Originally published on August 9, 2015
August 9th, 2014 was a day that will never be forgotten by those who struggle for true freedom. On that day, Officer Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown, Jr. after approaching him in the traditional hostile and condemnatory fashion. Brown was only 18 years old. After Brown and his friend were confronted by the police, Brown was accused of stealing a handful of small cigars from a local convenience store. He was left to lie on the hot concrete for hours before he was put on a stretcher and transported to the morgue. Nobody knows what exactly made the people of Ferguson and the revolutionary world as a whole rise up that night, and countless nights afterwards. Nobody will ever know what precisely was the spark that made our people respond to this police murder with direct rebellion and opening of visible struggle. Whatever the exact cause, the fact that this shooting happened in the Saint Louis area was undoubtedly a major factor in the rediscovery of the people’s ability to revolt and fight directly against terror. Saint Louis is a racist city, one of the worst in the country. Ferguson is also a racist city. In the 1960s and 1970s, black people knew to avoid it at all costs. There was a large chain stretched across a street to keep residents from the nearby black community of Kinloch out. The municipal government there and in other nearby municipalities such as Cool Valley, Spanish Lake, Florissant, Country Club Hills, Jennings, Berkeley, and Pine Lawn derive most of their revenue from squeezing exorbitant fines, tickets, and taxes from the impoverished, largely African American proletariat that resides there. In return for their hard earned and precious few dollars, this hard working proletariat receives insults, scorn, and secret email messages exchanged between city officials calling them criminals and animals. In short, Ferguson greatly resembles South Africa during apartheid. The police officers, judges, clerks, and other functionaries that “police” and “maintain” these cities do not even reside there, nor do they come from the people. Most reside in upper middle class Saint Charles County, where very few people of color live. These facts are well known to all conscious people in Saint Louis.
August 9th marked the beginning of an ongoing and popular action movement. The people of Ferguson rose that August and showed the world the consequences of abusing, robbing, and killing their siblings, parents, friends and neighbors. We saw what the media has termed “civil disturbance”. We saw the people of Ferguson condemned for “destroying their homes and businesses”. What do the oppressed working class of Ferguson own? What does the working class anywhere own? Do they own their apartments and homes? If so, why do they pay exorbitant rents and mortgages? Do they own the stores? If so, why are they horribly overcharged for basic necessities? Do they own the city hall, the police, or the court? If so, why are they saddled with fines, beaten and shot, and arrested and thrown into jail for nothing? Do they own their jobs? If so, why are they paid so little that they have to work two or three to maintain subpar shelter and food verging unfitness for human consumption? The simple truth is that the working class of Ferguson owns nothing. The money spent in Ferguson ends up in Chesterfield, Saint Peters, or Ladue. The people give, the people work, the people pay faithfully, yet they receive nothing. The media and the reactionary ask, “Why do they riot”?, we socialists ask “Why should they not riot”? Why did the police come with dogs, poisonous chemicals, and other instruments of brutality? Why did they brutalize and destroy equipment belonging to members of the press, local, national, and foreign? Why did they attack residents in their own backyards with gas and other weapons?
The months following the death of Michael Brown saw many peaceful and creative expressions. August, September, and October saw the streets of Saint Louis City and County filled with workers and comrades from the entire country, and some from other countries as well, all united in solidarity with the struggling workers of Saint Louis. The Saint Louis City police murder of Vonderrit Myers, Jr., only strengthened our resolve and brought more comrades into the fight. We met migrant workers from Arizona and California who know very well the violence of the police, having seen it themselves courtesy of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the INS/Border Patrol, and the corrupt thieves that pose as police in Mexico, Guatemala, and other countries in that region. We met fast food workers fresh from the struggle for higher wages and dignity. We met comrades who were once police officers or soldiers. All against police crime and terrorism. How did Saint Louis welcome our comrades? The police harassed us, unceasingly. Many demonstrators found themselves tazed, sprayed with noxious and dangerous chemicals, brutally thrown to the ground and taken to jail, where womyn, elderly people, members of the clergy, disabled workers, children and veterans were subjected to terrible indignities and abuse. Many reactionary motorists, whose paths to their destinations were obstructed, tried to run us over. Our comrades were subjected to epithets, curses, racial slurs, assault with weapons, hostile filming, and anonymous threatening phone calls placed to employers, homes and schools. Still, we pressed on, and the movement grew. The weeks preceding the grand jury announcement regarding Darren Wilson’s murder saw Governor Jay Nixon (D) make the reactionary decision to fill our streets with National Guard troops, who could be seen at courthouses, police stations, and other locations around our city, accompanied by armored vehicles and weapons of war. Barricades went up, and the police could be seen more frequently and behaving in a more hostile fashion than usual. Still, we continued to fight, as it is our duty to do so and win.
