05/30/2020

Protest for George Floyd Statement

Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington delivered the following statement in front of a crowd of over a thousand people protesting the murder of George Floyd, and the countless other Black people killed by police. Dismiss! Disarm! Disband the police! The whole damn system is guilty as hell.

Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington organizer raising fist in front of protest crowd.

Here we are once again, gathered after injustice, after horrifying injustice. Once again, a new stream of bodies reaching back before Emmett Till, now lay before us!

Say their names! Repeat after me!

Ahmaud Aubrey – Ahmaud Aubrey. He was jogging in his neighborhood in Georgia on February 23 when he was killed in a shooting after being chased by Gregory and Travis McMichael, a father and son.

Breonna Taylor – Breonna Taylor. She was sleeping in her bed in Kentucky on March 13 when she was killed by being shot 8 times by plainclothes officer Brett Hankison.

George Floyd – George Floyd. He was buying groceries in Minnesota on May 25th when he was killed by officer Derek Chauvin putting his knee to Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes. There were 2 other officers involved.

Tony McDade – Tony McDade. He was outside of an apartment complex in Florida on May 27th when he was shot by a white police officer.

It should be clear by now, that the police is a violent institution, utterly resistant to reform. It should be easy for you to understand why you shouldn’t call the police on black people. If you’re standing here after all this, and you still don’t get that by calling the police on a black person for dumb, petty reasons, that you have signed on for that person to be murdered; we’re done talking to you.

The murder of black people by the police state and their white citizen handmaidens has been ongoing for actual centuries. We do not have the capacity for people who do not listen.

Which Side Are You On? Which Side Are You On?

To the white people who feel anxious and unsafe about coming to protests and riots – CHOOSE A SIDE!

This isn’t the first time that this has happened. Which side did you take during the Rodney uprising? Which side did you take during the Baltimore uprising? Were you nuiance trolling travon martin’s lynching? Which side are you on when Black and brown people have feared police violence and violence from racist white people for the history of this country?. Enough of this liberal “we like Black lives”, “that we agree with you in the goal you seek, but cannot agree with your methods of direct action”– no more fence sitting.

Which side are you on, for real?

If a white woman is having a really bad day and wants to call the police, she could, and another black life would be snuffed outYou could be a birdwatcher in Central Park and a woman could threaten to call the police and say “there’s an African American man threatening my life” because you asked her to leash her dog — as if the police is her personal assassination squad. Black people have to live with this, every damn day.

Which Side Are You On?

What happens in MN isn’t another person’s problem, it’s our problem because it could happen to any of us, and it has. We have dealt with police violence here recently, and it has gone unaddressed — We demanded the termination of Officers Cory Campbell, Jason Bellavance, and Joseph Corrow from the Burlington Police Department this month, last year. Those people are still working in this police department. They are still working. They still have jobs. As police, with a gun, and the authority to stop, and use any level of violence as they deem fit.

Which Side Are You On?

The reason why people are rioting and why we’re protesting is because our sense of Black love within families and within friendships in Black community can be taken at any moment.

That if you are a Black person in this country you walk around with the constant knowledge that your life could be snuffed out for no God Damn reason.

Every day is a constant reminder that our lives and the lives of those we care about most could be gone the next instant.

Which Side Are You On?

To the Black folks who are here, we may be living in different housing and different communities, but we have suffered through this together and we have suffered through this long enough.

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
05/16/2020

ReWatch Party Racial Justice Has No Borders

Black Liver Matter of Greater Burlington Hosted a (Re)Watch Party of:
Racial Justice Has No Borders: Militarization in a time of Pandemic

Town Hall Webinar

More than 1000 people joined the stream live on April 6th, hosted by Marc Lamont Hill, Professor at Temple University. We had a small and engaged group watching the town hall and breaking out into discussions.

We watched sections of the Town Hall including three panels. Local activists and community members watched the panels together and engaged in discussion around the topics that arose and important take aways we noted.

