It saddens me to announce that on the evening of Monday, December 10, 2018, long time revolutionary activist Andy McInerney passed away after losing a long battle with cancer. As if it wasn’t enough losing my sweetheart & love of my life, Ana Lopez Betancourt, in the month of May 2018, I now grieve another major loss, my very best friend, brother and comrade, Andy McInerney.
Andy was a professor at Bronx Community College in New York. He will surely be missed by the many whom he taught as well as his colleagues who partook in struggles for bettering college level education and for increasing the benefits and salaries of professors.
Andy was a communist. He was always fascinated when learning about the liberation struggles of oppressed people. He was adamant about white progressives today requiring to have the same disposition John Brown once had against African chattel slavery, if they sincierely claim being anti-racist. I always had respect for Andy, since I envisioned him fighting alongside John Brown if he were to live during the 1859 attack on Harpers Ferry.
As a person of white origin himself, Andy was critical of white leftists who tended to show inconsistencies of conviction, by being soft and evasive of criticizing white privilege and white entitlement. He viewed that kind of behavior unforgiving and a not-so-hidden expression of white supremacist ideology.
Andy and I became good friends during our mutual experience in Workers World Party and in the Party for Socialism & Liberation. It was in our experiences in these entities where our collaboration first grew to the finest pitch, which later on continued.
Wherever Andy found himself, whether organizing events on campus or mobilizing for mass demonstrations, he always sought ways to promote and apply Marxist-Leninist theory. He recognized that his moral obligation was to build in the present in preparation for the future battle for socialism in the United States.
Andy was indeed a revolutionary who also contributed to my own political development. In 1991 when I first met him the world revolutionary movement went into disarray, resulting from the impact the collapse of the Soviet Union was having everywhere.
He was an optimist, even under dim circumstances. He always told me that the collapse of the Soviet Union was only a temporary victory for imperialism and that we should maintain our course in building for revolution in this country regardless.
Andy understood that throughout history such phenomenon also occurred with other social & economic systems. It was Andy who told me “not to worry” and enlightened me to how the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in France was equivalent to the restoration of capitalism in Russia. Bonaparte restored the political power of the monarchy that was defeated by the 1789 French Revolution.
Andy was of Irish descent. He demonstrated the utmost respect to me when he discovered that I was a Young Lord and a Puerto Rican revolutionary nationalist. In our exchanges we strengthened each other’s understanding of the Irish-Puerto Rican connection. It was Andy who first made me aware that Irish revolutionary James Connolly had asked Puerto Rican Nationalist leader Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos to draw up a draft for the Constitution of a free Irish republic.
There is much more that can be said about Andy McInerney. He touched the hearts of so many people. His greatest trait which describes his finest qualities as a human being was his incredible love and respect for teaching and learning, a fundamental requirement for what it takes to be a revolutionary. Andy’s disposition came with an eagerness to learn and pass the knowledge on to others.
I will miss you my dear brother and comrade, Andy McInerney. You were always there for me during the thick and thin. There is much about you that I will cherish and feel honored that you were in my life. And above all, I shall eternally be grateful to you for helping me strengthen my resolve to keep fighting until this social system of oppression is finally smashed by the will of the vast majority of oppressed and exploited people.
The wave of repression unleashed on the Black liberation movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s by the FBI’s “Operation COINTELPRO” reached its height with a series of murderous attacks on the Black Panther Party. One of the most horrendous episodes of this onslaught took place on Dec. 4, 1969, when Black Panther Party figures Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were assassinated by police.
In a coordinated effort between the Illinois State Attorney’s Office, Cook County Police Department, the Chicago Police Department and the FBI, a heavily armed assault was launched in the early morning hours on Fred Hampton’s residence. With a vicious sense of racist hatred and no regard for human life, the police fired their weapons at will through a wall separating the hallway from the apartment. The two revolutionaries were killed.
In the days that followed, law enforcement officials were quick to reinvent the facts. They claimed that the occupants of the apartment fired guns at police. Their story never held water. Evidence gathered from the forensic investigation and other inquiries pointed exclusively to police savagery in the attack.
The shaping of a leader
Hampton’s life was brief, but was rich in struggle.
Hampton was born in Chicago on Aug. 30, 1948. His parents originated from Hayneville, La., where sharecropping and racial injustice were common. His great-grandparents had worked on a plantation in that region under the horrors of slavery.
