Things That Matter

They Were Marching Peacefully To The Polls In Honor Of George Floyd When Police Stopped Them With Pepper Spray

We’re less than 24 hours away from one of the most consequential elections ever. It’s so important that we all get out and vote and that’s exactly what one community in North Carolina was trying to do over the weekend when police intervened with pepper spray, preventing many from exercising their right to vote.

The march was a ‘get out the vote’ march in honor of George Floyd and other Black Americans killed by police. When they were stopped to observe a moment of silence in honor of George Floyd, police moved in and dispersed the crowd with pepper spray – including the elderly, children, and journalists.

Many are calling the police interference an obvious form of voter suppression or intimidation. Unfortunately, it isn’t the only similar story from the past few weeks.

Protesters were marching to the polls in honor of Black Americans killed by police when they were attacked.

On the final day of early voting in North Carolina, police in Alamance County pepper-sprayed a group of voters who were marching to the polls, leaving demonstrators injured and vomiting in the streets.

About 250 people—most of them Black—were taking part in an event called I Am Change Legacy March to the Polls and on their final stop before visiting a polling place in downtown Graham when cops intervened. Law enforcement officers used pepper spray to break up the crowd, a decision that has drawn criticism from the state’s governor and civil rights groups.

According to the Graham Police Department, law enforcement pepper sprayed the ground to disperse the crowd in at least two instances — first, after marchers did not move out of the road following a moment of silence, and again after an officer was “assaulted” and the event deemed “unsafe and unlawful.”

But the event’s organizers and other attendees have said they did nothing to warrant the response, and that they wanted to exercise their First Amendment rights and march to the polls.

“I and our organization, marchers, demonstrators and potential voters left here sunken, sad, traumatized, obstructed and distracted from our intention to lead people all the way to the polls,” said the march organizer, the Rev. Gregory Drumwright, in a news conference Sunday. “Let me tell you something: We were beaten, but we will not be broken,” he added.

The march to the polls was organized in response to the police killings of unarmed Black Americans.

The “I Am Change” march was branded as a “march to the polls” in honor of Black people whose deaths have fueled protests over racial injustice, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Trayvon Martin, among others, according to a flyer for the event.

The rally started at the Wayman’s Chapel AME Church and included a stop at the Confederate Monument in Court Square before they were set to continue to a nearby polling place. While stopped for a moment of silence at Court Square in honor of George Floyd, police ordered them to clear the streets.

“Once it was clear that they had no intention to clear the road,” police deployed the pepper spray at the ground, and the crowd then moved to the proper designated area, according to officers.

Many are calling the brazen tactics an explicit form of voter suppression.

Scott Huffman, a North Carolina Democratic congressional candidate who attended the march, said in a video shared on Twitter that demonstrators were exercising their First Amendment rights and that the organizers had obtained proper permits. 

According to marchers, some officers were allowing the protesters to march, but others weren’t, an obvious sign of the breakdown in communication between departments. 

The incident was criticized by a number of officials and civil rights groups, including the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, whose executive director likened it to “voter intimidation.”

“We need to find a way to close the book on voter suppression and police violence if we are to start a new chapter in our story that recognizes the importance of protecting everyone’s right to vote,” said ACLU of North Carolina executive director Chantal Stevens.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper shared the Raleigh News & Observer’s article about the march on Twitter and called the incident “unacceptable.”

“Peaceful demonstrators should be able to have their voices heard and voter intimidation in any form cannot be tolerated,” the governor said

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The Rise of the Rainbow Coalition Is Reignited in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

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The Rise of the Rainbow Coalition Is Reignited in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

Bev Grant / Getty Images

At the dawn of Black History Month the timely release of “Judas and the Black Messiah” echoed the cries of injustice following a summer of civil unrest. In what was considered the largest multicultural protest of the 21st century, the words of Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton ferociously chanting “I AM…A REVOLUTIONARY!” continue to resonate.

The timely Civil Rights film, available to stream on HBO Max, follows the life and betrayal of The Illinois Black Panther Chairman (played by Daniel Kaluuya) at the hands of a party member and FBI informant William “Bill” O’Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield). Kaluuya’s captivating performance as the charismatic Hampton received widespread acclaim and his first Golden Globe win for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.

For some audience members, this film will be their first introduction to Chairman Fred Hampton and an extension of the Black Panther Party. While the film is relatively accurate, the brief inclusion of the original Rainbow Coalition is pertinent to Hampton’s legacy. You can see its relation to the rise in multicultural youth-driven activism we see today.

In February 1969, Hampton and other Panther members met with Young Lords leader José “Cha-Cha” Jimenez after the Puerto Rican street organization shut themselves in the 18th District police station. The protest was calling attention to the police harassment of Latinx residents in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

The Young Lords started as a turf gang in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in 1960. By 1968, the Young Lords became a Civil Rights organization. The Illinois chapter and Young Lords formed the original Rainbow Coalition in April 1969. Jimenez referred to the coalition as a “poor people’s army” in an interview with Southside Weekly. Shortly after, the coalition grew to include the Young Patriots Organization a white, southern working-class group from Northern Chicago.

