Tag Archives: #BLM

Can we talk about ladder pulling for a minute?

In light of the Kevin Hart backlash. Or maybe the Joy Reed controversy. I do not refer here to the metaphysical roots of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. I refer, rather, to all those Irish white guys in America, whose ancestors were used as target practice by Tammany Hall Toughs in 19th century New York, who are now just fine, and from this position above a repressed and exploited past, say really bone-headed things like “All Lives Matter, #!” They climbed the ladder, and the first thing they did was pull it up so the next group could not. And I refer to all the other ladder pullers out there. You know who you are. Or, maybe, you don’t, and that could be a problem.
Continue reading Can we talk about ladder pulling for a minute?

Political costs of black lives not actually mattering

The real cost, the important cost, of black lives not mattering to the white establishment, the police, and others, is of course uncalled for injury and death of, mainly, young black men, but also anyone of color regardless of gender or age. But here I simply want to point out a different thing, which will circle back. These are my opinions as an observer of politics in Minnesota, and focus on the Twin Cities. I am not issuing an endorsement or a criticism of any individual in office, formerly in office, or running for office. Just pointing out some key realities and giving my perspective, which is in my view at least partly correct, but likely subject to revision.

Here is the typical scenario. Something happens that brings together a group of Minneapolis or other Twin Cities metro area police officers, and a person of color, probably a male of a certain age.

There is a certain chance the man has in fact done something to attract legitimate attention of the police, but maybe he hasn’t. Either way, he now has the attention of the police. This is scary for many police officers who happen to have a racist streak, because black people of all sorts are scary to many white people. Add to that the fear that naturally comes along with being a police officer, etc. etc., and you end up with the cops shooting the black person. It is even scarier for the person of color because he or she is now confronting a real chance of violence, injury, or death.

This is not good set of circumstances for a rational and productive conversation.

There are usually two other elements. One is the idea that the black person has a gun, or that it looks like the black person has a gun, or in some cases, the black person is “acting in a way consistent with having a gun,” a formulation recently seen in the media that would totally make me laugh if it wasn’t so utterly un-funny.

The other element is a video, either taken by a passer by, or a dash cam or cop cam video.

And, in the cases of these meet ups that we usually hear about, the cops end up shooting the citizen. Usually killing the citizen.

Now we come to the political elements.

First, acknowledge that a black person shooting at the cops with a gun is liable to get shot to death. But, a black person with a gun in his or her possession is likely not violating any laws. Minnesota is a conceal and carry state, and as a country, we are gun happy and love guns and everybody could have a gun, nearly. So putting the gun in the hands of a black person does not justify their death on the street. Keep that in mind.

When we have a police shooting in the news, there will be all sorts of information, often contradictory (and thus not that reliable) about what happened. Pretty quickly, the prospect of a video of some kind comes into play. Investigators justifiably want to keep the video under wraps for a period of time in order to not influence witnesses. Community members, the family of the slain, and others, justifiably want the video released. But, the people who have the video, such as the State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension or a County Prosecutor or similar, get to choose when to release it.

I strongly suspect that the cops and prosecutors hang on to the video longer than the absolutely need to. A little bit of that extra time may be in an abundance of caution. But I suspect that most of that extra time is some sort of power play, and is inappropriate.

The mayor of the city in which this happens is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The mayor likely wants to please the citizens by releasing the video sooner than the cops do. But the prosecutors make the point that if it is released too soon, and this ruins the case, then the mayor would be responsible. And so on. So, the mayor tries to put the issue off, making the claim that we simply have to do what the police do, and not interfere with the investigation.

You know the drill. We see it every week or so somewhere in the US. The Twin Cities Metro has this happen every few months, it seems. It is happening right now, as I write this.

Which brings us to three elected individuals, what is happening to them, and what I opine about it.

