I am going to start this off by saying I am a white guy and I am opposed to me getting beat up just because of it (even if I can come up with reasons why). That said, here we go.
The article you will find posted below pertains largely to Philadelphia, but what I am writing about pertains largely to Kansas City, Missouri, which is where I live.
Just yesterday the city, my city, adopted a 9PM curfew on youth similar to the one in Philadelphia. The curfew came in response to “large crowds of (black) youth and acts of violence” on the Country Club Plaza. The Country Club Plaza is the city’s premier outdoor shopping and entertainment district. It was designed and built long ago and resembles a Spanish town. It is also a prime tourist destination (for the few tourists who come to our city). It is privately owned and features numerous upscale stores, restaurants, bars and is surrounded by hotels and high-rise condos. A waterway runs along one side.
(Disclosure: In 1970, when I had only just passed youthdom, and looked like the radical “hippie type” that I was, I was arrested on the Plaza for “interferring with a police officer making an arrest” of a friend who was selling the underground newspaper Vortex).
Last Saturday night the mayor, an African American man, took a walk on the Plaza to see for himself what the hubbub about gangs of youth swarming the place was all about and to, in fact, talk to the kids. Not a terrible idea. Unfortunately, while there, a few shots were fired about a block away from where he stood and he was knocked to the ground by his bodyguards. Three kids were slightly wounded in the incident. Voila: Curfew Time.
The facts are that although black kids had been gathering in large numbers on weekend nights on the Plaza for several summers now, this is only the second time any shots were fired. The first time, in truth, actually was a block off the Plaza in a nearby park.
Now, these “large numbers” of black youth have been hanging out on the Plaza for the same reasons you and I used to hang out somewhere when we were kids AND because for most of these kids hanging out on their block is dangerous. It also leaves them open to gang activity. So yeah, their parents figure they are better off on the Plaza. They are right.
The media and talk shows here have been all atwitter about the “mobs” of African American young people on the Plaza ever since the “phenomena” began a few summers back.
Interestingly enough, I live about a mile from the Plaza and virtually every weekend night (and many other nights as well) I take myself and my greyhound, Whitney, out for a late night stroll down to the place. We wander about the Plaza amidst the “mobs” and you know what? I have never been shot. I have never been hassled. I have never felt in any danger from those “large numbers of kids.” Yes, there are a whole lot of black kids there – as well as a whole lot of white people enjoying themselves. So what? Personally I find it refreshing to see these kids enjoying themselves, acting like kids…generally bothering no one. Again, I am white. Lots of these kids ask me about my dog and we talk. It’s cool. It’s almost like being IN A CITY.
No one has much cared when these same kids have been shot every night, as long as it has been “East of Troost Avenue,” which in KC’s quite segregated community, means the black neighborhoods.
Black kids in what has been sort of considered a playground for white folks and middle and upper class “others,” now there is the rub, you see. Can’t have that.
I ask where in the hell are these kids supposed to hang and be kids and be somewhat safe. There are no places like the Plaza, or even close, to hang out east of Troost. Not every kid (in fact, damned few) are interested in “midnight basketball,” gatherings at a local community center with adult supervision, church, after school activities and the like, which is what old fogies always seem to come up with as an alternative to the dangers of the streets.
I need to add here that these same black kids used to hang out in Westport, which is a smaller entertainment district, famous for drunken white twenty something males. Westport didn’t like the black kids being there and before you know they had been shooed away. Some African American kids with cars tried cruising in Swope Park and the city thought that was no good and they were shooed away.
So a 9PM curfew is starting tonight on the Plaza and several other “entertainment” districts in town. It begins slightly later in the neighborhoods. The mayor says he wants to protect the kids. Actually, because of who he is and where he comes from, I tend to believe him. As a matter of fact, until his encounter last weekend, he has opposed such a curfew. Still, the mayor is my age and his youth has passed him by. Apparently, unlike me, his memory of that youth has passed on as well.
