Jul 22, 2013
“Don’t worry!” That’s what Kevin Orr, Detroit’s Emergency Financial Dictator, said when he announced he was putting Detroit into bankruptcy. “Don’t worry, it will be business as usual.”
But that’s exactly why people should worry. Because “business as usual” means that the population will continue to lose services, city workers will lose jobs, city retirees will see their medical care disappear, and the city will commit suicide – all so that the banks get paid.
Orr dared to say that things would begin to improve – just as soon as he “stabilizes” the city’s finances.
To put it into plain English, Orr wants the population to wait while he pays the banks.
Wait? What a preposterous proposal! Every politician to come down the track has been saying that for decades: wait, things will get better!
While people were waiting, the city was stolen right out from underneath them.
Big companies like GM, Ford, and Chrysler, and two-bit swindlers like Dan Gilbert and the Ilitch family got the city to pay for land, demolition and infrastructure – and then got tax breaks to top off their crooked deals.
That’s what created this financial emergency.
The banks pushed fancy loan packages on the city to pay for all those gifts to business – loans that turned out to be nothing more than fancy “sub-prime” mortgages. When those “sub-prime” city loans boomeranged on the city, the banks used their financial leverage to push the city into new, more expensive loans.
That’s what turned the financial emergency into an outright catastrophe. The banks bled the city dry.
The money the banks stole came out of the funds that should have paid for city services. So parks were closed, libraries boarded up, buses broke down, water mains turned city streets into lakes, and street lights went unlit.
Yes, it’s an emergency – for the population!
Take Detroit’s money back – get it from the big corporations and banks that stole it. Get it back from all the other swindlers that fed off the city.
Detroit has assets today, all through the city: Assets like GM Headquarters, Compuware Headquarters, GM’s Poletown Plant, Chrysler’s Conner Avenue Assembly plant, Ford Field, Comerica Park, land for the Ilitch family’s new hockey arena, Dan Gilbert’s 30-some downtown buildings.
Land that some of those assets sit on was taken by the city using its powers of “eminent domain.” Well, use those same powers to take that land back, and the buildings that sit on top of them. If Gilbert wants his buildings, make him pay for them. Make GM pay. Make Chrysler pay. Make the Ford family, the Ilitch family, the Fishers pay.
And here’s the biggest asset the city has: all those years of tax breaks, years when the city got no taxes from these thieves. Collect those taxes – past and future. Make the big thieves pay up!
Use that money to cover the real emergency. Forget about the banks. Use the city’s money to alleviate the emergency the population and city workers have been living through.
Of course, this is not what Emergency Financial Dictator Orr had in mind when he declared bankruptcy. Well, to hell with him!
The population faces an emergency. The population can overcome that emergency. There certainly are organized forces in the city of Detroit that could do it, workers and other ordinary people. Take over the streets, flood into those buildings built with the people’s money. Shut down business as usual.
Let that be the population’s slogan: No more business as usual in Detroit until the emergency battering the population is dealt with.
Jul 22, 2013
General Electric keeps more than 100 billion dollars in offshore bank accounts on which it pays no taxes. Apple, Google and Microsoft hold 130 billion dollars out of the U.S. to avoid paying taxes.
Why do those tax dollars stay “offshore”? That’s one way wealthy individuals and corporations avoid paying taxes!
Oxfam, a charitable organization trying to help the poor, estimates some 16 trillion dollars is being sheltered in countries with special tax rules. It’s equal to almost 45 billion dollars every single day – escaping any taxation.
Nothing will change until the world’s working populations, suffering from economic crises, decide to take on the situation. The politicians will certainly not challenge the very principles by which this economic system profits a tiny rich minority.
Jul 22, 2013
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently reported that JPMorgan Chase bank was behind “manipulative schemes” to fleece consumers in Michigan and California.
Morgan had investments in 60-year-old power plants. Instead of putting money into upgrading the plants, Morgan traders invented slick deals that were “calculated to falsely appear attractive,” and sold these deals to officials in California and Michigan.
FERC calculated that consumers were fleeced at least 83 million dollars.
