Wednesday, February 23, 2011

White supporters of African liberation denounce police occupation of black community in St. Petersburg, Florida

UHURU SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT
PRESS CONFERENCE STATEMENT
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2011


On Wednesday February 23 2011, Uhuru Solidarity Movement held a press conference to address the recent shooting of a police officer and subsequent military occupation of the black community in St. Petersburg, FL. The Uhuru Solidarity Movement is an organization of white Euro-Americans who organize under the leadership of the African-led Uhuru Movement to build reparations and material solidarity with the struggle for African liberation. Below is the statement delivered at the press conference by Penny Hess, chairperson of the African People's Solidarity Committee.

Last night the St. Petersburg police announced the “surrender” of an African youth, barely 16 years old, in the murder of a policeman in this city on Feb. 22. In violation of their longstanding policy, the police released the young person’s name and showed his picture on TV.

Instead of examining the reasons why a young teenager would take such an action, the police and the city of St. Petersburg have successfully demonized this young man and the whole African community in a city and a country that have already criminalized African people as threats to US white society.

We have to look at the reality that this is a teenager from a deeply impoverished African community growing up in a city that has in the recent period seen the police murders of several unarmed black teenaged men. This young man faced a bleak future in a community without jobs and economic development, with a mere 21 percent graduation rate for black males, and with 50 percent unemployment rates for African youth. The fact is 75 percent of black men in this country will be arrested and jailed before the age of 36, regardless of their actions, in a system that arrests black men 6 times more often than white men. This is a young man who grew up in a community that the mayor and city government invested millions of dollars into in order to gentrify, moving in white people while dispersing the African community.

We are standing in front of what has been “command central” here on First Avenue South, a full-blown military staging ground with tanks, trucks, armored vehicles and tents, involving hundreds of police forces, machine gun toting SWAT teams and other militarized forces. This was not set up to arrest someone; this was set up to terrorize the entire African community and put them under military occupation. This command center is here to treat the African community as an enemy population.

The Uhuru Solidarity Movement denounces this collective punishment of the historic African community of St. Petersburg following the shooting death of a police officer on Monday night.

From the white community we denounce what is the blatant and very violent retaliation against a whole impoverished community involving a 33 square-block siege including the systematic searches of cars by police armed with assault weapons and machine guns.

Police from several agencies, including the Florida Highway Patrol, the Tampa Police Department and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office met in the parking lot of Tropicana Field
Heavily armed, military style police forces were storming through the African community in intimidating house-to-house searches, supposedly looking for the suspect. The community reported police in military uniforms and checkpoints on every corner, with helicopters flying overhead, even as the police had stated to the media that they had no expectations of finding the suspect.

The policeman was shot near downtown, but the area under siege has been the African community several blocks south, even though the white community several blocks north could have been cordoned off.

The area where the shooting happened is a neighborhood that is being highly gentrified by the white community. Police descended on the area, after a resident called the police on a supposed “prowler” who had committed no crime. The Uhuru Solidarity Movement calls on the white community and the neighborhood associations to end the vigilante stance of calling the police anytime they see a black person walking down the sidewalk in their neighborhoods—actions that often escalate into police violence.

This is the area where St. Petersburg mayors and powers-that-be have pumped millions of dollars into gentrification with the goal of dispersing the impoverished community for the benefit of white investors and homeowners. This has resulted in an escalation of foreclosures and home losses due to enforced code violations, driving out African people who once were confined to this area and not allowed to leave after night fall.

The current brutal police occupation constitutes collective punishment of the African community of St. Petersburg in a way that is completely comparable to the collective punishment of the entire Palestinian population that is routinely imposed by the Israeli settler forces.



Such a military occupation is racist and reserved for the African community. Despite examples of white people shooting police in recent months, the entire white community is never put on lock down by revenge filled storm troops from the police department.

The fact is that the African community of St. Petersburg has long struggled against the heavy-handed policing and policies of police containment that have targeted the African community for many years. These policies have resulted in repeated police murders of young black men, along with daily harassment of citizens, including for driving while black regardless of age or gender.

This is a community under siege every day, where a nonviolent marijuana bust involves numerous police cars, SWAT teams, flash grenades and yellow tape cordoning off whole neighborhoods.

We express our outrage at the ongoing police murders of African teenaged men from TyRon Lewis, to Jarrell Walker, Marquel McCullough and Javon Dawson all who were brutally gunned down by police under the guise of a war on drugs, which is in fact a war against the African community.

Such murders do not happen in the white community despite the fact that according to US government statistics 75 percent of all drug users and sellers are white.

The St. Petersburg African community is a community where ¾ of the people live below the poverty line, where five year old children have been arrested and handcuffed by police, where unemployment is rampant and where only one-fifth of African students get a high school diploma.

This is the community where after the murder of Hydra Lacy last month, Mayor Foster unlawfully destroyed Lacy’s house and all the evidence so nobody will ever really know what happened. Foster who is the law and order mayor, clearly overstepped his authority.

All around the world, in Egypt and throughout the Middle East, we are seeing resistance to very similar conditions of imposed poverty and police repression. The entire world applauds this resistance. These same conditions are happening here.

