Stop The Violence: Rhetoric vs. Reality
Frank Chapman, Field Organizer
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
Over the past couple of weeks pundits, politicians and preachers have come out against violence in Chicago and are calling for solutions that range from gun control, to more police and policing to federal intervention. Some have called upon the President to send in federal troops while others are calling for several billion dollars to be invested in reconstruction that will address housing, unemployment, and education, health care and so on.
But over the 4th of July weekend the police killed two children. One of them was a 16 year-old who was shot during a party. The police said he pointed a gun. (“He had a gun” has always been a standard practice of police crimes). Nearly a hundred neighbors said he was murdered and no gun was pointed. In the last two weeks alone—Francisco Rocha in Brighton Park died after being tasered by CPD and Juan J. Perea of Little Village was shot by police officers, who said they found him at 6:15am ‘pointing a gun at them’ So how can people come out against violence and not mention police crimes at all? Rev. Jackson made this same point in the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, the young honor student, back in February of 2013.
While the city, state and government must be held accountable for not addressing the underlying causes of violence in Chicago, Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Mayor Rahm Emanuel cannot hold them accountable; the people must hold them accountable in order to make the transition from rhetoric to reality. Rev. Jackson is calling for a reconstruction plan for Chicago and Mayor Emanuel is calling for the creation of a partnership for peace. Rev. Jesse Jackson is calling for government action, chiding President Obama to ask congress for 2 or 3 billion dollars 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 Rev. 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 too many years. Too many parents are burying their children, it’s time to fight back and win.