, Contributing Writer
CHICAGO–With chants such as “all power to the people” and “free them all” an intergenerational, multi-ethnic gathering of activists and ordinary citizens from nearly 30 states and 140 organizations convened in Chicago for the re-founding of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression to coordinate nationwide actions against state sponsored racial violence.
Originally founded in 1973, the campaign to free Angela Davis resulted in the formation of the Alliance. Many people and organizations present for the re-founding were present at its formulation 46 years ago including, longtime leaders of the Black liberation movement Angela Davis and Frank Chapman.
More than 1,200 activists, trade unionists and Black, Latino, Asian and LGBTQIA organizations from all over the country gathered at the Chicago Teachers Union to address the social, political, economic and racial oppression problems of the 21st century.
Stacy Davis Gates, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, expressed how important it was to have the event at CTU while she welcomed attendees to the three day conference held November 22-24. “Our fights are the same. Our fight in the Chicago Teachers Union has manifested in a fight for education justice. But the injustice is a part of our society because White supremacy says the Black children and the Brown children … do not deserve the bare minimum,” she said.
Movement leaders discussed the importance of focusing on current challenges. Specifically, the newly re-founded Alliance will focus on fighting police crimes and pushing for community control of the police, and it will campaign for the release of political prisoners and the wrongfully convicted.
Ms. Davis, a longtime Black, feminist activist keynoted the conference kick off on Nov. 22. “We have learned from feminists’ theories and practices. We cannot simply call for gender justice if we do not also call for racial justice and economic justice,” she said.
While acknowledging the accomplishments of the past, Ms. Davis made it clear that the re-founding was not intended to just replicate the past but to apply all the new lessons, tools and techniques discovered and perfected in the past 46 years. Not only will the organization fight to get people out of prison and for prisoner rights, but “we have to make very explicit calls for the abolition of the prison entirely,” said Ms. Davis. Additionally, the call must be not just for “community patrol of the police but community control of the police.”
Mr. Chapman echoed that sentiment: “We know why we have come here tonight. We are here because we all know and realize that we have come to the point that we have to make a renewed and powerful commitment to end, to overturn the regime of racist and political repression perpetrated against our people by those outlaws who currently occupy the White House and their cohorts here in Chicago, in St. Louis, Minnesota, Baltimore and over a hundred cities and 28 states represented in this hall tonight.”
Mr. Chapman was unanimously elected to serve as the interim executive director of the Alliance and created a Continuations Committee that will work to develop the organization. Mr. Chapman was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated in 1961 and served 12 years in prison before the Alliance helped free him.
“Every day we hear about impeachment, about Trump’s messing with the enemy abroad and stealing the election at home. We do not hear about Trump’s impeachment for the order of thousands of immigrants into detention camps and caging children. We do not hear one word about impeachment of Trump for the support of White supremist terrorists,” said Mr. Chapman as he spoke moments before Ms. Davis.
“We did not call you to this re-founding conference of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression to commemorate or celebrate what we did 46 years ago. We called you here to join us in rededicating ourselves to defend the inalienable democratic right of our people of oppressed nations and workers to rise up and overthrow their oppression in this present moment of history,” he added.
The conference included several workshops where strategies were discussed and formulated to achieve community control of the police including police accountability, the continued struggle to free political prisoners and all those wrongfully convicted, and the struggle against racist and anti-LGBTQ violence. Torture survivors and several families who have lost loved ones to police violence shared their stories during the conference.
Additionally, while Mr. Chapman, 71, accepted the leadership role, he called upon the younger members present to step up because they have much to offer.
“It is so beautiful to see this multiracial, working class gathering coming together,” said Chicago Alderman Carlos Rosa of the 35th Ward, who, along with Alderman Jeanette Taylor are the chief co-sponsors of CPAC, the Civilian Police Accountability Council ordinance in the city of Chicago. Ald. Rosa is a 26-year-old, gay, Latino former congressional staff person and community activist.
“The only way that we are going to succeed in keeping our movement open, keeping our movement bright and sprite … is if we stand together in solidarity against racism, and against suppression and oppression in all forms,” he added during his remarks at the opening of the conference.
CPAC wants an independent elected body that will appoint a superintendent of police and overall protect the rights guaranteed to the citizens of Chicago by the United States and Illinois constitutions.