Will anyone put those responsible in jail? Refund the consumers’ money? Cancel Morgan’s licenses and permits to do business? Of course not! We don’t have that kind of government!
JPMorgan Chase was fined only 500 million dollars – lunch money for a corporation that just reported a profit of 6.5 BILLION dollars amassed in only three months, April, May and June.
That’s “consequences?” Only in this world, where government itself is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the biggest capitalists.
It works for them.
Jul 22, 2013
The car companies and banks are burying car buyers under a mountain of debt. The average length of time people are borrowing for new cars is now up to 65 months, or almost six years, according to Experian, a credit reporting company. And many new car loans are for eight, nine and even ten years!
Of these new car loans, about 25 per cent are considered “subprime.” That’s a higher share of subprime auto loans than in 2007, right before the financial crash. Buyers now stuck with these sub-prime loans are paying interest rates of up to 10 per cent for longer periods of time. Of course, the longer the loan, the higher the finance charges, thus guaranteeing fat profits for the banks and finance companies.
This growing debt has helped fuel the car companies’ renaissance. Not only are they selling almost twice as many cars as they did just four years ago – all the way up to an expected 16 million this year. But the average price they are getting for new cars – over $31,000 – is $3,000 higher than it was just four years ago.
Thus, at least for a time, the car companies, banks and finance companies are making huge profits, despite the lousy economy and high unemployment.
Sound familiar? By burying the consumer in increasing debt – not only are the capitalists sowing increasing misery, they are also laying the groundwork for a new debt crisis and financial collapse.
Jul 22, 2013
With the 3.5-cent increase in the gas tax on July 1, California became the state with the highest gas tax. But none of that new tax money will go to repair California’s crumbling infrastructure, or restore funding for mass transit. It just goes into the California state general fund to flow right back out in tax cuts for big corporations and the wealthy.
Jul 22, 2013
For decades, the top executives at the largest U.S. companies have received multi-million-dollar pay-offs when they are kicked out or retire. Last year was no exception. The former head of oil company ConocoPhillips got 156 million dollars – a nice retirement package.
Even when they get in trouble, like the head of Citigroup who was forced out of his job last year, they get paid. The Citigroup Board gave him a bonus worth 6.7 million dollars.
A lot of people have lost jobs in this recession. But the exec group has their friends on the boards of directors to look after them. Guess we don’t need to take up a collection for them.
Jul 22, 2013
The proposed new Detroit Red Wings hockey arena is to be paid for how? Possibly by the State of Michigan’s Strategic Fund, selling bonds. This would make the arena “state owned.” This would allow the Ilitch family to get a hefty tax break.
The City of Detroit just filed for bankruptcy. Detroit schools are in a financial crisis. Yet this project would divert city tax revenue toward paying off these bonds.
The new “entertainment complex” would stretch all the way from Mike Ilitch’s Comerica Park and Fox Theater over to Marian Ilitch’s Motor City Casino.
The politicians cry broke. But they sure do “find” money for what they want. Current plans call for PUBLIC MONEY to pay for at least 44 percent of the cost of this project!
Jul 22, 2013
One of the big revelations that has come out of the NSA spying scandal is how much the U.S. government partners in its spying operations with huge companies. Snowden himself was employed by a private company called Booz Allen at the time of the leaks. Literally thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are employed by the U.S. national security agencies. According to the New York Times (June 19), of the estimated 80 billion dollars spent by the government on intelligence work, “most is spent on private contractors.”
These companies make huge profits from these government contracts. Last year, for example, Booz Allen pulled in more than five billion dollars in business, mostly from the government, out of which it made more than one billion dollars in profits, an enormous profit rate.
At the head of the spy agencies and these companies are the same people. The revolving door between the spy agencies and private companies spins very, very fast. Booz Allen itself is headed by the Bush administration’s former intelligence chief John M. McConnell, while Obama’s current intelligence chief, James R. Clapper, used to run Booz Allen.
