Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Trial

The progress from Western colonial global expansion, and the construction of American wealth and industry on the backs of enslaved Blacks and Native peoples, followed by the abrupt "emancipation" of the slaves and their exodus from the South to the Northern cities, has led us to our current divided society. Divided by economic inequities and unequal access to social resources, the nation lives in a media dream of social harmony, or did until YouTube set its bed on fire. Now, it is common knowledge that our current system of brutal racist policing and punitive over-incarceration serves the dual purpose of maintaining racial prejudice and the inequities it justifies. Brief yourself on this late-breaking development in American history here.

Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Trial

Postby admin » Fri Apr 23, 2021 2:35 am

Historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad: Policing in U.S. Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Trial
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
APRIL 21, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/4/21/ ... lil_gibran

Khalil Gibran Muhammad: professor of history, race and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Khalil Gibran Muhammad on Twitter
"The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America"

A Minnesota jury’s conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin on three counts for murdering George Floyd does not go far enough in dismantling police brutality and state-sanctioned violence, says historian and author Khalil Gibran Muhammad. “We know that while the prosecution was performing in such a way to make the case that Derek Chauvin was a rogue actor, the truth is that policing should have been on trial in that case,” Muhammad says. “We don’t have a mechanism in our current system of laws in the way that we treat individual offenses to have that accountability and justice delivered.” Muhammad also lays out the racist history of slave patrols that led to U.S. police departments, which he details his book, “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Three weeks after the start of the trial, that was watched around the world, and after 10 hours of deliberation, a jury of 12 Hennepin County residents delivered their guilty verdicts Tuesday on all three counts against former police officer Derek Chauvin, who murdered George Floyd last May by kneeling on his back for nine-and-a-half minutes.

As we continue to discuss the verdict and its implications, we’re joined by Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor of history, race and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America.

Professor Muhammad, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Take us on a journey back. Respond to the verdict, but then talk about the beginning of policing in America and its connection to slave patrols.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Good morning, Amy. And good morning, Juan.

I think that this verdict — I’ve been thinking a lot about how to respect the family’s sense of closure and what they deserve in the delivery of accountability in this case. But I’ve also been thinking about this in term — battle, in a broader context of a war, and that war being justice for Black people and for BIPOC people and for poor people in this country. And in this sense, the outcome of this trial represents a battle that was won, a long-fought and, as Kandace Montgomery so eloquently described in the work that she’s been doing, the consequence of years of organizing work in Minneapolis. And just to remind you, each one of these battles will take place in the courts of our country, whether it will be in Toledo, Ohio — I’m sorry, whether it will be in Chicago, whether it will be in this case, most recently, with Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio. And so, that’s how I think about the trial and the work that remains.

But, of course, we know that while the prosecution was performing in such a way to make the case that Derek Chauvin was a rogue actor, the truth is that policing should have been on trial in that case. And we don’t have a mechanism in our current system of laws in the way that we treat individual offenses to have that accountability and justice delivered. And the reason being, of course, is that our policing system was never really built to deal with individuals. It was built to control groups, and those groups ranging from Indigenous people during the period of colonization and the early 19th century, and, of course, for the vast majority of people of African descent in this country, for 250 years, in the context of chattel slavery, was meant simply to protect an economic system where people had been defined as property, and if that property decided to steal itself, there would be deputized, armed white men of every class and category in the society to ensure that they would not escape.

And that history has never left us. That history is still with us. And policing, right through this very moment, remains overwhelmingly concentrated within the most divested, poorest communities in our country, that are of color, because, truth be told, for rural white Americans who experience severe poverty, policing per capita is much lower. So, we have a system that began in the context of slavery and control, and remains, in its deepest roots, that same system.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Khalil, I wanted to ask you about that, because I often tell my students in journalism to go back into the archival history of our newspapers to see this represented vividly. For instance, in 1706, The Boston News-Letter, the first continuously published newspaper in America, wrote Blacks are, quote, “much addicted to Stealing, Lying, and Purloining.” And a few years later, its competitor paper — this is an amazing statement in a newspaper — said, quote, “The great Disorders committed by Negroes, who are permitted by their imprudent Masters … to be out late at Night … has determined several sober and substantial Housekeepers to walk about the Town in the sore part of the Night.” So, citizen watch patrols were already being developed in early 1700s to control the Black population of Boston. Of course, this, as you’ve so eloquently expressed, then becomes the actual — the slave patrols and then our modern police departments. To what degree are most Americans aware of this history?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Well, I think it’s fair to say most are not aware
. Maybe the learning curve has steepened a bit over the past year, but the truth is, Americans, whether we talk about the origins of policing or the simple reality of the 350 years covering chattel slavery to the segregation period, we know empirically that most Americans are not taught these histories. This is true for African American children, as well, whose curriculum are covered by state legislatures, which are dominated by whites who are not willing to come to terms or reckon with this history.

And, Juan, I want to say one more thing about those examples that you described. What I think is so powerful about turning to colonial and antebellum archival records is that white people did not mince their words. They were quite clear and articulate about what it is that they were doing when they simply criminalized Blackness or they simply criminalized the right to be, as my colleague Kelly Lytle Hernández has written. And our language has become a way of obfuscating those same mechanisms. We live in a time, in this modern period of social media, where we have accelerated the capacity to say one thing in public but to do something else quite differently in our policy and practice. And so, those history lessons are critical — indeed, I would say, life-saving — when it comes to making sure that as we move forward from this moment, if it is even possible, that we come to terms with the clarity with which past political elites talked about what they were doing.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in that vein, you mentioned that initially there were attempts to control and, obviously, suppress the Native populations. But especially in the light of the recent shooting of Adam Toledo, this history of the Latinos and other people of color — for instance, there was one book, Gunpowder Justice, that claims that the Texas Rangers, just between 1915 and 1920, killed 5,000 Mexicans in the state of Texas as a suppression force. And the L.A. Times recently reported that there have been 465 Latinos killed by police just in Los Angeles County since 2000. That works out to about one Latino every two weeks for the last 20 years have been killed just in L.A. County. This whole issue of policing being used as a means of suppression and terrorism of these communities?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Yeah, no, those reminders that anti-Blackness may have been the motivation for the infrastructure of policing, but it didn’t stop there. And I think that is part of the broader historical context in which we need to come to terms with the past as a predicate for the action and the work that has remained. I mean, Kandace Montgomery is such an articulate spokesperson for the work that’s happening on the ground, but she is exceptional. And the work of the Black Visions Collective is exceptional. The work of the Anti Police-Terror Project, led by James Burch in Oakland, is exceptional. We still have members of Black and Brown communities that are still in need of recognizing the broader limits of police reforming themselves.

And when you, Juan, describe the sheer toll that is happening within Latinx communities, and tethering that to the fact that we have evidence that it may be that there were just as many people of Central American or Mexican ancestry killed by lynch mobs or by police agencies, like the Texas Rangers, that number may exceed or match the numbers of recorded lynchings of African Americans in this country, is just astounding and only shows exponentially how much terror has been an instrument of control in this country.

AMY GOODMAN: [inaudible] Professor Muhammad, you’ve got The Guardian reporting on, in a data breach, police helping to fund Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who opened fire and killed two Black Lives Matter activists and walked away, even as people were saying, “This is the guy that shot those protesters.” And you’ve got the police acting as terrorists themselves, the whole issue of violence directed against — and you write about this eloquently — against the poor. And also, if you can talk about new immigrants and how police are used?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Thank you, Amy. Listen, the fact of how much policing is baked into every system of our society, you know, when we think about what’s been happening at the border during the Trump administration, this is another expression of the way that the Trump administration simply weaponized the systems that were already in place, did not invent them.

And the degree to which something like the Kyle Rittenhouse example of a white man self-deputized as an anti-Black terrorist to shoot people, with the protections of the so-called Second Amendment, and then to be applauded and supported, to be given water on the scene, to later receive something like $600,000 in defense funds, many of which came from law enforcement itself, or to reflect on the fact that Donald Trump received 74 million votes in this election in calling for more policing, more white nationalism, more border control, more terrorism, and that the Republican Party, as we know now, is holding up the George Floyd Policing Act as a singular unit of support for this kind of ongoing terror that’s happening in this country, is just remarkable.

I mean, we are nowhere nears able at this time to recognize some consensus on a common way forward to recognize the humanity of people, whether they are asylum seekers coming into this country from Central America or whether they were born here in any part of this country.
And as much as I am hopeful for the possibilities of the activist work of people like Kandace Montgomery, I think we all need to be as vigilant as possible that we are nowhere near where we need to be in order to expect that Black lives will not continue to be cut short by everything we’ve seen so far.

AMY GOODMAN: And just to say, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which was passed by the House but is being held up in the Senate, among its components, ban chokeholds, ban no-knock warrants, create a duty to intervene, create a public registry, overhaul qualified immunity. And Minneapolis Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted after the verdict, “This is but a minuscule step on the path to justice. Next stops: Independent agency to investigate police misuse of force; Criminalize violence against protesters; Demilitarize police departments; Disband and deconstruct failed police departments.” Your response?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Well, I think that all — listen, I think that everything that Ilhan Omar has described is on the table. And I agree with her that the Justice Floyd Act, it limits the — well, demonstrates the limits of the federal government to control 18,000 decentralized agencies. And while, as she rightly notes, it is a first step — and I think it’s a good first step for that reason — much of this work will depend upon state legislatures to take over the work of transformation.

And we are seeing everything from the removal of traffic violation from policing, as has happened in Berkeley more recently — we are seeing the public health authority being called upon to take greater responsibility for delivering community-based violence interruption and community-based — or, trauma-centered harm reduction. And I think these are all what we can imagine at this moment for bringing forward transformation.

But the bottom line is, we’re probably not yet there for the full possibilities of what is to come. And so, we have to expect, over the coming weeks, months and years, that people will be experimenting on the ground, will be trying things new. But this is going to ultimately be about political accountability for elected officials, because that’s where the legislative change has to happen.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Khalil, I wanted to ask you — in an information society like ours, people tend to make a fetish of statistics, and crime statistics are often used by politicians. Could you talk about Frederick Hoffman, how he misused statistics to demonize Black people?

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: Sure. Well, in this day and age, we are having a conversation about crime statistics as an index of the threat and danger that Black people pose, when we are listening to a lot of political elites and particularly police officials. While we’re not having this conversation today, if we had a counterpoint, that counterpoint would be that since George Floyd was killed, the spike in violence that occurred across major cities in this country is itself evidence, prima facie evidence, statistical evidence, that Black people are in need of more policing and not less policing. And this is the legacy of Frederick Hoffman, to make the argument that the evidence of crime that happens or violence or harm that happens within the community is evidence of the dysfunctionality and the dangerousness of that population.

But that’s a lie, and it’s always been a lie, because the violence within that community is itself a symptom of the violence of the state and the violence of a society that was focused on extraction and exploitation of people. And why do we know this? Because it wasn’t just Black people who experienced this. It was white people. You have European immigrants that experienced this. And about a hundred years ago, the same people that produced statistics recognized that they should see violence as symptomatic of a capitalist society that is grinding people and that is committing acts of violence in the economy itself. And how to fix that was not through policing. How to fix that was to invest in those communities with pro-social interventions, to give people the economic security, the collective bargaining rights, the right to be seen and to simply be, as I — again, to quote my colleague Kelly Lytle Hernández.

So, we are still living with Hoffman. Hoffman’s legacy in defining crime statistics among Black and Brown people as evidence of their dangerousness, and then driving policing as the response to that, is still the legacy we live with. It is the infrastructure that we, many of us, are trying to dismantle.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us. And I just want to end — again, you’ve got the three guilty verdicts on Chauvin, and then, in Columbus, Ohio, right at the time the verdicts were being read, many inside watching those verdicts, a police officer fatally shot four times a Black teenage girl, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant.
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Re: Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Tr

Postby admin » Fri Apr 23, 2021 2:38 am

Police Killed John Thompson’s Friend Philando Castile. Now He Is a Lawmaker Fighting Racist Policing
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
APRIL 20, 2021

John Thompson: former activist who was elected Minnesota state representative of District 67A last year.
John Thompson on Twitter

We look at the long history of police killings of Black men during traffic stops in Minnesota with state Representative John Thompson, a community activist who was elected last year and has attended protests demanding justice for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality. His friend Philando Castile was killed by police during a 2016 traffic stop in a suburb of St. Paul. “We have every right to be angry, we have every right to be mad, and we have every right to use our voices,” Thompson says. “We have a problem here in this state with policing.” Thompson is part of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus that has called on fellow lawmakers in St. Paul to halt budget negotiations until police accountability laws are passed.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Minnesota state Representative John Thompson into this conversation. You’ve been out in the streets. You’re in the Legislature now. You were a close friend of Philando Castile, who was gunned down by police in 2016. Can you talk about this trajectory, if you can call it that, and what you want to see right now and what you’re doing in the Legislature, around the issue of police accountability?

REP. JOHN THOMPSON: We have to put accountability, accountability pieces, into legislation here in the state of Minnesota. Our legislative body has made it so that the law protects the actions of these officers. And sometimes these actions are erroneous actions. Let me see. Can you hear me?

