By Doug Porter
Two elements of the ugly side of our society and economy are coming together this week.
Black Lives Matter groups and their supporters in cities around the country, including San Diego, are staging Friday protests and urging people not to shop. Events in Alabama, Washington state, Chicago and Minneapolis have served to bolster their case about the pervasiveness of racism.
Black Friday sales events stand as reminders of the false prosperity of the consumer economy. Retail workers and supporters will be ending a fifteen-day fast as they picket outside WalMart heiress Alice Walton’s apartment in New York City and various locations around the country.
Chicago: A Police Execution Revealed
Four hundred plus days after Laquan McDonald was shot and killed, a dash cam video gave lie to the official account, backed by numerous Chicago Police officers, of his death.
Were it not for the Freedom of Information request filed by reporter Brandon Smith, the indictment of CPD officer Jason Van Dyke on first-degree murder charges most likely would have never occurred. Prosecutors sat on evidence contradicting the officer’s story for over a year. And, as things stand with police involved shootings in most states, prosecutors will have to prove the accused policeman did not fear for his life.
From the Union-Tribune:
The relevant portion of the video runs for less than 40 seconds and has no audio.
Laquan McDonald, 17, swings into view on a four-lane street where police vehicles are stopped in the middle of the roadway. As he jogs down an empty lane, he appears to pull up his pants and then slows to a brisk walk, veering away from two officers who are emerging from a vehicle and drawing their guns.
Almost immediately, one of the officers appears to fire from close range. McDonald spins around and crumples to the pavement.
The car with the camera continues to roll forward until the officers are out of the frame. Then McDonald can be seen lying on the ground, moving occasionally. At least two small puffs of smoke are seen coming off his body as the officer continues firing.
In the final moments, an officer kicks something out of McDonald’s hands.
NOTE: YouTube took down the original video, claiming it fell under a policy of preventing scams and erroneous information. Obviously the authorities (or somebody claiming to be the authorities) got to them. Fortunately, there’s more than one copy floating around. We’ve replaced the YouTube vid with one from ABC in Chicago.
The Chicago reporter who filed the requests leading to the release of the video was barred from attending the press conference where the mayor and local officials discussed the shooting and urged the public not to over-react.
The public did react last night in Chicago, and hundreds of protesters took to the streets, chanting “16 shots” — the number of times the officer charged with murder fired. These protests, while confrontational, were largely peaceful. Larger demonstrations are planned for coming days.
Minneapolis: Shots Fired for Second Night in a Row
An ongoing protest and encampment stemming from the Nov 15th police killing of an unarmed black man has been targeted by right-wing extremists. Five people were wounded late Monday night as they attempted to herd suspicious looking men wearing masks away from the main group.
From the New York Times news service:
As the police took three people into custody on Tuesday in connection with the shooting of five people during a Black Lives Matter protest outside of a police precinct here, demonstrators returned to the street with renewed vigor, vowing not to cower in fear of what one organizer called “an act of terrorism.”
Tensions remained high as activists urged caution among the peaceful demonstrators who have been protesting after a white Minneapolis police officer fatally shot Jamar Clark, 24, an unarmed black man, on Nov. 15.
The police said they arrested a 23-year-old white man, and that two other white men, ages 21 and 26, turned themselves in on Tuesday afternoon. A 32-year-old Hispanic had been detained and questioned but was released when the police determined that he was not involved in the Monday night shooting, they said.
Activists remained critical of the police, saying that officers did not properly respond during the shooting and that they had lost trust in the department.
“Despite earlier statements from police about the impending threat from white supremacists, the police instead maced citizen journalists and peaceful protesters,” after the shooting, Miski Noor, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, said during a brief news conference on Tuesday. “They made disparaging comments to those at the protests instead of taking the threat seriously. We reiterate that we have zero faith in this police department’s desire to keep our community safe.”
A report in the Washington Post says that shots were fired at the encampment again late last night. There were no injuries reported.
At Raw Story, reporters accessed and confirmed social media accounts connected with those arrested after Monday night’s shootings.
Video appears to show two of the suspects, who wore masks and identified themselves as “Saiga Marine” and “Black Powder Ranger,” driving to the protest Friday and using racist language as they promised to disrupt the protests.
“We are on our way, we’re going to knock this shit out,” said the driver, who identified himself as Saiga Marine and displays a handgun. “F*ck — and we’re going to see what these dindus are dinduing about.”
The word “dindu” is a racial slur derived from “dindu nuffin” — a pejorative term that originated on 4Chan’s /pol/ forum to complain about participants in the last year’s protests and riots.
Emails posted online appear to show the men planning their activities, and protesters complained for several days that masked white men wearing military-style clothing had been recording video and harassing demonstrators camped near the Fourth Precinct.
Alabama: Man Beaten at Trump Rally Speaks Out
Think Progress scored an interview with Mercutio Southall Jr., the man seen in a CNN video getting pummeled by Trump supporters in Birmingham, Alabama last weekend.
Southall said he felt unwelcome as soon as he arrived at the event, when Trump supporters physically recoiled from him and his friends. “There was like a six feet space on either side of us,” he said. “The message was: this was not our town. This was not our place.”
The three tried to get close to the stage so they could have a chance to ask Trump a question. Before the event started, Southall’s friend began livestreaming himself, saying to his camera, “We want to show [Trump] he’s not welcome here.” Upon hearing that, a nearby man knocked the phone out of his hand, prompting Southall to come to his friend’s defense. The three started chanting, “Black lives matter…”
…“It was just a sea of white faces,” he told ThinkProgress. “A lady kicked me in the stomach. A man kicked me in the chest. They called me n*****, monkey, and they shouted ‘all lives matter’ while they were kicking and punching me. So for all the people who are still confused at this point, they proved what ‘all lives matter’ meant. It means, ‘Shut up, n*****.’”
