Occupy, Black Panthers Invoked at Weekend Ferguson ‘Transform and Transition’ Mass Meeting

AP photo/Charlie Reidel
AP photo/Charlie Reidel

Ferguson Action held a weekend ‘Transition and Transform Mass Meeting” at the same location where Ferguson protesters were trained before riots, looting, and arson ignited upon the announcement a grand jury chose not to charge police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Radical leftist community organizer Lisa “Professor Occupy” Fithian took part in training hundreds of protesters ahead of late November riots in Ferguson.

Leading this meeting were organizers identifying themselves on video as Ashton and Kayla. Kayla told the crowd they were going to present a national plan of action for racial justice and look forward to transforming and transitioning the Ferguson movement in 2015.

Kayla referred to the previous few weeks saying, “The last few weeks have been heavy, we’ve done a lot of actions” and recalled protests in Clayton, in Shaw, where they shut down the highway, and at the DOJ, herself getting arrested at the DOJ.

Ashton then read from a statement about the Occupy movement and Black Panthers. “This has been over 130 days of protests and we’ve achieved a lot. Our movement built, our movement from Ferguson it’s far (inaudible) popular revolt that we haven’t seen since Occupy. I know a lot of you guys have been at Occupy. We’ve seen tens of thousands of people searching for a way to take this momentum forward.”

Ashton read aloud:

We see the connection between economic injustice and the state violence. In a lot of ways we’ve put ourselves in a historic situation. In a lot of ways it’s the same situation that faced the Black Panther party. We realized the American Dream doesn’t exist for working class people and especially not youth of color.

Our difference is we have the Presidency of Obama that promised to deliver us transformative change, but he hasn’t. Like us, the Black Panthers started with a police killing. Just remember Denzel Dowell was shot and killed in north Richmond, California?Bobby Steel said in 1966 We don’t fight racism with racism, we fight racism with solidarity, real (indistinguishable) is fighting white capitalism with black capitalism, we fight white capitalism with basic socialism, we don’t fight imperialism with more imperialism, we fight imperialism internationally, and that was the guiding philosophy of the Black Panthers.

But critical to development was the knowledge that it’s not enough to have the right ears. It has to be translated into a concrete set of demands that people can relate to. The clear course of action of how to achieve that and that’s what we’re doing here. Question is what kind of society do you want?

A movement of people went out to Cleveland on behalf of Tamir Rice, according to Kayla. “We have another group going out to Detroit,” she said. Kayla suggested police violence “almost paints a picture that it looks like a systematic genocide.”

Groups were instructed to consider their vision for a new society – demands, what they want to see in 2015 (could be broad or specific – actions, campaigns), “what is the movement’s new year resolution?”

One breakout group included Jessie Davis of Stop Mass Incarceration and Revolution Newspaper; Steven Huffman, National Lawyers Guild; Chris, Mother, Activist, a Lover, and a Friend;  Jeannie with the Anti-Racist Collective; and Heather, a livestreamer among a group of approximately 13 participants.

“We have to broaden this movement, but it also has to intensify,” said Davis of Revolution Newspaper, a production of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA. “There’s a potential, I think, of bringing in broader forces around this, not just sort of the how people today see this.” Davis also said she had handouts for Stop Mass Incarceration.

“This is only the beginning,” said another breakout session participant identifying herself only as Chris,  who took on some leadership in the group.

“We need to work both inside and outside the system,” another participant suggested.

Huffman, who identified himself as with the National Lawyer’s Guild asked, “Can I say something?” and then requested the livestreamer mute the video feed. The next three and a half minutes the camera focused on other group participants and had no sound. A couple of listeners wrote notes intermittently, some nodded their heads; most seemed attentive. The livestreamer then returned with sound, telling the online observers that Huffman was providing some private legal advice.

Another group participant suggested problems in policing after the Civil Rights Movement stemmed from the war on drugs and used Prohibition as the basis for his claim.

Advocating for working at the local level, one group participant commented, “For one he (President Obama) doesn’t work for us, he serves the corporations, two there’s only so much he can do as President. He can’t remove certain people out of certain offices. Even though he is dictator-like sometimes, he’s not a straight up dictator. Everything he says he just can’t make happen.”

Davis spoke again saying, “you’re seein’ slow genocide,” then invoking the Trayvon Martin case as an example of her assertion that the justice system cannot be relied upon. She said that if cops “continue to walk,” they will kill black and latino youth. She climaxed her argument with: “As a revolutionary, I see that we not only have to fight this, but we have to build a (inaudible) revolution to get rid of this system, so we’re not back here 5, 10 years from now saying ‘why is that brother murdered on the street?’”

Further discussion bred plans to shut down a local production of A Christmas Story and  to focus on bringing demonstrations to college campuses in the spring.

After the breakout sessions concluded, facilitators from the 10 groups were summoned to relay what their group had discussed.

Leaders from group one, identifying themselves as Amy and Marcus, suggested “even though there is amnesty already, the $100 fee is still too burdensome for some.” Their group decided, “They should get rid of the hundred dollars.” Further, they decided the local government should recall all fines and current warrants. The two closed with proposing “establishing state law capping revenue at 10%.”

Group three leaders called for Judge Carol Jackson to prosecute police.

One of the group’s seven leaders conveyed her group’s suggestion to stand in solidarity with those that want to raise the minimum wage to $15. She also advocated for handing out ‘best practices’ to police officers.

“We’re currently looking for plaintiffs,” said the man identifying himself as Steven Huffman of the National Lawyers Guild, as he stood with a couple of what appeared to be his compatriots. “And now we want to take it to the next level,” he said, “which is individual people who have had their rights violated who will bring a complaint in federal court for money, for monetary damages, for legal fees and for changes in the way that the police behave. So please, if you feel like that’s you, come and see us.”

The next participant to speak to the audience commented that CopWatch is teaming up with National Lawyers Guild.

The meeting ended with the anthem, “I can hear my brother saying ‘I can’t breathe,’ now I’m in the struggle saying ‘I can’t leave,’ Calling out the violence of these racist police, we ain’t gonna to stop ‘till the people are free, we ain’t gonna to stop ‘till the people are free.”

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana


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