Mike Freeman is the Hennepin County Attorney, and thus, responsible for making many of these decisions about what to do. He just now decided to not prosecute the police after a recent police killing. There was a video, there was a gun, the community is angry,etc. There is a good case to be made (though I’m not saying this is what happened) that at the moment the cops emptied their guns into this particular black man, they were justified, because maybe he had this gun pointing them. But there is also a good case, it appears, to be made that the entire incident was botches by the cops, and that the police essentially goaded this man, who was clearly having some problems of his own, into this confrontation.

Mike Freeman has been County Attorney for a long time. (Full disclosure, I’ve known him as a politician, and was a member of a group he represented in private practice.) I am not entirely sure what happened at this year’s County nominating convention, but Freeman did not get the endorsement of the Democratic Party, as one might normally expect. Another guy got that endorsement (though Freeman is still running in the primary). I strongly suspect this pushing off of the established candidate was because of a general feeling among the population that we’ve had enough. I don’t know if giving the endorsement to the other guy was definitely that, or if it was the right reaction. But I suspect the idea that black lives need to matter more was behind this fairly stunning political shift.

Betsy Hodges was the Mayor of Minneapolis. She lasted one term, then got replaced with a new guy. A major contributing reason for this was almost certainly because of a string of events in the city where black lives were being shown to not matter, and with Hodges not jumping in on the side of the community. She said good tings, but when push came to shove, she did not march into the police chief’s office, grab the video off her desk, and give it to the press.

Now, with this latest shooting, we see the new mayor, Jacob Frey, under the political gun. I don’t have an opinion on Frey. But I do see him doing some of the things Hodges did. He is, I suspect, being cowed by the police establishment. He is not coming down hard on the side of the community. He will not last as mayor if this happens one or two more times this term. And yes, it is unfortunately likely that the opportunity for Mayor Frey to tell the Minneapolis cops to shove it will arise two or three times in the upcoming term. I hope he does. But I expect him to not.

Hodges did stand up to the police union, but she did not stand up to the prosecutors. She should have risked the case being damaged, if necessary, to get at least one of the videos related to a shooting while she was mayor out to the public. If the public, the community under threat here, is actually making a mistake by demanding early release of videos, then so be it. Let’s find out if releasing a video two days after the event really does mess up the case. Personally, I doubt it would. But even if it does, we know broadly that the problem here is deep, wide, and systemic. What happens to a cop in a given shooting, with respect to the criminal justice system, is actually not as important as forcing overall, deep, systemic change in how the system works.

Hodges, down. Freeman, threatened. Frey … figure it out.

Flying While Black #BLM

This just came across my desk. This is bad at any time, but with Jeff Sessons as Attorney General, it is worse; People are sort of on their own at the national level. This is about white supremacy, and American Airline’s policy, or lack of policy, or culture, or lack of training, supporting it.

NAACP ISSUES NATIONAL TRAVEL ADVISORY FOR AMERICAN AIRLINES

(October 24, 2017) – The NAACP, the nation’s original and largest social justice advocacy organization, has released the following statement today announcing a travel advisory warning African Americans about their safety and well being when patronizing American Airlines or traveling on American Airlines flights: Continue reading Flying While Black #BLM

BLM+ responds to NRA and White Supremacists

You’ve seen this horrid person in this horrid video calling for white people to take up arms and kill black people (and maybe Jews).

In this video, the NRA calls white supremacists to arms against everyone. In so many words.
The ad uses mostly dog whistles, so if your head is stuck deep in the sand, or up some orifice or another, you may be able to block out the message.

But anyone with 2+ neurons to rub together and who has not been living in a cave for the last 30 years knows the exact meaning of “clenched fist” and “I’m freedom’s safest place [gasp]” against the propaganda spread by the (here’s the part about the Jews) entertainment industry about how “them,” “them,” “them,” and “them” (insert visuals of uppity black people).

I’m not going to link to that appalling ad. But it has been described as

a … propaganda video disguised as a recruitment ad that takes aim at the Black Lives Matter movement and uses lies in order to whip its supporters into a frenzy and encourage them to take up arms to protect themselves from a supposed enemy.

As activist Deray McKesson notes, “If I made a video like this, I’d be in jail.”

Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Dignity and Power Now, The Reverence Project, RISIST, and Defend Movement produced the following powerful and true video in response to the NRA’s call to White Supremacy.

Don’t just watch part of it, watch the whole thing. It has a structure you do not want to miss.

Black Lives Matter and the Marathon: A Pair of Dilemmas (Updated)


UPDATE: BLM and the St Paul authorities have come to a compromise.

… the Mayor announced that Turner and the St. Paul Black Lives Matter chapter have agreed to refrain from interfering with runners trying to complete the course, as had previously been threatened. Instead, BLM, will demonstrate near the finish line, raising their voices about the issues that have boiled on the front burner since the death of Ferguson, Missouri resident Michael Brown at the hands of a white police officer.

“The Mayor took the time to listen, he heard our concerns,” Turner shared. “We will not disrupt the course.”

Turner said BLM St. Paul still intends to protest at the marathon, but in a designated space without blocking any runners.

Hat tip: Renee.


The current plans (and I use the plural of “plans” intentionally) for a Black Lives Matter action at the upcoming Twin Cities marathon, and the discussion surrounding those plans, exemplify areas in which Black Lives Matter could do a better job at organizing, and how people responding to Black Lives Matter’s activity could be more thoughtful. Much of this is apparent in a recent WCCO report by Esme Murphy which I will use as a framework for my provisional comments. First, I’d like to state that I stand with Black Lives Matter. The problem here is that there are three of them involved in this maneno (National, Minneapolis, and Saint Paul) and the are at odds. So, this is one of those situations where it may be impossible to lose. Or win.

So, this was reported:

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As Black Lives Matter Minneapolis said repeatedly on Twitter that they are not responsible and have no role in the Sunday’s protest of the Twin Cities Marathon, Black Lives Matter St. Paul offered a very different version of what protesters plan to do.

One could argue that having very little apparent coordination between groups is a good thing. Please put that argument in the comments below so the rest of us know what that is.

Rashad Turner is an organizer with a Saint Paul group of Black Lives Matter. According to Murphy’s report, Turner said “…on Saturday: “My hope is the marathon runners realize they are not going to be able to finish this race.”

Many see this as a problem. When a person runs 26 miles in a race, they come very close to a limit of endurance and need to go through several steps in order to reduce the chance of a bad medical outcome. This involves modulating the amount of energy they spend over time, near the end of the race and for a while after. It also involves a support system for hydration during the race, proper cool down and hydration right after the race, quick access to medical aid if needed, etc. The timing and spatial organization of all these things is critical. The range of negative outcomes caused by disruption of any of these things includes minor injury, serious injury, and death. So, if “not going to be able to finish the race” means a runner has to top at mile 25, then the BLM disruption is a very serious thing. This, I assume, is why the Saint Paul police have indicated that they will not tolerate any such disruption, and it is why some (many?) runners are concerned.

But, apparently the stated plan is not the plan. Continuing with Murphy’s report…

Turner walked that back Tuesday.

“We are not going to physically stop any runners,” Turner said. “Runners will have an option to stop in and join the protest, but we have no plans for physically stopping the runners.”

Turner insists this is not a reversal, and that the protests will be noticeable.

“It’s going to be a disruption, it is not going to be business as usual,” he said.

I am going to go out on a limb and guess that someone clued Turner in on how a marathon works, and this particular Black Lives Matter group changed their plans a bit. Having said that, I’m not sure how the last mile or so of a marathon is “not going to be business as usual” while the runners also have full access to what they need. Also, I don’t see how most of the runners will stop at mile 25. What happens to those that don’t? A lot of booing as they run by? This is unclear. In any event, Black Lives Matter protestors may be a bit disappointed as most of the runners run right by them, heading for the finish line (the reason for running the first 25 miles) and much needed rehydration fluids, etc.

Anyway, this does look like a reversal, saying it isn’t doesn’t look very honest, and the plan kinda sucks. A disruption without a disruption, but if there is a real disruption, putting people in danger.

