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1396012
20 Χρόνια απο την εξέγερση στο Λος Άντζελες
από alogomiga 2:20, Τρίτη 1 Μαΐου 2012
θεματικές: Βόρεια Αμερική \ Κρατική καταστολή - Κοινωνικός έλεγχος \ Κοινωνική ανυπακοή / Αντιστάσεις

Πριν από 20 χρόνια στις 29 Απρίλη του 1992 σε μία από τις μητροπόλεις σύμβολα του αμερικάνικου ονείρου το Λος Άντζελες η ιστορία επιβεβαίωσε πως όπου υπάρχουν πλούσιοι που ζουν το όνειρο τους εις βάρος όλων των άλλων θα υπάρχουν και φτωχοί που θα τους το μετατρέπουν σε εφιάλτη.

Η προκλητική αθώωση 5 λευκών αστυνομικών που εμφανίζονταν σε βίντεο να ξυλοκοπούν (11 κρανιοεγκεφαλικές κακώσεις και ρήξη νεφρού) έναν μαύρο οδηγό που δεν σταμάτησε σε έλεγχο γεννά την σπίθα που θα εξεγείρει τα κατώτερα στρώματα μιας κοινωνίας ήδη απελπισμένης από την αυξανόμενη ανεργία και την καταπίεση, ειδικά σε μια πόλη όπως το Λος Άντζελες όπου κυριαρχεί η τεράστια αντίθεση της επιδεικτικής χλιδής των λίγων με την απελπιστική ανέχεια των πολλών.

Η ρατσιστική απόφαση του δικαστηρίου έδειξε κυρίως την αλαζονεία της εξουσίας και όπως ήταν φυσικό επακόλουθο προκάλεσε την έκρηξη όσων είχαν τους περισσότερους λόγους για να εναντιωθούν σε αυτό το σύστημα. Μετανάστες και άνεργοι ξεσπούν σε βίαιες διαδηλώσεις, λεηλασίες καταστημάτων, καταστροφές πλούσιων συνοικιών, επιθέσεις σε αστυνομικά τμήματα, συγκρούσεις και εμπρησμοί. Ο πρόεδρος των ΗΠΑ Μπους ο πρώτος παίρνει την κατάσταση στα χέρια του και σπέρνει για άλλη μια φορά τον τρόμο. Κηρύσσει την περιοχή υπό στρατιωτικό νόμο και στέλνει ενίσχυση στους 2800 εθνοφρουρούς άλλους 750 ομοσπονδιακούς. Μετά από 3 μέρες θα μετρήσουν ανάμεσα στους εξεγερμένους 60 νεκρούς, 2,300 τραυματίες και 13,200 συλλήψεις.

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1396053
δείτε και εδώ
από αμερικάνικο περιοδικό 11:06, Τρίτη 1 Μαΐου 2012

 

The Fire Next Time: Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, and Law-and-Order Urbanism

Excerpt from Jenna Loyd

20 years after the police beating of Rodney King and the riots that swept across LA in response, racism is still a systemic problem in our cities, as shown by the recent murder of Trayvon Martin…

Looking Back at the LA Riots, photo from Which Way LA?, http://blogs.kcrw.com/whichwayla/category/la-riots/

Looking Back at the LA Riots, photo from Which Way LA?, http://blogs.kcrw.com/whichwayla/category/la-riots/

In February 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Martin, a Black teenager, had just purchased some snacks and was walking back to his father’s girlfriend’s home in the Retreat at Twin Lakes. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in the same gated community, began following him in his vehicle, and alerted the police about his suspicion about Martin. The police told Zimmerman not to pursue the teen, but the encounter ended in violence when Zimmerman shot Martin with the handgun he was carrying. It took about a month for news of this tragedy to reach the national media. In the meantime, Zimmerman had not been arrested or charged in Martin’s death, claiming his right to self defense. Martin’s needless death struck a nerve with thousands of people gathering for vigils and demonstrations across the country. This was not an individual incident, as some media pundits would have it, but another instance of systemic anti-Black racism, which structures who may be in a particular place at a particular time, who is considered violent, and how justice is understood. These debates have continued through the spring, with the commemoration of Martin Luther King’s assassination, and the twenty year anniversary of the Los Angeles uprising of 1992. The revolt was sparked by the acquittal of Los Angeles police officers who had been tried for assault and excessive use of force against Rodney King. The beating of King, whom the police apprehended following a car chase, was videotaped, and the footage became a conduit through which competing understandings of race, crime, and violence would be aired. The not-guilty verdict proved for many that the commonsense myth of inherent Black violence would indemnify police violence as always justifiable use of force.

