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A POLICED PEOPLE - OR A PEOPLE'S POLICE??? ...race, police brutality & American labor

Started by GREGORYABUTLER, January 26, 2009, 03:00:09 pm

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A POLICED PEOPLE - OR A PEOPLE'S POLICE??? ...race, police brutality and the American labor movement.

In the early morning hours of New Years Day 2009, 22 year old apprentice butcher Oscar Grant III  was on his way back home to Oakland after an evening of partying in San Francisco.

He was aboard the Bay Area Rapid Transit train, the commuter railroad that links the East Bay cities with the economic heart of the Bay Area.

When he got to his stop, Fruitvale, the young father found himself in the middle of a fight situation. As commonly happens on New Years Eve, a group of drunk young guys had gotten into a scuffle, probably over something very stupid.

The cops had been called, and reported to the scene with overwhelming force.

Grant, who valued his life and desperately wanted to see his 4 year old daughter grow up, followed all of the orders barked at him by Officer Johannes Mehserle of the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police - and even urged other young men to do the same.

This was even though the behavior of the BART Police was borderline unreasonable - stopping all train service and making mass arrests just because some drunk idiots got into a shoving match.

It should be almost needless to say, had this dispute occurred between drunken non African American men in a more affluent - or more Caucasian - part of the Bay Area, the cops would not have been acting like that.

They would have gotten a pass from the cops, their behavior would have been ignored because, after all, it's New Years Eve, and that would have been that.

But this was Oakland, the city with the largest African American population in the State of California.

So it wasn't going down like that - at all.

But Grant was a gentleman about it - he didn't sweat the racial profiling, he just lay face down on the platform, to surrender to the cops, and let a lawyer settle it later.

Grant didn't even resist when Officer Mehserle's partner put his knee on Grant's neck - an almost superhuman show of restraint on Grant's part, since it is natural human instinct to fight back when a predator is crushing your windpipe, making it very hard to breathe.

Like most young African American men in this country, this wasn't Grant's first brush with unequal justice.

He had done time for a minor drug charge - a petty victimless crime which would have probably gotten a White small time drug dealer probation but which stole 18 months of this young man's all too brief life, locked in a 10' x 5' cage on one of the last two states in America which still racially segregates it's prison system - Blacks and "Southern" [dark skinned] Latinos in one block, Whites, Asians, "other" and "Northern" [light skinned] Latinos in the other.

That brush with police repression had made Grant all too willing to walk the straight and narrow for the rest of his life - no matter what the cost!

He got a good job with training and a future, he supported his young family and he obeyed the cops at all times - even when the police were wrong.

Fearing that he'd be attacked with a taser (a sort of portable electric chair that's a vicious new tool of American policing - a supposedly "non lethal" weapon that has killed many Black men in this country) Grant pleaded with Mehserle to not use the taser, since Grant had a small daughter.

Perhaps it was this appeal to their common humanity (Mehserle was about to be a father - with his child due to be born within days) that outraged the policeman.

Because it was at that point when Officer Mehserle left the taser on his belt, took out his 9mm pistol, released the safety catch, chambered a round, and fired one shot, execution-style, into Grant - murdering him instantly.

Mehserle's utter indifference to human life extended to his own partner - who was put at severe risk for being hit with the ricocheting bullet and the hot brass shell casing, and was pelted in the face and body with gunshot residue from Mehserle's automatic pistol, while his eyes and ears were assaulted with the awful muzzle flash and the terrible thunder of the cold steel 9mm.

Many people on a police-halted train on the opposite platform videoed this incident on their cells and iPhones - the horrible images were on youtube within hours, and the boulevards of Oakland were filled with outraged protesters just hours after that.

A cross section of Oaklandites hit the streets in protest.

They were promptly hit by tasers and mace by officers of the Oakland PD, the California Highway Patrol, the Alameda County Sheriffs Department and (of course) the very same BART Police who started this in the first place.

The cops said they "felt threatened" (like they always do).

105 protestors got beat down to the sidewalk and dragged off in handcuffs (some are still sitting in the Alameda County Jail as you read this)

And (of course) the protesters were immediately condemned by the corporate media and the politicians for "rioting" when they defended themselves.

I did misspeak there - it wasn't exactly a 'cross section' of Oakland residents.

It was multiracial - mostly African Americans, but with some Latinos, Asians and even a few (damn few) Whites.

And it was people from all social classes (although it was largely working class - but then again, so is Fruitvale!)

But the biggest social movement in Oakland was conspicuous in its absence.

That is to say the labor movement.

The city's most powerful union, Local 10, International Longshore and Warehouse Union (which is nominally headquartered in San Francisco, but most of the docks their members work on are physically located in Oaktown), was nowhere to be seen.

Even though it is an African American-led union, run by officers with ties to the Communist Party dating back over 71 years.

Yes, the Black Red waterfront union stayed on the piers that day (they didn't even bother to shut the docks down in protest - something they've done for radical causes in other states and even other continents!).

And they weren't alone - the city's second most powerful union, Joint Council 7, International Brotherhood of Teamsters - a White led union, but with a largely African American and Latino membership within the Oakland city limits - was also...forgive the pun...dead silent on this foul murder.

Incredibly, Oscar Grant's own union didn't have a word to say either!!!!!

Grant's employer, Farmer Joe's Market, had been the subject of a longstanding organizing drive by local 5, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Local 5 prides itself on its activism - it's an "organize union", always focused on the fight for social justice on the job.

For 2 long years, they had been trying to force Joe Tam, the ex-UFCW butcher who owns Farmer Joe's, to allow his 80 employees to exercise their civil and human right to organize into a union, and to receive all of the benefits of the unionism that had given him such prosperity.

Local 5 is also very involved in various liberal political causes.

But, they had absolutely nothing to say about the brutal police execution of a man who was trying to join their union.

UFCW local 5 didn't even issue a damned press release!!!!

Or offer even one penny of financial support for the Grant family - not a dime for his girlfriend, or their 4 year old daughter...not even one red cent towards the cost of the funeral!!!

Grant's union busting boss was more involved with the protests than his union was!

Tam actually condemned the killing, in very impassioned and highly personal terms (after all, Grant was one of his apprentice butchers - and the entire Farmer Joe's chain only has 80 employees total), has offered a few bucks to help the Grant family and was part of some of the anti police brutality demonstrations.

Not so UFCW local 5.

But that's not the half of it.

A local of the biggest union in the state of California, the Service Employees International Union OPENLY EMBRACED OSCAR GRANT'S KILLER -  AND IS PAYING HIS LEGAL DEFENSE COSTS!!!!!