Placing a curfew on an entire community of young people is in reality a military action, nothing less. It is a vast overreaction to an unreality of media making and white fear…and wealthy businessmen.
Until this city, Philadelphia, and this whole nation wake up to the endemic and unrelenting racism which is our history and which has left black youth living in poverty, living in danger, growing accustomed the sounds of gunfire, attending lousy schools, harassed constantly by police, with no job prospects, and incarcerated in huge numbers, all the curfews, all the talk, all the late night hoops programs, mean absolutely nothing.
Philadelphia and other cities are experiencing the results of the same system of Capital, of white supremacy, and racism that led to the recent rebellions in England – and will eventually lead to the same large scale uprisings in this country.
Meanwhile, Whitney and I will head on down to the Plaza tonight and tomorrow night and check out the scene. I fear that what we will find is that the white people will still be there, some older and middle class African Americans will still be there, the mobs of police that occupy the place every weekend will still be there – but the black kids will have been driven away and out of sight again.
America, love it or leave it.
The following is from UhuruNews.com.
Philly August 20 mobilization takes on curfew and war on African youth
UhuruNews Published Aug 19, 2011
PHILADELPHIA — On Saturday, August 20, at 8:30pm, the Black is Back Coalition (BIBC) for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations — in conjunction with the Committee to Elect Diop Olugbala for Mayor, the Philadelphia Coalition of the Heart and the African People’s Solidarity Committee — will hold a demonstration and march starting on Broad and South Street, located in the Center City area of Philadelphia, to oppose the war on the African community worldwide.
The demonstration is part of the Black is Back Coalition-led International Day of Action Against Imperialism’s Wars on Africa and African People around the world. It is being held with the recognition that the essential wars that imperialism has been making have been against African People as well as the rest of the non-white world.
Since the day the first slave catcher set foot on African shores more than four centuries ago imperialism has made continuous war against Africa and African People.
In Philadelphia, the U.S. government’s war on the African community specifically manifests itself in the form of the anti-democratic, anti-African curfew and martial law that Mayor Michael Nutter has imposed on the African community in the name of a war against “flash mobs”.
By Nutter’s own definition, the flash mobs are groups of primarily African youth from the most impoverished sections of Philadelphia who are going into resource rich, predominantly white areas of the city (primarily Center City and University City) and taking items from the residents and businesses.
It cannot be ignored that there is a history of wealth in the white community and the poverty in the black community of Philadelphia that is based in slavery and colonialism. The end result of this legacy of theft of black wealth and labor is the white community having 20 times more wealth in hand than the black community.
The end result in Philly is the average white household bringing 65,100 per year while the average black household takes in only 40,000 per year. These stark contradictions help us understand why poor African youth gravitate to resource rich Center City, a predominantly white community.
These conditions are currently maintained by the City’s economic policies as carried out by Nutter’s regime.
In 2010, Philadelphia was the city with the second highest child hunger rate in the country. Yet, it is also the city with the highest incarceration rate in the country.
While in African communities, more than 40 percent of the people live at or below the poverty line, Nutter spends $1billion on police, prisons and courts.
While the public safety budget has increased, the budgets for several essential services that could otherwise provide a future for our youth are being cut. The most glaring examples of such cuts are those on the education system at a deafening 12 percent.
Nutter’s policies produced so-called flash mobs
The so-called flash mobs are products of Nutter’s repressive policies. They are a collective act of resistance of African youth against the violence of poverty, unemployment, budget cuts and police terror.
These uprising began in the winter of 2010. In an archived article of The Burning Spear, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement wrote the following on the uprisings:
“In February and March there was a standoff between the masses of young African workers and the police and merchants of Center City and downtown Philadelphia.
“These youth uprisings began as calls on African youth, relayed through cell phone text messages, to participate in the filming of dance videos in different spots in downtown Philly.