The not-guilty verdict proved for many that the commonsense myth of inherent Black violence would indemnify police violence as always justifiable use of force.

And so the verdict sparked a rebellion that was not limited to Black neighborhoods, but involved immigrant and Latino neighborhoods also suffering under the weight of economic recession and displacement. This “multicultural riot” would last for several days during which time, 58 people died (ten at the hands of police and National Guard). There were another 2,383 injuries, some 17,000 arrests, and an estimated $785 million in property damage. Marines and Army troops just back from the Persian Gulf were deployed even as 1,000 Immigration and Naturalization Service and Border Patrol agents swept Central American neighborhoods, deporting at least 700 people.(1) Measuring the distance between Rodney King and Trayvon Martin is to ask the question of the fire next time. Written as a letter to his young nephew, James Baldwin’s 1963, The Fire Next Time, describes the rage and emotional trauma of racism and the racial hypocrisy of progress as experienced particularly by Black men in the United States. The essay’s prescience seemingly anticipated the long, hot summers of the 1960s, and continues to be invoked to mark grievances that are unremarked, and avenues to justice that are denied.

The Fire Next Time

Rodney King has spoken out about Martin’s killing, seeking to forestall the fire next time: “I am grieving, like the rest of us, for this young man and his family but let’s allow the justice system to take its course and come together as a country before and after the outcome of the case.”(2) Other people who have lost family members to racially charged violence have also spoken out. Nicole Paultry Bell, fiancée of Sean Bell, who was killed by the NYPD, wrote an open letter to Trayvon Martin’s parents in which she claimed both young men’s deaths as the tragic result of Martin Luther King’s unfinished project: “Your voices are being heard all across this nation as peacemakers. People are standing up for Trayvon because they feel your pain, and understand that this could easily have been their son, husband, father, brother, cousin or nephew and we are out right tired of it. Please don’t give up the fight for the pursuit of justice.”(3)

The list of names whose deaths are united by police and vigilante violence is long. In the time since Trayvon’s murder alone, Abdul Arian was killed by the Los Angeles police in a high speed car chase. College student Kendreck McDade was killed by Pasadena police. Retired Marine Kenneth Chamberlain was killed by White Plains, NY police. Camouflaged vigilantes ambushed and killed two men who ostensibly were undocumented migrants. Graphic footage of the brutalization of Anastasio Hernández Rojas at the hands of the Border Patrol was released. And Shaima Alawadi, an Iraqi immigrant, was found brutally murdered with a note next to her body reading: “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”(4)

Which Way LA, Looking back at the LA RiotsThe immediate response to Shaima’s murder was a nationwide flourish of Hoodies and Hijabs marches, which contested the unspoken racism that undergirds US war-making, xenophobia, and vigilantism alike. Making these coalitions more possible will also mean defunding the policing and prisons that wall off a free urban future for more and more of us. These are the material conditions and means of the peace-making that justice for Trayvon, and so many others, demands. These pieces of clothing are the symbolic terrain through which gendered racial/ethnic violence is made visible or naturalized. This important coalitional moment, then, is in making evident the shared vulnerabilities to racial/ethnic violence of differentially experienced by young Black men wearing hoodies and Muslim women wearing the hijab. The moment has also provoked a heated debate over feminism and Islam, which itself speaks to possibilities for of uniting against violence.(5)

