Mobilization Needed Now More Than Ever to Win Justice for Michael Brown!
THE WEEK newsletter (9/26/14) published this blurb under the heading “The Biased Prosecutor in Ferguson”:
“Don’t expect a fair investigation into the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO., said Dana Milbank [a Washington Post journalist]. Clearly, ‘the fix is in.’ The St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, has decided not to recommend to the grand jury whether it should charge police officer Darren Wilson with any crime for firing at least six bullets into the unarmed teenager. In a very unusual move, McCulloch is dumping a ton of conflicting evidence on the grand jurors and asking them to decide what charge, if any, to file. If these ordinary citizens are confused by the evidence and the law and fail to indict Wilson, McCulloch can use the grand jury as cover ‘for the outrage that will ensue.’ The prosecutor’s background explains why he’d want that outcome. His own father, a cop, was killed in a shootout with a black suspect. In 23 years, McCulloch has not prosecuted a single police shooting—including a 2000 case in which two unarmed black men were shot 21 times while sitting in their car. If Wilson walks under these tainted circumstances, it will be ‘a farce.’”
Because of McCulloch’s sordid record and obvious bias, concerned Ferguson citizens and others had urged Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to appoint an independent prosecutor, but the governor rejected the idea and pronounced his total confidence in McCulloch.
Whatever lingering hope the Ferguson Black community might have had in obtaining justice for Michael Brown and his family is rapidly crumbling under the weight of events. They have demanded that a public trial be held where all the evidence could be heard and the family would have its day in court. After all, the grand jury’s role is not to decide guilt or innocence but only to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed and Wilson was responsible for it.
The fact of the matter is that convening a grand jury was never needed in this case. A prosecutor has every right to order the arrest of a suspect and then get a judge to set a trial date. But that was not the course followed here, for reasons explained by Milbank above.
What is Needed Now
As of this writing, no action has yet been taken by the grand jury. We in the Labor Fightback Network strongly believe that as a follow-up to the Weekend of Resistance held October 9–12, another mobilization needs to be organized—but this time several times larger—to demand that Darren Wilson be indicted and charged with the murder of Michael Brown.
We cannot ignore the fact that secret grand jury testimony is being leaked anonymously—which the Justice Department has strongly denounced—and that the media is complicit in interpreting the leaks as verifying Wilson‘s claim that he was acting in self-defense. The public is being deliberately led to believe that what happened in Wilson’s car prior to his gunning down Brown is the key to what ultimately happened, whereas Wilson emerged from whatever scuffle occurred in the car with the gun in his hand, the car under his sole control and the unarmed Brown nowhere near him.
We welcomed the endorsement of the October 9–12, 2014 Weekend of Resistance by the AFL-CIO and the presence in St. Louis of a labor contingent. But if the conspiracy to see to it that Wilson walks is to be stopped in its track, much larger numbers of people from the ranks of labor, along with our partners in the civil rights and human rights movements, must take to the streets.
The voice of masses must be heard—loud and clear. A “no bill”—meaning no indictment—by the grand jury is unacceptable. It would be a criminal miscarriage of justice. We cannot live with it. A march on Ferguson/St. Louis should be the order of the day, coupled by demonstrations in cities and towns across the country. Time is of the essence, and organizing of such actions should proceed without delay.
Role of the Federal Government
A number of actions by the federal government have been urged to deal with the Ferguson crisis, police brutality in general, militarization of the police, arming them with high-powered weapons, etc. No one can deny that the police need to be reined in and there are situations where the federal government can be pressured to take needed action. We do not counterpose our emphasis on mass action in the streets to other constructive steps that can be taken, but we caution not to rely on the government to take action against people acting under cover of law to repress communities of color. After all, Trayvon Martin was murdered on February 26, 2012, his killer was acquitted on July 13, 2012, a federal investigation was to be launched to determine if Trayvon’s civil rights had been violated—and nothing further has been heard to date, nearly two-and-a-half years later.
Taking Political Action—the Role of Governor Nixon and Prosecutor McCulloch
Those in political leadership in Missouri must be held accountable for their role in aiding and abetting the attempt to whitewash Officer Wilson for Michael Brown’s murder. Both Nixon and McCulloch are Democrats, and it is high time to replace such misleaders with independent candidates who are accountable to the working class majority. That is why we advocate the formation of a workers’ party based on the unions and our allies and partners in the fight for equal rights, security, justice, and dignity for all.
To read additional comments on the key issues facing the labor movement—and to share your own comments—please visit the Labor Fightback Blog.
An Open Letter to Our Brother and Sister Trade Unionists
With the lockout of federal workers finally ended and with social programs being restored, attention is now being focused on what will happen next. The divide between the major political parties continues to linger and the prospect is for more government dysfunction and paralysis, albeit with bipartisan agreement that “entitlements” must be cut.
The undersigned trade unionists and community activists strongly endorse the position taken by the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations opposing all cuts to safety net programs — especially Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. We not only call for the preservation of these programs but also for their expansion and improvement.
