Sunday, August 16, 2015

Oathkeepers on #BlackLivesMatter, Ferguson, Guns

““We have people from all different races on our security team. We’re not racist and we wouldn’t tolerate anyone in our organization who is a racist. If we found out that someone was a racist we would kick them out of our organization. So that should dispel myth number one…

“The second myth is that the police are doing the right thing. The truth of the matter is Chief Jon Belmar of St. Louis County Police has been breaking our state law, threatening to disarm people, and violating people’s rights. They’ve been breaking Missouri’s revised statute 44.101. I would encourage everyone to look up for themselves. It prevents the police or any government official from disarming anyone during a state of emergency. Yet Belmar continues to threaten to do that and continues to try to intimidate anyone who is armed…

“The third myth is that we are out in Ferguson to hurt people. And that’s the opposite of the truth. We are there to protect people. We’ve been guarding African-American people, Asian people, white people, people in mixed marriages, Korean people, Chinese people. It’s just ridiculous that the media continues to try and put forth this lie that we are racist and white supremacists. That’s not true at all…

“We’re a cross-section of America. We’re made up of people of all races, all political persuasions.”
Cook asked Andrews what he would say to the protesters in Ferguson.

“The first thing I would say is ‘Black Lives Matter.’ The second thing I would say is that the Oath Keepers are there to protect your rights. We care about you, regardless of all the lies that the media and some other instigators have tried to propagate. Black lives matter, we care about you, we love you and we are there to protect you,” said Andrew.

“We love the people of Ferguson and they deserve to be protected and the St. Louis County police is not doing the job.” 
Sam Andrews, Head of the St Louis County MO chapter of the Oathkeepers.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

According to reports in the media, The Missouri chapter of the Oath Keepers is planning to hold an open carry march through downtown Ferguson, Mo., which will involve arming 50 black protesters with AR-15 rifles. Read more and more video here.

In a previous posting on this blog I linked the Oathkeepers to racism and fascism and referred to them as scum. The reason for this was simple. Seeing white men armed with assault rifles in Ferguson at a protest of black people against the murder of blacks by the state security forces and fraternally chatting to the police lends one to draw certain conclusions. That this group is very popular with right wing talk show hosts and others also concerns me.

But I am responding to the statement above from Sam Andrews, the head of the Ferguson Chapter of the Oathkeepers. In light of this statement it falls upon me to publicly apologize for statements I made earlier. I would like to see more evidence of the intent described by Andrews but if this report is legitimate and it appears to be at this point, I have no hesitation retracting my earlier statements. .

However, in light of this development I would need to know more about the group, its philosophy and activity.  Is the focus merely on defending the right to bear arms and open carry laws?  As the offensive of US capitalism intensifies we will see broader struggles between the working class and state security forces in the period ahead when the issue is not simply individual laws or constitutional rights but who runs the country. Are they just opposed to the present government but not the capitalist system and its state apparatus in general?

We have witnessed the militarization of the police like never before but as the class struggle breaks out more in to the open, the capitalist class will be forced to draw on more security forces to protect the corporations and to drive the working class offensive back. The demands and goals of such a movement will be wider as workers seek to change a corrupt and rotten system and as this unfolds, the state will undoubtedly appeal to the hundreds of armed militia and groups like the Oathkeepers.

What is the Oathkeepers position on this?  Are they opposed to becoming the modern Pinkerton's and acting as strikebreakers?  Do they reject acting as a militia in service of the state even if laws are broken and laws will have to be broken if we are to change society. What do they have to say about jobs and the mass incarceration especially of people of color. What is their position on women’s rights or undocumented workers forced northward since NAFTA?  What about the illegal wars the US has instigated in defense of the corporations?

Will the Oathkeepers defend the police if they come under attack from workers and those protesting injustice and oppression? They say they are not racist but I need to see further evidence of it.  One of the problems I have is that apparently Oathkeepers were present before, defending small businesses from looters.  And they say now that they are present to defend small business, reporters, members of the public and “peaceful” protesters. 

We support armed defense of our communities including the community businesses. But these defense groups must arise out of the working class and the communities in which we live and work.  We do not support outside armed defense groups acting on our behalf. In fact during the looting earlier this year there were young black men from the community who stood in front of a store they’d worked at as teenagers defending it from looters.  Have the Oathkeepers reached out to them? Have they made an attempt to link up with the community and support joint action against police abuse and the conditions in these communities?

Another thing for me to consider is that social events and movements have an affect on established groups, not just political organizations but unions as well. Some groups collapse under these conditions, some grow, others split and new formations are built.  The Oathkeepers from what I have read have 18,000 members, it is not likely that they all think the same way except on one or two issues particularly the right to bear arms and the open carry law which they say Ferguson police have violated.  Has there been a discussion in the group around this issue as the rights of blacks with regard to this law have been violated? It does not seem feasible that they can stay silent on this issue. The only other alternative would be to support the police which brings them in to conflict with their position on the right to own guns and the right to openly carry them.

When a generalized movement breaks out, all of society is affected. We have seen significant social response to the capitalist offensive over the past period, not only with regards to racism and police violence but around immigrants rights, housing, the minimum wage etc. The refusal of the established political candidates to take up the call, Black Lives Matter, even attempting initially to substitute All Lives matter, brought further disruptions and has boosted the movement’s image.  Democrats Clinton and Sanders have also responded by bringing some BLM activists closer in to the fold so we’ll see what develops there.  So I have no idea how the national mood has affected the Oathkeepers. It is important to know their attitude to all these struggles.

I am not convinced of their ultimate goals. In the meantime I make my retraction on reading this statement; it is a positive one but more must be known.

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