A Year After the Killing of Michael Brown: an Accounting Statement of OC’s Solidarity

Michael Brown with headphones

Today is the first anniversary of the killing of Ferguson, Missouri teenager Michael Brown.  (It is also the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, which bears at least passing mention.  And if anyone wants to write up a story on that today, let me know.)  As anniversaries often do, it provides a good opportunity to look back and see what has happened since then — or, in terms of solidarity with the struggle of which Brown’s killing was a part, what hasn’t happened.

(Note: I generally use the word “killing” or “homicide” rather than “murder” because I’m trained to use those terms in their technical sense.  “Murder” is a legal conclusion.  Sometimes, the facts (including as to intent) are so clear and well-recorded that it feels appropriate to use the term — the recent police killing of Sanuel Dubose in Cincinnati, the recent spree killings in Louisiana and elsewhere, for example.  In police killings, the law is so favorable to the killer that when I’m trying to write objectively I tend to avoid it.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that it reasonably applies.)

My accounting could apply to church leaders and such, who have focused on social justice issues, but they do so much that I don’t want to leave anyone out.  So my focus is on the parties.  And, when I say that, I’m focusing mostly on the Democratic Party because it’s the one that people expect to be engaged on these issues.  (Republicans aren’t expected to be engaged and so they don’t lose much when they aren’t.  When a Republican politician like Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait comes along and takes a sympathetic stance on social justice issues, it’s big news — and it elicits a huge backlash from much of the Republican community, such as District Attorney Tony Rackauckas attacking Tait for supposedly being soft on crime.  Tait beat his closest competitor for Mayor by about 33% of the vote, so Rackauckas has since slunk away from intervention in Anaheim politics.  But that tells you while more Republicans, even good-hearted ones, don’t come forward on the issue.)

I wrote a piece here two weeks after the killing:  Proposed DPOC resolution: Aid Ferguson Blacks in Their April 2015 Local Elections.  In brief, I learned that Ferguson’s low-turnout “spring of an odd-numbered year” local elections — in which the majority Black community was routinely outspent and outvoted, leading among other things to their racist and out-of-control police department — would be upcoming in about half a year.  The DPOC could contribute money — I suggested $5000 — to the local party there, and announce it publicly while asking other party organizations nationwide to do the same.  (It seemed very likely to me that, by taking a stand that was sure to be popular with Democrats, this would probably be an excellent fund-raising exercise as well as an exercise in party building.  It seemed like a project that donors would want to be a part of, as well as an act of a party to which they would want to belong.)

Here’s an excerpt:

Once African Americans establish a City Council majority, they can move municipal elections to the general election primary, or the general election itself — anytime that SOMETHING ELSE is on the ballot that can bring voters to the polls.  But first, they have to win once.  To do that, they need access to expertise, field organizers, availability of a legal team, mailers, etc.  All of that takes money — not a whole lot of it for a city with a population of 21,000! —  but more than they are likely to have without outside help.

You know who has it — and is probably pretty willing to spend some of it?  People in places like Southern California, including the increasingly cosmopolitan Orange County.  And Democrats — and Republicans too, if they want to look good — can even round up strategists, etc. willing to work for free from afar or low cost on site.  And then we can blow those racist bastids out of the water come April 7.  The timing is perfect.

No one, from what I can tell, has though of doing this — or if so they haven’t discussed it publicly.  But right now, Ferguson needs a life preserver and the notion that help is not much more than 10 weeks away may help provide one.  (It would be VERY USEFUL, for example, for the police to anticipate that the people running the City government will be changing soon.  That can hold back abuses.)

And they need that life preserver now.  So, I hope that today’s resolution might start off a trend.  It might not pass today — like any other first draft, I’m sure it can use work, especially given the limitations of the “make the whole thing look like it’s one long sentence” style — but it’s enough to light the fire.  Have a look — and come give your signature if you’re able!

The resolution didn’t come up for a vote.  After the endorsements for the fall elections — in which I was endorsed for MWDOC (Water Board) over the objections of the Chair’s hand-picked endorsement committee — the body quickly moved to adjourn without reaching that agenda item.  I couldn’t attend the next meeting because of legal work, and the effort fizzled out.

