Views in brief

April 10, 2012

Arrested for protesting police brutality

THIS LAST Saturday, I made the mistake of providing the wrong location for a protest against the police killing of Chicago resident Rekia Boyd to my friend Latrel. My mistake had serious consequences.

I told Latrel that the protest would be at Daley Plaza, where I went, only to find that I had the wrong location. Instead of a protest, it was the Chicago Nowruz festival and parade. There was a diverse crowd in attendance, including Korean, Pakistani, Black and Latino people. After calling to get the correct location of the protest, I realized that I did not have Latrel's phone number, so that I could give him the correct location.

Latrel came to Daley Plaza with a group of friends from my neighborhood of Englewood, and almost immediately, he and his friend Michael were pulled out of the crowd by a Chicago police officer and hauled to a police station. Latrel was lucky to be held "only" for five and a half hours. He was released with no charge and no paperwork. He said:

I was detained under a false accusation. When the sergeant asked the arresting officers where the paperwork was, they told him they had misplaced the paperwork, but that they had grabbed me because I was "obstructing justice."

I feel they said obstruction of justice because they didn't have any proper charge for arresting me. That was a bunch of bullshit. As I was going through the procedure, I felt as though I had committed a crime, and that I was a slave.

I was supporting a march for Rekia Boyd and Trayvon Martin. I was harassed by the policeman because I came out of the community to show support for each of the families [of police brutality victims], and then I didn't get a chance to do that. We are all seen as one when we are seen as a threat. It's bad when we come to support this, and then we are looked at as gangbangers--when the biggest gangbangers are the police and the Guardian Angels.

Michael, Latrel's friend, had an outstanding warrant out and was held for 72 hours and taken to another police station.

Interestingly, the police didn't charge Michael or even look up his warrant initially. Latrel said that when the officer grabbed him, he told the officer, "I'm here to protest the killing of Rekia Boyd and Travon Martin." According to Latrel, the officer replied, "The only thing you'll be doing is sitting your Black ass in a jail cell...Your ass will not be doing any protesting or marching for no one today. Only marching you'll be doing is from behind a cell."

Latrel said that he had to go to another location from the police station to retrieve his wallet, and found out that his wallet had been robbed of $26--which the police somehow had no record of. He explained:

While I was detained, my neighbor had to bail me out, and then you have to pay them back for bail and gas. Through the whole procedure, I was incarcerated five and a half hours in a cell, and through a whole day, I lost everything and still I don't t understand why I had to pay a bond to get out for a false accusation. I feel that us normal people should have as many rights as the police--because if we have no rights, why was the Constitution written up? Why can't we show support when all the violent crime is happening right in front of us?

I have learned the hard lesson of being careful to get the right location of protests for my friends and those who are interested in attending a protest when they are likely to be targeted for their race. My friend Latrel is a bit wary of participating in future protests, but I hope to make it up to him.
Craig Althage, Chicago

An addition to the "white privilege" debate

IN RESPONSE to "How not to fight racism": I would like to encourage people to look at the work of Theodore W. Allen, an anti-white supremacist working-class intellectual and activist who, beginning in 1965, did pioneering research and analysis on "white" privilege and who, in 1994 and 1997, authored the two-volume The Invention of the White Race, published by Verso.

Allen argues that a system of "white race" privileges was created and maintained by the ruling class in their own class interest, and that these "white race" privileges are not "benefits" for workers. He argues that these "white race" privileges are against working-class interests. This is far different than the position that is being attacked.

In particular, I would like to encourage people to look at my article, "The Developing Conjuncture and Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy." That article, and many other pieces by and about Allen, can be found on my website.

In solidarity,
Jeffrey B. Perry, Westwood, N.J.

Another giveaway in San Diego

THE SAN Diego Convention Center is a national leader, whose success is studied by other convention centers all over the country. No matter, the San Diego City Council decided that a change was needed, and voted to hand over control of long-term sales and marketing to the San Diego ConVis (Convention and Visitors Bureau), an organization controlled by hoteliers.

The plan for the change came from Republican mayor Jerry Sanders, and was approved only three days later by the majority Democratic City Council. The contract, which is worth $3.1 million per year, was set for 30 years. It includes no performance goals and was approved without even the formality of studies or predictions.

With control over bookings, the hoteliers can direct groups away from the Convention Center to their hotels. "In yet another backroom deal at City Hall, the Mayor has given away control of our Convention Center to the hotel industry at the expense of workers, taxpayers, and public," said Graham Forbes, Senior Researcher of UNITE HERE Local 30, which represents San Diego hotel workers.

The hoteliers said at the City Council meeting that giving control to ConVis would end duplication of efforts because ConVis and the Convention Center both promote San Diego independently. But when it comes to their organizations, they don't care about duplication, or else they would get rid of the separate but similar ConVis and TMD (Tourism Marketing District).

They say they are against bureaucracy, but their own organizations are bureaucratic--the TMD even makes "Five Year Plans." They say ConVis would do a better job, but ConVis used to run the sales and marketing of the Convention Center--and was stripped of that function in disgrace.

This was nothing but a giveaway to the hoteliers, and in fact it was quid pro quo to get them to support another giveaway, the Convention Center expansion plan. The expansion will be a huge windfall for the downtown hotels, but those hotels far away from the center don¹t have much to gain, and will get taxed to raise the money for the expansion.

Apparently, the City decided to buy the support of those hoteliers with the ConVis
deal--indeed, at the meeting the beaming owner of the La Jolla Marriott announced that he now saw fit to vote for the expansion.

When the big hoteliers say "jump," the city says, "How high?" When it comes to servicing the capitalists, there is no end to their creativity and determination.
David Bester, San Diego, Calif.

The Capitol and capitalism

This letter contains spoilers for The Hunger Games.

IN RESPONSE to "Resisting the rule of Capitol": I loved Elizabeth Wrigley-Field's review of The Hunger Games. Other strong points of the movie include the multiracial composition of Capitol residents.

This reflects accurately how capitalism is most flexible in developing a multicultural approach when it needs to adapt. Our culture has its own wealthy minorities and those who side with imperialism. I could easily see Condoleezza Rice and Clarence Thomas making a cameo appearance in the film as Capitol spectators!

Also, as Wrigley-Field points out, in District 11, there are white residents, which reminds me of the tenant farmers who sometimes broke through racism to work in solidarity with African American slaves. Under capitalism, the only whites who benefit from racism are wealthy ones. These are less obvious but important details in conveying the function of capitalism.

By far the best scenes in the film are the juxtaposition of Rue's burial by Katniss and the revolt in District 11. This differs somewhat from the events in the books time-wise, but is a huge improvement in terms of merging how a singular event can often tap into already forming ties of resistance.

The final strong point of the movie and the books is their exploration of self-imposed oppression, showing how ideology works. Most of the time, the Capitol doesn't need to use direct force, because district residents are following along with the status quo. Yet the force is always there and starts to appear slowly as rebellion ensues. Also, it's important to note how some districts are given more privileges than others, while all districts are kept separate from each other. No one really knows what is going on in the other districts.

This is exactly how it works today in the U.S. People become caught up in district identity rather than seeing the big picture, as in their fascination with the Games. The pragmatic focus on "survival" permeates both the Games and everyday life in the poorer districts, illustrating the severe limitations of "making it through the day." It's only when resistance begins and pragmatism ends that we can start to have some real hope.
Faith Agostinone, Waukegan, Ill.