Barry Sheppard

This year’s celebrations of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, a national holiday on January 19, were quite different from the staid affairs in recent decades.

Tens of thousands of protesters across the country held more than 50 actions, marches and civil disobedience, reclaiming his radical legacy and condemning the police killings of unarmed African Americans.

The struggles against police murders of African Americans have spread nationally since the events in Ferguson, Missouri last August, when the police murder of an unarmed Black teenager sparked angry protests.

A nascent new movement of Black people is being formed, with young Black women and men in the vanguard.

A racist backlash centring on defense of the police, a reactionary counter-movement, has also developed, which has strong support in the ruling class.

The news came through on December 3, as I write this, that another grand jury has refused to indict a white cop for murdering an unarmed Black man.

In this case, the murder was caught on video in New York City on July 17.

The widely watched video, taken by a bystander, showed 43-year-old Black man Eric Garner being set upon by a group of cops for selling individual cigarettes on the street.

One cop is seen putting Garner in a chokehold. The other cops pile on, and Gardener is choked to death. The cops then arrested the man who shot the video and his girlfriend.

President Barack Obama’s executive order on deportations of undocumented immigrants has created a firestorm of controversy between Democrats and Republicans.

However, the charges and counter-charges between the two big parties are not what are essential.

The presidential order, as far as can be determined from Obama’s speech — and the public has yet to see the full version in print — consists of the following: about 4-5 million workers without papers will be protected from deportation for up to three years.

When a St Louis County grand jury, after its three-month farcical “investigation”, announced on November 24 its foregone conclusion not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown, the town of Ferguson, Missouri erupted.

For the next three days, protests continued in Ferguson and nearby St Louis. They spread to more than 170 cities across the US.

In Oakland, California, near where I live, protesters blocked major highways in mass civil disobedience. More than 100 people have been arrested in Los Angeles.

The November 4 congressional mid-term elections in the US reflect the further shift to the right in capitalist politics.

The obvious aspect of this is the fact that the Republicans won control of the Senate, increased their majority in the House, and won more state governorships.

There has been speculation in the media about how this result came about.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the most well-known political prisoner in the United States, now has a new law directed against him personally.

The Pennsylvania legislature ― both Democrats and Republicans ― overwhelmingly voted to adopt the “Revictimization Relief Act” and Democratic governor Tom Corbett signed it into law. It came after Mumia delivered a pre-taped speech to Goddard College in Vermont on October 5.

Mumia had been a student at Goddard as a youth. Students and faculty members voted to ask him to make this year's commencement address.

Two months after a white cop shot an unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, and the police responded to angry demonstrations with a military-style assault, there was a mass four-day protest called “Ferguson October”.

The four-day action centred not only on Michael Brown, but on an epidemic of similar police killings nationwide.

Ferguson is part of the greater St Louis area, and marches and other events were also held in the city.

The largest demonstration to date on the need to stop global warming was held in New York City on September 21.

It was the largest of the global demonstrations in more than 160 cities that day ahead of a United Nations climate summit held on September 23 in New York.

The historic protest brought together a wide range of groups and individuals in a march through Manhattan, two days before heads of states gathered to discuss the issue.

United States President Barack Obama pledged on June 30 that in the face of Republican intransigence on immigration, he would take executive action to ease the plight of undocumented immigrants facing deportation.

On September 6, the White House announced that it would delay any action until after the November midterm election.

Cristina Jimenez, managing director for United We Dream, an advocacy coalition for immigrants largely made up of young Latinos, said: “The President’s latest broken promise is a slap in the face of the Latino and immigrant communities.”

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