On Monday, December 14th, body cam footage was released on CBS 2 of a pig raid from February 21, 2019, exposing the harassment and abuse of a Black woman by the Chicago pig department. The footage shows twelve pigs approaching a home with semi-automatic rifles, a battering ram, and a crowbar. They yell “search warrant!” and immediately begin knocking down the door.
Anjanette Young was in her home on the Near West side, getting ready for bed at around 7 pm when she heard loud banging at the door. Before she could even open the door, the pigs stormed in with guns drawn, shouting “hands up!” They immediately handcuffed Anjanette in her living room as she stood completely naked.
The recently released footage shows the pigs ransacking Anjanette’s home as she yells that she is alone and that they have the wrong place, a phrase she repeated 43 times. The pigs ignored her and continued to scour her home. As she stands in the living room handcuffed, a pig throws a jacket over her exposed body, covering her shoulders and back. Moments later, another one throws a blanket on top of her, but because her hands are bound behind her back, it slides off. Pigs can be seen doing nothing to help her while she remained vulnerable and exposed in front of them, pleading for them to leave. Thirteen minutes later, Ms. Young was finally taken to her room where she was to change and be interrogated. At this time, for unknown reasons, body cameras were turned off.
Investigators later discovered this raid was a complete “botch.” CPD had not only served an illegal warrant but had also entered the wrong home. They were looking for a 23-year old Black man, who, according to a confidential informant, was in possession of a gun.
Since the night of February 21 2019, Ms. Young has been fighting for justice. Last year, she filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the release of the video to show the public what happened to her that day. CPD denied both Ms.Young and CBS Chicago’s FOIA requests to release the video. Young eventually obtained the video after a court forced the pigs to hand it over. The night of the video’s on-air release by CBS Chicago, almost two years after the raid on Ms. Young’s home, the city’s lawyers attempted to stop CBS Chicago from airing the video by filing an emergency motion in federal court. Despite the pushback, the video aired, ultimately exposing thousands to the heinous actions of the Chicago pigs.
Since the video’s release last week, it has been made abundantly clear that Ms. Young’s story was intentionally suppressed in an effort to protect the CPD from further scrutiny. On Wednesday, December 16th, Mayor Lori Lightfoot (commonly referred to as “Liefoot”) claimed she had only recently been made aware of the incident after viewing the video on Tuesday morning, December 15th. She claimed that she had no knowledge of a video of the raid. She also took the opportunity to deny any knowledge of Ms. Young’s FOIA request and its subsequent denial, while suggesting that it was unclear whether CPD was at fault. On Thursday, Mayor Liefoot had a completely different story. During a press conference that day, she admitted that she had in fact been made aware of the raid over a year ago. She also acknowledged she’d been wrong about Young being denied her FOIA request. It was later discovered that city lawyers tried to sanction Young’s lawyer for going public about the case, leading to the resignation of the city’s Corporation Counsel, Mark Flessner, on Sunday.
The case of Anjanette Young does not exist in a vacuum. In fact, her case has resurrected the discourse around the recorded lynching of Lacquan McDonald. On October 20, 2014, Chicago pig Jason Van Dyke lynched McDonald while the 17-year old was walking down the street. Initial police reports stated that McDonald was carrying a knife and acting “erratically.” However, it wasn’t until journalist Jamie Kalven and attorney Craig Futterman requested dash cam footage of the lynching to be released that the layers of corruption came to light. Kalven and Futterman were both denied access to the footage 15 times. In response, journalist Brandon Smith and community activist William Colloway, filed a FOIA in May 2015 that was also denied. In November 2015, after Judge Franklin Valderrama ordered the release of the incident to the public, it was revealed that McDonald had in fact been walking away from Van Dyke on the night of the murder with his back facing the pig. Footage revealed that the pig fired 16 shots at the 17-year old’s back.
