From November 22 to 24, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, founded in 1973, will be relaunching itself in Chicago, IL. A major part of the conference will be focused on work to create community control of the police to end racist, violent and murderous police actions. We speak with Frank Chapman, who has been with the alliance from the start and who is involved in the work in Chicago to create a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). They have legislation in the city government. Chapman speaks about how they have made so much progress to this goal in Chicago, what potential it will unleash for transformative change and how it ties into the long struggle for black liberation and against fascism.
Frank Chapman was wrongfully convicted of murder and armed robbery in 1961 and sentenced to life and 50 years in the Missouri State Prison. His case was taken up by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR) in 1973, and in 1976 he was released. He had been incarcerated for 14 years. In 1983, he was elected executive director of NAARPR. He worked with Charlene Mitchell, who preceded him as executive director of NAARPR, on building an international campaign to free Rev. Ben Chavis and the Wilmington Ten, Joann Little, and others falsely accused and politically persecuted. He was a part of the international campaign to free Nelson Mandela. He has been a part of leading the struggle in Chicago for the past seven years to stop police crimes — especially murder, torture, beatings and racial profiling. He is presently co-chair and educational director of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
In addition to being a community organizer, Frank is also a published writer since 1971, when he first published “Pages from the Life of a Black Prisoner” in the Fall 1971 edition of Freedomways magazine. He became a contributing editor of Freedomways magazine in 1981-83.
Margaret Flowers (MF): You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret flowers.
Kevin Zeese (KZ): And Kevin Zeese
MF: Clearing the FOG is a project of Popular Resistance.org. You can subscribe to us on iTunes, SoundCloud, Mixcloud Stitcher and Google Play. You can also find us on PopularResistance.org and while you’re there, visit the Popular Resistance store where you can order tote bags, water bottles, bumper stickers and t-shirts. So this week we interviewed Frank Chapman.
KZ: Chapman is a leading advocate for community control of police, which I think is the transformative change we need across the nation and really get control of the police in this country who are just running rampage in black and brown communities especially.
MF: So he talks about that campaign in Chicago, which has made tremendous progress, and he also talks about an upcoming conference that people won’t want to miss that relaunches the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Stick around for that interview. Before we turn to that, let’s talk about some things that are in the news. So the journalist and editor of The Grayzone Project, Max Blumenthal, was arrested at his home on October 25th.
KZ: This came out of the actions of the Embassy Protection Collective. Grayzone was covering that action with an embedded journalist Anya Parampil. Max was involved at the embassy and is accused falsely of a simple assault, the kind of case that normally gets dropped by prosecutors. His co-defendant is Ben Rubenstein whose brother Alex Rubinstein was also an embedded journalist. So this is all about punishment for daring to break the blockade of information about that Venezuelan effort as well as Grayzone’s other incredible work on a whole range of us regime change activities from Syria, where Max has incredible specialty, to Nicaragua where him and Anya went down to Nicaragua. They actually interviewed Daniel Ortega. And Venezuela and Iran, Hong Kong. They have just been exposing US Empire everywhere and I’m sure are a top target for the US. It’s just a part of the war on journalism as well.
MF: Well, I think what’s really sad is that mainstream journalists in the United States are completely silent on this. The advocates for press freedom are silent on this. This was a five, more than five month old warrant that had been issued during the embassy action and then had actually been rescinded. They don’t have any proof of the allegations but I think what’s really dangerous is that they told the police and listed in the warrant that Max was armed and dangerous, something that only a tiny minority of arrest warrants have on them. So for a journalist with no history of armed struggle who covered an action that had no arming of it, this gave the police the impression that they were dealing with an armed criminal when they came to his home. They surrounded his home, treated him very aggressively. It’s just lucky that Max was not hurt.
KZ: There’s absolutely no basis for the armed and dangerous nonsense that was in the warrant. They came to his house. They were pretty aggressive. They were threatening to break his door down if he didn’t open it up. He did open it up. A bunch of police came into his house. He was handcuffed. He was taken away in his pajamas. He was able to take the laces off his shoes because they would do that when they got to jail and then he luckily got a coat because it was freezing in jail. It’s very cold. He was first at a precinct and moved over to Central Booking, multiple cages. He was held in there very uncomfortable for 36 hours before he finally got to a magistrate and was released on personal recognizance. That was in the morning they came to his house. They could have gone to the magistrate that day and gotten an arraignment that day and he would been out that day but instead they punished him with 36 hours. And this very weak case that I’d be surprised if it goes to trial. If it does, I think the truth will come out and will be very embarrassing to the United States.
MF: And then denying Max a phone call. He wasn’t even allowed to inform his lawyer that he was in jail. So really it seems like it was something that was timed to punish Max. Of course, it came a few days after The Grayzone had published an expose showing that the USAID was not only paying the salaries of the coup supporters in Venezuela, so basically paying the salaries of people that are recognized by the US to be the government of Venezuela…
KZ: In order for them to conduct a coup rather than humanitarian assistance, like USAID should be used for.
MF: …and also covering their travel, their other expenses. So this is really unheard of. Grayzone exposed that as they have so many other things that the United States has been doing and I think this was an intimidation of him.
KZ: I’ll tell you this though, talking to Max and listening to him being interviewed. This is going to be the opposite of intimidation. It is going to energize him to be more aggressive. It has energized his awareness, which he already knew about but now experienced the racism in our criminal justice system, in our prisons. He got to see how people were treated in prison, experience it and you can understand that from your own knowledge and reading but experiencing it brings it to a new level. I can tell you I had when I was first arrested that was one of things that struck me in the face was wow, I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was this bad. I saw black people being incarcerated for minor crimes that whites would not even be arrested for, yet these people were being held often held overnight losing their jobs leaving their kids without being, someone to pick them up at school just creating all sorts of social strife and Max has seen that. And we’re talking to Max also about what he needs for his trial because we have that, we are lucky to have a defense committee for our embassy case. We’re facing federal charges and we have the Embassy Defense Collective, DefendEmbassyProtectors.org if you want to get aware of that case, if you want to get involved in that case. It’s a great site with all the information you need so you can talk about it and write about it. Not just our case but also Max and Ben’s case. We’ll see what they need for their defense and if necessary, we will help to form a defense committee for them as well.
