[Marxism] Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Sep 24 09:10:00 MDT 2016

NY Times Op-Ed, September 24, 2016
Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte

Charlotte, N.C. — Since a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont 
Scott in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday afternoon, the ensuing protests 
have dominated national news. Provocateurs who attacked police officers 
and looted stores made headlines. Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of 
emergency, and the National Guard joined police officers in riot gear, 
making the Queen City look like a war zone.

Speaking on the campaign trail in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Donald J. 
Trump offered a grave assessment: “Our country looks bad to the world, 
especially when we are supposed to be the world’s leader. How can we 
lead when we can’t even control our own cities?” Mr. Trump seems to want 
Americans to believe, as Representative Robert Pittenger, a Republican 
whose district includes areas in Charlotte, told the BBC, that black 
protesters in the city “hate white people because white people are 
successful and they’re not.”

But Charlotte’s protests are not black people versus white people. They 
are not black people versus the police. The protesters are black, white 
and brown people, crying out against police brutality and systemic 
violence. If we can see them through the tear gas, they show us a way 
forward to peace with justice.

On Thursday, I joined 50 Charlotte-area clergy members who were on the 
streets this week. Yes, a few dozen provocateurs did damage property and 
throw objects at the police, after being provoked by the officers’ tear 
gas, rubber bullets and military-style maneuvers. But as we saw, 
thousands more have peacefully demonstrated against the institutional 
violence in their communities.

That systemic violence, which rarely makes headlines, creates the daily 
traumatic stress that puts our communities on edge, affecting both those 
of us who live there and outside observers who often denounce 
“black-on-black” crime. We cannot have a grown-up conversation about 
race in America until we acknowledges the violent conditions engendered 
by government policy and police practice.

Anyone who is concerned about violence in Charlotte should note that no 
one declared a state of emergency when the city’s schools were 
resegregated, creating a school-to-prison pipeline for thousands of poor 
African-American children. Few voiced outrage over the damage caused 
when half a million North Carolinians were denied health insurance 
because the Legislature refused to expand Medicaid.

When Charlotte’s poor black neighborhoods were afflicted with 
disproportionate law enforcement during the war on drugs, condemning a 
whole generation to bad credit and a lack of job opportunities, our 
elected representatives didn’t call it violence. When immigration 
officers raid homes and snatch undocumented children from bus stops, 
they don’t call it violence. But all of these policies and practices do 
violence to the lives of thousands of Charlotte residents.

As a pastor and an organizer, I do not condone violent protest. But I 
must join the Charlotte demonstrators in condemning the systemic 
violence that threatened Mr. Scott’s body long before an officer decided 
to use lethal force against him. And I must condemn the militarization 
of Charlotte by the authorities who do not want to address the 
fundamental concerns of protesters. For black lives to matter in 
encounters with the police, they must also matter in public policy.

The North Carolina N.A.A.C.P. has called for full transparency in the 
Scott case, including a Justice Department investigation. There are 
still many unanswered questions, which is why we demand that the 
governor release video from body cameras recording the shooting. And we 
want accountability for officers who did not have their body cameras on 
when they confronted Mr. Scott while he was waiting for his son to get 
off the school bus.

Our protests are about more than the Scott case. Every child on that bus 
— every person in Mr. Scott’s neighborhood — is subject to systemic 
violence every day, violence that will only increase if Mr. Trump and 
others continue to exploit the specter of violent protests for political 

We have seen this before. After the civil rights movement pushed this 
nation to face its institutionalized racism, we made significant efforts 
to address inequality through the war on poverty. We did not lose that 
war because we lacked resources or met insurmountable obstacles. We lost 
it because Richard M. Nixon’s “Southern strategy” played on white fears 
about black power by promising to “restore order” without addressing the 
root causes of unrest.

In the Scriptures, the prophet Jeremiah denounces false prophets for 
crying “peace, peace when there is no peace.” We cannot condemn the 
violence of a small minority of protesters without also condemning the 
overwhelming violence that millions suffer every day.

Instead, let’s look again at the vast, diverse majority of the 
protesters. This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians 
use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary “law and order” 
measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that 
will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace 

William Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., is a 
founder of the “Moral Monday” movement and the author of “The Third 

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