Like millions of African Americans, Hampton’s parents left the South during the Great Migration of the 1930’s to look for a better life and flee the constant threat of racist terror. They settled in Maywood, Ill., a suburb of Chicago where they worked at the Argo Starch Company.
Hampton was attracted to books, and took it upon himself to read the speeches and writings of Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Dubois, Joan Elbert, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and others. He gained a reputation for his knowledge of Black history and began to sense the need for struggle.
As a student at Proviso East High School, he noticed that most of the students who failed were Black. Hampton began to speak out against the school administration for not providing tutoring and remedial programs for students. He was also critical of the fact that the faculty and administration were all white when one-fourth of the student body was Black.
Hampton challenged the school’s exclusive racist practice of nominating only white girls to compete for “Miss Homecoming Queen.” He organized a protest, walk-out and school boycott. As a result, the following year Black female students were included in this contest.
Fred Hampton was respected by white and Black students alike. The year after he graduated from Proviso East, a school administrator requested his help to calm racial tensions among students.
An event that likely affected the young Fred Hampton, much as it affected most of Chicago’s Black community, was the 1955 gruesome lynching of Emmett Till. The 14-year-old Till was visiting family in Mississippi when he was abducted and killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Till was the son of family friends and neighbors of the Hamptons.
At Triton Junior College, he studied law as a defense against police brutality aimed at the Black community. He joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and became the leader of its youth council at the West suburban branch, galvanizing a membership of 500.
While Hampton was in the NAACP, the Black Panther Party was opening chapters across the country and becoming a prominent force in the Black liberation struggle. Hampton began to absorb and understand the revolutionary content of the Panthers’ political perspective, and joined. He soon demonstrated his leadership abilities and became deputy chairman of the party’s Illinois chapter.
His disposition and skills as a speaker earned Hampton a moral authority. His political achievements included brokering peace with the supposed “street gangs” of Chicago, amongst them the Puerto Rican group the Young Lords. Hampton was instrumental in transforming the Young Lords into a revolutionary political organization.
The white, racist U.S. ruling class was appalled. How dare the descendents of African slaves call themselves socialists and aim to achieve Black people’s right to reparations! Even more daring was the Black Panther Party’s call for the overthrow of capitalism—a demand the ruling class could never tolerate. Their ability to forge unity in struggle was a threat in itself.
All this was happening while resentment for the war in Vietnam was on the rise. The men of privilege and wealth, with a stake in preserving the imperialist system, grew apprehensive the more it became apparent that a mass revolutionary movement was arising.
Hampton valued the need for a multinational revolutionary struggle, and organized the original Rainbow Coalition comprised of the I Wor Kuen of the Asian community, the Brown Berets of the Mexican community, the poor white workers of the Young Patriots, the Young Lords and the Black Panthers. The Black Panther Party set standards for waging struggle. Their enthusiastic projection of socialism allowed many to envision its relevance to African Americans and other oppressed nationalities.
Operation COINTELPRO, an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program, was established in the mid-1950’s to deter the development of any movement deemed a threat to the existing social, economic and political order. It remained secret until 1971, when anti-repression activists broke into an FBI field office in Media, Pa., and confiscated files revealing the hidden operation.
As the Civil Rights movement advanced—galvanizing strength from all sectors of the population, breaking the despicable Jim Crow laws and compelling the U.S. Congress to pass other progressive legislation—the FBI increasingly turned its attention to the Black liberation struggle.
The slanderous editorials against the Panthers in the capitalist-owned mass media, combined with Hoover’s frequent verbal attacks, reflected the wishes of the ruling class who sought the complete destruction of the Black Panther Party and the ideals it embodied. Internal FBI memos show that the government had a special interest in Hampton’s political activities and his associations; Chicago police were encouraged by the FBI to find a way to lock up Hampton.
These circumstances compelled the government to destroy the Black Panther Party.
“The greatest threat to national security”
The Black Panther Party openly advocated for socialist revolution, and openly supported the Chinese and Cuban revolutions. The Panthers’ breakfast program for children, among other social programs, underlined their commitment to meet the needs of communities that received nothing but oppression and neglect from the government.
Prior to Hampton’s death, police raided the Panthers’ Chicago office on three separate occasions. William O’Neal, Fred Hampton’s bodyguard, was a police informant who was instructed to draw up a floor plan of the targeted apartment weeks earlier. Law enforcement used the information gathered by O’Neal to murder Hampton.
