By Mark Wachtler
December 28, 2014. Oakland, CA. (ONN) Most US opposition political parties have been curiously quiet on the topic of police killings and the resulting nonstop protests in cities across America, especially the parties on the center and right. But America’s opposition left isn’t holding its tongue. They’re outraged, angry and taking to the streets. With PSL and the Greens in near total agreement and voicing similar positions, the Peace and Freedom Party issued a public statement regarding the recent firestorm.
Peace & Freedom Party activists show up in force at a Dec. 13 ‘Black Lives Matter’ demonstration on the steps of the County Courthouse in Oakland, CA. Image courtesy of PeaceAndFreedom.org.
Black Lives Matter
That phrase isn’t just the title and theme of the current nationwide demonstrations drawing hundreds of thousands of Americans, if not millions. It’s also the title of the announcement released at the beginning of the week by Debra Reiger, State Chair of the Peace & Freedom Party’s largest state and longtime stronghold - California.
The Peace & Freedom Party statement is reprinted below in its entirety (from PeaceAndFreedom.org):
‘Michael Brown was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. Eric Garner was strangled while in a police chokehold in Staten Island, New York. Neither man had committed any more than a petty crime, and even that is questionable because neither man had a chance to be tried. These and other recent police murders of unarmed black men, and the fact that the state-authorized killers will not face prosecution, have sparked rallies and actions against police violence all over the county.
The slogan of the growing movement, “Black Lives Matter,” is a fitting response to the fact that African American people, particularly young men, are per capita more often the victims of police violence than are members of any other group. According to the Center for Disease Control, the rate at which black people are killed by law enforcement is three times higher than that of white people.
The statistics are more alarming for young black men. According to ProPublica, a leading investigative and data journalism outlet, young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than their white counterparts. Their report of Oct, 2014 states, “The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.”
When we chant “Black Lives Matter” we are asserting all of our humanity. We are saying that no one should stand for the systematic brutalization of African Americans by the government’s organs of social control. We will all benefit when we create a more just society. That can’t happen as long as we allow the oppression of a group of our fellow human beings to continue.’
The above statement was reprinted in its entirety from the Peace & Freedom Party.
Saving the US Postal Service
The Peace & Freedom Party hasn’t only been active on the national stage this week. They’ve also been on the local front line in the fight to save the Postal Service, specifically, the downtown Berkeley, CA Post Office. Two weeks ago, we covered the effort to save the USPS, that time on behalf of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. Read ‘PSL teams with NALC to save the US Postal Service’ for details. This week, it’s the Peace & Freedom Party’s turn.
“The historic downtown Berkeley Post Office is still public property and is still open,” Peace & Freedom’s Communications Committee Chair Marsha Feinland began the Party’s announcement one week ago, “A group called ‘First They Came for the Homeless’ and community supporters have been occupying the area outside the Post Office since November 1, 2014. People are camping out and maintaining an information booth continuously, even during the recent rainstorms.”
Feinland mentions the homeless because the Berkeley Post Office grounds happen to be occupied by a tent city of homeless people. She explains, “On Thursday, December 4, US Postal Service police removed a homeless encampment from the side of the Post Office. Over the next few days, they seized the tents on the front steps and the signs and banners that were not firmly pasted onto the columns in front of the building.”
Even with the recurring raids by the US Postal Police, the Peace & Freedom leader happily reports that demonstrators and the homeless have been able to maintain their presence as well as their make-shift living quarters. The demonstrators, plus all those who have nowhere else to live, insist they are on public property and not blocking the sidewalks or Post Office entrance in any way. Local authorities seemingly agreed since it’s the federal authorities that continue to harass the protesters.
Post Office sale collapses
The California Peace & Freedom Party had two reasons to celebrate victory in their fight to save the Berkeley Post Office. First, the facility’s supporters sued and won a temporary restraining order stopping any sale of the land or building to private interests. With the restraining order expiring near the end of this month, protesters celebrated another victory when the law firm managing the sale of the property announced that the buyer had pulled out of the deal.
The public statement from the law firm confirmed, ‘Earlier today we received notification from the US Attorneys' office that Hudson McDonald have exercised their option to cancel the sale set to close on 22 December.’ Attorneys warn this is only a temporary victory, as the Postal Service still has the option of finding another buyer.
Demonstrators are hoping that will not happen, mostly due to two main factors. One, the property the Post Office sits on is the site of a homeless tent city. Homeless people, as well as grassroots organizations that advocate for the homeless, are there 24/7 and promising to stay no matter what happens. And second, the local Berkeley City Council has added muscle to their vocal support by passing a new local ordinance that reserves the property for public and civic purposes only. If that didn’t make obvious which side local officials are on, it was the City of Berkeley that was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the USPS to stop the sale of the facility.
Peace & Freedom Party leaders closed their announcement by reminding supporters, ‘The struggle continues.’ Those leaders, in California and across the country, are making sure the Peace & Freedom Party is on the front line.
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