the state sponsored murder of an innocent man.

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Filed under African Americans, ANSWER Coalition, Georgia, Human Rights, Race, racism

Confederate Flag Debate Continues

By KurtFF8

Recently, the city of Lexington, Virginia passed an ordinance to prohibit Confederate Flags on city-owned poles.  The debate the emerged during the proposed rule brought up the fact that the debate on the flying of the flag is far from over.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans held a demonstration prior to the vote and, according to the article linked to above, vowed to “challenge the ordinance in court.”

Why is it that over 150 years after the start of the US Civil War that the debate over the Confederate flag is still relevant?  There are a few factors involved.

First and foremost: while the nature of the Confederacy itself is often cited in these debates, the usage of the flag since the end of the war is what drives these “cultural” conflicts.  Most importantly in recent history is the usage in the political movement against desegregation in the South.  The Flag became a symbol of resistance to the move to resist integration and stop “northern dominance” over the South.  This association is difficult to delink from the racist elements and motivations of the flag, considering the most recent historical widespread use of it was this political battle and the racist side that the flag symbolized.

As I have argued elsewhere, the States’ Rights argument that is often appealed to in these cases has historically been an excuse to actually prevent rights from expanding.  In the case of the Civil War: it was the right of states to continue to have the slave system.  In the civil rights era: it was the right of states to continue to segregate.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans argues that the Civil War was a war about freedom for the South.  They conveniently ignore or cease to elaborate for whom in the South that freedom was for.  Considering that the South explicitly seceded to preserve the institution of slavery, it is quite clear that the freedom was a very limited notion of the term.  The fact that the Sons of Confederate Veterans does not quite address this issue is quite telling of the nature of their organization and motivations for promoting symbols like the Confederate flag.

Each era that the flag was widely used (particularly the Civil War itself and the Civil Rights eras), it was a symbol of the oppression of black folks.  It would be a difficult case to make that it has been anything but this without getting into abstract debates about freedom of speech.  That’s not to say that the Sons of Confederate Veterans, or other groups are necessarily trying to promote a specific racist political goal in these cases.  But one thing that is undeniable is that they are attempting to promote the use of a symbol that has been used almost exclusively in history to promote racist political and social policy.

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Filed under African Americans, confederacy, National Oppression, Race, racism, slavery, Southern United States, State's rights, U.S. Civil War, Virginia

Stetson Kennedy dies at 94 in Fla.

From Forbes.com:

MIAMI — Author and folklorist Stetson Kennedy, who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan six decades ago and exposed its secrets to authorities and the public but was also criticized for possibly exaggerating his exploits, died Saturday. He was 94.

Kennedy died at Baptist Medical Center South near St. Augustine, where he had been receiving hospice care.

In the 1940s, Kennedy used the “Superman” radio show to expose and ridicule the Klan’s rituals. In the 1950s he wrote “I Rode with the Ku Klux Klan,” which was later renamed “The Klan Unmasked,” and “The Jim Crow Guide.”

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Filed under African Americans, Florida, Race, racism

Tensions rise as Latinos feel under siege in America’s deep south

[From a recent Guardian article]

In Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, new laws have been signed that represent the toughest crackdown on illegal immigrants – the vast majority of whom are Hispanics – in America. They give the police sweeping new powers and require them, and employers, to check people’s immigration status. In Alabama, they even make helping illegal immigrants, by giving them a lift in a car or shelter in a home, into a serious crime. For many, the laws echo the deep south’s painful history of segregation, sending out a message to people of a different colour: you are not wanted here.

“That is exactly right,” said Andrew Turner, a lawyer with the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Centre. “We view it within the context of the history of the deep south. It is using the law to push out and marginalise an ethnic minority.”

The new laws’ defenders deny that. They are merely enforcing the law, they say. Their problem is not with immigrants, but with those who came to America illegally. They say the laws are colour-blind and aimed at making sure everyone obeys the same rules and does not cheat the system.

Yet illegal immigrants have become a fundamental part of the American system. Huge swaths of the economy rely on the cheap labour they provide.