The staunch anti-capitalist stance of these young revolutionaries who declared themselves Marxist-Leninists made them the target of the most ruthless, racist elements in power. On numerous occasions, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover expressed a special disdain for the Black struggle, particularly towards Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Many were not surprised when Hoover declared the Black Panther Party “the greatest threat to national security.”
Hampton’s murder was part of a pattern of police raids, false imprisonment and executions of Black Panthers. COINTELPRO documents proved that assassination of Black leaders was among its aims. Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party had to be eliminated simply because they had touched upon capitalism’s greatest weakness—the decisiveness and strength that a multi-national movement has in a battle against this system.
The Black Panther Party arose from the struggles of the African American people, historically the most oppressed and exploited group in the United States. They symbolized hope and received the greatest affection. They attributed Black oppression to the capitalist system, and dared to pick up arms against the state. The militancy and defiance of these young revolutionaries deeply impacted the Civil Rights and socialist movements.
Hampton and the Black Panthers believed all would benefit if the banner of the struggle against racism and national oppression was taken up by the white masses as their own. Hampton knew that it was possible to smash the racial barriers created by capitalism to divide and conquer the working class. His confidence was based on the strong belief that this system provides the motivation for all to unite and engage in revolutionary struggle.
Long live the memory of Fred Hampton & Mark Clark!
The U.S. military reflects the racism of the U.S. capitalist system.
African Americans’ role in the military during the Civil War was wholly progressive. Indeed, Black soldiers had a vital stake in smashing the hideous system of slavery.
While President Abraham Lincoln often expressed his indifference to the issue of emancipation, he was forced to recognize the absolute necessity of arming African Americans.
Black soldiers soon became feared by the Southern slavocracy. Their tenacity, skill and valor proved decisive to the North winning the Civil War.
For instance, when Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was sent to fight Gen. Robert E. Lee’s military forces in Virginia, he requested Black regiments as his principal troops.
Then there was Harriet Tubman. A former slave, she became an intelligence officer for the Union Army, operating behind enemy lines.
Tubman’s courage made possible the capture of Confederate garrisons–and the famous “Underground Railroad” she organized led to the liberation of hundreds of slaves.
All told, 200,000 African Americans served in the Army and Navy during the Civil War. Thirty thousand died in combat.
The Civil War was the last time Black people had a positive stake in a U.S. war’s outcome. After they were betrayed during Reconstruction, the African American people were further undermined and impoverished when the South was overrun by capital investments in manufacturing, lumber and agriculture. Then capital cast its eyes abroad. The Monroe Doctrine had already reserved all of Latin America to be exploited exclusively by U.S. capitalists.
The mysterious explosion of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana on Feb. 18, 1898, served as an excuse for Washington to declare war on Spain. The U.S. invaded the Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Guam, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, colonizing them anew, this time under U.S. control.
Many Black soldiers played a military role this time, too- -but on a different side.
RESISTING THE U.S. ARMED INVASION
In 1899 under the leadership of Aguinaldo, the Filipino people furiously fought the new invaders. They inflicted many casualties on the U.S. Army, which claimed to be “helping the people’s quest for freedom.”
The U.S. government retaliated by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Filipino women, men and children.
This genocide was not passively accepted inside the United States, as mainstream historians contend. For example, the Anti-Imperialist League held mass protests in major cities throughout the country.
Significant anti-war sentiment was also expressed widely in Black communities. The Black press as well as other representatives of the African American people vigorously denounced the war. The great historian and African American leader W.E.B. Du Bois played a notable role in this movement.
Most important, Black resistance surfaced inside the U.S. military. Four Black regiments sent to fight in the Philippines established a bond with the Native people there, who also were dark-skinned. These Black troops resented white officers and soldiers describing Filpinos with the same racist slurs applied to African Americans in the United States.
Filipino insurgents appealed to Black soldiers not to fight on the side of imperialism. Posters denouncing racist lynchings in the United States were placed throughout the islands.
This political agitation helped lead to many Black troops deserting the U.S. military.
Some of these African Americans went over to the other side, joining the Filipino guerrilla fighters.
The most notable was David Fagan, formerly of the 24th Infantry Division. The Filipino freedom fighters so respected Fagan that he was made a commander in their army.
David Fagan’s example demonstrates how unity is possible. This is a highly relevant lesson today. Once unity among the working classes and peasant farmers of all nationalities can be established, it lays the basis for overthrowing the tyrannical reign of U.S. imperialism–and preventing another 120 years of terror.
