Saturday, April 28, 2012

20 Years Later: L.A. riots: Good Samaritan remembers his scary truck-driver rescue

  By Liz Goodwin | The Lookout, April 29, 2012
Titus Murphy, left, with two other Good Samaritans who rescued Reginald Denny are honored in 1992. (Bob Galbra …
[Blog Editor's Note: Tomorrow marks the 20th Anniversary of the tragic L.A. Rebellion/Rebellion of 1992. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and I vividly recall watching the block I grew up on burn to the ground via news helicopter that week. During the early 90's I worked for a law firm that represented the victims of police brutality, and I also spent a lot of time in the South Central L.A. neighborhood where Reginald Denny was beaten, so I feel a personal connection to both of the most high profile victims of those violent days, Mr. Denny and Rodney King. As an Angeleno through and through, I also feel a deep sense of connection to, and admiration for, Titus Murphy and the other genuine heroes of that period who we honor below. It is often said that "crisis" and "opportunity" are two sides of the same coin, and the inspiring story of these remarkable individuals is a poignant reminder of the wisdom of this adage. The L.A. riots were indeed violent, deadly, destructive and tragic. Yet these dark days in the city of my birth should be remembered not solely for the tragedy, but also for the bravery, heroism and compassion demonstrated by the individuals below and by countless other Angelenos who came to the aid of their sisters and brothers in need during these chaotic days, but whose names and stories we will never know. It is in times of darkness, perhaps, that the power of the human spirit shines brightest. Keep Hope Alive! -- Paul B]

In one of the most disturbing images from the Los Angeles riots, six black assailants dragged Reginald Denny, a 33-year-old truck driver, out of his truck in South Los Angeles and bashed his head in with a brick. A television chopper broadcast the violence live. The attack happened shortly after not-guilty verdicts were handed down in the racially charged trial of the police beating of Rodney King, which kicked off six days of rioting that left dozens dead and thousands injured.
About a mile and a half away, Titus Murphy and his then-girlfriend Terri Barnett were watching the Denny attack on live television. Murphy, who was an unemployed engineer at the time, couldn't believe what he saw.
"When this gentleman was getting beat something was just telling me this isn't right, this isn't what it's all about," he told Yahoo News 20 years later. "When he got hit in the head with the brick something told me to go down there. I just reacted."
Murphy and Barnett drove about a block away from the now infamous corner of Normandie and Florence to see if the rioters would let them get any closer. Murphy saw that Denny had managed to drag himself back into the cab of the truck, which was moving very slowly. Murphy ran to the passenger side and jumped on the running board; he saw a woman named Lei Yuille comforting Denny inside the cab. Just then, a hulking guy named Bobby Green leaped on the running board of the other side. The two stared at each other through the windows, each fearing the other was a rioter.
"I asked him, 'Who are you? What are you going to do?'" Murphy says. "He said, 'What are yougoing to do?' I didn't know he was thinking the same thing I was thinking. I figured I had to take him on, he figured he had to take me on. We were both over 6 feet tall. I told him I was going to drive the truck and he said, 'I'm a truck driver.' That was the end of that."
Green jumped in and drove the massive truck a terrifying three miles to the hospital, with Murphy's girlfriend Barnett guiding the way by driving in the car in front. Murphy clung to the outside of the truck for the entire journey, feigning to be a rioter by pounding on the outside of the vehicle as if he had taken it for loot.
"There were cars approaching us and swinging bats and sticks and guns and stuff," he said. "I had to pretend that I was part of the riot so that the people in the cars wouldn't try to take us on or try to take advantage of the truck again. I started beating on the truck like it was mine. The trick really worked."
From his position on the running board, Murphy was also able to guide Green, who couldn't see through the truck's cracked windows. "Each one of us could not carry on the task without the other," says Murphy. "Bobby couldn't drive the truck without me on the outside. Mr. Denny was attended to from the inside [by Yuille], and we couldn't drive the truck without Terry in the front of us."
The result was a perfect collaboration. "We all came together as a team," he says. "It was like it was meant to be."
After extensive surgery, Denny survived the beating, but his speech and ability to walk were damaged permanently. His four rescuers, who were all black, became a symbol of hope in the devastating violence that engulfed the city for three days.
"I was just helping a person who was in need," says Murphy. "I didn't look at his race at all. Never thought about it once."
Murphy and the three other rescuers haven't kept in touch, he says, but he remembers them fondly. Denny has moved to Arizona and shunned media attention for most of the past 20 years, althoughhe did reportedly accept an apology from one of his attackers.
Murphy now lives in Escondido with his wife and children. He worries that the anger of 20 years ago could bubble up again today. America still has a class of "have-nots" who need better opportunities to get ahead, he says. "In every major city in America and in cities all over the world the same thing could happen," says Murphy,"until we decide as a people that we work together and stop looking at things as race but realize we're all one."

