An Electoral Strategy to Defeat Police Oppression – and Its Black Allies -- in Chicago
Chicago’s movement against official lawlessness has found they have no choice but to challenge virtually the whole Black Democratic establishment for collaborating with police murder and impunity.
“So long as we allow police tyranny and terror to exist in our communities, for that period of time we will not be able to effectively organize the Black Liberation Movement.”
Chicago plans to show the nation how to combine grassroots militancy and strategic electoral campaigns in the fight against police tyranny and impunity. It is a struggle that requires direct confrontation with an entrenched and infinitely corrupt Black Misleadership Class that, in Chicago as elsewhere in Black America, has shamelessly collaborated with the Mass Black Incarceration State.
Black activists and their allies aim to channel the momentum of their stunning success in gaining a second-degree murder conviction against the cop that killed 17-year old Laquan McDonald, into a renewed campaign for community control of the police. At present, only one member of the 50-person Chicago board of alderman -- Carlos Ramirez-Rosa – supports creation of C-PAC, an entirely Civilian Police Accountability Council to be elected by the people of the city’s 25 police districts. But, rather than despair at the Black and Latino Caucus’s betrayal, the mass movement is launching a campaign to eject them from office in next year’s elections. “We’re gonna change that city council,” said Frank Chapman, head of the Chicago branch of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. “They are so entrenched, they are so corrupted by the system, that they don’t believe it can be changed. They’ve been completely won over by the ruling class in this city. The only way to wake them up is by defeating them,” Chapman told Black Agenda Radio.
“Rather than despair at the Black and Latino Caucus’s betrayal, the mass movement is launching a campaign to eject them from office.”
Chapman’s Alliance and its allies in Black Lives Matter and other grassroots mobilizers believe the time is ripe to throw out the collaborators and to “take the power from the police and put that power in the hands of the community.” Officer Jason Van Dyke’s October 5 conviction for pumping 16 bullets into Laquan McDonald “gives the people hope,” said Chapman. “In the history of Chicago this is the first time that a white police officer has been charged and convicted for murdering a Black person, while on duty…. It lets people know that we can bring about a change in the power relationships in the system between the oppressor and the oppressed, if those of us who are oppressed get together, get united and fight. We needed a victory like this to give some encouragement and hope, so we can keep this motion going on.”
The C-PAC legislationwould empower the elected police district representatives to:
* Re-writing the police ‘rulebook’ deciding what Chicago police can do on the streets.
* Appoint the Superintendent of Police
*Investigate ALL complaints, including all police shootings, all allegations of police misconduct and violations of the U.S. Constitution and Human Rights Law.
* Refer cases to U.S. Federal Grand Jury and U.S. Attorney seeking indictments of cops for the crimes they commit, circumventing the closed loop of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Chicago Police Department.
* Decide the rules of investigations and change the way police crime victims and family members are treated, increasing speed and transparency.
“The time is ripe to throw out the collaborators and to ‘take the power from the police and put that power in the hands of the community.’”
Most of the board of aldermen’s 18-member Black Caucus and all but one member of the 11-member Latino Caucus have, instead, backed proposals that cobbled togethervarious “reforms” borrowed from other cities to give the appearance of police accountability – but provide no real people-power to hire, fire, fund or defund, or shape the nature of policing. Therefore, says Chapman, these misleaders have go -- all of them.
“As of right now we have over a dozen candidates for city council that are running as C-PAC candidates. We believe that by January we can have this number up to 70. There are 200 candidates running, all told. We think we can get 70 of them to support C-PAC.”
The Chicago Teachers Union “is one of our big supporters.” Said Chapman. “They endorse our campaign for C-PAC, and we endorse their campaign for community control of the board of education.” The United Electrical Workers and SEIU Local 73 “have been behind us,” but “there’s a lot of others that are on the fence. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionists is behind us in words. I wish they would do more in terms of actually putting some pressure on the aldermen.”