Admittedly, it's a small 200 member SEIU local, not the 2 million member SEIU international union.

But the cold hard fact is, the SEIU's international leadership keeps it's locals on a VERY tight leash, (and takes locals into trusteeship with a quickness if they do not toe the line) so that local would not have acted without the at least implicit approval of Andy Stern, the SEIU's dictatorial international president.

And, of course, Officer Johannes Mehserle IS an SEIU member - Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Protective Association local 1008, SEIU, to be specific.

Or he WAS an SEIU member, until he quit the force to avoid departmental charges.

Mehserle's union, unlike Grant's, immediately and publicly leapt to his aggressive, vocal and high profile defense - and still supports him avidly, even though he is no longer a union member!!

Pathetically, outside of openly racist groups like the Aryan Brotherhood and the Ku Klux Klan, just about the only organization in the entire world that will still openly defend Mehserle is SEIU LOCAL 1008!!!

Even the State of California has turned it's back on it's onetime armed agent - they indicted him for second degree murder and locked him up without bail in the Santa Rita jail (and any honest person not blinded by racism who has seen the videos can clearly see WHY they had no choice but to do that)

But not the supposedly progressive and liberal SEIU.

They had Officer Mehserle's back before Grant's body was even cold.

Mehserle's SEIU local instantly launched a public relations effort on his behalf, and gave him the lawyers who will now defend him - free of charge - from this murder charge.

SEIU local 1008 is legally obligated to defend it's member, under both California and federal labor law, of course.

And, after all, if you are a police union in this society, you will find yourself defending members who murder, rape, sodomize, torture, falsely arrest and otherwise brutalize the rest of the working class (in particular, the African American contingent of the working class) so it kinda comes with the territory.

The big SEIU locals in California didn't jump on the killer cop's defense bandwagon, but they have been disturbingly silent on this murder.

This dishonor roll includes the California State Employees Association (the state's largest union, with 200,000 members), United Healthcare Workers-West (which is based in Oakland) and SEIU local 1877, the largest janitors union in the nation (a union that has it's state headquarters in the Bay Area - has itself been victimized by police abuse in the past - and is run by a majority Latino board!)

SEIU local 1021, an Oakland public employee union that represents mechanics, electricians, track workers and cleaners at BART (and has a heavily Black membership) has also been silent on Grant's killing - even though the murder happened in a BART station where SEIU local 1021 members are employed!

The other BART unions, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) local 1555, which represents the locomotive engineers, conductors and station agents and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 57, which represents BART's office workers, have also been dead silent on this horrible slaying - even though all these locals have lots of African American male members (a demographic who are 6% of the nation's population but 50% of the people murdered by the cops)

But hey, it could have been worse.

Back in 1992, SEIU local 1021 and ATU local 1555 joined hands with SEIU local 1008 in a press conference and PUBLICLY SUPPORTED A POLICE KILLER.

BART Police Officer Fred Crabtree shotgunned a 19 year old African American man, one Jerrold Hall, point blank in the back of the head (execution style - just like Officer Mehserle 17 years later!)

Officer Crabtree out Mehserled Mehserle - he arrested Hall's friend John Owens for being an "accessory to murder" a murder carried out by Officer Crabtree!!!

Incredibly enough, the charge stuck!

And SEIU locals 1008 and 1021 and ATU local 1555 DEFENDED CRABTREE for "doing his job".

Of course, considering that carrying out racist terror is a big part of American policing and has been throughout the history of US law enforcement, they were actually right - Crabtree WAS carrying out his job (in the same sense that a Mafia hitman stuffing his victim into the trunk of a car is "carrying out his job")!

The SEIU - ATU coalition of the immoral on behalf of Officer Crabtree persisted throughout the case - from his indictment (thanks to mass pressure) through the inevitable acquittal (because the prosecutor threw the case on the defense's behalf - which ALMOST ALWAYS happens in trials of murdering police officers) to Fred Crabtree's acquittal on police internal charges and his reinstatement to the force.

End result - Hall still rests in the ground and Owens lost years of his life in the California penal system.

As for Officer Crabtree - he has to answer for his crimes to a higher authority... he died in an autoerotic asphyxiation-related mishap some time after the incident.

The English word "disgusting" doesn't even BEGIN to do justice to that travesty!

So it could be worse - this time, only one SEIU local is openly embracing a cop who committed a racist murder.

This type of conduct by American unions is actually pretty disgraceful, and all too pathetically common.

Two years ago, UPS teamster and minor league baseball player Sean Bell was bombarded with over 50 rounds of automatic weapons fire and done to death (on his WEDDING DAY!!!) by a mob of 6 non uniformed non badged gunmen (and one gunwoman) who later were revealed to be New York City cops.

Bell did nothing to provoke them - in fact, he was not in a fighting mood at all that night, he was actually trying to flee a couple of drunken thugs who had tried to start a beef inside the club he was drinking in.

Bell and his friends probably thought the armed posse that came at them on the street were buddies of the guys who had confronted them inside - Bell was killed while trying to drive away from the fight!!!

Bell, like Grant, was not only a union man and a hardworking young dad, but he had also been subject to the racial double standards of American policing - but had tried to "do the right thing" - get a job (two jobs, actually), marrying his high school sweetheart, supporting his kids (isn't that what the conservatives are always telling Black men to do?)

But none of it mattered when those cops decided to machine gun Bell to death, for absolutely no good reason at all (his only 'crime' was going out for a drink with friends the night before his marriage ceremony - and by accident ending up in a strip club that was under police surveillance for it's alleged involvement in the victimless crime of prostitution).

Neither one of the unions that spoke for Bell had one word of protest to say.

Not the union he was a member of - local 804 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (yet another self proclaimed "progressive" union with lots of African American males in it's membership!)

Nor the union who's minor league jurisdiction he played ball in, the Major League Baseball Players Association (another union with lots of young African American and Latino men among it's membership).

Neither labor organization had one lousy word to say on the question of Bell's murder and the trial (and ultimate acquittal), of his police killers.

Local 804 in particular - a heavily Black union, run by supposed "socialists" and based in Bell's home borough of Queens - was conspicuous in its 3 years of total silence on Bell's murder.

Just two years after Bell's foul murder, in October 2008, another young union man was killed by New York City cops, alongside his brother.

Union carpenter apprentice Dwayne David, 22, and his 21 year old brother Kayshawn Forde, a Home Depot worker, came to the aid of their cousin, who was being beaten by a mob in front of a nightclub in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Admittedly, one of the brothers had a weapon, and they were using it to intimidate the crowd into stopping their gang assault on their relative (a legitimate reason for armed self defense if ever their was one).

