The Treasonous 32: Four-Fifths of Black Caucus Help Cops Murder Their Constituents
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“The Black Panther Party was right all along: in Black America, the police are an occupation army.”
In the wake of events in Ferguson, Missouri, the Obama administration has been exposed as the biggest supplier – more like “pusher” – of military equipment to local and state police departments in the nation’s history. The president’s operatives have displayed remarkable creativity in finding ways to shovel record quantities of weapons, vehicles and gear into the hands of cops, who seem increasingly anxious to prove their killing skills. More than a year before Michael Brown was extrajudicially executed on the street at high noon, the Huffington Post’s Radley Balko described how Obama has left no rock unturned nor federal agency untapped in his quest to transform every police department into a military unit, ready in an instant to do battle with – whom?
We know whom: Black people, mainly young and male, America’s public enemy number one ever since the white settler nation began running out of natives to kill. No sooner had official apartheid ended, in the Sixties, than white society demanded the imposition of what Michelle Alexander calls the New Jim Crow – a mass Black Incarceration State capable of waging constant, preemptive counterinsurgency warfare against an entire people. The Black Panther Party was right all along: in Black America, the police are an occupation army. Obama, like his predecessors, has simply been taking care of the troops.
The same goes for the Congressional Black Caucus, the vast majority of whose members voted against an amendment that would have halted Pentagon military transfers to U.S. police departments, back in the early summer. Had the Black people of Ferguson not stood up – and stayed standing – demanding justice for Michael Brown, the June 19 vote on Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson’s amendment might have remained largely unnoted. Instead, in the glare of popular outrage, four-fifths of the Caucus has been revealed as vile hypocrites and traitors who put battlefield weapons and human rights-suppressing equipment in the hands of local cops. These Treasonous 32 – 27 “Nay” votes and 5 abstentions, out of 40 – can never be forgiven, and should be denounced and shamed at every opportunity, starting with this month’s CBC Legislative Conference and celebrate-good-times-for-the-few party, in Washington.
“Four-fifths of the Caucus has been revealed as vile hypocrites and traitors who put battlefield weapons and human rights-suppressing equipment in the hands of local cops.”
Congressman Grayson, the white liberal, spoke with compelling insight and honesty, but failed to sway the 32 CBC miscreants. “These weapons are not being used to defeat terrorism on our streets,” he said. “Where is the terrorism on our streets? Instead, these weapons are being used to arrest barbers and to terrorize the general population. In fact, one may venture to say that the weapons are often used by a majority to terrorize a minority.”
Grayson understands perfectly which group is targeted. The 27 Black “Nay” voters and five abstainers also know the truth, but rejected their duty to their constituents.
Since only eight Black congresspersons voted with Grayson, it is more helpful to list their names and the five abstainers than the 27 that voted to continue militarizing the police.
- John Conyers (MI)
- Donna Edwards (MD)
- Keith Ellison (MN)
- Hank Johnson (GA)
- Barbara Lee (CA)
- John Lewis (GA)
- Robert Scott (VA)
- Maxine Waters (CA)
The eight comprise the remnants of the once-dominant “progressive” faction in the CBC, now pitifully shrunken in both quantity and quality, and sometimes disappearing entirely.
Presumably, the five CBC members that abstained from voting could not make up their minds whether they approved or not of tanks, tear gas, 50-caliber machine guns, senses-crushing crowd dispersers, and roving bands of snipers with night vision goggles overrunning their constituent’s neighborhoods.
Not Voting (5)
- Marcia Fudge (OH)
- Charles Rangel (NY)
- Cedric Richmond (LA)
- Bobby Rush (IL)
- Bennie Thompson (MS)
The five abstainers, along with the 27 “Nay” votes, represent a clear and present danger to the lives and freedoms of Black Americans. They are conscious collaborators with the Mass Black Incarceration State that dehumanizes, frames, imprisons, humiliates, tortures, maims and kills Black people for a living.
One of them represents Ferguson, Missouri. Rep. William Lacy Clay has been drifting steadily to the right ever since he inherited his father’s congressional seat in St. Louis. Embarrassed at the grassroots revolt among his Black constituents, Clay pretended the June 19 vote never happened, and that he had opposed militarization of police, all along. Clay and Emanuel Cleaver, of Kansas City, another CBC supporter of police militarization, staged a meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “regarding our urgent concerns about the militarization of local law enforcement agencies through the distribution of surplus Department of Defense equipment via the 1033 Program” – the very program they had endorsed less than two months before.
Clay refused to answer whether the Pentagon’s arms and equipment transfer program should be “flat ended,” but applauded President Obama for ordering a “review” of the practice. Clay feigned innocence: “I was so alarmed when I went to Ferguson and walked with the demonstrators and I saw this heavily armed police force, tactical units, pointing sniper rifles at my constituents who were there exercising their constitutional right.”
As if none of this was his doing.
Cleaver, one of Clay’s many Black congressional partners in prevarication, acted as if he had no idea what the 1033 program was actually up to. “Having military style weaponry moving down the main street of a middle-American town is as un-American as a coup d’état rather than an election.”
Party Time at the Black Caucus
In two weeks, the Congressional Black Caucus will congratulate itself for having pulled off another year of misrepresenting Black people’s interests. Of the conference’s 104 scheduled workshops and sessions, just four blocks of time are set aside for discussions even remotely related to the U.S. criminal justice system, and only one appears to deal directly with the issue: the Judiciary Braintrust session hosted by Detroit Rep. John Conyers, titled “The Intersection of Criminal Justice Reform and Racial Profiling.” Meanwhile, 13 sessions are dedicated to minority business concerns.
