Baltimore Rioters & Looters Have Done Something Right. Let’s Learn From Them.

An image from the 1968 Baltimore riots.

An image from the 1968 Baltimore riots.

The Baltimore looters and rioters have something figured out. If everyone struggling against racist police brutality was a peaceful marcher, we wouldn’t even be discussing Baltimore right now.

In the recent years of activism against racist police brutality, we have seen many peaceful marches, protests, vigils, and rallies. There have been hundreds of thousands of participants across the country and across the world. These are fabulous actions. These are people standing up, being seen and making their voices heard in public. A mass movement against white supremacy is vital.


Do these peaceful protests dominate the mainstream news cycles? How much time have important politicians given to peaceful protesters and their prominent leaders or their sponsoring non-profits? How much change has occurred on the ground?

But as soon as a Black person loots or riots, the MSM are ALL OVER IT. We saw this with Ferguson. Complaining about this fact doesn’t change it. Peaceful protests do not make headlines and do not dominate news cycles. Nonviolent protest is the safest tactic for most people, it allows for mass participation, and by demonstrating that large numbers of people care about this issue, it is an important part of the struggle to end white supremacy. But it does not do all things. Relying on a single tactic for such a massive undertaking is setting us up to fail.

Other tactics exist. We should use all tactics if we are serious about our goal. This is called diversity of tactics, and it has a very interesting history.

Looking purely at effectiveness: what brought the Baltimore Black community’s oppression to mainstream national attention? We have the rioters to thank. Flagrant injustices committed against them have gone unnoticed by the MSM for years. It was the rioters and looters, people who actually broke the laws that have unjustly targeted them, who took real risks to their livelihood and safety, who disobeyed the rules of capitalism, who brought this struggle to the mainstream national news. Peaceful protesting is not a tactic that succeeded in this way. It is safe, sanitized, controlled by “leaders” with agendas, and easily ignored.

Rioting is rational for the people under these circumstances. I think oppressed people, when the police, the government, the justice system, the media, and the wider society have failed them, have every right to rise up against their oppression using whatever means they deem necessary.

As one writer put it:

We’re observing bravery; racists and reactionaries will call it thuggery, and traitors will demand resistance be a little more polite–no rocks, no fire please. Respect the law that desecrates you, uphold the property relations that oppress you, and don’t forget decorum.

Liberals, entrenched community leaders and white allies do not like this tactic. They can be found blaming rioting and looting on “a few thugs” the “criminal element taking advantage of the situation” or my favorite, “outside agitators.” They still believe in respectability politics: that if Blacks can just prove to whites that they are Just Like Us, by living unimpeachable, perfect, Cosby Show lives, whites will suddenly dismantle institutionalized racism. This tactic was thoroughly debunked in the sixties, but clearly continues to hold allure for those who are afraid of what it would mean to take more drastic measures. It also reinforces that there are indeed certain contemptible Black people who must be separated out from the “good” Black people.

It hurts my ears to hear liberals mouth the phrase “outside agitators” to disown the most militant anti-racist-oppression agitators. That phrase has a history. It has a long association with Black uprisings against white supremacy and capitalism. To use that phrase is to tap into America’s disgusting history of justifying Black oppression and privation. Outside agitators were blamed for slave revolts because it was believed Blacks were too stupid to rebel against their enslavement. Outside agitators were blamed for various riots throughout the 20th century, including the Watts riots. George Wallace, the infamous Jim Crow-supporting Alabama governor, blamed Black organizing and rebellion on outside agitators. Often these agitators were painted as in some way socialist because property was destroyed. Communist agitators fomenting Black rebellion was discussed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the sixties.

Of course, as it turns out, the Baltimore looters and rioters were locals. Well-meaning liberals and allies need to cut it out with this “outside agitators” crap right now. What we have on our hands are local heroes, and it is wrong to rob them of their bravery by saying they couldn’t have done it. It must have been the communists!

Looters and rioters are the bravest participants of the protest against police brutality in Baltimore. They also have a very effective tactic when it comes to attracting media attention. As we move forward, we need to learn and adapt so that our battles against white supremacy can be more efficacious. This is more than theory: lives are at stake.

Further reading: here is a big information dump of background on the history of Black people in Baltimore and their encounters with racism.

NYPD Chains Transwoman to Fence for 28 Hours

Oh yes they did

A trans woman says that when she was arrested for a minor subway violation, NYPD officers belittled her, called her names, asked about her genitals — and kept her chained to a fence for 28 hours. Now she’s suing. And it turns out she’s far from alone.