In the wake of McDonald’s murder, it was revealed that numerous officers had participated in covering up the facts and footage of the murder. False reports issued by the CPD ruled the murder justifiable until one dash cam video was released. It is reported that there are a total of five videos from that night, only one of which has been released to the public. The one video that was initially released had no audio and after citing “technical problems,” it was revealed that the pigs had tampered with the recording equipment. The other pig vehicles that were on the scene also magically had disabled audio. Additionally, police officers are said to have tampered with the surveillance footage of a nearby Burger King, a total of 86 minutes is missing from that recording. The Feds, colluding with the Chicago pigs, claim that the footage had not been tampered with and the missing evidence was a result of Burger King’s malfeasance.
Several Chicago politicians were also found to have been part of the cover up. Anita Alvarez, the State’s Attorney at the time of McDonald’s lynching, had seen the footage weeks after the shooting (16 shots). Rahm Emmanuel, the mayor at the time, was a part of the effort to protect the pigs from public scrutiny and legal action as well. At the time Emmanuel was running for re-election and it is understood in Chicago that the delay in the release of the video was wholly in the interest of his reelection campaign. Anita Alvarez was not so lucky and in the end, she lost the election as a result of a public campaign by Chicago activists (#ByeAnita).
Later on, it was exposed that the Mayor’s office had exchanged over 3,000 emails regarding the lynching. Since 2014, Emmanuel’s office had been corresponding and strategizing with the state’s attorney’s office as well as the Independent Police Review Authority on how to best “manage” media inquiries and public protest around the murder. The emails included templates of speeches for how to address the lynching and further, how to reconcile the dash cam footage, the lack of audio, and the false police statements.
In the end, a civil rights investigation was launched, concluding that the Chicago Pig Department had a culture of “excessive force” and a consent decree was signed for a police oversight committee. Despite the investigation and the oversight committee, the three pigs who were charged with covering up McDonald’s lynching were found not guilty in 2019.
“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur
After Ms.Young’s story broke, Twitter was up in arms, sharing the story and exposing the contradictions surrounding it. With righteous anger, many demanded that something be done to hold both CPD and the city accountable. Some progressive organizations suggested calling their alderman or attending the next city council meeting to make a public comment to bring about justice for Ms. Young. More protest-oriented individuals and groups suggested taking to the streets. With a few small rallies the following week, threads began to pop up on twitter questioning the anger of the masses, equating the lack of movement in the streets to the complacency of the masses when faced with injustice. Other discourses came about criticizing legalist organizations for waiting to get a city permit before calling a protest to demand justice. There could be many reasons for why people aren’t in the streets right now demanding justice, but one critical piece missing from much of the discourse. There is a substantive criticism of movementism, which has been a plague on the people’s struggle for decades.
For the last 30 years, the dominant approach to politics among the american-mainstream-left can be defined as movementism. Movementism is an approach to politics that rejects the unity of revolutionary theory and practice, believing it to be sufficient to tail the spontaneous movement of the masses and dream up “new” methods of organization. In essence, it is a rejection of any scientific approach to revolution and fails to develop its organizational approach. Chicago “left” politics is really no different, but has taken on a particular form in recent years after a handful of city council offices were flipped by DSA-endorsed candidates in 2019. The election of these DSA city council members has created a symbiotic relationship between the reformists in the state and the movementists, creating the conditions for movement leaders to double down on a reformist strategy to advance the struggle.
What type of politics does movementism ultimately produce? In his 2012 article, Let’s Avoid Being Sucked Back into the Movementist Mire, author J. Moufawad-Paul answers this question: “Nothing: simply a bunch of people getting together, tailing the masses, hoping that the next upsurge will be the next revolution, and losing themselves in a closed process that will repeat itself infinitely within a closed loop of directionless demonstrations.”
