Sixty people filtered into a classroom on the UW campus Wednesday night. Noise levels were at a murmur while provocative issues floated around like particles in the air, unavoidable.
The group was gathered for a public meeting, sponsored by the Socialist Alternative, centered around the potential use for protests as a tool against racism and poverty. Members of Socialist Alternative believe both the United States government and the nation’s capitalist system are systematic oppressors, focusing its aim on racism and those in the working class.
They opened with a common goal: To end police violence against people of color.
Via The Daily
Darletta Scruggs, Socialist Alternative member, spoke from Chicago over Skype. She had flown to Ferguson, Mo., participating in protests and meeting locals. The protests today have cascaded from events in August, when Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black man. Tensions flared even further in November, when a grand jury chose not to indict Wilson.
“It’s not a matter of one individual cop,” Scruggs said. “It’s an issue of the institution.”
A large point of this discussion, coming from both the public and the predetermined speakers, was that the root cause of the problems are inequality and, relatedly, capitalism.
According to Ramy Khalil, campaign manager of Socialist Alternative, the root of the problem is how the system creates a large divide among citizens, pitting them against themselves rather than coming together with their differences for one movement against a larger system.
“My frame of thought was looking at it like a disease,” said William Washington, a nonviolence advocate. “The symptom being bias directed at black people. The issue is violence in general.”
Washington mentioned how frustrating it was for him to see the same thing night after night in the media: “The violence, the violence, the violence.”
Scruggs said she saw the same thing — not only in media outlets across the country, but even in the very media outlets in Ferguson.
The astonishment doesn’t seem to resonate only with American residents, but worldwide. Even more so, it resonates with those who came from another country, searching for the renowned American freedom.
“It is so sad here in America, where someone like myself, who immigrated from so far away, thinking that I am safe from all injustice, civil problems and discrimination were the last things on my mind,” Ubah Warsame said. “The police brutality that happened here lately, it just boggles my mind where I thought–and people like me thought — that this was the greatest country to be and why we left our homes.”
Warsame, a participant in the tenant’s rights movements, also discussed the inequality that resides in the rising rent of low-income people.
“We need to have a root and branch transformation of the system,” Khalil said.
The group is holding a protest at 11 a.m. this Sunday before the Seahawks’ home game. In hopes of transforming the system, they are using this event as a “good media opportunity.” Socialist Alternative plans to create awareness of the movement using the hashtags “The12thManCan’tBreathe” and “ShutItDown.”
There is another event planned even closer for UW students, in Red Square. A rally will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, and organizers are calling for participants to use the hashtags “BlackLivesMatter” and “NoJusticeNoPeace” to further spread their message.
“I do believe it is up to us as a vanguard of this movement to create the transformations of this system,” Washington said. “We need to keep this movement going.”