MF: Out of that work that we’ve been doing this whole year around defending the embassy and opposing illegal actions by the United States like the unilateral coercive measures that people call sanctions and the embassy action led to the People’s Mobe that took place in New York City this past September during the United Nations General Assembly. We now have a new action that we’re taking and we encourage people to check out. There is a group of seventy-seven countries, they’re called the group of 77 plus China, and they are introducing a resolution to the United Nations. It’s called the Second Committee, Economic and Financial Committee. And this is a resolution basically calling on the United Nations to enforce its Charter and take action to stop these unilateral coercive measures, this economic war, these sanctions that the United States and its junior partners are using against, I think we see different variations of the number of countries, but at least 33 countries are being impacted.
KZ: I suspect a lot of that group of 77 countries are impacted by sanctions. If not, they’re impacted secondarily. If you dare to trade with Iran, then you’ll be punished for trading with them because they’re sanctioned. Because of the Iran sanctions, they are punished with secondary sanctions. This is a big impact issue, these State sanctions, which we call unilateral coercive measures because under international law those kinds of measures are illegal.
MF: So this is a sign-on letter that we’re encouraging individuals and organizations to sign onto. We will have a delegation present at that hearing in the United Nations General Assembly when they vote on this. The sign-on letter is going to be presented to them ahead of time. And we really hope that this resolution gets passed and not just passed but also acted upon.
KZ: And you can sign up by going to PopularResistance.org. It’s in the slider at the top of the page.
MF: Or you can go to Peoplesmobe.org, there and it’s right there on the homepage.
KZ: So People’s Mobe, the people’s mobilization to stop the US war machine and save the planet.
MF: PeoplesMobe.org and then also, if you are interested in this issue, we have another sign-on which is the Global Appeal for Peace. And this is organizing an international network to fight back against these illegal unilateral coercive measures and the impacts that they’re having on countries around the world. So that’s GlobalAppeal4Peace.net.
KZ: The sign-ons, these are parts of an ongoing campaign. These are tactics that fit into a larger campaign. We don’t expect the sign-on by itself to win it for us, but we expect these sign-ons to educate people and organize people, and when you sign on then you get to be part of the campaign and these campaigns can last multiple years. When we stopped the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the trade movement. That was a five to six year campaign. You started working on single-payer healthcare full-time in 2007, and we’re getting close to victory on that, on National Improved Medicare for All. Now, we have some short-term campaigns but this is a long-term one. This is essentially forming a network of people both in government and out of government who are going to stand against violations of international law, these unilateral coercive measures or state sanctions are violations of international law and that’s what we’re advocating for is ending that abuse by the United States and other nations.
MF: Well, the Global Appeal is really organizing civil society around this, but there is a governmental equivalent, which is the Non-aligned Movement, which is over a hundred and twenty countries who have already affirmed their opposition to unilateral coercive measures, their desire for peaceful methods of resolving conflicts, respect for self-determination and sovereignty and also taking real steps to address the climate crisis. So they are taking these actions. I think this resolution is part of that and they just met in Azerbaijan and I think we need to have a civil society component that complements that because this is necessary if we want to get to a world where, that’s peaceful, that people’s needs are met. This is an important…
KZ: A world without war requires an alternative to conflict resolution, part of that alternative is building up international law. It’s also diplomacy, it’s negotiation. It’s really confronting conflict in more mature ways than wars.
MF: And it’s such an interesting time. You know, as US Empire is falling, we’ve talked about that so frequently on the show, but seeing the changes that are happening around the world. So just this past week in Germany, there was a group of legislators from the, a Democratic Socialist Party. It’s called Die Linke or The Left and they actually are calling for all 35,000 US troops to leave Germany.
KZ: When was the World War? And when did the Berlin Wall fall? I mean really the US troops in Germany are an anachronism, they’re an expense for both Germany and the United States. They’re unnecessary. It’s time not just to remove US troops from Germany, but it’s time to end NATO. NATO has become an offensive force. It’s used to put pressure on and threaten countries that the US is opposed to or in competition with. That’s why we keep expanding NATO along the Russian and Chinese borders. That’s why NATO is coming to Colombia and Brazil, next to Venezuela. They are an offensive force. When they can’t get the United Nations to authorize a war, they use the cover of NATO to say it’s a multinational effort. Even that’s illegal. NATO does not have the legal power to decide when to attack another country. So a NATO war is just as illegal as a unilateral war by the United States.
MF: The Germans cite some real serious concerns in that the United States is antagonizing Russia. And if there is a war between the United States and Russia, having US troops in Germany is going to put Germany in the crosshairs and there are nuclear weapons in Germany. So they’re saying for their own protection, they need the US to get out of there.
KZ: At a time when the US has changed its national security policy from the war on terror to great power conflict, that does put US allies especially a country where there are US military bases, at greater risk. Great power conflict with Russia, how has that evolved in the 21st century, great power conflict with China how has that evolved in the 21st century? Is the US laying the groundwork for military action and if they are that does put Germany, and other nations where US bases exist at risk.
MF: This is also an interesting time because we’re seeing so much pushback, primarily in the Latin American countries as we’ve talked about, against neoliberalism, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, of course, Venezuela, Nicaragua Cuba and Haiti. Protests continue in Haiti. Haiti is a country that has really been devastated by United States foreign and economic policies, of course also our kind of pushing who their president is Jovenal Moise but they’ve been undergoing very serious protests for the past seven weeks. It’s interesting the kind of parallels that there are between Haiti and what we see in other countries. So there, the social movements are talking about how the government wrote a letter to Mike Pompeo in the State Department of the United States asking for humanitarian assistance. Well the Haitians understand what it means when a government asked the United States for humanitarian assistance.