(Note: This was also the meeting when Lorri Galloway savaged me for opposing her Mayoral endorsement, because I thought that the priority should be to beat the racist Lucille Kring and that Galloway was not running a serious campaign and would just dilute the anti-Kring vote.  She denied everything; her campaign statements now prove me right  She ended up getting 20.4% of the vote.  Rackauckas’s candidate Lucille Kring — thanks in part to a sustained beatdown by many participants in and allies of this blog, as well as to Tait’s (but not Galloway’s!) campaign — got 19.4%.)

Chumley — the unbridled id of the County Party’s “trickledown” wing — took up the drumbeat in his decorously entitled post, The Cancer in OC’s Democratic Party.  (He meant me.  His cover shot showed me and my friend Mike Kinslow, who would die of cancer four months later.)  This is as close as we come to having an official party organ these days, although it is populated almost entirely by (1) reactionaries such as Mike (“junior” “skallywag”) Tardif, (2) critics such as me and Vern, and (3) pseudonymous posters largely parroting Matt Cunningham’s trickledown AnaheimBlog.  So we can get a sense of how the local Democratic establishment — as opposed to the rank and file — feel about this issue by tapping into his stream of false consciousness:

Diamond’s latest pitch is for the DPOC, an organization in much better financial shape these days, to fork over $5,000 a year to political operatives in Ferguson, MO to help African-American candidates run for and win city council seats; many Democrats in OC would prefer to keep the cash right here to benefit Democratic candidates in this county.  It’s not the DPOC’s charter to help Democrats anywhere but in OC.

(It wasn’t “$5000 a year,” it was $5000 — or less, if that’s all we could muster — but reading was never Chumley’s strong suit.  The final point is claptrap; we could have raised money for a specific purpose.)  Anyway, he continues:

Diamond’s recent post on Orange Juice, about supporting efforts to elect more African-American candidates in Ferguson, MO, has merit but he wants to spend other people’s money to do this — namely the DPOC.  I’d rather see DPOC money staying here to pay the organization’s bills, support candidates who need more fundraising help, fund GOTV initiatives and voter registration drives and bank some for a rainy day.  Frankly, it galls me that someone who routinely berates business Democrats would call on them to fund an effort in another state.  From Diamond’s post, it sure sounds like he wants to go to Missouri himself to help these people get elected.  On December 31, 2014, there’s a one-way fare from OC to St. Louis for $206.  Just how long do you think it would take for me to raise $206 to pay for Diamond’s airfare if he promised to relocate to Ferguson and move out of his humble abode in Brea?  I’m guessing 10-15 minutes after this post goes up.

This was just over two months before the DPOC would take a historic drubbing in last fall’s elections.  After that, DPOC leaders whimpered about how the problem was that minorities — here, Latinos, who have their own experiences with questionable or beyond defensible police shootings — didn’t come out to vote.  How might that have changed had the local Democratic party shown solidarity with Ferguson then — and even during the 11½ months since then, by showing real imagination and leadership?

We may never know, because under present leadership they’re never going to do it.  Prime directives for the local Democratic party include “don’t piss off the cops” and “don’t piss off the prison guards union” — which wants more people incarcerated, because that means more jobs.  And solidarity with beleaguered people of color does not fit with those objectives.

Many people within the Democratic Party — largely those now coalescing around the Bernie Sanders campaign (against the wildly dominant and widely endorsed Hillary Clinton campaign) — absolutely do have their hearts in the right place on these issues as individuals.  But, once again, they are allowed the latitude to oppose the ruling order only under circumstances where they are likely to lose — and, though it grieves me to say so, the Sanders campaign is likely one more such example.  If people got together to really fight for getting beyond simply reproductive rights, cannabis legalization, gun control, LGBT rights, and the rest of the litany of elite liberal agenda — and really took these issues of social justice to heart — they’d probably be isolated and ostracized.

All I can say to that is: it’s not nearly as bad as you might imagine!  Freedom from the tyranny of trickle-downers is pretty damn wonderful, in fact.  I hope that in 2017, the next bout of Ferguson’s municipal elections, DPOC might be willing to consider whether building bridges and rallying residents for social causes might not be quite so crazy as some would have you believe.  No law says that Orange County can’t lead on justice.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)