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bill Fletcher: My frustration with the left when it comes to electoral politics

I was recently asked to participate on a panel regarding the Left and electoral politics.  I declined.  For many people this may seem strange since I have been a very strong proponent of the Left looking at electoral politics strategically.  Well, that is all true but I have encountered a problem and maybe you can help me resolve it.
Most Left “debates” on electoral politics take a very predictable 
route.  It looks something like this:
.                Electoral politics will not bring about socialism and freedom.
.                The Democrats have consistently sold us out. They are the party of the rich.
.                The Republicans and the Democrats are two wings of the same evil bird of prey.
.                We need an alternative.
.                Therefore, either:
         Abstain from electoral politics and wait till the masses, in their millions rise up against capitalism, or…
         Create a pure, anti-corporate (if not anti-capitalist) third party right now and start running in elections even if we do not have a snow-ball’s chance in hell of winning.
What I have found striking about this line of thought, and the so-called debates that unfold around it, is that they are actually un-political and lack any sort of concrete analysis.
Let’s be clear so that we do not have a needless exchange.  Electoral politics under democratic capitalism will not result in our freedom.  Second, the Democrats are not the party of the working class.  So, now that we have that out of the way, what do we do?
Electoral politics is a field of struggle.  It is an arena.  On that arena, however, we on the Left can do two things:  participate in the struggle for popular power and raise issues that have the possibility of gaining greater attention.  Much of the Left focuses on the latter and ignores the former.  Many who focus on the struggle for power, however, abdicate being Left altogether.  Therein exists the challenge.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sign the petition. The "Millionaires Tax"

Sign the Petition. Support the “Millionaire’s Tax”.
The Basics of  The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act.
What is it? A statewide ballot measure that asks Californians who make over $250,000 per year to pay a little bit more to invest in California after years of devastating cuts.

 Why do we need it? Since 2008, budget cuts have led to big increases in K-12 class sizes, nearly a doubling of community and state college tuition,  billions in cuts to essential services for children and seniors and severe cuts to public safety. 

The California budget has suffered huge cuts in every program; from education to universities, from child care to seniors and from public safety to programs for the disabled and needy. This year more than $4 billion in new cuts are being proposed. Without new revenue, an additional $5 billion in cuts to schools, universities and public safety will have to be made. 

What does it do?
The Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act of 2012 raises income taxes on the highest earners by 3%, with smaller increases on lower incomes. However, individuals making below $250,000 and families making below $500,000 will pay no additional income tax, so the middle class and poor are not impacted by the income tax increase. It also increases the sales tax by ¼ of 1% (still a much smaller rate than existed until July 2011).  
It begins to raise  an estimated  $6 billion to begin:
                re-hiring laid off teachers to reduce class sizes,
                restoring college classes and student services,
                restoring cuts to essential services for children, seniors, and people who are disabled,
                re-hiring laid off police, fire, and emergency responders,

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mexican union activists on tour in Sacramento

by Duane E. Campbell

A delegation of Mexican labor organizers speak at CSU-Sacramento  on  April 3, as a part of a Labor Solidarity Tour.  Humberto Montes de Oca, of the SME Electrical Workers union spoke on their struggle over the last two years since 44,000 workers were dismissed and the electrical company privatized under the order of Mexican President Felipe Calderon.  Some 16,000 workers remain on strike.   They occupied the Zocalo in Mexico City for over 6 months.  Currently they are working to defeat the two conservative candidates for president, representing PAN and PRI. They are working for Manuel Obrador of the PRD who has supported their struggle.   For more on this struggle see David Bacon .
Fernando Mendoza of  the Teachers Union and Ignatius Mercedes of the Mine workers in Canea, Sonora,  explained the role of neo-liberalism in privatizing public industries including public schools.  They urged the students at the university to unite with the faculty in their own struggle to renew their contract which has expired.  The tour has traveled from Los Angeles, to San Diego and San Jose and plans on appeals to workers for international solidarity. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Age of Obama: What Went Wrong (and How to Fix It)

By Van Jones

This article is adapted from Rebuild the Dream, Van Jones' new book.
The 2008 campaign was a campfire around which millions gathered. But after the election, it was nobody’s job or role to tend that campfire. The White House was focused on the minutiae of passing legislation, not on the magic of leading a movement. Obama For America did the best that it could, but the mass gatherings, the idealism, the expanded notions of American identity, the growing sense of a new national community, all of that disappeared.
It goes without saying that clear thinking and imaginative problem solving are easier in hindsight, away from the battlefield. I was in the White House for six months of 2009, and I was outside of it afterward. I had some of the above insights at the time, but many did not come to me in the middle of the drama and action. Most are the product of deeper reflection, which I was able to do only from a distance.
Nonetheless, the exercise of trying to sort out what might have been and trying to understand why nobody was able to make those things happen in real time has informed this book and shaped my arguments going forward.
Let me speak personally: looking back, I do not think those of us who believed in the agenda of change had to get beaten as badly as we were, after Obama was sworn in. We did not have to leave millions of once-inspired people feeling lost, deceived, and abandoned. We did not have to let our movement die down to the level that it did.
The simple truth is this: we overestimated our achievement in 2008, and we underestimated our opponents in 2009.
We did not lose because the backlashers got so loud. We lost because the rest of us got so quiet. Too many of us treated Obama’s inauguration as some kind of finish line, when we should have seen it as just the starting line. Too many of us sat down at the very moment when we should have stood up.