Notes on Louisiana: The Colfax Massacre

By Malcolm Suber

One of the bloodiest incidents in the struggle of the newly freed African people in Louisiana occurred in Colfax, LA (Grant Parish) on Easter Sunday, 1873. This assault is one of the largest racist massacres in US history. The Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists organized by the Democratic Party as the White League sought to destroy the political rule of the Black majority Republican Party that controlled Grant Parish. More than 150 Black men were murdered by the white supremacists, 37 of whom were executed after surrendering.

In the wake of the contested 1872 election for governor of Louisiana and for local offices, a group of white Democrats armed with rifles and small cannons outgunned Black Republican freedmen and the Black militia of Grant Parish who were trying to defend Black office holders in the Courthouse. The white supremacists had sworn they would execute any Black elected official they apprehended.

Historian Eric Foner described the masscre as the worst instance of racial violence during Reconstruction. According to Foner, “every election [in Louisiana] between 1868 and 1876 was marked by rampant violence and pervasive fraud.”

Under the 1870 Enforcement Act, federal prosecution and conviction of a few Colfax perpetrators was appealed to the Supreme Court. In a key case that led to the abandonment of the freedmen by the federal government, the court ruled in United States v. Cruikshank (1876) that protections of the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to actions of individuals, but only to actions of state governments. After this ruling, the federal government could no longer use the Enforcement Act to prosecute paramilitary groups such as the White League, which had begun forming chapters across Louisiana in 1874. Intimidation and Black voter suppression by white supremacist organizations were instrumental to the Democratic Party regaining political control of the Legislature in the elections of 1876.

Black Lives Matter Forum

    The Black Lives Matter Movement & The Fight Against Police Terror was the title of our first forum on August 28th at Cafe Istanbul. It was attended by over a hundred people, black and white.  The main speaker was Malcolm Suber, a devoted black revolutionary who has been on the front lines in the struggle against NOPD abuse for over three decades.
    During his presentation, Suber explained that the main political lesson drawn from the Black Lives Matter movement is that it is spontaneous resistance to police terror that has propelled the freedom struggle to a level we haven’t seen since the 60’s and 70’s.  He said “the choice before our movement is: will we wage a revolutionary fight to end the rule of the  billionaire ruling class, or will we continue on the road of reform that guarantees continued police terror and murder of national minority youth on the streets of America?”
    He also noted that the police are doing exactly what the rulers want them to do.  “It is their function to terrorize us and keep us in our place, in our oppressed condition.”
     At the end of his talk, Suber invited singer Nana Nantambu on stage to lead the audience in singing the classic freedom song “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest”. Afterwards there was a lively discussion full of revolutionary energy and solidarity among the audience. At the end everyone walked out enthused, with a deep understanding of the black lives matter movement, and they were therefore more ready for the fight against racist police oppression.

Standing Rock

The Oceti Sakowin people of the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota are battling a $3.8 billion oil pipeline development by Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to protect their main water supply, the Missouri River, and to defend their sacred land. In the face of invasions, desecrations, and broken treaties, the occupation has united the largest coalition of Native tribes in decades. Over 200 different tribes, supported by thousands of protestors of all nationalities, have successfully stood their ground to protect aboriginal territory and halt construction.

The pipeline, which will slice through four states (North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois), transporting 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day, is not just a threat to the Oceti people’s way of life and their future generations, but is also a potential environmental catastrophe. In just the past 5 years, pipeline spills and ruptures have released about 7 million gallons of crude oil and killed a total of 80 people. One of the largest of those spills already happened in North Dakota in 2013, pouring 840,000 gallons of oil into a wheat field. Not only that, but as recently as September 5th, and as nearby as Barataria, Louisiana, 5,300 gallons of oil spilled into Barataria Bay from a damaged pipeline.

Standing Rock and other Native American reservations have, bit by bit, been shrinking since their formation in the 1860-1880s. In the 1950s, the same Army Corps of Engineers that now approves this latest invasion, built five dams on the Missouri which displaced multiple native villages.