 

The article points out an important part of “illegal” immigration that is often referred to in the overall narrative.  That is that undocumented workers have “become a part” of the American system overall.  The mainstream accounts of this often even point to the drive for cheep labor by capital as the source of the “problem” here, yet they continue to allow reactionary rhetoric dominate the discourse and put the blame on those coming here to find exploitative conditions of work.

The only way to fight this framework and empower undocumented workers is to build a movement that fights back.  And this movement is currently underway in much of the South.

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Filed under Alabama, class struggle, Georgia, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, State's rights

New Orleans Danziger Bridge massacre trial begins

An important event that happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when 2 people were killed and 6 injured on the Danziger Bridge.  This article examines that event in the context of police brutality.

[This article originally appeared on Liberation News]

Jail racist killer cops!

July 13, 2011

Lance Madison was placed under arrest after police killed his mentally disabled brother, Ronald on the Danziger Bridge.

The federal trial of seven New Orleans police officers began on June 27 and continues as we go to press with this article. The accused officers were involved in the Danziger Bridge massacre, where police opened fire on six unarmed African American survivors of Hurricane Katrina, killing two and maiming the other four.

The original charges against the police for the racist shooting and subsequent cover-up were dismissed in August 2008 , after District Judge Raymond Bigelow accused the prosecution of misconduct with the grand jury.

The two victims killed by the cops were Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, and James Brissette, 17. Madison died when he was shot in the back and then stomped repeatedly by NOPD officer Robert Faulcon. Brissette died from shots at the hands of three officers: Robert Gisevius, Kenneth Bowen and Anthony Villavaso. Five of the officers on trial are white.

Danziger Bridge:The horror of police terrorism

Former officer Michael Hunter, who has already pleaded guilty, stated that the officers received a radio call claiming that officers were und er fire and injured in a gun battle on the bridge. After commandeering a Budget rental truck, Hunter and the other officers drove to the bridge, where they found people whose only crime was walking down the street about a week after fleeing their flooded homes. The police opened fire using assault rifles, pistols and a shotgun.

Susan Bartholomew lost her arm in the shooting and had to be sworn in with her left hand. She testified that an officer found her hiding behind a barricade, clinging to another shooting victim. Both women were crying. An officer then leaned over the barricade and opened fire on them with an assault rifle in a sweeping motion.

After Susan Bartholomew was shot, the police demanded she raise her hands. “I couldn’t do it, because my arm was shot off. I raised the only hand I had,” she said softly.

The youngest victim was her 14-year-old son, Leonard Bartholomew IV, who was shot before being kicked and arrested by former officer Kevin Bryan Sr. He was then dropped off at a makeshift police station without money or shoes while his parents were hospitalized. He spent a week and a half living with a sympathetic stranger who blogged about Leonard’s situation until he was reunited with an uncle who had seen the woman’s blog posts.

The civilians on the bridge that day were unarmed. At no point did they engage in any behavior that would indicate they were hostile to the officers or that they possessed a weapon.

Jackie Madison Brown, the sister of Ronald Madison, took the witness stand on July 7. “My brother Rommel called and told me Ronald had been killed,” Brown emotionally recalled under questioning .

Ronald Madison was shot in the back by a hail of gunfire. His disability prevented him from forming full sentences and he had the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. His family had always been protective of him.

Brown’s testimony came after that of former NOPD crime scene technician Tracy Haas. Haas testified that the department waited seven weeks to send a crime scene tech to the Danziger Bridge.

Haas collected 30 spent shell casings in the grassy area next to the Danziger Bridge. She testified that she was not even told a homicide had taken place; however, Sgt. Gerard Dugue did take time to point out a spot in the grass where he said a gun had lain after the shooting. Despite no evidence that any of the victims had guns, Haas took a picture of the spot and labeled it “possible gun location.”

After photographing the area, Haas made her way to the top of the bridge and started to head towards the Friendly Inn Motel, where Ronald Madison was shot and killed. But Haas told the jury that she was stopped by officers: “They told me they had an incident in that area but no evidence was found.”

