Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Need For a People's Movement to Confront the Worsening Economic and Political Crisis

The Need for a People's Movement to Confront the Worsening Economic and Political Crisis

by Abayomi Azikwe,
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

DETROIT--Hundreds of people took to the streets on May 21 demanding justice for Robert Mitchell, 16, who died after being tased by Warren police. Mitchell, who had fled from a police stop in Warren, was chased into Detroit where he was apprehended, tased and later died on April 10.

This demonstration was organized by the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality(DCAPB) and the family of Robert Mitchell. Several other groups helped organize the demonstration including the Detroit NAACP, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) and the Detroit City of Hope.

The gathering started with a rally at the Boys & Girls Club Field on Bringard and Schoenherr on the city's northeast side. The crowd then marched to Eight Mile Road, the border with Warren, where they chanted slogans demanding justice for Robert Mitchell.

Shouts of "No Justice, No Peace" and "Justice for Robert Mitchell" reverberated throughout the community. Most of the march participants were youth who either knew the police brutality victim or were from the community. Others came to express their concern and outrage at the continuing scourge of death by law-enforcement.

The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality has been organizing against law-enforcement misconduct for over ten years. According to spokesperson Ron Scott, the group has investigated dozens of allegations of brutality and the unnecessary use of lethal force just this year alone. Several years ago, the DCAPB launched a successful campaign to ban the use of tasers by Detroit police.

"Robert Mitchell is going to be the catalyst for peace. He didn't die for nothing," said Sandra Hines of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality at the Boys & Girls Club Field. "It's so important to bridge together between Warren and Detroit. We want peace."

In a statement issued by the DCPAB, the organization called for "the establishment of a Warren-Detroit peace zone; the immediate suspension of taser use by law-enforcement and the prosecution of the officers involved in Mitchell's murder."

The statement continued by saying that "The tragic taser death of Robert Mitchell at the hands of Warren Police Department on Good Friday, April 10th compels us to call for a Warren-Detroit citizen collective to address police misconduct and other issues critical to the area."

The family of Robert Mitchell has filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against the City of Warren. "This is a blessings," said Cora Mitchell of the outcome of the demonstration. "We need to start to take back our communities."

Repression and the Economic Crisis

Robert Mitchell's tragic death at the hands of law-enforcement was not an isolated incident. As mentioned above, the DCAPB has investigaged numerous cases of police brutality over the last several months. All across the United States, more people, African Americans and Latinos in particular, have become victims of police violence.

In Oakland, California, Oscar Grant III, was killed by the transit police after he had been apprehended. Several days of rebellion followed as youth in the community rose up and struck back against this blatant act of brutality. In the city of Philadelphia over the last year, 36 unarmed African American men have been killed by police. This escalation in police violence against working people and the poor coincides with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

In an article published in the Frost newspaper out of Fort Wayne, Indiana, James W. Breedlove, the former president of the NAACP in this city, wrote that "Many American blacks today are already experiencing a silent economic depression that, in terms of unemployment, approaches the disastrous levels of eighty years ago. Almost 12 percent of blacks are unemployed; this is expected to increase to nearly 20 percent by 2010. Among young black males aged 16 through 19, the unemployment rate is 32.8 percent, while their white counterparts are at 18.3 percent. Overall, 24 percent of blacks are in poverty, versus eight percent of whites." (Frost, May 20, 2009)

As it relates to the economic stimulus policies of the Obama administration, Breedlove notes the difficulty with many of these efforts aimed at improving the conditions of the unemployed and poor in the country. The Fort Wayne resident states that "As millions of people seek aid--many for the first time--they are finding it dispensed through a maze of disconnected programs that reach some and reject others as program officials attempt to follow conflicting state rules and regulations that deemphasize need. The result is a hit-or-miss system of relief that was not designed to deal with the severity of a recession that cut so deep."