While revolutionary thinker Frantz Fanon reflects on the grandeurs of spontaneity, the insurgent energy led by the masses, he also notes its weaknesses. Fanon writes, “…it soon becomes clear that this impetuous spontaneity, which is intent on rapidly settling its score with the colonial system, is destined to fail as a doctrine.” While Fanon notes the grandeur of the spontaneous masses as a means of exposing the instability of the State, he also notes that it is only when we sharpen the spontaneous approach that we turn mere revolt into revolutionary warfare.
The Chicago mainstream-left would benefit from turning spontaneity into revolutionary action. Here, we see a coalition of activist groups and progressive city officials working in tandem with one another. Every popular movement or demand made has been tailed by these groups, and is often simultaneously paired with written legislation claiming to address said demands. Every protest of this type ends with a call to action, a petition signature or a call to an alderperson to vote on this legislation. But every time it’s brought to a vote, it fails. On the one hand, this is a strategy mobilized by the mainstream left, a way to expose the contradiction between the bourgeois state and the people. Essentially, the logic goes as follows: “See? We can’t pass anything! The state is corrupt!” On the other hand, the more opportunist elements in the movement capitalize on this antagonism, stating the need for even more progressives in the city council to pass legislation. This strategy tends to be popular even though we recently witnessed its failures after DSA member Andre Vasquez and other supposed progressives voted “yes” on the city’s reactionary budget.
Despite the opportunism and reactionary trends, the masses understand that the ruling class is against them and will not work for their liberation. This knowledge is the foundation of revolutionary potential. In order for this to be successful, we must expose the state while simultaneously politically educating and organizing the masses. Thus, the “attempts” to further expose the anti-Black state by the mainstream left is really just a way to redirect the revolutionary energy of the masses back into the electoral sham.
So why aren’t people going out to protest?
Reflecting on this past summer’s events, you can see a reason why people aren’t in the streets based on this failed form of movementism.
Following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, which was also caught on tape, activists around the country called for the abolition of the police. “Abolish Police” evolved into “Defund CPD,” and even more seasoned grassroots abolitionist campaigns like “Cops out CPS” (Part of Police Free Schools) found limited success in appealing to systems that refused to budge. While 17 schools removed school resource officers (SROs) from high school campuses, 55 voted in favor of SRO presence with reforms. Similarly, Defund CPD proved unsuccessful due to a number of reasons, among them being the concerted effort by the State (for example, the Board of Education) to keep the pigs on the payroll and continue the myth that Chicago’s gang violence necessitates police presence. This, in fact, has been proven false. It is the blatant disregard for supporting Black communities that has cultivated the existence of gang affiliation, as many of these campaigns themselves note.
So, Defund CPD failed, pigs still remain in CPS, and to add insult to injury, at the most recent budget hearing, DSA alderman Andre Vasquez voted in favor of the proposed budget, ultimately breaking unity with his supposed comrades. On top of everything else, Homan Square, an infamous CPD and Fed torture site, remains open despite popular demands for its closure, and CPAC (the Civilian Police Accountability Council), an ordinance that would create a civilian oversight committee to negotiate contracts with the police union and grant community control of the police, has also failed.
Given the complete disregard for the people’s demands by elected officials, we must ask ourselves, is our strategy one where we continue to appeal to the State in order to achieve just ends? Is it to elect phony socialist candidates to the city council, only for them to break with their supposed comrades when voting on legislation? Are we to continue to rally behind slogans and demands like defunding the police so it can be co-opted by liberals? Where do we go from here when even the most lukewarm reforms are outright dismissed?
Com. George Jackson writes, “When the revolution fails, it is the fault of the vanguard party.” Although the majority of organizations are not concerned with building a vanguard, the sentiment still holds. When the popular demands of the people fail, leadership is at fault.
The masses have yet to see any gains or changes to their conditions besides their worsening. All we have to show from a summer of directionless protests are bruises and broken limbs from pig batons, police kidnappings, and arrest records. Again, we must ask ourselves whether the streets are empty because the masses are disillusioned by movementism and reform and perhaps they see something we can’t: The cycle of peaceful protest, demand, and abuse, that concludes in the dismissal of even the slightest progressive measure.
