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Interview with Frank Chapman, of National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR) as we start 2022

By staff

Fight Back! interviews Frank Chapman, Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR). Fight Back!: One month ago, you held the second national conference of the Alliance. What came out of that?

Frank Chapman: Quite a bit came out of it; but let me first address why it was important to have it. December 4th and 5th was just over two years since we held the re-founding conference in 2019. We held the re-founding conference six months before the outbreak of the George Floyd rebellion. At the time, we realized that the struggle for community control of the police was at the epicenter of the Black Liberation movement.

When the rebellion happened, we could see that the Black Liberation movement had grown considerably since 2012. We had 26 million people demonstrating in all 50 of the United States. This was a national rebellion led by Black people – the largest one in U.S. history.

Fortunately, we were prepared to give an organized response to it because we had a national organization we had re-founded in November 2019. When the rebellion came in Spring 2020, NAARPR called for a nationwide protest with the demands for Justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and for community control of the police. More than 22 different cities responded, with protests involving over 100,000 people.

This was clearly a new page in the history of our struggle. We put the demand for community control of the police on the front burner of the Black Liberation movement.

Fight Back!: What’s happening in the struggle against police crimes nationally?

Chapman: 22 cities came to our Second National Conference, all of which had participated in the rebellion. It was very revealing to look at the report backs organizers in these cities gave:

Toni Jones, New Orleans for Civilian Oversight of Police: The demand for community control of the police has made its way to New Orleans. We just started petitioning, but have been out there every week.

Adrian Romero, Utah Against Police Brutality, Salt Lake City: Police murdered Darien Hunt, permanently disabled Abdi Muhammad, both teenage boys. We fought for a police accountability council, the local legislature blocked it and made it illegal in retaliation, but we have continued to fight, bringing thousands of people onto the streets.

Sydney Loving, Dallas Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression: We led the largest protest in Dallas history during the 2020 uprising, with Black women and families leading the march. This led to the resignation of their police chief for her crimes against demonstrators.

David Jones, Tampa Bay Community Action Committee: Started their organization out of the uprising, raising money to get freedom fighters out of jail, bailed out 70+ people. Marched demanding justice for the 67 people arrested for demonstrating in a public park, got all 67 of those charges dropped.

Shut down a plan to move police headquarters into a Black neighborhood by marching to City Hall and demanding an end to increased police presence. City made a plan to evict over 1000 Black people to “decrease crime in the neighborhood,” we shut that program down, and continue to fight for those people to get housing.

Omar Flores, Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (MAARPR): The NAARPR conference in 2019 gave us direction and certainty of what needs to be done. Taleavia Cole, sister of Alvin Cole, came to the conference, and has been organizing with MAARPR since the uprising. Alvin Cole was a 17-year-old Black child who was shot by Wauwatosa PD. The family of Jonathan Tubby, an Indigenous youth killed in Green Bay, also travelled with us to this conference.

The first march we hosted in 2020 for Thee Three, the three people murdered by officer Joseph Mensa, we got support from the Milwaukee Area Labor Council.

There was a park named after the Nazi Charles Lindbergh, they got this park renamed after Lucille Berrien, Milwaukee freedom fighter and founder of the MAARPR chapter back in 1973. From canvassing in the most-incarcerated zip code, we found people did not want more money going to the police, which currently take up almost 50% of the Milwaukee budget. So, they fought against that budget, and found out this week they took $2.4 million out of MCSO’s budget.

Regina Joseph, Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC): NAARPR’s first call to action coincided with the week Tony McDade, a trans man, was murdered by TPD. The second call to action coincided with the George Floyd rebellion.

Then September 5, 2020, 14 of their members were arrested at a protest We got them out thanks to donations from our national movement. Three days after the action, one of their members was pulled out of his home and arrested, but we got him bailed out. He was facing 10 years in prison, $10,000 in fines, and they beat that case.

TCAC stopped TPD from building a $60 million police station on the South side. City commissioners told them it was a done deal, but we showed up in full force and shut it down, which caused the TPD Chief of police to step down. Three people have been murdered by TPD in 3 months since the new chief took over. We have protested every murder.