A racist system through and through

The world looked on with horror at the racist government response in the aftermath of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina that killed 1,836 people—most of whom perished in the floods after the hurricane hit New Orleans on August 29.

The Danziger Bridge massacre took place a week after the hurricane while many survivors were still trapped in New Orleans, which was 80 percent underwater.

Only a system that functions on the most violent and repulsive racism could produce such an event where people struggling to survive in the aftermath of a natural disaster are shot down in the street.

But the masses in Louisiana know all too well that Danziger is part of a system where terrorism against African American people is commonplace, from lynchings after the Reconstruction period to naming the largest prison in the United States, Angola Prison, built on the site of a slave plantation, after the place where the slaves were taken from in Africa.

Five defendants have pleaded guilty to charges of hindering a federal investigation into the shooting by conspiring to cover up facts, lying to federal officials and lying about the actual felony itself, which was an attack on unarmed civilians in which the officers neither identified themselves nor assessed whether the civilians posed a threat.

The defense argues that Katrina was a mitigating factor in the shooting, and that officers were responding to a radio call stating that officers had been fired on at the bridge and were injured, prompting the seven involved to speed to the scene.

One tactic the defense is using is to show the involvement of many others in the NOPD, such as the officer who rewrote Faulcon’s statements. What is not being said, of course, is that the police responded in this racist, violent manner simply because this is the role of the police under capitalism.

As V.I. Lenin explains in State and Revolution,” the role of the police or the special bodies of armed men is to maintain the social order in the face of class antagonisms.

However, officers conspired to cover up the shooting—which began as soon as they drove to the bridge, and before engaging any of the people present—by claiming that guns were found at the scene but were “kicked off the bridge,” according to Hunter, who drove the Budget rental truck to the scene.

A first step for justice would be not only to jail the killer cops involved in the Danziger Bridge shootings, but indict all those who organized the racist terror against the African American survivors in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. A united, multi-national people’s movement is needed to assure that outcome.

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Filed under Hurricanes, Louisiana, North Carolina, police brutality, Southern United States

Resistance to hate bill heats up

[This article originally appears on workers.org]

Tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters filled blocks of Atlanta’s downtown streets on July 2 wearing white, carrying beautiful banners and hand-printed signs, and chanting nonstop in English and Spanish.

Many of the slogans referenced HB 87, Georgia’s “show me your papers” legislation, which authorizes local police to act as immigration agents and is designed to intimidate undocumented workers into leaving the state.

The march was led by members of the Georgia Undocumented Youth Alliance (GUYA), who are challenging the restrictions on their future and calling for passage of the DREAM Act. Banners called for an end to the raids and deportations.

Many children carried signs pleading not to deport their parents. Challenging the racist aspects of the law, a huge banner depicting a strong Latina declared: “Brown Is Beautiful.” Numerous signs referenced the millions of dollars already lost to the state’s agricultural economy as crops rotted in the fields for lack of skilled farmworkers.

Four counties in Georgia operate under 287(g) agreements that have resulted in the detention and deportation of thousands of immigrants, most of whom were arrested for traffic infractions. The largest, privately operated detention center is in the town of Lumpkin and holds some 1,900 men.

Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the Stewart Detention Center there, has been denounced for its profiteering off the separation of immigrant families.

The failure of the Obama administration and Congress to address legalization and a just immigration policy was addressed in chants and on placards.

In response to a call by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), protesters came from across the state, from as far as Valdosta, Dalton, Columbus and Rome. Supporters from North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and as far away as Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, California and New York joined the protest.

Week of intense struggle

The march and rally at the Georgia State Capitol capped off a week of intense struggle by immigrant communities and human rights advocates.

On June 27 a federal district judge agreed to grant a temporary injunction suspending two sections of HB 87, scheduled to be enacted on July 1. Judge Thomas Thrash stopped Georgia from giving law enforcement agencies throughout the state the power to detain and arrest anyone who could not show sufficient identification following any violation, no matter how minor, including traffic stops or jaywalking. He also prevented the implementation of a provision that would make it illegal to knowingly transport or harbor an undocumented person.

