Black Lives Matter activists with Native American water protectors. Standing Rock, September 2016.
Monday, February 27, 2017
Marginalised communities from Native Americans to Black people to Muslims and Latino immigrants, who have suffered under successive US governments for centuries, are now up against a new aggressive and blunt attack by President Donald Trump.
Aside from rolling back a slew of rights in just weeks in office, Trump has also stoked the sparks of a new resistance across identity lines with the potential to draw on diverse histories of oppression and struggle.
In just one month, Trump signed executive orders that gave more power to law enforcement officers across the United States, revived the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines (hurting Native Americans and their lands, as well as the planet) and placed a ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries and all refugees worldwide.
Several Trump directives are specifically targeting undocumented immigrants, and seek to deport millions of people simply for having entered the country without papers.
In the face of such unapologetic aggression, a newfound unity is being born between Black, Native American and Muslim communities in order to stand up against the Trump administration, activists from those communities say.
Black Lives Matter
“This is, in many ways, already happening,” Alicia Garza, one of the three cofounders of the anti-police brutality movement Black Lives Matter (BLM), told TeleSUR when asked about a unity between these historically-oppressed communities. “Black people are [also] undocumented immigrants, we are Muslim, we are indigenous, and more.”
Garza added that Black people are an essential part of “every fight that we see today”.
Garza said that BLM was pushing back against the Trump administration through “building relationships with other communities impacted by the Trump administration, and devising strategies to bring more people into the movement”.
Earlier this month, Trump signed three executive orders to crackdown on what he called the “threat of rising crime” in the US, giving more power to federal and local police. One executive order seeks to “define new federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing federal crimes, in order to prevent violence” against state and federal police.
Garza said that no justice or progress for African-Americans could come from Trump’s plans, as he “has surrounded himself with corporate CEOs, billionaires and retired military personnel, none of whom have any track record whatsoever in solving the problems that exist in our communities,” said Garza.
As Trump targets Muslims, Garza pointed out: “We must remember that in the case of the Muslim ban, Black and Muslim are not [necessarily] separate categories.”
Trump signed the now-suspended travel ban in his second week in office. People with green cards and valid visas were stopped at airports across the country, sparking huge protests. A federal judge in Washington state then suspended Trump’s executive order.
Khaled Beydoun, a Muslim-American professor of law, agreed with Garza that black-Muslim unity was needed and the Muslim community needed to educate itself about the struggles of the Black community.
Facing a new level of persecution in the US, Muslims can show active solidarity “by aligning themselves with organisations that have deep histories with state persecution and targeting, particularly in the Black, Latinx and Native communities,” he told TeleSUR.
Black and Muslim people in the US have also been inspired by the resistance against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) — a US$3.78 billion mega-pipeline that threatens water supplies and sacred sites on Native American land — and united in their support for the ongoing Native American struggle.
With DAPL construction reactivated by Trump and protesters at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota facing mass arrests as their camps are burned to the ground, BLM activists plan to rejoin the action led by Native Americans.
“BLM organisers were some of the first to show up to support the water protectors,” Garza said, referring to the months-long action last year by hundreds of Native American tribes and protesters that succeeded in pressuring the Obama administration to suspend the project.
Meanwhile, in October last year, a coalition of Muslim groups teamed up to spread awareness about the DAPL struggle and raised more than $12,000 for the water protectors. A delegation also went to the protest encampment, a move spearheaded by Native American-Muslim converts.
The law professor and analyst stressed that non-Muslim minority groups have been actively supporting and uniting with Muslim communities against the hostility of US governments, noting: “I already see that happening in an unprecedented way.”
He said Muslim-Americans need to reciprocate that solidarity “or else we miss an important moment for transformative coalition building”.
Native American solidarity
As they enter a new phase of their fight against DAPL, Native American organisers say they are thirsty for such a multi-ethnic coalition.
“In these troubled times, when the White House and right wing controlled Congress is generating fear and racist policies, the mutual solidarity between communities of colour and Muslims is critical,” Judith LeBlanc, director of Native Organizers Alliance and a member of the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma, told TeleSUR.
“Now we need to strategise together about how our solidarity builds our collective strength and not allow the right wing to ‘divide and conquer’.”
Under the far-right Trump administration, the strongest strategy against DAPL “is to continue to drive public protest to oppose the pipeline especially through the vehicle of divestment campaigning” from banks funding the project, the Native American leader said. Two US cities, Seattle and California’s Davis, have cancelled city contracts with Wells Fargo, the major lender to Energy Transfer Partners, the firm building the pipeline.
Native Americans are also working to support the struggles of other oppressed communities. “Our greatest solidarity is to work in our own communities to become sanctuary communities,” LeBlanc said, referring to communities that declare themselves safe havens for undocumented migrants targeted for deportation.
She said Native American tribes in Arizona were discussing plans to protect immigrants crossing the border from deportations by taking them into the Native American reservations, which are beyond federal and state control.
Much work needs to be done across racial and ethnic groups, but many point to the potential for a united progressive movement that can not only take on the hate-spewing administration, but also fight to transform the US into a true democracy and a socially just multi-ethnic state.
[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]