“…police and their terroristic actions were the big obstacles to overcome….”
This weekend as folks commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Marches in Selma and in particular Bloody Sunday, what should not be forgotten is that at the core of these events was police terrorism… From the moment organizations like SNCC and 2 years later when Martin Luther King and his organization SCLC came on the scene to register folks to vote, police and their terroristic actions were the big obstacles to overcome.
In looking back at Selma we should not forget that police ran up beat down and then shot and killed Jimmy Lee Jackson who was part of a peaceful protest to gain voting rights in Marion, Alabama. In fact it was the death of Jimmy Lee that actually inspired the marches to Selma.. It was a way to protest his death. It was a march against police brutality as well as to win voting rights… Folks don’t like to see Selma as a protest against police, but it was on many levels.. The officer who and killed Jimmy Lee was an Alabama State trooper named James Bonard Fowler. He was indicted and convicted in 2007 for this killing he did in 1965.. He pleaded guilty for manslaughter and served 6 months in jail. Today Fowler deathly ill, according to the NY Daily News, and has stated he wants nothing to do with all the stuff going on down in Selma.
Fowler at least served a little time for his crime. Then as now, most of his colleagues did not and never will. Will any of those who levied that brutality be held accountable for their crimes? Sheriff Jim Clark should not be the only name we know. Those police officers who executed Bloody Sunday should not be allowed to fade off as unknown names into history. But many already have.
In looking back at Selma we should be making note of the role and function of police then and seeing what progress has been made with respect to their role in society 50 years later..In 1965 police saw protestors as LAW BREAKERS.. They saw protestors as folks who were unruly, had a potential for VIOLENCE and thus needed to be contained, dispersed jailed and beaten.. Words like ‘outside agitators’ and ‘troublemakers’ were used to describe SNCC and used to describe Dr King.. What has changed in 50 years?
“…The police along with local media described them in dehumanizing terms who were prone to violence….”
It didn’t matter that Dr King and his folks wore nice suits and ties and didn’t throw rocks. The police along with local media described them in dehumanizing terms who were prone to violence. I would encourage folks to watch Eyes on the Prize Bridge to Freedom to see what went down in Selma —-> http://bit.ly/1MeD4m2
The police in Selma in 1965 served as buffers to the elite and reflected the perceptions of a larger white society that saw Black people as CRIMINAL PROBLEMS.
Today President Obama will speak while standing at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. he will no doubt speak about the importance of voting.. He will no doubt talk about the current climate where voting rights have been stripped and voting suppression laws are in effect in 26 states… It’ll be interesting if President Obama speaks about the police as violent agents of the state who served as enforcers for a white elite class that would not stop at anything to maintain power..
It’ll be interesting to see if Obama contextualizes the brutal beatings that took place on Bloody Sunday not as something that was isolated or a ‘one of a kind ‘event but as something that represented the norm and was systemic. Will he and others be clear in noting that the police terror in 1965 was about the business of maintaining power and in 2015 the police violence we are seeing and experiencing is the same thing?
Will he note that in 2015 the police are enforcers for an elite class that wants to keep Black and Brown folks who are disenfranchised and economically upended from gaining access and disrupting and redirecting the flow of money and wealth? Take a look at the case around the Black Friday 14 who held up BART Trains on Black Friday and the state and corporate media reaction to it to better understand the points I’m making..
If anyone tries to make the claim that things have progressed because we now have Black cops and Black police chiefs in many cities, then folks have not read that DOJ Ferguson Report.. What’s described there is clear that not only has progress not been made, things may have gotten much worse. Things have gotten worse, because we see no indictments and convictions…
For example, if a report came out that showed a group of Black or Brown people acting together to disenfranchise folks and to economically fleece them, there would be RICO statutes thrown at that group and lots of folks would be hauled off to jail on conspiracy charges..
“…Ferguson happens in Democratic strong holds. It happens on the watch of powerful Black leaders both within law enforcement and throughout the political landscape …”
One can read this DOJ Report and not only see no charges being levied, but no one is being stripped of their jobs or having licenses taken away. There is no move to reimburse folks for their trauma.. In short what was stolen will remain stolen and what was transgressed will remain uncompensated until folks hire lawyers and go through the arduous process of a lawsuit which more often than not are not successful…
The other indication that things have gotten worse is that Ferguson and places like it happen on the watch of people who we vote for to the tune of 90%.. Ferguson happens in Democratic strong holds. It happens on the watch of powerful Black leaders both within law enforcement and throughout the political landscape. If you don’t believe me ask yourself where are the Congressional hearings on police brutality? We’ve had hearings on steroid use by millionaire athletes, but to date none on all these police killings and the unrest that followed in many cases.
Anyway as we watch artists like Vanilla Ice, R.Kelly and Rick Ross perform and remake the songs like ‘Self Destruction’ at the Selma celebrations, let us not lose sight that 50 years ago SNCC, King and SCLC fought state sponsored terrorism and 50 years later we are still fighting state sponsored terrorism.. If there is one important lesson we should learn from Selma is that while we fight police terror in 2015 we should be simultaneously focusing on the elite forces that employ, empower, fund and protect police terror…RIP Jimmy Lee Jackson..
Davey D is a nationally recognized journalist, adjunct professor, Hip Hop historian, syndicated talk show host, radio programmer, producer, deejay, media and community activist. Davey D is the co-founder and host of several of the most cited Hip Hop radio and online news journalism projects of all time. Hard Knock Radio (HKR) is an award-winning daily syndicated prime time afternoon show focusing on Hip Hop culture and politics. One of the first of its kind, the show originated in 1999 on KPFA 94.1 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area, and now can be heard in Seattle, Atlanta, Portland, Fresno and is streamed live on KPFA.org, reaching close to a million listeners daily. Find more of his stuff at http://www.daveyd.com/whoisdaveyd.html