Since the earliest human societies, people have used animal images to express their beliefs. Painting animals on pottery, garments and cave walls arose from ritual notions about the power of this imagery.
With the development of class society, animal symbols took on new meaning. Animal characteristics have been interpreted in folklore to explain the miserable reality of the poor or to justify social privileges for wealthy rulers.
Leading capitalists like J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie promoted Herbert Spencer’s “social Darwinism” during the rise of imperialism. This “theory” described the exploited and oppressed as “weaker species”, etc.
On the other hand, the predatory bald eagle was chosen to glorify a government that sanctioned genocide and chattel slavery.
But the oppressed have also used symbols-in this case to express their resistance. One famous example is “the two wings of the same bird” concept. This metaphor was created by the legendary Puerto Rican revolutionary poet Lola Rodriguez De Tio and later on was put into musical rendition by Cuban poet and revolutionary leader Jose Marti. It was used to describe the historical relationship of solidarity between Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Since some of the most beautiful birds in the world inhabit the Caribbean, it was easy for Lola Rodriguez De Tio and Jose Marti to use this life form as poetic symbolism. The “bird” they described is made up of the island countries of the Greater Antilles-the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica, with Cuba and Puerto Rico on opposite ends in the region functioning as wings.
Both Lola Rodriguez De Tio and Jose Marti were internationalists. They identified with all anti-colonial struggles. They both had a special affection for each other’s country, which shared a common suffering under brutal Spanish tyranny.
De Tio and Marti expressed a revolutionary tradition in poetic form. In the early 1860s revolutionaries from both countries secretly met in a hotel on Broome Street in New York City to form the Society for the Independence of Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Members of this group helped facilitate the 1868 “El Grito De Lares” uprising. Under the leadership of Ramon Emeterio Betances, African slaves, workers and peasants fought this battle. When their attempt at independence failed, hundreds of Puerto Rican rebels went to Cuba to continue the fight against Spanish colonialism.
Caribbean people fight for Cuba’s and Puerto Rico’s freedom
Haitians, Dominicans, Jamaicans and Puerto Ricans were among the insurgents who fought in El Grito De Lares and Cuba’s El Grito De Yara, both in 1868. This inspired Jose Marti to preserve the use of the “two wings” metaphor.
Marti recognized the threat a rising U.S. imperialist power would pose to the Caribbean peoples. His wish for a united Caribbean federation was based on a calculated necessity. Familiar with the atrocities the U.S. rulers committed against the oppressed at home, Marti knew he could expect no better treatment from the United States than from Spain.
In 1895 Cuban revolutionaries launched a war for independence. They were gaining the upper hand in the war against Spain. But in 1898 their efforts were interrupted when the United States invaded Cuba, Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico.
Two years later on March 24, 1897 Puerto Ricans attempted once again to use force in their quest for freedom at the uprising known as “Intentona de Yauco.”
Jose Marti died in 1895. He never saw his wish for a free Cuba in a Caribbean federation come true.
But thanks to the 1959 Cuban Revolution, his ideals remain alive today. Although Puerto Rico and Cuba live under opposite social systems, there is still solidarity between the peoples of the “two wings.”
Cuba’s revolutionary government has officially recognized Puerto Rico’s independence struggle. It even established an “Office of Puerto Rico.”
Cuba has also given political asylum to Puerto Rican anti-colonial fighters sought by the U.S. government. At the United Nations, Cuba has fought for world recognition of Puerto Rico’s right to independence and self-determination.
Many Puerto Ricans return this solidarity by continuing to break the criminal U.S. blockade against Cuba, traveling there from Puerto Rico itself. For decades these anti-colonialists travel back and forth to Cuba.
In 1997 renowned Puerto Rican Salsa musician Andy Montanez invited Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez to perform in Puerto Rico. When right-wing Cuban exile singer Celia Cruz objected, many in Puerto Rico, including radio disk jockeys, prepared to launch a boycott of Cruz’s music.
Those people in San Juan who proudly acknowledge the “two wings” tradition greeted Silvio Rodriguez’s performance with cheers.
The oppressed peoples’ drive to unite and maintain such traditions in their common struggle is a vital weapon to end U.S. imperialism’s rule. No country in the world has remained committed and firm in their solidarity to Puerto Rico’s struggle for national liberation than Cuba.