But this is not all about Black Lives Matter (one group anyway) doing a poor job of organizing. The reactions from many are exactly the sort that uncover the basic problem that Black Lives Matter is trying to address. Many people are philosophically or intellectually in support of addressing a clear problem in the way people of color are treated by the police and other authorities in our emerging post-9/11 police state. Again, back to Murphy’s report. But that isn’t really enough.

Runners are continuing to react with anger on social media with comments like this: “I, too, worry about being trampled to death in a terrifying panic situation.”

Alicia Perkins is a Twin Cities runner who vented her frustration on her popular running blog and on Twitter.

“How dare you say your cause is more important than anyone else’s?” Perkins said. “You don’t know what people are running for. Some people are running for personal reasons, some people are running for charitable reasons.”

She has been training since May for Sunday’s marathon and is hoping to get a good enough time to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

“I guess it helped release anxiety,” Perkins said. “I respect everyone’s right to have a voice, but not when it infringes on other people’s rights.”

She is among the many runners and others saying they are not opposed to the cause, but are opposed to the forum and the proposed disruption of the race.

Comparing the relative importance of “causes” is a commonly used strategy by those who oppose the cause. We see this all the time. Someone or some group opposes a particular industrial or agricultural health risk, and someone else points out that more people die in car accidents than from that health risk. Etc. People are running for … reasons. Therefore those reasons are equivalent to the frequent abuse or slaughter of members of a class of people. No, Alicia, that is a false equivalence. This does not mean that you don’t support Black Lives Matter’s cause. But it does mean that you don’t get it.

Perkins and others are also saying they are worried about any interruption, especially at mile 25, when runners will be so exhausted.

Well, maybe. When I first heard about the BLM plans (which were entirely vague at the time) I supported the idea of doing something at the marathon because of the previous two actions in the Twin Cities. One was at the State Fair (disrupting traffic at a main entryway to the fair) and the other an action to stop the transit line leading to the Vikings home opener. I did think the former was a bit silly. Getting a large group to show up and disrupt traffic at an event that was essentially defined by having a huge crowd and horrible traffic seemed to be like casting a pebble into the surf. Also, since the State Fair is a multi day event that is reliably covered in every news show (morning, noon, early PM, evening news, nightly news, special coverage in between at all hours), I thought BLM would be able to capture part of every one of those news cycles by doing something every day. The traffic disruption itself was not a bad idea, but it was too little.

Here’s the thing. For both of those disruptions, plans and adjustments were made. BLM got their disruption in, but nothing really went wrong. For example, some complained that stopping the train line would be dangerous, but everything turned out to be fine.

With that background, I had assumed that BLM and others would end up with an effective action at the marathon that would not backfire. However, I now realize that things are a bit different. There was never a good plan, there were never, apparently, any good conversations between BLM and others as to how to do this, and of the three BLM groups (national, Minneapolis and Saint Paul), two oppose the action and only one wants to do it, and that group, apparently, does not have a good plan. Well, maybe they have an excellent, secret plan, and I’ll take all this back later when it is carried out. We’ll see. But so far what we see does not inspire confidence.

Turner says there will be signs and chanting. But St. Paul Police have promised if there is a disruption of the race, protesters will be attested.

Signs and chanting is a good thing, I suppose. But that is not what BLM usually claims to be sufficient, and generally I agree with them. It may be that a disruption of the marathon turned out to be a bad idea, BLM is backing off on those plans (though somewhat clumsily, not admitting a mistake), and this will turn out to be a mere “awareness raising” event. It may be that once we have hindsight it will be clear that targeting the marathon with disruption at mile 25 was a bad idea, plans were changed, and not much happened.

Black Lives Matter is on the horns of a dilemma with this one, as are commenters (such as myself) who question the idea. The dilemma for BLM is needing to go forward with truly disruptive actions (that is their raison d’être) but being stuck with a declared plan that would potentially backfire. The dilemma for those who might comment on this action is that opposing BLM actions is almost always a form of tone policing, which is a huge part of the problem, a huge part of the reason that our society has not addressed the regular killing of people of color, which has been going on at varying levels of intensity for a very very long time. On the other horn, of course, is simply expressing an opinion (that a particular action is not a good idea) when the opinion seems valid and important.