KZ: It means cover for bringing in military troops. And we saw that in Venezuela. We’ve seen that in other US regime change efforts. Humanitarian assistance is just a way for the US to get its foot further in the door and in Haiti, they’ve had their foot in the door for a long time. Ever since Haiti revolted successfully against slavery when France was colonizing the island, they have been under attack by US and Western countries. The US does not appreciate countries that declare their independence. So Haiti’s independence has been very costly ever since that time. Haiti has been under attack by the United States and Western Powers.
MF: Another tactic that they’re seeing is that there are these violent groups that are connected to the state that are creating chaos and havoc through violence and they, what their view is, is that they’re doing this because they’re trying to foment a civil war, which would be another justification for US military intervention. These are the same things that we’ve seen play out in Venezuela and other places. What’s exciting to see is that a coalition of 62 political parties and social movement groups have come together under what they’re calling the Patriotic Forum. They’re holding gatherings all around the country to talk about what it is that they want. The main demand of these protests has been for the president, Jovenal Moise, to resign.
KZ: And he wouldn’t be president if it hadn’t been for Hillary Clinton. He basically lost the election. Hillary Clinton said he had to win. He’s been a corrupt leader stealing the PetroCaribe dollars that Venezuela was providing and undermined the country. So it is time for him to go. The question is what will take his place.
MF: Let’s talk about our newsletter this week on Popular Resistance. We talked about National Improved Medicare for All. It’s interesting. As you mentioned, we’ve been advocating for this for a very long time and we’re actually seeing national consensus grow in support of it. We’re seeing candidates for political office. In 2018, a number of members of Congress ran on National Improved Medicare for All. We’re seeing of course Bernie Sanders including it in his platform in 2016. And now in 2020, in the presidential campaign, it’s a big topic of discussion, whether presidents are for it or against it, trying to sound like they are for it when they’re actually not for it.
KZ: No, it’s very complicated the way that the opposition is playing it. They recognize that Medicare for All is the popular solution. It has majority support among Republicans, Independents and especially among Democrats, among Democrats it’s a consensus issue. I don’t see a Democrat winning the nomination unless that candidate is for Medicare for All or fools people to pretend they’re for Medicare for all. The voters want Medicare for All, they want a health system they can rely on. The first candidate to run on Medicare for All in this century was Ralph Nader in 2000 as a Green Party candidate. That helped to change the national discussion, put it on the agenda. The movement kept on growing after that. Sanders taking it up in 2016 certainly helped as well. Although we have some problems with Sanders, the Sanders-Warren Bill, some serious shortcomings in that bill that require a change for us to have a good system. But the issue is reaching a peak. I think we, our newsletter talks about essentially where we are as a movement when we go into this 2020 election year. We’ve come a long way. Remember in 2010 Margaret, you and I and six other allies were arrested protesting the ACA because they wouldn’t put Medicare for All on the table. They said it’s not on the table and here’s ten years later, it’s a centerpiece of the table in the 2020 election campaigns. We have come a long way in 10 years.
MF: We have and I think all the signs point to the potential of a victory on this but the opposition is investing a lot of money in front groups, in advertising, in misinformation campaigns…
KZ: Pete Buttigieg is the largest recipient of insurance money.
MF: That’s right. And of course, he sounds like he’s talking for the healthcare industry. And so we have a lot of work to do. We need to be aware of the tactics that the opposition uses and be able to push back against those even you know, sometimes they use progressive sounding organizations, organizations that have a progressive veneer like the Urban Institute that just did another flawed report trying to make it look like National Improved Medicare for All would cost too much.
KZ: The Urban Institute has been mainly funded by government money and they are clearly an anti-Medicare for All group. Every report they put out has obvious flaws in it that bias it against Medicare for All and there are groups like that out there. But you’re right, we are facing a strong opposition. We’re going after some of the biggest industries in the country. The health care is 17 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States. It means a lot of people are making a lot of money off the present system. That’s why it’s so wasteful expensive and not good for people because it’s become, it’s a capitalist ripoff. We’re challenging that and that’s what’s beautiful about this issue. If we successfully win Medicare for All, we will have defeated the insurance industry. That is a centerpiece of US capitalism. We will weaken the pharmaceutical industry, another major part of the flawed capitalist healthcare system, and we’ll be reining in for-profit hospitals. These are big opponents, but if we successfully do that, it will show people we have the power to defeat corporate power. We have the power to put in place a policy that actually benefits the people and when they see it working, when people see that unity and solidarity, getting the policy you want actually results in better health care and it’ll be a fantastic improvement on poverty, personal expenditures, on debt, on all these issues would be such a positive that it will just propel more change,
MF: Right. It’ll really show people that we can take on these big fights and win them and I think that this is a critical time to do that. Health care is the number one priority of voters. You mentioned the power of the industry but on the opposite side of that, we have a country of 320 million people. We have 30 million people who have no health insurance at all. We have another at least twice that people who have health insurance, but it’s so crappy, they can’t afford to get health care when they need it, with people going bankrupt. Over 500,000 families every year going bankrupt because of medical illness and the industry’s overreach is becoming so obvious. Hospital ssuing poor people who can’t pay their bills, so so many examples.
KZ: People having to go to social media fundraisers to pay for urgently need health care. It’s obscene. We have the resources. This country has to have people in that position. That’s where you have the Health Over Profit for Everone campaign, healthoverprofit.org, you can sign up and get involved and participate. We are going to win this in the early 2020s if we organize and mobilize people. This is a winnable and major potential transformation of not just health care, but the US economy.
MF: At the HOPE campaign website, educational and information tools for you. It’s got a news feed that is updated regularly and national organizing calls that people can join. Speaking of organizing, I wanted to give a shout out to the Forest and Climate Convergence that just took place. We posted a report about that on PopularResistance.org and it was a very strategic meeting where they had seven tracks taking on various issues and over 300 people from around the country that came to make plans to organize around those issues. They have videos up from it for people who weren’t able to attend check that out.