AMY GOODMAN: Yep, everything is perfect. We can see you and hear you fine.

REP. JOHN THOMPSON: Yeah, some of these actions are heinous acts of violence against young Black men here in the state — a traffic stop, your headlight is out, your blinker is not working, you know, you have an air freshener in your window. You know, these are pretextual stops to gain access to the car, but ultimately what’s really happening is these officers are seeing who’s in the car and saying, “That’s a Black man driving that car,” racially profiling these Black men. And some of these traffic stops turn deadly. And these cars are turning into caskets for some of these young African American men — case in point with Philando Castile and Daunte. You know, these are traffic stops. I mean, you should get a ticket and go home, but that’s not the case, even with George Floyd.

You know, the funny thing is, when Philando died in 2016, when he was murdered in St. Anthony — I mean, in Falcon Heights, the buzzwords here in this state were “implicit bias training” and “deescalation training.” That was 2016. But I find it really strange that the field training officer killed George Floyd and the field training officer killed Daunte. “What are you training these officers?” is what I’m asking.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is a critical point you’re making, that the person who was in charge of training the others at the site — Kim Potter, when it came to what happened with Wright, and Derek Chauvin, who was the senior there, who was supposedly training the others — what do you make of this? Because, well, the prosecution, perhaps for other reasons, was making the point that policing is not on trial, Derek Chauvin is.

REP. JOHN THOMPSON: You know, I wanted to talk about something you asked Sister Nekima Levy-Pounds, when you asked her about Maxine Waters and her statements here. You know, me and Nekima Levy-Pounds showed up to an officer’s home this past summer. This officer has 56 complaints against him over his tenure, 11 successful lawsuits over his tenure, and was involved in three police-involved shootings. They voted this man as the president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, and he was promoted to sergeant. So, what does that tell you about policing here in this state? We reward bad cops. And by the way, this guy was also a member of the City Heat, which is a known white supremacist biker gang.

But when we show up to his house, the same thing that happened to Maxine Waters happened to me on the campaign trail. I was called a domestic terrorist, antifa. And he called us mad and angry. We have every right to be angry, we have every right to be mad, and we have every right to use our voices, because their actions are what we are protesting against. Right? We have a problem here in this state with policing.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Representative Thompson, I wanted to ask you — one of the things you’ve been trying to do in the Minnesota House, a committee of the House recently approved your bill that would end qualified immunity for police officers. Why is this particular reform so important to you? And what are the prospects, do you think, of getting it through the whole House and then the tougher job of getting it through the Senate?

REP. JOHN THOMPSON: Yeah, as a surgeon, as a doctor, you can’t mistakenly put morphine in somebody’s IV and say, “Oops, I made a mistake.” They’re going to walk you out of there in handcuffs. It should be no different for police officers in the state. Legislation in this state has made it possible for bad officers to get away with committing some of these crimes that they’re committing in our state, right?

So, for me, I proposed legislation that would actually put some meat on the word “reform” here. But the problem is, our Senate is not hearing any of it. They don’t want to hear anything about police reform, because either their friends are police officers or they’re ex-police officers themselves, and they’re catering to these police unions. For the Senate here, they seem to think that the police unions, the chiefs association, they get to tell us what reform looks like. And if they don’t agree with any provisions we put forth, it won’t move through this body.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what about the relationship between the police union and the Legislature? Could you talk more about what you’ve seen firsthand now that you’re in the Legislature?

REP. JOHN THOMPSON: I’ve seen firsthand the PPP — police unions punking politicians, firsthand. I’ve seen it firsthand. Case in point, with me, for instance. I show up to this man’s house, and I’m being heckled by these patriots. One of them spit at me. And so, I go on this — like, I’m angry, and I yell at him. And I tell him, you know, “If you don’t support Black people, then, you know” — you can google this stuff. It’s me. But I was attacked throughout the entire campaign trail by a police union, the chiefs federation, and police officers all across this state.

And what they did to the Democrats in this state, they said if you had a — if you got a donation from the police unions, they were taking the donations that they’d given you and giving it to the Republican who was running against you in the race. And so, that’s what we see here with policing in this state, is they play a major role in our elections also. And they make big donations to some of our Republican colleagues, who in turn give them exactly what they want when it comes to not voting for reform. Listen, these people got George Floyd killed. They got Philando killed. And they ultimately failed Daunte Wright and several others.

AMY GOODMAN: Look at the timing. Back July 5th, 2016, Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. You talked to Philando about this as that news came out, and the next day he was killed by police in a suburb of St. Paul?
Can you talk about how this — how your then activism on the street has — what it’s meant to you to be in the state Assembly right now? But, I mean, that is just astounding, from Alton Sterling to Philando, and what you’re doing with Philando’s mother right now.

REP. JOHN THOMPSON: If you would have followed me, in 2016, I promised the legislative body that we would put people in place to replace them. I also told them that I would be replacing some of the legislators who have been here 22 years uncontested, because a lot of the disparities we see in this state happened on their watch. Legislation created everything that we see as far as disparities in this state, and legislation can fix them. I know what I wanted to see out of my legislator, and so I just became one.

Valerie Castile — I don’t know if people know this, but right after Philando died, my son was shot six times at a funeral. And then I lost my mother. And Valerie Castile has been filling that void as far as a mother’s role since then. And so I promised her I’d stick by her side.

We just proposed legislation in the state. It was Minnesota House File 784, which would actually take the need for so much public safety out of our communities, if they were investing in things that they’re not investing in, you know, like jobs and economic development, housing, STEM training, culturally competent tutors and mental health providers. And when I put this bill forth to the body, they told me that this was a racist bill because I’m asking for money for the African American community. You know, this is what I’m up against, dealing with our legislation.

But here’s the thing, is I actually put my name on the ballot, hopefully, to inspire other young Black men like myself to put their name on the ballot. We don’t need another rapper in our community. We need people to be legislators, lawyers, doctors, teachers and everything that we have a void — every void that we have, we need filled by young Black men and women in our state. So I have to show them. If they see it, they can be it. And so, that’s what I’m doing. I’m inspiring others to be the change they want to see in the community.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Representative, I wanted to ask you — back in 2017, the officer who killed your friend Philando Castile was acquitted on charges of manslaughter. What are you watching for in the outcome of the Chauvin trial? And are you hopeful that this time around justice will be served?

REP. JOHN THOMPSON: Excuse my French, but I’ve been a Black man all my life. I watched Emmett Till. I watched Rodney King. I watched Philando Castile. All of their killers walked right out of court and was found, ultimately, not guilty of the crime that we all know they should have been found guilty of. So, this is no different here in this state. We are prepared for the worst and hoping for the best. And that’s the best I can do as far as this right here. I’m not going to beat myself up. I’m preparing for a not guilty verdict, to be honest with you.

AMY GOODMAN: And what will you do then?

REP. JOHN THOMPSON: I’ll go even harder. I’ll go even harder to create the change that we need to see in our community. Listen, there’s going to be another police-involved killing in this state this year, simply because we refuse to hear anything about police reform. You’ve got to think about — half of these people walked into George Floyd’s funeral with VIP tickets. They had these credentials. I’m talking about people in our legislative body. And then they walked right back into the state Capitol, and they gave us nothing on police reform. And that was on Juneteenth. Here we are, this day and age right now, right now in 2021, in April 2021, they’re still not giving us anything on police reform. They won’t even give us hearing. Right now they’re asking for $20 million in our legislative body to bring extra police here to prepare for this verdict, but we can’t even get $2 million for culturally intelligent tutors in our community.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much, Minnesota state Representative John Thompson, part of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus that’s called on fellow lawmakers in St. Paul to halt budget negotiations until police accountability laws are passed, saying reform cannot wait, and Nekima Levy Armstrong, civil rights attorney, activist and executive director of the Wayfinder Foundation.
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Re: Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Tr

Postby admin » Fri Apr 23, 2021 3:03 am

Black Visions Collective: We Need to Abolish the Police & End Militarized Occupations of Our Cities
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
APRIL 21, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/4/21/ ... al_justice

Kandace Montgomery: co-executive director of Black Visions Collective, a Black-led, queer- and trans-centering community organization based in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

The police murder of George Floyd added jet fuel to a nationwide push to defund the police. We go to Minneapolis to speak with Kandace Montgomery, co-executive director of Black Visions Collective, about their response to the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd and an update on the push to divest from Minneapolis police and invest in communities.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

As we’ve reported, a jury in Minneapolis has convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin on three counts of murdering George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds last May. He’s the first white police officer in Minnesota to ever be convicted of killing a Black person. The jury reached its decision after 10 hours of deliberation. Judge Peter Cahill revoked Chauvin’s bail and will sentence him in two months. He faces up to 40 years in prison for the most serious charge, second-degree murder.

For more, we go to Minneapolis, where we speak with Kandace Montgomery, co-executive director of Black Visions Collective, a Black-led, queer- and trans-centering community organization based in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul that’s part of the movement calling to defund the police.

Kandace, welcome to Democracy Now! First, your reaction to the verdict?

KANDACE MONTGOMERY: Thank you so much for having me.

Yeah, my reaction, like many, was an exhale for our community. Many of us have been holding our breath in anticipation for this verdict. And though I don’t think that justice can ever be served when we’ve lost a life in this type of situation, I do think it’s important to be able to honor that exhale of a breath and honor the peace that I’m sure George Floyd’s family and friends are now able to experience and feel. And so, for that, for them, I, you know, am, of course, very happy.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Kandace, I’m wondering your reaction to the statements of Attorney General Keith Ellison. He gave a very lengthy statement after the verdict, going into basically the history of abuse of African Americans by law enforcement. Your reaction to that and to his role in all of this?

KANDACE MONTGOMERY: Yeah, you know, I think it’s really critical that we are lifting up this history and that Attorney General Keith Ellison is also doing so. And his work to really push for justice in this moment has been important in many ways.

At the same time, you know, Attorney General Keith Ellison also has been part of the militarized occupation that is currently happening in Minneapolis and across Minnesota in response — in preparation for this verdict, as well as response to the murder of Daunte Wright. And so, you know, my offering back to the attorney general is to really look at the ways that we are able to not just reckon with the history that we have to deal with, but also look at how we are perpetuating that history in these moments, specifically by limiting the rights of Black and Brown protesters right here in his state for peacefully protesting against, once again, another police murder.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the sentencing for Chauvin, will be in about — in approximately eight weeks, your sense of what would be a just sentence for him in this situation?

KANDACE MONTGOMERY: I don’t necessarily think that I have an assessment of what would feel as a just sentence in this moment. As an abolitionist and as someone who really thinks that justice is tied up much beyond someone being imprisoned, I think it’s important to really think about justice, going forward, actually looks like defunding and abolishing police. It actually looks like ending militarized occupation in cities that are responding to police murders and the like, and truly uprooting the hideous roots of this institution of policing in this system that continues to kill Black people. At the same time that we were, you know, exhaling or collectively celebrating the verdict of George Floyd’s murder, we also witnessed another murder of a Black teenager, Ma’Khia Bryant, almost at the exact same time. And so, really, as folks are looking forward to the sentencing, I really want to encourage people to think about justice as much more long-term and that we set our bar a lot higher when it comes to calling for justice than an adequate sentencing or not.

AMY GOODMAN: Last year, Kandace, in the days after the protests erupted over Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd, the majority of the Minneapolis City Council made a pledge to dismantle the police. This is Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender.

LISA BENDER: Our commitment is to end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe.

AMY GOODMAN: Around the same time last year after George Floyd’s murder, organizers with your group, Black Visions Collective, and others convinced Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to step outside his home to speak with them. In this clip, we hear you, Kandace, questioning the mayor.

KANDACE MONTGOMERY: Will you defund the Minneapolis Police Department?

MAYOR JACOB FREY: I do not support the full abolition of the police department.

KANDACE MONTGOMERY: All right, fine! You’re wasting our time! Get the [bleep] out of here! Get the [bleep] out!

PROTESTERS: Go home, Jacob! Go home! Go home, Jacob! Go home! Go home, Jacob! Go home!

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey telling you, Kandace Montgomery, “I cannot support the full abolition of the police.” Now, that was last June. I want to ask you two things. First of all, the importance of the activists? It’s something that the Floyd family repeated over and over last night in thanking activists. The only reason the first African American elected to statewide office in Minnesota, Keith Ellison, was in charge of this prosecution is because it was taken out of the hands of Hennepin County by the governor as a result of the massive protests. And then, I want to ask about the protests very much centering around this whole push for defunding the police in Minneapolis, including the City Council’s vote, what, in December to cut $8 million from the $170 million police budget and divert the funds to mental health and violence prevention. Lay out for us what you have proposed and what you feel has been accomplished and what you think needs to be accomplished.

KANDACE MONTGOMERY: Yeah. So, for the several last years, even before 2020, Black Visions and our partner, Reclaim the Block, and other community organizations have been calling for the divestment from policing and, in particular, the investment in our communities — investment as in investment in real safety, the things that actually create the conditions for safe and healthy and vibrant communities, like housing, like healthcare, like quality access to jobs, like water that you can drink, things like that, instead of pouring and wasting millions of dollars on policing, that we know, ultimately, have, one, never been designed to protect and serve low-income people, people of color ever — in fact, were intentionally created to oppress and keep us in our current conditions. That has really been our call since 2018.