My initial reaction to the BLM plan was to shut up, point to it but not with comment, and see what happens, trusting that BLM would come up with something like their previous two actions, essentially shutting down the Tone Police and making the points they needed to make. But now I’m switching horns, provisionally, for this one event. If you prefer the interpretation that I’m not being supportive of BLM with this post, please note that I’m in line with two out of three BLM groups, questioning the wisdom of a planned action by a third. Indeed, anyone who supports a disruption at mile 25 of the marathon is opposing two BLM groups. Dilemma.

Having said all that, to be clear, I’m asking questions and putting together relevant information here. I’m not going to form a particular strong opinion about any of this until after the race. It all depends on what happens.

The #BlackLivesMatter Disruptive Activism

I have a few thoughts I want to float on the recent #BLM activism that involved, as of this writing, two takeovers of public events. One takeover was at a Netroots Nation event that included Bernie Sanders, the other at a Sanders rally.

First, I think it has to be understood that disruptive actions like this need to be carried out, and carried out more. Unless you can somehow convince me that there is a way to deal with violence in and against the African American community, widespread incarceration, habitual attacks by police on African Americans (and some others), etc. without civil disobedience, I’m going to stick with that. A disruptive action here and there will not leave much of a mark. It will be forgotten about. Sustained and well done disruptive activism is called for in the current situation. If it is only addressed to Bernie Sanders, it will fail, and if it doesn’t sustain through the entire election season, it will fail, in my opinion.

(Having said that, at some point security changes will make stage rushes impossible, and after that, it will all be protesting outside events. That has to be evaluated for effectiveness and a good strategy that works will have to develop. A small protest at every event will probably get ignored. A planned huge protest that does not end up being huge will backfire. A good number of very large outside protest will probably be effective.)

I don’t think either of the events, as far as I can tell, were done as well as one might like. At Netroots Nation, the #BLM activists gained the floor, and seem to have done well making key points. But they didn’t seem to have an exit strategy. An exit strategy would have gained them even more points and avoided some of the irrelevant conversations. An act of disruptive activism is always going to produce whinging and complaining about the act, but it is also good to try to have as much of the ensuing conversation as possible be about the point of the activism itself. It should be all about black lives, mattering, not about the #BLM movement’s tactics.

In the case of the Sanders rally, it appears to me that mistakes were made by both parties. The Sanders people tried to say that the #BLM protesters could take the mic after Sanders spoke. They should have just handed the mic over. On the other hand, it was not clear that the #BLM activists were prepared, both rhetorically and technically, to actually take over the rally.

In this sense, disruption may be a little like “awareness raising.” If either of those on its own is your goal, you won’t win. Those are only parts of a larger strategy, and both can actually have negative effects including the development of an inured public. In the case of going after an election campaign, the larger scale strategy might be to make sure that the problems we are seeing now, including racially motivated violence, mass incarceration, and the unthinkably horrible acts of an emerging police state, become part of the conversation for every campaign. Ideally a good percentage of votes will be gained or lost depending on a candidate’s, or a party’s, position on these issues.

Some people are complaining about the specific reactions of Sanders. I want to add an element to the conversation that I’ve not seen discussed. Normally this would be the kind of thing I’d bring up at an organizing meeting because it is a nuanced issue that a lot of people probably won’t react well to. But it is part of the reality of disrupting campaign events. But first a critically important digression.

The number one cause of death for African American males aged 15–34 is murder. Gun related deaths in the US are higher than anywhere else (not counting war zones, I assume) but for African Americans it is twice as high as white americans. If you are black and in America, your chance of being killed by some violent cause is 12 times higher than if you are black and living in some other developed country. And so on.