KZ: Eleanor Goldfield.
MF: Eleanor Goldfield attended.
KZ: Eleanor Goldfield works with us at Popular Resistance and does fantastic media work on her own as well. You know, this is a critical issue. If you’re going to fight climate change, you’ve got to fight climate or the oil and gas infrastructure that Obama really pushed forward aggressively needs to be stopped. There’s a good movement doing fantastic work challenging oil and gas pipelines, transfer stations, export terminals, fantastic work being done. So, it’s great that people are getting together to strategize. It is a critical moment in the climate change, climate crisis debate. We will really need to escalate those kinds of actions.
MF: We also need to be really serious about protecting our forests because there’s a lot of talk now around the country and around the world about that we’ll just plant more trees. Well, it’s not as simple as just planting more trees. What we really need are actual forests, healthy forests. And the healthiest forests are the ones that exist right now and pipelines and other infrastructure and development chop down a lot of these older growth forest that are so able to sequester carbon and you can’t really replace that by just planting a few trees in the short term. So I think this these two issues are intimately connected.
KZ: And it’s not just those two, climate change is in the headlines. Environmental degradation right now is at an extreme level from our agriculture, herbicides and pesticides, water pollution, air pollution…
MF: Radioactive waste.
KZ: Loss of whole species. I mean, we’re going through extreme time in our environment and so this convergence is very important as part of a very big puzzle of resistance against environmental destruction.
MF: Yeah, and just some quick news, people probably aware the Keystone Pipeline that so many people fought for so long because we know that all pipelines leak, it’s not a question of if they will it’s when they will we know…
KZ: know that what they’re carrying is going to cause a climate crisis.
MF: Right. Well, the Keystone Pipeline is actually carrying tar sands, the worst, from Canada, right and they just had a massive spill in North Dakota of 383,000 gallons into wetlands and so this is why we’re fighting this. It’s not just the carbon in the air, but it’s the damage that these pipelines do to the environment around them and many of them cross very large aquifers that provide clean water to lots of people. So that’s also concerning. Let’s talk about another issue that’s just starting to I think really get more attention and we don’t really know the answer on it, but this is the new 5G that is being proposed for cell phones.
KZ: Propose is putting it nicely. It’s being pushed through aggressively. We’re looking at 5G throughout the country and world, which will be a whole other level, the internet connection, there’s lots of promise for it that people put for as far as the economy and the new equipment, new ways of communication nut also new military equipment, which is a sad story. There’s also a lot of research that shows potential serious health and environmental problems.
MF: Right, there was an appeal, the International EMF Scientist Appeal signed by a few hundred scientists and doctors basically just saying that the research that we’re doing shows that there are some red flags here, some concerns about health impacts from 5G. They list things like the potential for cancer. They found an association between that and cancer in rats as well as neurological problems, cardiovascular problems and so they’re just saying before we move forward with this massive build-out, let’s just pause for a moment do some more research and really look at whether this is healthy before we start really pushing this out there.
KZ: It’s a very reasonable request. When you start to see red flags, the precautionary principle should apply. What that means is take precaution, do the research, show it’s safe and then move forward but if you’re starting to see signs of health and environmental consequences, you have to face up to those and deal with them before you have a health and environmental crises.
MF: And then just quickly, two last stories we want to talk about. We didn’t mention this last week. The General Motors workers, UAW, that were on strike, they did settle their strike after six weeks. There was a 57% vote, really mixed feelings on this but I think the workers felt like they got the most they could get. It does continue to maintain tiers of, you know, different levels for workers. They were really a big thing where they were fighting for was equality of workers. So they’re still going to be plant closings going on.
KZ: The autoworkers went into that strike really unprepared for a strike and I think they had to negotiate from a little bit of a position of weakness. So they didn’t get everything they wanted. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another strike in the not-too-distant future because these problems were not really resolved.
MF: Yeah, they were complaining that they didn’t really get the training and support that they needed to do an effective strike. So maybe that will be for the next one. But the Chicago Teachers, after more than two weeks of striking, which is longer than their strike in 2012, did finally settle on a contract again. They won some major things. There’s still some things they were hoping for that they didn’t win but they did get a promise of a nurse and social worker in every school within five years and an extra 35 million dollars each year to reduce classroom size, pay increases for the support staff …
KZ: And they are paid poverty wages. Yes, that was very critical.
MF: And during that mobilization, they got tremendous community support. Of course, they were also pushing for affordable housing. They were criticizing the amount of resources at the Chicago City puts into the police department and there’s still another fight that they’re going to be engaging in which is around the budget for the city. They’re calling and they’re working with other organizations as well calling for more taxes on the wealthy and corporations to fund things that they need.
KZ: And not giving up. They won a lot. Their strike was not just about themselves and the teacher’s aides and the schools, it was about their communities. It was really impressive demands they made that would energize the community because so many urban communities have been underfunded and neglected and these teachers are saying students are not being treated well at home because of the economic reality that the families in the communities face. They also cover immigration, they made schools into sanctuary schools and they’re doing training on how to deal with ICE agents. And so they are also confirming that and they’re bringing more teachers in the schools to teach English as a second language.
MF: Right and I think one of the most exciting things that came out of it is this national network of bargaining for the common good which is what the Chicago Teachers were trying to do. It was like it’s not just about us, we the teachers on the front line seeing these problems in our communities and really bargaining for everyone. And I think that that national network, I think it could inspire similar actions in other cities and certainly has raised awareness of what unions should be doing. We talk about this all the time, but workers really I think hurt themselves when they started narrowing their focus to just their interests and forgetting that actually it was the labor movement that brought us major social gains in the early 20th century.
KZ: The idea of fighting for the common good actually was first done by those Los Angeles teachers. It was Los Angeles teachers who were part of the wave of strikes. There were many teachers strikes in the last year that the Chicago teachers strike was one of the first of those too in that phase. Now they seem to be leaders and break ground for others to follow and I suspect this whole idea of striking for the common good is one that’s going to keep going because there’s such desperate need in the common good. We have since the Reagan Era we have had this trickle-down economics and that just has not worked.