…She also says officers not only refused to call her “she,” they instead referred to her as “He-She”, “Faggot,” and “Lady GaGa,” and asked her “So you like to suck dick? Or what?” Meanwhile, people arrested for the same minor crime (misdemeanor “theft of services”) she was were calmly processed and allowed to leave.

At least the woman who experienced this treatment, Temmie Breslauer, is standing up, speaking out, and of course suing.

The Anti-Violence Project gets a shout out in the article.

H/t ES

New Euphemism: “Drawing Contact” from a Cop

What does this look like to you? “Drawing contact from a police officer” or “getting beat down by a cop with a weapon”?

Police beat OWS protestor

The caption on this photo accompanying a Reuters article:

An Occupy Wall Street protestor draws contact from a police officer near Zuccotti Park after being ordered to leave the longtime encampment in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011, in New York, after police ordered demonstrators to leave their encampment in Zuccotti Park. At about 1 a.m. Tuesday, police handed out notices from the park’s owner, Brookfield Office Properties, and the city saying that the park had to be cleared because it had become unsanitary and hazardous. Protesters were told they could return, but without sleeping bags, tarps or tents. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Note how whoever wrote this takes the agency away from the cop (making him the object of the sentence instead of the subject) and insinuates, without explanation, the protester did something to deserve the beating. Why do you think Reuters is afraid to accurately describe what is happening in this picture?

Class War in Oakland?

Wow, this kind of looks like war:

Riot Police at Occupy Oakland on Oct.25, 2011

Photo by Jane Tyska

On Tuesday, October 25th, Oakland police attacked peaceful Occupy Oakland protesters. They shot rubber bullets, bean bag rounds (bags filled with lead balls) and tear gas, and lobbed flash-bang grenades. They deny this, but video from the scene makes the facts clear.

They cracked the skull of Scott Olsen, an Iraq War veteran, and then lobbed grenades at those who rushed to help him.

Scott Olsen, Iraq veteran

Stillframe from Youtube video above

This Laura Flanders video shows the chaos pretty clearly.

I’m surprised to say that the Washington Post has a good article about the incident and Scott Olsen’s injuries.

The Root also discusses the police attack.

A photo slideshow is available at the LA Times.

In related news…

Further south in LA, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa explains his priorities:

He decided the camp could not stay … because of concerns about the condition of the lawn and trees.

“Look, our lawn is dead, our sprinklers aren’t working . . . our trees are without water,” the mayor said.

Sounds a lot like the tactics used at other Occupy locations, such as the purported deep concern for the flower beds in Liberty Plaza, New York and the plaintive calls by the authorities of Boston for Occupy Boston to PLEASE THINK OF THE SHRUBBERY!

Side note of interest: Google reports that, “We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove.”


Occupy Police Headquarters!

I was there!

Occupy Wall Street Protesters Rally Against “Excessive Force”

Their fight over corporate greed isn’t over yet, but protesters who’ve been camped out in Lower Manhattan for two weeks are now taking on a new issue.

Demonstrators marched from their main gathering point in Zuccotti Park to police headquarters Friday to shine light on what they say is excessive force used by the department.

Several people were maced and about 80 people arrested for disorderly conduct last weekend.

In other news, Mayor Bloomberg claims ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protesters are targeting bankers who ‘are struggling to make ends meet’. Oh yes he did.

In awesome critique news, South Bronx’s Rebel Diaz Arts Collective posted some reflections on race and culture dynamics at the Occupy Wall Street demonstration.

[T]he gut feeling was that there is a serious disconnect down there. We left with mad questions! Where was the hood? Where was the poorest congressional district in the USA, from The South Bronx at? Like we say in Hip Hop, where Brooklyn at? Could it be that perhaps the working class couldnt afford to just leave work and the responsibility of bills and family survival to camp out in a city park? Did folks from our communities not know about this? If people of color were occupying Wall St would we have lasted this long?

In non-news, 95% of MSM coverage of the protest has been absolutely vomitous. Like the insipid New York Times articles, for example. It’s as though their reporters are insulted at being asked to condescend to write about the concerns of common people.

Please Forgive My Massive Skepticism

Kenneth Harding was shot to death in San Francisco in front of dozens of witnesses on July 16th as he ran from police for not having a bus transfer.

Harding was a black teen, and the SFPD have a history of murdering black men, usually unarmed black men.

So please excuse my massive skepticism at the brand new police version of events:

[T]he community reacted with anger to the shooting of a young man who was videotaped bleeding helplessly in the middle of a Bayview street while police stood around him with guns drawn and a crowd gathered.

