The cold-blooded assassination of Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, Spanish for “Little Turtle,” is a reminder that fascism in the United States cannot be reduced to the political intentions of avowed white nationalists. African/Black and Indigenous people residing in the settler-colonial project known as the United States continue to be subjected to a cycle of state-sanctioned violence and political repression with bipartisan consensus. People of the global majority and their allies must not allow these latest episodes of injustice to go unanswered. The Atlanta City-Wide Alliance of the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP-Atlanta) has been working with a coalition of Indigenous people, African/Black people, other people of color, and Euro-Americans to prevent the construction of “Cop City,” as BAP-Atlanta expressed in a recent statement. The statement highlighted the obvious nexus between the proposed $90 million police-training facility site, where Tortuguita was killed on January 18, and the white supremacy-fueled genocide, militarism, and oppression the U.S. empire exercises both outside and within.
People took to the streets across the United States Friday night after the city of Memphis, Tennessee released videos of a January 7 traffic stop that led to five police officers being fired and charged with the murder of 29-year-old Black motorist Tyre Nichols. Demonstrators and the Nichols family have called for disbanding the MPD Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods (SCORPION) team that launched in 2021 and was involved in the traffic stop. The Memphis mayor said Friday afternoon that the unit has been inactive since Nichols' January 10 death. The footage shows that after police brutally beat Nichols—pushing him to the ground; using pepper spray; punching and kicking him; and striking him with a baton—it took 22 minutes from when officers said he was in custody for an ambulance to arrive and take him to the hospital, where he later died from cardiac arrest and kidney failure.
Memphis, Tennessee - Five police officers from Memphis, Tennessee who murdered the 29-year-old Black father Tyre Nichols, were arrested and charged with second-degree murder on January 26. Nichols was brutally beaten for three minutes by Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr., and Justin Smith following a traffic stop on January 7. He succumbed to his wounds three days later, in the hospital. An autopsy found that he had suffered excessive internal bleeding as a result of the beating. His death provoked mass outrage in Memphis and throughout the country, and many have been demanding accountability for those responsible. Although police violence is prevalent in the US (2022 recorded 1,176 police killings, more than any year in US history), it is extremely rare for police to be held accountable for these crimes. From 2013 to 2022, 98% of police murders did not result in officers being charged for a crime.
Brentwood, Tennessee - Latino immigrant kitchen workers and a group of racially diverse women servers walked out at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Brentwood, Tennessee, on Saturday, January 14. They say their employer is serving up of a toxic brew of racism and sexism. “We went on strike to fire a manager because he is mistreating my co-workers verbally and physically,” Juan Carlos Mendoza, a barback with six years at the restaurant, told the Spanish-language news channel Nashville Noticias. “The manager is a racist… and that’s why we raised our voices.” Eighteen workers walked out, accusing general manager Andrew “Hunter” Kirkpatrick of racist and abusive behavior, including throwing away their lunches, berating them for speaking Spanish, and threatening to call the police on them. The kitchen workers are indigenous people from Mexico and Guatemala.
Starting July 1, people experiencing homelessness who sleep on state-owned land could face prison time and heavy fines. The controversial law has many people concerned about the unhoused community in the area. That’s why several people gathered at Legislative Plaza for a rally and march to Commerce Street Park. Some advocates are planning on sleeping overnight at the park to send a message to lawmakers that homelessness should not be a crime. The group Open Table Nashville organized the protest. The new law makes it a felony to camp on public property and could lead to up to six years in prison and thousands in fine. It also makes it a misdemeanor to camp under state bridges and overpasses.
Tennessee - If you are wondering what it looks like when school privatizers are close to total victory, Tennessee is a prime example. Here, the forces that want to take public money and hand it over to private entities are on the verge of completing their conquest. Tennessee’s current legislative session features a range of attacks on public schools. Some of these would have immediate impacts, while others take a longer-term approach to fully privatizing K-12 education in the state. First, it is important to understand that groups backing privatization in the form of charter schools and vouchers are among the top spenders when it comes to lobbying state legislators. For example, the American Federation for Children—an organization founded and previously led by the family of Betsy DeVos, a school privatization advocate and former President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education—spent $887,500.
Tennessee’s Rutherford County, which has been widely criticized for its juvenile justice system, has been jailing Black children at a disproportionately high rate, according to newly obtained data. And, in a departure from national trends, the county’s racial disparity is getting worse, not better. In an earlier story, ProPublica and Nashville Public Radio chronicled a case in Rutherford County in which 11 Black children were arrested for a crime that does not exist. Four of the children were booked into the county’s juvenile jail. Since publishing that story, the two news organizations have received reports from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. This data shows that while the county was locking up so many kids — often illegally — it was also jailing an exceptionally high percentage of Black children.