But when the (non uniformed and badgeless) police arrived, instead of confronting the gang and rescuing their cousin, they shot David and Forde in the back - one shot to the kidneys, execution style, for David, one to the back and one to the arm for Forde (and then the cops lyingly claimed that they both had guns - even though only one weapon was found and claimed they had shot at the officers - an impossibility, due to the fact that their backs were to the cops, a fact proven by the autopsies).

The New York City District Council of Carpenters has, to date, not said one word about the killing of it's member Dwayne David and his brother Kayshawn Forde.

And a decade and a half before that, New York City transit worker James Frazier had his eye blown out with an automatic pistol - by a cop who stopped him for AN EXPIRED CAR REGISTRATION and shot the guy in the face before he could answer her questions.

In an interview this writer conducted with him a year after the shooting, Frazier told me, if he had turned his head one centimeter to the left, he would have been dead on the spot.

Transport Workers Union local 100, the supposedly militant, heavily African American union with a Black president, was dead silent on Frazier's attempted murder.

Local 100 also did nothing to defend Frazier when the cops tried to frame him - basically for the "crime" of not dying when they wanted to kill him.

Nor did the TWU lift a finger to help Frazier when the MTA wanted to fire him, for the "crimes" of not dying on police command and now only having one eye.

Of course, if you want to go even further back into history, Southern locals of the very same Amalgamated Transit Union that defend murderer Fred Crabtree let big city bus companies in the South arm their bus driver and conductor members with pistols to enforce Jim Crow bus seating policies on African American passengers - and break up protests against those policies - at gunpoint!!!!

ATU also allowed Greyhound and Trailways to direct their members to enforce race segregation (Black passengers in the back of the bus, Blacks forced to use "colored" toilets and lunch counters in Southern bus stations ect).

The ATU also defended a White Trailways bus driver who beat up a Black soldier and knocked his eye out, for the "crime" of asking if they were going to be stopping long enough for him to get off and use the "colored" restroom at a gas station!

[If you even have to ask, the Trailways driver kept his job and didn't spend even one day in prison, or pay a penny in fines, for his vile crime!]

These policies were carried out by Greyhound and Trailways, with the full support of the ATU, until peaceful "freedom rider" civil rights protestors (and the violent racist terrorist thugs who beat them at bus terminals, and burned the busses they tried to integrate) made it impossible for the bus lines and the union to continue their institutional racism.

Anybody see a pattern here?

In most countries, unions as a matter of course unconditionally condemn police killers and police brutality in general (except, of course for the police officer unions) and union principles of race equality and "an injury to one is the concern of all" are matter of fact official union policy..

Why not here?

In part, it is because of the long shameful history of racism in the American labor movement.

Don't get it twisted - other countries have had racist unions.

The Trades Union Council of South Africa went along with racial segregation and Apartheid from it's founding, all the way through the worst years of racial abuse and repression, right down to the establishment of Black majority rule in 1991.

TUCSA ACTIVELY SUPPORTED job related Apartheid regulations - like "job reservation" which guaranteed that certain jobs could only go to Whites, mandated that Blacks, Coloureds and Asians would get less pay than Whites for the same job and required Whites only toilets, water fountains and locker rooms any place that Whites and Blacks, Coloureds or Asians worked side by side (even if that meant no toilets, water fountains or locker rooms at all for Blacks, Coloureds or Asians!).

TUCSA also demanded that it's White members be addressed as "baas" (the Afrikaans word for "boss") by their Black, Coloured and Asian coworkers!

And, of course, only Whites were allowed to join the TUCSA prior to 1991.

The end of TUCSA's monoracial unionism was far from voluntary - they only changed because the new South African constitution made it illegal for them to run a jim crow union.

Which really isn't that surprising from a labor body that once used the slogan "Workers of the World Unite and Fight for a White South Africa!"

The Southern Rhodesian Trades Union Congress (SRTUC) was equally as grotesque in its labor racism in Zimbabwe during the British colonial and White minority rule eras - they even actively helped the British South African Police attack and persecute multiracial labor unions!

The General Union of Jewish Workers in Greater Israel (Histadrut) was founded in 1920 for the explicitly racist purpose of forcing Jewish business owners in the then British colony of Palestine to fire their Arab workers and replace them with Jewish settlers.

Histadrut's racism was exceeded only by it's anti communism, and it's goal of persuading Jewish workers to renounce the goal of world revolution and labor solidarity and convincing them to politically subordinate themselves to Jewish bosses and their political goals.

After Israeli independence in 1948, paying union dues to Histadrut was mandatory - but Palestinian Arabs were not allowed to be members, or get any union benefits.

After 1959, Palestinian Arabs could join - but were very much treated as second class citizens in the unions.

And after the 1967 invasion of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Palestinian Arab workers in the Occupied Territories were forced to pay union dues, but were denied union representation and benefits.

Histadrut also helped the Israeli Defense Forces and Israel's Shin Bet secret police to administer a racist "work permit" system, and to discriminate against and detain nationalist and communist Palestinian Arab workers.

Mandatory dues payment to Histadrut by Palestinian Arab workers only ended in 1995, when the Israeli government made union membership voluntary (which led to 70% of Histadrut's members - Palestinian Arab and Israeli Jews alike - resigning on the spot)

Like TUCSA and SRTUC, Histadrut's racism had NOT made it a better union for workers from the dominant ethnic group...far from it. The racism made all of those bodies grossly inadequate in functioning as real trade unions.

The most extreme case of union racism, obviously, would be the German Labor Front (DGB) of the Nazi era.

Among it's other crimes, the DGB allowed Jewish workers to be deunionized and actively assisted the Nazis in using Jewish concentration camp inmates, prisoners of war and slave laborers to work for no pay in unionized factories, shipyards, railroad lines and construction sites all over Germany, side by side with union members.

The DGB was as much an active accomplice to the Holocaust as any other German institution.

Down to and including the several thousand members of two of DGB's biggest affiliates - IG Bau (the Industrial Federation of the Construction and Woodworking Industries) and IG Metall (the Industrial Federation of the Metalworking Industry) who worked at Auschwitz alongside Nazi concentration camp guards supervising Jewish inmates, Polish political prisoners and Soviet prisoners of war in the slave labor factories and construction chain gangs.

