50th anniversary NAARPR conference features Angela Davis, 700 freedom fighters
Chicago, IL – Celebrating 50 years since it was founded in Chicago, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR), gathered here again, November 3-5.
The National Alliance is new wine in an old wine skin. Executive Director Frank Chapman, the legendary Angela Davis, and a small band of movement veterans from the 1970s and 1980s were surrounded mainly by a sea of college and even high school students, young workers, Gen Z and Millennials. Most of the conference attendees were Black, Latino, Arab, Asian and Pacific Islanders.
The third national conference brought 700 to the Chicago Teachers Union hall November 3 to 5. In 2019, NAARPR was re-founded at the same hall. Again, this year, CTU President Stacy Davis Gates welcomed everyone in the room at the Friday night rally. Chicago city council member and longtime ally of the Chicago chapter of the Alliance, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, brought greetings to the conference participants from Mayor Brandon Johnson.
Chapman closed the rally, noting, “It’s been a great evening with reports from freedom fighters carrying out the mission of our organization. What a difference between now and 2019.” Referring to the organizing centers in the chapters and affiliates in the room, he continued, “Then we had maybe five possibilities going on. Now we have over 20.”
Chapman was freed from wrongful imprisonment by the efforts of NAARPR after it was formed in 1973. Referring to the progress made in the past 50 years, he said, “Are we in the same place that we were when this organization was founded in 1973? Hell no! To say that would be anti-history. That means you don’t recognize progress. Freedom is a constant struggle, because we haven’t overthrown oppression yet. Those of you who live in Chicago know damn well that we have made progress because we have done something in this city that has never been done in this country before.”
Chapman was referring to the first in the country election of councilors in Chicago’s police districts with powers to hold the police accountable. The advances made in Chicago are one of the ingredients that is growing NAARPR, as activists against racist policing in cities across the country hope to replicate Chicago’s victories.
Fighting racist and political repression
In addition to NAARPR branches working to establish community control of the police, activists have also continued the fight for the wrongly incarcerated after decades in prison; to free activists arrested during the George Floyd rebellion and other protests; and to support political prisoners and activists facing repression, like the Tampa 5, who are facing up to ten years in prison for protest on their college campus demanding greater diversity in recruitment of students on their campus.
Also highlighted is the struggle of activists against Cop City in Atlanta. In January 2023, Atlanta police murdered Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, nicknamed “Tortuguita,” riddling his body with bullets after falsely claiming he fired a pistol at a cop. 60 other activists are facing trumped-up RICO (racketeering) charges for mass direct action to stop the destruction of 385 acres of forest and the construction of a huge, $90 million police training center.
Another section of the conference was Chicano and immigrant rights activists organized by the Legalization for All Network (L4A). Again, there was a range in ages, from Carlos Montes, a veteran of the Brown Berets of the 1960s in East Los Angeles, to youth organizers from LA, San Jose, Chicago, Florida, Arizona, New Orleans, the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. They reported on struggles to demand legalization for all the 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S; to stop the deportations and separations of families, which have greatly increased under the Biden administration; and stop again the racist border wall started by the bigot Trump, which liberal President Joe Biden has continued.
Every city and campus present at the conference had taken part in massive and militant protests to end the genocide being carried out by the settler colonial state of Israel against the Palestinian people. Muhammad Sankari of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network exposed the Zionists for planning and committing a genocide, having already killed 10,000 people, including thousands of children. Another 1000 children are buried beneath the rubble.
“The people of Gaza now have a saying, ‘Heaven is closer than the Sinai desert. The people of Gaza are determined that they will win, or they will die, and there is no other option,” said Sankari.
“Palestine is the axis in which the U.S. empire operates in the Arab world. Similarly, the Black national question is the axis around which the U.S. empire operates domestically. That is why we unite our struggles and that’s why we will win,” Sankari continued.
Again and again, the conference hall rang with the slogan, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
We leave here today facing the rising sun of a new day begun
At the start of the conference, a local artist, Theophilus Reed led those at the Friday rally to sing the Black national anthem Lift Every Voice and Sing.
Sunday afternoon, before the final plenary of 300 organizers left Chicago, Executive Director Chapman commissioned the movement:
“Now that we have come to the end of our weekend long conference bringing together organizers from across the United States we see clearly now the road ahead for our movement. We clearly see with the emerging revolutionary movements in Palestine, the Philippines, Venezuela and other parts of the world that we are standing in the rosy dawn of a new world a coming. The courageous people of Gaza and Palestine as a whole are showing us that revolution is the only solution to imperialist domination. We clearly see now how the gains of our movement for community control in the last 50 years and in the last four years since our re-founding conference has established a solid foundation for the continued growth of our movement.”
“So, we leave here today fired up and armed up with the collective spirit of our movement to turn the tides of history to the winning of our liberation.”