Angel Buechner, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar (TCC4J): TCC4J is boots on the ground for community control of the police, setting up CPAC tables in neighborhoods and parks. Angel introduced a new chant: Rain, sleet, or snow, we demand community control!

Jae Yates, TCC4J: We are embedded with the families, and that is the strength of their campaign in Minneapolis. We began fighting for community control in 2017, that’s when they started drafting their legislation. We started by talking with the families about what police accountability would look like to them. We held a lot of community meetings in North Minneapolis in particular, that’s where Jamar Clark was killed. In those forums, we went through the legislation line by line, making it clear why this is the way to get the things people want.

We’re currently collecting signatures for a petition to get our legislation on the ballot, with the goal of getting it on the ballot in 2022. We’ve collected 4000 signatures, on-third of the way to the needed number of signatures

Sol Marquez, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Centro CSO, Los Angeles, CA: We came to this conference with the family of David Ordaz, Jr., killed by East L.A. Sheriff Dept., his sister Hilda, his daughter Emily, and his widow Jazmine. We uplift Chicano victims of police brutality because police violence has to do with Black folks, and it also has to do with Chicanos, Latinos, and Indigenous people.

Justice for Leo Chavez, Paul Reya, 16-year-old Jose Mendez, 14-year old Jesse Romero!

Luis Sifuentes, Centro CSO: Our current focus is on the Sheriff’s Department because we found out there are gangs within that department that deputies are initiated to by executing civilians. We successfully ousted a District Attorney, Jackie Lacey, who refused to prosecute any of these cops. We are working with the replacement, sending a report with recommendations.

Carlos Montes, Centro CSO: In LA we had hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in the George Floyd rebellion. There was a rash of killings in the Black community in LA and also in the Boyle Heights community. The family of Anthony Vargas got involved not only in advocating on behalf of their son, but calling in to get rid of Sheriff Villanueva, and fighting for community control to give power to civilians.

Neal Jefferson, Jacksonville Community Action Committee (JCAC): Led the largest protest for the Black freedom struggle in Jacksonville history in the summer of 2020, over 10,000 people hit the streets on a rainy day. We have worked with the families of Jamee Johnson, Vernell Bing, Kwame Jones, Leah Baker, Reginald Boston Jr., and others.

Monique Sampson, JCAC: We started a campaign called Walking While Black because they noticed a lot of people that were getting traffic tickets were Black people, who were getting tickets for walking off of the sidewalk in neighborhoods where there are no sidewalks. We won that campaign.

Then Ahmaud Arbery was executed an hour and a half away from Jacksonville in Brunswick, Georgia.

Then the George Floyd rebellion took off, and they had 3000 people at their first rally, not including the people in cars

Since then, we have been fighting for a People’s Budget. The JSO [Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office] gets 40% of the budget, and has a 70% unsolved homicide rate.

Jazmine Salas, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR): On May 30 alone, we had 10,000 people in the street and another 6000 in cars. The Uprising is what made it possible to pass our ordinance, Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS).

At the beginning of 2020 we had 100,000 CPAC supporters from every ward in Chicago. When we came to the table to build a coalition for ECPS, we had that backing us up. In City Council we got the support of the Socialist Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Latino Caucus, and the Progressive Reform Caucus, which together was 36 votes out of 50.

We also had this grassroots movement ready to take action, so when we identified 17 wards that were maybes, we hit the ground running in those wards, phone banking, flyering, engaging the community.

It was inspiring to watch that number drop from 17 to 15 to 10 until we had enough votes to pass the ordinance.

Next, we have this police accountability commission, and are working to ensure that nationally oppressed folks, Black, Puerto Rican and Chicano, people who have been impacted by police violence, are ready to run to sit on it.

Anthony Driver, CAARPR: As Political Coordinator for the City and County for SEIU HCII, last year with President Greg Kelley, the question was – how do we get HCII’s 90,000 members on board with ECPS?

HCII sent out 10,000 member surveys almost quarterly to figure out what the members support because we need rank and file support in order to move. Then we got to work educating their members at every meeting and event until it got to the point the surveys came back saying 83% of their members supported community control.