On Sunday, the morning after the rally, Trump told the hosts of Fox & Friends that Southall deserved what he got.
Even More College Racism…
Classes at West Washington State were suspended on Tuesday.
From the Seattle Times:
In an unprecedented step, Western Washington University suspended all classes Tuesday because of what President Bruce Shepard called “disturbing and very threatening” hate speech, posted on social media and targeting students of color.
Law enforcement is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. It is believed to be the first time classes at a higher-education institution in Washington have been suspended because of a threat on social media.
“White Students Union” Facebook pages have mysteriously appeared, claiming to be connected with over 33 campuses around the country. They appear to share common language, praising “students of European descent” and postings critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, or stories that aim to debunk white privilege.
No Justice, No Profit
This year groups across the country are adding a new meaning to the term “Black” in Black Friday, calling on African Americans to abstain from holiday shopping in the wake of increased police brutality against communities of color.
From the Stranger, a Seattle-based blog:
“I think we’ve seen that historically, the only way to get society as a whole to acknowledge that we need to change something, or change unjust systems, is to disrupt commerce and make economic hardship for those in power,” said Nikkita Oliver, an activist and law-school graduate who has been involved in Black Lives Matter protests over the past year. “Money talks… Do I think disruption of Black Friday will get black and brown and poor people everything they need? No. But I do think that nationally it will keep [Black Lives Matter] in the eyes of those in power… It’s just one strategy in a huge array of ways that people can be challenging police brutality and the other ways that black lives are devalued in the system.”
WalMart’s Ready to Rumble
Mega-retailer WalMart has responded to negative Black Friday publicity by offering holiday discount deals earlier in Thanksgiving week.
OUR WalMart, which is no longer affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), will hold protests outside of stores in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and various other cities. They’ll be demanding a $15 hourly minimum and more full-time work for WalMart workers who want it.
The UFCW is running with the Making Change at WalMart campaign. “Black Friday Week of Action” events include local food drives and a TV campaign to tell WalMart “no hardworking family should go hungry.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg Business is out with a story about WalMart’s efforts to keep an eye on would-be troublemakers both inside and outside the company.
…Walmart considered the group enough of a threat that it hired an intelligence-gathering service from Lockheed Martin, contacted the FBI, staffed up its labor hotline, ranked stores by labor activity, and kept eyes on employees (and activists) prominent in the group. During that time, about 100 workers were actively involved in recruiting for OUR Walmart, but employees (or associates, as they’re called at Walmart) across the company were watched; the briefest conversations were reported to the “home office,” as Walmart calls its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.
The Sacramento Bee reports Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is working on reviving stalled legislation promising double-time on Thanksgiving. This time around it’s being amended so it only applies to workers at large retail businesses with more than 500 employees in California.
Dead Mall Walking
The shopping of the future has finally arrived, according to <re/code>.net.
They’re predicting on-line shopping dollars will amount to more than double the amount spent in brick and mortar locations this holiday season.
WalMart announced not long ago that profits would dip by up to 12 percent in 2016. Amazon, which has now passed WalMart in market capitalization, reported a record $25.4 billion in revenue in the third quarter, has added 75,000 workers in the last year.
The numbers tell the story. Target is closing 13 U.S. stores by January, after taking a $4.4 billion bath in Canada and closing all stores there. Costco is still getting by because its bottom line is buttressed by paid memberships, but that isn’t a model most retailers can get away with. Home Depot’s business model, while showing growth now, relies on a hot housing market; in the crashes of 2007 and 2009, its earnings and profits plunged by 40 percent.
Meanwhile, it’s not just big-box retail that’s hurting. Fifteen percent of U.S. malls will be converted to non-retail uses or abandoned as ghost malls in the next 10 years, according to Cushman and Wakefield Industrial Research. Worse, as many as half of America’s shopping malls could be blighted retail wastelands in just 15 to 20 years. Sears has closed 300 stores since 2010, and flagships like J.C. Penney and Macy’s are following suit. From the Gap to J. Crew, the major brand names we’ve gotten used to in malls across America are closing, oftentimes as a precursor to the mall itself shuttering its doors. Stores aren’t dying overnight, but the writing’s on the mall wall.
Attempts by big box stores (and a lot of other well-known brands) to make up for declining store sales by increasing their presence on the internet have largely been mediocre.
Now, if you can’t beat a competitor with price, what’s a retailer to do?
Oh, yeah. There’s the service part of the equation… I guess WalMart can forget about that idea, at least as far as public perception is concerned.
Imagine… Helpful, happy employees, giving customer service because they cared about the company they were working for…
See You Friday…
Have a great Thanksgiving. I’ll be back on Friday with something to say and the weekly calendar of progressive events…
On This Day: 1883 – Some 10,000 New Orleans workers, Black and White, participate in a solidarity parade of unions comprising the Central Trades and Labor Assembly. The parade was so successful it was repeated the following two years. 1946 – Teachers struck in St. Paul, Minn., the first organized walkout by teachers in the country. The month-long “strike for better schools” involving some 1,100 teachers—and principals—led to a number of reforms in the way schools were administered and operated. 1947 – Movie studio executives meeting in New York agreed to blacklist the “Hollywood 10,” who were cited a day earlier and jailed for contempt of Congress when they failed to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee.
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