Kasama received this debate unfolding within the movement in Atlanta. It mirrors debates happening everywhere: are NGO assumptions about organizing a basis upon which Occupy should continue itself? Are the police part of the 99%? Can collaborating with them help occupy? Take Back the Block offers a thorough and resounding “NO.”
“OOHA’s reliance on this model, most importantly, leaves behind so many people from dispossessed black and brown communities. Narrating these stories perpetuates a culture of victimization – not a culture of collective resistance. The message is always, “I did everything right, I was an upstanding member of society and then extenuating circumstances hit and I am in deep water.” The underlying logic: “good” people deserve housing- it is counter to the society we are fighting for that housing is a privilege, not a basic necessity that we must provide for each other. It is important that OOHA does more than proclaim that housing is a basic human right; w must always demonstrate that in our work as well. The “exceptionalism” of each case doesn’t demonstrate that.
A culture of collective resistance would be one which stresses the agency of communities to actively fight against the banks, the state that bailed them out while our bank accounts hit negative, and the police who enforce their will. When we victimize ourselves and then rely on enemy forces we are immediately weakening our position as active agents against our own oppression.”
OOHA DEFENDS THE COPS; WE DO NOT
The intention of this article is both to clarify our position on the police, and to engage in principled dialogue about tactics and strategy in the anti-eviction movement. Take Back the Block realizes that we have made some of the same mistakes that we now see in the movement. In order to build a strong movement, we must constantly examine ourselves and others, pushing each other forward always.
“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains,” wrote Rosa Luxemburg. The true nature of police, the enforcer of chains, is less clear for the majority of the population during low movement times. This has never been the case for black men, immigrants and homeless people who feel the clarity, the mandate of the cops every day through bruises on their bodies and the threat or experience of imprisonment. This wall was broken for a few months when a mostly white, disillusioned section of the population poured into underused parks that were quickly surrounded by police in cars, on motorcycles, on bikes and horses, with the single intent of crushing peaceful gatherings and encampments. While the police trampled on tents, waving batons and laughing at us for demanding jobs and healthcare, they left shoppers alone who were camped out on sidewalks all day and night to buy discount deals on Black Friday. The police force under the orders of the mayors could not maintain the façade of contradiction: their essential role is to keep us subjugated and intimidated and to protect the rule of the rich (despite the often referenced basic duties of police, like traffic control).
While the newly active people in Occupy were painfully discovering the role of police, the Atlanta area police continued their killing spree of unarmed black youth. This led to frequent marches steaming with rage, pouring into the streets of downtown Atlanta, with chants ranging from “Fuck the police” to “Hey pigs, what do you say, how many kids have you killed today?!”. Joetavius Stafford, a 17-year-old high school student who was gunned down by police officers in a MARTA station on his way home from homecoming, was on everyone’s minds. Then there was Ariston Waiters, another unarmed youth, who was murdered by a police officer behind a shed, out of sight from witnesses. His family began to attend marches and rallies calling for justice, which they continue to do today, unwilling to be forgotten as another casualty of white supremacy. Personal experiences were creating an understanding across racial and class lines, obliging solidarity between the more privileged occupiers who were experiencing police repression for the first time and those that experience police terror daily.
Things in Atlanta exploded even more when news of Trayvon Martin’s murder reached the city. The Atlanta public packed out rallies again, speaking out against racism and police brutality. During these months, many Atlantans were openly disillusioned with the APD and the institution of policing. Though the diagnosis and solutions varied, many people were taking a stand. Some were standing up against police brutality or the racism of individual officers, and others were against police altogether. As the last remnants of the parks were cleaned out by police and the steam evaporated from the national popular demonstrations, most of us were forced to go back to normalized routines. The “moment’ of exposed contradictions–the small rupture of clarity we experienced–is now just a memory and we are still trying to make sense of it. The APD successfully broke up resistance and continues its murderous practice. Even the mildest reforms to humor the public haven’t been taken–APD has not fired its officers who were directly implicated in the high-profile murders, nor stopped their practices of harassing and targeting black and brown people.
How does Occupy Our Homes Atlanta (OOHA) tell a different story? Read the rest of this entry »