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Justice for Robert Mitchell

Why we need a People’s Summit

Published Jun 7, 2009 8:52 PM

Hundreds of people took to the streets on May 21 demanding justice for Robert Mitchell, 16, who died after being tased by Warren police. Mitchell, who had fled from a police stop in Warren, was chased into Detroit, where he was apprehended, tased and later died on April 10.

The demonstration was organized by the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and the family of Robert Mitchell. Several other groups, including the Detroit NAACP, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), and Detroit City of Hope, helped organize the demonstration.

The gathering started with a rally at the Boys & Girls Club field on the city’s northeast side. They marched to Eight Mile Road—the border with Warren—where they chanted slogans demanding justice for Robert Mitchell.

Shouts of “No justice, no peace!” and “Justice for Robert Mitchell!” reverberated throughout the community. Most of the march participants were youth who either knew the victim or were from the community. Others came to express their concern and outrage at the continuing scourge of death-by-law-enforcement.

The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality has been organizing against police misconduct for over 10 years. According to spokesperson Ron Scott, the group has investigated dozens of allegations of brutality and the unnecessary use of lethal force just this year alone. Several years ago, the DCAPB launched a successful campaign to ban the use of tasers by Detroit police.

In a statement issued by the DCAPB, the organization called for “the establishment of a Warren-Detroit peace zone; the immediate suspension of taser use by law enforcement; and the prosecution of the officers involved in Mitchell’s murder.”

The family of Robert Mitchell has filed a wrongful-death civil lawsuit against the City of Warren. “This is a blessing,” said Cora Mitchell of the outcome of the demonstration. “We need to start to take back our communities.”

Repression & the economic crisis

Robert Mitchell’s tragic death at the hands of police is not an isolated incident. All across the U.S., more people, African Americans and Latinos/as in particular, have become victims of police violence. And then there is economic violence.

In a May 20 article in the Frost newspaper in Fort Wayne, Ind., James W. Breedlove, former president of the NAACP in that city, wrote: “Many American blacks today are already experiencing a silent economic depression that, in terms of unemployment, approaches the disastrous levels of 80 years ago. Almost 12 percent of blacks are unemployed; this is expected to increase to nearly 20 percent by 2010. Among young black males aged 16 through 19, the unemployment rate is 32.8 percent, while their white counterparts are at 18.3 percent. Overall, 24 percent of blacks are in poverty, versus eight percent of whites.”

As it relates to the economic stimulus policies of the Obama administration, Breedlove noted: “As millions of people seek aid—many for the first time—they are finding it dispensed through a maze of disconnected programs that reach some and reject others as program officials attempt to follow conflicting state rules and regulations that deemphasize need. The result is a hit-or-miss system of relief that was not designed to deal with the severity of a recession that cuts so deep.”

Over the last 18 months over 4 million people have lost their jobs. By the end of 2009 another three million will be rendered unemployed. At the same time it is estimated that over two million households will go into foreclosure by the end of 2009. All of this is happening after massive government programs that have given $10 trillion to Wall Street bankers and multinational corporations such as AIG.

Despite the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, TARP, and the economic stimulus bill passed in February, overall economic indicators remain down. The stimulus package has not made a dent in the rising unemployment and foreclosure figures.

Necessity of a people’s movement

Since 2006, millions of voters in the U.S. have expressed their repudiation of the neoconservative policies of permanent war and large-scale transfers of wealth to the rich. However, domestic and foreign policies have not fundamentally changed. The economic crisis is deepening at a very rapid rate while at the same time the wars of occupation against Iraq and Afghanistan continue unabated.

A whole new front in “the war on terrorism” has been opened up in Pakistan, where a U.S.-backed offensive in the Swat Valley has resulted in the displacement of 2 million people. The corporate and military interests that control the mass media in the U.S. refuse to allow a real debate around economic and military policy.

The $700 billion annual war budget is a drain on the economy as a direct result of its unproductive character. The fallacy that the purported “war on terror” is necessary flies in the face of reality. The greatest threat to the well-being of the people in the U.S. and the world stems from the military and economic policies emanating from Wall Street and Washington.

It is these policies that have rendered tens of millions of workers unemployed, underemployed and impoverished.

This is why the June 14-17 People’s Summit and Tent City in Detroit is critical in the efforts aimed at developing an effective fightback program. The working class and the nationally oppressed need their own independent movements that can advance and defend the people’s own interests. This event will provide those most affected by the economic crisis with their best hope for protracted and concrete struggle to better their conditions.