By J. G. / Deep Green Resistance Great Plains
On March 15th the International Day Against Police Brutality was observed for the first time in Memphis, Tennessee by the Black Autonomy Federation. People came to the event from as far away as Iowa, Ohio, and Denver. People gathered first outside city hall and spoke. Cardboard coffins were lined up facing out from city hall representing 13 of the 14 people killed by the Memphis Police Department in the last thirteen months.
Women have also been sexually assaulted by the Memphis police officers. JoNina Ervin, acting chair of the Black Autonomy Federation stated that they have been told by a number of women that there are police in Memphis that arrest women and force them to have sex with them, “That’s the kind of police we have here. This is a corrupt police department and a police department out of control.”
Lorenzo Ervin of the BAF stated that “We have out right atrocities that no one of these people can defend but the authorities here, the city authorities as well as the state prosecutors are engaged in a conspiracy to cover up and not to prosecute these crimes by the police, the authorities and others working in concert with them. This is why it is important for us to bring attention to the city of Memphis, Tennessee.”
People later chanted and marched to the Memphis police department and the Shelby County Jail. Activists and family members of those murdered spoke out. In attendance was the family of Delois Epps and Makayla Ross who were killed on August 26th leaving from a family get-together by a police officer Alex Beard. Thirty- three year old family member Shaquitta Epps asks “Why wasn’t he charged?” When asked if she was surprised by the response of the city and police department towards her family members death she responded “No it happens all the time but I never thought it would happen to my family. You see it in the paper and on the TV but you never really know until it happens to your family.”
Martin Ezsutton brother of twenty-two year old Rekia Boyd who was killed in Chicago by police officer Dante Servin stated that “The police were highly disrespectful.” Servin is not being charged with the murder and is being paid working a desk job that pays 90,000 dollars. “He just got a promotion for murdering my sister!…Who is going to take responsibility? They failed to prosecute him for his actions.”
Unfortunately the deaths of black people by the police in Memphis and across the country are not a rare occurrence with a rate of one black person every 36 hours being killed by the police in the United States (“Report on the Extrajudicial Killings of 120 black people” Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, July 2012)
The next day a conference was held to discuss how to organize against police brutality and killings with activists from various communities. The BAF discussed the ongoing police killings and brutality in the context of the capitalist state. Lorenzo states that “ We understand we are not just fighting the police we are fighting fascism.” The BAF is calling for an international boycott against the town of Memphis until it “stops persecuting and killing poor working class black people and consorting with the KKK.”
On March 30th the Black Autonomy Federation are organizing a counter protest against the KKK. The Klan are prompted to come because of a name change of Nathan Bedford Forest Park to Health Science Park. Forest was the first grand wizard of the Klan. According to JoNina Ervin the city has been uncooperative with their efforts to organize an anti Klan rally. “There is a media campaign telling people to stay home, don’t come out, ignore the Klan, and the line they are using is that any person that comes out is crazy. They want to criminalize the people who are protesting the Klan when the Klan are the real criminals.”
According to members of the BAF the NAACP has been collaborating with the state in this. “The head of the NAACP in Memphis said on TV, people should stay home and wash their cars and shook hands with the Sons of the Confederacy. The constitution gives people first amendment rights they will have police to protect them but people opposed to the terrorism of the KKK are just supposed to shut up that day. They want us to be off in a corner some place. The city has been in collaboration with these neo confederates for so long.” For JoNina and others in the BAF, it is crucial for people in Memphis and from all over the country to come and take a stand against the Klan, “If you don’t let the Klan know that you’re here and opposed to their white supremacy, that gives them free range to keep on coming back here and that is why they keep coming back.”
If you would like to get in contact with the Black Autonomy Federation or offer support, please contact them at Organize.firstname.lastname@example.org.