MF: But it certainly worked for those at the top but it’s not trickling down.
KZ: It does not trickle down and wealth divides have gotten more extreme and people are getting more angry and communities are more neglected and there’s a housing crisis, the healthcare crisis, poverty crisis , wages are low. It means just many issues. So the common good is, it has lots of demands and so it’s great to see organized unions starting to stick up for the common good. It’ll make them stronger. It will make the community stronger.
MF: Let’s get to our interview with Frank Chapman, a lifelong organizer who is going to teach us how they made the gains that they have in Chicago around holding the police accountable. So we’ll take a short musical break and we’ll be right back with that interview.
MF: You’re listening to Clearing the FOG, speaking truth to expose the forces of greed with Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. And now we turn to our guest Frank Chapman. Frank is the co-chair and educational director of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Thank you for taking time to speak with us, Frank.
Frank Chapman (FC): Thank you for having me.
KZ: I’m really looking for this conversation. I first heard about community control of police from Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report years ago, and I’ve always been looking for someone to really put some deep thought into how that can work so and you guys have done that. So I want, we want, to get into that in a big way. Before we do that, let’s just get a sense of how you got into working on these issues and working with the alliance.
FC: Well, I came into the alliance at its inception in 1973. At the time, I was a political prisoner in the Missouri State Penitentiary. The alliance was responsible for me getting out, you know, and once I got out I immediately became involved in this organization. I went on to become the executive director of the organization in 1981. I got out in 1976. I’d done almost 15 years in prison and in 1981 I became an executive director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and then episodes, episodes, episodes. It came to pass that we sort of withered as a national organization during the late 80s and early 90s and we only had two branches left in the country by the end of the 90s. And that was the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression asked me to come and help them to not only rebuild the organization but to build a campaign around the wrongfully convicted and people who were being brutalized and murdered by the police here in this city. So I finally said yes and came. Around 2011 I was appointed by the chairperson here, Josephine Wyatt, as the educational director and the field organizer. And as a result of that, I began to work in the organization. In 2012, an incident occurred. A young woman by the name of Rekia Boyd, she was 21 years old, was shot in the head by a police officer of the CPD by the name of Dante Servant. She was shot in the head as a result of him claiming that she was making too much noise with a group of other young black people in the park across the street from his apartment. He came out and basically did a drive by. He drove by a small gathering of black folks and shot into the crowd and killed her, a bullet into her head and she died. A month later, we started this campaign for an all elected all civilian police accountability council because we felt like that was it, you know, it was now time to really begin to fight back and to try to push forth the notion and fight for its implementation that we need community control of the police. They were totally out of control and we needed to get them in control. So that’s how this campaign called CPAC began in 2012.
MF: And that was a really crucial time because it was just after the Occupy Movement, just after the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida by George Zimmerman, and it was really kind of a, I think, an awareness of people at that time. I remember lots of people marching for Trayvon and then attention being paid to you know, more and more of the police murders of black and brown people and a time when people were looking for more kind of control over things and more democratic systems. So that was really perfect timing for this type of a campaign.
FC: Yeah it was definitely that. Our first call that we put out for a people’s hearing on police crimes in Chicago had the picture Trayvon Martin on the front of it. So we were in tune with what was going on. A lot of us are seasoned, were and are, you know seasoned political activists and some of us are even revolutionaries, so we were very aware of what was going on, and we was looking at this resurgence of the youth movement at the time that it was happening. We made a very conscious effort to bring his organization about by linking it up to the emerging youth movement and also police crimes that were happening in that period.
KZ: Well you guys have done an amazing job of building a real grassroots movement with tens of thousands of people involved and impacting elections and changing the political discourse and the issues you’re dealing with are such long-term ones going back to the you know, Freddy Hampton’s killing, the 1968 police riot at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the torture, the black and brown crisis of policing
MF: It really has started from the inception of police.
KZ: Yes, it’s been there since the beginning of police. That’s right. The CPAC legislation, the Civilian Police Accountability Council, is really so interesting because it’s rooted in democratic control. I think that is like the critical, I can easily see as this goes forward they are pushing to have, we want appointed officials not democratically elected members of this council. Tell me about the democratic basis for CPAC.
FC: It is rooted in the struggle for Black Liberation in this country. That’s how I like to be with because it goes all the way back to the days of reconstruction or the period of reconstruction after the Civil War was concluded in 1865. In 1867, the radical Republicans took control of Congress and they went about the business of trying to politically implement what was in that period of time a revolution. America’s only had two revolutions. The one in 1776 and one in 1861. And I tend to believe that the one in 1861 was the most radical one because that is the one where billions of dollars in property was taken from the slave barons in the South. That’s what basically the Emancipation Proclamation and the abolition of slavery meant. It meant that these people were deprived of the use of human beings as property and they could no longer buy and sell them like you buy and sell cattle. That was a revolutionary development and to politically consolidate that there was an attempt at a radical reconstruction. Structure in South during the period 1867 to 1877. During that period black people were in power politically like they’ve never been since in this country and during that period of political empowerment where we had people at the local level, the state level and the federal level. We had black representation proportionate to our numbers in the population at that time. And during that period a lot of counties, a lot of townships and whatnot in the Deep South were under the control of black people believe it or not, you know. Go back and check your history books. Eric Foner just did an outstanding book on this in terms of dealing with reconstruction. WEB Dubois did the first great book on it back in the late thirties called Black Reconstruction. Anyway, during that period, we had community control of the police through the union leagues and through the black federal troops who was still in uniform and still in the Army, you know, still in the armed services. It was during that period in South Carolina, for example that the Ku Klux Klan was actually outlawed and denied any legal right to exist, it was during that period. So, it was during that period in which local sheriffs and constables and whatnot were black and they had the decisive and final voice in saying who policed their communities and how their communities were policed. It was during that period that the old slave patrols, the so called Paddy Wagons, were eliminated. It was during that period that these slave jails and whatnot, not only were the residents of those jails or inmates freed but a lot of those jails were burned down. So it was during that period where black people had taken a very firm position in determining their own political destiny with the help of some part of the federal government at that time. Of course, that period was overthrown by means of terror and counter-revolution and the Ku Klux Klan rose up again and lynchings began to take place in this country. It was a very bloody period that followed that from 1877 all the way up to the present. And so we say that the struggle for community control of police goes back to that point in history, you know. We say the struggle for community control of the police is a fundamental block, a building block, in the struggle for Black Liberation in our country because the police has been historically used to occupy and to terrorize our communities like the paramilitary force that it is. And until we can change that, it’s going to be very difficult for us to build our movement, to get rid of our oppression. And so we think that that is fundamental. The Black Panther Party was one of the first groups in our history to really recognize this connection, you know, where they said that, you know, the police occupation and the police tyranny was a block to us doing the sound firm movement for Black Liberation. So that’s how we see this. We see this as fundamentally related to our struggle for Black Liberation. And we also see this as fundamental to the struggle for democracy in the United States and North America because black people are not so much the pacesetters, although they are that too, but they are the principle force for democracy in this country because of our history going all the way back to 1619, because of our history, because of our enslavement, because of our being systematically denied citizenship and being oppressed from almost the time that we got here until today. So if you want to talk about the fight for democracy in the United States you can’t talk about this fight and exclude back people from it. In fact, we have to be in the leadership of that fight.
