Monday, December 18, 2006

Pages From History: Grassroots Consciousness and the Murder of Malice Green

PANW Editor's Note: The following article was originally published in the April 1993 (Issue 14) edition of Pambana: Journal on World Affairs.

Grassroots Consciousness and the Murder of Malice Green

By Abayomi Azikiwe

It should not have been a great surprise to the people of Detroit that Malice Green, a 35-year-old African-American male, was beaten to death on November 5, 1992, at the hands of white police officers.

People are aware of the heightening levels of police, corporate and governmental repression being meted out against Africans and other oppressed segments of society. However, no matter the degree of consciousness related to these facts of modern day life, the cold-blooded murder of Green could only evoke deep anger and profound outrage.

In the subsequent months since the murder, the city administration, New Detroit, Inc., and its surrogate "community organizations",
the mass media and the academic establishment, have sought vigorously to put a cap on the vast reservoir of discontent with the ineffectiveness of local government and the indifference of national state structures in Washington, D.C.

Even though actions have been taken to remove officers Larry Nevers, Walter Budzyn, Freddie Douglas and Robert Lessnau from the Detroit police force, people immediately began to raise the question: how could these types of brutal white racists police still remain on the city payroll after being involved in so many incidents of brutality and murder against the residents of the city?

This question leads into a myraid of possible analyses which seek to uncover the nature and character of domestic neo-colonialism in the United States at present.

Despite the presence of increasing numbers of African-American elected representatives, the overall oppressive economic and political conditions of African people remain in a state of perpetual crises.

In Detroit for example, it was reported in a recent newspaper article that only 40% of the city's adult population is gainfully employed. This is taking place in a time period when we are hearing more discussion from official circles about the need to curtail "crime and gang-related activity" in urban areas.

During the presidential campaign of Bill Clinton in 1992, he often spoke about a proposal that would place 100,000 newly trained and armed police officers on the streets of urban areas throughout the country.

Such a state of affairs involving African-American political economy would seem to require a more stringent course of action coming from the grassroots level. If this becomes the dominant mode of emphasis then it would inevitably place the official political elite in a more precarious position.

For example, if a mass Black rebellion were to erupt in Detroit the city administration would request the assistance of the National Guard and the US Armed Forces, as was done by Mayor Tom Bradley in Los Angeles in April and May of 1992. Also in Atlanta, Mayor Maynard Jackson called out the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to assist the police in preventing further demonstrations and rebellions by Atlanta University students in the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict, which acquitted four white police officers in his brutal beating in Los Angeles.

Despite both the national repressive and local neo-colonialist
structures, the will to protest and rebel against injustice is still prevalent among the African-American people in Detroit and throughout the country.

This mood was quite evident in the response of the community to the murder of Green. 20,000 people came out to the visitation at Stinson Funeral Home a day before the funeral. The funeral of Green drew approximately 3,000 people in mid-day during the work week.

It appears from the statements made by community people that if this situation is not handled in a manner they feel is just within the legal system, there will be a response from the grassroots.

There is no need to doubt the ability of African-Americans to initiate mass rebellion in the 1990s. The response to the Rodney King verdict, where rebellions occurred in 28 cities across the country, speaks volumes more on the conditions and consciousness of African-Americans than the sterile analyses offered by the more moderate and conservative Black officials.

It is quite obvious that the people themselves, meaning the poor and working masses, are clamoring to make their voices heard and are utilizing all means necessary to achieve such ends.

The question then becomes: where does the struggle of African people go beyond the point of urban rebellion and electoral politics? This is the question that must be answered by the advanced elements in the community. It would seem that those within the organizations and institutions seeking to transform the daily lives of Africans and to also change the system of US racism, national oppression and exploitation, would be grappling intensely with the issue of extending the African-American struggle toward greater heights aimed at total liberation.

And within the process of seeking solutions, newer forms of resistance and struggle will emerge, further enriching the heritage of Africans in the world movements for human rights and national liberation.

PANW Editor's Note: The author at the time was the editor of Pambana journal and the director of the Pan-African Research and Documentation Project at Wayne State University. Two white officers Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers were convicted in the summer of 1993 of second-degree murder in the beating death of Malice Green. There convictions were overturned by appeals courts and then re-instated in other legal proceedings. Both are now out of prison having served several years in federal detention facilities. The problem of police brutality continues in the city of Detroit with the urban area being under two federal consent decrees related to the use of excessive force and the deplorable conditions in the city lock-up facilities. The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality has been organizing against law-enforcement misconduct since 1996.

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