Cops exploit Bronx tragedy; WE NEED PEOPLE’S ORGANIZATION INSTEAD!

By Carlito Rovira

 

In the past week many people have been devastated, especially in New York City’s Bronx community, by news video coverage of 15 year old Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, who was also known as “Junior.” The graphic video shows Lesandro being savagely stabbed and hacked to death by members of a street youth gang known as “Los Trinitarios.”

There has been a tremendous outpouring of sympathy by people throughout the city and across the country for Lesandro Guzman-Feliz’s grieving mother and family, who will be impacted by this tragic event for years to come. Unfortunately, public discussion of this case was immediately limited by the media and has not addressed the social context that fuel these events in poor working-class communities.

Media reports have emphasized the perpetrators’ life-time record of criminal activity and zeroed-in on outcries for justice by neighborhood residents. And understandably so, mainstream news outlets sensationalized reports of this tragedy and have in various ways called upon stepping up police activity in oppressed people of color neighborhoods while insidiously attempting to facilitate community support for this end.

First we must ask, why is the racist police —with the assistance of the news media— trying to manipulate the justified anguish of this predominantly Dominican Bronx neighborhood? Why is the police controlling the narrative of these events?

As we well know, the police have never been a friend of the Latino community. The NYPD has historically been responsible for killing scores of unarmed Black and Latino people in this city, with violence comparable to that which was deployed against Lesandro.

And despite the police’s repeated mention that Lesandro Guzman-Feliz aspired to be a cop and that he was a member of the Explorers, a youth club under the auspices of the NYPD, when the police was called to the scene it treated Lesandro with the same contempt it treats all youth of color.

In fact, the attitudes of the two responding NYPD officers serve as a window into how the police view violence among people of color. A later-released video shows that as Lesandro laid bleeding to death two uniformed cops stood back without attempting to save his life.

No one can deny that these hideous crimes merit punishment and justice. Such acts are indisputably a clear indication of a mental and emotional departure from basic moral values and a sense of humanity. Death by senseless violence continues to be part of a disturbing panorama that describes the reality for many communities of color.

Violence conducted by individuals for the pettiest of reason is a behavioral matter that can only be addressed in a discussion of culture of the society within which it happens. That is, the violent historical setting from which capitalist culture developed. And because culture is at the heart of this matter, it is unfortunate that a percentage of unstable individuals among oppressed people will tend to mimic the violence of our oppressors.

Violence among oppressed people will never be a problem that the police will attempt to eradicate. They will point to its existence but only as a ploy to convince us that diminishing civil liberties and other meager freedoms works to our “safety.” In short, the deviant behavior of a few will always be used to enhance the powers of the police, courts and prisons.

In fact, since the very beginning of the police, dating back to slavery, their profession centers on inflicting violence on our people whenever they deem necessary. For this reason alone poor working class people cannot rely on the police state for salvation.

Gang violence was never as acute of a problem as it is now, until the 1980’s, when an influx of drugs consumed many communities of color. There was ample evidence, then, pointing to law enforcement, along with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as the main perpetrators in what soon thereafter became a widespread crisis. Gang leaders were corrupted which made these organizations an essential part of the operations that led to funneling drugs into poor communities.

Ultimately every oppressed person in this country will be compelled to realize that peace and security can only come about from our own actions and organizing efforts.

Historically, not all street organizations involved themselves in hideous criminal activity. Many youths joined these groups for noble reasons and simply to obtain a sense of safety and belonging. There are instances in history where street youth groups protected neighborhood residents from crime.

One good example is the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican/Latino youth group that developed on the streets and prisons in Chicago during the 1960’s. They were influenced by the political events of that decade, especially by the activist work of the Black Panther Party. Eventually the Young Lords transcended to become a revolutionary entity.

 

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The Young Lords began on the streets and prisons of Chicago. They eventually transcended to become a revolutionary entity.

 

Such is the direction that these street youth groups of today must take. They must either side with the people and fight on their behalf or allow themselves to be absorbed by the efforts of the police state. In which case they would risk feeling the wrath of a rising revolutionary mass movement.

Justice and protection from criminal elements that have gone to the point of no return, and forgiveness, as Lesandro Guzman-Feliz’s killers, can only come about with a politically and organizationally sophisticated militant mass movement. And that would automatically imply our people exercising the right to use all techniques and methods of self-defense.

The Puerto Rican Flag was born on December 22, 1895 — a symbol of anti-colonial struggle.

By Carlito Rovira

On December 22, 1895 (125 years ago), Boricuas affiliated with the Cuban Revolutionary Party, created the flag of Puerto Rico at a secret meeting held at the Chimney Corner Hall in New York City. At the helm of this noble effort were the prominent Manuel Besosa, Antonio Velez Alvarado and Juan de Mata Terreforte, an exiled veteran of the 1868 Grito De Lares uprising. Among the other 59 attendees was the renown literary and archivist of Black history Arturo Schomburg.

From the early 1800’s, New York City served as a safe haven for both Cuban and Puerto Rican revolutionaries who sought to overthrow Spain’s repressive colonial rule. These two countries were Spain’s remaining colonies after a series of successful revolutions for independence in Latin America. It is no wonder why New York City became the birthplace for both the Cuban and Puerto Rican flags.

