Over 20,000 people – in cars and on foot – protested in downtown Chicago Saturday afternoon, calling for justice for George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who was viciously murdered by Minneapolis police last week.
Just like many other times when Black people here have been under attack, Arabs and Palestinians from all over Chicagoland were among the protesters, as unqualified supporters of Floyd’s family, the Black community, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).
And we must continue to safely be out in the streets, whether in car caravans or socially distancing on foot, because the police and its bosses are violently repressing the protests. Today, Arab American Action Network (AAAN) leaders were on the southside, joining Black forces to pressure the police to release protesters who were beaten by police and arrested Saturday and Sunday.
It is our responsibility as Arabs and Palestinians in Chicagoland to understand that these protests are justified, and that the Black community has the right to fight for justice and against racism — by any means necessary.
As Hatem Abudayyeh, Executive Director of the AAAN, said in an interview with Middle East Eye, “The most important struggle in this country is the struggle for Black Liberation, and it manifests today in the struggle for police accountability and against police violence.”
The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and its Chicago chapter, was founded almost 50 years ago, and is the institution that organized 22 different cities to mobilize for the massive protests this past Saturday. Re-established as a national body last year, the Alliance is one of the most important Black-led organizations in the country, and has helped bring CPAC from Chicago to several other cities across the U.S.
The Chicago Alliance, and the Black community that it represents, has also stood in solidarity with Arabs and Palestinians for years, whether in the case of fighting the Muslim Ban, defending Arabs and Muslims from post 9-11 targeting and repression, upholding Palestinian rights, or promoting justice for Rasmea Odeh.
Arabs and Black people in Chicagoland are united in joint struggle because the Arab World has been devastated by direct U.S. intervention and occupation in Iraq and other countries, as well as U.S. support of the colonization and occupation of Palestine. The same imperial force that attacks Arabs overseas has militarized the police in Black communities here; ultimately, Black people and Arabs are subjected to similar surveillance, repression, and criminalization.
The AAAN and the Chicago Alliance recognize that the killing of George Floyd unleashed a justifiable uprising, and that the angry response must be understood in the context of hundreds of years of racism, white supremacy, socio-economic decay, and state/police violence.
We also know that this is a challenging time for organizing. The coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease have devastated already poor and disenfranchised communities to the point of massive health crisis, unemployment, and poverty that we have not experienced in any of our lifetimes. So it is unfortunate, but understandable, that some businesses are being targeted – just like in all rebellions.
We have written before that we recognize and acknowledge that some Arab and Palestinian small business owners have relationships rooted in racism and exploitation with the south and west side Black communities where they operate, and there are still conflicts that are not fully resolved. The AAAN acknowledges that our community must battle its own racism as strongly as we battle white racism.
Both of our organizations also acknowledge that it is understandable that business owners of all races and nationalities want to protect their properties and livelihoods. But property is not more important than people’s lives. Brick, mortar, windows, and goods can always be replaced, but a life taken can never be brought back. We uplift the many small business owners who recognize this and are doing their best to stem the tide without confrontation. We ask others to trust us and do the same at this uneasy time.
“Arab and Black community members have a longstanding relationship in this city,” said Frank Chapman, Co-Chair of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and Executive Director of the National Alliance, “and although it has not always been great, the Alliance, the AAAN, and many others continue to work to strengthen the ties.
“We will stand and march together in solidarity, and must not do harm to one another,” he added. “We have no choice. Our liberation is intertwined.”
The AAAN and the Chicago Alliance jointly call for unity at this important and sensitive time for Black, Arab, and other communities in Chicagoland.
- Arrests of all the police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd. Call Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison at 651.296.3353, and ask him to arrest and charge them all.
- An end to police violence against, and repression of, #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd protesters in Chicago, Minneapolis, and beyond.
- Freedom and the dropping of charges against all the protesters who were arrested since the Saturday launch of protests. (Call Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx at 312.603.1880 to make this demand.)
- Charges to be brought against the police officers who physically assaulted and battered protesters in Chicago, Minneapolis, and beyond.
- Chicago City Council immediately enact the Civilian Police Accountability Council (#CPACNow).
- An increase in state and federal government COVID-19 relief for the most impoverished and affected communities.
Arab American Action Network (AAAN) & Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR)
June 1st, 2020
P.S. The AAAN’s Hatem Abudayyeh was interviewed about the #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd protest movement on June 1st, by our friend Abdulmalik Mujahid on Sound Vision’s Justice for All live stream.