How often to cops brutalize, including shooting, African Americans? We don’t know. There are a number of reasons this is hard to figure out, not the least of which being that the US government has reduced, rather than increased, the quality and quantity of data collection, mainly since the NRA does not want easy access to information about gun injuries and deaths. Also the rate may be going up so available numbers may not reflect the present, or important trends. We know that African Americans are significantly overrepresented in the frequency of police shootings. That could be attributed to something other than racist police brutality. Poor communities may have a disproportionate number of African Americans as well as more crime, yadda yadda yadda. The real question is how much targeting do police do of African Americans, and how much more likely are police to shoot an African American rather than a non-African American (or a minority vs. a white person)? The answer to that is that police clearly target blacks, and are more likely to kill black Americans. We just don’t know the numbers. Frankly, the numbers don’t matter to the issue of whether this is something that has to be addressed.

This is nothing new. I first got involved in this issue when I was a teenager, and Keith Balou, 17, was shot in the back and killed by a state trooper in New York. Keith was one of several African Americans killed over the previous couple of years, and that instigated the rise of an organization called “Fight Back.” We had a huge conference in Chicago at which people related their own local stories. Obviously anti-black violence had been going on for centuries, this was just the new version of it. By the way, that was also at the time of one of the early first steps at militarizing the police. There used to be rules about how big a gun cops could carry. Keith was one of the first people, maybe the first, to be killed by a trooper using a .357 magnum, only recently issued to that particular police department.

My point here is that black lives have always mattered, of course, and have always been at risk. I think it is fair to say that this risk level has gone up in our post 9/11 terrified society, with the rise of an increasingly militarized police state. Things are getting worse.

So that’s the background, and that is why the #BLM movement exists, and why it is important.

But there is one detail about disrupting political rallies that should be remembered. I’m not saying don’t do it, but this is a factor that should be taken into account.

Several years ago I saw Jesse Jackson give a talk in Milwaukee. He was running for president. The talk was at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee student union. There had been rumors that someone was going to try to kill Jackson, so the security was tight. When Jessie went to shake everyone’s hand at the edge of the stage, a secret service agent stood next to him with machine pistol, thinly disguised as a handbag, pointed at the crowd. He was prepared to kill anyone who pulled out a gun. No one did, by the way.

Running for president is a bit dangerous. Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Kennedy, and George Wallace were shot while running for president. Franklin Roosevelt was attacked while president elect. Of the 44 individuals who have been president, four (nearly one in ten) have been killed, 16 have been seriously attacked, with, I think, ten attacked with guns or, in one case, a hand grenade. In other words, the chance of being attacked with a gun or explosive, credibly, with about a 50–50 mortality rate, if you are president, at least to one in four, depending on how you count each attack.

Over the last seven presidents, four or five, depending on how you count it, were credibly and dangerously attacked. Ford was shot at twice. Reagan was shot and seriously wounded. Clinton was fired upon in 1994, George W. Bush had a grenade tossed at him in Tblisi. There have been various attacks on Obama but I think that was mostly just people jumping over his fence.

What is the point of this? The point is NOT to say that we should feel sorry for presidential candidates, elected presidents, or ex presidents, at the expense of black lives mattering. This is where the nuance comes in. This is not zero-sum game. Too much ammunition for that to be the case. The point of saying all this is simple. If you are going to plan a disruption campaign against candidates, you have to assume that those you are going after will be freaked out. They were already freaked out. They’ve already had the conversation about whether or not to wear a bullet proof vest. They’ve already been held in the kitchen or some waiting room while tough looking scary people check to make sure their pistols are loaded and ready, their communications systems in place. If they were paying attention, they already know about the snipers positioned on nearby buildings, and they probably walked by the ambulance positioned near by to take them to the emergency room when the shot that changes their lives, or ends it, rings out.

As campaigns progress, Secret Service protection is eventually handed out, or increased. It may actually be impossible, as I mentioned above, to disrupt talks and rallies by going after the stage. Alternative strategies will have to be developed.

Meanwhile, be careful.

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