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Burning Spear News

Baltimore: A righteous struggle against white power in black face - neocolonialism!

Apr 30, 2015
Aaron O'Neal

BALTIMORE--25-year-old Freddie Gray was murdered by Baltimore City police stemming from an April 12, 2015 incident where he suffered a spinal cord injury that led to his death a week later on April 19th. It has been alleged that Gray made eye contact with a cop and started to run. Like many black men in this country understand, something as innocuous as making eye contact with a cop can lead to death. This was true for Freddie Gray.

Witnesses say that police violently hurled him to the ground and he was bent up “like a pretzel.” In videos of Gray’s arrest he is screaming in pain while being dragged by the cops to the van, clearly unable to walk. Police say they found a small pocket knife on his person. Despite repeated pleas for help, Gray was not given timely medical attention for his fatal spinal injury. He was put into leg restraints and driven around in the back of a police van. Eventually the police took him to the hospital where he went into a coma, and a week later died from his injuries.

His death is the latest example of the colonial police occupation in Baltimore and throughout the African community in this country. Like in the death of Mike Brown, police terror was on display for the community to witness and like Eric Garner’s death this common occurrence was caught on video.

Brutality against the African community is all too common in Baltimore. Since 2011, Baltimore has paid nearly $6 million in cases alleging misconduct by police. The plaintiffs in an overwhelming majority of these complaints were not even convicted of a crime. In addition there are countless other police violence that never reached court.

In 2013, Baltimore City police beat Tyrone West to death, claiming he resisted arrest. The police were cleared of all charges. Twanda Jones, the sister of Tyrone West, has been fighting since his death to bring light to the same police violence that lead to the death of Freddie Gray. (See video of Ms. Jones speaking about the murder of her brother at the Black is Back Coalition for Social Justice Peace and Reparations March and Rally, "Peace through Revolution" in 2014, blackisbackcoalition.org.)

History of Baltimore police repression

Baltimore City police have a long history of repression. During the Black Revolution of the 1960s, the Baltimore police, like many other state apparatuses, initiated counterinsurgency programs on black organizations. The most famous at that time, the Black Panther Party (BPP), had shaken the state powers so much that the attorney general of the U.S. in 1969 explained that the BPP would be destroyed within a year. In 1969 alone, more than 20 Black Panther Party members were killed. The most notorious and ruthless assassination was that of Fred Hampton in Chicago. The police drugged Hampton, kicked his doors down in the middle of the night and riddled his and fellow panther Mark Clark bodies with bullets.

This same year, the Baltimore City police understood the significance of the BPP and used a police informant to start the Baltimore branch of the BPP. Marshall Eddie Conway was one of the victims of the counter insurgent attacks against the BPP. Eddie Conway joined the BPP and while organizing with the Party exposed the informants but was arrested soon thereafter, convicted of the murder of a cop and was sentenced to life in prison. Eddie Conway served 44 years in prison and was recently released after an appeal court ruled that a judge in his case gave improper instructions to the jury.

With leaders like Fred Hampton dead and Eddie Conway in prison, the counterinsurgency moved to ensure the African community would not rise up again. No longer were political organizations and political figures the target but the community as a whole.

The forced capitalist drug economy was one of the tactics of the counterinsurgency responsible for more than 2 million people in prison, of which nearly half are Africans. In Baltimore the heroin drug economy has haunted the city for decades. The criminalization of the community allowed for the erosion of  the democratic rights that Africans gained in the 60s. With the war on drugs came stiff penalties for possession of drugs and impetus for the wholesale imprisonment of black youth.

One example of these phenomena is under former Baltimore City Mayor from 1999 - 2007 and presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley, who instituted the “zero tolerance” policy which drastically increased the number of Africans arrested in Baltimore for minor offenses. One of his shining achievements was to implement a street camera program throughout the African community with flashing blue lights to humiliate our community and give whites and the police alike the ability to justify their terror on the community.

While the police occupy our community, 42.5 percent of working-age black males are not employed in the city of Baltimore. The state spends nearly a billion dollars a year on prisons where nearly one in three prisoners in Maryland is from the city of Baltimore.