Forty years ago, on July 25, 1978, Puerto Rican police assassinated two young pro-independence activists. This brutal and blatant murder, known as the Cerro Maravilla murders, exposed for the world to see the violence with which U.S. imperialism keeps Puerto Rico in chains to this day.
The controversy and the cover-up that followed were like none other in Puerto Rico’s political history. It involved government officials at the highest level, top police brass as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Justice Department.
Arnaldo Darío Rosado, 24, and Carlos Soto Arriví, 18, had been involved in pro-independence groups before. Inspired by the heroes of independence who championed the liberation of the homeland from U.S. rule by any means necessary, they joined the Armed Revolutionary Movement (MRA). The MRA had no experience in such matters, it never carried out any military actions in the past.
Arnaldo Darío Rosado and Carlos Soto Arriví
A police agent, Alejandro González Malavé, infiltrated the group. He recruited Darío and Soto to set fire to a communications tower on the mountain named Cerro Maravilla. The act was supposed to protest the imprisonment of Oscar Collazo (imprisoned for the 1950 armed attack on U.S. President Harry Truman) and Lolita Lebron, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Irving Flores, and Andres Figueroa Cordero (imprisoned for a 1954 armed attack on the U.S. Congress).
By 1978, the freedom of these political prisoners was a campaign of paramount importance, both to the pro-independence movement in Puerto Rico and to human rights advocates around the world. In fact, it was a frequently mentioned issue in news outlets throughout the world and at United Nations Organization discussions on decolonization.
It was a clever manipulative tactic by the Puerto Rico Police. First and foremost, July 25th is the date of the U.S. military invasion in 1898. And because Arnaldo and Carlos were highly devoted to the cause for Puerto Rico’s independence but were too inexperienced to detect how they were being lured into a trap, it was easy for the police to lead them to their deaths.
COLONIAL POLICE MURDER ARNALDO & CARLOS
On the evening of July 25, 1978, the three forced taxi driver Julio Ortiz Molina to drive them to the communications tower at the top of the mountain in Cerro Maravilla.
Once the vehicle arrived at the location, heavily armed police opened fire on the cab. Darío and Soto shouted, “Don’t shoot, we surrender,” according to well-documented testimony. The two were dragged out of the car, savagely beaten then forced to kneel. They were then shot, execution style.
Cops who testified during the investigation disclosed that several hours before the murders, officers assigned to the sting were ordered by Col. Angel Perez Casillas, commander of the Intelligence Division, that, “These terrorists should not come down (from the mountain) alive.”
Eyewitness accounts confirmed what many in the independence movement had all along asserted. The assassination of the two independence activists was a political statement on the part of the colonial Puerto Rico Police.
Then Governor of Puerto Rico, Carlos Romero Barcelo, of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, immediately hailed the cops as heroes.
Pretentious investigations were conducted by the colonial government, as well as by the FBI and the Justice Department, but only to assist in a systematic cover-up motivated by the already existing colonial setting in Puerto Rico.
In the aftermath of the killings, every agency involved in the investigation was quick to exonerate the killer cops and demonize the two victims, and for clear-cut and well-defined reasons. The Puerto Rico Police exists as the principle enforcer of U.S. colonial policy.
Historically, every political repressive act by the U.S. rulers involved the complicity of the Puerto Rico Police. It has served as the pit bull of U.S. agencies, most especially the FBI; dating back to the attacks on Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos, the Nationalist Party and the brutal Rio Piedras and the Ponce Massacres.
This specially trained armed attachment of U.S. colonialism is perhaps one of the most sophisticated apparatuses of law enforcement in all 50 states and occupied territories. It is defined by colonial law as a “quasi-military” organization which is granted assistance by the National Guard, in everything involved to the work of a “civilian” police force.
TYRANTS ARE NOT INVINCIBLE. POLITICAL ADVANTAGE CAN SHIFT
Regardless of differences in political beliefs, widespread indignation to these murders came from all sectors of the population. A momentum grew to such a degree of pressure that it caused a political crisis for the U.S. colonizers in Puerto Rico.
On April 29, 1986, undercover cop/provocateur Alejandro González Malavé was assassinated in front of his mother’s house in Bayamón. He was shot three times by a group identifying itself as the “Volunteer Organization for the Revolution.” Boricuas in Puerto Rico and the diaspora applauded his death and viewed it as a well deserved act of justice.