KZ: Wow, that’s a fantastic history. And you’re so right about the abolition of slavery being a revolution. I mean, it really turned the Constitution on its head. The Constitution protected slavery, protected these property rights for slaveholders.
MF: It was written by the property owners.
KZ: It was written by the slaveholders and I mean and so, you’re right, that was a critical. And I love that you think, that you recognize we are going back to that era, that Reconstruction Era because that’s exactly right. It is so transformational. If this becomes law it is the only way to get control of the police. Police body cams and occasional prosecutions usually without convictions, the Fraternal Order of Police protecting police crimes. That’s a system that can never protect black and brown communities. It really takes this transformation.
MF: Can you tell our listeners about the CPAC campaign and the way you got, I mean you’ve made a lot of progress, maybe you can tell our listeners about how that came about?
FC: Yeah. Well, you know, shortly after Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered in 69, our organization emerged in 1973 and we were very aware of what contributions Fred Hampton and Mark Clark and the Black Panther Party in general had made to this struggle for community control of the police. And it was our determination to continue to carry that struggle forward. We actually started contemplating and trying to develop a campaign around this issue back in 1973. It didn’t start really happening to us in terms of Freaks in the Streets and that sort of thing until the late 70s and the early 80s. In the 80s, we did call a couple of national forums. One was in Los Angeles on police crimes to try to galvanize around this, you know, galvanize some folks around this movement, but it didn’t take off. We were also preoccupied with a number of other things in that a lot of our comrades had been falsely imprisoned and so we were engaged in that struggle, engaged in the struggle to free Nelson Mandela, you know, a lot of the stuff was going on. So for one reason or another, we couldn’t really get the campaign moving. And then in 2012, we got it moving. In 2012 the campaign got moving because as you have pointed out earlier the conditions were right, you know it was time and we got it moving and what we did was what our movements have a history of doing. We did grassroots organizing. We said that what we’re going to do, we’re going to organize from the bottom up not from the top down. We’re not going to try to get the politicians to implement this, we were going to go to the people and tell the people this is a measure that we need and get the people to force the politicians to consider it and implement it. So that’s the tactic that we were using, that’s the strategy that we’re using. You know, we believe that in the absence of a mass movement to get this legislation passed, it wouldn’t get to first base.
MF: Right. And so you organized in the neighborhoods City Council members to…
KZ: Aldermans, they’re called.
MF: That’s right, to be able to elect people that supported this agenda. You were able to get tens of thousands of people in the Chicago area to sign on to this approach.
KZ: Describe for us what is actually in the draft legislation. You know, whenever I thought about this issue or talked to others about this issue, they’ve lack details. Your program has real details. Tell us how it works. How does the Civilian Police Accountability Council actually work? And what powers does it have?
FC: Well, the way how it actually works. Let’s lay down the fundamental principle first. It overall empowers our people to say who polices their communities and how their communities are policed as a basic democratic principle. Okay, having established that, we put the people who are elected to this Council in control of every aspect of policing. They write the manual, the training manual, they control the budget in terms of how the police are budgeted, you know, they are in control of every aspect of policing in terms of them having the final voice, you know. Through this process, we will be able to eliminate racial profiling, we’ll be able to take racist fascist-minded cops who currently patrol and police our communities, we’ll be able to take them out and replace them with people of our own choosing who come from the community that their policing. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have, why we can’t have the people who live in our communities also police our communities, you know. There’s no reason why we can’t have hiring and firing power over who the chief of police is, you know, or any other police officer. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have the power to bring police up on criminal charges when they commit crimes. We don’t have to wait on the prosecutor if the prosecutor is hesitant in doing this, then we have empowered the people through this legislation to take these cases directly to a Federal grand jury, because you know killing somebody under the cover of state law, denying them their most basic right to life is punishable under federal law. And so this goes back to the old black reconstruction statue. It’s still on the books so we can use those laws in a democratic way to enforce the will of the people. So this legislation lays all that out for us. How did we draft this legislation, how did we come about crafting it? Well, we used some of the past experiences like in Berkeley California where they had a police control board at one time under Mayor Gus Newport. We use some experiences in Detroit under Mayor Young how they eliminated the strike force in the police in Detroit and tried to establish some measure of community control. So we used some of the things that had already been tried, but most importantly what we did was we got together people in our community. We held hearings ourselves in our communities and asked the people, what do you want? How do we do this? You know and they contributed. And then we took some of our legal minds, some of them being former prosecutors like Larry Kent, a black lawyer but also a former prosecutor. We took some of our legal minds and put them to work on it, but giving the people the final say. If we didn’t like what was in there, we said no don’t put that in, put this in. And then finally we came up with CPAC, an all-elected, all Civilian Police Accountability Council. So it went through a democratic process.
