The media loves to grab onto the sensational and tends to omit the real power of our social movement. The national coverage is focusing on the violent eruptions that occurred at the end of the night and although I am not sure about all the rest of the cities in the United States, I was present at the demonstration in Seattle and the Police here were the initiators of the violence that erupted.
Below are a collection of photographs that I shot while I was engaged in the actions on both May 1st and May 2nd and what you will see is that the only people who brought weapons to these demonstrations are the police. The people brought with them their own personal bodies, signs, instruments, cameras, and children. This unfortunately is not the narrative that is being spun in the mainstream media, and they would have America believe that we, the people, are a group of unruly and un-politically motivated “thugs,” or “barbarians,” uncivilized, uneducated, impolite, jobless, uncouth ruffians that are unthankfull for the oppressive and suppressive system that we have been subjected to. The latter is a true statement and we are upset about the oppressive and suppressive system that has enslaved people, relegating millions to a subordinated position in our societies worldwide. However, we are none of the other things, those are only the premises that underlie the paternalistic ideology of most empires and is used as a ‘justification’ to continue its subjugation.
The weapons that the people brought with them are their ideas, which cut much more than any bullet, flash-bomb, mace, or billy-cub. You will see messages such as “Stop Killing Us,” and “Legalize Me,” to “Smash Racism,” to “No New Youth Jail,” and “Black Lives Matter.” If you would have been in the marches then you would have heard such chants and songs as: “Bourgeois, run and Hide, Black and Brown, now side-by-side,” and “I can hear my neighbor crying ‘I can’t breathe. Now I’m in the Struggle, and I can’t leave. Calling out the violence of the racist police. We won’t stop until our people are free. We won’t stop until our people are free.”
It seems that the power structure of the United States does not want the general public to see and hear these types of messages from so many people because it undermines the paternalistic project and justifications for further militarization of the police and law enforcement institutions. I am a historian, and in culture after culture and civilization after civilization that I study, I see the exact same dialogue emerge that seeks to justify the subjugation of people. And we are only a few generations removed from Chattel Slavery in the United States and we still have not escaped the grasp of Jim Crow, which has been refashioned with a Colorblind Language into the Prison Industrial Complex. In the 1970’s with President Nixon’s Tough On Crime campaign, they were able to make Civil Rights Activist and Criminal synonymous. Then in the 1980’s with President Reagan’s War On Drugs campaign, they were able to expand the prison system, impose harsher punishments that systematically targeted People of Color, and set into place a system of financial incentives for for police departments to comply with the new system. Then to seal the deal in the 1990’s, President Clinton signed into law the Three Strikes Your Out legislation, and everything was set in place for corporations to continue imposing slavery in this country.
One of the things that politicians and legislatures, and certainly the police do not want the public to know is that in order for the establishment to put an individual under arrest they have to take ownership of that person’s body. Let me try to explain this for you all in a way that makes sense. In accordance with Liberal principles, which are the foundation of the United States society, each person owns their own body. That is what guarantees our rights, they are protections to the right to protect the ownership of the property of our bodies. When the police or any other law enforcement institution makes an arrest, what they are in effect doing is declaring that the person is no longer fit to own their own body and they assume ownership on those grounds. Without this justification, they would not have the jurisdiction to restrain and constrict an individual’s liberty.
Add to the previous discussion of ownership of bodies that Washington state has the fourth largest Prison Factory System in the United States run by Correctional Industries (CI) and that many other states have similar public institutions in partnership with corporations. And the private run institutions by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group, that have quota contracts with the state governments to guarantee a specific number of inmates to maintain their profit margins. The law regarding corporations is that they must increase their bottom lines and return increasing dividends to its investors, thus relegating these prison corporations obligated to increase their bottom lines. This is done by selling prison labor and one of the largest consumers of this labor is the United States’ Department of Defense as you will see in the Huff Post article I have linked you to. Washington State’s municipal building are also obliged by law to purchase their furniture from CI, guaranteeing them a monopoly on the prison labor they supply. This labor is forced and the workers are not paid an adequate wage, while simultaneously be forced to pay rent on their cells, buy their hygienic necessities, and forced to subsist on horrendous food: all of which is reminiscent of chattel slavery and share cropping in the United States. When the prisoners, the enslaved, refuse to work they have their limited liberties revoked, they are physically coerced, starved, locked in solitary confinement and worse.
So, while it may seem that it is sensational for the people to make claims that the prison industrial complex is modern day slavery, when the evidence is laid out in plain sight, it becomes exceedingly difficult to ignore. First, the government takes ownership of the person’s body, then they force them to work for corporations in the prison system, and our government is benefiting from the entire process.
Thus, when the people take to the streets with these types of messages that are not understood and well known by the general public of the United States, it is no surprise that the media would choose to focus on the violence that the police initiated and then sold to the media as a necessary means to stop the vandalism of property. As was mentioned above, the police have a financial interest in selling that type of story to the media, and the government has a financial interest in backing up those claims. These are the reasons that you are not hearing as much about all the peaceful and very political messaging that was present over the MayDay weekend challenging the capitalist system, it precepts and it harms to the general population of the world. As Malcom X said, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”
These messages undermine and question the entire capitalist system that is oppressing millions of people worldwide, affecting people of color and women the worst. The People are very justified in our complaints and grievances.