And so, in 2020, it was really an important and immediate call to action to defund the police after the murder of George Floyd, because, for me and many of my comrades, that is what justice actually looks like, is ending this and making sure that there is never another George Floyd or a Daunte Wright or a Dolal Idd or a Ma’Khia Bryant or a Breonna Taylor ever again. That has really been the work that we’ve been doing.

And we have been working with the City Council to push forward that demand. Right now what that looks like here in Minneapolis is calling for the development of a Department of Public Safety and a charter change in our city that will eliminate the requirement for the current shape of our police department, the amount of officers, and really the amount of money that we waste every year here in Minneapolis on policing, and allow us to move those resources and create the infrastructure at a citywide level for real investment in safety alternatives that do not rely on the police solely, and a public health approach to how we think about safety here in Minneapolis that truly centers care for all of our people. And the City Council, along with community organizers, have been working on this initiative this year and are excited to bring it to voters in November, this proposed charter change.

What I’ll say about our mayor, Jacob Frey, is that what we’ve seen since last summer and to this point is that he is completely inadequate to fulfill the responsibilities of his executive role, to be clear about the types of decisions that he does or does not have power around, to actually fulfill the promises that he ran on when he was being elected, and has continuously tried to pit Black communities against each other in order to preserve his political standing and actually not move forward on investments in community safety like his constituents have been calling for. So I think it’s important for people to understand the ways that our mayor has really blocked and gotten in the way of justice.

You know, I want to shout out the George Floyd Square organizers, who for almost an entire year have been out there every single day, out there between 8 a.m. 'til late into the evening, protesting and holding down truly sacred space that is providing mutual aid and care to community members, that is curating the art of this movement, so that people can memorialize and remember this moment, and is not letting the city back down from its promises. That has been so crucial, as well as the organizing led by young people during the uprising last summer that truly lit the fire under the conversation here in Minneapolis, but across the country and across the globe, and put pressure in all of the right places that were needed. And then, of course, our demands, alongside others, to not just call for Black lives mattering, but for — to call for a clear demand to change this system by defunding the police, as we move towards abolition of the police ultimately, over the years to come, and invest in a new model, a new future, a new vision, for how we do safety. So, that's really the moment here. And I really appreciate you lifting up the importance of activism, and not just activism, but intentional organizing, that folks have put into, intentional strategy that community members have been building for decades to get us to this point.

AMY GOODMAN: And this just incredible moment of the bystanders, the passersby, who simply cared, didn’t know each other, including, at the time, the 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, who was the one who took that video. And I want to just end this conversation with a reminder of what actually came out from the police department versus what Darnella did.

Shortly after Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, the Minneapolis Police Department issued a press release describing what had happened. The release was titled “Man Dies [After] Medical Incident During Police Interaction.” The statement said, in part, quote, “Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car. He was ordered to step from his car. After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.”

It was only that video, and then, of course, the eyewitness testimony of passersby who didn’t know George Floyd, but who were deeply concerned about watching a slow-motion murder, that showed the lie of this press release. Your final comment, Kandace?

KANDACE MONTGOMERY: Yes, eternally grateful for Darnella and her bravery in being willing to not only witness this murder but report it, so that the family and others could pursue justice for George Floyd. And again, the police department will continue to show its true colors and what it’s actually rooted in, which is making up lies and committing crimes against humanity for the sake of maintaining its institutional power. So, I think that that is important.

And it should not be lost on people that here in Minnesota right now we are experiencing extreme response and militarized occupation of National Guard and millions of dollars being poured into policing, risking these same conditions. And so, you know, I think that it’s important that we witness this, that we document these things, that we share these things, and that we continue to protest, we continue to get out in the streets, because we know that the police will lie on our name any day without hesitating, and that only we are the ones who are able to keep us safe. And Darnella reminded us of that.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, Darnella was with her 9-year-old cousin, who was wearing a T-shirt that said “Love.” Kandace Montgomery, co-executive director of Black Visions Collective, a Black-led, queer- and trans-centering community organization based in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
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Re: Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Tr

Postby admin » Fri Apr 23, 2021 9:06 am

Chauvin Found Guilty in George Floyd Murder As Calls for Police Reform Grow: A Closer Look

by Seth Meyers
Apr 21, 2021

Seth takes a closer look at former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin being found guilty on all counts for the murder of George Floyd.
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Re: Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Tr

Postby admin » Wed Apr 28, 2021 12:08 am

GOP Criminalizes Dissent with Anti-Riot Laws Targeting Black Lives Matter & Anti-Pipeline Protests
by Amy Goodman
APRIL 26, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/4/26/ ... test_bills

Nick Robinson: senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.

We look at a slew of anti-protest laws pending in Republican-led states, and some that have already passed, such as in Florida, where Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a controversial measure known as the “anti-riot bill” that is widely viewed as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement and calls to “defund the police.” Under the new law, a public gathering of three or more people can be classified as a “riot,” and anyone who “willingly” participates in such a gathering can be charged with a third-degree felony. Many of the anti-protest bills pending in other states have the exact same language as the Florida plan. “These are really extreme laws,” says Nick Robinson, a senior legal adviser with the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, which has tracked 81 anti-protest bills introduced in 34 states so far this year. They “expand the definition of rioting” in order “to target protesters,” Robinson tells Democracy Now!


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to look at a slew of laws pending in Republican-led state legislatures that criminalize protest.

According to the International Center for [Not-for-Profit] Law, 81 anti-protest bills have been introduced in 34 states so far this year. Three bills aimed at limiting protests have already been signed into law. More are expected soon. Arkansas and Kansas have passed measures that target protesters who seek to disrupt oil pipelines.

Last Monday, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed a controversial law that’s widely viewed as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Under the new law, which went into effect immediately, a public gathering of three or more people can be classified as a “riot.” Anyone who willingly participates in such a gathering can be charged with a third-degree felony. The law also raises the charge for protesters who destroy historic structures, including flags and memorials and Confederate statues, to a felony. It grants civil immunity to drivers who run their cars into crowds of protesters, even if the driver kills someone. During a signing ceremony for the new law, Governor DeSantis noted it will also require cities to receive approval from the state before they cut their police budgets.

GOV. RON DESANTIS: This bill actually prevents against local governments defunding law enforcement. We’ll be able to stop it at the state level. And if you look at some of these places that have done this, they’ve already seen crime go up, even just diverting some of the funding to this. And so it’s an insane theory. It’s not going to be allowed to ever carry the day in the state of Florida. And this tool — this bill gives us the tools to make sure that that doesn’t happen.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as a study by The Washington Post found the overwhelming majority of Black Lives Matter protests were peaceful, with more than 96% involving no property damage or police injuries. The Post also reported police officers or counterprotesters often instigated violence.

Meanwhile, many anti-protest bills pending in other states have the exact same language as the Florida plan. Some of the laws were drafted with support from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, including so-called critical infrastructure bills aimed at criminalizing protests against the fossil fuel industry.

For more, we go to Washington, D.C., to speak with Nick Robinson, senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, which has been tracking these anti-protest laws and found, with these latest examples, 17 states have now enacted at least 30 anti-protest bills and executive orders.

Nick, welcome to Democracy Now! The Republican legislatures are calling them “anti-riot laws.” But explain how extreme they are, starting with Florida, which is already being sued, Ron DeSantis, the governor, being sued.

NICK ROBINSON: Yeah, thank you for having me.

You know, as you say, these are really extreme laws. And what they do is, as in Florida, they expand the definition of rioting so it’s incredibly broad. So, you know, for example, in Florida, under this new bill, let’s say you just go to a protest, and a handful of people kick over a trash can. Just by being part of that crowd, you can be arrested and prosecuted for rioting and face a felony. And further, actually, under the law, no one actually has to commit any violence at all. So, if people — there’s just a danger to property, then people can be arrested for rioting. So this is just a really super subjective standard that can be used to target protesters.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s go through, for example, in Florida, what each of the parts of the law are, everything from saying that protesters can’t get bail, they have to stay overnight, they’re charged with felonies. And then — and we’re seeing this in Florida, as well as all over the country; this is astounding, 81 laws in the last few months being put forward across the country — that drivers who hit protesters with their cars, run them over, will not be found liable.

NICK ROBINSON: Yeah, no, so this is just — you know, it’s really chilling for protesters. And we see this in state after state after state, these bills being introduced and now getting passed, like, as you mentioned, in Florida, in Oklahoma. A bill is about to get passed in Iowa. So, for example, in Florida, on this rioting provision, if you’re with 26 or more people or you’re obstructing traffic, it becomes a felony and an aggravated riot, punishable by 15 years in jail. Right? So that’s just chilling. People already are concerned about being able to go out and protest now under this law, because they just don’t want — this is a life-altering charge, if you get this, against you. There’s five years in jail if you deface a monument. So, let’s say you tag a Confederate monument or something like that, again, a super serious charge under the Florida bill.

And it also says, as you pointed out, that even if you intentionally hit a protester, if you can show that that — if you can claim that that protester was engaging in a riot, then you get civil immunity from a civil suit. And as I said, you know, the problem with the Florida bill, like so many anti-riot acts around the country, is they’re just incredibly broad, and they can capture peaceful protest activity. So, yeah, so we’re just seeing this trend across the country, including these driver immunity bills. So, we’ve seen at least 15 bills introduced that would create new immunity for drivers who hit protesters with their cars — so, the one in Florida, this bill that just got passed in Oklahoma. There’s a bill in Iowa that’s about to be passed.



AMY GOODMAN: And what’s going to be happening there?

NICK ROBINSON: Yeah, so, in Iowa, there’s a bill that if you hit a protester with your car and it’s during an unpermitted protest in a street, you can — you’re immune from civil liability. And just to take a step back to understand, there’s a real serious problem of protesters in Black Lives Matter protests this past summer, up until today, being hit by cars. So, I know you already mentioned at the top of the hour the tragedy in Charlottesville, when a neo-Nazi purposefully ran his car into a crowd of protesters. But we’ve seen dozens of instances like this around the country of protesters being hit by cars, often intentionally. And instead of taking steps to protect protesters, which is what needs to happen right now, we’re seeing these state legislatures introduce bills that would instead protect drivers. And so this is just kind of asking for violence.
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Re: Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Tr

Postby admin » Wed Apr 28, 2021 12:10 am

“Open Season”: Heather Heyer’s Mother Slams New Laws Giving Immunity to Drivers Who Hit Protesters
by Amy Goodman
APRIL 26, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/4/26/ ... k_immunity

Susan Bro: mother of Heather Heyer and president and board chair of the Heather Heyer Foundation.
Nick Robinson: senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.

Many of the anti-protest laws pushed by Republicans include measures that provide civil or criminal immunity to drivers who hit demonstrators with their vehicles. A pending Oklahoma measure would offer both. “It’s declaring open season,” says Susan Bro, whose daughter Heather Heyer was killed in 2017 when a white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. “Since when do we allow the public to become judge, jury and executioner? Because that’s what this amounts to: Let’s go hunt protesters.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, I want to bring into this conversation right now Susan Bro, whose daughter Heather Heyer was tragically killed in 2017 when a white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, the one where all those white supremacists marched chanting “You will not replace us,” “Jews will not replace us.” Well, Susan Bro is the president and board chair of the Heather Heyer Foundation. She’s joining us from Ruckersville, Virginia.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Susan. It’s so good to have you back —

SUSAN BRO: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: — unfortunately, under these circumstances, talking about granting immunity to drivers, sometimes just civil, other times civil and criminal immunity to drivers who plow into crowds or run over protesters — well, presumably, like your daughter Heather. Can you respond to this, Susan?

SUSAN BRO: Well, it’s declaring open season. It’s a hunting license, is what it basically is. And as I’ve said on other shows, what’s next? Baseball bats? Guns? You know, what kind of weapons of mass destruction are they willing to allow?

This is blatantly a violation of First Amendment rights of people to protest. I would almost go so far as to say people who get jailed for protesting peacefully, especially, are political prisoners. If you’ve got people facing felony charges, they’re mandatory overnight, without bail, held until trial, and then looking at five to 15 years for protesting, that sounds almost like political prisoners, really.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you take us back to 2017, to this time of the protest, when your daughter Heather decided to go out? She didn’t often go outside and get involved with protests, but this time she did. Can you talk about why she did? And then, what happened to her? I hate to take you through this, but it’s so important for people to —

SUSAN BRO: I go through it every single day.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s so important, now that it’s being raised again all over the country to defend the motorists who do this. Now, in this case, the killer was charged with murder, the white supremacist who plowed into the crowd. But tell us what happened, why Heather decided to go outside.

SUSAN BRO: She had seen footage of the tiki torch march the night before. Her friends were there and had live-streamed it. She saw that, and she said, “I have to go. I have to go stand in support.”

Now, she was a lover, not a fighter. She was not interested in being involved in any of the violence or the face-to-face clashes. She and a great many other people were on the opposite side of the downtown pedestrian mall and stayed away from the violence and were actually returning to the downtown mall, because the rally had been disbanded. People had left. She had actually stopped in the parking lot and tried to engage one of the young women in conversation on the way back, and the young woman just kept saying, “No comment. No comment.” And they were relaxed. They were chanting. They were singing. It was a jubilant mood, from the videos that I’ve seen.