If we are serious about revolution, we must be critical of ineffective strategy. Left organizations spent the spring campaigning for Bernie, then for Biden (based on a lazy theory of “harm reduction”), and ultimately, neither of these efforts have advanced the struggle for national liberation. If the mainstream left is incapable of giving Ms. Young justice and stopping future incidents like this from occurring, then we must reflect on their methods, their strategies, and be (self) critical about the ways in which we continue to allow these strategies to persist, all the while failing the most oppressed and vulnerable classes in Chicago.
What is to be done? Build the vanguard of the colonized proletariat!
Our duty as revolutionaries is to reflect on the current material conditions and see what is and isn’t working. Reflecting on contemporary conditions, we are faced with one central paradigm: power. Political power frames the entire public-political landscape and the great masses of people have none. As a result, no one organization has the prestige or the mass support of the people to be formally recognized as legitimate leadership. We argue that this is a consequence of the rejection of scientific socialism by the mainstream-left, and what is needed is a return to the scientific approach to revolution, to the unity of theory and practice, and to the long-standing tradition of Revolutionary communism.
Through the development of organs of political power— the construction of mass base areas and organizations through the continuous implementation of the Mass Line—we can begin the process of building an organized movement for the seizure of power. This is the role of For The People chapters and other principled organizations across the so-called US. We construct these base areas through combating class enemies, Serve The People programs, and an overall agitation, education, and organization of the masses. We hold that we must engage in a protracted war against our class enemies by combating them at a local level and raising the political consciousness of the masses to one of revolution. That we must develop trust among the masses and not just show up when struggle ensues. By building organs of political power in every neighborhood, in every city across amerikkka, wherever the revolutionary masses of people reside, we can build contending power against the state and heighten the contradictions to the point where revolutionary seizure of power is a real possibility.
Developing these organs of power, educating, and learning from the masses is our immediate goal. More importantly, forging links with the revolutionary masses through struggle will develop the basis for a true vanguard of the people to be forged. No revolution will be successful in defeating imperialism without armed struggle, a united front, and vanguard party, an organization which the masses voluntarily identify as their leadership. A vanguard is not something that is bestowed upon the people, but is one that is chosen by them. Movementists reject the notion of vanguard, seeing it as something that exists only in history books with no application to us in the belly of the beast, even though all struggles in every world historic revolution have been guided by a revolutionary organization and today revolutionary struggles in the global south are led by vanguard parties and organizations.
Writing from his cell in San Quentin State Prison, Comrade George Jackson wrote: “The liberalist slogan ‘you can’t get ahead of the people’ is meaningless. From what other position can one lead? From the rear? Rearguard leadership?!! A typical Yankee innovation … . In all the successful class struggles and colonial wars of liberation, the vanguard elements did get ahead of the people and pull. There is no other way in forward mass movement … I’m not implying that the vanguard party act out the people’s role. I’m not implying a ‘society superior to society.’ We must never forget that it is the people who change circumstances and that the educator himself needs educating. ‘Going among the people, learning from the people, and serving the people’ is really stating that we must find out exactly what the people need and organize them around those needs.”
We (FTP) are not suggesting we are in fact the vanguard nor that we are the most revolutionary organization out there. However, we unite with Com. Jackson’s words. A vanguard is necessary in the so-called US given the contradictions between the colonized masses and the imperialist State, between the working class and the bourgeoisie, and between the so-called leaders and the People. We are committed to building a party of a new type. We hope this criticism and analysis is useful for all of those who understand the need for revolution and seek to build it, and we are open to principled criticism and discourse on this topic. We seek unity with all of those who recognize the need for a new type of leadership, and all those who are principled and seek to organize for power. Huey P. Newton defined power as “the ability to define phenomena, and make it act in a desired manner.” We say, “All Power to the People!”