Booz Allen’s profits now enrich plenty of other former high officials, since it is owned by the Carlyle Group, a private equity company founded by Frank Carlucci, Reagan’s CIA Director, with former Vice President Dan Quayle as a top boss. On the Carlyle Group’s board of directors are former British Prime Minister John Major, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, etc.
In return for their services, the government also provides those companies with other enormous advantages, such as access to classified intelligence... which they can use any way that is most profitable for them, whether it is against their competitors, or against the American public.
Spying on the American public is a very profitable business indeed.
Jul 22, 2013
In the City of Detroit, 17,000 buildings await demolition and have for years. In early July, out of all these, the city chose to demolish the Malice Green shrine. This was a mural done in memory of Malice Green, an unemployed black steel worker who was beaten to death by police during a routine traffic stop in 1992.
Two white police officers were eventually convicted of manslaughter in his death and sent to prison.
That mural has remained there, at the place he was murdered, ever since. Even though the building it was painted on was vacant, it was kept up by neighbors, the grass and flowers around it well-tended.
The demolition has now left behind “a pile of cinder blocks, caution tape, jutting wood, bricks, clothing and other garbage” – in the words of the Free Press.
It is revealing that the city’s emergency dictators – who are creating a “New Detroit” – prioritized removing a memorial to black victims of police brutality.
Instructively, Detroiters responded quickly. The mural’s artist, Bennie White, has met with Ron Scott of the Coalition Against Police Brutality, to plan a new shrine. According to Scott, the new memorial will be in a “protected location, where no one will destroy it.”
Jul 22, 2013
The “too-big-to-fail” banks reported vastly increased profits for the past three months.
Goldman Sachs doubled its profits, compared to last year. Bank of America jumped 63%, to four billion dollars. Wells Fargo corralled 5.5 billion dollars and JPMorgan Chase, 6.5 billion.
Altogether, the six largest banks sucked TWENTY-THREE BILLION DOLLARS out of the economy in just three months, and sequestered it for their shareholders.
And this is hailed as a sign that the economy is getting better!
No, this is not better. After the banks suck their exorbitant interest rates and fees out of the little money that most people have available, there’s nothing left to buy goods and services that push the economy forward.
These banks crashed the economy in 2007. Yet not only are they allowed to profit from their crimes, but we are told that they are to be congratulated!
Pardon us if we don’t do as we are told. Not for them!
Jul 22, 2013
The following is a translation of an editorial appearing in Lutte Ouvrière [Workers Struggle] of June 21, regarding government attacks on Social Security pensions in France. It will seem familiar to American workers who see the U.S. government doing the same thing.
The French president, Hollande, announced a “new” reform of retirement. His reform will make people work much longer. He is going to push older people to work themselves to death. And his reform is going to make the number of those living in poverty explode.
In forcing people to work at least 43 or 44 years to get a full retirement, the reforms ensure that millions of workers will never obtain a full retirement benefit. Workers hurt by working on the line, all those forced to work at night or in shifts, women who raised their children – none of them may ever get a full pension. Laid off workers will never have enough put into the system. And the government dares to talk about justice!
Even those who get the full amount in retirement will see their purchasing power decline. Taxes on pensions are increasing and cost-of-living increases won’t keep up with the cost of living.
For 20 years we have heard the same refrain: “There aren’t enough funds for retirement benefits.” In so-called “reform” after “reform,” the government has raised the age of retirement and the number of years we must work and how the benefit is calculated. The result is that for 20 years, pensions have gone down. These “reforms” did not save retirees, they are destroying us.
It’s an outrage. Especially because there is money available to pay for pensions. For 30 years, a small part of society has gotten richer. The salaries of CEOs have gone up by hundreds of millions. Society as a whole is richer than ever but the money has accumulated only in the hands of a few – reaching unprecedented levels at the top.
The money to pay for retirement exists. Every year the government gives 20 billion euros to the big bosses.
Workers have a right to those billions because it is our work that produces this wealth. We must demand an accounting from all those parasites who have prospered off the exploitation of our labor and today make society go backwards.
Don’t let the bosses pretend that retirement is a gift. Retirement is not a gift. It should be a right, something we get after a life spent working and paying taxes.
