While it has brought needed attention to a national audience about the issue of police brutality that the black community has known about since slavery, recently #BlackLivesMatter has upset it’s allies in the Democratic party by interrupting Bernie Sanders at an event in Seattle celebrating the anniversary of Medicare and Social Security (and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley at Netroots Nation and Bernie Sanders’ response–I thought Jose Antonio Vargas’ questions were tough until I heard Tia Oso!)
But it is the fact that Black Lives Matter interrupted Sanders that has gotten the most press.
Here is Daunasia Yancey of BLM Boston speaking about Hillary Clinton’s record and why BLM activists are interrupting Democratic “allies” first instead of the criticism heard about why they are not going after Republicans
AMY GOODMAN: And in what capacity was she responsible? Talk about her history, how you hold her responsible.
DAUNASIA YANCEY: Well, she advocated for, as FLOTUS and as senator, for policies that have increased the penalties for minor drug offenses and things like that. Back in ’94, there was $17 billion divested from HUD, from public housing, and $19 billion put into prison construction. And so, with situations like that, that we’ve seen her publicly support, we really wanted to hear from her what has changed in her that she would not continue to promote practices like that.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And how do you respond to folks who say that, well, the Black Lives Matter now has been confronting several Democratic candidates, but the Republican candidates, of which there are many more, have largely been so far unscathed on the question of answering their policy issues in terms of the black community and of police violence and on mass incarceration?
DAUNASIA YANCEY: Yeah. But, well, every presidential candidate should expect to hear from us and expect to be held accountable. It’s actually a practice called “power mapping,” where it’s similar to lobbying, where you actually map who’s closest to you on the issue and go to those folks first in order to force them to articulate their stance and then hold them accountable to it. So this movement is very strategic, and that’s what we’ve been doing.
Here is a discussion of Black Lives Matter from Left Forum. It is an important discussion. (Sorry I cannot embed it)
What seems to be forgotten is the history of protest in the fight for civil rights.
Today, the March on Washington is remembered as a historic event where people gathered peacefully and heard speeches about civil rights. Martin Luther King is almost entirely remembered for his “I Have a Dream” speech.
MLK’s #IHaveADream speech was a turning point in the fight for civil rights, bringing us closer to equality for all. pic.twitter.com/beaS8Fqyx4
— Sen. Debbie Stabenow (@SenStabenow) August 28, 2015
But what has not been a legacy of the march is the correlation to Black Lives Matter interrupting their “allies” today, considering that the March as well was aimed at the Democratic President who had spoken favorably for civil rights in June of that year, sent federal troops to protect James Meredith as he faced rioters at the University of Mississippi. Two people were killed and more than 300 wounded, including 1/3 of the US Marshals. So Kennedy’s actions on civil rights, while not enough and certainly criticized by many, was to an extent an ally of the cause and it was seen as impolite to lead a march in Washington calling for him to do more.
LBJ, who actually got the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Acts passed, was angry when Martin Luther King turned against the Vietnam War in 1967. King gave the speech against the war in Vietnam twice that I know of and have heard, April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church, and April 30, 1967 as a Sunday sermon (audio).
His friends advised him against giving the speech and antagonizing an ally in the fight for civil rights, President Johnson
One of his great advisers and great admirers, Stanley Levison, who was always with Dr. King in his corner, was against Martin giving this speech. So practically everybody in his inner circle was against him giving it – one, because they knew the kind of pushback he was going to get. And secondly, so many civil rights leaders were opposed to him giving it because LBJ had been the best president to black people on civil rights. He passed the Voting Rights Act. He passed the Civil Rights Act. And so the question was, Martin, why would you antagonize the president who has been our friend?
Martin Luther King brilliantly linked civil rights, economic justice and fighting imperialism and war as 3 parts of the same fight. The fight for civil rights was useless without fixing the economic inequality that was a legacy of institutional racism as King famously asked
“What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”
“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums”
The mainstream press viciously attacked King for speaking out against the war, and said he tarnished his role as a civil rights leader. The New York Times, Washington Post and more than 160 other papers wrote against King’s speech against the war.
Speaking on April 30, 1967 here was King’s response to the media that attacked him for his April 4th speech against the Vietnam War
They applauded us in the sit-in movement–we non-violently decided to sit in at lunch counters. The applauded us on the Freedom Rides when we accepted blows without retaliation. They praised us in Albany and Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. Oh, the press was so noble in its applause, and so noble in its praise when I was saying, Be non-violent toward Bull Connor;when I was saying, Be non-violent toward [Selma, Alabama segregationist sheriff] Jim Clark. There’s something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, Be non-violent toward Jim Clark, but will curse and damn you when you say, “Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children. There’s something wrong with that press!