In general, Big Labor has been a disappointment to the Black movement. “In spite of what [AFL-CIO president Richard L.] Trumka said during the Ferguson uprising, about how the unions should be supportive of the Black Liberation Movement, we haven’t seen any evidence of that here in Chicago with the Chicago Federation of Labor,” said Chapman. “They haven’t come out in support of us because the Fraternal Order of Police.is part of that federation, and they’re using that union card to paralyze the rest of the trade union movement from supporting us.”
“The teachers union endorses our campaign for C-PAC, and we endorse their campaign for community control of the board of education.”
The Black grassroots movement takes credit for discouraging Mayor Rahm Emanuel from seeking another term in office. For 400 days, Emanuel hid the existence of video tapes that ultimately convinced the jury that Officer Van Dyke deserved to be convicted of murder. Chapman blames the bulk of the board of aldermen for collaborating in the mayor’s cover-up. “We have one of the most corrupt city councils in this nation, and the Black aldermen are included,” he said.
““There are 34 alderpeople who were all part of the conspiracy to hide the video,” Black Lives Matter activist Aislinn Pulley told Black Agenda Radio. Black Lives Matter’s Chicago chapter is committed to the electoral campaign. Some other Black Lives Matter chapters across the country have not joined with similar efforts to create community-empowering bodies to assert control over the police, instead advocating de-funding and abolition of the police. Chapman has a response to that position. "I'm a communist," he says, "so I believe in the abolition of the state. But that's not gonna happen right now, but they're killing us right now. And so, we can share the vision with them of abolition. But they need to share the struggle with us, right now, to shift the power relationship between the police and our communities, by demanding community control of the police. That's a democratic demand, and we can't put it off until the future. We've got to fight for it right now."
What Chapman and Pulley did not say, but is central to the dilemma, is that all of these collaborators and allies of the police are Democrats. The Black Mass Incarceration State, erected as the ruling class answer to the Black Liberation Movement’s self-determinationist demands, has been relentlessly reinforced by a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and Democrats. In the cities where most Black people live, it is largely Black Democratic administrations that have enforced the mass Black incarceration regime for two generations, as documented by James Forman Jr’s indispensable book, Locking Up Our Own. In 2014, just weeks before Mike Brown was murdered by a Ferguson, Missouri, cop, 80 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus -- all Democrats – voted to continue the Pentagon’s infamous 1033 program that has funneled billions of dollars in battle-grade weapons and military gear to local police departments. Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, increased the Pentagon’s militarization of local police 24-fold between 2008 and 2014.
“It is largely Black Democratic administrations that have enforced the mass Black incarceration regime for two generations.”
The advent of the Black Lives Matter movement had no meaningful effect on the Black Caucus in the U.S. House. In May of this year, 75 percent of the Black lawmakers voted for the Protect and Serve Act of 2018, a “Blue Lives Matter” bill that makes cops a “protected class” and defines assaults on police as “hate crimes” carrying additional prison time.
Donald Trump has branded himself the “law and order” president, but clearly, there can be no reversal of the mass Black incarceration regime -- a human rights abomination that has created the world’s biggest police state and mangled social relationships beyond measure in Black America – without an all-out struggle against the enemy within the Black community. And they are all Democrats. If electoral strategies are to have any usefulness to the Black Liberation Movement, it must be understood that the white corporate ruling class has thoroughly infiltrated Black politics through the mechanisms of the Democratic Party, which has annexes in Black civic associations, fraternities and sororities, and the churches. You can’t fight The Man or his police unless you neutralize and defeat his Black henchmen and women.
Frank Chapman gets it. If virtually the entire Chicago board of aldermen is in league with the enemy, then they all have to go. Liberation is an ambitious goal. The alternative is continued police impunity and community powerlessness. “So long as we allow police tyranny and terror to exist in our communities, for that period of time we will not be able to effectively organize the Black Liberation Movement. All we’ll be doing is participating in nostalgia about how great it was yesterday.” said Chapman. “If we don’t stop this, it’s gonna choke us out.”
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].