The FBI considered this group “one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the United States.” On December 3, 1979 the V.O.R. claimed responsibility for an attack on a U.S. Navy bus in Puerto Rico in which two Navy personnel were killed and 10 injured, and the destruction of 6 jet fighters at a National Guard base on January 12, 1981.
In the end, eight police officers were convicted and given prison sentences, ranging from 6 to 30 years. But these prison sentences were merely a concession made by the colonial court to ease the mounting outcry for justice. The greatest concern Washington officials have always had about it’s stranglehold on Puerto Rico is the everlasting potential for mass rebellion.
Protest demonstrations occurred everywhere in Puerto Rico and the diaspora, demanding justice for Arnaldo and Carlos. News of the details surrounding this case reached global attention and pointed to the inhumanity of the U.S. presence and domination in Puerto Rico.
The Cerro Maravilla murders were not the first lives to be taken away from brave men and women who fought for independence and loved their homeland. Nor will the threat be gone of future incidents like Cerro Maravilla in 1978, so long as U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico continues to exist. It is the armed agencies of U.S. colonialism who have repeatedly proven to be the real terrorists.
No matter where, when or how the decisive battles for Puerto Rican national liberation may ensue, it shall certainly be a contribution to the worldwide defeat of U.S. imperialism. The murders of Arnaldo Darío Rosado and Carlos Soto Arriví will most definitely serve as reason to condemn and bring about the demise of this vile system.
Arnaldo Darío Rosado & Carlos Soto Arriví – PRESENTE!
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.
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.
On December 22, 1895 Puerto Ricans in the Cuban Revolutionary Party, created the Puerto Rican Flag at a meeting held in the Chimney Corner Hall in New York City. The leader of this effort was the prominent Puerto Rican revolutionary Manuel Besosa.
The Puerto Rican revolutionaries chose to invert the colors of the Cuban Flag following the traditions of the “Two Wings of the Same Bird” – a poetic metaphor of the legendary Puerto Rican literary Lola Rodriguez De Tio and later on used in musical rendition by Cuban revolutionary leader Jose Marti. Revolutionaries of both countries collaborated with each other for centuries in a mutual struggle against Spanish tyranny.
To Puerto Ricans the flag represents many things. It is the one aesthetic that compels us to express our aspirations and deepest sentiments as a people, connected to history, culture and heritage.
In light of the devastation that occurred in Puerto Rico following the destructive force of Hurricane Maria and the continued crisis of earthquakes followed by many tremors, the flag has also become a symbolism of hope. But the destructiveness of nature can never compare with the outcome of a study made after Hurricane Maria that revealed a death toll of 4,645. That can only serve to accentuate in our minds the intentional neglect by the U.S. Government. The criminality of the Jones Act and the full spectrum of U.S. colonial policy in Puerto Rico affirms the charge of genocide.
When we wave the Puerto Rican Flag in annual events let’s do so without taking the flag for granted, as what we are always encouraged to do by those who have colonized our homeland and who want us to interpret our national symbol as just a fad. The Puerto Rican Flag came about as a result of the sacrifices made by many who fought for the freedom of our people; freedom fighters who struggled against the predatory aims of first the Spanish and then the U.S. colonizers.
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 called “Intentona de Yauco.” The aim of this revolt was the independence of Puerto Rico from Spanish colonial rule.
After the U.S. invasion and colonization of 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 flag was immediately arrested by the colonial authorities. Thanks to the nationalist fighting spirit of the Puerto Rican masses the U.S. rulers were forced to eliminate this law.
Adding to the continued disrespect for the people, once Law 53 of 1948 was removed in 1957 and the ban on the Puerto Rican flag was lifted the original turcois blue on the triangular part of its design was replaced by the same dark blue used in the U.S. Flag. The reasoning for this imposed change was an attempt by the U.S. rulers to aesthetically create a resemblance between the Puerto Rican people and their colonial oppressors.
If we are to display the Puerto Rican Flag with meaningfulness know that our right to do so came at a cost that involved the lives and imprisonment of many who loved the homeland, Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican Flag is not for displaying in vain, it is a symbol of defiance and the highest representation of a people’s revolutionary traditions.
That is why on this date, December 22nd, we cherish and celebrate the Puerto Rican Flag. Despite everything that the colonizers have thrown at our people — physically with police terror and psychologically in their attempts to destroy the Puerto Rican self-identity — Boricuas continue to raise their symbol with pride. Que Bonita Bandera!