And he sat at the top of the hill with no one around him. He obviously had a way to get back out of there, even though the way forward had been barricaded on one side, because he quickly exited once he attacked the crowd. Thirty-five people were injured. And yeah, I originally said, under the new laws, this would not have applied, but after hearing further definition, I don’t know. They maybe would have tried to apply this law to him.

AMY GOODMAN: You have that famous photograph of the moment of impact, with the protesters, some of them, hurled into the air.

SUSAN BRO: Heather’s friends were hurled into the air. The young gentleman whose shoe was seen dangling from the front bumper of the car as he retreats was Heather’s friend.

AMY GOODMAN: Marcus Martin.

SUSAN BRO: He was — Marcus Martin. He was two people behind her. He reached and moved Marissa out of the way. He said to me —

AMY GOODMAN: His fiancée.

SUSAN BRO: — he’s cried over and over that he could not get to Heather. And I’ve just said, “Marcus, you can’t help that.” I have a photograph of the split second before he hits Heather. I have seen footage of him hitting Heather, but my brain will not absorb it, even now. And to say that that is not criminal, that that is not an offense — since when do we allow the public to become judge, jury and executioner? Because that’s what this amounts to: Let’s go hunt protesters.

AMY GOODMAN: Susan, what do you think is driving this?

SUSAN BRO: Politics.

AMY GOODMAN: And let me bring Nick Robinson back into this conversation. The fact that so many dozens of bills are being introduced at once, a number in many states — and when we’re talking about these motorists, we also are talking about police officers. I mean, there have been about a hundred motorists running over protesters in the last months, but if you can talk about, in several cases, police having used their cars as weapons against protesters, like in Detroit in June, an officer driving his police SUV through a crowd, sending protesters flying? Two New York police officers did likewise at a Black Lives Matter protest, May in 2020. Nick?

NICK ROBINSON: Yeah, no, that’s exactly right. And we’ve also seen police circulating on social media pictures of drivers hitting protesters, seemingly encouraging drivers to run into protesters or to hit protesters with their car. And this is — you know, it’s just criminal. And we not only see this as a problem, but we see a number of bills being introduced that would strengthen “stand your ground” laws and apply them anytime that people can show that there’s a, quote-unquote, “riot” occurring. So, this applies in the Florida bill that just passed, or in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi. So, again, the ability to use deadly force against protesters, and, you know, this part of a larger movement by politicians that are introducing these bills, that are trying to paint all protesters as rioters, and particularly all Black Lives Matter protesters as rioters.


AMY GOODMAN: And how do they make the distinction between Black Lives Matter protesters and insurrectionists, like the domestic terrorists in Washington, D.C., overrunning the Capitol, beating police officers, for example? How do they make that distinction so they don’t hold them accountable?

NICK ROBINSON: Yeah, so, I think there are — the assumption here is these are kind of “back the blue” bills often. So they’re often passed with a whole number of provisions that would do things like stop the defunding of local police departments, and so they’re seen as supporting the police. And so, I think they view them as being applied by the police in a certain type of way, right? This is incredibly subjective standards about what’s a, quote-unquote, “riot.” And so, when you have that standard, the real concern is that if you have police that seem to be having certain ideological predilections, that they’ll be applied in one way against certain kinds of protesters and in a different way against other kinds of protesters.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to give Susan the last word. Susan Bro, what do you say to the mothers of this country? What do you say to people who want to go out in the streets, like Heather did as she protested fascism and white supremacy three years ago?

SUSAN BRO: Well, obviously, the protests then were not enough. I guess we need more. But we’re going have to be strategic. I think there’s going have to be a lot of legal work done. But, unfortunately, the courts are packed conservatively right now. I don’t know how this is going to go.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, again, our condolences. I want to thank you, Susan Bro, for joining us today, mother of Heather Heyer, president of the Heather Heyer Foundation. Her daughter was run over by a white supremacist at the white supremacist march that took place over the weekend at the University of Virginia in the streets of Charlottesville. And Nick Robinson, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, speaking to us from Washington, D.C.

When we come back, President Biden acknowledges the Armenian genocide. Stay with us.
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Re: Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Tr

Postby admin » Fri May 28, 2021 11:05 pm

“America on Fire”: Historian Elizabeth Hinton on George Floyd, Policing & Black Rebellion
by Amy Goodman
MAY 26, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/5/26/ ... ca_on_fire

Elizabeth Hinton: associate professor of history and African American studies at Yale University and a professor of law at Yale Law School.
Elizabeth Hinton on Twitter
"America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s"
"From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America"

Protests and vigils were held across the U.S. to mark one year since the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death sparked a national uprising and global movement against systemic racism and police brutality. Elizabeth Hinton, an associate professor of history and African American studies at Yale University and a professor of law at Yale Law School, connects the Black Lives Matter protests to a long history of Black rebellion against police violence in her new book “America on Fire” and notes that the U.S. has had previous opportunities to address systemic racism and state violence, but change remains elusive. “Every time inequality and police violence is evaluated, all of these structural solutions are always suggested, and yet they’re never taken up,” Hinton says.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Protests and vigils were held across the country and the world Tuesday to mark one year since the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death sparked a national uprising and global movement to end racism and police brutality.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with family members of the Floyd family. Biden reiterated his support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is still being negotiated by senators. Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump joined the Floyd family in Washington and urged passage of the legislation.

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Their blood is on this legislation, so we’re going to continue — with this family and this legal team, to continue to press, to say, “Yeah, we have to respect the spilled blood that’s on this legislation. It must be meaningful, and we can do this together.” This is an American issue. This isn’t a police issue or civil rights issue. We have to look at this as a national issue that we have avoided dealing with.

AMY GOODMAN: Here in New York, the Reverend Al Sharpton paid tribute to George Floyd Tuesday.

REV. AL SHARPTON: George Floyd should not just go down in history as a martyr. He should go down in history as the turning point of how we deal with policing in the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by the historian Elizabeth Hinton. She’s an associate professor of history and African American studies at Yale University and professor of law at Yale Law School. Her new book is America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s. She’s also author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime.

Professor Hinton, welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Why don’t we start off by this significant week, the first anniversary of the police murder of George Floyd, not only the story of the murder, but the story of the unprecedented rebellion that ensued for the next year?

ELIZABETH HINTON: Well, so, what we witnessed last summer was what some have called the largest mass mobilization in United States history. And let me point out that most of the protests last summer were nonviolent. It was only after police came to nonviolent protests and peaceful vigils, and with tear gas and riot sticks and batons, that some protesters responded to that police violence with violence, which is a familiar pattern that we see from rebellions stemming from the 1960s. But the vast majority of what we saw last summer were nonviolent, peaceful protests, Americans and people around the world standing up to racial injustice and saying, “We want a different kind of governance. We want to build a different kind of society. And we don’t want to continue to have to bury people of color at the hands of police officers.”

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Hinton, I wanted to ask you. Your book tries to put what is happening now in the historical context, because, obviously, many of the young people who are participating in these protests don’t know a lot of the history. And what I think struck me was that you went not only into the period of the 1960s and '70s, which was crucial, but even further back, pointing to some of the civil disturbances and rebellions that had occurred in prior decades. I've always been particularly struck by the impact of world wars, both World War I and World War II, on racial unrest in the United States and how the returning soldiers often then were not as willing to — Black and Latino soldiers were not as willing to accept injustice. Could you talk about the early teens of the 20th century and this historic conflict between Black communities and the white establishment?

ELIZABETH HINTON: Right, that’s such an important part of our history that I think we fail to recognize. And that’s that for most of the 20th century, the majority of collective violence was inflicted by white mobs against communities of color, and especially Black communities, very much in the context of migrations stimulated by, as you said, Juan, the First and Second World Wars.

So, you know, beginning in Springfield in 1908, but then also in East St. Louis in 1917, basically, white residents in East St. Louis attacked Black wartime factory workers in one of the bloodiest race riots of the 20th century, forcing Black families to choose between being shot to death or burned alive, and then, of course, the Red Summer of 1919, as you mentioned, with returning GIs, who had fought for democracy abroad, returning GIs of color, wanting to stake a claim for citizenship and saying, “OK, we fought for democracy abroad. Now let’s realize democracy at home.” When faced with continued segregation and white vigilante terror and violence, we saw the outbreak not only of racial strife in the streets of American cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C., but also the continued attacks by white vigilante forces on Black communities. And then, of course, we’re coming up next week on the 100-year commemoration of the Tulsa massacre, where thousands of white men, who were deputized by the county government, destroyed, completely destroyed, the thriving Greenwood community in Tulsa.

And these examples of white vigilante terror — and, let me also emphasize, deeply entwined with law enforcement. I mean, law enforcement was complacent in many of these episodes, in many of these massacres and attacks on Black communities, turned a blind eye, or actively participated in the violence. And then, of course, during and after World War II, the kind of — the race riots that we saw after World War I, literally street fights between Black and white residents, in places like Detroit, where federal troops had to be called, persisted. And I think what’s really important about this back history and this history of white collective violence is that it was only in the 1960s, when Black people rose up against repressive and exploitative institutions, that these incidents of collective violence became labeled as criminal and as riots.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to stick with, for one minute, Tulsa. We’re going to have Stanley Nelson, the great filmmaker, on, on Friday, because he has a documentary that’s going to air on Sunday, on the centennial of the Tulsa massacre. But last week, three survivors of one of the worst racial terror attacks in U.S. history testified to Congress in favor of reparations ahead of the 100th anniversary. Over two days, beginning May 31st, as you described, 1921, racist white mobs basically burned down Greenwood, the thriving African American business district in Tulsa known as “Black Wall Street.” This is 107-year-old Viola Fletcher, the oldest living survivor, testifying before Congress.

VIOLA FLETCHER: I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not. And other survivors do not. And our descendants do not.

AMY GOODMAN: Again, that was 107-year-old Viola Fletcher, the oldest living survivor of the Tulsa massacre, where something like, it’s believed, 300 African Americans were killed. Even people in Tulsa, even African Americans, talk about how is it possible that they did not know this history, not to mention people throughout the United States over this last 100 years that this wasn’t taught, Professor Hinton.

ELIZABETH HINTON: Yeah, I think there are many aspects of, one, the extent to which white supremacist terror has — the impact of white supremacist terror in Black communities, and also state-sanctioned violence. I mean, I think that’s one of the things that I attempted to do in this book, America on Fire. Based on new data, we now know that, you know, in the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s assassination, violent political rebellion to the presence of police and the expansion of American police forces and the militarization of police in targeted low-income communities of color was responded to by political violence on — mostly perpetuated by young African Americans. And this was the most widely adopted form a protest after the civil rights movement. So, it’s a story both of continued white supremacist terror that gets hidden, but also of Black resistance to that terror and to police violence, that we have yet to reckon with.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Hinton, one of the, I think, most interesting observations in your book was the — to me, was that most people associate the federal government’s involvement on the war on crime as coming during the Nixon years, but you show how it was really under President Johnson that the real expansion of the federal support for local law enforcement — you note, in one section of your book, that in 1964 there was only $10 million in federal funds given to local police, but by 1970 it was over $300 million — an enormous increase just in the late 1960s under President Johnson’s Safe [Streets] Act. Could you talk about that and the impact that that had on local police forces?

ELIZABETH HINTON: Right. And just to give listeners a sense of what that $300-$400 million dollars translates to today, it’s several billion dollars that was being invested in the expansion of American policing and courts and the prison systems, at the height of the civil rights movement and progressive social change in the 1960s.

And I think this is a really important aspect of our domestic policy and the kind of origins or the shortcomings even of liberal social policy, is that, you know, during the Johnson administration, there were kind of two approaches to dealing with both the threat of Black rebellion but also poverty and racial inequality in the U.S. And one of those, of course, was the War on Poverty Community Action Programs, remedial education, job training programs. And the other was programs that were intended to manage the material effects of poverty and inequality, as they appeared through violence and crime and the threat of rebellion, and that is, of course, the war on crime. And in the end, the war on crime won out. And the story of the Black rebellions themselves, as I see it, are residents’ responses to, again, the expansion of policing in their communities that accompanied this unprecedented federal intervention in local police forces for the first time in U.S. history, beginning with the Johnson administration in the mid-1960s.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Another aspect of your book, I think, that — and while you do focus and say that it was largely Black rebellions that occurred throughout the ’60s and ’70s, you do note several key rebellions that occurred in the Latino community. You talk about the Roosevelt Park rebellion in 1971 in Albuquerque, and also in Hoboken and Jersey City. But there was a string of rebellions that occurred in the Puerto Rican and Mexican communities: ’66 in Perth Amboy; ’69 in Passaic, in Hartford, Connecticut; in the Division Street riots in 1966 in Chicago; the Humboldt Park riots in Chicago in 1977. So, there were quite a few other communities of color that also rose up during this period, as well.

