Dispatches

Middle Tennessee DSA Demands No Police at Pride

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It was illegal to be queer in 1969. Homosexuals – as we were all called then – were labeled dangerous and subversive deviants. We were tracked and surveilled by the FBI, considered security risks by the national security apparatus, and rounded up and driven out of cities and into ghettos. Queer spaces were regularly raided by the police; their arrestees humiliated, brutalized, and even tortured. Many of our people lived in abject poverty, especially those who did not conform to the narrow gender constructs of a hostile society.

This was America on June 28, 1969, when ten police officers entered a bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn with the intent to arrest anyone suspected of “deviancy.” The patrons of Stonewall were divided along perceived gender lines. Cross-dressers, a dated term which included what we now call drag queens and transgender individuals, were separated from the rest and forced to expose themselves to police officers. Women in butch clothing were groped and violated under the guise of frisking; a common practice, as wearing an insufficient number of feminine items of clothing was considered a crime. Anyone found to be in violation of rigid gender norms was arrested on the spot.

When the arrestees refused to cooperate, they were brutalized. When one woman protested her treatment, she was beaten over the head with a baton. As outrage grew among the crowd gathering to witness this injustice, what began as a routine crackdown quickly escalated to two days of violent resistance we now call the Stonewall Riots. It is this event we commemorate every year with the celebration of Pride.

Standing on the shoulders of generations before it, Stonewall marked the beginning of the modern struggle for LGBTQ+ equality and, ultimately, liberation. Though Obergefell v Hodges opened the door to an unprecedented era of queer rights and visibility, reactionary efforts to erase these victories have grown just as pronounced. From a ban on transgender people in the military, to a multitude of religiously justified discrimination bills, to homegrown attempts to roll back marriage rights, all under the watch of an increasingly conservative judicial system, we stand to lose everything we have fought so hard to win.

At every stage of this ongoing struggle, the police, as the sanctioned enforcers of the state, have been our opposition and our oppressors. Indeed, it will be the police who drag us out of bathrooms and business places in shackles, who will harass us when our name or gender markers don’t match our “biological sex,” who will drive us into ghettos when we can’t find work. Why, then, are the police permitted a place at the 50th anniversary of the riot that birthed our movement?

The Nashville Metropolitan Police Department has ridiculed transgender members of our community; fought viciously against community oversight voted by a majority of our city; targets, oppresses, and murders black and brown people; and works in direct cooperation with ICE to tear families apart. We refuse to welcome our oppressors at a table ostensibly set to celebrate our hard-won and still-besieged liberties. It is therefore, in the spirit of the Stonewall Riots that we, the undersigned members of the Middle Tennessee Democratic Socialists of America, call for the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department’s booth to be disinvited and summarily ejected from Nashville Pride.

Middle Tennessee Democratic Socialists of America Queer Working Group

Middle Tennessee DSA Endorses Prison Strike

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PER THE RESOLUTION PASSED AT THE JULY 2018 GENERAL MEETING, the Middle Tennessee chapter of Democratic Socialists of America endorses the upcoming National Prison Strike called by incarcerated men and women. This strike, which begins on August 21 and extends through September 9, 2018, is a response to the April 2018 uprising at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina, during which seven men lost their lives.

Behind prison walls, individuals encounter brutality and exploitation that can only be understood by those who have shared in the experience. With roughly 5% of the world’s total population but 25% of the world’s total prison population, the United States incarcerates the highest number of people in the world in both absolute and relative terms. Mass incarceration perpetuates modern day slavery, and as socialists, we seek to dismantle this system of exploitation, dehumanization, and subjugation. We see that the true goal of the carceral state is not to rehabilitate or protect, but to deny humanity and further the rancid institution of slavery that undergirds this country in the name of profit.

We know that dehumanization through criminalization, which begins for many at a young age, haunts our neighborhoods and communities by stripping individuals of their autonomy and agency. In Middle Tennessee, we further recognize that gentrification exacerbates this phenomenon; North Nashville, a historically Black community that has been cyclically plundered and neglected by the ruling class of the city since former slaves settled here 150 years ago, and which is once again under assault from both developers and local government, experiences an incarceration rate of 14% — the highest in the nation. People who have lived in our communities for decades are being pushed out in the same way that the colonizers of this continent displaced indigenous tribes who inhabited these lands for generations. As before, those who refuse to move will have the boot of the state pressed on their neck.

Mass incarceration is not an aberration but rather the product of a system created with the express purpose of ensuring that those profiting from the exploitation of society’s most marginalized will continue to do so. This is a system built by the creators of the United States of America and maintained by the forces of both capital and the state. The alliance between capitalism and the state is on full display when CoreCivic, the largest private prison corporation in the world, headquartered in Nashville, pays both its shareholders and sympathetic politicians dividends extracted through the misery of imprisonment. These profiteers are the direct ideological descendants of the architects, benefactors, and overseers of the Atlantic slave trade.

We support the demands of this strike, which are:

  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.

We call for solidarity between those of us whose only chains are wage labor and the incarcerated individuals who will begin striking on August 21. Through solidarity we will support those caught in the snare of the prison industrial complex until and after they are free. Through solidarity we will break down the walls that the racist, classist, sexist bourgeoisie erected to separate us. Through solidarity alone will we create a future for all of us that exists without chains or bars.

 

Middle Tennessee chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America endorses “No” vote on the upcoming Nashville Transit proposal.

The Middle Tennessee chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America encourages people to vote “No” on the upcoming Nashville Transit proposal.

Our chapter has voted by the slight majority of 52% to present a unified front opposed to the measure While on principle the chapter is strongly in favor of increased public transit, climate conscious governance, and an increase in union-backed jobs, this plan does not directly or equitably serve the citizens of Nashville that depend on transit the most.

Nashville faces not only a transit crisis, but also a crisis of gentrification and displacement on a monumental scale. Concrete issues such as transit deserts, rising housing costs, dependence on exploitative ridesharing services such as Lyft and Uber, and poor bus coverage all need to be addressed head-on by local government. The unfortunate fact that this transit plan lacks a community benefits agreement addressing any of these issues eliminates the possibility of a principled socialist endorsement.

Our chapter has publicly supported a local working class coalition called the People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing, and Employment (PATHE). We stand in solidarity with their demands which include 31,000 affordable homes by 2025, 24/7 bus service with expanded routes into transit deserts, and guaranteed living wage construction jobs.

Dirty money is heavily involved on both sides of the issue, with reactionary Koch-backed groups fighting the plan and reprehensible actors such as CoreCivic supporting its passage. We seek to distance ourselves from all corrupt interests and focus on the concrete, material impact this particular plan will have on our communities.

While any group that supports the general welfare of the people in Nashville should advocate for increased transit access, this plan serves only to maintain the status quo and accelerate the destructive forces of capitalist development in the area. We urge our members and supporters to vote against the Transit plan on May 1st and to join other working class efforts to create a better, equitable future for Nashville’s transit. This fight does not end when the ballot box closes