“When the police violently attacked these gatherings they turned into uprisings, where the youth then began to defend themselves from the police.
“At its peak, the sequence of youth uprisings in downtown Philly reached the thousands. They brought Center City to a standstill.
“The youth who participated in these uprisings were then criminalized and labeled by the media and the police as ‘flash mobs.’
“In that process, mayor Michael Nutter, district attorney Seth Williams and police chief Charles Ramsey, all Africans (who InPDUM calls the Uncle Tom Trinity), joined forces to carry out a media lynching of African youth that resulted in the trial and felony conviction of at least 31 African youth.”
Today, as the war on the African community intensifies with rising unemployment and poverty, budget cuts and increased police containment the youth uprisings have also intensified.
However now, the youth are doing more than just gathering. They are engaging in assaults on white people and invading businesses owned by parasitic merchants who steal tremendous amounts of wealth from Africans by selling them substandard products for high prices.
Nutter’s administration criminalizes African community
In response to this intensified resistance, Nutter has called for a curfew and martial law, specifically targeting young Africans.
As a justification of the curfew, Nutter and leading representatives of his administration have been engaged in a media propaganda campaign to criminalize African youth and win popular support for Nutter’s assault on the community in the name of white power.
In a speech he gave to Mount Carmel Baptist Church, in West Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter stated in reference to the youth resistance, “That’s part of the problem in our community. Let me speak plainer: That’s part of the problem in the black community… We have too many men making too many babies they don’t want to take care of, and then we end up dealing with your children.”
While Nutter and his neo-colonial administration attempt to criminalize the entire African community around the flash mob issue he continues to leave every other force known for violence and mayhem in the city off the hook.
White youth are not met with such repression and criticism even when they rioted downtown after the Phillies won the World Series.
The police department certainly does not come under criticism for its ongoing reign of terror on the African community. Such terror includes the vicious Rodney King-style beating of Askia Sabur by Philadelphia police in September of 2010 (http://uhurunews.com/story?resource_name=justice-for-askia-sabur)
It must be stated that Nutter’s ideological justification for the curfew is not unlike the UK’s prime minister’s criminalization of the young Africans who rose up in righteous resistance in London.
Nor is his response, from a military standpoint, unlike that of Wilson Goode’s dropping of a C4 bomb on an entire neighborhood in West Philadelphia in 1985 as an attempt to silence the militant MOVE organization.
This approach is used to liquidate the underlying contradiction in the African community, which is that we as a community are separated from our resources.
Instead of addressing the poverty imposed on the masses of Africans, the State invests in its own expansion: the deployment of more police and the building of more prisons to contain the masses of Africans who are lashing out against the violence of poverty that we suffer.
Nutter administration is engaged in counterinsurgent war on African community
In Philadelphia, the City spends $56,000 per weekend on overtime for special police forces to enforce the curfew. This same amount of money could have easily provided employment for all of the 72 young Africans who have been locked up as a result of the curfew.
This overall strategy on the part of these agents of imperialism is consistent with imperialism’s war strategy in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
The curfew, which collectively punishes the entire African community, reveals the government’s perception of African people as some type of enemy or “insurgent” population that must be contained through military tactics.
The State also recognizes those youth who do participate in the uprisings and assaults on center city as a particular threat to class peace in Philadelphia.
In an Uhuru News article run earlier this year, InPDUM stated,
“Since the first youth uprisings occurred the city has intensified its efforts to imprison the masses of young African workers. This is being done for two reasons:
“One: resistance among young African workers poses a clear threat to Philadelphia’s parasitic economy. If African youth were ever to achieve organizational capacity alongside revolutionary consciousness that InPDUM is increasingly providing, our revolution would wield a deadly weapon capable of dealing the decisive blow to U.S. imperialism.
