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Frank Chapman speaks out against police terror

By staff |
October 23, 2014
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The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression held a public forum on the campaign for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) on Oct. 16 at Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s South Side. Over 50 activists attended this meeting, including families of victims of police crimes, prominent attorney Stan Willis, and labor and community activists.

Frank Chapman, who has a long history of labor organizing, is a now a field organizer for the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. He is the former Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and lead many of the Alliance’s campaigns in the 70’s and 80’s.

The following is the text of Chapman’s Oct. 16 speech:

The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression has launched a campaign for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) and I submit that this CPAC campaign is in reality the equivalent of an anti-lynch campaign. We say this because the police and vigilantes are operating under the color of state laws to do the same thing that lynch mobs did and often with the same racist fervor. In point of fact when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin he (Zimmerman) was supported by a white racist mob organized by right wing extremists that raised nearly a million dollars for his defense fund. The same thing happened with the white cop, Daren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown. Immediately the organized, ultra-right wing extremists organized a defense fund and raised $400,000 for Wilson.

In the period Jan. 1, 2009 to June 30, 2014 there have been 86 people killed by Chicago police officers acting under the color of law. They - the people killed - were among the more than 294 people shot by police officers. African Americans were 78.1% of the shooting victims and Latinos were 13.2%, while 7.1% were white.

Police crimes of murder and torture have been made acceptable police practices in spite of the public outrage against them. The politicians and the fraternal order of police justify these lynch like tactics by criminalizing the entire African and Latino communities. All people of color are suspects.

If we are to avoid morphing into a fascist state then we must stop this present state of siege in our communities by fighting for community control of the police. Police repression is an integral part of racial oppression and that is why people of color can’t just call for the police to police the police or for federal intervention. The best intervention is the democratic intervention of the masses and that is why we must fight for a Civilian Police Accountability Council that will be elected by the residents of any given police district. This elected body would not be a police review board but a police control board.

Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001 the U.S. criminal justice system has become a massive machine for arrest, detention and mass incarceration. ‘National security’ and the fight against ‘terrorism’ was the reasons given by the Bush administration for empowering the criminal justice system to arrest non-citizens and circumvent the court system and the right to due process provided by the U.S. Constitution. History has already demonstrated that these assaults on our civil liberties have been primarily the burden of immigrant communities and people of color. In Chicago we have over 100 documented cases of torture by the Chicago Police Department. The victims are 99% African American and Latino and none of them were accused of terrorism. Of the more than two million people in jails and prisons a large percentage is people of color (mostly African American) and they are charged with the non-violent crime of drug dealing. Of course this takes place in communities hard hit by the current economic crisis and the government’s austerity budget cuts.

Let us now take a deeper look into solutions.

While the city, state and government must be held accountable for not addressing the underlying causes of violence in Chicago, Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Mayor Rahm Emanuel cannot hold them accountable. There is a Stop The Violence Movement that mainly focuses on gangbanging violence and the need for policing. This movement ignores racial oppression and at best sees the police as a necessary evil so they end up calling for more police. Reverend Jackson (who is walking the tightrope on this issue) is calling for a reconstruction plan for Chicago and Mayor Emanuel (who is clearly for more police) is calling for the creation of a partnership for peace. Reverend Jesse Jackson is calling for government action, chiding President Obama to ask Congress for $2 or 3 billion for economic and social reconstruction in the blighted areas of Chicago. The mayor is saying that as a community we need to demand more of ourselves and give our youth alternatives to street life.

This is rhetoric coming from a mayor whose policies of budget cuts have left the poor and the working class people even more desperate. Closing 50 schools and repeatedly enforcing mass austerity doesn’t address the problem but compounds it. Consequently, the suffering masses know that this is just talk. But since there is really no organized social protest movement demanding that he push youth programs that provide alternatives to the streets he can always fall short of a program of action and blame the victims.

We get a different kind of rhetoric from Reverend Jackson. He actually speaks of our communities as zones of disaster characterized by massive unemployment, foreclosure on houses vacant lots and fewer schools and he calls upon the president to lead the charge in attacking these problems.

What’s wrong with both of these approaches in my opinion is that neither one is about organizing the people to protest and demand the changes that will give our youth alternatives to the streets through education, recreation and jobs. We are asking the government to do something as opposed to protesting and demanding that they do something. Power concedes nothing without a struggle.

The violence in Chicago is appalling. But we also know that it is largely a consequence of the drug war which is a smoke screen for mass incarceration and police crimes. The violence takes place in the absence of justice in our communities. We believe it can be ended by a movement for justice which demands democratic community control of the police. Community control of the police will give the people the much needed organizing space to fight for social-economic justice and the abolition of institutionalized racism. The violence cannot be ended by more police or a ‘partnership for peace’ that ignores the need for justice.

This brings me to the position that our organization takes on the question of violence. First of all, let us talk about the different kinds of violence. What makes news in Chicago and gets everybody on the platform is the violence perpetrated by gangbangers. Each time someone is killed by a gangbanger the tocsin is sounded for war but not so when the purveyor of violence is the police or the criminal justice system.

Gang violence and police violence take place in the larger context of the violence of poverty and institutionalized oppression. Cutting food stamps for children is violent. Forced closing of 50 schools did violence to thousands of children. Evictions are sometimes violent but they are nearly always carried out by the threat of violence. Without a shot being fired our communities look like they’ve been shell bombed. Without a shot being fired our infant mortality rate is up and trauma centers are being closed. These problems of violence are the direct result of deliberate government policies that reinforce social and economic conditions that impoverish the many and enrich the few.

The way to get rid of injustice is to organize and rally the people suffering from injustice. That is why we are presently engaged in a campaign to have the city council enact legislation that will create an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. Such an ordinance will not only empower the people to hold the police accountable; it will also give the people a firm voice in how their communities are policed.

Unlike the mayor and his political cohorts we firmly believe that the organized might of the masses can and should force the system to change.

Police tyranny has cast a dark and sinister shadow over our lives for far too many years. Too many parents are burying their children, it’s time to fight back and win.