Demonstrators Demand Removal of Racist Monuments and Confederate flags

by Malik Miah, published on Socialist Action, June 19, 2020

The rebellion against police violence and murder continues to expand. There are new demands on other issues against institutional racism by Black and Brown people and in opposition to the symbols of white genocide by the Native American nations.

The demonstrators are demanding removal of symbols, monuments and flags of oppression. They are refusing to wait for politicians and institutions and have taken direct action to do so.

Symbols of white supremacy

Within a few days in early June Confederate   monuments began to tumble. (The Confederacy was the 12 states that declared a secessionist rebellion in the 1860s to maintain the slave system.)

The Confederate statues at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., are in the incongruous position of exalting people who raised arms against the United States government and who killed members of its military in defense of white supremacy and Black enslavement. A Senate committee is reviewing if those monuments should be removed. Previous attempts have failed.

A statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis along Richmond, Virginia’s famed Monument Avenue was torn down by activists. Demonstrators beheaded four Confederate statues before pulling one down using a tow rope at the Portsmouth, Virginia, Confederate monument as police watched.

Alabama’s flagship state university took down memorials to Confederate soldiers. The University of Alabama removed plaques honoring students who served in the Confederate Army and student cadet corps.

Two of Alabama’s largest cities – Birmingham and Mobile – took down Confederate monuments that were focal points for civil unrest. Violating a state law intended to protect such memorials, Birmingham dismantled a massive obelisk dedicated to Confederate soldiers and sailors in a downtown park.

Mobile took down a statue of a Confederate naval officer that had been vandalized. Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said on Twitter the move was not an attempt to rewrite history but intended to remove “a potential distraction” to focus on the future of the Gulf coast city.

Pressure is mounting in Mississippi over the state flag. Adopted in 1894, the design incorporates the Confederate battle flag – a red background with a blue X lined with white stars. In 2001, Mississippi voted to keep it. Now Republican Gov. Tate Reeves says it is not up to elected leaders to change it.

Jefferson Davis and his legacy departed Kentucky’s Capitol Rotunda after a 12-foot marble statue commemorating the lone president of the Confederate States of America was removed June 12.

The Marine Corps recently banned displays of the Confederate flag, with an exception for Mississippi’s flag.

Traitors’ names on military bases

Ten military bases are named after Confederate generals who are properly seen as traitors by African Americans and many whites.  Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Hood in Texas are two examples.

In addition, two Naval Academy buildings, Maury Hall and Buchanan House, the superintendent’s residence, are named for Confederate officers. Also, a Navy ship, the guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville, is named after a Confederate Civil War victory.

These bases are in former slave states in the South. They were named after World War I and in the 1940s. That’s some 50 to 80 years after he Civil War. Why then? It represented the emphatic victory of white nationalism over Black civil rights.  African Americans have suffered this indignity for decades.

Defenders of these dishonorable men argue that it reflects “Southern heritage and culture.” They mean white culture even though the wealth of the southern economy was built by slave labor.

Blacks ask: Where are the monuments to former slaves who fought in the army and militias for freedom? Of Frederich Douglas? Of Harriet Tubman?

Donald Trump, the chief white nationalist-in-chief says not on his watch. “These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory and Freedom.”

Yet the names represent men of treason. The constitutional definition of treason is clear: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort” (Article 3: Treason).

The modern display of flags used by and associated with the Confederate States of America started in response to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It continued into the present day and is supported by white nationalist and white supremacist ideology.

The power of the Black Lives led movement is seen in the impact on sports.   NASCAR decided to ban the Confederate flag and decals on its cars and racetracks.  There is only one African American driver.

The National Football League came out in support of the movement and against racism. It now supports the right of players to speak out against police violence.  Many NFL owners are strong supporters of Trump who criticized the Commissioner for the change in policy.

White players in the National Hockey League also condemn the killing of George Floyd. There are few Blacks in the sport. In Canada, the main issue concerns the country’s racist treatment of indigenous people.

Columbus statue falls

Protesters in Minnesota, the launch point of the current anti-cop struggle, led Native Americans to successfully pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus outside the State Capitol.  The protesters threw a rope around the 10-foot bronze statue and pulled it off its stone pedestal.

The protesters, led by Mike Forcia with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said they consider Columbus a symbol of genocide against Native Americans. The Minnesota State Patrol told the group that they could fill out paperwork to have the statue removed, but they said they had tried many times to remove it through the political process, but without success.

We don’t have to wait for the state,” Forcia said. “We don’t have to wait for the process because we’ve already waited far too long.”

It has been a longstanding demand of indigenous peoples to remove the symbol of European colonialism and genocide.  It was never a positive symbol of Italian Heritage as defenders argue.

What next?

African Americans are fed up. Latinos are angry. Indian peoples are outraged. They are all not safe in their homes, walking, jogging, sleeping or breathing. They fear the police.

On June 12 in Atlanta, Georgia, once again, another young Black man was shot and killed by white cops for sleeping in his car in a fast food restaurant. He had agreed to park his car and go home before one cop pulled out his handcuffs and tried to taser him. Fearing for his life (George Floyd was handcuffed and died), he ran and was shot dead.

President Trump meanwhile continues to praise the police and calls for “law and order.” He is planning two campaign events on dates where white riots murdered hundreds of Blacks in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 (known as “Black Wall Street”) and brutally beat nonviolent civil rights activists in Jacksonville, Florida in 1960 (“Axe Handle Saturday”).

Fear is real. Why would any African American call the police for help?

The broad uprising is unique because it is multiracial, multi-generational and draws in all segments of society including from big and small businesses, sports, churches and unions.

There is concern in the ruling class that the Black led movement cannot be contained by modest police reforms.  Shouts or “law and order” ring hollow to most whites since it leads to more dead African Americans, and even bigger mass demonstrations and chaos on the streets.

The policing system is rotten to its core. It must be abolished, and a new safety force created from the ground up. It must be controlled by the Black and Brown communities. It must include creation of an independent prosecution office that can confront the police “union bosses” and the police department management.

All those who argue that the movement should focus on winning reforms and voting especially in the upcoming presidential elections are selling protesters a bill of goods.

What African American have known all their lives, and more whites are learning today: Black lives do not matter to cops and the capitalist system.  People’s Power does.

This article was originally published at Green Left.

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