Then in a startling turn of events, authorities announced on Thursday that Harding had not been killed in a hail of police bullets after-all. They said he evidently shot himself — either intentionally or by accident — with a .380-caliber bullet that passed through his neck and into his head, killing him. A bullet of that caliber was found in his jacket pocket but the gun was missing.


Then for some reason SFPD released information about Harding’s criminal past, as though that somehow makes his shooting death acceptable.

The Exciting Times V.10 & RIP Kenneth Harding

San Francisco Police Gun Down Black Teen in Broad Daylight for Not Having Bus Transfer
Kenneth Harding’s story is even worse than it sounds. Please read it and send to friends. Racist police violence is really getting me down.

When police stopped a teenager stepping off the T-train yesterday to show his transfer as proof he’d paid his fare – $2 at most – he ran from them. They shot him as many as 10 times in the back and neck, according to witnesses. For many long minutes, as a crowd watched in horror, the boy, who had fallen to the sidewalk a block away, lay in a quickly growing pool of blood writhing in pain and trying to lift himself up as the cops trained their guns on him and threatened bystanders.

Here is a video filmed by a witness right after the shooting:

Fraudulent Documents Still Used to Steal Families’ Homes
Banks, some of whom received taxpayer stimulus funds, are still using forged documents to foreclose on families’ homes. Even though they totally promised not to do it anymore. But they don’t really have any motivation to stop. Not only do they get their hands on thousands of delicious houses to feed their insatiable appetite for the misery of others, BUT the state governments around the country are working out immunity for banks regarding suspicious foreclosures! Yayz!

More CIA Blacksites Uncovered! This Time in Somalia!
More extraordinary renditions! More filthy cells! More tortured interrogations!

Lesbians Told to Stop Being so Dykey
Whether visiting Dollywood in Tennessee or an exhibit on lesbian writer Gertrude Stein in San Francisco, lesbians just need to remember that they don’t enjoy the same freedoms as straights, because they are gay, which is gross and ungodly.

Beyond Androgyny
OH MY GOD GENDER IS ENDING! Everybody panic!

If you need a little lift after all of that, here is the theme song from Cannibal the Musical:

France Is Fucking Up

You will find the following video disturbing, if you are disturbed by the sight of policemen beating women and dragging their babies.

This video shows a police attack against immigrant women and children in France who were protesting for access to shelter. They had been camping out in a public space. (The video won’t imbed for some reason. Curse you WordPress!)

Notice how the newscaster frames the story, giving caveat after caveat to caution the viewer not to get too riled up. It was totally justified to beat unarmed women and children who are protesting for housing! The public order was at stake, and come on, these people are simply immigrants of color ruining the French way of life.

Two takes on this video:

Renee at Womanist Musings: It takes Courage to be a Brown/Black Mother in this World

BFP at Flip Flopping Joy: Mama

If you want to throw up in your mouth, read the disgusting comments following the NYTimes coverage. Basically, these homeless women, and not the police, are the ones who used brutality and harmed the children. So the NYT commenters would have it.

Police Brutality Doesn’t Pay

Final Call News reports:

In Chicago the mayor has put city employees on unpaid leave to help fill a budget shortfall. But a little over a year ago, Chicago officials agreed to pay $19.8 million to four men who suffered police torture under then-commander Jon Burge.Some $30 million has been spent to settle assorted lawsuits connected with the case, which stretches back to abuses during the 1980s and 1990s. Mayor Richard Daley proposed a two-to-three day furlough for more than 4,000 non-union workers to ease the city’s budgetary crisis.

…Current budget problems may cause taxpayers to take a look at how their money is spent, but in Chicago $18 million was paid to the family of LaTanya Haggerty, a Black woman shot to death by police in 1999. In 1995, a New York Times editorial noted that in the “cash-starved” Big Apple, brutality settlements and court judgments cost the city $87 million over five years. The Rodney King beating cost Los Angeles $3.8 million in a settlement and estimates for property damage hit $700 million after riots when officers involved were acquitted. In 2001, the city of New York shelled out $7.125 million in the infamous Abner Louima case, in which the Haitian immigrant was assaulted with a plunger by officers in a precinct bathroom.

“This is shameful because right now if you’re already suffering from a $150 million budget deficit and you have three or four huge lawsuits, you have to find that money, so it makes sense to train and educate officers on the front end rather than pay for settlements on the back,” said Ronald Hampton, executive director of the National Black Police Association.

I don’t read this as an argument that citizens who have been abused by police shouldn’t bring cases. This is an argument for police departments to stop wasting taxpayer money by condoning police brutality. Thoughts?