And the case of Marissa Alexander, a Black woman who is in jail for firing a gun in self-defense to protect herself and children from her abusive husband, has drawn some attention. Marissa Alexander and George Zimmerman, who has been charged with second degree murder and is now out on bail, share the same prosecutor. One discrepancy that organizers have tried to illustrate is that Marissa Alexander has been denied the stand your ground defense that Zimmerman invoked. To be clear, I am not arguing for equal application of this law as a measure of justice. The unequal application of the law is the occasion to witness and highlight how the criminal justice system is shot through with racial, gender, and sexual violence. It is to question whose bodily violations are publicly commemorated and to what end.(6)

Framing Racial Violence

Unspeakable white supremacy makes simmering grievances and searing injustice invisible. The dominant narrative of race in the United States, however, is that racism no longer exists. Ironically, the clearest cracks in the ideology of a post-racial/color blind society come from those who seek to uphold it. When television talk show host Geraldo Rivera said that Trayvon was dead because he wore a hoodie, he spoke a racial commonsense that is not supposed to be said. Right media outlets soon embarked on a smear campaign attempting to turn Trayvon from an innocent teen into a youth predator who could have threatened the much older, bigger, and armed Zimmerman.

A particularly cynical rhetorical strategy issuing from the color blind camp has been to “play the violence card.”(7) It goes like this: question why so much attention should be given to this exceptional incident when larger issues of violence loom within the Black community. For example, Juan William wondered “about all the other young black murder victims,” most of whom are killed by other Black people.(8) The traction of this argument speaks to the commonsense that Black people commit more crime and are especially violent.(9) Most murders of white people are also committed by other white people, and rates of crime are better measures of targeted policing and discriminatory law-making and sentencing patterns than they are measures of illegal acts. Rather than evidence concern for the racial and class conditions fueling Black deaths, this strategy serves to dismiss charges of racism.

Muhammad(10) does not discount the gravity of and need to end interpersonal violence, but he insists that all forms of interpersonal violence be situated within the context of structural violence and institutional racism. This suggests that ending this violence will take place only in the context of a collective project of transforming abandoned neighborhoods, investing in workplaces, employing workers, and rebuilding social safety and income supports. These are among the issues that have been raised by the Occupy and Right to the City movements.  Building common futures will take stronger understandings of the connections among systemic racial violence (including US war-making), capitalist crisis, and urban crisis.

So when in 1992 the military was deployed to suppress uprisings in Los Angeles, troops were not occupying otherwise ‘peaceful’ grounds. Los Angeles’ weapons economy also built a segregated industrial economy and residential landscape. The defense sector built on already segregated grounds in a city where elites, the media, and police had combined against labor and political organizing, and had kept Mexican Americans and African Americans in check with steady police harassment and brutality. The domestic Cold War had been prosecuted with fervor. Anti-communism was a sturdy ideological cudgel that the business establishment deployed to kill public housing in Los Angeles, creating an enduring affordable housing crisis and dooming the program nationwide. Frank Wilkinson, Los Angeles’ Housing Authority director who lost his job in this redbaiting frenzy, remarked on the Watts uprising: “Thus, the sixties reap the folly of the fifties.”(11)

The official response to the Rodney King uprising, as Mike Davis observes, was an “inverted mirror image” of the Watts uprising 30 years earlier:

“In 1965 the LAPD’s Chief Parker (assisted by the National Guard) retained total control over law enforcement while the federal government provided massive financial aid through its new urban programmes. This time around, however, repression was immediately and dramatically federalized, while the rebuilding was left to shoestring local efforts and corporate charity.”(12)

Los Angeles continues to reap the folly of the fifties. In the 1980s, even as Los Angeles remained “the number 1 center in defense contracting in the United States,” it also ranked as “the homeless capital of the United States,” much of it focused on downtown’s Skid Row.(13) By the mid-2000s, downtown Los Angeles was a gentrification battle ground and the city had a new police chief, William Bratton. Informed by George Kelling’s broken windows theory of crime control, Bratton implemented “stop and frisk” in New York City and claimed to have cleaned up Time Square.(14)  His program for Los Angeles included the Safer Cities operation in which he deployed another 50 police officers to a 15-20 block Skid Row enforcement zone. Skid Row was turned into a highly armed dragnet where police officers spend their time writing tickets for so-called “quality of life” affronts like littering and jaywalking at a rate 69 times higher than the rest of the city.(15) The invisibility of Black men who need homes is accompanied by the feminized demonization of welfare and public housing.