ELIZABETH HINTON: Yeah, and that’s also another kind of hidden aspect, I think, of our history of both racial oppression and resistance. And in many of those communities, like Hartford and Jersey City, you know, these were thoroughly multiracial rebellions, where Black and predominantly Puerto Rican residents rose up against police violence together. And, you know, by my count, from that — what I call the crucible period, after that major piece of federal legislation, the Safe Streets Act — so, from June 1968 through 1972 — there were about 2,000 rebellions in segregated Black communities and about 200 in Puerto Rican and Mexican American communities.

And I think, you know, this just underscores the extent to which the policing strategies, that policymakers and officials at all levels of a government embraced for the war on crime, really targeted youth of color in Latinx and Black communities. And as part of that targeting and those strategies, people in these communities were subjected to not only increased patrol and surveillance, but the increased police violence and brutality that accompanies that. And in the context of other shared socioeconomic conditions in communities of color — that is, mass unemployment, so lack of decent jobs, failing public schools and substandard housing, run by either absent public housing authorities or exploitative slum landlords — many of these communities that were overpoliced and underprotected became powder kegs, with a shared set of grievances related to the overall racial inequality in the country at the time.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Attorney General William Barr, not under Trump, but in a 1992 appearance on Face the Nation, when he was attorney general in the administration of George H.W. Bush. Barr blamed gangs for the uprising in Los Angeles after a jury acquitted four white police officers in the brutal beating of Rodney King.

ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: We’re investigating all the violence, the arson that was involved in the riots. Our preliminary information is that there was significant involvement of gang members at the inception of the violence, also involvement in the spreading of the violence and the arson.

AMY GOODMAN: I remember at that time, you know, the descriptions of those who were rising up being arsonists and vandals and gang members. Martin Luther King famously talked about a riot being the language of the unheard. Also, Juan, you were covering the L.A., what were called “riots.” Elizabeth Hinton, if you can talk about the language used to describe this — I mean, you use the word “rebellion” — and what it means when they’re called “riots,” when people are called “vandals” and “arsonists,” but the police are not called “murderers”?

ELIZABETH HINTON: Right. And so, you know, this goes back to this crucial moment in the '60s where, beginning with Harlem in ’64, Lyndon Johnson labeled this political violence as a “riot,” basically ignoring the underlying socioeconomic grievances, that were shared with the mainstream civil rights movement, that drove people to resort to political violence in the first place. And in labeling them riots and criminal, and ignoring the demands for job and better housing and better policing and protection from white vigilante terror, and full political and economic inclusion in American society, that drove the rebellions themselves, and calling them criminal, then the only solution becomes not what residents themselves want, but the police. And so, this is partly why terminology is so important. And also, you know, many of the people who participated in these instances of collective violence understood themselves as rising up, as rebelling, not as rioting, not as something that was criminal. And we've really got to get out of this criminal framework through which we understand these forms of political violence.

I think the other — that Barr quote is so illustrative and also gets to one of the points that Juan just raised, which is that the L.A. rebellion in 1992 was also thoroughly multiracial. And in addition to targeting gangs, so-called gangs, the federal government also, with the support and help of what was called INS at the time, also blamed, quote-unquote, “illegal aliens” for the violence. And so, the rebellion provided law enforcement authorities an opportunity to target two groups that had — that they had long been the subject of both national security and law enforcement attention. And again, you know, policymakers ignored the kind of larger grievances behind the rebellion, both the injustice that was the acquittal of the four officers for the brutal beating of Rodney King, kind of the first viral video of police violence, but also rampant inequality, unemployment and problems of violence and crime in many communities of color in Los Angeles that were not being adequately addressed, that were not being addressed with robust social programs but were being managed by a heavy-handed, militarized police that was literally rounding up people of color and arresting them en masse, beginning really in the 1980s.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Hinton, I wanted to ask you about the lessons for activists today in terms of the response of the establishment, of those in power, to these rebellions. Whether it was in the 1940s or in the 1960s or even now, there is a period of time when the system, because — is taken aback by the mass upsurge and then agrees to certain reforms. In the case of the Rodney King situation, there was a second federal trial of the officers, that sort of sought to calm the public, and as we’ve seen with the Derek Chauvin trial now after George Floyd. But the promises of systemic change rarely occur. And what happens is, the system almost seems to wait until the movement subsides, and then goes back to its old way of doing things.

ELIZABETH HINTON: Yeah, that’s actually a great way to kind of understand the currents and tendencies of history. But I think, you know — and this stems from my previous comment about some of the missed opportunities in L.A. You know, we have to go back to that critical moment in the late 1960s with the Kerner Commission. Johnson’s own National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders basically called for exactly what you’re talking about, that kind of structural change. They said to the Johnson administration and the nation that if we wanted to — if we’re serious about preventing rebellion in the future, we needed a massive investment in low-income communities of color, and not in the form of policing and surveillance and prisons, which is what ended up happening, but in a robust job creation program that — made possible by the mobilization of both the public and private sector, a complete overhaul of urban public schools and a complete transformation of public housing, and the continued support of community action programs that would empower the grassroots to address problems in their community on their own terms with funding from the federal government.

And, you know, unfortunately, time and time again, every time inequality and police violence is evaluated, all of these structural solutions are always suggested, and yet they’re never taken up, as you said. We know what needs to be done. If we’re serious about addressing the problem of police violence in this country and addressing the larger issue of racial inequality, of which police violence is a symptom, then we have to move beyond police reform. We have to support and bring about that kind of systemic transformation that the Kerner Commission suggested more than 50 years ago. We can only imagine what the United States might look like today had policymakers invested in those kinds of robust social programs rather than in policing and prisons. I would be certain that George Floyd would still be with us today.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Hinton, the significance of Kristen Clarke, first African American woman, sworn in last night by the first African American vice president, to be head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice? And the significance of this division when it comes to reining in police?

ELIZABETH HINTON: Yeah. So, you know, I think, like Al Sharpton said, we are really facing a turning point in American policing. And the provisions of the George Floyd [Justice in Policing] Act are just a baby step. If we’re serious about public safety, we’re going to have to look beyond the police. Yes, we need to put police violence in check, but we also need to change the conditions that lead to the kind of deadly encounters that we’ve seen all too often throughout our history and, due to the bodycams and the fact that we all have cameras in our pockets now, frequently on our screens.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, I wanted to ask you about the backlash growing after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill denied tenure to the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, best known for producing The 1619 Project with The New York Times, that interactive project which reexamines the legacy of slavery. You signed one of the many letters of protest, as an academic yourself, that she was denied tenure. Can you talk about the significance of her work and why this is so important to you, in this last 30 seconds?

ELIZABETH HINTON: Yeah. I mean, I think it relates to this larger — you know, we have to — this structural transformation that we need urgently in the United States is going to be a matter of changing hearts and minds, and political education and reckoning with our history, and reckoning with it and placing at the center of the narratives that we tell about our history — we opened this segment talking about hidden histories — but with the centrality of racial oppression to political and economic development in the United States. And until we begin to confront this history head on, instead of trying to suppress and hide it, I fear that we won’t be able to build the kind of support to bring about the changes that are necessary to put the nation on a different path, one that doesn’t continue to exacerbate the racial inequities that have defined this country historically.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us. And congratulations on your new book, Elizabeth Hinton, associate professor of history and African American studies at Yale University and professor of law at Yale Law School. Her new book, America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s. Her previous book, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime.
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Re: Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Tr

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“Exterminate All the Brutes”: Filmmaker Raoul Peck Explores Colonialism & Origins of White Supremacy
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
MAY 31, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/5/31/ ... aker_raoul

Raoul Peck: acclaimed Haitian filmmaker and a political activist.
"Exterminate All the Brutes"
Watch 2018 DN Interview with Raoul Peck

A new four-part documentary series, “Exterminate All the Brutes,” delves deeply into the legacy of European colonialism from the Americas to Africa. It has been described as an unflinching narrative of genocide and exploitation, beginning with the colonizing of Indigenous land that is now called the United States. The documentary series seeks to counter “the type of lies, the type of propaganda, the type of abuse, that we have been subject to all of these years,” says director and Haitian-born filmmaker Raoul Peck. “We have the means to tell the real story, and that’s exactly what I decided to do,” Peck says. “Everything is on the table, has been on the table for a long time, except that it was in little bits everywhere. … We lost the wider perspective.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Republican lawmakers are continuing their attack on schools for teaching students about the true history of the United States, from the genocide of Native Americans to the legacy of slavery. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently criticized the Department of Education for promoting what he described as revisionist history, including The New York Times 1619 Project, which reexamined the pivotal role slavery played in the founding of the United States. In his letter, Mitch McConnell wrote, quote, “Americans never decided our children should be taught that our country is inherently evil,” unquote.

Well, today we begin our show looking at an epic new television series that delves deeply into a history Mitch McConnell would prefer not be taught: the legacy of European colonialism, from the Americas to Africa. This is a trailer for Exterminate All the Brutes, the new series directed by the Haitian-born filmmaker Raoul Peck.

RAOUL PECK: There is something we need to talk about, three words that summarize the whole history of humanity: civilization, colonization, extermination. This is the origin of the ideology of white supremacy. This is me in the middle, and I just want to understand: Why do I bring myself into this story? Because I am an immigrant from a [bleep] hole country. Neutrality is not an option. It’s time to own up to a basic truth, a story of survival and violence. We know now what their task truly is: Exterminate All the Brutes.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the trailer for the epic HBO documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes, which is available on HBO and HBO Max. Time magazine said the series, quote, “may well be the most politically radical and intellectually challenging work of nonfiction ever made for television.”

Well, Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Sheikh and I recently interviewed Raoul Peck, the Haitian filmmaker who directed Exterminate All the Brutes. He joined us from Paris, France. His past films include I Am Not Your Negro, about James Baldwin, Lumumba, about the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, and The Young Karl Marx. I asked Raoul Peck to talk about how he went from making a film about James Baldwin to creating Exterminate All the Brutes.

RAOUL PECK: Basically, after I Am Not Your Negro, I went throughout the world with the film. I was fortunate to be able to see how the film was received in many different places. And one of the common threads through that was the type of reaction that you just mentioned, like Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. You know, this denial is somehow a sign that they feel that they are entrenched now, they are attacked. There is great fear about some sort of civilization going overboard.

And for me, it’s a symbol that the type of lies, the type of propaganda, the type of abuse that we have been subject to for during all these years. I am old enough to have heard many other people, like Rick Santorum, Mitch McConnell and many others throughout the years. The only difference now is that we have the means to counter them. We have the means to tell the real story.

And that’s exactly what I decided to do, to, once for all, put everything on the table without any semblance of holding back my punches. Everything is on the table, have been on the table for a long time, except that it was in little bits everywhere, because science, sociology, anthropology, etc., politics, have been cut up in little pieces, so we lost the wider perspective. And the film does exactly that, to bring us to the core story, to have the whole matrix of the last 700 years of basically Eurocentric ideology and narrative.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Raoul Peck, in providing this broader historical context, you trace the origins of contemporary modern forms of biological racism to the Spanish Inquisition and the so-called purity of blood statutes — that is, limpieza de sangre —

RAOUL PECK: Exactly.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: — that was a means of distinguishing old Christians from conversos — that is, Jews but also Moors — from the pure blood of Christians. These laws, you say, are the antecedents of the ideology of white supremacy. For the first time in the world, the idea of race based on blood was enshrined into law. So, how should we understand the continuities between the purity of blood statutes and the forms of racist violence we witness today? Because the entire argument of this truly magnificent work is that the past is not really past. It is, as you say, the past has a future that we can’t anticipate.

RAOUL PECK: Well, the thing is that we are accustomed to not see history as a continuity, as you say. And we came from a very specific history. And we are not some sort of tribalist tribe that came out of nowhere. Today’s civilization is basically embedded in the capitalistic societies. And that story started around the 10th and 11th century with the first accumulation of riches, accompanied by killing and exiling of Jews, killing Muslims, trying to go all the way to Jerusalem. And those first Crusades were able to create a lot of — or not create, to basically extract a lot of riches that allows the monarchy to be able to finance trips to discovering new roads to the East.

And the accident, which it was, of the so-called discovery of the new continent was not something they planned. And when it happened, they basically created a totally new concept, which is the concept of discovery. And from that day on, you know, you could just go somewhere, put a flag, deploy military flags and say, “This is mine,” no matter who was on that land before.

And I remind you that at the time of Columbus, there were basically 100 million people on both continents in America. So, you can imagine what it meant. Within a hundred years, more than 90% of them were totally annihilated. So, it’s a very specific moment in the history of the modern world. For the U.S., it seems like it’s the beginning of a new world, but it’s not. It’s a continuity of a lot of action that have been the source of European civilization, basically.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to a clip from Exterminate All the Brutes, where you explain settler colonialism.

RAOUL PECK: From the beginning, the extension of the United States from sea to shining sea was the intention and design of the country’s founders. Free land was a magnet that attracted European settlers. This particular form of colonialism is called settler colonialism. But as a system, it requires violence. It requires the elimination of the Natives and their replacement by European settlers.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is another clip from your series, Exterminate All the Brutes. In this dramatized scene, a white man, played by the actor Josh Hartnett, engages in a standoff with a Native American woman leader.

