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May 05, 1989 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1989-05-05

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WThe Michigan Daily

Page 7

Remember Cockrel
By Dan Archist

Ken Cockrel, a lawyer by pro-
fession and one of the leaders of the
Black revolutionary movement in
Detroit in the sixties, died last week.
His death is a loss to all, but his vi-
sion and memory provide an
inspiration for continued change.
Cockrel forced changes both by
working within the established sys-
tem and by constructing alternative
structures for use by the Black
community. One tactic was to use
the courts to expose the racism
prevalent throughout society and to
empower the Black community to
take action.
One of Cockrel's cases involved
James Johnson, a Black auto worker
for the Chrysler Corporation. On

workers, that Chrysler had pulled the
trigger and the UAW was an acces-
sory after the fact. The jury agreed.
Johnson was acquitted and in a civil
suit was awarded damages from
Another of Cockrel's cases in-
volved a Black man accused of
killing a member of STRESS, a
Detroit undercover police unit de-
signed to end street violence. Cock-
rel again went on the offensive, us-
ing the trials to show how STRESS
was a group of trigger-happy white
cops intent on killing Blacks and
how the Detroit Police Department
systematically terrorized the people
of color community.

July 15, 1970, Johnson shot and In the courtroom and out, Cockrel
killed two foremen and another was a community organizer, with
worker at the plant where he worked. activities ranging from the League of
The plant was characterized by un- Revolutionary Black Workers, which
safe working conditions and organized auto workers by bypassing
exploitation. In one two-week period the collaborationist UAW, to Black
two workers had been killed in on- Star Publications, an independent
the-job accidents and the morning of Black publishing firm that gave the
the shooting Johnson had received a people of color community access to
suspension for refusing to take part a media outlet.
in an assembly line speed-up. ,
Ken Cockrel was Johnson's de- Ken Cockrel's vision of a socialist
fense lawyer. He went on the offen- society is more needed now than
sive, stating, "We'll have to put ever. His ideas can be pointedly
Chrysler on trial for damages to this contrasted with those who would
man caused by his working condi- change Detroit by building up the
lions." Cockrel argued that because river front area with expensive gen-
of the history of racism and trification projects and by luring in
exploitation in the auto industry, corporations with tax abatements and
which relegated Black workers to the promises of cheap labor. Instead,
lowest paid and most dangerous Detroit needs large scale changes that
jobs, and the failure of the United give power to local groups, and eco-
Auto Workers union to protect nomic enterprises that produce for
social need, not for profit. Ken
. Dan Archist is a sophomore in the Cockrel was part of this vision and
College of Literature, Science & his work leaves a lasting legacy for
Arts. others to build on.
s~ G
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General Noriega with President Manuel Solis Palma, who is not recognized by the United States.
(Stephen Ferry, NACLA)
Condemnation of Panamanian elections hypocritical
U.S.: questionable critic
By Mike Fischer around the world. Panama is an ideal with Panamanian democracy and at-
As Panamanian Presidential elec- new center in the Western Hemi- tendant demonization of Noriega.
tions approach this Sunday, the sphere." Yes, Noriega is corrupt and
United States is stepping up its ef- But to be a center for capital, undemocratic. Yes, he would deal
fort to delegitimize them, pointing Panama had to be "safe," not so drugs to the devil himself. And he
to voting rolls of the dead, censor- much for democracy as for large in- certainly doesn't represent the demo-
ship, and strongman Manuel Nor- vestments. To make it "safe," the cratic aspirations of the Panamanian
iega's rank intimidation of opposi- United States has invaded Panama people.
tion party candidates. Noriega, eighteen times, not to mention its
claims the Bush Administration, is continuous occupation of the canal But U.S. opposition to Noriega
willing to stop at nothing in his ef- zone since 1903. It created the has a different origin, and helps ex-
fort to subvert democracy and main- School of the Americas there in plain why his demonization did not
tam power. 1946-directly contravening the begin until years after the U.S. gov-
Supported by organizations as Panama Canal Treaty of 1903-to ernment knew about his drug-run-
wide apart on the political spectrum train Latin American officers in tac- ning. Instead, the United States be-
as the Heritage Foundation and the
respected human-rights group Amer- 'To make it "safe" [for democracy], the United States
icas Watch, the Bush Administra- has invaded Panama eighteen times...'
tion's claims-or some of them-
are apparently true. But the same
Administration has had nothing to tics of counterinsurgency. And it gan pursuing its vendetta because,
say about why those claims are true, created the Panamanian National from mid-1986 on, Noriega refused
or about how the U.S. government's Guard in 1956, modelling it on to support Reagan's obsession with
policies in Panama have almost as- Anastasio Somoza's notorious Na- Nicaragua, declining to help Oliver
sured that Sunday's sad parody of tional Guard in Nicaragua. North frame the Sandinistas by
democracy there will take place. Nor The U.S. bolstered this military planting a shipment of East-bloc
has it had anything to say about the domination with almost as complete weapons in El Salvador to be
contradictions between the United control of Panama's political scene. "discovered" and traced to Nicaragua.
States' predictable concern for The Panamanian Constitution, dic- Months later, it was North's crony
democracy and "fair elections" in the tated in Washington, guaranteed the Admiral John Poindexter who first
lands of its enemies while it fla- United States the right to intervene leaked the news of Noriega's drug
grantly ignores any concern for the "in any part of Panama, to reestab- links to the press (NA CL A,
same in places such as Guatemala lish public peace and constitutional July/August 1988).
and, as recently as March, El Sal- order." It is a liberty the U.S. has
vador. employed frequently, participating or So as you read of Panama's
The United States has more in- acquiescing in numerous coups and elections and electoral fraud Sunday,
vestments in Panama than in the rest fraudulent elections, which help ex- remember who is condemning it, and
of Central America combined; 12% plain why Panama had 38 govern- why. It is perfectly appropriate to
of its trade and 12% of its oil pass ments in the first 65 years of its condemn Noriega and all he stands
through the Canal. Visiting Panama independence. As one U.S. official for. But it is even more appropri-
in 1974, David Rockefeller of candidly admitted in 1944, "as a ate-and our responsibility as U.S.
Trilateral Commission fame ob- matter of fact, there has never been a residents-to condemn the U.S. for
served, rather transparently, that successful change of government in condemning him. We must recog-
"Our increasingly interrelated global Panama but that American authori- nize the hypocrisy in the U.S.
economy needs additional stable ties have been 'consulted' before- stance, and learn enough about
money centers to mobilize effi- hand..." Panama to understand why, Sunday,
ciently the very vast amounts of It is in this context that we must the United States will be reaping the
productive capital now flowing judge Washington's sudden concern whirlwind it has itself sown.
Mike Fischer is a member of Soli- The Daily writes the headlines for letters and columns. If you have
darity, an independent Socialist or- questions about submitting material or the policy, please contact the
ganization and a member of the Opinion Page editors or staff at 747-2814.
Daily Arts staff.

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