March against police crimes August 29
Interview with Frank Chapman
The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) is calling for a march on August 29 to demand civilian control of the police. They have written legislation to create a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), elected by the voters. Fight Back! interviewed Frank Chapman, Field Organizer of the Alliance, about the fight against police crimes, the march in August and CPAC. Fight Back!: Why is the Alliance campaigning for this legislation? Doesn’t Chicago already have a civilian review board?
Frank Chapman: Our campaign for an all-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council was agitated into existence by the present epidemic of police crimes here in Chicago and the nation. In the last four years Chicago police have shot over 90 people and 75% of them were Black. There has been only one police charged in 20 years and none disciplined or suspended without pay. So we have police crimes that get reviewed by the Independent Police Review Authority – IPRA – and the police are rarely charged and never punished.
CPAC would replace IPRA, which is appointed by the mayor, and, as an elected body it would be empowered to hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit. Members of CPAC will be elected from each police district. This is the democratic solution to the problem of police crimes and torture.
Fight Back!: Is the Black Lives Matter movement in Chicago behind CPAC? What about the unions? The families of the victims of police crimes?
Chapman: Yes! Black Lives Matter is definitely a supporter of our campaign for CPAC. We have a broad base of support coming from the Black Caucus of Chicago’s AFT [American Federation of Teachers], United Electrical workers Western Region, SEIU Local 73, Fight (4) 15, Black Youth Project 100, Church of the Living God, Howard Morgan and other victims and their families as well as the NAACP Southside and community-based organizations like Reclaim Our Community on the Westside. We have a long list of endorsers from all the various strands of the people’s movement.
Fight Back!: There is a national movement that has emerged in response to the uprisings in Ferguson and now Baltimore. Why is it so hard for this movement to win justice for the families of the murdered Blacks and Latinos?
Chapman: The youth-led movements which have emerged nationally are momentous and yet they face perhaps the most corrupt, racist and insidious police force on earth at this moment of history. The task of politically winning the struggle for community control of the police is enormous but doable because it is a broad democratic demand capable of rallying millions of workers and oppressed people of color to the cause. To get justice, we must wage a relentless struggle for a democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. There is no royal, velvet-covered road to victory. There is only the dirt and blood of battle that arises out each outrage of police brutality and this will continue to agitate into existence more massive movements against police tyranny. In this protracted struggle we must remember the words of our martyred comrade, Amicar Cabral: “Tell no lies. Claim no easy victories.”
Fight Back!: What are the origins of the idea for an elected, civilian police accountability council?
Chapman: The idea of community control of the police in the 20th century originated with the Black Panther Party in Berkeley, California in 1971. This movement was successful in getting an initiative on the ballot but they lost the election. In the wake of the murders of Black Panther Party leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression made stopping police crimes a national priority at its founding convention, held in Chicago, in 1973. So we have been in this struggle for over 40 years and what we have learned from our history is that it is going to take a massive, grassroots-organized movement to win.
Fight Back!: What do you say to people who say that the elected civilian police accountability council can also be co-opted?
Chapman: So what! Are you afraid to fight because you might lose? In that case there would be no struggle. If we insist that struggle must proceed in a straight, uncompromising line then we are doomed before we start. All we can guarantee is that we will keep losing if we don’t fight. We may not get all we fight for but we must fight for all we get. At any rate I believe in the people and not the democratic superstitions of the 1%. Every democratic struggle we win becomes the basis for fighting for another one. Freedom is a constant struggle.