GEN. THOMAS SIDNEY JESUP: [played by Josh Hartnett] I do not want to spill Seminole blood, kill Seminole children, Seminole women. Give us back the American property you stole from our good fellowman planters and settlers, and I will let you move to the Injun territory the U.S. government has provided for your people.

ABBY OSCEOLA: [played by Caisa Ankarsparre] You call human beings your property?


ABBY OSCEOLA: You steal land. You steal life. You steal humans. What kind of species are you?

AMY GOODMAN: So, we were listening to Abby Osceola, or the woman who plays her, of the Seminole Nation. You say her story goes deep into the history of this continent. Talk about who she is and why you choose to center her and the Seminole Nation in the first part of your series, including their solidarity with enslaved Africans.

RAOUL PECK: Well, the whole vision of the film is based in changing totally the point of view of who is telling the story. And in particular, because this story not only center from Europe but also center in the bottom or in the middle of the United States of America, I had to start the film from that particular point of view of this woman who is the head of her tribe, of her nation.

And basically, you know, the Seminole have been one of the rare tribes who were never really — who did not really obey to the enforcement of leaving their territories. And they were called the Invisible Tribe for a reason. So, it was important for me to start it from a point of resistance, from a point of an individual, of a woman. And watching this invader basically telling her to leave her land and to deliver the slaves that were — and, of course, you know, that’s a story that is not really well known, that a lot of slaves who escaped were welcomed by Seminoles and other tribes. And I wanted to start with that symbolic moment of resistance and also of solidarity, and from there, deploy the whole rest of the story.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Raoul, that is in one of the forms of continuity that you point to. The story of Native Americans is absolutely critical. And the erasure of this genocidal history, in particular in the United States, is evidenced, as you show, in the perverse use of Native American names and designations for military weapons, from Black Hawk to Apache, as well as military operations, the most recent and proximate of which was the May 2011 operation named Geronimo to assassinate Osama bin Laden. So, could you talk a little bit more about that, the way in which Native American history has been distorted, if not entirely erased, and the uses to which it’s been put in contemporary U.S. politics?

RAOUL PECK: Well, it’s clear that — and you see that throughout the film through different type of device or type of stories, level of stories in the film, is how everything is somehow connected. You know, the history of the Native American, which is, for me, the core story, whether it has been pushed out and erased sometimes or told the wrong way, it’s like a phantom. It’s already there. You can’t get rid of it. There are so many skeletons in those boxes, that they come up. And they are more and more coming out.

And it’s ironic that the very powerful U.S. Army, who was basically at its core created not only to fight the British at the beginning, but after independence was basically used to kill Indians and to keep slaves, Black slaves, on the plantations. So, basically, the U.S. Army, at the beginning, was the militia, you know? So, this story continues. It’s basically a story of 200 years, which is — in the whole history of humankind is nothing. So, as long — you can try to repress that story, but it’s coming out there. You know, as long as there will be Native American or there will be Black life, they will continue to tell that story. There is no escape from it.

And that’s why what I was saying at the beginning — you know, when you see people like Rick Santorum saying that, “Well, when we came, there was nobody on this land” — what did you do with the 100 million people? You have to explain that. So, it’s really — it becomes more and more absurd that Republican leadership at that level are capable of such ignorance. You know, it’s mind-bending. So, for me, it’s just the logic of the whole story. And that’s what we try to explain and to tell in this story of Exterminate All the Brutes. And I really — my objective is really to make sure that that kind of ignorance cannot be voiced anymore.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Raoul, another possible form of repression, another idea that has been repressed, is something that Sven Lindqvist, in his extraordinary book Exterminate All the Brutes, from which your film substantially draws, he shows how closely intertwined the idea of progress is with racism and even genocide. What alternatives do you see to this ideology, and where do you see it, if at all, taking shape?

RAOUL PECK: Well, it’s a very complicated question to answer. And I don’t really go by that way in assessing what the future will be or what are the solution. I think any solution will first have to start with the real story. We need to sit down around the same table and agree on the diagnostic. We have to agree on the genocide. We have to agree in the whole line of history that’s been going on for more than 700 years. Otherwise, there is no conversation possible. So, I am not, and we are not, if I can speak for many others, it’s not about revenge. It’s not about — you know, it’s about let’s see the world as it is and let’s name all the things that happened and bring us to what the world is today. That’s what it is about. It’s not about showing how culprit you are or not. It’s about acknowledging the past and the present, because they are strongly connected.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Raoul Peck, the acclaimed Haitian-born filmmaker, who then grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the United States. He is the director of the new HBO four-part documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes. We continue our conversation after break.


AMY GOODMAN: “American Dream” by J.S. Ondara, one of the songs featured in the series Exterminate All the Brutes. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. If you want to get our daily email digest of news, headlines, stories and alerts, send the word “democracynow” — one word, without a space — to 66866. Text the word “democracynow” — one word, without a space — to 66866.

We are continuing now with our conversation with Raoul Peck, the Haitian-born director of the new HBO four-part documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes. I want to go to another clip, from the second episode in the series, where Raoul Peck — he is the narrator of this series — explains what happened after Columbus arrived in what is now Haiti, where Raoul Peck was born.

RAOUL PECK: Instead of the bustling ports of the East Indies, Columbus came upon a tropical paradise populated by the Taíno people, what is now Haiti. Then, from the Iberian Peninsula came merchants, mercenaries, criminals and peasants. They seized the land and property of Indigenous peoples and declared the territories to be extensions of the Spanish and Portuguese states. These acts were confirmed by the monarchies and endorsed by the papal authority of the Roman Catholic Church. That’s more or less the official story. And through that official story, a new vision of the world was created: the doctrine of discovery.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip from Exterminate All the Brutes, the 18th century, known as the Age of Revolutions. But we often associate this time with the American Revolution or the French Revolution, not the Haitian Revolution, which was led by Black slaves, the first country in the Western Hemisphere to be born of a slave uprising — you say, Raoul Peck, the only revolution that materialized the idea of enlightenment, freedom, fraternity and equality for all. You know, Haiti becomes a republic, and the U.S. Congress would not recognize it for decades, fearful that the fact that Haiti was born of a slave uprising would inspire the enslaved people of the United States to rise up, as well. Can you talk about the erasure of the Haitian Revolution, your own country, Haiti, its significance for you, and how the U.S. dealt with Haiti all of these years?

RAOUL PECK: Well, you know, the best words for this is what Michel-Rolph Trouillot have written about silencing the past. It was key for the U.S. and all the other European powers to silence the Haitian Revolution, because it was, in their eyes, worse than Cuba in the ’50s. We were under a strict embargo, because all of them had economy that still relied on slavery. And Haiti was the worst example they could have. And Haiti was also beating them in terms of their own ideology of enlightenment, because Haiti, the first constitution of Haiti, basically stated that any man or woman or person who set foot on the island is a free person. And none of the other revolutions dared go so far, because they were totally involved in slavery and were profiting from it. So there was no way that the Haitian Revolution could be accepted.

So, when people say that America is the first democratic country in the Western Hemisphere, it’s not. It’s Haiti. And the story continue until today. You know, we have a history of being attacked, of being invaded, of many of our leaders come to power with the acceptance of the U.S. government. And it continue until today. Basically, the last two presidents we had came into power thanks to the support of the U.S. government. So, we have, unfortunately, a long story of abuse from the United States and also of resistance, because one thing that we can say is that the Haitian people were always — whether it take 30 years, five years or two years, they always make sure that they can get rid of those corrupt leaders.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to ask about one of the critical issues, Raoul, that you raise in the last part of the film, a critical question. You talk about your own experience living in Berlin, where you lived for 15 years and were also a film student, where you made a film on a Nazi torture compound. You say when you were there that you thought a lot about how a country that’s produced some of humanity’s best philosophers, scientists and artists also operated one of the most devastating, scientifically run and engineered killing machines. Now, many people have reflected on this question and the seeming contradiction in this fact by concluding that the Holocaust was some kind of historical aberration. In other words, that it stands very much outside the history of the Enlightenment and the ideas of humanism and universalism on which it apparently stands. But your film seems to suggest — even as this is raised as a question, your film suggests that other conclusions could be drawn. Could you talk a little bit about that?

RAOUL PECK: Well, it’s nothing new. In fact, there are many scholars that have worked on that specific question for the last 50, 60 years. And, of course, there is resistance to say that the Holocaust was a very special moment in the life of Western civilization. But it’s not. It’s a continuity of a wheel of genocide, a wheel of eliminate people that are deemed inferior. The structure of genocide are always the same.

You know, the person who invented the word “genocide,” Raphael Lemkin, in 1943 — we went to the New York Public Library, and in that library, in his file, there is a list of something around 42 previous genocides before the Holocaust. And he include in it, of course, the genocide against the Native American people. So, trying to make any type of genocide special, I think, is a really not correct way of seeing the history of humankind. They all copied from each other.

They are all, of course, specific. You know, you can’t directly compare the genocide in Rwanda with the genocide in Cambodia and with the Holocaust. They have different ideological reason. They have different historical reason. They have different people involved. But as the structure, as the system of genocide, they all obey the same pattern of first pinning down a special category of person, of people, and then start saying that we are superior to them, and they are insect. And as soon as you come to the point where they are animals or they are savages or they are insect, you are allowed to kill them. And that’s the excuse that was always needed for every imperialist, for every conqueror, in order to eliminate whoever was in the land they wanted to conquer. So, it’s similar. It has been similar throughout the history of humankind. And it became more specific within the concept of the capitalistic society, because then it was also linked to profit. It was also linked to make bigger territories in order to exploit large communities. So, I have had that discussion many years ago, back ago, including in Germany.

But today, I think we should move past that, what I would call the confrontation between who got the biggest pain. Do we put slavery confronted to the Holocaust or the Rwandis’ pain? You know, it’s not about that. We are all from the same human family. It’s not about who has suffered more. I think we have to acknowledge every piece of history that happened on this planet, and we have to give responses to them. And we have to explain why they happened, because it’s the only way that eventually we can prevent them to happen again and again.

AMY GOODMAN: And we want to talk more about that after this last clip from the series Exterminate All the Brutes.

RAOUL PECK: Trading human beings, what sick mind thought of this first? Brought by force and pushed to death — slavery, or the trade, as they they referred to it euphemistically, a state-sponsored genocide. What does this say about the civilized world?

AMY GOODMAN: So, if you could talk more about what this does say, and going back to the beginning, talking about genocide, the term coined by Raphael Lemkin, colonization, as well as civilization, and how you find hope today in the discussions, if this is all acknowledged, though you’re saying just acknowledging this is not enough?

RAOUL PECK: Yes, of course. But acknowledging it is a big step. And that’s what I wanted to say before, is that even for me as a filmmaker, telling that story, it took a lot of thinking in order to tell a story where for the first time you tell the story of the genocide of Native Americans, and then you tell the story of slavery, and then you tell also one of the major extermination story, which is the Holocaust. And for the first time, I think, at least on film, you can see the connections between them.

And for me, it’s a huge step. You know, it’s taking all those atrocity in a different context. And for me, it can only be the beginning of a wider conversation, instead of each part keeping their own malheur, keeping their own death, their own pain, and sometimes being used against each other, you know? And that’s a divide that has been used for many, many years. And for me, the film is also a step to break that separate narrative. There is not many different stories. There is one historical knowledge. And we need to access it.

And to your question, that’s the leitmotif in the series, you know? We already know enough. The problem is, what do we do with that knowledge? Because everything I say in the film, everything that Sven Lindqvist tells the story about, or Michel-Rolph Trouillot, or Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, those are fact. Those are highly competent scholars who spent their life documenting the horror. And my use of their work, with them, was exactly that, to force the conversation to a more sovereign type of discussion and to push aside the blurring of history, push aside the ignorance that still reign in the discussion.

And, you know, I am not going to name them again, the two politicians I named, but I think a population are more and more interested in learning where they come from. You know, there is a reason why everybody now wants to have their DNA analyzed, because there is some sort of feeling of connection, you know? And it’s our job, as filmmakers, and you, as journalists, as well, to lay that in plain sight. And then we can say, “OK, what do we do with this?” You know?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That’s exactly — we just have a minute. What do we do with this? Your film begins and ends with the same line that Sven Lindqvist says again and again: “It’s not knowledge that we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and draw the conclusions.” How does your film and the work of these other authors enable that courage?

RAOUL PECK: You know, I was primarily educated by Jesuits. And one thing is, maybe from that, that I believed in the notion of knowledge. I believe in the notion of learning the truth. And the film, for me, is the first step. And my wish is that every school, every university is able to watch the film and have discussion around it, because you cannot go further if you don’t know your own history, whatever the side you are on. But you need to know. And it’s not about accusing you of anything. It’s about facing your reality, because you can’t understand what’s going on. You can’t understand why policemen are still killing Black kids and Black men and Black women in this country, if you don’t know where it comes from. You know?

And it’s unfortunate. You know, we are in a time where we have huge instruments for communication and huge instrument for learning. You can go on the internet and learn about everything. But we lack a very condensed matrix of those histories that we have been built by. And each one of us needs to do our homework; otherwise, I don’t see any nonviolent outcome out of this.