And the members of the German railroad unions - the locomotive engineers (GDL) and the conductors, track crews, mechanics and station workers (GdED) who were, of course, the folks who actually transported the Jews of Europe in cattlecars from their home cities to the Nazi death camps in Poland where they were slaughtered.

They also hauled several million slave laborers and prisoners of war to forced labor sites around Europe in similar horrid sub human conditions as well.

GdED trackworkers also supervised hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war and slave laborers used as station and track repair workers (at least some of whom were given no food - they had to subsist on the garbage they picked off the side of the tracks, according to one former Italian prisoner of war interviewed by this writer)

It's pretty hard to live down to the standards set by TUCSA, SRTUC and Histadrut - and the Nazi era DGB stands in a grotesque class by itself!

But, American unions have their own long shameful history of labor racism too (and in terms of sheer longevity they have those other unions beat by about 150 years).

American unions entered the world suffering from the congenital birth defect of racism - and how could they not?

After all, the original 13 colonies were built on the genocidal conquest of Native American Indian land - and their economies were based on White European indentured servitude and African slavery.

The American revolution freed the White bonded laborers - but not their Black brothers and sisters.

That took another 89 years - and another war.

Ethnic discrimination against non-English White immigrants and persecution of Latinos who's territory got annexed after the Mexican War also got added into the United States bigotry mix in the mid 19th century.

By the end of that century, a virulent to the point of being genocidal racism against Asian immigrants was added to the mix (and the labor movement in particular had a whole lot to do with the introduction and promotion of that particular brand of race hatred in this country - with California's unions being principally at fault for the spread of this vile ideological toxin)

Local unions had existed in the free states as early as the 1790's but it took the abolition of African American slavery to make national unions possible.

Even then, American labor was born jim crow segregated - best symbolized by the 1866 twin birth of two parallel labor federations - the National Labor Union and the Colored National Labor Union (they'd tried to join the NLU - it's leaders said NO they did not want to share their organization with their Black brothers and sisters, so the African American workers had to found their own labor body.)

Crippled by segregation, both federations folded before the decade was out.

The various national craft and industrial unions were also pretty much all openly racist to a greater or lesser degree.

The railroad brotherhoods were the prizewinners in this respect - they all banned Black workers from joining, with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen being the most extreme (they also banned Mexicans, Japanese, Chinese and American Indians - and worked hand in hand with the Ku Klux Klan in the South to use lynch mob terrorism to drive Black men out of their trade!)

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers - while not going over into open race terrorism like the BLFE - was itself a quite flatly racist labor union.

Shortly after the US invaded Cuba in 1898, the BLE decided to unionize the engineers on that country's large network of sugar mill railroads.

The brotherhood sent an organizer to Cuba with instructions to spend as many months as needed to organize as many of the country's train operators as he could.

He ended up coming back to the US after only one day.

His reason?


The organizer visited Havana's main railroad yard the first morning he was in the country, and he met many of the locomotive engineers there.

He then ran to the nearest telegraph office, and sent a three word telegram to BLE headquarters in Cleveland.

"They're all ni***rs".

Like most plantation related workers in Cuba, most of the country's train operators were Afro Cuban - and the BLE would not, under any circumstances, let Black men join their union!

So that organizing campaign was canceled on the spot!

The building trades weren't much better.

The more socialist oriented unions - Carpenters, Bricklayers, Painters - let Blacks join segregated colored locals (typically overseen by White delegates from other unions, because they didn't think Blacks were smart enough to handle dues money or represent their union before boards of business agents or district councils!)

Even the Carpenters, arguably the least racist of the building trades unions, was very uncomfortable with allowing "colored" led unions join their brotherhood.

Race was the sole reason that the 1900 Carpenters general convention refused to the Carpenters Union of Puerto Rico affiliate - the body accepted carpenters of all races join their union on an equal non segregated basis, and they had officers who were Afro Puerto Ricans.

The Puerto Rican union's basic decency on this matter so offended the delegates to the Carpenters convention that their delegation was flatly told to their faces that their union would not be permitted to affiliate with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America!

To this day, Puerto Rico's carpenters union is unaffiliated to the UBCJA.

The Hawaiian Carpenters Union had the good fortune to not be financially able to send a delegation - they only sent a letter asking if they could join the brotherhood.

Had they shown up in person, they would have been flatly rejected like the Puerto Ricans, since the Hawaiian union was also racially integrated.

The Hawaiian union was also almost entirely composed of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Native Hawaiian workers (the only White members were - ironically enough - White Puerto Ricans!)

Had they sent a delegation, they would no doubt have been rejected out of hand, based on color - but instead they were allowed to join the brotherhood, since they applied for affiliation sight unseen.

The electricians and the mechanical trades flat out banned African American workers from joining in any capacity.

The Laborers and Ironworkers were somewhere in the middle between those extremes - the contractors had lots of workers of color in their trades (African Americans in the Laborers case, Native American Indians in the Ironworkers) so they couldn't exclude men of color, or even effectively segregate them - but they didn't have to treat them like first class members either!

Even the most explicitly radical unions - like the German immigrant led Brewery Workers or Jewish led unions like the Garment Workers and the Cigarmakers - who's leaders were socialists, also openly and unapologetically practiced jim crow unionism.

One of the most radical unions ever founded in this country, the American Railway Union, founded by avowed socialist and former Locomotive Firemen leader Eugene V. Debs, was born as a jim crow union in 1892, explicitly banning Blacks from their union at their founding convention.

Remember, Debs, although a socialist, had run a union that actually worked hand in hand with the KKK to kick Blacks out of the railroad firemen's craft - big surprise that he would bring his labor Negrophobia with him to the ARU.

The ARU's jim crowism was the principal reason for their collapse and utter disintegration less than two years later.

The White racist socialist union which banned Blacks from membership, in a move of world shaking stupidity, called it's first and only national strike against the only railroad company with a 90% Black workforce - the Pullman Palace Car Co!!!!

Needless to say, the Black workers had no problem crossing the picketlines of the jim crow socialists, the White workers were all fired, replaced (by White scabs - Pullman management practiced jim crowism as well), evicted from their Pullman-owned company homes and the ARU was history within a few weeks!

The International Longshoremen's Association - who's craft was overwhelmingly Black in Philadelphia and the South - practiced a sort of reverse affirmative action on behalf of their White minority.

Only 10% of the industry in those ports, the White longshoremen got a guaranteed 50% of the jobs every shift - and these overwhelmingly Black unions had a rule that the executive boards had to be majority White (with no African American allowed to be president or treasurer, ever!)

The national labor bodies weren't much better.

The Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor let Blacks join (on a segregated basis) and was - on paper, at least - opposed to race discrimination against African Americans. But, the KofL openly supported racist violence against Asian Americans in the Western states, and called for mass deportation of all Japanese American and Chinese American workers (even those who were born in America)!

The American Federation of Labor had a similar line on race - they tolerated open race discrimination against African American workers and called for an outright ban on immigration from China and Japan.

The AFofL's Southern state federations of labor and central labor councils were even more in your face about their anti Black racism and open ties to the KKK.

The California Federation of Labor and the San Francisco Central Labor Union actually led the racist lynch mob terror inflicted against the golden state's Asian immigrant communities!

In places like Wyoming and Arizona, unions were leaders of violent, KKK-style ethnic cleansing campaigns that drove Asian American miners, railroad workers and building tradesmen out of their states.

It took almost 40 years for a labor federation to appear who's leaders were not open racists - and even that body, the Industrial Workers of the World, allowed jim crow unionism in their ranks.

Local 8, the Philadelphia longshoremen, by far the biggest local in the IWW, followed the same disgusting racist practices as the ILA.

The IWW waterfront local had a 90% Black membership, but only 50% of the work went to them. Whites were also guaranteed 50% of the seats on the executive board, including both president and treasurer.

Local 8's financial racism twice caused serious problems for them - on two separate occasions, White convicted felons were elected as treasurer of the union (a post that Black men were barred from).

Both times, the White criminals elected to the post of treasurer stole the union's entire treasury and absconded out of town!

Was it any wonder that many Black workers followed the advice of the National Urban League, an African American businessmen's group, who told them to see the White worker as an enemy who wanted to rob bread from the mouths of their kids, while bosses were their friends who gave them work opportunities?

This may seem like ancient history - until the reader realizes that most of these racist labor practices continued well into the 1970's!!!!

Unions like the Plumbers, Sheet Metal Workers, Machinists, Longshoremen and Musicians openly engaged in jim crow segregation well into the late 1960's (in the Musicians and Longshoremens cases, they didn't integrate their unions until the 1970's!!!)

One of the historic consequences of this wholesale labor racism is the creation of a whole layer of White workers who's steady employment and high standard of living rested directly on the bloody foundation of race privilege and jim crow segregation.

From the 1930's (when the jim crow machine first began to crack) until the 1970's there were waves of Hate Strikes aimed explicitly at defending the racial privileges of that narrow layer of White workers who's job tenure depended directly on the continuation of race segregation.

Philadelphia's first trolley conductors strike, in 1943, was a hate strike, aimed at preventing Philadelphia Traction Company from hiring Black workers.

The only strike that New York Plumbers local 1 called in the entire 20th century, the citywide strike of 1968, was a hate strike, aimed at blocking a municipal executive order mandating the 15,000 member union initiate 5 master plumbers of color (4 Puerto Ricans and a Black man) into their local.

The longest and largest strike in the history of New York City's United Federation of Teachers, which also happened in 1968, was a hate strike, aimed at blocking the hiring of Black teachers by local neighborhood school boards.

That strike, involving 50,000 professionals and lasting 3 months, was the largest and longest lasting hate strike in American labor history - over 3 million man days!

The irony there was the UFT, a largely Jewish socialist led union, had openly SUPPORTED the civil rights movement up until just a few months before the September '68 walkout!

But that support lasted as long as the civil rights movement's demands were limited to social rights for Blacks in the South.

However, once the Black liberation movement made economic demands for Black workers and professionals in New York City, the UFT's solid support for racial justice evaporated overnight!

That privileged layer of White workers who directly benefited from racism had a strong overlap with the privileged layer of workers who dominated the leadership of American labor unions (the folks Marxists call the "labor aristocracy").

Considering this social reality, it's not surprising that these privileged workers saw the police as their brothers and sisters.

After all, police officers themselves are members of that same privileged layer of the working class, and cops are on the front lines of defending American racism and have been since the dawn of American policing in the colonial era.

Also like the American labor aristocracy in general, police forces are largely White and officers are disproportionately likely to have racist attitudes compared to other White Americans.

Of course, even Black and Latino cops have to participate in the armed defense of White supremacy - irregardless of their personal racial attitudes - because that is the function of their departments.

Good examples are the largely African American police departments in Detroit, East St Louis, Illinois, Prince George's County, Maryland and Baltimore - who's Black cops spend most of their time repressing Blacks in those communities.

Or the New York City Department of Corrections - an overwhelmingly Black and Latino agency who's officers are charged with jailing 14,000 other Black and Latino New Yorkers on the city's huge municipal penal colony, Rikers Island.

Another case is the United States Border Patrol, a majority Mexican American agency who's sole function is persecuting Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants!

The general function of police forces is to serve as the armed guardians of the capitalist system and the property of individual capitalists and wealthy individuals, and the first line of defense against strikes, uprisings, protests and, in extreme cases, social revolution.

Those functions of police officers are the same in every capitalist country.

American police also have a special role - armed guardian of White supremacy and tormentors-in-chief of African Americans of all classes (but working class Blacks and the Black poor in particular).

The racialization of American police began early - the very origins of county sheriffs departments in the South and the US Marshals Service on the federal level have their roots in the pursuit, apprehension and return to their owners of fugitive slaves in the years before the Civil War.

In the post Civil War era right down until the 1960's, many police departments were openly racially segregated and had many open members of the Ku Klux Klan among the ranks of their officers.

Incidental to those two primary functions of defending capitalist class rule and being the armed guardians of White supremacy in the US, American police also enforce the criminal law, protect the general public from murderers, rapists and thieves, direct traffic and enforce road safety rules.

Those legitimate public safety functions are - like every other aspect of US police culture - very much distorted by American racial politics.

Even something as basic as enforcing traffic law is carried out in a starkly racialized way in the United States - Black motorists are routinely harassed, and in some cases beaten, jailed or even killed, for the "crime" of driving expensive cars, or for driving through a neighborhood which police feel African Americans "don't belong in" (a practice so universal it even has a name, DWB - "Driving While Black")

And White criminals all know very well that the best way to avoid arrest is to blame a Black suspect for the crimes they have committed. By the time the cops have gone on a wild goose chase for the nonexistent African American suspect, the White perp is long gone.

Beyond the in your face bigotry, the public safety functions of police are also very much secondary to the primary repressive roles.

A brief structural look at the NYPD illustrates this - only 2,500 of the department's 41,000 sworn officers are involved in investigating crimes (the Detective Bureau) while over 12,000 are in the Division of Patrol, the part of the department which, while also serving as first responders for crimes, primarily functions as the muscle on the street that keeps the poor and people of color in line and protects corporate property from the rabble.