Uhuru Solidarity Movement believes that all people have a right to resist injustice. The conditions of ongoing menacing, violent and deadly police force and relentless poverty and gentrification facing the African community of St. Petersburg has created an intolerable situation in which people have a right to struggle for justice.

The Uhuru Solidarity Movement stands in solidarity with the right of African people to resist. We stand for reparations to the families of all the young African men murdered by the police. We demand an end to this police containment and martial law in which young African people grow up in war zones created by police containment policies. We join the African community in demanding genuine economic development to uplift the entire community out of poverty.

We say “hands off the African community.” We want justice in this town, with no one community living at the expense of any other community. We demand an end to gentrification and dispersal and stand for economic development that the city promised to the African community in 1996 but never delivered. We don’t want police occupation in our town. We want justice and unity. All young people should have the ability to have a future, not some at the expense of others. We call on other white people to look at the real conditions faced by African people and see that the only solution is economic and social justice.

Uhuru!

Defend the Rights of the African Community!
Attend the open community meeting:
Sunday, February 27, 2011
4:00 pm
Uhuru House, 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705

Uhuru Solidarity Movement – www.uhurusolidarity.org – 727-683-9949

7 comments:

Anette said...

This saddens me to think that this is being targeted as a "race war" when the reality of it is that an officer of the law was killed. This man had a family and his life was cut short. There are many people in this city that have fallen victim to tragedy and for that, we mourn. Please do not make this about race... I understand you are upset at the situation, but please have some respect for the deceased. The men and women (on both sides of law enforcement... citizens, troops, etc.) that have lost their lives deserve to be remembered fully, and not cheapened by a stance against something so far from the truth. Thank you.

Steven Hicks said...

I'd also hold this boy's mother responsible for not knowing where her son was and that he possessed a handgun.

SRHEdD said...

So you want to stand up and revolt? Stand up to the criminals and no longer tolerate them bringing guns and drugs into your neighborhoods.

Uhuru Solidarity Movement said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uhuru Solidarity Movement said...

We have to understand that this issue is bigger than the shooting of one police officer by one black teenager.

We condemn the response by the St Petersburg Police Department -- the same police department that has murdered 8 African young men in the past 10 years -- for the collective punishment of an entire community!

This would never happen in the more affluent, white areas of St Pete, or any city, and we know this because we see the same kind of occupation on the news every day, and it's always the impoverished black community. It's not about "race," but about the economic conditions imposed on communities that have historically been oppressed.

Look at it this way and you'll begin to understand the stance taken by the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, and how you can support the movement for justice and economic development for the oppressed communities, rather than justify the criminalization of them.

Chuck said...

I was a suprised at some of the statements made in this article. The African-American community has had various issues related to local poverty demographics and equal representation by local government, however, many of the statements made in this document are clearly biased and factually incorrect.

The statment regarding the percentage of whites using drugs directly reflects the national population demographic by race and is, in fact, lower by 4% than the population segment. Several other staments in the article refer to former St. Petersburg residents Tyron Lewis and Hydra Lacy in such a way that strives to dissuade readers from the very real facts that they put law enforment officers in danger of physical harm and, in the case of the latter, took lives rather than choosing to live within the boundaries of the legal system.

Turning this into a race issue only serves to further an already divided community. Unfortunately, it is easier to put the blame on hardworking law enforcment officers than to look at what can be done within the African-American community to further education, solve the issue of poverty and reduce violent crime rates.

Now more than ever, the African-American community needs leaders that are willing to promote a positive message far removed from what is going on here. To be blunt, there can't be true progress until people stop trying to justify and defend the criminal actions of individuals that choose to oppose the law and cause harm to others. It is not a white occupation of an oppressed community... look at the crime demographics in St. Petersburg by area and you will find that the so called "areas of occupation" are some of the highest crime areas in the city.

Am I really to believe that the honest and hard-working citizens living in these neighborhoods don't want law enforcement to protect them from criminals at large?

Carol said...

I'm just sick and tired of everything being turned into a RACE issue, rather than to look at the facts that these CRIMINALS that the Uruhus choose to defend, are just that...CRIMINALS who deserve what they got or will be getting here in the future! Poor 16year old impoverished african american little boy? This little BOY took the life of someone who was just doing his job protecting society! I truly hope he is tried as an adult and given the death penalty. They should wallpaper his jail cell with all the pictures of him bragging on facebook so he keeps his memories of the thug he tried to be, this way he'll maybe realize the penalty for his stupidness! STAND UP FOR OFFICERS YASLOWITZ, BAITINGER AND CRAWFORD instead of Hydra Lacy, who court records show served two prison terms, starting when he was 17, and arrests for grand theft, aggravated battery, rape, kidnapping, attempted murder and resisting arrest with violence. How can you stand up for this low life???

STOP crying racial discrimination! This is 2011 not the 1960's. The African community has so much offered out there for them today and it seems as if the black youth think they deserve more. Thank your parents, most who have been thru hell and back and who have worked hard to try and raise you right... Take advantage of the good being offered to further your education and life so you can advance with a good job instead of criminal activity, and wind up sitting home collecting foodstamps and welfare because you think it is owed to you! The government doesn't OWE anyone anything...black or white or hispanic or whatever! It is meant as a temporary aid not a full-time obligation. So STOP STOP STOP turning this into a racial war!!!!