Jul 22, 2013
On July 6th, an explosion and fire in oil tank cars devastated the town of Lac Mégantic in east Canada, leaving 42 dead and eight people still missing two weeks later.
The train of 72 tank cars owned by Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway was parked on a slope in the neighboring town of Nantes. The accident began with a fire on the first locomotive while the train was stopped in Nantes. The train then rolled without anyone on board, ending at Lac Mégantic, where the cars exploded.
The cargo of oil that derailed in Lac Mégantic came from the North Dakota shale deposits. Since oil pipelines aren’t completed yet for these deposits, the oil companies use tank car transportation through the U.S. and Canada, lines that go right through cities. The oil companies chose not to wait until the oil pipelines were complete to get their profitable oil to market.
Transporting oil is highly profitable. Burlington Northern and Santa Fe, controlled by billionaire Warren Buffet, transports a million barrels a day. The Canadian Pacific Railroad brags about transporting nineteen times more oil than it did in 2010.
These shipments are carried out under dangerous conditions. There were 112 oil spills on railroads in the U.S. between 2001 and 2012. Recently, two different trains derailed in two days near Lac Mégantic, with one spilling 3,400 gallons of fuel. A Lac Mégantic resident told the press about the poor condition and lack of maintenance on the tracks, which he called “loaded guns.” Railroads’ cutbacks have led to a reduction in inspectors and safety workers on the lines.
The conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after comparing the devastated city to a “war zone,” said it would be “irresponsible to comment on the situation.” But there’s plenty to be said about government responsibility. Accidents continue, but the Canadian government does little to restrict the companies. Companies are allowed to regulate themselves. The government spends only a paltry three million dollars on rail safety, while the number of rail shipments has surged. Local governments and fire departments aren’t told about train schedules and what is being shipped. For example, two days after the explosion, the Montreal Maine and Atlantic Railway still hadn’t said exactly what petroleum products were on the train.
Corporate and government complicity and negligence will lead to more such catastrophes. The railroad and oil companies profit by endangering the population.
Jul 22, 2013
The following article is translated from the July 12 edition of Lutte Ouvrière [Workers Struggle], the newspaper of the organization of French revolutionary Trotskyists of the same name.
Two years ago the working people of Egypt drove out General Mubarak, who had imposed his dictatorship over the country for 30 years. Now, a second, more powerful wave of protests has occurred. Perhaps 15 to 20 million Egyptians demonstrated, a considerable number in a country of 83 million people.
The army general staff immediately intervened, deciding to kick out the new president, Mohamed Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Showing its true face, the army deliberately shot at a crowd of Muslim Brotherhood supporters, killing more than 50.
Morsi came to power in an election, but he set up a regime every bit as harsh and undemocratic as Mubarak’s. This regime was especially harsh to the poor population and women, the immense majority of Egyptians. Morsi’s regime didn’t have a lot of support, as the immense size of the crowds of protesters against him showed.
The representatives of the great powers, including Obama for the United States, pretended to be concerned by the army’s decision to overthrow an elected government. In fact, the attitude of the Egyptian army doesn’t bother U.S. rulers. They have the means to control it and dictate its choices. The army is financed in great part by the U.S., and its officers were trained at U.S. military academies. The Egyptian army has long been a mainstay of U.S. policy in the Middle East.
What the U.S. worried about were the tens of millions of Egyptian men and women who don’t accept the choice coming out of last year’s election in June 2012, and who, having experienced the upheavals, know how to say, “No, this isn’t what we want!”
The protesters weren’t content to wait for the next election date set by the men in power. The protesters have spoken directly and loudly about what they no longer want, taking themselves again to the streets. And by these actions, they reaffirmed what they want: freedom, of course, but also work and bread.
Some in Egypt, at least those whose views are conveyed by the media here, present the Egyptian army as a shield, as the guarantor of the popular will and as the instrument that will allow the satisfaction of working people’s demands.
We don’t know exactly what the reality is in Egypt and in particular, how and in what direction popular opinion is evolving. But to believe, or to suggest, that others ought to believe that the army and its officers can realize the aspirations of millions of protesters is to have illusions and to sow illusions. The consequences could be tragic.