AMY GOODMAN: Raoul Peck, the acclaimed Haitian-born filmmaker, director of the new HBO four-part documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes. Visit democracynow.org to watch our 2018 interview with Raoul about his films The Young Marx and I Am Not Your Negro about James Baldwin.

When we come back, The Man Who Lived Underground. We go to Portugal to speak with Julia Wright about how she unearthed an unpublished novel about racist police violence written by her father, the legendary African American writer Richard Wright, who wrote Native Son and Black Boy. Stay with us.
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Re: Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Tr

Postby admin » Thu Jun 10, 2021 12:56 am

Richard Wright’s Novel About Racist Police Violence Was Rejected in 1941; It Has Just Been Published
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
MAY 31, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/5/31/ ... ist_police

Julia Wright: daughter of the literary giant Richard Wright and executor of his estate.
"The Man Who Lived Underground"

Nearly 80 years ago, Richard Wright became one of the most famous Black writers in the United States with the publication of “Native Son.” The novel’s searing critique of systemic racism made it a best-seller and inspired a generation of Black writers. In 1941, Wright wrote a new novel titled “The Man Who Lived Underground,” but publishers refused to release it, in part because the book was filled with graphic descriptions of police brutality by white officers against a Black man. His manuscript was largely forgotten until his daughter Julia Wright unearthed it at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. “The Man Who Lived Underground” was not published in the 1940s because white publishers did not want to highlight “white supremacist police violence upon a Black man because it was too close to home,” says Julia Wright. “It’s a bit like lifting the stone and not wanting the worms, the racist worms underneath, to be seen.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: “Old Man River,” sung by Paul Robeson, who had his passport revoked by the U.S. government. He was blacklisted in this country and was a friend of the great writer Richard Wright. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Over 80 years ago, Richard Wright became one of the most famous Black writers in the United States with the publication of his novel Native Son. It sold over 200,000 copies in the first three weeks and inspired a generation of Black writers. Amiri Baraka once said, quote, “Wright was one of the people who made me conscious of the need to struggle.”

In 1941, Richard Wright wrote a follow-up novel titled The Man Who Lived Underground. It’s centered on a Black man who is forced to live in a city sewer system after being brutalized by white police officers who tortured him until he falsely admitted to murdering a white couple. But publishers rejected Wright’s book. Portions of the book were turned into a short story of the same name, but the full novel, including the graphic descriptions of police brutality, went unpublished — until now.

Richard Wright once said of the novel, quote, “I have never written anything in my life that stemmed more from sheer inspiration or executed any piece of writing in a deeper feeling of imaginative freedom, or expressed myself in a way that flowed more naturally from my own personal background, reading, experiences and feelings,” he said.

But Wright’s manuscript was largely forgotten, until his daughter, Julia Wright, unearthed it at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University, the Beinecke Library, and she worked with the Library of America to have the book finally published, nearly 80 years after it was written and 60 years after Richard Wright died at the age of 52 in Paris, France, where he had taken his family to live since 1946.

I recently spoke to Richard Wright’s daughter Julia. She joined us from Portugal. Julia Wright is a longtime anti-death penalty activist and supporter of Mumia Abu-Jamal, has visited him many times in prison. She’s writing a memoir about her father, Richard Wright. She is the executor of his estate. I began by asking Julia to talk about the significance of what she found and how she finally had it published.

JULIA WRIGHT: Thank you, Amy, for having me back on the show.

Yes, it was a very exciting discovery. I was living in Paris at the end of the '90s and during the early years of 2000, and I was learning the ropes of the estate with my mother Ellen. I was also freelancing as a journalist there. And the time came, after my mother's death, to publish another work by my father.

So, since I would travel to the United States to visit death row and visit death row prisoners there, like Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose human rights were being so systematically violated, I would take the plane, land in the United States, go through cities like New York or Philly, Philadelphia, and go to death row. But on my way to death row, I would encounter another type of death sentence. And that is the shootings of unarmed Black and Brown people in our streets, also of vulnerable minorities like mentally challenged people. And I remember being absolutely shocked, for instance, by what happened to James Byrd down in Texas, who was dragged behind a white — I believe there were three of them, three white supremacists’ van, until he was dismembered, alive, while he was still alive. I remember Abner Louima in New York and his sodomization. I remember in those years —

AMY GOODMAN: By police.

JULIA WRIGHT: — as I was going to death row — yes, absolutely, by the police, always by the police. And also I remember Amadou Diallo, shot by the police 40 times, not because he was the one suspected of rape — it was somebody else — but he was a convenient Black target.

So, when I got to Yale and to Beinecke and — I have this memory of entering this very plush, comfortable, air-conditioned library in July of 2010 to look for a manuscript to publish. And I saw the long version of The Man Who Lived Underground. It leapt out at me as — I don’t know what to say. A time bomb? A time machine? Something that had to be published yesterday. I was so driven about it that I took it back to Paris and approached Library of America by — well, in those days, it was still fax. And that’s how the idea began.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about — talk about the book. Talk about the descriptions of police violence. Talk about the man who went underground, who lived in the sewer system. Again, it was published as a short story but not as a book, because the publishers didn’t want those graphic descriptions.

JULIA WRIGHT: The publishers, who were white — it was controlled, white-controlled — did not want those descriptions of white supremacist police violence upon a Black man, because it was too close to home. As one editor who rejected the long version of the manuscript said, it is “too unbearable,” quote-unquote, “too untenable, too uncomfortable.” It’s a bit like, you know, lifting the stone and not wanting the worms, the racist worms underneath, to be seen.

Very interestingly, Kevin Powell, a New York writer, very promising writer, commented on the long version the other day: What if those first 50 pages on police brutality had been accepted back in the day? All the discourse around that narrative that would have taken place all those years ago would perhaps have changed something. But it didn’t.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at a quote from The Man Who Lived Underground, your father’s book. He says, “Outside of time and space, he looked down upon the earth and saw that each fleeting day was a day of dying, that men died slowly with each passing moment as much as they did in war, that human grief and sorrow were utterly insufficient to this vast, dreary spectacle.” And I’m thinking about the time we live in, Julia, right now, as you look across the Atlantic at your country, the United States, what happened to George Floyd last year, the police murder of George Floyd, and then the trial. Your thoughts?

JULIA WRIGHT: My thoughts about the video that was taken by Darnella Frazier, such a young girl, fearlessly, even while she was being threatened, is a central, fundamental thing to our culture, because, as Benjamin Crump said, as she did it, she recaptured part of our narrative that escaped us. And that narrative is the narrative of our death, because that goes back to slavery. It goes back to the lynchings. It goes back to Black Boy chapter two, when Richard, aged 8 or 9, realizes that the grown-ups who were whispering above him are whispering about the lynching of his uncle, Silas Hoskins. And he doesn’t understand. He wonders where the body is. He wonders why there are no flowers, why there’s no funeral. And he says to his mother, “Why didn’t we do anything about it?” And those words reverberate through all these decades and seem to have reached Darnella as she filmed George Floyd’s last moments. She did something about it. She filmed his last moments. She gave us a new narrative.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Julia Wright, the daughter of the literary giant Richard Wright, so famous for his books Native Son and Black Boy. In 1951, Richard Wright actually starred in a film version of Native Son. He played the main character, Bigger Thomas. This is just a clip from the trailer.

BIGGER THOMAS: [played by Richard Wright] All my life I heard of Black men being killed because of white girls. And there I was.

BESSIE MEARS: [played by Gloria Madison] Darling, give up. It might make it easier.

BIGGER THOMAS: I felt free and wasn’t scared no more. I was back home again. And there was my father the white folks had killed when I was a kid.

MAX: [played by Don Dean] How can I help you now?

BIGGER THOMAS: You don’t have to help me, Mr. Max. Go home. Now you can hate me like the others.

AMY GOODMAN: Again, that is Richard Wright playing Bigger Thomas in the film version of his book, the blockbuster best-seller at the time, Native Son, and then his kind of literary biography, Black Boy. Julia, especially for the younger generation, if you could give us a thumbnail biography of your father, of where your father grew up, how he moved north, how he wrote these books, and ultimately — I don’t know if you’d describe it as fleed, but fled the United States with you and your mother — right? — fled New York, fled the racism, as James Baldwin would do later, and ended up in Paris?

JULIA WRIGHT: Difficult. Because I’m so close to what he did, I don’t have that bird’s-eye view that I would like to have. But I would say that maybe he would prefer the word “expatriate” to “exile,” and he would prefer the word “escape” to “flight,” because they’re more active words, and he thought of himself as more endowed with agency as time went on. Everything he did was to gain more freedom in his ability to create. You showed a clip of the film he invested so much of his energy into — writing, co-writing the script, being part producer of, acting Bigger. And in the end, that film was censored, because it came out during McCarthyism. That was one of the reasons why he could not stay and create freely in a land where the pages he wrote about police brutality would be dismembered from his book, a bit in the way James Byrd would be dismembered. I mean, I use the word a bit violently, but, in a way, it is the same thing. He needed freedom, in all senses, in all meanings of the term. And so he went where he felt he could find it.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, if you could talk about what he experienced here; also the HUAC hearings, watching Paul Robeson being destroyed by the U.S. government, this enormous talent, this giant figure, them taking his passport, the anti-communist fervor of the time; not wanting the FBI to come to try to get him to spy on his colleagues; his relationships with James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison and Paul Robeson; the significance of this period?

JULIA WRIGHT: It was the Cold War. And culture, academics, writers were used in the Cold War against one another. It was a terrible cloak-and-dagger period, but it was to the death, to the death of creativity, but also to the death of life. It was terrible. I remember my father’s best friend, Ollie Harrington, who was a member of the CPUSA and the creator of Bootsie, the cartoon —

AMY GOODMAN: The Communist Party U.S.A.

JULIA WRIGHT: Yes, yes, yes. And he was the creator of Bootsie, a very famous cartoon. And he was my father’s best friend to the end. My father used to tell Ollie, “Ollie, the apartment is bugged. It’s bugged.” And Ollie used to laugh at my father. This was in Paris, at the end, during his [inaudible] here.

AMY GOODMAN: Julia, we just have 20 seconds.

JULIA WRIGHT: And Ollie would laugh and say, “No. No way. You’re being paranoid, Richard.” But Richard insisted, so Ollie brought technicians in. And they found bugs. So —

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to — we have to leave it there, but people can pick up this latest book of the great literary giant Richard Wright. Thank you so much to his daughter, Julia Wright. The Man Who Lived Underground, just published. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non
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Re: Policing in US Was Built on Racism & Should Be Put on Tr

Postby admin » Thu Jun 10, 2021 12:59 am

U.S. Marks 100th Anniversary of Tulsa Race Massacre, When White Mob Destroyed “Black Wall Street”
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
MAY 28, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/5/28/ ... nniversary

Stanley Nelson: award-winning documentary filmmaker.
Stanley Nelson on Twitter
"Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre"

Memorial Day marks the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, one of the deadliest episodes of racial violence in U.S. history, when the thriving African American neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma — known as “Black Wall Street” — was burned to the ground by a white mob. An estimated 300 African Americans were killed and over 1,000 injured. Whites in Tulsa actively suppressed the truth, and African Americans were intimidated into silence. But efforts to restore the horrific event to its rightful place in U.S. history are having an impact. Survivors testified last week before Congress, calling for reparations. President Biden is set to visit Tulsa on Tuesday. We speak with documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson, whose new film premiering this weekend explores how Black residents sought out freedom in Oklahoma and built a thriving community in Greenwood, and how it was all destroyed over two days of horrific violence. Nelson notes many African Americans migrated westward after the Civil War “to start a new life” with dignity. “Greenwood was one of over 100 African American communities in the West,” he says. “Greenwood was the biggest and the baddest of those communities.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: “Mother Africa” by jazz saxophonist Hal Singer and Jef Gilson. Singer was one of the last remaining survivors of the Tulsa race massacre. He died in August at the age of 100. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

This Monday, Memorial Day, marks the hundredth anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, one of the single greatest acts of racist terror in U.S. history. In 1921, the thriving African American neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was known as “Black Wall Street” for its concentration of successful Black-owned businesses, before it was burned to the ground by a white mob.

The violence grew from a confrontation at the Tulsa courthouse where whites had gathered to abduct and lynch a jailed Black man who had been wrongfully accused of assaulting a white woman. Black residents of Greenwood arrived to stop the lynching. Gunshots erupted, after which the white mob set upon Greenwood for 18 hours of mass murder, arson and looting that would become known as the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.

An estimated 300 African Americans were killed, over a thousand injured. Ten thousand were left homeless as the racist mob, some of them deputized and armed by Tulsa law enforcement, along with members of the Ku Klux Klan, terrorized the Black population. Airplanes were used to drop dynamite and crude incendiary bombs on Greenwood, ultimately burning over 35 city blocks. Over 1,200 homes were destroyed, along with countless businesses. The actual number of dead will never be known, as bodies were tossed into mass graves or thrown in the river.

Last week, a House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing to address the ongoing impacts of the Tulsa massacre. Three African American survivors testified in favor of reparations: Viola Fletcher; her younger brother, Hughes Van Ellis, who’s 100 years old; and 105-year-old Lessie Benningfield Randle. This is part of their testimony, beginning with Viola Fletcher.