Large portions of the remainder of the force are essentially paramilitary outfits - the 8 Boro Task Forces, the Emergency Service Units, the Anti Terrorism units (some of which are openly attached to FBI field offices or US military units in Afghanistan and Iraq), the Aviation Unit, the Mounted Unit ect.

Those forces are kept in reserve to be used in the event of widespread urban revolts, militant strikes or terrorist attack - with many officers in the Detective Bureau and the Division of Patrol serving as a reserve force to back up those units.

19th century robber baron Jay Gould once said "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half" and, basically, that is what police forces are - the section of the working class that's hired to keep the rest of the class in line - at gunpoint, if necessary!

The police department (and other allied uniformed forces of federal, state, county and city governments) are that section of the working class hired by the bosses to kill (or at the very least repress) the other half.

And they are well compensated for this function (a reason that police jobs are so widely sought after by working class people of all races and economic statuses - the NYPD routinely receives 80,000 job applicants for only 1,000 openings).

Police are routinely paid far better than other public sector workers, have better benefits and pensions and in general have a much better standard of living than nonuniformed (or "civilian")civil servants.

The same holds true for other related employees of the uniformed repressive apparatus of the government - like prison guards and court officers.

This is even true of the Fire Department - an agency which, while far more focused on public safety than repression, is organized, like the police, along paramilitary lines, and also serves as a vital auxiliary to the police in times of urban uprisings or terrorist attacks.

The role of the Birmingham, Alabama Fire Department during the civil rights movement (they actually used their firehoses as antipersonnel weapons against Black teenagers who were nonviolently protesting segregation) is a good example of this.

Police Officers and Firefighters in America also successfully unionized in the early 20th century - almost 50 years before other public workers.

Unlike early unions of sanitation workers, teachers, social workers and blue collar workers, police and firefighter unions were generally not attacked or crushed by the governments they tried to bargain with (the one exception being the Boston Police Protective Association, all of who's members were fired when they went on strike in 1919)

Now, this is not to say that cops didn't have legitimate labor beefs with their departments - far from it!

Like all other employees under capitalism, they had a fundamentally adversarial relationship to their bosses.

Issues of wages, fairness in promotion, hours of work, who would cover the cost of very expensive police equipment (patrol uniforms, dress uniforms, shoes, winter coats, handcuffs, guns, nightsticks, riot helmets ect), discipline, health coverage, job safety and retirement benefits all were and are constant causes of disputes between officers and senior managers of police departments.

The safety issue has always been a big one for police unions.

After all, cops are in the business of repression and no matter who's heads are being busted (striking unionists, Blacks, student protestors or criminals) there is always a risk that those folks will fight back.

This has caused police unions to fight for improved instruments of communication to enable beleaguered officers to call for backup - like radios in squadcars and personal walkie talkies for officers.

And they've also fought for personal protective equipment (like the kevlar bullet proof vests that just about every American cop wears these days)

And they've fought for bigger and better guns - US police have long since given up their old .38 revolvers for high powered 9mm automatic pistols (many having 15 round magazines - illegal on civilian versions of the pistols - with two extra clips on the cop's belt and an extra bullet in the chamber).

Many departments also issue their officers with "riot guns" - basically a legal version of the outlawed sawed off shotgun - and some police officers even carry military style submachineguns or automatic rifles.

Many police departments use types of ammunition (hollowpoint or "Dum Dum" bullets and explosive tipped "Devastator" bullets) that are so destructive they are actually outlawed by the Geneva Convention, and it would be an international war crime if the US Army were to use those rounds in their firearms!

US police unions have aggressively campaigned in favor of these United Nations prohibited Dum Dum and explosive tipped bullets being allowed into the guns of American cops.

Officer Mehserle's taser, the hand-held electric chair which we met at the beginning of this story, was also a product of labor struggles by police unions, who demanded that cops get another way of subduing suspects other than shooting or beating them.

Of course, the results of those police labor struggles around weapons directly impact the rest of the working class (in particular Black workers) - since it's us who will be getting shot by those powerful instruments of death.

Also, irregardless of their very real conflicts with the government over the day to day details of worklife in the police forces of this country, the police unions are all on the same page with the departments when it comes to the business of repression.

If anything, the police unions are more bloodthirsty - especially when it comes to calls for the death penalty, harsher penalties for teenagers (in particular inner city - that is to say, African American - teens) and long sentences for all classes of adult criminal suspects (unless, of course, those suspects happen to be police officers!)

But what about the tie between the boys in blue and the barons of labor?

For the first 70 years or so of police unionism, most departments insisted that police unions be independent of ties to outside labor bodies.

This is why the biggest local police union in America, New York City's Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, is to this day an independent local union, unaffiliated to the AFL-CIO or Change To Win, or even to any national police union body.

New York City's municipal prison guards union, the Corrections Officers Benevolent Association, is a similar independent local union.

As is the union of the New York State prison guards, the awkwardly named New York State Corrections Officers and Police Benevolent Association, Inc.

And the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers, Inc. is an independent union as well.

Other areas have followed the New York model of independent police unions, often as a result of local statutes barring cops from belonging to unions or federations with non police members (rules often copied directly from 1930's era NYPD rules that barred cops from belonging to the then CIO affiliated American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - AFSCME).

In much of the country, local police unions are affiliated to independent non AFL-CIO or Change To Win affiliated national police unions like the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) or the Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA - as the name implies, they also represent firefighters and security guards).

Some are affiliated to the AFL-CIO's police officers union, the International Union of Police Associations (IUPO), a loose federation of 56 local police unions.

There are cops in non police related AFL-CIO and Change To Win unions as well (over the years, local governments have learned they have nothing to fear from having cops mixed in with other workers in mainstream labor organizations).

AFSCME - once the target of special municipal ordinances barring police officers from joining - today probably represents more unionized cops and correctional officers than any single non police-specific labor union, with over 100,000 sworn officers in it's ranks.

They are closely followed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) - Officer Mehserle's union -  the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the Communications Workers of America, with many other AFL-CIO and CTW affiliated unions representing small units of cops or prison guards here and there.

After public school teachers, police have the highest union density of any profession in the United States - close to 80% of lawmen and women are union cops.

In places like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts and California, almost 100% of police and corrections officers are union members.

In New York City, the birthplace of American police unionism, even the superior officers are organized - sergeants, lieutenants, captains - on Rikers Island, even the Assistant Deputy Wardens are union members!