In regard to the actual economic stimulus bill that was passed in February 2009, Breedlove states that "Across the country, the needy are confronting hard luck that is colliding with the fine print of government bureaucracy. The government's February stimulus act contains more than $100 billion in safety net provisions, but much of the aid consists of financial incentives that states are free to reject. Several governors rejected grants to expand unemployment insurance in a political move to posture against government spending."

Consequently, the economic crisis that is worsening in the United States, will plunge more people of color into financially desperate situations. This will be coupled with more repressive measures by law-enforcement acting on the will of the state and the corporate interests.

Over the last eighteen months over 4 million people have lost their jobs. By the end of 2009 another three million will be rendered unemployed. At the same time it is estimated that over two million households will go into foreclosure by the conclusion of 2009. All of this is happening in the aftermath of the implementation massive government programs that have given $10 trillion to Wall Street bankers, multi-national corporations such as AIG and the two of the major automotive firms in the United States.

Other announced programs have included the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, TARP as well as the economic stimulus bill passed in February 2009. Yet the overall economic indicators remain down in the U.S. The stimulus package has not made a dent in the rising unemployment and foreclosure figures.

The Necessity of a People's Movement

Since 2006, millions of voters in the United States have expressed their repudiation of the neo-conservative policies of permanent war and large-scale transfers of wealth to the rich. However, the transformation of the legislative and executive branches of government from Republican to Democratic control has not fundamentally changed domestic and foreign policy. The economic crisis is deepening at a very rapid rate while at the same time the wars of occupation against Iraq and Afghanistan continue unabated.

At present a whole new front in the so-called "war on terrorism" has been opened up in Pakistan, where a U.S.-backed offensive against the people in the Swat Valley resulted in the displacement of two million people. The corporate and military interests that control the mass media in the U.S. refuses to allow a real debate around economic and military policy. There is no justifiable reason for the continuation of the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan nor the expansion of the occupation into Pakistan.

The $700bn annual defense budget is a drain on the economy as a direct result of its unproductive character. The fallacy that the purported "war on terror" is necessary flies in the face of reality since objectively the greatest threat to the well-being of the people in the U.S. and the world stem from the military and economic policies emanating from Wall Street and Washington. It is these policies that have rendered tens of millions of Americans to unemployment, underemployment and poverty. It is the failure of these institutions based on Wall Street and in the U.S. capital to provide any real solutions to the continuing crisis that has created the basis for the further immiseration of the population.

This is why the upcoming People's Summits in both New York and Detroit are critical in the efforts aimed at developing an effective fightback program. The working class and the nationally oppressed need their own independent movements that can advance and defend the people's own interests.

In New York the Bail Out the People Movement (BOPM) will hold its summit at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 47th and First Avenue in Manhattan on May 31. The organizers and speakers will make presentations that illustrate how workers and poor people can best challenge the capitalist economic crisis. This event will come on the eve of an international conference at the United Nations that has been called by the formerly colonized countries.

The President of the U.N. General Assembly Miguel D'Escoto Brockman of Nicaragua issued the call for the meeting to be held between June 1-3. The conference is dubbed as the G-192 because its aim is to represent all of the countries of the world, not just those who are the five permanent members of the Security Council.

In Detroit, the People's Summit will be held in Grand Circus Park between June 14-17. The event is billed as "four days of active resistance, political discussion and strategizing for a 'People's Stimulus Plan' and an 'Economic Bill of Rights' for working people and the poor." The event will serve as an alternative to the corporate National Business Summit that is being held during the same time period at the Renaissance Center that houses the World Headquarters of General Motors Corporation.

In a statement issued by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions, the People's Summit "will be a dynamic event. During the People's Summit, organizers will implement a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions by going into the neighborhoods and supporting homeowners who are willing to confront the bailiffs. If there is a strike, demonstration or sit in, the People's Summit will join it. The People's Summit will confront the big-business CEOs and politicians."

These events will provide those most effected by the economic crisis with their best hope for protracted and concrete struggle to better their conditions.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and has covered the current economic crisis impacting the United States and the entire capitalist world.

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