Panel One:
Examining the Impact of The Militarism Here in the US and Abroad

Exploring the Crisis at Hand and the So Called ‘Solutions’ That are being Proposed 51:27 In this video.

Panelists:

  • Hyun Lee – Women Cross DMZ and Korea Peace Now 
  • Mahnker Dahneih- Organizer at Freedom Inc (Madison, Wisconsin)
  • Melody McCurtis – Metcalfe Park Community Bridges (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
  • Hoda Katebi- No War ICampaign Iranian American Writer, Community Organizer (Chicago, Illinois)

One viewer loved that they identified the farcical nature of US rhetoric about the pandemic. Federal government seems to want to take on the pandemic with shiny new tanks, as Hoda said.

We need to try to unlearn how deep American exceptionalism is. It’s deeply embedded in the narrative.

How much there is to be diverted in terms of funding? Good that these women focused on how devastating US imperialism can be. For one viewer, this brought up quotes and writing by Audre Lorde, how similar things are now, and how we need to learn from the past.

Let’s look critically at how left leaning circles buy into this, how US exceptionalism and white supremacy permeates spaces.

USA military isn’t even its physical armies anymore. The empire maintained by fiscal control. US needs to shift to be a solidarity movement with international movements

Blockades & sanctions can be just as violent as armies. Cuba, Iran, Venezuela being shut out of fiscal systems because of Washington & London. Not able to sell resources and other countries fear working with US sanctioned countries.

Panel Two:
What are the harms of Militarism and what solutions are currently proposed?

1:15:26 In this video

Panelists

  • Brittany DeBarros – About Face: Veterans Against War
  • Krystal Two Bulls – Voices of the Sacred
  • Khury Petersen-Smith -Institute for Policy Studies

They talked about how these systems were in place prior to crisis. It stood out when Krystal Two Bulls talked about how the government has criminalizing right to defend rights. Which systems are robust enough to remain post crisis? Krystal talking about militarizing police for the corporate profit. Look at how again and again, they prioritize corporate rights over people’s rights.

Relatives abroad and around the world are vulnerable. They are endangered because of corporate greed, we talked about this and asked, what does our country prioritize?

Reminder of that bumper sticker: “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber” What corporate interests are prioritized? Coke is so huge, not because Coke tastes good, but because the US forces it, supports it, also not able to drink safe water. Let’s not forget, profit reigns supreme even during pandemic.

When systems are not where they need to be to support everyone, it requires hero mentality, assuming people will have to step up versus making needed structural change.

Calling essential workers heroes to excuse not getting people hazard pay. Over and over again, we call them heroes but not give hazard pay. It’s so icky and messed up, look at how corporations embrace it – Applebees ads “thank you heroes”.

This displaces blame and promotes the savior mentality— this situation is not new. People who have access “help others” but end up displacing momentum – Basically fighting “Indian Wars” – when people become part of the army, already had own militia.

Don’t forget this history – the birth of US Police Force.  Andrew Jackson got start in fighting in Indian War— This is not new!!! Seminal combat experience fighting indigenous resistance as well as the Mexican American war. 

It can be hard to conceptualize a demilitarized future. Nothing really changes for tribes and recognition. Structurally things don’t change, but need too

Are we going to talk about black and brown and poor people are recruited into the military? History, structures and institutions. What structures are failing?

If indeed, we have collectively embraced notion of being essential right now – what does that mean? People who are essential have to support these failing systems. One viewer thought of times when workers were not wearing masks, they are essential enough to keep working, but not essential enough to be given masks. The narrative is powerful. Corporations like Dunkin Donut “keep America running” as slogan but are they really essential? What does this teach young workers when they are considered essential in this way?

Panel Three:
Why are these harms and failures really happening?