Certainly, the Egyptian army is a conscript army, which organizes in its midst several hundred thousand men, who have close ties with the population. This makes the army rank and file highly sensitive to popular wishes.
But it isn’t this part of the army that decided. The officer caste decided, a caste that over the generations has had instilled in it a profound scorn for popular aspirations. The laboring classes can’t expect a thing from them.
In order for the aspirations of working people to be realized, in Egypt as elsewhere, there must be militants, numerous and experienced, capable of offering revolutionary perspectives to the working class, perspectives based on the interests of the working class, not in the wake of one group or another of pretended supreme saviors.
Apparently, militants with such perspectives don’t exist in Egypt – at least not in large numbers. But it’s not impossible that some could be produced by events like this.
Jul 22, 2013
Daniel Ellsberg has written a letter to the Washington Post defending Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who recently exposed the massive electronic spying the government is carrying out against everyone in the country: “Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.”
In 1971 Ellsberg, a military analyst working on government contract for the RAND Corporation, leaked the so-called Pentagon Papers to the press that exposed the lies top government and military officials had told for years to justify the Viet Nam War. He fought the charges the government brought against him and they were eventually dismissed.
Ellsberg chose to stand his ground and stay in a country where the ruling class had been shaken and forced to make changes by the rebellion of millions of black people against the racism of this society. Tens of millions had demonstrated against the Viet Nam War. And thousands of U.S. troops were resisting and rebelling in various ways within the military against both racism and the war.
Ellsberg writes that in 1971, “I was, like Snowden now, a ‘fugitive from justice.’ Yet when I surrendered to arrest.... I was released on my own recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war....”
Ellsberg insisted in his letter, “There is zero chance that he [Snowden] would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail... he would almost certainly be confined in total isolation.... Nothing worthwhile would be served, in my opinion, by Snowden voluntarily surrendering to U.S. authorities given the current state of the law.”
“I hope that he finds a haven, as safe as possible, from kidnapping or assassination by U.S. Special Operations forces, preferably where he can speak freely.”
Ellsberg is not overstating the situation when he speaks about the possibility of the government assassinating Snowden. To understand how much more severe the situation is today, consider this: In 1973, a judge dismissed the charges against Ellsberg because of misconduct and unauthorized government wiretapping of his phone. Today, Snowden is being pursued by the government for revealing that the government is wiretapping everyone in the country!
Jul 22, 2013
Happiness researchers at the London School of Economics surveyed more than 10,000 people to verify scientifically what workers already know – being at work makes people MISERABLE!
By comparison, people reported being much happier when they were paying bills, stuck in traffic, doing housework or cleaning up behind a sick relative. The ONLY activity people hated more than being at work was vomiting themselves and being sick in bed!
Jul 22, 2013
The business magazine Forbes said about the American Airlines bankruptcy, “This bankruptcy is quite unusual in that all creditors, both secured and unsecured, are slated to be paid in full.” In fact, this is not quite true. Some of the small bond holders panicked about getting money back from American in bankruptcy and so sold their bonds cheaply to wealthy hedge funds. Now these hedge funds will get 100% of the bonds’ value, while those small bond holders lost big time. But the banks did just fine.
On the other hand, the company cut the labor costs of mechanics and baggage handlers by 17.5%. Much of this came from workers thrown out of work and pushed into buyouts that will leave them impoverished.
Workers at American Eagle, the low wage subsidiary, lost a week’s vacation and had their overtime premium cut. American Airlines flight attendants and pilots suffered similar cuts.
It’s very clear: The purpose of this bankruptcy was to use the court system to make deep cuts in the workers’ standard of living, while fully protecting the wealthy creditors. Mission accomplished – for them.
Jul 22, 2013
On June 13, 1903, Henry Ford created the Ford Motor Company. The grandson of Irish emigrants who left during the potato famine of 1846-47, the son of farmers, Ford was a 40-year-old mechanic in 1903. He had worked as a steam machine repairman for Westinghouse and then as an engineer for Thomas Edison’s electric company in Detroit.
