Rage in Urban America

Powder Keg: the Rage in Urban America

 

Counterpunch, Sept 2, 2016

What is happening in America? The city of Milwaukee in the State of Wisconsin was convulsed in violence after the fatal shooting of a black man by police officers on August 13. The riot went on for two days.

Milwaukee is a powder keg. Long histories of racism combined with incidents of police shooting held the city on edge. “It’s a series of things that have happened over a period of time,” said Sharlen Moore, who runs Urban Underground. “And right now you shake a soda bottle and you open the top and it explodes. This is what it is.”

 

Moore’s statement from 2016 echoes that of writer James Baldwin’s declaration from 1960. In the heart of urban poverty in America, wrote Baldwin, rage festers. Tension increases and the police appear more and more like an occupying army. “One day, to everyone’s astonishment,” wrote Baldwin, “someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up.” A riot ensues. “Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed,” Baldwin noted, “editorials, speeches and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men.”

 

At 3.30 p.m., Milwaukee police stopped a car with two young black men, who, the officers later said, appeared to be suspicious. Twenty seconds into the traffic stop, one of the young men, Sylville Smith, was shot in the chest and arms. The other man was arrested. Smith is one of the 600 Americans killed by the police so far this year. Last year, 990 people were shot dead by the police.

 

The names of police officers who have killed people, many of them disproportionately black men, are worn like a talisman by protesters: Darren Wilson, Timothy Loehmann and Jason van Dyke. The police have long accepted that they are above the law, The recent high-profile videotaped police killings where officers get away with murder have emboldened police officers across the country in their belief that their job description includes serving as judge, jury and executioner no matter how slight, real or imagined the infraction.

 

Unemployment rates are hard to calculate here. Schools are in great distress. Violence is under the surface. A public policy agenda hell-bent on elite wealth accumulation at the expense of the majority poor has politicised a defiant generation whose brand of resistance insists that the criminal justice system will no longer have the last say.

 

With the collapse of the economy came a transformation of the state. The main institution that interacts with the community is the police. They do not help people solve their everyday problems.

 

The riots over Smith’s death follow major protests that took place after the shooting by the police of Dontre Hamilton in 2014. Hamilton, who suffered from mental illness, was shot 14 times by a police officer. He was not charged with murder. He was merely dismissed from his job. It was a police officer with a gun rather than a social worker that came to tend to Hamilton. After Hamilton’s death, protests took hold of the city. These demonstrations included families frustrated over the everyday disrespect they faced from the police and the close to 2,000 high school students who walked out of school onto the streets out of solidarity with Hamilton.

 

“We are summoned here,” Reverend Darius Butler of the Tabernacle Baptist Community Church said at a protest in Milwaukee, “because of America’s unfinished business with respect to its citizens of African descent.”

 

Meanwhile, as if to add insult to injury, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump came to a mostly white community to berate the black community. “Those peddling the narrative of cops as a racist force in our society, a narrative supported with a nod by my opponent [Hillary Clinton],” Trump said, “share directly in the responsibility for the unrest in Milwaukee and many other places within our country.” Trump seemed to want to use the unrest to underline his position on “law and order”. It is toughness that is his policy—more police and more jails. Trump poked directly at the raw nerves in Milwaukee.

 

During the 1964 elections, Governor George Wallace of Alabama ran for president on a racist ticket. He went on a tour of the northern States, including Wisconsin, where he was warmly received in sections of the State. Debates in Milwaukee at that time over civil rights brought this confirmed racist to campaign against “racial integration”. Wallace went to the south side of Milwaukee and spoke on behalf of segregation. Two African Americans were in the hall. When the national anthem played, they did not get up, and one of the other speakers pointed to them. “Send them back to Africa,” someone shouted. One of Wallace’s supporters had the microphone. He said of African Americans: “They beat up old ladies, they rape our women folk. How long can we tolerate this?” It was incendiary rhetoric. It replicates in its particulars the events of Trump rallies. Little seems to have changed.

 

Trump’s opponent, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, straddles the Black Lives Matter sentiment and her support for “law and order”. This is an impossible position to take, but it is familiar to the Clintons. When Bill Clinton was the President, he pushed a draconian Crime Bill in 1992 alongside an end to welfare. There was harshness here. But Bill Clinton never paid for it…

 

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Правительство США жестоко нарушало мои права человека при проведении кампании террора, которая заставила меня покинуть свою родину и получить политическое убежище в СССР. См. книгу «Безмолвный террор — История политических гонений на семью в США» — «Silent Terror: One family’s history of political persecution in the United States» — http://arnoldlockshin.wordpress.com

Правительство США еще нарушает мои права, в течении более 12 лет отказывается от выплаты причитающейся мне пенсии по старости. Властители США воруют пенсию!! Всё это — ещё доказательство, что настоящий действующий закон в США — Закон джунглей.

ФСБ — Федеральная служба «безопасности» России — вслед за позорным, предавшим страну предшественником КГБ, выполняет приказы секретного, кровавого хозяина (boss) — американского ЦРУ (CIA). Среди таких «задач» — запретить меня выступать в СМИ и не пропускать отправленных мне комментариев. А это далеко не всё…

Арнольд Локшин, политэмигрант из США

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