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JUNE 19 commemorates the date — Freedom Day — in 1865 when black people in Texas finally heard the Emancipation Proclamation issued two years earlier, which officially ended slavery in the US. 155 years later, the struggle for racial justice continues.
An unprecedented wave of protests has swept the US and the globe since the modern-day police lynching of George Floyd on May 25 went viral.
Many others have been killed since: Breonna Taylor, shot in her own home; Rayshard Brooks, shot in the back; Tony McDade, a trans black man killed in Florida and Oluwatoyin Salau who spoke for the trans justice movement, to name some of the latest. All were some mother’s precious daughter or son.
Inspired by the US Black Lives Matter movement, injustices are being called out everywhere: Africans in France, Maoris in New Zealand, indigenous in Brazil, aborigines in Australia, and many other countries, with massive support from white anti-racists.
In Haiti, peasant organisations said: “Police here act with the same brutality... especially when we demand our rights. We follow our ancestors as we stand in solidarity with the people of the US, particularly the black community.”
In the Middle East, demonstrators carried photos of Iyad Hallaq, the autistic Palestinian man shot by Israeli police, and George Floyd with the words #PalestinianLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatter.
Thousands of US law enforcement officers have trained with Israeli police and military; the knee-to-throat restraint that killed George Floyd is commonly used against Palestinians.
Calls to de-fund and de-militarise the police are now widespread. Los Angeles cut $150m from police budgets to invest in marginalised communities. Minneapolis plans to disband the current force.
In Britain, statues of slavers have been toppled and the government is being called out for its role in slavery, selling tear gas and rubber bullets to US police forces, and complicity with Israel.
Here racism and police violence are also a pandemic. 1,741 deaths in police custody since 1990, at least 500 people of colour.
Calvin Bungisa’s tragic death led to family members being stopped, harassed and treated by police as suspects instead of as a grieving family. Dexter Bristol, a Windrush citizen, collapsed and died after being hounded by immigration officials. A police officer dragged Sarah Reed by her hair, restrained her by the neck while she cried out “I can’t breathe.” In court he was found to have lied about her physically attacking him.
Police also turn up with social workers to take children from their mothers — mostly low-income families, many children of colour, their lives ruined by being snatched from the one who cares for and protects them.
Our immune systems are under attack by everyday violence, bad housing, low wages and the hostile environment. It’s no mystery why Bame people, often key workers, are four times more likely to die of Covid-19.
Women, especially black and immigrant women, put our lives on the line delivering vital care to the public having been told we are “low-skilled,” undeserving of living wages, protective equipment or decent work conditions.
Women do much of the justice and survival work, mostly unrecognised and unwaged: defending families and friends, while resisting institutional violence. Racism doubles our workload.
Like thousands of others, women and men in our network have joined local protests. All of us are angry after years of austerity and a Covid-19 debacle that caused the unnecessary death of tens of thousands. We are all expendable — young, elderly, disabled, especially if we are people of colour. Authorities are more concerned about stock markets than our lives.
It took footballer Marcus Rashford, raised by a single mum, to shame the government into continuing free school meal vouchers for children.
We refuse to beg for scraps. Our labour in the colonies has helped create wealth here for over 500 years. A global Care Income for all carers, starting with mothers, working in the home and on the land, to save people and planet would begin to recognise that debt.
We’ll celebrate Juneteenth by joining the Poor People’s Campaign June 20 Digital Gathering. Not long before his murder, Dr Martin Luther King led the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign against the triple evils of militarism, racism and economic injustice.
Just over 50 years later, the new Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) has picked up this unfinished work, demanding an end to systemic racism, poverty and inequality, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism.
The PPC aims to unite the 140 million people in the US who are poor and low-come (almost half the US population). 15 million people do not have running water in their homes; and 70 per cent of the poor are women and children.
In Britain even before the pandemic, 1¼ million people were destitute, and 86 per cent of austerity cuts have targeted women, especially single mothers, and people with disabilities. Yet there is always money for expensive and destructive weapons, which kill and maim all living creatures and destroy environments all over the world.
A strong anti-racist, anti-poverty, anti-militarist, climate justice movement in the US is a power for grassroots people everywhere.
More information on events can be found at www.june2020.org.
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