Of the five voting members on the CBC’s Justice System Reform Working Group, only two – Hank Johnson (GA) and Bobby Scott (VA) – voted for the Grayson amendment. Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX) and Danny Davis (IL) voted “Nay,” and Cedric Richmond, of Louisiana, abstained.
(The Black representatives from Washington, DC and the U.S. Virgin Islands are not allowed to vote on the House floor.)
Of the 20 voting members of the Black Caucus Civil Rights and Judiciary Taskforce, 15 voted to continue police militarization, and two abstained.
Clearly, the CBC votes like a police auxiliary unit, while talking a different game for Black public consumption. In preparation for the Legislative Conference (and “Black Party”) in two weeks, the Caucus compiled statements of deep concern about police militarization – but no repentance or self-criticism – from selected members.
Bobby Rush (IL), a former Black Panther who now votes to arm police to the teeth, said: “Young black people are not prey for police departments and their rights must be upheld because they too are deserving of the sworn office duty to serve and protect.” Then he passed the cops the ammunition.
“The CBC votes like a police auxiliary unit.”
Gwen Moore (WI), who used to be a dependable “progressive” on most issues, has gone over to the weaponized side. Nevertheless, she mouths platitudes for the dearly departed. “I have faith that Michael Brown’s life will have a lasting impact on this world and inspire hope that tomorrow will be a more compassionate and understanding place to call our own.”
Andre Carson (IN), who voted for a militarized police force, seems to confess that he should know better. “As a former police officer, I also know that law enforcement is supposed to protect and serve, not intimidate and assault.”
Frederica Wilson (FL), a totally worthless politician, said: “I am tired of burying young black boys. I am tired of watching them suffer at the hands of those who fear them....” But she never tires of giving police the battlefield weapons to kill Black “boys.”
Joyce Beatty (OH) pretends to abhor the militarization of cops: “It is clear that demilitarizing and deescalating the situation immediately is necessary so justice for the Brown family may prevail.” But she voted the opposite.
Steven Horsford (NV) acts as if he is surprised at what his vote has wrought. “You should not be forced to choke on tear gas to make your voice heard. You should not have to withstand a shower of rubber bullets to assemble.”
Marcia Fudge (OH), chairperson of the Black Caucus, abstained from voting, which is another way of saying she refused to cut off the guns-and-tanks pipeline from the Pentagon to the streets of Black America. But, you’d never know that from reading her statement: “Instead of being respected as citizens of this nation who have the right to vocally oppose what they believe is mistreatment by those meant to serve them, these people, many of whom are young adults, were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and police equipped as though they are militia in a war zone.” Where did Fudge think all those weapons of war were going – Ukraine?
“When 80 percent of the Black Caucus supports further militarization of the police occupation force, it should be obvious where their loyalties lie.”
Charles Rangel (NY), an abstainer, didn’t even bother to address police militarization, but went straight to the butt-kissing. “I thank President Obama for making certain that the Department of Justice will conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether there were any violations of civil rights.”
What a sorry waste of the Black electoral franchise. When 80 percent of the Black Caucus supports further militarization of the police occupation force, it should be obvious where their loyalties lie. Blacks would be better off with no congressional representation, than in empowering such shameless agents of the enemy. Indeed, Blacks made far more progress in the Sixties, when there were less than two handfuls of Black congresspersons and the people spoke in the streets, than with today’s pathetic platoon of sell-outs.
Betrayal is the inevitable result of the demise of independent Black politics in favor of absorption into the Democratic Party, the servant of Wall Street. The least folks can do is spoil a bit of the CBC’s corporate-fed festivities, later this month, by joining the “Shame on the Congressional Black Caucus” rally on Wednesday, September 24, outside the Washington Convention Center. It will be an opportunity to denounce the CBC’s unanimous endorsement of the Israeli apartheid regime’s crimes against Palestinians ("CBC, get a spine, don't you care about Palestine?"); the Black Caucus’ overwhelming support for a corporate telecom takeover of the Internet ("The internet belongs to the people, not the corporations!"); and to express the most extreme disgust with the 32 Black lawmakers that failed to stand against militarized policing.
“We found that the teargas used in Ferguson was also used by Israel against the people of Gaza, and that the teargas was made by a company in Pennsylvania,” said Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture, an organizer of the September 24 rally. For Blacks lawmaker to support the continued militarization of police “is inexcusable,” she said, “given the history of police terrorism and brutality against the Black people of this country. The CBC should be ashamed of themselves.”
Black Agenda Report is also circulating a petition, demanding the Black Caucus “denounce Israeli apartheid and side with the public for Network Neutrality, free from corporate-imposed ‘fast and slow’ lanes.” As the petition states, “The whole world knows that Israel is an apartheid state, and the Congressional Black Caucus sullies the good name of our people every day by its failure to stand with apartheid's victims.” Similarly, on the issue of network neutrality, “most of the Congressional Black Caucus is firmly in the pocket of the telecom companies” and have made “a deal with the devil.”
The battle against the Mass Black Incarceration State and the rule of the rich is also an internal struggle against the Black Misleadership Class, who are in cahoots with Diablo. In the real world of struggle, the people must isolate and identify the sell-outs and betrayers before it is possible to tackle the main enemy, head-on.
The first task is to get the knives out of our backs.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].
The "Shame on the Congressional Black Caucus" Rally, for Wednesday, September 24, is set for 9 am to 12 noon, at the Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place NW, Washington, DC.