“The State has been aware of this threat since the 1960s, when African resistance was led by revolutionary organizations like the Black Panther Party and the original JOMO in Florida. For this reason, the flash mobs were listed in the same document published by the Institute for International Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR) that listed InPDUM and its president Diop Olugbala as ‘terrorist threats.’
“In this document the ITRR writes, ‘ITRR analysts see the “flash mob” phenomenon, even if it is initiated as an innocent youth gathering and event, as potential cover for more intentional criminal activity such as “pre-operational probing of security force reactions and weaknesses, or even as a diversion ahead of, or during, coordinated criminal activity or terrorist attack.”’
“The State’s strategy to contain this threat is through its increasing repression of the African community. This is part of the basis of heavy-handed police programs like Stop and Frisk and the brutality and harassment associated with it.
“Two: at the same time Philadelphia’s economy is built off the imprisonment of African people. Philadelphia is the city with the highest rate of imprisonment in the U.S. and arguably the world.
“The city spends $1.1 billion annually on police, prisons and courts as an investment in an industry that generates billions more through court fines, bail and bond, prison labor as well as under the table payments to judges, police and other agents of the State for participation in the mass imprisonment of our youth.
“In 2010, there were at least two Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judges under investigation for taking bribes from private prisons in exchange for convictions.
“More evidence of this growing industry is the city of Philadelphia’s building of a ‘state of the art’ youth prison in West Philly where it aims to contain masses of young Africans.
“Philadelphia’s public school system only receives $200 million for every $1 billion received by the police and prison system. This explains why Philadelphia’s largest youth prison is called the Youth ‘Study’ Center. The city’s long term plan is to get rid of the education system as we know it and replace it with prisons.”
Since that article was printed, the education budget has been cut by 12 percent, and it is no coincidence that the curfew became a discussion only when the economic interests of the merchants of Center City and the general white population began to be challenged by these militant youth.
The march on South Street is a call for the African community, especially the youth, to unite and engage in organized resistance against the U.S. government’s war on our community. Our objective is to disrupt class peace in Philadelphia – to make it impossible for the tourism and all other industries upon which Center City thrives to exist at the expense of the African community.
The march is also a call for the general white community to unite with Africans in resistance against the war on the African community, raising the fact that there should never and will never be peace as long as others are oppressed.
Demands of the march
The following are the demands of the Community March Against the Curfew.
Point #1: We demand the immediate repeal of the discriminatory curfew and openly segregationist, Jim Crow like policy of the city of Philadelphia.
Point #2: We demand the right of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly for the Black community.
Point #3: We demand an immediate end to the unlawful and anti-democratic search, detainment and arrest of Black youth, including the policy of stop and frisk.
Point #4: We demand an immediate end to policies which criminalize and unjustly fine black parents and unlawfully threaten to remove their children by the Department of Human Services (foster care system).
Point #5: We demand an immediate end to the $1billion war budget for prisons and police which target the black community and its immediate investment for economic and neighborhood development programs and services offered to the benefit of black youth.
Point #6: We call for the development of an independent movement for knowledge of self and responsibility through the struggle to achieve self-determination and self-governance for the black community and all oppressed communities.
Point #7: We call for the immediate release of the more than 70 youth who have been detained as a result of the anti-democratic curfew and an immediate dismissal of all charges brought against their parents. We demand that reparations be paid to the parents who have incurred fines as a result of their children’s detention.
Point #8: We defend the right of black and other youth of all oppressed communities to resist the government-imposed violence of increasing poverty, budget cuts and police brutality.
Point #9: We reject the government and media criminalization of the resistance and creativity of black youth and their labeling of these youth as “flash mobs”.
Point #10: We demand an end to the U.S. and Europe’s war on Africa and African people in Philadelphia, London, Congo, Haiti and anywhere else in the world where black people are.
Point #11: We declare that Michael Nutter and forces like him do not represent the best interests of the black community in Philadelphia or anywhere in the world. They represent white power as its black face.
Point #12: We call on white people to stand in principled solidarity with the demands of this document