Just as we formerly pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,” we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems. We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham.
We urge the public to continue to show restraint should the demonstrations continue, and the law enforcement official to remain calm and continue to protect our city from violence.
We further strongly urge our own Negro community to withdraw support from these demonstrations, and to unite locally in working peacefully for a better Birmingham.
I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.
I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place In Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through an these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.
As in so many past experiences, our hopes bad been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community.
You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.
The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant ‘Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society
when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may won ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
Malcolm X was even tougher on the civil rights leaders and on politicians and the March on Washington which he criticized as tamed down by white leaders
delivering his “Message to the Grass Roots” speech in November of 1963, less than three months after the March on Washington. In that same speech, he goes on to criticize the, quote, “Big Six,” the six leading civil rights organizers at the time: Martin Luther King, James Farmer, John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young.
This is what they did with the March on Washington. They joined it. They didn’t integrate it; they infiltrated it. They joined it, became a part of it, took it over. And as they took it over, it lost its militancy. They ceased to be angry. They ceased to be hot. They ceased to be uncompromising. Why, it even ceased to be a march. It became a picnic
Black Agenda Report wrote about how Malcolm X would denounce those black leaders today who have sided with capitalist “bloodsuckers” and has asked where Black Lives Matter criticism of our current leaders, just like Malcolm X would do, is.
Last month folks whom Alicia Garza described as “part of our team” disrupted two minor white male candidates at NetRootsNation, the annual networking event for paid and wannabe paid Democratic party activists, embarrassing them with demands over structural racism and “say her name”. If they were positioning themselves for careers inside the far-flung Democratic party apparatus, it was a smart move, because Hillary wasn’t there. Hence they got noticed in that crowd of Democrat operatives without antagonizing the people with the real money and connections.
still, the protests worked
This was Bernie Sanders after Black Lives Matter interrupted him.
Statement on Racial Justice
Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Samuel DuBose. We know their names. Each of them died unarmed at the hands of police officers or in police custody. The chants are growing louder. People are angry and they have a right to be angry.
Today BLM Seattle, with the support of other Black organizers and non-Black allies and accomplices, held Bernie Sanders publicly accountable for his lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and his blatantly silencing response to the #SayHerName #IfIDieInPoliceCustody action that took place at Netroots this year.
Bernie’s arrival in Seattle is largely significant in the context of the state of emergency Black lives are in locally as well as across America. The Seattle Police Department has been under federal consent decree for the last three years and has been continually plagued by use-of-force violations and racist scandals amongst their rank and file. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has refused to push any reform measures for police accountability, not even the numerous recommendations of his self-appointed Community Police Commission. The Seattle School District suspends Black students at a rate six times higher than their white counterparts, feeding Black children into the school-to-prison pipeline. King County has fought hard to push through a plan to build a $210 million new youth jail to imprison these children, amid intense community criticism and dissent. The Central District, a historically Black neighborhood in Seattle, has undergone rapid gentrification over the past few decades, with Black people being displaced from the only neighborhood that we could legally live in until just years ago. While white men profit off of the legalization of marijuana, our prisons are still filled with Black people who are over-incarcerated for drug offenses.
This city is filled with white progressives, which is why Bernie Sanders’ camp was obviously expecting a friendly and consenting audience for today’s campaign visit. The problem with Sanders’, and with white Seattle progressives in general, is that they are utterly and totally useless (when not outright harmful) in terms of the fight for Black lives. While we are drowning in their liberal rhetoric, we have yet to see them support Black grassroots movements or take on any measure of risk and responsibility for ending the tyranny of white supremacy in our country and in our city. This willful passivity while claiming solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement in an effort to be relevant is over. White progressive Seattle and Bernie Sanders cannot call themselves liberals while they participate in the racist system that claims Black lives. Bernie Sanders will not continue to call himself a man of the people, while ignoring the plight of Black people.
Keep up the protests, and don’t forget the leaders in power, even when they do what we want. If we let the pressure fade they will go back to ignoring us.
Black Lives Matter Seattle protests timeline
A few articles discussing the Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton protests
Black Agenda Report on BLM and Hillary Clinton
BAR on Bernie and Netroots
BAR on disruption and collaboration