1:35:00 in this video

Panelists

  • Reece Chenault – Justice Before Peace
  • Barbara Ransby – Rising Majority
  • Ramah Kudaimi – War Resisters League – Resisting Airwars Network

Our discussion began with the prompt – what can we envision for a more just future?

Thinking about what we are against and what we are showing up for. We have inherited this system. Neo liberalism and racial capitalism set us up for this crisis. When we do this right, mutual aid allows us to feel uplifted. Not doing for the clout, for social capital, but because of community. We talked about Global reparations, should that be a part of the conversation. Today, we don’t talk much about the beauty of all these countries only the wars. Foolishly, it’s perceived that America is the only country able to handle things. We forget or we see it erased, that every single day people sustain and survive across difference culture. We are stuck in a cyclical industry of destruction. Society wants us to buy into the idea that US needs to save people and help them survive (while simultaneously causing harm)

What can help people see past the empire they live in?

“People have a right to resist their regimes… to be free.”- Rahma Kudaimi

Can we rethink what it means to be in solidarity, no need for perfection and intense planning. People lose their lives in resistance, how do we acknowledge that struggle and how it is worth it? How do we look through US propaganda (what is grassroots revolution?)And how do we move past white supremacy culture that we are subject to and that is normalized in this country? 

Can we get out of the structures and have a different way of living that doesn’t marginalize others. Thinking back to earlier panel with US resource from other countries, start acknowledging that. We need to seeing that we are not an island

Can we have a socioeconomic system not based on zero sum game of invading others for resources and wealth?

Can we remove Roman empire style of wealth acquisition? Recognize this obsolete system and invest in a system not interested in hoarding. We may need the current collapse of supply system, we may need to go swimming in some different water

These panels help, it help to hear from voices of impacted people and community and learning together.


press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/
05/01/2020

Our Speech at Primero de Mayo / May Day Car Rally for Essential Workers: Put People First

Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington sponsored the Primero de Mayo Car Rally along with 36 other organizations1. This event drew thousands of people who came together to show solidarity with essential workers and lift up workers’ demands in a time of crisis. A member of the BLM GB collective spoke and read a collective statement. 

Read on for our statement about people victimized by our criminal punishment system, problematic police power in this crisis, and a call for people to get involved, help your communities, and help create a new normal that is concerned with the survival and well-being of us all.

1Including Justicia Migrante, Burlington Tenants Union, Vermont Interfaith Action, 350 Vermont, Vermont Workers’ Center, Champlain Valley DSA, Rights & Democracy, Rural Vermont, Community Voices for Immigrant Rights, Rights & Democracy VT, Vermont State Labor Council, VT National Lawyers Guild, Peace and Justice Center
Watch the Speech: Here on Justicia Migrante’s Facebook Live – go to 1:36:11 in the stream.

We stand here outside CRCF on International Workers Day and we acknowledge all the people victimized by our criminal punishment system.

We see their humanity, and the crimes committed against them by our racist systems that prioritize capitalism over people. We see their rights being systematically ignored every day. 

We would be remiss if we didn’t address the health crisis before us. In order to address it, we must point to the series of crises that the police state has used to permanently erode civil rights and establish new, repressive methods of exploitation and profit.

This isn’t the first time the state has taken advantage of their governmental powers in a time of crisis to serve the interest of profit & not the well-being of the people they claim to represent. 9/11 was used as justification for the AUMF, the Authorization of Military Force, which brought about two forever wars, surveillance institutions that eroded the practical use of the fourth amendment, and the creation of DHS, the Department of Homeland Security. Hurricane Katrina was used to level low-income communities and replace them with wealthy private communities, and the recession of 2008 was exploited and used to consolidate wealth even further.

Over the last month, Vermont police have been granted emergency powers to fine and even dole out jail time to people for violating stay-at-home orders–punishments that they can enforce at their own discretion, with little-to-no oversight. COVID19 has been used as an excuse to deepen the state’s and the nation’s reliance on punishment and violence through police. 