He wanted to create automobiles, horseless cars that would run on gasoline. He worked on a number of projects, including race cars. In 1903, he finished designing a model for the public. He filed the patents and raised money to create his auto company in Detroit. By 1906, he took full control, becoming the company head. The Ford Motor Company quickly began to sell automobiles throughout the world and became one of the most profitable corporations in the world.
In 1908, with the Model T, Henry Ford established the production system and work relationships that would bear his name: Fordism. Along with the division of labor and division of jobs, following the methods of Frederick Taylor, he introduced the standardization of parts and the conveyor belt. He had seen the conveyor belt in the Chicago meat packing houses. It was the beginning of assembly line work, with all that meant in terms of repetitive motion and exhausting speed. The time it took to build one Model T went down from six hours of labor to an hour and a half. Productivity certainly grew, but workers fled from this hard labor. In 1913, labor turnover was 400% a year, meaning every three months Ford had to replace his entire assembly line work force.
When workers tried to organize in his factories, Ford came up with a new pay system. Some people claimed his system made him a “social” boss. He offered five dollars a day, double the average pay before, and he established company-built houses for “loyal” workers. Their regular attendance and discipline allowed him to increase productivity. Since these workers had higher than average pay, Ford bragged that his workers soon would become buyers of the cars they produced. In theory, such sales would avoid the never-ending capitalist risk of overproduction. In reality, Henry Ford was as dependent as any other company on the market. This problem became clearer when the Depression broke out in 1929. Ford carried out mass layoffs of the workers he claimed he was so proud of.
Not only was Ford a boss eager for gain and hostile to unions, he was also a militant anti-Semite. In his books and articles, Ford denounced the “international Jewish conspiracy,” giving Hitler ammunition for his anti-Semitic theories. And Ford consciously set black workers and white workers to compete against each other.
This violent boss established a massive permanent security force, both inside and outside his factories. His spies checked to see if the workers spent their wages on alcohol or gambling. When unemployed workers marched in 1932 demanding jobs and winter relief payments, Ford’s goons used flame throwers and sub-machine guns. Five protesters were killed and 20 wounded. In 1937, organizers for the new auto workers union were beaten by Ford’s goons for trying to distribute leaflets on the bridge going to the Ford Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan. The union may have gotten the approval of the mayor of Dearborn for this distribution. But it won no approval from Henry Ford, the true master of the city.
Ford dug in his heels in the face of the great wave of struggles and sit down strikes in the factories during 1936 and 1937. It took a massive strike of ten days in 1941 at the Ford Rouge complex to force Ford finally to accept the existence of the union in his shops. This was on the eve of the entry of the U.S. into World War II.
Thanks to the war, full employment returned, but wages weren’t any higher at Ford than elsewhere. Ford made a complete about-turn, only hiring unionized workers. Thanks to that maneuver, he grabbed enormous government war orders. Ford’s real “social” policy was making profits. And he quickly established a “partnership” with the then nascent union bureaucracy that has continued to this day.
Jul 22, 2013
Thanks to some determined Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission mechanics, today’s water crisis has apparently been “averted.” Last Tuesday the water commission had warned that more than a hundred thousand people in southern Prince Georges County, next to Washington, D.C., were going to be without water, thanks to a water main break. Two determined mechanics spent 14 hours in a hole to make a water valve come unstuck, ending the crisis for Prince Georges County residents and businesses. This crisis.
But many of the largest pipes in the region were installed 100 years ago. They desperately need replacement. (It is said there is at least a break a day in the Washington area water system.)
This crisis has only been postponed to a later day.
Jul 22, 2013
In 1955, the brutal racist murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi shocked the world. When this 14-year-old black child’s body was retrieved from the Tallahatchie River, his head was damaged, his eye dislodged, there was a gunshot wound to his head, and a 70-pound weight hung around his neck with barbed wire.
Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley, insisted on an open casket and a public funeral in Chicago. She said: “There was just no way I could describe what was in that box. No way. And I just wanted the world to see.”
