[sixties-l] Fwd: Watts uprising

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Sat Aug 12 2000 - 00:39:51 CUT

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    >August 11, 2000
    >Today is the 35th anniversary of the beginning of the Watts uprising. I
    >thought people might find the following article about Watts to be of
    >interest. It was written by a veteran revolutionary who lived in Watts in
    >1965 and participated in the rebellion.
    >Chris Mahin
    > > People's Tribune/Tribuno del Pueblo (Online Edition)
    > > Vol. 27 No. 8/ August, 2000
    > >******************************************************************
    > >
    > >by Nelson Peery
    > >
    > >August 11 marks the 35th anniversary of the Watts rebellion. Why
    > >did it happen? Armed, mass uprisings are a specific stage of
    > >struggle against an oppressing state power. In the struggle
    > >against violent oppression, the masses become conscious of
    > >themselves. Rejecting the compromised leadership of the reformist
    > >elite, they inevitably turn to defensive violence.
    > >
    > >Watts was the culmination of this process within the African
    > >American freedom movement. The rejection of reformist leadership
    > >and the subsequent fighting in Harlem, Detroit, Brooklyn,
    > >Philadelphia, Cleveland and numerous other places was not lost on
    > >the people of Watts.
    > >
    > >By 1965, the distrust of the "power structure," be it black or
    > >white, was near total in the Ghetto. This was clearly shown at the
    > >beginning of the fighting in Watts. The African American newspaper
    > >The Sentinel called the uprising the most disgraceful day in
    > >African American history. The respected "militant" comedian Dick
    > >Gregory mounted a police car with a bull horn and crudely demanded
    > >that the people calm down and go home. A young man with a single-
    > >action .22 hesitated for a moment, then shot Gregory instead of
    > >the cop standing beside him. It is noteworthy that as the fighting
    > >began, not one so-called leader left the police side of the
    > >barricades to defend the interests of the people.
    > >
    > >Throughout 1963, 1964 and into 1965, the crisis in the reformist
    > >leadership intensified as the tactics and leadership of the
    > >Freedom Movement shifted back and forth between the Southern
    > >Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) led by Reverend Martin
    > >Luther King Jr. and the scattered local, semiorganized movements
    > >led by mainly young people who did not have access to city hall.
    > >The SCLC was mainly Southern, based in the churches and the black
    > >middle class. The local movements were throughout the country and
    > >based in the streets. (The excellent video "At the River I Stand"
    > >clearly shows this division during the struggle in Memphis that
    > >led to King's death.)
    > >
    > >It was not possible for the SCLC to deal with the thousands of
    > >daily acts of humiliation, brutality, unemployment and poverty
    > >that were part of the system of American apartheid. As the masses
    > >resisting segregation were met by brute force from the police,
    > >they turned toward meeting violence with violence. Any impulse
    > >toward violent defense forced the SCLC to sharpen it's call for
    > >nonviolence, which deepened the division. Nonviolence was the only
    > >form of black struggle acceptable to the white liberals. They were
    > >indispensable to the reform struggle, hence the inability of the
    > >reform leaders to compromise.
    > >
    > >An example of this was the situation in Birmingham, Alabama where
    > >black strikers were attacked by dogs, Bull Conner's police force
    > >and mobs of white, civilian fascists. When the workers organized
    > >to defend themselves, Reverend King was brought in to calm the
    > >situation. "Remember always that the nonviolent movement seeks
    > >justice and reconciliation, not victory," he told them. "Let our
    > >blood flow, not theirs."
    > >
    > >On August 15, 1965 after observing the situation in Watts, Dr.
    > >King said, "It was necessary that as powerful a police force as
    > >possible be brought in to check them." Police informants advised
    > >against him entering Watts for fear he might be killed.
    > >
    > >These quotes are not intended to denigrate Dr. King, who gave his
    > >life in the struggle. Our intent is to show the deepening class
    > >divisions that brought about the uprising.
    > >
    > >The police in Watts were an army of occupation. There were daily
    > >arrests and beatings over trivial misdemeanors. Black motorists
    > >were constantly stopped, harassed and humiliated. Rape of black
    > >women by the cops was well known. Just before the uprising, two
    > >cops stopped a young black couple and forced the woman into the
    > >squad car. Her escort, facing their drawn guns, was given the
    > >choice of leaving the area or getting arrested. After the rape,
    > >the woman got the license of the squad car. Nothing was done.
    > >
    > >This incident happened only a few weeks after two cops raped a
    > >black woman who worked for the police department. She had the
    > >training to get the numbers and identify the rapists. One cop was
    > >fired and the other given a reprimand. There were no criminal
    > >prosecutions. The rapid development of the fighting was due to a
    > >rumor that the cops had raped another woman. Watts was a tinderbox
    > >waiting for the spark.
    > >
    > >Subjectively and objectively, Watts was part of a worldwide,
    > >violent struggle of the world's colored masses for freedom.
    > >
    > >The colonial world was quick to understand that the uprising
    > >identified the African American movement with the international
    > >struggle against U.S. imperialism. The Ghanaian Times, reflecting
    > >colonial opinion, stated: "The brutal suppression against Negroes
    > >by the U.S. government should be brought before the bar of world
    > >opinion for a clear judgment. The fact that this happened in the
    > >West is important. It destroyed attempts by the U.S. government to
    > >present the racial issue as a regional, exclusive Southern
    > >affair."
    > >
    > >As the fighting ended, powerful right-wing forces moved to change
    > >America. The Reagan group organized the so-called "white backlash"
    > >to grasp power first in California and then in the nation. The
    > >incorporation of the "Dixiecrats" into the Republican Party and
    > >the capture of the Democratic Party by its Southern "liberal"
    > >wing, all have roots in the Watts uprising.
    > >
    > >Watts was a mass uprising against white economic exploitation and
    > >police brutality. It was a police riot against the people. It was
    > >not directed against white people in general, nor were whites in
    > >general opposed to it. This was shown by the people of Lynwood who
    > >collected food for the children of Watts.
    > >
    > >The last word on the Watts rebellion has yet to be written. One
    > >thing is finally being accepted. That is that the uprising, far
    > >from being an insane orgy of burning and looting, was the heroic
    > >sacrifice that reshaped our concept of American democracy.
    > >
    > >******************************************************************
    > >This article originated in the PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE/TRIBUNO DEL PUEBLO
    > >(Online Edition), Vol. 27 No. 8/ August, 2000; P.O. Box 3524,
    > >Chicago, IL 60654; Email: pt@noc.org; http://www.lrna.org
    > >Feel free to reproduce and use unless marked as copyrighted. The
    > >PEOPLE'S TRIBUNE/TRIBUNO DEL PUEBLO depends on donations from its
    > >readers.
    > >******************************************************************

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