What is Our Attitude Toward the Present Youth-Led Rebellion?

Dec 31, 2014



Frank Chapman, Field Secretary,
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

Due to the impetus of the present youth-led rebellion our movement for community control of the police is moving from being a marginal community based movement among African Americans to a broad democratic demand of the masses led by our Black youth nationally and internationally. The Alliance’s participation in this mass struggle is subordinated to the fundamental task of organizing a mass campaign for an all-civilian elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). Our attitude is that we are truly grateful for the mass youth-led uprisings that have grated us these opportunities to fulfil our historic task of getting CPAC enacted by the Chicago City Council.

Now as we approach a new year of struggle against police crimes and struggle for community control of the police we want to raise this question:

What is the significance of the present uprising and what is our attitude toward it?

Our attitude was succinctly expressed by our comrade Larry Redmond at a recent community symposium. Regarding the present youth-led uprising Larry said: “This is what we have been waiting for and fighting for.”  For the last two years we have been actively engaged in organizing mass protest against police crimes and calling upon the people to rise up; but this present movement was not a response to our calls. It was and is a spontaneous uprising of the masses that quickly, in hot house fashion, grew into organized mass protest. This is a democratic uprising whose minimal demand is that police who commit crimes should be charged, tried and punished for the crimes they commit; and whose maximum demand is the creation of an all-elected, all-civilian police accountability council or control board.  The youth who are leading this uprising realize that in confronting the police and the entire criminal justice system that they must position themselves to overturn racist institutions that are historically rooted in the long and cruel oppression of African Americans. And in this endeavor they have called everybody out thus ushering in the broadest, deepest democratic anti-racist struggle that we have seen in decades. They have demonstrated their ability to move large masses of the population against police violence and tyranny, and to stop the flow of business as usual.

There have been mass social upheavals in the past fueled by the democratic aspirations of the masses but several decades have gone by since we have seen such a mass response like this to police directed racist violence against African Americans. The struggle against police brutality is not new but this particular stage and phase of the struggle is new. Here is how Mychal Denzel Smith, a writer for Nation magazine, characterizes the present youth rebellion:

“This new movement is being led by mostly young black women who won’t allow us to forget that black women’s lives matter. It is drawing in diverse crowds, including white allies who are not calling for gradual change, but a total end to white supremacy. The movement doesn’t look or sound like anything our elders remember (or were taught) about the civil rights era. And that’s OK. We have a new fight. We have to create a new model of resistance.”

What is new about the present struggle is not the call for “a total end to white supremacy”. In fact the “Black Power” movement of the 1960s did call for a total end of white supremacy. No one young or old in our movement would argue that the struggle to overturn white supremacy is new.  Nor is the heroic struggle of Black youth from the high school students of Birmingham to the students murdered at Jackson State University new in our movement. Young people of yesterday (and many were killed from the 16 Street Baptist Church in Birmingham to Fred Hampton in Chicago) paved the way for the youth of today.

If we really want to understand where we are at in the present stage of our struggle then we must concretely identify what is new and unprecedented based on accurate historical information. What is new about the present uprising is not the vital need of immediate elementary human rights embodied in the slogan Black Lives Matter but the rapidity with which this cry for justice has taken hold and united all the various strands of the peoples’ movement and every section of the population. This movement generated overnight a mass united democratic front against racist police killings and their cover up by prosecutors. Through mass united actions in the streets here and around the world people are demanding justice for Michael Brown and Eric Garner. That is unprecedented and that, in essence, is what is characteristically new about this movement in its present phase. So the burning question of our CPAC campaign is what actions we will take to consciously help this movement in its transition to political struggle.

There is an old saying that fashion drags hopelessly at the tail of life and so mass protest without specific political demands for policy changes aimed at bringing about systemic change drags hopelessly at the tail of piecemeal reforms and spends itself out. Then repression returns with a vengeance.

There are at least two actions we believe we must take at once: 1) We must continue in united action with the various contingents of this youth-led movement and respect their leadership. 2) We must continue and intensify community organizing through protests demonstrations, forums, mass rallies, teach-ins, door to door canvassing, etc. for an all-elected, all-civilian police accountability council.

In a society based on race and class oppression the struggle between oppressors and oppressed must ultimately become a struggle with concrete political demands. What kind of concrete demands should we form our fight around? The kind that leads to systemic change; fighting for the enactment of laws where the oppressed are empowered, fighting for the forming of a council where people elect members of their communities in to a form of direct local government that has the power to hold police accountable, and puts the process of deciding/controlling policing policies into the hands of oppressed communities. Such a path where we fight for community control of the police is also an important step in the direction of turning the political arena into an arena of mass-based democratic struggles for further systemic changes.

We are presently engaged in planning and developing our part in this struggle. We encourage you to join us. We meet every Monday, 6pm at 1325 S. Wabash Avenue Rm. 105 in the South Loop of Chicago.