Reclaiming the City, Reimagining the Future

As this sketch of Los Angeles’ militarized landscape suggests, nationwide trends toward policing and fortified enclosure are the accumulated effects of Cold War military spending and domestic racial politicking. Together, they made law-and-order the nation’s de facto urban planning policy rather than a program of social investment in collective urban futures. Sanford, Florida no less than Los Angeles, has inherited this past. Florida ranks second only to California in numbers of urban barricades, which create the conditions for what urban planner Edward Blakely calls a “tragedy of the commons in which vigilante security can be a result of residents’ mistrust of the suburbs [and cities] from which they’ve been walled off.”(16) The enclosure of Skid Row and the enclosure of the Retreat at Twin Lakes are materially and ideologically linked.

Militarized police forces accompany the militarization of social investments. In 1980, the deficit spending on Reagan’s Cold War was twice as large as US city budgets, and by the early 1990s, this spending had ballooned to six times as great. From 1983 to 1996, overall federal spending per capita declined nearly fourteen percent in real terms. Broken down across category, Medicare, payments to veterans, and housing investments all declined while Medicaid spending (health care for poor people) increased some 200% and crime spending soared nearly 700%.(17) Through the 2000s, defense spending outstripped domestic budgets. In each of these years, defense spending increased on average 8%, four times faster than increases in spending on mandatory programs Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, and 27 times faster than other discretionary programs, such as housing and economic development.(18)

This militarized austerity, in turn, fuels domestic warfare. Pitched battles over a shrinking piece of the pie take the forms of militarized policing, surveillance, private fortification and vigilantism over where it will be invested. One part of ending this undeclared war involves ending the declared wars. Redirecting spending for the Afghanistan war alone would more than make up for state budget shortfalls projected for 2012.(19)

But demilitarization is more than a fiscal issue. It is also an ideological one that shapes domestic imaginations of how cities are built, who may live in them, and how they are organized (or bluntly policed). Other solidarities are made possible in conditions of war that can work against the futures that war forecloses. This could be seen in Los Angeles in 1992 when so many Central Americans, many of whom displaced from US-backed wars and economic machinations of the 1980s, took to the streets to also oppose repressive austerity. And this is hinted at with the Hoodies and Hijabs marches. Making these coalitions more possible will also mean de-funding the policing and prisons that wall off a free urban future for more and more of us. These are the material conditions and means of the peace-making that justice for Trayvon, and so many others, demands.

The full article will be published in an upcoming issue of CITY.

See a related piece in the current issue of CITY (16.1-2) by Yousuf Al-Bulushi “Learning from urban revolt: From Watts to the banlieues”.

Jenna Loyd, post-doctoral fellow in Geography at Syracuse University.

Rise Up LA March for Justice, May 1st 2012, 9am, Florence and Normandie; Twitter.com/RiseUpLA

Rise Up LA March for Justice, May 1st 2012, 9am, Florence and Normandie; Twitter.com/RiseUpLA, Facebook: RiseUpLA