It’s hard to find good climate news these days–but there’s some out of Tennessee. A company that was set to build a hotly contested oil pipeline through Black neighborhoods in Memphis said on Friday that the project is off. “The stars aligned for this fight,” Ward Archer, founder of Protect Our Aquifer, a community group fighting the pipeline, told the Memphis Appeal of the decision. “Sometimes the good guys win and this is one of those times.” The 49-mile Byhalia Connection pipeline, if it had been completed, would have run through Tennessee and Mississippi to connect two existing pipelines, eventually transporting crude oil from Texas to Louisiana for export. A spokesperson for one of the partial owners of the project, Plains All American, said in a release that their decision to drop the Byhalia project was “due to lower U.S. oil production resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Black communities in Memphis, TN are leading a growing opposition campaign to the Byhalia Connection Pipeline, a proposed crude oil pipeline funded by the fossil fuel corporations Valero and Plains All American. Byhalia has yet to receive a crucial federal permit for the project, lacks local government approvals, and has not acquired all necessary easements for the pipeline route. Advocates argue that there is ample local authority to block the pipeline project. In an interview, Wyatt Price, a supervising land agent for Plains All American, said: “We took, basically, a point of least resistance” in reference to siting the project through Southwest Memphis, highlighting the concerns of locals who believe that they were targeted because of the racial and economic composition of the area.
Nashville, TN - A social justice group out of Knoxville, Tennessee made the trek to the State Capitol building on Tuesday, demanding that lawmakers take immediate action on issues like Medicare for all, and the fight for racial equality. This comes on the first day of the legislative session. Earlier Tuesday afternoon when the demonstration was still happening, the rally organizers said their groups wasn't as big as they had hoped it would be, partly because of what happened at the U.S. Capitol last week. But despite their small numbers, they say their message carried big importance. "What's that spell? Black Lives Matter! What's that spell? Black Lives Matter! What's that spell? Black Lives Matter!" demonstrators chanted.
A middle school educator in Knoxville, Tennessee recently came forward to speak with the World Socialist Web Site about the unsafe conditions at her school. Knox County currently has nearly 13,000 cases of COVID-19 and 92 deaths, making it the third most affected county in the state, behind Shelby (Memphis) and Davidson (Nashville) counties. With the abandonment of even the most rudimentary safety measures at schools and other workplaces, cases in Tennessee have continued to surge in recent months. October has been the state’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with over 700 succumbing to the virus.
Tennessee - In June, large crowds of Black Lives Matter protesters occupied the plaza in front of Tennessee's State Capitol, where inside, a 44-inch bust of the first Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard, Nathan Bedford Forrest, has sat still in his bronze bearing for over 40 years. A line of state troopers stood silently on the other side of the encampment, making arrests and dragging protesters away. Those who remained chained themselves to the property, chanting and playing Kendrick Lamar through loudspeakers, annoying representatives inside the capitol, and making it clear—they were not leaving until the immortalizing bust of the KKK's first leader was removed or Governor Bill Lee would meet with them.
Tennessee protesters will face harsh penalties, including losing the right to vote, as punishment for participating in protests under a law enacted by the Tennessee GOP-dominant General Assembly. Right-wing Governor Bill Lee quietly signed off on the bill Thursday, AP reports. Under the new law, demonstrators who camp on state property can now be charged with a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, rather than a misdemeanor it was previously. Since George Floyd’s killing earlier this year, protesters have camped outside the Tennessee Capitol in Nashville, demanding a meeting with the governor to discuss racial inequality and police brutality. The protesters set up camp in War Memorial Plaza near the Capitol, naming it the “People’s Plaza” and “Ida B. Wells Plaza,” after the civil rights leader. They stayed there 24 hours a day for more than two months.
The Tennessee legislature passed a sweeping proposal on Wednesday that would increase penalties against some protesters who have camped outside the statehouse in Nashville for months demanding racial justice and an end to police brutality. State lawmakers in the majority-white Tennessee General Assembly passed the measure in a nearly party-line vote in both chambers. The bill, which is now headed to Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s desk, would punish those who illegally camp on state property — as protesters have outside the state Capitol for months — with a Class E felony rather than a misdemeanor. Class E felonies are punishable by up to six years in prison in Tennessee.
At least five GM workers were arrested on the picket line this morning in Spring Hill, Tennessee for attempting to block a car-hauling truck from leaving the plant with new GM vehicles, presumably built before the strike started. Eyewitness video posted to Facebook shows two pickets, one male and one female, being cuffed by police on the picket line, while several other workers stand in front of a stopped semi-truck at the entrance to GM’s Spring Hill Assembly plant near Nashville. The male was later identified to the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter as Tim Stannard, president of UAW Local 1853.