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From Ferguson to CIA Torture Cells

from the Political Committee of Solidarity
December 17, 2014

Two current high-profile stories--police killings of Black people and the secret torture prisons run by the U.S. military and CIA in the “war on terror”-- might seem separate and distinct. In truth, the path between them is short. A system that tortures prisoners abroad will murder people at home, and the targeted populations are not randomly chosen. There are several common elements:

1. Dehumanization. In order to subject someone to waterboarding, sleep deprivation, freezing, or stretching until their tendons rip and bones break, the torturer has to regard the prisoner as both subhuman and dangerous, inherently unworthy of life. To gun down or choke to death unarmed people on the pretext that they might have sold loose cigarettes or shoplifted a box of cigars, or a kid holding a toy gun, the police must regard those people and their communities as collectively and individually criminal, "animal-like" as officer Darren Wilson described Michael Brown, and too dangerous to come under the protection of human rights and due process.

2. Routinization. Torture of “terrorism suspects,” we’re told, began with CIA and U.S. government panic in the wake of the intelligence failure to detect the 9/11 attacks. It became a commonplace, institutional routine in the following years, even when it produced no authentic information.

In Black and Latino communities, institutional practices like stop-and-frisk in New York, or the regular practice of driving-while-Black and walking-while-Black arrests to fund Ferguson and other St. Louis County municipalities, or grabbing immigrant parents dropping off their kids at school, become standard daily routines of policing. It’s a permanent “low-intensity conflict" from which daily abuse escalates all the way to confrontations and deadly force.

A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

by Alicia Garza
December 17, 2014

I created #BlackLivesMatter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, two of my sisters, as a call to action for Black people after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was post-humously placed on trial for his own murder and the killer, George Zimmerman, was not held accountable for the crime he committed. It was a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements.

Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

We were humbled when cultural workers, artists, designers and techies offered their labor and love to expand #BlackLivesMatter beyond a social media hashtag. Opal, Patrisse, and I created the infrastructure for this movement project—moving the hashtag from social media to the streets. We’ve hosted national conference calls focused on issues of critical importance to Black people working hard for the liberation of our people. We’ve connected people across the country working to end the various forms of injustice impacting our people. We’ve created space for the celebration and humanization of Black lives.

The Racial Underbelly of U.S. Justice: Whose Lives Matter in America?

by Malik Miah
December 11, 2014

Responding to Mayor de Blasio’s obvious point, the New York City police “union” head said the mayor had thrown all cops under the bus by implying that police practices are racially based. Mayor de Blasio, a white man with a Black son, expressed a bitter truth that most white people deny: race and racism underpin police practice and U.S. society.

Significantly, the “Black Lives Matter” campaign is being joined by a growing number of whites. Most whites still believe, however, that race is never the issue when police arrest or kill Blacks. An overwhelming majority of whites in every poll agree with the grand juries and prosecutors who let the cops walk free, no matter what violence/murders cops commit. The facts show just the opposite, that police across the country target African Americans and other minorities for petty charges that have led to mass incarceration, severe brutality, and death. Eric Garner was alleged to be selling “loosies” (single cigarettes) as the reason for his arrest.

Despite the oblivious majority of white people, there is growing resistance to the vicious racism of the criminal justice system. The Black-led protests that began in Ferguson in the summer have spread to New York and hundreds of other cities large and small. It is forging a new movement for fundamental change.

Too Many Cops, Too Little Justice: An Interview with Alex Vitale

Alex Vitale interviewed by Suzi Weissman
December 10, 2014

I think the issue is not so much the number of police per se, although that is a factor, but what is their role. What are our expectations about the role of the police in managing crime and disorder problems, which can be real problems that need to be managed? But what we've had is a deeply conservative theory that becomes the kind of hegemonic way to think about crime and disorder, and that's the Broken Windows theory.

It is a product of neoconservative intellectuals in the early 1980s trying to come up with a way to address urban problems while dismantling social safety nets, redistribution programs etc. And the sort of artful twist they did was to say that the problems of cities don't have to do with inequality, poverty, racial disparity, segregation. They are about the moral failings of people on the street. And the root of those moral failings are a kind of climate of permissiveness that emerged out of the social movements of the 1960s and ‘70s, and that the way to address the rampant moral permissiveness is to have the police come in as a new source of moral authority by vigorously enforcing public codes of conduct that may or may not have anything to do with what's on the law books.

The job of the police now is to maintain order through constant surveillance and harassment. And that's really what the Broken Windows theory says...

Mass Incarceration and the Left

by Heather Ann Thompson
November 24, 2014

Finally, even if at least three decades too late, America’s politicians are beginning to take notice of the fact that we have become the country on the planet locking up more people than any other.

It would be nice to think that these elected officials are now discussing our historically unprecedented rates of incarceration because there has been some sort of moral awakening, some new degree of discomfort if not outright dismay that the United States now has more than seven million people, an overwhelming disproportion of whom are Black and Brown people, under some form of correctional control and more than 65 million marked permanently by a criminal record. It would be as gratifying if they were now reconsidering current justice policies because mass incarceration has orphaned millions of children, destroyed already fragile neighborhoods, and rendered millions of people permanently unemployable.

At the very least it would be a relief to know that they were motivated to consider a less punitive approach to the nation’s social ills, because mass incarceration has distorted the very democracy they claim to hold sacrosanct...

December 17, 2014
from the Political Committee of Solidarity
Two current high-profile stories--police killings of Black people and the secret torture prisons run by the U.S. military and CIA in the “war on terror”-- might seem separate and distinct. In...
December 17, 2014
by Alicia Garza
I created #BlackLivesMatter with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, two of my sisters, as a call to action for Black people after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was post-humously placed on trial for his...
December 11, 2014
by Malik Miah
Responding to Mayor de Blasio’s obvious point, the New York City police “union” head said the mayor had thrown all cops under the bus by implying that police practices are racially based. Mayor...
December 10, 2014
Alex Vitale interviewed by Suzi Weissman
I think the issue is not so much the number of police per se, although that is a factor, but what is their role. What are our expectations about the role of the police in managing crime and disorder...
November 24, 2014
by Heather Ann Thompson
Finally, even if at least three decades too late, America’s politicians are beginning to take notice of the fact that we have become the country on the planet locking up more people than any...

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