Notes

 
  1. Mike Davis, “Who Killed LA?: A Political Autopsy,” New Left Review , no. 197 (1993): 3-28. Mike Davis, “Uprising and Repression in L.A.” in Reading Rodney King: Reading Urban Uprising, ed. Robert Gooding-Williams. Anonymous (New York & London: Routledge, 1993), 142-154. Raphael J. Sonenshein, Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 223. 
  2. Stan Wilson, “Rodney King pleads for calm in Trayvon Martin case,” CNN, 12 April, 2012, http://articles.cnn.com/2012-04-12/us/us_trayvon-case-rodney-king_1_rodney-king-martin-tragedy-los-angeles-police-officers?_s=PM:US. 
  3. Nicole Paultry Bell, “Sean Bell’s fiancée’s open letter to Trayvon Martin’s parents,” The Grio, 5 April, 2012, http://www.thegrio.com/specials/trayvon-martin/sean-bells-fiancee-writes-open-letter-to-trayvon-martins-parents.php. 
  4. Arun Gupta, “Shaima Alawadi’s murder: Hate crime or honor killing?” Salon, 7 April, 2012, http://www.salon.com/2012/04/07/shaima_alawadis_murder_hate_crime_or_honor_killing/. 
  5. “A Collective response to ‘To be anti-racist is to be feminist: The hoodie and the hijab are not the same,’” Jadaliyaa, 15 April, 2012, http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5064/a-collective-response-to-to-be-anti-racist-is-to-b 
  6. Joy-Ann Reid, “Marissa Alexander case exposes ambiguity of ‘Stand Your Ground’ law,” The Grio, 24 April, 2012, http://www.thegrio.com/news/marissa-alexander-angela-coreys-other-stand-your-ground-case.php.
  7. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, “Playing the Violence Card,” New York Times, 5 April, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/opinion/playing-the-violence-card.html. 
  8. Juan Williams, “The Trayvon Martin Tragedies,” Wall Street Journal, 27 March, 2012, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303404704577307613183789698.html. 
  9. Hatty Lee and Shani O. Hilton, “Five Myths about Crime in Black America—and the Statistical Truths,” ColorLines, 13 April, 2012, http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/04/crime_myths.html. The Sentencing Project, http://www.sentencingproject.org. 
  10. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, “Playing the Violence Card,” New York Times, 5 April, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/opinion/playing-the-violence-card.html. 
  11. Don Parson, Making a Better World: Public Housing, the Red Scare, and the Direction of Modern Los Angeles. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005. 
  12. Davis, “Who Killed LA?,” 7. 
  13. Ann Markusen et al., The Rise of the Gunbelt: The Military Remapping of Industrial America, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 234. Jennifer Wolch, “From Global to Local: The Rise of Homelessness in Los Angeles during the 1980s,” in The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century, eds. Allen J. Scott and Edward W. Soja. (Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996), 390.
  14. “Stop, Question and Frisk in New York Neighborhoods,” New York Times, 11 July, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/07/11/nyregion/20100711-stop-and-frisk.html. 
  15. Jordan T. Camp and Christina Heatherton eds., Freedom Now!: Struggles for the Human Right to Housing in LA and Beyond (Los Angeles: Freedom Now Books, 2012), 2. Christina Heatherton ed., Downtown Blues: A Skid Row Reader (Los Angeles: Freedom Now Books, 2011). Rishi Manchanda, Taming the Perfect Storm: Addressing the Impact of Public Health, Housing, and Law Enforcement Policies on Homelessness and Health in South Los Angeles, (Los Angeles: Homelessness Prevention and Intervention Collaborative, 2008), 28. Davis, “Who Killed LA?”, 20. 
  16. Bonita Burton, “Florida’s problematic gated communities,” CNN, 28 March, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/28/opinion/burton-florida-gates/index.html. Edward J. Blakely, “In gated communities, such as where Trayvon Martin lived, a dangerous mind-set,” Washington Post, 6 April, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-gated-communities-such-as-where-trayvon-martin-died-a-dangerous-mind-set/2012/04/06/gIQAwWG8zS_story.html. 
  17. Pascale Joassart-Marcelli, Juliet Musso, and Jennifer Wolch. “Federal Expenditures, Intrametropolitan Poverty, and Fiscal Disparities between Cities.” In Up Against the Sprawl: Public Policy and the Making of Southern California. Edited by Jennifer Wolch, Manuel Pastor Jr and Peter Dreier. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004, 195-224. 
  18. Kogan, Richard, “Federal Spending, 2001-2008: Defense is a rapidly growing share of the budget, while domestic appropriations have sunk,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 6 March, 2008, http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=125. 
  19. “Afghan War costs compared to state budget shortfalls,” Cost of War, 27 June, 2011, http://costofwar.com/en/publications/2011/afghan-war-costs-compared-state-budget-shortfalls/. 

 


 
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