The Rainbow Coalition fought against police brutality and institutional racism in Chicago while working to uplift their local communities. The organization, consisting of people in their teens and early 20s, offered free breakfast programs and child daycare centers funded by donations from local businesses.

“It is impossible to make revolutionary change without the people,” Jimenez said in an interview with FightBack! News on the 50th anniversary of the coalition’s foundation.

“The Rainbow Coalition was more than just a gang of activists or folks trying to gain one or two small victories,” he told FightBack! News. “Each of our groups were already small revolutionary armies connected to the people’s struggle and trying to create a People’s Army to win the battle.”

Hampton and Jimenez were both sent to solitary confinement at Cook County Jail for their activism. In another incident noted in the film, Hampton was once sentenced after taking ice cream pops from an ice cream truck to pass out to neighborhood kids.

Supporters claim that it is a consequence of their street organizing and a threat to government authority for their Marxist-Leninist views.

The tension between the Chicago Police Department and the Black Panthers failed to cease, and the FBI was closing in on silencing Hampton. On December 4, 1969, the Cook County’s State Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan conducted an overnight raid on Hampton’s apartment with a warrant to search for illegal weapons.

Police barraged into Hampton’s apartment shooting gunfire wounding several Black Panthers and killing Black Panther security chief Mark Clark. Hampton was asleep in his bedroom next to his pregnant fiancée Deborah Johnson (who now goes by Akua Njeri) when he was struck by the gunfire, killing him.

Hampton was 21 at the time of his death.

The assassination of Fred Hampton left Coalition members distraught and fearful for their own lives as leadership slowly diminished. By 1973, the Rainbow Coalition had officially disbanded.

The embodiment of radicalized thought, in a sea of young revolutionaries, adorning their berets of black and purple. The roars of unapologetic protest against racism persisted and the legacy of youth-driven advocacy for the unified equity of all peoples vehemently lives on.

“Ours is not about individuals but a people’s struggle led by the common folk,” Jimenez said to FightBack! News. “Ours is a protracted struggle that will take years and we must prepare ourselves for the long run via structured community programs specific to the revolution.”

READ: Filmmaker’s Short Documentary Shines A Light On Woman Who Fought For Cuban Revolution

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The Black and Afro-Latina Queens of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Discuss #BlackLivesMatter

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The Black and Afro-Latina Queens of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Discuss #BlackLivesMatter

THEKANDYMUSE / THE_SYMONE / INSTAGRAM

The drag queens on the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race discussed the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the previous episode and it was real. They talked about the ways they were active during the protests last summer and what it means to be a queer person of color in the U.S. today.

Kandy Muse gave the conversation an Afro-Latina perspective.

While the queens were putting on their makeup in the workroom, LaLa Ri from Atlanta, brought up the topic of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. New York’s “Dominican Doll” Kandy Muse was the first to speak on her involvement in the protests.

“Being an Afro-Latino from the south Bronx, when I see Black people being murdered by police, it just puts so many things into perspective,” Muse said. “Fighting for Black lives and all those things are very, very important to me.”

Symone reminded the other queens of George Floyd’s murder by the police.  

Symone, who hails from LA, reminded her season 13 sisters that the murder of George Floyd last May by the police is what sparked the protests throughout the country.

“It’s sad that he to- that that had to happen, but I’m happy that people are waking the f*ck up because it’s always been there,” Symone said.

As a Black queen, Symone spoke to the trauma that Black people were facing with video of George Floyd’s murder being replayed in the media.

“Even with [the] corona[virus] going on, I felt immediately compelled to be involved in protests here in Los Angeles because enough is enough,” Symone recalled. “Things need to change.”

Lala Ri put some light on Rayshard Brooks‘ murder by the police.

During the discussion, LaLa Ri brought up that the murder of Rayshard Brooks at a Wendys in Georgia happened very close to their home.

“It kind of just really hit me that I could easily be in that drive-thru, and there’s a situation where they can pull me over just because I look like I don’t belong in that type of car,” LaLa Ri said.

As LaLa Ri relived that realization, she got emotional talking about it on the show.

“You could just be a Black person in the world and you could just get killed for nothing,” the queen said in tears. “It’s scary that you could just be killed just because of the color of your skin.”

Olivia Lux, an Afro-Puerto Rican queen from New Jersey, also mentioned how Black trans women are being murdered at a high rate.

“Statically Black trans lives at the most at risk,” Olivia Lux said.

Tamisha Iman wrapped things up with the words of John Lewis.

Tamisha Iman, a Black queen from Georgia, evoked the words of late Georgia Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis to wrap up the conversation.

“Get in some good trouble!” the Georgia queen said in an empowering moment.

The clip was uploaded to RuPaul’s Drag Race YouTube channel on Feb. 1 in honor of Black History Month. Be watch the full video to see more of this necessary conversation.

READ: Denali is Serving Mexicana Representation on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

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