Crises only make existing power structures worse, deepening pre-existing inequity.

Don’t forget: Our country and our state have prioritized military and police spending over housing, and continue to do so. In 2019, Burlington spent over 20% of its general fund on Policing. This is over 12 million dollars more than it spent on Housing, Community Development, and Community Justice combined.2

Don’t forget: Black people make up a little more than 1% of Vermont, but make up 8.5% of Vermont’s prison population.

Don’t forget: Black folks are homeless in Vermont 6x more than white folks.

Don’t forget: the purpose of our military and police is not to “liberate” people or make our community “safer.”

Our police have invented new crimes, expanding what it means to criminalize homeless people simply by criminalizing being outside. They have destroyed hand washing stations, disturbed mutual aid food distributions, and interfered with our ability to help each other. They have created new victims.

Don’t fool yourself, police will disproportionately apply punishments to people who look like trouble to cops. Who do you think that means in Vermont? The low wage person of color working long hours. The youth constantly harassed by the police, The homeless who have very few safe places to sleep, and those who are not physically or mentally able. 

Police and prisons exist to protect the profit and property of business, not the prosperity of our communities. Not to protect people or public safety — no time is this more evident than in a season where prisons and jails have had the highest rates of a deadly pandemic. Nearly 10,000 incarcerated people have tested positive across the country and the number of cases is doubling each week3. 38 inmates and 18 DCF workers have tested positive for the virus in Vermont4, with 150 tests pending results, and not counting our outsourced prisoners in Mississippi and numbers in ICE detention. According to the Marshall Project, the prison infection rate eclipses the spread among the general population by more than 150 percent3

Outside the prison walls, runaway economic catastrophe is showing us how many workers have been existing just steps away from this system, even before this specific crisis. 

The most vulnerable populations are finally getting some of  the government social support they’ve always deserved, because the nation and the state are seeing more people than ever need food, housing, and income– and the government can’t deny these needs any more. 

Before the onset of COVID-19 and now, poor folx, black and brown folks, folx with disabilities are the most likely to live paycheck to paycheck. What happens when the paychecks stop?  We are the most likely to be essential workers or to be without homes, without shelter, without food, without the means to survive and the support systems.We are facing an uncertain future and significant threat from the people who pretend to work to keep us safe.

We are more likely to be fined for violating stay at home orders.

And we are more likely to be put into prisons.

The criminal punishment system has always been dangerous to our humanity, to our  bodies, to our society, to our movement to create a liberated society. 

Don’t forget: This nation, this state, and their police, do not have some higher moral authority to commit violence — they are just given power by the government. We, the people, determine what is moral and what is right, and it’s been proven time & time again that we can’t trust state powers to make ethical decisions for us. 

We have an ask for those who are here, who hear this, who read this – we want you to get involved and help us help our community. The criminal punishment system won’t. The cops won’t.

Contribute to healing, housing, and food funds, while talking about the structures that make these funds necessary. Challenge local government priorities, responses, and budgets. Sign up to stand together. We can refuse to “go back to normal” and instead create a new normal — a normal that is concerned with the survival and well-being of every person in our community.

Our ask, of all of you today, is simple: trust your neighbors. Trust them to know what is best for themselves. Build relationships with them, however you can. We can, and we must, take care of ourselves and each other — and we can do it without police.

Article on Socialist Resurgence.com: A People’s Bailout: May Day in Burlington, Vermont https://socialistresurgence.org/2020/05/04/a-peoples-bailout-may-day-in-burlington-vermont/?fbclid=IwAR0udU61RH3nhhC3-GHyelyXKfMrm5i5JKlau9SnX4WY83KLdJnQ6kAWoBo

Sources

2https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/CT/Budgets/Fiscal-Year-2020-Budget
3https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/04/24/tracking-the-spread-of-coronavirus-in-prisons
4https://doc.vermont.gov/covid-19-information-page

press@blmgb.org http://www.blmgb.org/