Emmett Till was spending the summer with his uncle and cousins in Mississippi. After a day working in the cotton fields, Emmett and other teens went to the store to buy candy. In the store, Emmett was accused of whistling at the white woman working behind the counter.
A week later the woman’s husband and others kidnapped Emmett from his uncle’s home. According to a Look magazine interview with the killers published in 1956, they said they pistol whipped him and they “shot him by the river and weighted his body.” An all-white jury found them not guilty.
Emmett Till was not the only black person to face racist violence in Mississippi. By 1955, there had been 500 black people terrorized and murdered by white mobs in Mississippi since 1882, when lynching records began.
But for many in the black community, the moment of decision to act came with the August 1955 lynching of this 14-year-old.
Myrlie Evers, the wife and later widow of Medgar Evers, said this case shook “the foundations of Mississippi ...because it said not even a child was safe from racism and bigotry and death.”
The terrible miscarriage of justice in the case declared an open season on young black men. They could be tortured, beaten, shot and killed without repercussions.
The case showed the black population that the court and laws were incapable and unwilling to protect the black population from racist violence. Blacks came to see they had to go outside the system to defend themselves against racism and the system that supported it.
Rosa Parks stated in a later interview that on December 1, 1955 when she refused to move to the rear of the bus, “I thought of Emmett Till and I just couldn’t go back.”
The murder of Trayvon Martin today serves to show to this generation that they also have to go outside the system to defend themselves against racism and the system that still supports it.
Jul 22, 2013
Trayvon Martin is this generation's Emmett Till, the proof that it is still a racist society, that there is still an “open season” on young black men.
When George Zimmerman first saw him, Trayvon was returning to his father's home after buying an iced tea at a nearby store. No one dared to claim otherwise.
Zimmerman initiated the confrontation. He was the one who followed Trayvon in his car. Zimmerman was told by the police dispatcher NOT to follow Trayvon. He was told by the police NOT to get out of his car. Yet he did both of those things. And he did it with a gun.
When the confrontation that Zimmerman started was over, Trayvon Martin was dead. In a justice system untainted by racism, those undisputed facts would be enough to convict.
The defense claimed that Trayvon Martin fought with Zimmerman. Even if it were true, so what? Trayvon was the one being stalked, he was the one faced by a man with a gun.
If someone stalked you, came on you with a gun, wouldn't you fight to defend your life?
The only thing Trayvon Martin did wrong was to think he could walk down the street in a society so racist that a young black man walking back from a store could be gunned down like a dog; a society so racist that the police would support his killer; a society so racist that a jury of five white women and one Hispanic woman would unanimously find his killer “not guilty.”
In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was abducted and killed by two white men supposedly because he looked the wrong way at a white woman. Those two white men were also found “not guilty” by an all-white jury.
Fifty-eight years later, some details have changed. But the “justice” system is still violently racist.
People who let themselves be blinded by racism may excuse the murder of Trayvon Martin. A white or Hispanic worker who does that is a fool, helping to reinforce the ditch that racism has cut in the working class.
Jul 22, 2013
Los Angeles is no different than Florida, which acquitted Zimmerman.
On March 16, 1991, Latasha Harlins was killed by a store owner in Los Angeles. Harlins was black; the store owner, Soon Ja Du, was a Korean-American.
Harlins was in the store to purchase a bottle of orange juice. The store owner decided that Harlins would steal the juice and started to manhandle Harlins. Harlins freed herself, put the bottle on the counter and attempted to leave the store. The store owner shot Harlins in the back of her head as she was leaving. Harlins died with $2 in her hand. She was 15 years old.
The jury found the store owner guilty of voluntary manslaughter, which carried a maximum sentence of 16 years in prison at the time. The judge, however, disagreed with the jury – giving the murderer only five years of probation.
The judge explained: “Did Mrs. Du react inappropriately? Absolutely. But was that reaction understandable? I think that it was.”
So, according to the judge, when a black person is killed, the action is “understandable.”
This killing happened just two weeks after four police officers brutally beat Rodney King. It was violence like this against black people that led to an uprising in Los Angeles in 1992.