Then we came to the table with CAARPR, lent all our resources to it, and began reaching out to additional labor allies. We got a coalition made of 18 labor unions, over 150 community and faith-based organizations, and over 125,000 Chicagoans.

We were able to pass this ordinance in July, and we have a second round coming up with a ballot referendum that will give greater control to the people.

Fight Back!: The call to the NAARPR conference stated that riding on the crest of the George Floyd rebellion, NAARPR has emerged as a mass movement for community control of the police. Can you tell that story?

Chapman: Here are some more aspects of it: what we have demonstrated in the wake of the rebellion is that Black and brown communities throughout this country are ready to take up this fight. They’re sick and tired of the police tyranny going on in their communities, and able, willing and ready to engage in the struggle for community control of the police.

What our branches and allies have done is to reach out to these communities, particularly families that have been victimized by the police, and have begun to organize mass movements in these cities to bring about community control of the police. This is a very welcome development. It demonstrates that what has been going on in Chicago and Minneapolis is also going on in the nation.

Everywhere throughout this country, the police are actively engaged in a conspiracy to either stop the Black Liberation movement from happening at all, or to squash it where it has emerged. We must continue to organize and be prepared to wage the struggle for community control of the police. This is a very important democratic demand of our people.

Fight Back!: What has the struggle for community control meant for the Black Liberation movement historically? I’ve heard you say that community control of the police is the first line of defense for the BLM. What was meant by that?

Chapman: It’s been like that since the Civil War and the Reconstruction era. As is very well known now, after the Civil War, there was a ten-year period stretching from 1867 to 1877 where Black people were given considerable political control over the areas where they were in the majority. That period is known as Radical Reconstruction, or as WEB DuBois called it, Black Reconstruction. During that time, the police were reconstructed in Black communities to defend the revolutionary gains made by the Civil War.

Of course, prior to the Civil War, the function of the police was slave patrols to catch runaway slaves, and to imprison slaves for theft, and things of that sort. Those slave jails and slave patrols were eliminated by the Civil War. In its stead, Black people through Federal Militias, through the Union League, or through the election of their own marshals and constables, set up a police operation to defend those gains.

That situation was altered and changed permanently by the counter-revolution that was organized by Ku Klux Klan and ex-Confederate generals. Since 1877, when the North withdrew all the federal troops from the South, the struggle for community control of the police has been a very vital, democratic demand in the Black community.

Black people, as an oppressed nation, understand instinctively that the only thing that works for them in terms of policing is that they have a decisive voice, that they determine who polices their communities and how their communities are policed. Because it is precisely the police that are used as a military force against the Black Liberation movement. This has been true since Black Reconstruction was forcibly overthrown, and in its place a police state was set up called Jim Crow. This was true during the Civil Rights era when Blacks struggled against the police state to gain their democratic rights to vote and for public accommodations. It was the police who came out against them with dogs, fire hoses and weapons. It was the police who murdered them and jailed them.

It’s a fundamental understanding in the Black community that the struggle for Black liberation has to confront the police so long as we don’t have community control over those who police our communities.

Fight Back!: Any last thoughts?

Chapman: Recent events have told us that democracy in this country is facing the greatest crisis since the Civil War. In fact, there are forces in this country right now, inspired and led by Donald Trump and other factions of the Republican Party, who are calling for civil war. They’ve been doing it in Texas, to some extent in Florida. Why is this happening? It’s because the most reactionary forces of monopoly capitalism realize that they can no longer maintain their regime in a democratic way, even within the confines of the present state of democracy.

They are prepared to suppress the vote, to talk about secession of states, they are prepared to take states’ rights to the limit like they did during the time of slavery. They are prepared to do all of this rather than give the people of this country the democratic rights that they deserve.

Given that situation, it comes down to this: the Black Liberation movement and the forces of fascism in this country are confronting one another more openly and more clearly than ever before. That’s why our building of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is going to be so important in the days ahead. This is the only national organization in this moment of our history that is capable of leading the struggle against these extremists who want to destroy every semblance of democracy that we have left in this country.

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