Statement of Solidarity: UTSAAB and UTSJP
On August 9, 2014, a Ferguson police officer gunned down 18-year-old Michael Brown, shooting him at least six times. In the wake of his murder the city of Ferguson, Missouri erupted into a mass uprising against police violence sustained for over two weeks, the likes of which the United States has not seen in decades. One month before, on July 8, Israel began its vicious assault on the people trapped in Palestine’s Gaza Strip, slaughtering over 2000 people, around 500 of them children. This wave of terror lasted until August 26, the same day Michael Brown’s body was buried.
These two events, so geographically distant and ostensibly separate, are actually intertwined in a multitude of ways. In the United States a black man is murdered by police, security, or white vigilantes every 28 hours, or nearly once a day. In 2012 alone, 313 black men were murdered in this manner. Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are only some of the names of young black men who have become victims of this reality. Here in Toledo, in 2005, the Toledo police electrocuted 41-year-old Jeffrey Turner to death after shocking him with a taser nine times. His crime was loitering. Nine is the same number of bullets that St. Louis police unloaded into 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, only ten days after murdering Michael Brown. This is the level of racist violence that targets black communities daily.
Just like black communities in the United States, who live under the constant threat of violence by the state, Palestinians since 1948, when 700,000 were driven from their homes, have lived under the ongoing reality of violence by the state of Israel. The 2,000 Palestinians killed in 2014 is nothing new, as in a two month period from 2008-9 Israel killed 1,400 Palestinians. This carnage does not represent the full picture, however, as those in Gaza live under a state of siege, where Israel controls the borders, land and sea, meaning they control what and who comes in and out at all times. In the West Bank, Palestinians live in the constant shadow of not only the enormous apartheid wall blocking movement and access to vital water supplies, but also a web of intrusive and dehumanizing check points, designed as collective punishment for Palestinians. The United States sends over $3 billion annually in military support to Israel, making the U.S. government directly complicit in the occupation of Palestine.
The similarities between the racist violence practiced against the black community in the U.S. and the Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories goes beyond abstract oppression. For instance, former St. Louis County Police Chief Timothy Fitch received a weeklong training in Israel by the Israeli military in 2011 at the “National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS)” sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Over 9,000 American state security officials have trained with Israeli police and military units targeting Palestinians, tactics which are later applied to black communities in the US, including Ferguson. While $3 billion goes to Israel every year, surplus homeland security funding has given police departments over $75 billion in military equipment, weapons that are used against both blacks and Palestinians. One report showed that the tear gas used against protestors in Ferguson was the same tear gas used against Palestinians in the West Bank. None of this should be a surprise, however, as Israel sold weapons to the brutally racist regime of apartheid South Africa as late as 1988.
Just as the people of Ferguson fought back against racist police violence, so too did Palestinians in Gaza organize resistance against Israel’s most recent wave of terror. The people of Ferguson and the people of Palestine are beacons of hope in the struggle against oppression. Our oppression is linked; so too is our struggle.
We, the undersigned, call for the immediate end to police militarization and violence aimed at black communities in the U.S. and an immediate cessation of the $3 billion provided to Israel annually by our government to oppress the Palestinian people.
— UT Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) and UT Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)