VIOLA FLETCHER: I’m a survivor of the Tulsa race massacre. Two weeks ago, I celebrated my 107th birthday. Today I am visiting Washington, D.C., for the first time in my life. I’m here seeking justice, and I’m asking my country to acknowledge what happened in Tulsa in 1921. …

The night of the massacre, I was awakened by my family. My parents and five siblings were there. I was told we had to leave, and that was it. I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not. And other survivors do not. And our descendants do not.

HUGHES VAN ELLIS: We live with it every day, and the thought of what Greenwood was and what it could have been. We aren’t just black-and-white pictures on a screen. We are flesh and blood. I was there when it happened. I’m still here.

LESSIE BENNINGFIELD RANDLE: It seems like justice in America is always so slow or not possible for Black people.

AMY GOODMAN: Three African American survivors of the Tulsa race massacre, making history as they testified before Congress just ahead of the centennial of the race massacre this Monday. The Department of Homeland Security has said events commemorating the massacre could be a target for white supremacists. President Joe Biden still plans to travel to Tulsa on Tuesday.

This Sunday, a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson premieres on the History Channel. This is the trailer for Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre.

JAMES S. HIRSCH: The destruction was so complete. The suffering was so biblical. The betrayal was so profound.

UNIDENTIFIED: Black communities deserve the opportunity to confront the past.

UNIDENTIFIED: Our city has been stuck since then. We’ve never recovered.

DAMARIO SOLOMON-SIMMONS: Tulsa was the best place in the nation for African Americans.

MICHELE MITCHELL: We have everything, from hotels, theaters.

SCOTT ELLSWORTH: Doctors, lawyers.

MICHELE MITCHELL: People referred to it as “Black Wall Street.”

UNIDENTIFIED: Showing Black people that a new world was possible.

HANNIBAL JOHNSON: The Tribune published a story titled “Nabbed Negro for Attacking Girl in an Elevator.” It was a false narrative to keep Black people in their place, to reinforce white supremacy.

SCOTT ELLSWORTH: All across Tulsa, angry whites are now organizing.

JAMES S. HIRSCH: They get their guns. They get their torches.

SCOTT ELLSWORTH: At that point, they start moving towards Greenwood.

JAMES S. HIRSCH: All hell broke loose.

ELDORIS McCONDICHIE: The white folks are killing the colored folks.

UNIDENTIFIED: Firing into homes.

UNIDENTIFIED: Bombs dropping from the air.

UNIDENTIFIED: It was just an all-out massacre.

REV. ROBERT TURNER: Not one of those men who participated in the race massacre were ever brought to justice.

SCOTT ELLSWORTH: The Tulsa Tribune refused to write anything about the massacre for more than 50 years. Victims were being buried in unmarked graves across the city. The reason we understand the history of the massacre is that certain survivors decided to talk about it.

GEORGE MONROE: My mother saw four men coming toward our house, and all of them had torches.

BRENDA ALFORD: We will be looking for the remains of those who were lost so tragically.

UNIDENTIFIED: This is so beautiful, and sad at the same time.

UNIDENTIFIED: We need to do something about what happened in Tulsa.

DAMARIO SOLOMON-SIMMONS: There cannot be any justice ’til there is proper respect, restitution and repair.

AMY GOODMAN: The trailer for Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre. The executive producer of the film, NBA star Russell Westbrook, who played for the Oklahoma City Thunder for over a decade.

We’re joined now by one of the documentary’s directors, Stanley Nelson. His previous films include Freedom Summer, Freedom Riders, The Murder of Emmett Till.

Stanley, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s an honor to have you with us again. Lay this out. I mean, this is a story that, as we can see throughout this film, and of course from our own education, was so suppressed for so many decades. Go back in time. Talk to us about Black Wall Street and why so many African Americans came to Oklahoma.

STANLEY NELSON: Yeah, I think one of the things that’s so fascinating about the story is that African Americans, in the decades after the Civil War, migrated west. You know, we think of that famous saying, “Go west, young man.” Well, African Americans went west. You know, when we think about Americans in covered wagons, we don’t think about — usually think about African Americans, but African Americans went west, in covered wagons, on horseback, on foot, to try to start a new life and try to start a life where they could live with dignity and peace.

And they did that. And they did that in Greenwood. And Greenwood was one of over a hundred African American communities in the West, some small, some a little larger, but Greenwood was the biggest and the baddest of those communities. It was a very, very successful community that had businesses, you know, a skating rink, movie theaters, grocery stores, lawyers, doctors, everything. It was really a self-contained community. And that may have been one of the problems with their white neighbors.

AMY GOODMAN: Yeah, I was so struck by the history, where you talked about African Americans coming north from the oppression of the Deep South, and actually a number of them — and they called it Indian Country, going to Oklahoma — a number concerned about Oklahoma becoming a state, that it would reinforce the racist laws of the rest of the United States.

STANLEY NELSON: Yeah, one of the things that’s so fascinating is that Oklahoma was a territory, and so it was kind of free. You know, it was the home of the Land Rush, and Black people took part in that. And there was a move to make Oklahoma kind of a home, a Black state for African Americans. But once Oklahoma became a state, then the racist Jim Crow laws took effect, and Black people, that had kind of been free in Oklahoma, were then persecuted.

AMY GOODMAN: This is another clip from your documentary, Tulsa Burning, that features several historians and descendants describing Greenwood’s history as the Black Wall Street.

HANNIBAL JOHNSON: Greenwood was a community of necessity. It was a segregated enclave. Black folks couldn’t ply their trades or purchase goods and services in the larger white economy, so they created their own economy. That economy became successful because Black folks did business with one another and kept dollars largely in the Black community.

MICHELE MITCHELL: What happens in Greenwood is that segregation, which is not necessarily desired, segregation actually enables Black businesses to thrive, Black professionals to thrive.

UNIDENTIFIED: It was a district where, in fact, money, dollars, could turn over five or six times.

KARLOS HILL: In Greenwood, you could — as a Black person, you could advance. And you had a number of individuals in the community that were prospering.

WILHELMINA GUESS HOWELL: “My uncle, he was a physician. His name was Andrew Jackson, lived up on Detroit Street in the 500 block, sort of a hill right up that street. Detroit in those days had the nicest houses. The Negroes did. The principal of the school lived up there. We had dentists up there. We had wonderful doctors. And my uncle, I told you, his name was Dr. Jackson.”

JOHN W. ROGERS JR.: My great-grandfather’s name was J.B. Stradford. He grew up in Kentucky. His parents were slaves. And he was able to get a law degree, go to Oberlin College and really start his entrepreneurial career in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Stradford Hotel was one of the largest Black-owned hotels in the United States. It was a beautiful building. And leaders from throughout the country, when they came through the Midwest, would often stay at the Stradford Hotel.

MICHELE MITCHELL: You have Black entertainers that are playing there, jazz being a really important scene. We think about jazz in Kansas, in Kansas City. It’s also important in Greenwood.

KARLOS HILL: Because of the success of Greenwood, Booker T. Washington coined the phrase, Greenwood as the “Black Wall Street” or the “Negro Wall Street” of America.

AMY GOODMAN: A clip from Tulsa Burning, that’s going to air on History Channel on Sunday. Stanley Nelson, talk about why you chose to take on this subject, to add to your remarkable opus of work.

STANLEY NELSON: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s more reasons than one. One, it’s an incredible American story that needs to be known — you know, the building of Black Wall Street, the building of Greenwood, and also the devastation and destruction. But also, it was really challenging, because we’re telling two stories at once. So we’re also telling the story of 2020, 2021, as Greenwood searches for the remains of African Americans who were buried in mass graves, unmarked. And we didn’t know what we would find or what they would find. And so, we’re telling the story of 1921, of Greenwood, and also 2021 in Greenwood.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, 2020, because when Trump went on the 99th anniversary of Tulsa, so much was raised. I want to go to another clip from your documentary, Tulsa Burning, of Reverend Robert Turner of the Vernon AME Church on Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, the only surviving structure from before the massacre.

REV. ROBERT TURNER: When I came to pastor Vernon Church in Tulsa, I knew nothing about the history of this church. One of my trustees gave me a tour. And when I saw the cornerstone outside — and the cornerstone is still there — it reads, “Basement erected 1919.” I said, “Is that the same one we have?” He said, “Yes, that’s the same basement that you just walked through.” “So, it survived the 1921 race massacre.” He was like, “Yes.” I was like, “Do you know what this is?” He was like, “What?” I said, “We have something left. Right? All is not lost.”

AMY GOODMAN: And nearly 100 years after the Tulsa race massacre, a team of scholars is working to uncover the unmarked graves, that Stanley Nelson just referred to, of victims, with hopes of identifying some of their bodies. In this clip of Tulsa Burning, we hear from Brenda Nails Alford, a descendant of James and Henry Nails, who owned businesses in Black Wall Street.

BRENDA NAILS ALFORD: I always knew that my grandmother had to hide in a church for some reason, but I never knew what that meant. Family members would come to town. My great-uncles would come to town. And maybe we’d be driving around, and we would pass Oaklawn Cemetery. Someone in the car would always say, “You know they’re still over there,” the victims of the race massacre. And everybody in the car would agree. And I always had a little thing about that cemetery, growing up as a kid, because I was like, “What’s over there?” And I would find out so many, many years later that the family member and community members were there.

REV. ROBERT TURNER: But in 1921, the people who were killed, people who lost lives, loved ones, they never had the benefit of having a funeral. That touches me at the core — and it should, any conscious human being — the fact that we just dumped bodies of human beings, of patriots, of veterans, of teachers, of husbands, of wives, children in mass graves. Nobody ever had a chance to say goodbye.

AMY GOODMAN: That last voice, Reverend Robert Turner of Tulsa’s Vernon AME Church. Stanley Nelson, what most surprised you as you did this research?

STANLEY NELSON: I think one of the things that was so surprising is that there’s film footage of the building of Tulsa. You know, the people were so prosperous and so proud of what they were building that in 1920, early in 1921, they made movies and took pictures of their homes and their businesses. And that’s really rare. And there’s also still pictures and movies of the destruction, so that we see it. And so, you know, as a filmmaker, it was a gift, because it’s really a window into what happened. And that really surprised me, because you don’t often find film footage of just African American communities, you know, being themselves, from the early ’20s.

AMY GOODMAN: This is another clip from Tulsa Burning. It features Brenda Nails Alford, descendant of James and Henry Nails.

KARLOS HILL: This is not just a story of victimization. It’s also a story of resistance. It’s also a story of courage and resilience. And that can’t be forgotten.

BRENDA NAILS ALFORD: My grandfather, he was a very proud, college-educated shoemaker, who did everything he was, quote-unquote, “supposed to do.” He got his education. He worked hard. He started the businesses. And still that wasn’t enough. And so, in this day and time, my question is: When is it enough? When are we enough as a people? They did everything that they could do. They wanted to be successful. These were proud, upstanding members of our community, who simply wanted a piece of the American dream — and truly received a nightmare.

HANNIBAL JOHNSON: At the end of this experience, no white person was convicted of an offense related to killing people or destroying the property in the Greenwood District. None. And that is not surprising. And really, you know, when you think about the context, it’s not surprising at all.

AMY GOODMAN: That last voice, historian Hannibal Johnson. And finally, this clip from Tulsa Burning about the aftermath of the deadly attack.

SCOTT ELLSWORTH: They’re being led away at gunpoint to these so-called internment centers around town, the fairgrounds, the municipal auditorium, the baseball park.

HANNIBAL JOHNSON: To get out of these centers, people generally had to have a green identification card, countersigned by a white person that was willing to vouch for them.

SCOTT ELLSWORTH: So, here you are. You’ve been illegally arrested by white civilians. You have no idea what’s happened to your loved ones if you’ve been separated from them. If that was your uncle, your brother, your son, your father, you’re going to never know what happened to them.

KARLOS HILL: We have to acknowledge that the destruction to the community was intentional. It was conscious. It was systematic.

HANNIBAL JOHNSON: When the dust settled, somewhere between 100 and 300 people were killed. At least 1,250 homes in the Black community were destroyed.

MICHELE MITCHELL: Thirty-five square blocks, 36 square blocks, 40 square blocks, just obliterated.

SCOTT ELLSWORTH: You could see the iron, you know, metal bed stands where there used to be homes.

KARLOS HILL: Two million dollars in Black wealth went up in flames. Right? That was never recouped.

SCOTT ELLSWORTH: And for people who didn’t know what happened to their loved ones, identified as well as unidentified, African American massacre victims were being buried in unmarked graves across the city.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet another clip from Tulsa Burning. Stanley Nelson, as we wrap up, the issue of reparations, 100 years later?

STANLEY NELSON: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things the film does, and does so well, is it makes you think about reparations. You know, it’s such a fraught word. But I think that you understand what people mean and why people ask for reparations, once you see the film and know the story of Tulsa, which is a real representation of the problems that Black communities suffered through.

AMY GOODMAN: And you certainly help us do this in this remarkable documentary. Stanley Nelson, the award-winning director of the new documentary Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern on the History Channel.
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