Funeral of Freddie Gray and its aftermath

The funeral of Freddie Gray brought out an army of neocolonial forces to ensure that violence would not spark as it did in the proceeding days. Pastor Jamal Bryant of the Empowerment Temple in Baltimore convened over the funeral of Freddie Gray. While he hollered, “No Justice, No Peace” he was quick to point out that violence does not solve the problem. The Obama Administration sent a delegation. Jesse Jackson attended, along with Congressman Elijah Cummings and a host of others who all championed the “peaceful protest.”   Bryant asked that no protest be held out of respect for Freddie Gray and his family but the black working class understood that Freddie Gray’s death was not because he was Freddie Gray, but an African.

While the neocolonial leaders were working the funeral, the State began its counter attack on protesters. The Baltimore Police Department issued a notice that they had a “credible threat” that the local gangs in Baltimore, the Black Guerilla Family, the Bloods and the Crips have united and will be targeting cops. This was a clear attempt to deflect it’s culpability in the murder of Gray. Although such a truce would show that they have identified the real enemy of our community––the police––but the state quickly criminalized the truce.

Later in the day, police claimed that they had received information that African youth, through social media, were planning a “purge” and Mondawmin Mall was the meeting place (taken from the Movie “The Purge”, where for 24 hours in the fictitious country, citizens were allowed to kill without consequence). What media reports will not tell you is that Mondawmin Mall is near several public schools and is a central transportation hub as well. Youth gather there every day but on Monday these youth were met by dozens of Baltimore cops in riot gear who, according to witnesse,s taunted and jeered them.

Following the funeral, the rebellion was in full swing. The neocolonial agents showed their contempt for the black working class in Baltimore. The white ruling class media did a masterful job to shift blame away from the police and onto the people. The preacher Bryant denounced the resistance and organized male church members to do the work of the State and “calm” the rebellion. Later he even went as far as to applaud that the National Guard was called by the mayor. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called these young Africans “thugs and criminals,” echoing U.S. president Obama’s exact words.

Most astounding was the scene April 28th as the National Guard occupied the City of Baltimore and the count down to the 10pm curfew loomed we saw literally a wall of neocolonial stooges standing with arms locked with the military at its back protecting the police against the black working class of Baltimore. From religious leaders and sell-out community groups, to the Nation of Islam––all petty bourgeoisie forces siding with the State against the people who have suffered centuries of colonial oppression.

Need for Black Community Control of Police!

The death of Mike Brown and the heroic stance of the people in Ferguson, Missouri have shown that the State is not omnipotent, and the people of Baltimore have followed in this heroism. The rebellions and the symbol of resistance are important, but these murders will continue unless there is a “coherent message” and demands being made against the system.

What differentiates the Baltimore rebellion from Ferguson is that Baltimore is under neocolonial rule and has been for decades. Unlike the small municipality of Ferguson, Baltimore is one of the largest cities in the U.S.

In Ferguson, the political line was that residents needed to vote, get black politicians in office, get more black cops on the force and give them proper training. In Baltimore, there is a black mayor; a black police commissioner, who is even a member of the National Task Force that was started by Obama in the aftermath of the Ferguson protests; a significant amount of black cops on the Baltimore City Police Force; and a civilian review board. Plus, the majority of the city council are African.

None of these facts prevented the rebellion and protests in Baltimore because the police are an arm of the State that serves the same function as the military does in Iraq or Afghanistan. We saw this clearly when the rebellion started and police had military gear and used MRAP vehicles to patrol the streets.

The rebellion in Baltimore shows that the answers put forward by opportunists in our community are not viable solutions. The solution is Black Community Control of Police. Black Community Control of Police would give the people of the community the ability to hire and fire police. It’s nothing like a civilian review board which “review” police murders which Baltimore has presently. As Chairman Omali Yeshitela explains, 

“The struggle for Black Community Control of the Police assumes the ability of African people ourselves to redefine the role of the police so that it no longer functions as an agency imposed on us from the outside.

"In one fell swoop Black Community Control of the Police gives our people the opportunity to require police to become one with the people, to require that its functions include solving the fundamental problems of our colonized community.

"This starts with the poverty, joblessness, poor and non-existent housing, healthcare, etc. It gives the African community the ability to change the look of the police from that of an invading army dressed in ski masks and military gear.”

The Uhuru Movement is intervening in this struggle to hold up the call for Black Community Control of Police and end police occupation. We have forces on the ground in Baltimore and over the weekend will be calling all our members and supporters to Baltimore to raise the demand of black community control of police!

Justice for Freddie Gray!!!

Justice for Tyrone West!!!

Fists Up! Fight Back!!!

 

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