Is CBC’s Call For Gun Control Amidst Anti-Police Brutality Protests a Red Herring?
Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford says the Congressional Black Caucus is distracting the public with side issues, while 80% of its members voted against restricting police militarization and voted in favor of tough on crime policies which disproportionately hammered black communities
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Washington. On Thursday evening five police officers were shot and killed, and six others wounded, in Dallas, Texas during a protest against the killing of two Black men by police this week.
The Dallas shootings follow two fatal police encounters in the previous two days. On Wednesday, Philando Castile was shot in his car at a traffic stop by a police officer. A day before in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, two police officers pinned Alton Sterling to the ground and shot him dead.
All this news has caused Democrats on Capitol Hill to rally around the issue of gun control, but is that a distraction from looking at the real issue?
Now joining us to discuss all of this is our guest Glen Ford. Glen is the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report, and of course he’s a regular contributor to the Real News.
Thanks so much for being with us, Glen.
GLEN FORD: Thanks for the opportunity.
DESVARIEUX: So Glen, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, they had a press conference today where they were addressing the issue of gun control. After all this news this week, they chose to really focus on gun control. What’s your reaction to that, and do you see it as a red herring?
FORD: Well, I think the first thing that needs to be said about that press conference and its composition, that is, the Black caucus members who attended, is to say that only one of them, only John Conyers, two years ago voted for the Grayson amendment, which would have halted the Pentagon’s transfers of military weapons and vehicles and gear to local police departments. All the rest of those congresspersons who were present at that press conference voted to continue the militarization of the local police. In fact, 80 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus did so.
In terms of the caucus’ stance on gun control, you know, the reality is that gun laws are almost irrelevant as far as the police are concerned in Black America. In terms of their practice, any Black person who is suspected of carrying the gun, no matter what the laws of the state say, is liable to be treated as if they are guilty of a capital crime, and we see that in terms of the two horrific murders that occurred this week.
In Minnesota, which has rather stricter gun laws, the victim was killed after announcing that he was carrying a weapon which was lawful and that he had papers to prove it. He was executed. In Louisiana, the victim was probably not authorized to carry the weapon that the police claim he had in his pocket, but he wasn’t brandishing it against anybody and that’s plain to see in the video, but he was executed. Very different laws in Louisiana and Minnesota, but the police treat a Black person suspected of having a gun the same way, as a marked person, a person marked for execution.
DESVARIEUX: Glen, I want to talk more about the Black leadership on Capitol Hill. We’ve had you on many times and you’ve really talked about how they have actually contributed to this culture of violence that we are seeing against Black people, and not holding police accountable and if anything giving them force to hammer on communities of color even more so. Can you speak to specific laws and how they’ve been able to do just that?
FORD: Sure. In addition to 80 percent of them voting against the Grayson amendment, half of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1986 voted for those racist crack cocaine 100 to 1 punishment laws. More than half of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for the criminal justice, the crime control legislation back in 1993 that Hillary Clinton and her husband are catching hell for, deservedly, today, the legislation that led to the largest influx of Black bodies into prison under any presidency in the United States. Well, half of the Black caucus went along with that.
And here today, or rather, this latest press conference, we see G.K. Butterfield, the current chairman of the caucus, who’s about the most right-wing member of the caucus, by the way, we see him throwing around the word terror when talking about the shooting that occurred in Dallas. This is the most irresponsible thing that one could do.
When you invoke the word terror in the United States you’re not just making a rhetorical statement. You’re not just making an emotional outburst. The word terror has legal ramifications in the United States. If the US government were to classify actions as Mr. Michael Johnson took, apparently, in Dallas as terror, then the associates, or all friends of Michael Johnson could be liable for prosecution, certainly the deepest investigation on charges of giving aid and comfort to terrorists.
Peace groups have been prosecuted for trying to arrange truces between various factions [of] Al Qaeda. Groups that were trying to tone down the violence have been prosecuted because you can’t talk to terrorists. So he, this Black congressman is injecting a very dangerous word into this debate, especially because, as all Black folks know, any law on the books will be super-prosecuted in terms of its use against Black folks, and now he wants to pin this terrorist label on Black people.
DESVARIEUX: If we wanted to see real change and real leadership from the Congressional Black Caucus, what should they be advocating for? What type of legislation? What should people themselves be pressuring their own representatives to be doing there on Capitol Hill?
FORD: You know, we don’t even have to get into legislation. They are Democrats, and Black people make up 25 percent of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party can’t win without Black people. There can’t be a Democratic president without Black people. And yet we have an executive branch under a Democratic president, a Black, Democratic president who believes that it is impossible to charge a police officer with murder unless we have video that shows him guilty in ways that even a five-year-old child could decide.
So, the political pressure that the Congressional Black Caucus, which calls itself the conscience of the Congress, could bring against its own party’s president or presidential nominee would be greatly helpful in changing the stance and posture of a US justice department that won’t touch prosecutions of cops with a 10-foot pole.
DESVARIEUX: All right. Glen, always a pleasure having you on. I love hearing your opinion. Thank you so much for being with us.
FORD: Thank you.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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