This is ironic in the extreme - considering that all through the history of police work, one of their main functions has been strikebreaking (which cops continue to do to this very day!)

Back in the day, this unionbusting function was a lot clearer.

From 1865 right up until 1931, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had a state police agency who's actual official name was "the Coal and Iron Police"!

They were a mounted unit who's sole duty was breaking miners and steelworkers strikes (the workers, most of whom were Eastern European immigrants, called them "the Cossacks" - after the Tsar's mounted military police, who basically performed the same function over in Imperial Russia, with roughly the same level of brutality).

The mid 20th century brought about some changes here.

Not in the strikebreaking thing - cops still do that to this day (if you've ever been on a union picketline, it's very clear who's side the cops are on).

But, as unions accommodated themselves towards labor-management-government partnership in the 1930's, 40's and 50's, at the same time that big Northeastern, Midwestern and Western cities began to be on the receiving end of large waves of Black migration from the South and Latino immigration from Puerto Rico and Mexico, police departments in those areas began to have a functional shift.

Unionbusting began to take a back seat to Southern style police racism.

This trend rapidly accelerated in the 1950's, especially in the new suburbs.

Vast federally subsidized bedroom communities were springing up in the truck farming communities on the edge of major American cities - with millions of tract houses being built for working class Americans.

Or, more accurately, working class White Americans.

The Veterans Administration and the Federal Housing Administration, who were guaranteeing the loans on these developments, required that all of these suburbs be built segregated and all White - with sales to "Negroids and Mongoloids" (the actual terms they used) strictly prohibited!

Those "restrictive covenants" to VA and FHA guaranteed mortgages applied even in the majority of the country where jim crow had never been the law!

As the potato fields and meadows became villages and towns, police forces either were created from scratch or were greatly scaled up versions of old local sheriff or town constable forces.

These small town departments had had a very minimal history of strikebreaking and, in many places, suburban bedroom communities had no local industry to speak of (most of the men still commuted to their big city jobs from the new towns)

Also, initially there was very little crime in the tract houses.

After all, the privileged labor aristocratic wing of the White working class was heavily overrepresented in the suburbs - and why would men with good jobs need to steal?

Since, in those days before women's liberation, domestic violence was for all intents and purposes legal (or at best a civil tort handled by the divorce courts) local police didn't have any real law enforcement to do.

The only real task these new suburban police forces carried out was the armed defense of racial segregation. Their virtually sole task was to keep Blacks out of these towns - to prevent them from moving there, or in many cases even from traveling through these towns.

In heavily suburbanized New Jersey, the entire State Police transformed into a large scale force for the purpose of keeping African Americans out of the new bedroom communities by force.

The 1920's, 30's and 40's era NJSP had been principally focused on strikebreaking and in particular on attacking the militant CIO unions. That anti working class mission still was part of their job - along with maintaining highway safety on the state's extensive highway system - which greatly expanded with the building of Interstate 95/New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway in the 1950's.

But now, with huge Black communities in New York City, Newark, Jersey City, Patterson, Passaic, Camden and Philadelphia as anxious to move out of cramped urban quarters as their White former neighbors, the NJSP took on what would become it's modern primary role - making the suburban and rural areas of the Garden State inhospitable for Blacks.

The New Jersey State Police (with the full support of the New Jersey State PBA - the labor body that unites virtually every cop and prison guard in the garden state) became pioneers in the fine art of using the pretext of traffic safety and speed limit enforcement to systematically harass African American motorists traveling in "White" areas of the state.

The NJSP basically invented DWB - and for years openly taught racial profiling methods in their state police academy.

The department even commissioned educational films showing state troopers how to determine the race of a motorist and use it as an excuse to stop and harass them!

Other departments would model their tactics on the New Jersey State Police's racist methods!

Another factor pushing police forces away from open strikebreaking in that era was the relative labor peace of those years.

US imperialism had triumphed in World War II, Wall Street financiers were the masters of the universe - the working class had been tamed at home and abroad, the left was in retreat, Americas imperialist rivals were in ruins and in debt up to their eyeballs to American banks - and rivers of superprofits were flowing into the coffers of Corporate America.

A relative few crumbs from the masters table were all it took to buy off the upper layers of the American working class - and since those aristocratic layers dominated both the AFofL and the CIO, those few billion dollars brought a generation of weak unions and minimal class struggle.

The fact that a fierce Southern-style Negrophobic racism had come to infect the souls of the White labor aristocrats of the Northeast, Midwest and the West - thanks to the new racially segregated suburbs - made things even easier for Corporate America.

It was these factors which led much of the American labor leadership to embrace the police and their White supremacist mission.

The sad irony was, police departments never stopped their anti labor mission even during the most prosperous years of the 1950's!

If anything, police repression of unions became even more accelerated.

Alongside old school Coal and Iron Police-style beatings and shootings (still very common during the more militant strikes) was sophisticated Federal Bureau of Investigations harassment of unions - in particular those with pro Communist Party leaders on the one hand, and those with ties to the Italian American organized crime syndicates collectively known as Cosa Nostra on the other.

But now it was much harder ideologically for the better off layers of White workers to fight the cops on the picketline - and the FBI agents wiretapping the union hall - when they had been taught by their union leaders to see cops as their union brothers and sisters - and as the guardians of the segregated lifestyles of the new suburbs.

Again, advantage Corporate America.

As has been the case for centuries in this country, White supremacism had proven to be the Parkinson's Disease of the American labor movement - crippling the class, and in particular it's largest continent, the White workers, from effectively fighting against the capitalist system.

In this case, it pushed the privileged and aristocratic better off layers of White workers - and the union leaders that emerged from that segment of the class, who dominated US labor leadership - into a fatal alliance with the armed enemy of the working class, the police.

That lethal partnership continues to this very day.

This writer has witnessed this bizarre alliance on the ground - and has seen it's pernicious effects first hand.

This writer has seen the truly odd spectacle, during the 1990 Allied Printing Trades Council strike at the Daily News, of police and printers merrily chatting and palling around at one moment - and engaging in fierce street fighting the next.

And all of this confused dysfunctional conflict took place in the middle of a working class Black neighborhood (Prospect Heights, Brooklyn) which was as alien to the printers as it was to the cops - and who's residents had entirely no stake in which side won!

This writer has also been at Building Trades Council rallies in New York where the Laborers Union organizers essentially acted as deputy police (in some cases being more aggressive in ordering around the other workers than the cops!) and where our leaders led us in chants of "The Cops Need A Raise" to the officers with batons and mace in hand who were faced off against us guarding the scab jobsites!

