Azadeh Z. 
Member since Sep 13, 2008


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Re: “Martyrs, Martyrs Everywhere

It is sad to see that the East Bay Express would publish something so irresponsible and lacking in integrity and commitment to upholding the standards of professionalism and ethics in journalism. Ms. Anneli Rufus’ article, “Martyrs, Martyrs Everywhere” was grossly distorted and seemingly ill-intentioned. A responsible journalist would have checked the content of their article for accuracy and possibly done background research for context. It appears that Ms. Rufus felt she was suitably qualified to write about a topic she has no apparent background knowledge of or particular connection to. Unfortunately her lack of proper judgment has reflected poorly on the East Bay Express and has undoubtedly tarnished its credibility.

It is widely known and accepted among scholars, professors, lawyers, politicians and the general public that there was a highly aggressive and illegal war carried out by the state against many liberation groups and individuals who were fighting to change the irrefutably racist laws and policies that were in place in the 50’s and 60’s. Lets not forget that these movements grew out of a need for Black and Brown communities to defend themselves against the racism and violence of police brutality, political disenfranchisement, economic oppression and the cultural genocide prompted by state institutions. No reasonable person can deny that the actions of that generation’s activists and freedom fighters were absolutely necessary to bring about political and cultural freedom for people of color, although that freedom is still a work in progress.

The state doesn’t deny that the creation and operations of it’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) were illegal at best and to some, even comparable to tactics used previously by fascist regimes. Under COINTELPRO, the FBI worked with local law enforcement to infiltrate, disrupt and dismantle these organizations and lay the foundations for future militarized warfare against citizens. They used the opportunity to develop and improve highly militaristic tactics and tools including agent provocateurs, advanced surveillance systems, terror tactics such as physical and psychological torture, murdering members and bombing offices. Domestic warfare against these people was carried out on the streets, in the community, in the media, in the courts, in jails and prisons.

If Black Liberation groups like the Black Panther Party or individuals associated with them are really these lawless and savage criminals, then why is it that the state needed to initiate and create illegal activities and use criminal tactics to lock up these people up? Many of the victims of the state’s illegal and inhumane actions were illegally shot and killed by police who were never held accountable. Many are still being held in the state’s monstrous prison system, despite the overwhelming evidence that they are innocent, or at the very least, did not receive a fair trail by any court’s implied standards.

Black August stands to commemorate these victims and work actively to prevent our youth from falling prey to these forces which seek to funnel them into the prison industrial complex, which is in itself evidence of California’s policy of the criminalization and mass incarceration of (mainly) Black and Brown youth. In 2006 California’s prison system boasted the second largest prison population in the country at over 175,000 (roughly 1 in 200!!), just behind the Federal prison system, and it has increased since then. According to the U.S. Department of Justice statistics, California actually has the fastest growing prison population, which is currently over twice the capacity of the population that the prisons were built to hold. It is important to note that the biggest prison construction boom took place during a period when crime rates were actually dropping. The United States as a whole has a higher incarceration rate per 100,000 than all of the countries it so self righteously labels as undemocratic and uncivilized.

Ms. Rufus’ article was deeply offensive and discriminatory to those of us who have had to struggle and sacrifice for the right to live, an obstacle that she has been privileged enough not to have faced. I believe it would be wise and possibly redeeming for the East Bay Express and Ms. Rufus to, at the very least, issue a formal apology to the people for the extreme lack of professionalism and integrity in this article.

Posted by Azadeh Z. on 09/13/2008 at 10:19 AM

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