The night of November 24 saw the announcement by Saint Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough that the murderer Darren Wilson would not be indicted. Once again, the people rose, and the police struck with horrible and unjust force. Tear gas, a dangerous chemical banned in war, was deployed in Ferguson and Saint Louis City. Gas masks had to be used to avoid inhalation. Gas seeped into a place of refuge in South Saint Louis City, causing pain and suffering to comrades who had taken shelter within. To make the scene even more strange, the main street in Ferguson was decorated with a hanging sign, wishing “Seasons’ Greetings”. This sign was soon partially obscured by smoke and gas clouds. After the smoke cleared, the fight continued throughout the rest of 2014 and 2015. Michael Brown and Vonderrit Myers’ deaths sparked a beautiful trend. Everywhere, the people knew to watch the police. They knew to not believe the police. They knew to rebel, and to assert their rights as human beings. This is why the revolutionary youth and workers of Baltimore rose for their murdered brother Freddie Gray, who was arrested and forced into a police vehicle and tortured there, his spinal cord severed. This is why the people continue to rise and demand unconditional justice for Sandra Bland, the comrade sister who we know was made to die, hanged to death in a Texas jail because she dared stand firm against white supremacy and misogyny when it tried to imprison and enslave her spirit along with her body. This is why the people continue to rise for the transwomyn and men who are being killed with alarming frequency and brutality by the same system that took Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Vonderrit Myers, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and the 9 parishioners at a historical church in Charleston, South Carolina. Simply put, what happened in our city is why the revolutionary people everywhere now know to stand against the deadly police system and for themselves.
Where do we find ourselves now, a year from the departure of brother Michael Brown?
The struggle continues, and the reaction has grown. Comrades blocked a local interstate that leads to Saint Charles County on August 12th. Hostile drivers assaulted peaceful protesters with their vehicles, honked their horns aggressively, and swore at them. Two womyn of color were arrested, and formally accused of assaulting a driver that tried to run them over. Many more were arrested for charges such as “interfering with an officer”. The police cruelly and willfully released these arrested comrades’ names, cities of residence, ages, and charges. In Ferguson, we saw armed right-wing vigilantes calling themselves “Oath Keepers” being allowed to parade through the streets to the apathy of the police. In Downtown Saint Louis, well-known comrades including Dr. Cornel West were arrested along with almost 200 others after they scaled barricades set up around the federal courthouse, charged with trespassing on federal property, which, supposedly, is owned by the people! We still see brutal violence from the police. James Knowles III is still the Mayor of Ferguson. The workers of Ferguson continue to find themselves extorted and tormented by those they pay to maintain. The police department is still an occupying force everywhere. The election season is upon us, and many find themselves excited by the presence of Bernie Sanders (D-VT), a so-called Democratic Socialist, in the primary field. We have never seen Senator Sanders in Saint Louis. We have not seen him or his party colleagues march with us, and he only makes statements regarding our struggle after being pressed. This practice is not the mark of a revolutionary socialist, it is the mark of a vote hungry, desperate politician. We stand with the womyn comrades of color who go to candidates’ events and fearlessly declare that Black Lives Matter. Until Sanders comes to see us, the people of Ferguson and of Saint Louis will continue to view him as a stranger.
Our local party demands the immediate resignation of all city, county, state, and federal government officials who have stood against and hindered the struggle of the revolutionary masses of Saint Louis, including police chiefs John Belmar and Sam Dotson, Mayors James Knowles III and Francis Slay, Saint Louis County prosecutor Robert “Bob” McCullough, and Governor Jay Nixon. We demand the immediate recall or destruction of all dangerously lethal weapons, poisons, and instruments of illegal surveillance that have been issued, purchased by, or loaned to law enforcement in our region, including chemical agents such as tear gas and “skunk” spray, UAVs, machine guns, and armored vehicles. We demand immediate cancellation of all warrants for arrest/questioning issued against community members for crimes of poverty, and the immediate cessation of the issuance of exorbitant and unfair fines that perpetuate this cycle. We demand the expungement of all criminal records obtained as a result of participation in protests or in “civil disorder”. We demand the immediate arrest of the dangerous right-wing vigilantes calling themselves “Oath Keepers” if they appear in our streets again to provoke and harass. We demand the cessation of the abuse of the “State of Emergency” by the Governor and the deployment of soldiers and Homeland Security personnel to our city. We demand punitive money damages for families of victims of police brutality, demonstrators forced to suffer cruel indignities and tortures, and who have suffered psychological trauma as a result of the actions of the police. We demand an end to the neglect of communities of color, and an end to the shameful campaign against the city’s homeless. We demand an immediate freeze to all plans to build stadiums and entertainment facilities with public funding, as they benefit very few and continue the cycle of neglect of the working class of the Saint Louis Metropolitan area. We demand control of working class neighborhoods by those that live there, not by an absentee landlord class.
We, the Saint Louis local of the Socialist Party, USA, stand with the defiant, revolutionary proletariat of Ferguson, the rest of the United States, and the world at large. We condemn the terrorist campaign of brutal violence, exploitation, and torture being waged against the worldwide working class. We stand with the migrant workers, who come to the land stolen from their ancestors and work for near free to put food on our tables. We stand with the displaced Palestinian people who live under daily threat of genocide. We stand with the workers of the Congo, Indonesia, Mexico, China, and Malaysia, forced into slavery to feed a bloated and crumbling West. We stand with the workers of Detroit in their fight to secure for themselves that which comprises the majority of our world, water, which the capitalists have been brazen enough to commodify and deny at will. In essence, we stand against capitalist, imperialist terror, as socialists and as human beings. ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!
Christopher Winston (Chair)
Logan Wyatt (Secretary)
Jesse Morgan (Online Coordinator/Manager)
Marcus Wildhaber (Treasurer)