This is the fourth federal court that has barred states from assuming responsibility for enforcing immigration policies.

While immigrant and civil rights activists hailed this victory in stopping two of the most egregious sections of HB 87, Georgia law now makes it a crime to use false documents to secure a job, punishable by 15 years in prison. Starting in January, most private employers will be required to use the federal E-Verify system, known to be flawed, to ascertain the legality of new hires. Citizens will be able to sue elected officials for failing to uphold HB 87.

The day after the federal ruling, GUYA held a “Coming Out of the Shadows” rally inside the state Capitol building where five young people from Georgia and one from New York told their stories. Each concluded by saying their name and that they were “undocumented and unafraid.”

At an outside rally, longtime civil rights leaders and members of the African-American religious community proclaimed their support for the immigrants’ rights movement. They applauded the role of young people in confronting injustice, risking their lives and safety to bring about needed change.

Dressed in caps and gowns, the students led a crowd of hundreds in a march around Georgia State University, one of the state’s five institutions of higher education which the Georgia legislature has banned undocumented youth from attending.

Their lead banner read “Undocumented, Unafraid, Unashamed, Unapologetic!”

Returning to the Capitol, the students spread a large canvas with the words “We Will No Longer Remain in the Shadows” in the intersection and sat down surrounded by supporters. Traffic was brought to a standstill. Eventually, many police arrived and arrested the six. As each heroic youth was taken to a police car, dozens of chanting young people surrounded them and the vehicle.

All six were charged with multiple state offenses. Three were released to their parents’ custody because they were under 17. The other three spent the night in the Fulton County Jail and were then released on their own recognizance with an August court date.

This was the second such civil disobedience action in Atlanta with undocumented youth risking deportation to press the issue of the status of children who have spent most of their lives in the United States and have no path to legalization. Without papers, they cannot get a driver’s license, find employment, receive public benefits or attend Georgia’s top five universities, regardless of their grades.

July 1 strike spurs resistance

During the week, a number of community meetings were held in metro Atlanta to provide information in multiple languages — from Korean and Chinese to Portuguese and Spanish — about the impact of HB 87 and the injunction. Similar events were organized around the state, including one in Dalton where people were particularly concerned about police roadblocks in immigrant neighborhoods. Students and community members held a rally in Athens on June 30 at the gates to the University of Georgia, one of the universities barred to undocumented students.

On July 1, the day HB 87 went into effect, GLAHR called for a “Day without Immigrants,” a stay-at-home strike where people would not work, shop or go about their usual business. More than 125 businesses owned by immigrants, from beauty shops to food markets, closed that day in solidarity. Restaurant, construction, landscaping, hotel and other workers took the day off. Shopping mall parking lots in immigrant communities were empty.

People outside Georgia are encouraged to cancel any conventions, reunions, meetings or vacations as part of the “Boycott of a State of Hate.”

Volunteers are coming from throughout the country this summer to help build local resistance to HB 87 and other anti-immigrant legislation. A campaign to identify “BuySpots” and “Sanctuary Zones” will identify businesses that agree to publicly oppose HB 87 by refusing to allow police into their establishments to check people’s identification without a warrant and by pledging not to financially support elected officials who promote anti-immigrant legislation.

Already many bookstores, restaurants, clothing and record stores, markets, beauty and barber shops display the BuySpot sign. Churches and other religious institutions, community centers, homeless shelters and other public gathering sites that make a similar pledge will be identified as Sanctuary Zones. For more information, visit WeAreGeorgia.org.

It is hot in Georgia during any summer, but this summer the heat will be on right-wing politicians, spotlighted by a rising people’s movement engaging thousands of workers, youth and women. They are stepping out of the shadows, undocumented and unafraid.

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Filed under Georgia, Human Rights, immigration, labor movement, Leftists in the U.S. South, Race, racism, Workers World Party