KZ: Excellent. So, you say all elected? Will the elections be citywide elections or is it done by Alder.
FC: They would be citywide but they would be done in the police districts themselves. The people who live in that district, all the residents of the district, would have a vote in these elections and that would include people who are not yet citizens. As long as they are residents in that district, they would have a vote.
KZ: How big a council would it be? How many people?
FC: Well, we’re talking about, we got 50 wards and we have about 22 police districts. So what we did, at first we had 22 on the council, but you know that became a little awkward. So we decided to merge some of the police districts, you know, consistent with the demographics, you know. We merged black and brown districts with black and brown districts, you know, and reduced it down to 11, you know, and so we’re talking about an 11 member council, which would be over all of the police districts in the city of Chicago.
KZ: That’s fantastic. That makes so much sense. And what kind of pushback are you getting from the power structure, especially from the Fraternal Order of Police?
FC: The Fraternal Order of Police hates it. It’s a democratic idea. They can’t possibly, they can’t stand it. You know, it’s just the exact opposite to what they would like. You know what they would like us to continue with the police tyranny that they presently have in our communities. So this is the antithesis of that. They don’t like CPAC at all. Some of the members of the board of aldermen are being warmed over to our position. But first, we had eight members who signed on with us and then we only had one member Carlos Rosa, he’s a socialist, who was a very strong advocate and almost the only Middleton voice that we had in the city council. All of that changed in the last elections. The last elections, we had some 80 candidates who put CPAC into their platform and we had, after they got through weeding them out with the petition process and all that, we ended up with about 60 and after that we ended up with a number of them in runoffs and finally, we won 17 seats in the city council, pro-CPAC people, and four of them jumped ship. And so we had to go back into the streets. We had to go back into the communities and intensify our organizing. We had to put pressure on city council folks and what not. And then finally, we redid the bill to address some of the objections that was being raised, not so much by our opposition, but by people who were friendly to us to help strengthen the bill. So we did that and then by doing that we picked up six more alderpeople and now we have 19 in the city council. We have about 40 percent of the city council now.
MF: Wow, that’s great. So you need about what 13, 12 more to be veto-proof?
FC: We need 26 for a simple majority. And so, that’s seven more, you know, and then you know, if it gets vetoed, if the mayor threatens us with a veto, then we have to get I think up to 30 something, I think around 32 to override the veto but we’re heading in that direction. We’ve come from 8 to 19 within the last year, since February.
MF: Yeah, and then how has it impacted the discourse in Chicago on this issue?
FC: Well, we got the ruling class up here running scared. We got the people, the money bags who run this city, we got them running scared because they know that this is a development which could open up a lot of different doors. If we get community control of the police then the door for community control of public education, the door is open for being more emphatic about the role that banks play in our communities in terms of being redlined and discriminated, in terms of how they’re using it, developers and whatnot. It opens up a lot of different doors. People can start demanding community control and so they see this, they see this threat very clearly and so they are all 100% against us and they have a mayor by the name of a Lori Lightfoot who although she played the progressive tune when she was running for mayor, she is not progressive. They have her pushing their agenda and their agenda is to not let CPAC pass, not let it pass by putting in alternative legislation that looks Progressive, you know,
KZ: So typical when you get close to victory, that’s what the power structure does. They can’t say we’re against you and they put in fake, you know, bills that look like but are not really what you want. And so that to me that’s an expected reaction and that shows you’re getting close to victory. That’s a very positive development. You have to overcome her, but that’s what she did, she’s playing her role.
FC: Yeah. She’s definitely playing her role. She doesn’t have an overwhelming majority of the city council anymore. She doesn’t have that. That she had been a few months ago, but not now
KZ: Fantastic. I think you’re so right about this opening the door to other democratic control of public banks or municipal internet.
MF: Or I don’t know if you’re having the same issue in Chicago, but here in Baltimore our public housing is being privatized and we’re losing our public housing
FC: We have that issue, that is an inherent feature of capitalism at this stage and time. You know, we have that issue here. Yep. We have homeless children in school here. That was an issue with this latest teacher strike, you know, and by the way, the teachers are very staunch allies in the struggle for community control of the police because they want community control of education. So we’re on the same side.
KZ: When you mentioned your mayor, I was thinking the Chicago Teachers because that’s why they’re striking. She’s not living up to her…
MF: Right, so let’s turn to the conference that you’re holding November 22nd to the 24th in Chicago. It’s the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Can you talk about this conference and timing of it and what you hope to achieve from it?
