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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/1/15

Democrats Seek to Co-Opt Black Lives Matter Before Election

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Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) leader James Farmer was offered federal aid by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. "If you cut out this freedom rider and sitting-in stuff and concentrate on voter registration, I'll get you a tax exemption," Kennedy said.

In May 1963, the Kennedy administration, according to Selfa, viewed a mass civil disobedience campaign to desegregate businesses in Birmingham, Alabama, as a potential disaster that would scuttle an agreement already made with more conservative elements to "phase" out segregation. It was feared if the agreement fell apart black people would become "uncontrollable."

Later, with the March on Washington, Kennedy recognized the administration had dragged its feet. Organizers were asked to water down their speeches and limit their criticism of the administration. Speakers, including John Lewis, were successfully coerced into altering their speeches.

The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) planned to challenge the state's Jim Crow Democrats at the Democratic National Convention in 1964. President Lyndon B. Johnson feared the nonsegregated political party would inspire the "white South" to defect and support his Republican opponent Barry Goldwater. The party limited the MFDP to two delegate seats, and when the group protested, security and police had them removed from the convention.

Democrats make concessions to avoid future disruptions

By 1970, the political party faced the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM), which formed at the Hamtramck Assembly Chrysler Plant. It also had to confront an illegal wildcat strike involving 210,000 U.S. postal workers and led by Black workers. The strike won a 14 percent wage increase, collective bargaining rights, and forced reorganization of the postal service, according to Selfa.

This success--along with several urban rebellions, which were growing the ranks of the Black Panther Party--led the Democratic establishment to respond with both repression and offers to incorporate parts of movement into the political process.

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover viewed the Black Panther Party as the "greatest threat to the internal security of the United States." It spurred COINTELPRO, which targeted the most effective leaders fighting for civil rights and black liberation, including Martin Luther King Jr.

Additionally, an increasing number of "middle-class Black politicians" began to pursue "concrete" and "realistic" reform. Democrats made concessions to blacks to avoid future uprisings.

Robert L. Allen, a radical commentator, argued, "From the liberal point of view, some concessions must be made if future disruptions such as the 1967 riot are to be avoided," and, "Black people were supposed to get the impression that progress was being made, that they were finally being let in the front door " The intention is to create an impression of real movement while actual movement is too limited to be significant."

The present-day Democratic Party has employed a similar strategy. Obama's task force review of policing and meetings with activists have been attempts to pacify the movement and convince organizers the government will be responsive to them. At the same time, there has been dragnet surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists by federal agencies, which Democrats have not opposed.

Since August 2014, location data on demonstrations and other actions have been culled from Facebook, Twitter, and Vine accounts by Homeland Security analysts conducting social media surveillance. The FBI has coordinated with corporations and other private entities to monitor individuals organizing and participating in "Black Lives Matter" protests.

Michael Brelo, a Cleveland police officer who at the end of a car chase stood on the hood of a car and fired 15 shots at an unarmed couple, was acquitted in May. Just prior to the verdict, FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano expressed his concerns about potential protests.

"It's outsiders who tend to stir the pot. If we have that intel we pass it directly on to the PD, we have worked with Ferguson. We've worked with Baltimore, and we will work with the Cleveland PD on that very thing. That's what we bring to the game."

This kind of targeting of activists has occurred as Democratic Party leaders, including candidates like Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley, make statements in support of black lives.

"Only endorsement goes to the protest movement we've built"

Undoubtedly, what the Democrats would like to do is offer leaders, especially well-known activists such as Cullors, Garza, and Tometi, positions where they can advance their struggle within electoral campaigns. Thus far, the activists have nothing but scorn for the party's endorsement.

"While the Black Lives Matter Network applauds political change towards making the world safer for Black life, our only endorsement goes to the protest movement we've built together with Black people nationwide -- not the self-interested candidates, parties, or political machine seeking our vote," Black Lives Matter stated.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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