Workers Vanguard No. 1120
20 October 2017
Hundreds Arrested in St. Louis
Cops, FBI Target Black Activists
OCTOBER 15—Over the past month, more than 300 protesters against racist cop terror have been arrested in St. Louis, Missouri. Hundreds of black, white and Latino protesters have taken to the streets to denounce the September 15 bench trial acquittal of a white cop in the 2011 killing of black youth Anthony Lamar Smith. With the National Guard on standby, cops in full riot gear have attacked the demonstrators, kettled them in and doused them with tear gas, pepper spray and other noxious substances. On September 17, 123 people were arrested and another 143 on October 3, many of them for “failing to disperse.” The protests are ongoing and the repression continues. Five people were taken into custody last Friday in Ferguson, the St. Louis suburb that erupted in 2014 over the police execution of Michael Brown.
Emboldened by the Trump White House, the cops have reveled in repressing protesters and black activists. After the mass arrests on September 17, cops chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets.” At a subsequent press conference, the police chief gloated, “We’re in control. This is our city,” adding, “The police owned the night.” The Partisan Defense Committee condemned the cop terror in a September 20 letter to the St. Louis mayor and local prosecutors. We say: Drop the charges! Hands off the protesters!
As we noted when the cop who killed Michael Brown walked: “In capitalist America, the job of the cops, courts and prosecutors is to maintain and defend a system rooted in the brutal exploitation of the many by the few—a system built on racial oppression from chattel slavery to wage slavery” (“Ferguson Righteous Fury,” WV No. 1057, 28 November 2014).
St. Louis’s Calvary Cemetery contains the grave of Dred Scott, the slave whose petition for freedom was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1857. In his ruling, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney declared that black people “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Taney’s racist ruling continues to resound today in the wanton cop killings of black people like Anthony Lamar Smith. The officer pursuing Smith in a police chase six years ago, Jason Stockley, shouted that he was “going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it.” The cop proceeded to fire five rounds into Smith’s car. Stockley claimed that Smith was reaching for a gun, but forensics found only the cop’s DNA on the gun, not Smith’s.
Repression against anti-racist protesters is being stepped up across the country. Two young black men who were attacked by fascists in Charlottesville, Virginia, on the weekend Heather Heyer was killed have been charged with assault for defending themselves. DeAndre Harris suffered a spinal injury and required ten stitches for a head laceration after he was brutally beaten by six fascists, but he has been charged with “unlawful wounding.” Likewise, Corey Long, who was shot at by a fascist and then used a can of spray paint (thrown at him by a white supremacist) and a lighter to defend both himself and an elderly white man, has now been charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct. Drop the charges against Harris and Long!
While local cops are viciously attacking protesters, the Feds are busy smearing black activists and radicals as “domestic terrorists,” setting them up for arrest and assassination. On October 6, Foreign Policy revealed a sinister August 3 FBI assessment report portraying a supposed threat from “Black Identity Extremists” who are responsible for an alleged increase in “premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement.”
If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of these Black Identity Extremists before, it’s because the term is nothing but a label the Feds can apply to black activists of every stripe. “Basically, it’s black people who scare them,” a former FBI agent told Foreign Policy. On October 13, the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to FBI director Christopher Wray requesting a meeting to discuss its “concern” over the Black Identity Extremist designation.
While Trump seeks to divert attention from the obvious rise of white-supremacists and fascist terrorists that he has fostered, the FBI’s deadly Black Identity Extremist label is hardly the brainchild of the current administration alone. The federal “assessment” of black activists began under President Barack Obama, channeling right-wing and cop complaints that Black Lives Matter protests were “endangering” cops and undermining their authority.
The FBI is America’s secret police. Whether under Republican or Democratic administration, its purpose has always been to target those whom the racist ruling class perceives as a threat. Chief among them are radicals, reds and black people.
As the Foreign Policy article noted, “From the time J. Edgar Hoover took over the anti-radical division in the FBI at the height of the first ‘red scare’ in 1919, the bureau began systematically surveilling black activists.” For decades, the FBI has maintained a “Security Index” of leftists and black activists to be rounded up in the event of a “national emergency.”
The FBI used the COINTELPRO program in the 1960s and early ’70s to disrupt and destroy the Black Panther Party, the best of a generation of black radicals. FBI director Hoover declared that “the Negro youth and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.” And his agents followed through on that threat. Thirty-eight Panthers were killed and hundreds more imprisoned.
As we noted in “Spying, Repression, War: Pillars of Capitalist Rule,” the simple fact is that:
“The spy agencies’ central purpose is to do the dirty work that goes on behind the scenes of the ‘normal’ administrative mechanisms of bourgeois democracy—the surveillance, burglaries, black-bag jobs, infiltration and tricks by agents provocateurs, extraordinary renditions, torture and murder. A whole system of class exploitation—and in this country racial oppression—that is maintained through state repression is not going to come crashing down or be fundamentally reformed by blowing whistles or through Congressional cosmetic reforms behind which the state continues its murderous work. Nothing less than victorious socialist revolution can abolish capitalism’s secret police and their deadly ‘dirty tricks’.”
—WV No. 1037, 10 January 2014