The North Dakota government, on behalf of DAPL, has arrested over 40 people. A security group (G4S) hired by DAPL has unleashed dogs on peaceful, mostly Native American protesters. At least 6 people were bitten, including a child, and these thugs have also rained pepper spray down into the crowd. Despite these attacks, the thousands challenging this construction have, day after day, stood their ground and fought back.

The Obama administration, a strong supporter of the pipeline, has bowed to nationwide pressure and issued a temporary halt on its construction, so the struggle continues until construction is stopped permanently. The leaders of the Oceti people have been very clear that no matter what happens, the people are not backing down.

 

 

 

Just Think

By Big E

Just think About U.S. and the Annexation of Hawaii

Just think About U.S. and Agent Orange

Just think About U.S and the Tuskegee experiment;

Just think About U.S and Iran-Contra

Just think About U.S and where the interstate highways were built and who made the decisions

Just think About U.S and Plessey vs. Ferguson

Just think About U.S and the Dred Scott decision

Just think About U.S and the 3/5th clause

Just think About U.S and the Iraq War

Just think About U.S and the Chinese Exclusion Act

Just think About U.S and the deportation of Marcus Garvey

Just think About U.S and the Trail of Tears

Just think About U.S and “little boy” and “fat man”

Solidarity with National Prison Strike

By Quest Riggs

On September 9th prisoners across the country stood up for their human rights. Walking in the footsteps of the heroes of the 1971 Attica Prison Rebellion, our caged brothers and sisters worked very hard to coordinate a countrywide prisoner strike.

Strikes took place in 26 states despite efforts by wardens and guards to silence and isolate militant prisoners. In some prisons striking by even a minority of the prisoners scared the authorities into stopping work altogether. The nation-wide strike took place in both men and women’s prisons. The prisoners were applauded and supported by tens of thousands of non-incarcerated people across the country.

Some prisons, including several in Florida, experienced full-scale prisoner rebellions. Of course, the ruling class media calls the prisoners rioters so that we on the outside will ignore the just demands of the prisoners. These aren’t riots; they are rebellions against the barbaric conditions in US prisons.
Florida prisons, like Louisiana’s, are extremely overcrowded. Prisoners often face lengthy time in solitary confinement, which is a form of torture, and brutal physical and sexual abuse and murder by prison guards.

New Orleans jails more people than any other city, and Louisiana has the largest percentage of people in prison in the U.S., and the U.S. has the largest rate of incarceration in the world. We must support the prisoners’ demands to abolish modern day slavery.

We will send copies of the Workers Voice free to prisoners, and we welcome letters from prisoners. 

Baton Rouge Flooding

You bailed out the banks, now bail out the workers 100%!

By Alex Quintero

The natural disaster that struck Baton Rouge was a flashback of the cataclysmic events of Hurricane Katrina, and in much of the same way the government has reacted with little to no disaster relief at all.

The U.S. Spent close to $16 trillion of public money to bail out the banks in the 2008 market crash. One trillion dollars a year goes to our military budget profiting those in the business of making war. But when it comes to bailing out the people of Louisiana, especially in the Black community, FEMA gives very little. This was the case in New Orleans and now our sisters and brothers of the working class in many parishes in Louisiana are devastated.

110,000 homes were destroyed or damaged. Almost all applied for FEMA. But FEMA only gives a $33,000 max grant  (and usually much less) if the victim can provide paperwork that may have been lost in the floods, Only 12% had flood insurance because these areas were not known to flood before. Also, many people have already been denied, especially in the African American neighborhoods in Baton Rouge.

There has also been a loss of job income, businesses destroyed, and cars demolished. Immediate unemployment assistance is needed.

Disaster capitalists like contractors are “hiring” undocumented workers so they can under-pay or con them out of pay altogether. Meanwhile, thousands of workers are now out of jobs. There even was a fatal bus crash of an unlicensed immigrant driver as its consequence. While the driver was jailed, we say jail the contractor.

This is why workers need to be for legalizing immigrants so these workers, who are only trying to feed their families, cannot be taken advantage of and there is no incentive not to hire all workers where there is high unemployment like in the Black community.  Louisiana legislators should call an emergency session to cut corporate tax breaks and help the flood victims.