The Puerto Rican patriots chose to invert the colors of the Cuban Flag, following the traditions of the “Two Wings of the Same Bird” – a poetic metaphor by the legendary female literary Lola Rodriguez De Tio. This metaphorical expression was later used in musical rendition by Cuban revolutionary leader, Jose Marti. Freedom fighters from both countries collaborated for centuries in a mutual struggle against Spanish tyranny.

To Puerto Ricans, like all oppressed people striving to build nationhood, the flag represents many things. It is the one representation that compels us to express our aspirations and deepest sentiments connected to our history, culture and heritage.

Twenty-seven years prior to the Chimney Corner Hall meeting, Ramon Emeterio Betances and other revolutionary leaders of the 1868 El Grito De Lares uprising saw the necessity of creating such a symbol for the newly established nation in struggle. The leadership of that movement understood quite well the role that spirituality plays in a fierce battle for liberation.

Mariana Bracetti Cuevas, who was also a professional seamstress, created the first Puerto Rican flag. She designed a banner comprising of two red and two turquoise blue boxes, divided by a white cross, with a white star on the upper left.

In the years following the courageous attempt by the Lares insurrectionists, the independence movement continued to exist clandestinely due to the political climate. The Lares martyrs and their supporters were systematically imprisoned, tortured and brutally killed by the Spanish authorities. Puerto Rico was under the most repressive circumstances, compelling the movement to retreat.

Many who survived the onslaught fled to New York while others went to Cuba to join their comrades fighting to liberate their country. Among these brave Puerto Rican patriots was Juan Ruiz Rivera, who would earn the rank of general in the Cuban revolutionary army.

Despite the difficult circumstances, the anti-colonial movement in Puerto Rico gradually regained momentum. Moreover, it was these harsh conditions that motivated the meeting at Chimney Corner Hall and the creation of the current Puerto Rican flag.

On March 24, 1897, the present-day flag of Puerto Rico was flown for the first time in the municipality of Yauco, in an uprising known as “Intentona de Yauco.” It was the last attempt made to win independence from Spanish colonialism.

The 1897 “Intentona de Yauco” uprising.

Since the Intentona de Yauco, the Puerto Rican Flag has served to inspire the anti-colonial movement in Puerto Rico as well as in the struggles waged by the Puerto Rican diaspora for civil rights and against all forms of brutal oppression. It has been the tradition for the flag to be an inspiration in the battle for freedom and justice.

In 1977, Puerto Rican activists seized control of the Statue of Liberty. They unfurled
a huge PR flag as a statement demanding the release of Nationalist political prisoners.

On November 5, 2000, Tito Kayak places the Puerto Rican Flag on the crown of the
Statue of Liberty to protest the U.S. Navy target practice bombing of Vieques, PR.

The devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017 coupled with the continued enforcement of U.S. colonial policy, made the flag a symbol of hope. Nationalism became a critical force that provided moral strength to the Puerto Rican people in the ongoing resistance.

In fact, Mother Nature’s destructive forces can never compare with the attitudes of U.S. government officials. With their policy of neglect U.S. officials contributed to the lost of 4,645 Puerto Rican lives — a death toll the Trump administration blatantly disputed and trivialized. The criminality of the Jones Act combined with the dangerously ineffective FEMA administrators, showed us (and the World) the genocidal policies of both past and present U.S. Presidents — regardless of political party affiliation.

Criminalization of the Puerto Rican Flag

Adding insult to injury, after the U.S. militarily invaded and colonized Puerto Rico in 1898, use of the flag was discouraged and stigmatized as something evil by U.S. officials. But it was during the imposition of Law 53 of 1948, better known as the Gag Law, ( in Spanish: Ley de La Mordaza), anyone caught displaying or possessing the Puerto Rican flag was immediately arrested by the colonial authorities. This vicious law aimed to quell mass support for independence but was also used to persecute Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos and the Nationalist Party.

Without warrants, homes, schools, businesses and houses of worship were randomly searched by colonial police looking for “contraband” flags. Thanks to the nationalist fighting spirit of the Puerto Rican masses the U.S. rulers were forced to eliminate this law.

In 1957, Law 53 of 1948, was removed as well as the ban on the Puerto Rican flag. However, the original turquoise blue on the flag was replaced by the same dark blue in the U.S. Flag, in an attempt to psychologically cause a false sense assimilation between Puerto Ricans and the foreign oppressors.

On the left the original version of 1895. On the right the version imposed by U.S. colonialism.

When we wave the Puerto Rican Flag in annual events, let’s not do it in vain and end up taking this honor for granted. Those who continue to colonize us want to ensure our national symbols be no more than a passing fad. The Puerto Rican flag was conceived as a result of sacrifices made by many who fought for the freedom of our people.

That is why on this date, December 22nd, we celebrate the Puerto Rican Flag and salute the memory of our ancestors who fought gallantly for a noble cause. Despite everything the rulers have done to us through racism and attempts to destroy our identity as a people, Boricuas continue to raise our highest symbol with pride. QUE BONITA BANDERA!

QUE VIVA PUERTO RICO LIBRE!