We reject the claim that Social Security and Medicare — our earned benefits — will run out of money within a decade or two unless major cuts to these programs are enacted now. Today the big banks and corporations are sitting on top of trillions of dollars in reserves — thanks in large part to the trillions of taxpayers’ money used to bail them out. We call for taxing those reserves and at the same time eliminating the cap on the tax paid by the very rich to fund Social Security; enacting measures to increase the taxation on the wealthiest 1%; ending corporate welfare; and closing tax loopholes. These are but a few of the many options available to raise whatever revenue may be needed to deal with the fiscal crisis, so it is crystal clear that there is absolutely no justification for cutting earned benefits received by low and middle income families. We fought for those benefits and they belong to us! The politicians have no right to take any part of them from us!
Yet that is what is on their agenda for the coming months. While the major parties may have been at each others’ throats during the past several weeks, their leaders are agreed now on one thing: stick it to the 99% and make them pay though the nose to curb the debt and deficit. And number one on their hit list is Medicare.
To be sure, Democratic Party leaders insist that they will not agree to cuts unless the Republicans agree to tax increases, which the Republicans vow they will not do. But we can’t take it for granted that the major parties won’t come up with some kind of understanding on this question. After all, in 2011 the parties did join in making cuts to safety net programs — despite major differences between them — by enacting the sequestration (which was implemented after the Supercommittee could not agree on fashioning a “grand bargain”). The Wall Street Journal has now proposed a “compromise,” whereby agreement could be reached and an impasse avoided. The paper’s October18, 2013 lead editorial states:
“The way out is to negotiate a revenue neutral reform that lowers a rate in return for closing loopholes, which will lead to faster growth that will in turn produce more revenue. Democrats can get their new revenue, but only by growing the economy. That worked for Bill Clinton in his second term after he agreed to cut the capital gains tax in 1997. By “lower[ing] a rate” the Journal is talking about cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28%, something the president has said he supports. In the Journal’s view, this will pave the way for cuts in “entitlements.”
Let’s not depend upon the politicians and their schemes to safeguard our safety net programs. Let’s depend upon our own organized power and our readiness to oppose all cuts, regardless of who is pushing for them and under what guise.
Where does President Obama stand on cutting earned benefits?
- Obama’s recent record on Social Security and Medicare cuts includes his 2014 budget where he cuts $630 billion. He calls for squeezing Medicare by raising some fees and premiums as well as making cuts to providers.
- In an October 24, 2012 AP interview, the president was quoted as saying that if Republicans are willing, “I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises” that could even rankle his own party.
- He restated his support for cutting Social Security and Medicare in a press conference October 8, 2013, reassuring congressional Republicans of his willingness to agree to these cuts if the Republicans vote to increase the government’s debt limit.
So the die is cast. And Democratic Party congressional leaders can be expected to fall in line to present a united front in making cuts — especially when it comes to Medicare — with Republicans pressuring from the right for the most far-reaching cuts possible.
The question now is what is to be done? We are convinced that without massive mobilizations of the labor movement and our community allies, including an occupation of Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. if necessary, a bipartisan congressional coalition could work its will under the mantra of “shared sacrifices,” and tens of millions of people could find the benefits they need to sustain themselves and their families substantially diminished. We must not permit that to happen!
To put it more succinctly, what is needed is a national mobilization to defend Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the other safety net programs, and in the process to demand that the government create a jobs program that will put millions back to work with quality and comprehensive health care.
There is no time to delay organizing a broad, united and massive fightback movement, keeping in mind that an agreement is supposed to be submitted by the bipartisan budget committee by December 13, which could very well call for cuts to earned benefits. We urge trade unionists and community activists to take this issue to your respective organizations. Pass resolutions demanding “NO CUTS!” and calling for protest demonstrations both on a local and national scale (see sample resolution below).
Please fill out the form below so that we can help publicize the extent of opposition to proposed cuts to the safety net, and our determination to do whatever is needed to protect our cherished earned benefits.
Whereas the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations have taken a strong position opposing all cuts to safety net programs — especially Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid; and
Whereas these programs must not only be preserved but also expanded and improved; and
Whereas since the U.S. government has no problem coming up with trillions of dollars to bail out Wall Street, seemingly unlimited funds to pay for foreign invasions, and providing tax breaks and subsidies to corporations, it is crystal clear that more than enough money is available to sustain and expand vitally needed safety net programs; and
Whereas programs like Medicare and Social Security are earned benefits that we paid for and which belong to us, and no politician has the right to undermine or cut them; now therefore be it
Resolved that [name of union or community organization] opposes all cuts to safety net programs; and be it further
Resolved that we urge the labor movement, together with our community partners, to unite and mobilize locally and nationally including, if necessary, occupying Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. if that’s what it takes to prevent Congress from legislating cuts to these programs; and be it finally
Resolved that a copy of this resolution be sent to [list organizations and individuals your organization deems appropriate].
Form Authorizing Listing of Organization’s Name as Signer of Open Letter and/or Reporting Adoption by Organization of Resolution Opposing Cuts to Safety Net Programs
Petition to Stop the Criminalization of the Right to Protest:
Drop Charges Against Saladin Muhammad and Moral Mondays Labor Rights Arrestees!
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