Solidarity Statement from Abahlali baseMjondolo (South African Shack Dwellers Movement) to Black Lives Matter
We offer our full support to the American rebellion
People dying from the coronavirus can’t breathe in their last hours. They die suffocating. It is a terrifying illness. In the United States black people are dying from this virus at a much higher rate than other people. This is due to the long history of racism.
George Floyd, who died at the hands of racist police in the United States, also died suffocating, saying that he couldn’t breathe. For more than four hundred years Africans have been dying from racism in the United States. Racism kills with everything from poor housing, to overwork, inadequate healthcare, stress, bullets and the knee of a police officer on a person’s neck.
Coronavirus is a terrible disease. Racism is much worse. It has killed many more people than the coronavirus ever will. When ordinary Americans go to the hospital with coronavirus the nurses and doctors and other hospital workers don’t even have the right safety equipment. Yet when Americans take to the streets to protest against the disease of racism they are met with police and soldiers with millions and millions of dollars of expensive equipment. It is very clear what is important to the elites in the United States, and to the racist in the White House.
The first Africans were bought to the United States as slaves in 1526. They revolted and most of them escaped and went to live with the indigenous people. That revolt has never stopped. Today American cities are in open rebellion against racism. Thousands and thousands of people are saying that enough is enough! We are in full support of this rebellion.
In our political education work, often organised in self-built classrooms on occupied land, we discuss the history of racism, and the history of resistance, including the revolt of enslaved Africans in Haiti in 1804. We have learnt that racism was invented in America and taken to the rest of the world from there. We all know that to kill a snake you must cut off the head. We will not put a final end to racism until it is defeated in America.
The struggle against racism is a global struggle. If you are an impoverished black person in South Africa or Brazil your life counts for nothing to the state, or to most of the rest of the society. From South Africa to Brazil our leaders are assassinated with impunity when we organise to build our own spaces to think for ourselves, to decide for ourselves and to build our own power from below. The comrades in South Africa, Brazil, England, Palestine, Turkey, India, Ireland and around the world are all in solidarity with the comrades in the streets of the cities across America.
People across the world mourned the death of George Floyd. People across the world are ablaze with hope as we watch the rebellion returning, day after day, to the streets of America.
From the early days of our movement we have received invaluable support from comrades in the United States, especially when we have faced repression. If we were not in lockdown due to the coronavirus we would be heading, in our thousands, to the American consulate in Durban and the embassy in Pretoria, to show our support for the rebellion. Today all we can do is to send this letter of support to all our comrades in the United States. But this letter is a promise, a promise that we are with you and will remain with you and will take direct action to support you when we can. We also promise that we will do all that we can, working with other progressive organizations, to make sure that Donald Trump is never able to set foot in South Africa. Every American comrade who is on the streets in this rebellion is welcome, at any time, in any of our occupations.
Our movement began from a series of road blockades organised from shack settlements around South Africa in 2004 and 2005. Our movement grew from this courage, organised disruption, burning tires, arrests, rubber bullets and police dogs. Today we have a movement of more than 70 000 paid members that can occupy land, build homes, meeting halls and gardens, organise road blockades, win battles in court and, most importantly, create a space where everyone’s dignity is respected and everyone can participate in making decisions about our lives and our struggle.
We hope that a powerful movement, or many powerful movements, will emerge out of the courage, disruption, fires, rubber bullets, teargas and police dogs of this rebellion.
Be strong. The oppressed people of the world are with you.