On two recent occasions here in Manhattan - the "40,000 Man March" in Midtown in July 1998 and the militant Carpenters Union rallies in Chesea in May 2006, we had the spectacle of White workers - who had been taught to see the cops as "our friends", being beaten, maced and arrested by "our PBA brothers and sisters".

On the flip side, this same labor-police alliance has led to the labor movement abandoning African Americans in their hour of need again and again and again - during all the urban uprisings, and every incident of police brutality, labor has, at best, been silent - or at worst openly embraced the cops!

And not just the White led unions either! African American led labor organizations - Transport Workers Union local 100, District Councils 37 and 1707 of AFSCME, the various Black led Teamsters locals ect - have all been conspicuous in their utter failure to defend African Americans from individual and collective police abuse time and time and time again!

Latino-led unions have had a similarly embarrassing performance too!

So, what's the way out of this trick bag?

An obvious startpoint would involve American labor, and in particular White union members, utterly and totally renouncing White supremacy and all of privileges that flow from it.

That might be a tough load to swallow.

But, as a great man, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, once pointed out (speaking of relations between ethnic Russians and Jews in his country) "The workers of the oppressor nationality have to bend over backwards to win the confidence of the workers of the oppressed nationality".

In his era, Lenin also counseled White American working class leaders that they absolutely had to adopt a similar attitude towards African American workers, or the US working class movement was doomed.

He was right back in 1919 - and he's still right today!

A good start point would be the simple idea that when an African American union member is assaulted or murdered by police, ALL unions (even those that are mostly White) should immediately embrace that worker and his/her family - with the union that Black worker was a member of taking the lead on this front.

Any union that defends the killer cop - including the police union the cop is a member of - should be shunned, just like a union that openly engaged in scabbing would be by any decent trade unionist.

This is actually a pretty simple idea - "An Injury To One Is The Concern Of All" anyone? - it's actually amazing to this writer that I would have to spell it out in such stark terms.

But, considering the shameful history of American unions treatment of Black workers, it's sadly necessary!

Here's another simple idea - and if you're in a union that was founded in the 19th century like mine was, you'll find the germ of it in your union's constitution.

That is, cops should be treated like scabs.

Remember, in the old craft unions, working as a guard or a special officer during a strike was grounds for automatic expulsion [a good example of such a clause can be found in Section 42 Paragraph I of the Constitution of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, CTW/CLC] and police officers were viewed as not a whole lot better than common scabs.

Which actually makes a whole lot of sense, if you think about it.

Scabs are workers who take a job during a strike - helping to defeat the struggles of their fellow workers, just to put a couple of dollars in their pocket.

Now, scabs - like every other worker - take a jo

Richard Mellor

Reading Greg's comments about Jerrold Hall brings back memories for me as I was closely involved in that case.  When I found out about the killing I immediately contacted his father and spent lots of time with him.  I remember taking him to the CLC and of course he came first to my own Union, AFSCME Local 444. I wrote a letter to the transit board that my Local passed and I have attached it if anyone is interested and his family wrote back to thank the Local. I also wrote to the press condemning their biased reporting and I have included that.The addresses on the documents I have uploaded are no longer valid.

I remember when the media began to attack Hall's character in order to counter the public outcry about the case.  It was typical stuff, trying to discredit the kid in order to justify the murder. Hall was no saint, a bit of a bully one might even conclude.  But he was shot in the back of the head as he was walking away from the cop. He was unarmed.

I remember reading the police report and other material that I still have in my files and Hall was still alive when the sounds of the backup sirens were audible.  The police dog also had a liking for Hall as he licked the young man enthusiastically from what I recall.

The Alameda County DA concluded that the killing was justified and sent out the following statement: Crabtree felt that "Hall was one of two armed robbers, that he was unsure how many weapons were involved, that Hall exhibited an unrestrained intent to harm Crabtree, and that if Hall escaped in to the darkness he would flank the officer and come back and shoot him". (Report of the Alameda County DA as reported in the Oakland Tribune 1-23-93).   Case closed for the DA.

The Transit police also concluded Fred Crabtree was justified in shooting Hall.  At most, Hall was shot in the back and killed for stealing a Walkman.

Some time after the killing Fred Crabtree killed himself.  This is what was reported.  However, a contact I had at the Transit district told me he was involved in some sort of sexual ritual, auto asphyxiation I think it is called.  I took this as probably a bit of gossip but when I attended a public meeting recently on the Oscar Grant murder (also shot in the back, this time while laying down, surrounded by cops and with his hands behind him) one of the board members said that this was what was believed to have been the case.

I would assume it is true and wondered whether this sort of degeneration of this cop occurred before he murdered a young man or after.

Lastly, Greg Butler's post reminded me of the inability of so much of the left to communicate with ordinary working people.  I was approached by a member of a left group who was a Union member but, as is so often the case, he had one political side for the Union and another for the revolution. Consequently, he never really was active in the Union, just used it to bring issues there his group was involved in and to give his group credibility.

He ran down the case for me and I ran with it.  Then the stuff came out about Hall's history which was not the best.  He might have slapped a guy around a bit and stole his radio. He had beaten his girlfriend and some other stuff.

When I brought the issue to the membership and raised this letter, some members naturally were influenced by the press and raised these issues.  I managed to win the day but I called up the revolutionary and asked why he didn't tell me these things when he was running the scenario by me.

I could tell that he immediately saw this as me backing down, that I was not down with the case against the pig and all that stuff some of them like to say.  I remember him saying something about white cop shooting unarmed black youth and wasn't it obvious who I should support.  Basically, why did I need to know such details?

The answer is obvious.  If you have to explain an issue and win support for it to a group of workers who are also under the influence of the bosses and their media, it is best we know the facts, that we are not blindsided; that we have the details and the answer to legitimate questions.  This is what it's like in a Union meeting like those of my old Local where the bureaucracy had not yet gotten its stifling grip on affairs.

For many self described revolutionaries of course its not an issue, they meet with their five, ten or 20 comrades and they all agree.  Not really having an orientation to workers (although many have an orientation to worker's leaders) with all our fears and confusions that flow from the bosses propaganda, there is no reason to present all the facts or answer all the questions.

I should say I am not opposed to meeting with comrades, I am opposed to not meeting with workers.


Hey, Richard!

Thanks for the reply - and the info on Officer Crabtree's disturbing death.

The post has been updated accordingly!

Oh yeah, you are also right on the money on how most of the left have a very difficult time communicating with the working class!

Thanks again, brother!