FC: Absolutely. You know when our organization was formed in 1973, it’s hard to take people back to that period who didn’t really live in that period you know, I don’t know how old you are, but it’s difficult to conceptualize and imagine a lot of the things that happened. But let me just say this, when the Black Liberation movement reached its peak so to speak and it became very clear that this was a radical democratic movement trying to realize the gains that were made during the black reconstruction era. That’s what the Civil Rights Movement is all about. It was a revolution in itself in a way, you know, but of a democratic nature and the powers that be decided that they were not going to let this happen. And so what did they start doing? They started following in the footsteps of the racist fascists in the South very similar to what they did back in 1877 when they decided to overthrow black reconstruction. They started following in their footsteps. J. Edgar Hoover created a clandestine program to derail and destroy the Civil Rights Movement. It was illegal. It was called Cointelpro, and it was a counterintelligence program that involved both the CIA and the FBI. These people did everything. They did all kinds of dirt to derail our movement. They even had people murdered. They had people sent to jail. They did everything. We believe that they were also behind the assassination of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. We know that they were complicit in the assassination of Medgar Evers. We know that they were complicit in the assassination of Viola Liuzzo, you know, out of Detroit a white woman whose husband was an autoworker and who was in the Deep South helping to fight for voter’s rights for black people. So we know that they were involved in all these things because… how do we know? We got the records. Some people in the peace movement broke into an FBI office back in the 70s and got these records. And as a result of these records, we had what we called the Church Committee. Senator Frank Church did hearings with the Judiciary Committee and hundreds of thousands of pages, I mean literally, were collected concerning the operation of this program denying the rights of citizens to organize and protest were gathered up and as a result of that we began to see how vicious and how insidious the program, the cointelpro program, was and that it basically destroyed the Civil Rights Movement. That’s what it did. And it created an era of repression, an era of racist and political repression like we had never seen before unless you go back to 1877. Now the alliance emerged in this period. They tried to frame up Angela Davis on trumped-up murder charges and send her to the gas chamber in California. Our community had already seen the murder of Negro residents. We’d already seen Malcolm X, all the people I just mentioned earlier. We already seen all this is going on so we decided not to let them murder her. We decided to take a stand and what a stand we took. You know immediately after she was arrested over 200 defense committees spontaneously emerged all over this country saying Free Angela Davis, Free Angela Davis and it was those over 200 communities that we organized into the United Committees to Free Angela Davis and Angela Davis said no it has to be United Committees to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners and with that began one of the most massive defense campaigns in the history of this country. We haven’t seen nothing like it before and ain’t seen nothing like it since. And we were able to Free Angela and we means not only the people in the United States, it means the people of the world because in 67 different countries we also had Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoner campaigns. So this was a tremendous people’s victory that we achieved. I believe it was in late 1971 and as a result of that Angela put a challenge to us. She said, okay, I’m free. You know, it’s been a tremendous victory, tremendous people’s victory, but what about all political prisoners? Didn’t we say Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners? And in response to that challenge, we formed the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. That is how we came into being and I’ve already very broadly described the conditions that agitated us into being. Now what has happened since it’s been 46 years. Has racist and political repression ended? No, it is still here. In fact in many ways it has intensified. You know, now they’re talking about black extremists. Now, they’re talking about putting people in cages on the border. Now, they’re talking about fusing ICE with local police and carrying out raids and what not against immigrant workers and people who’ve come to this country. So it’s worsened in many ways. We got a number of people out of prison. I got out of prison through the alliance, but there’s still a lot of people that are left in prison. Most of the Black Panther Party members who were put in prison back then if they’re not dead or they haven’t died in prison, they’re still there. Leonard Peltier who was put in prison back then, he’s still locked up, you know. So now we have work to do. Our work was interrupted and now with a new movement emerging with Black Lives Matter on the scene, BYP100, Black Youth Project 100, Assata’s Daughters and a number of other new formations that have taken place within the black community, and in the progressive community in general, we feel the time is right.
KZ: We agree. This is the moment that we are building, have been building toward for quite some time. People should know that there are in fact still political prisoners from that era serving time in jail. And of course, we have new political prisoners, Julian Assange Chelsea Manning.
FC: We also have something now that we didn’t have then if you don’t mind me saying, we have mass incarceration. We had incarceration then but we didn’t have mass incarceration in terms of the black and brown communities. We have mass incarceration and a lot of the people in Illinois and I’m sure throughout the country if we take a deeper look are in prison as a result of being tortured, tortured into making confessions for crimes that they did not commit. So we have a long list of wrongfully convicted people who we are also calling political prisoners today.
KZ: That’s so true and it’s not just torture which is the most horrendous aspect. But even the fact that people are facing these decade-long plus mandatory minimum sentences is an incredible threat to someone who’s innocent. If you’re innocent and you’re facing 20 years mandatory sentence and you get offered a plea bargain, you may plead guilty and serve five years or whatever. I mean just so there’s all sorts of ways that they abused this power and people should know that this is a national conference and this is a national problem. And Angela Davis by the way, who you mentioned, will be the keynote speaker at it. Anyone concerned about injustice, black and brown, the violence against black and brown communities by police, this is the conference you should be at because it is critical for this movement to really build and you have a fantastic grassroots movement in Chicago. We need to see these kinds of movements all across the country
FC: Well we intend is to make them happen all across the country. That’s the purpose of this conference. In fact, they are already happening, you know. We don’t invent social reality, we use it. They are already happening. There’s pockets of resistance all throughout this country. So what we are trying to do with this national conference is to bring that together in a coordinated organized movement for systemic change, the systemic change that we’re talking about is putting the police under community control. If we want to stop the development of fascism in this country, that’s the way we do it.
MF: Yeah. No, that’s fundamental. So we’re running out of time. Do you have any final thoughts for our listeners?
KZ: What website should be the best ones to go to?
FC: They can go to this one, this website. Go to conference.NAARPR.org and all the information will be there about you know, the program of the conference, how to get registered and so forth. Right now we want to tell your listeners to go to that website and register. You are going to agree with the direction that we’re going in through the website. Register and help us build this movement.
MF: Yeah. I mean people that work on immigration issues. There’s so many issues that tie into this, militarization of police. And the conference is very affordable, 15 to 25 dollars to attend it.
KZ: So the website is NAARPR.org, you’ll see the conference. He’s in there and you can sign up for the conference and hopefully you can make it out to Chicago and participate in this historic event.
FC: Yeah, already we have over 300 people pre-registered. That’s as we speak and the numbers are going up. We’ve been registering on average about 10 people a day now and most of these people are young people. And so this is a this is also an opportunity. I’m 77 years old. So this is also an opportunity for those of us who have spent a lifetime in the movement to pass it on, not hold on but pass it on. You know, we’re not immortal, you know, the younger generation is going to see tomorrows we will never see and so we want to make sure that they don’t make the mistakes that we made because we already made those mistakes for them.
MF: Well, thank you for all that you’re doing Frank and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.
KZ: Now. Frank is a great Community organizer folks. So what you’re hearing is really how to organize your community this fundamental issue of democratizing the police and other aspects of our Lives is kind of central to the transformation we need. So we really appreciate your work. We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and to our listeners.
FC: Thank you. Thank you so much.