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Vol. 80/No. 35      September 19, 2016

(front page)

Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality
gains support

TURLOCK, Calif. — Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who would not stand during the singing of the U.S. national anthem at recent games in protest against cop killings and the oppression of Black people, grew up in this town of 68,000 in the agricultural Central Valley.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” he told the press. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

A star player for the 49ers, leading them to the Super Bowl in 2013, Kaepernick has been a town hero. Now articles in the capitalist media like the San Francisco Chronicle are claiming the people of Turlock have turned against him.

Kaepernick is far from the first well-known athlete to protest racist injustice in the U.S., with its long history of slavery, Jim Crow segregation and racist criminal “justice” system.

“I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag,” Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodger star who broke the color barrier in professional baseball, said in his 1972 autobiography. “I know that I am a Black man in a white world.”

Socialist Workers Party members from Oakland drove here Sept. 4 to talk with working people by going door to door. At a McDonald’s in nearby Modesto, home health care worker Ashley Aostroski said she and many friends support what Kaepernick did.

In Turlock they found a mix of views. “I don’t like what he did and I don’t want to talk about it,” said one woman as she closed her door. “He’s a disgrace to this country,” said a seventh grader sitting on the steps to his house.

Others were supportive. “A lot of people in my church are against what he did,” said Maria Ikari, “but I know about cop brutality. I was unfairly handcuffed and arrested by Los Angeles police.”

“I’m glad to hear the Niners team is coming together behind him,” she said, referring to the support Kaepernick has been getting from teammates. After a locker room meeting where the quarterback explained why he was refusing to stand, teammate Eric Reid joined Kaepernick in dropping to one knee during the anthem at a game in San Diego.

“The injustices that are happening could have happened to one of my family members,” Reid told reporters. He is from Baton Rouge, where cops recently shot and killed Alton Sterling.

“There is a difference between dividing and speaking on, pointing out issues,” Reid said, answering those who said Kaepernick’s protest would “distract” and “divide” the team. “Kaep is doing the [latter] in an effort to unite.”

Most people Socialist Workers Party members spoke with supported Kaepernick’s right to do what he did. And they were eager to discuss the problems working people face in this town hard hit by the capitalist economic crisis.

“When I moved from Los Angeles, I had a hard time finding any job,” Ikari said when she learned of the party’s call for a federally funded public works program to rebuild crumbling infrastructure and provide jobs for millions.

“A lot of people here join the military because they can’t find other work,” said retired meatpacker Inez Lewis, who has two daughters in the military and contributes to a local homeless center where she often meets veterans. “The Veterans Administration is a disgrace. The politicians aren’t doing anything and will not do anything about this.”

“People here tend to be patriotic,” Lewis said. “Unfortunately, many are paying more attention to the anthem issue than to what he is saying.”

In fact, Francis Scott Key, who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” in 1814, was a slave owner, a bitter opponent of abolition and called Blacks “a distinct and inferior race of people.”

Down the street, a professor at California State University-Stanislaus said when he raised Kaepernick’s stand with his students, a majority were in support.

A Sept. 2 article by Angelina Martin in the Turlock Journal rebutted the false picture of Turlock being circulated in the media. “In just one stroll down Main Street,” she wrote, “I was able to find five people who support Kaepernick’s protest — two of whom are actively serving in the military.”

“The [San Jose] Mercury News interviewed a total of four Turlock residents in a video they produced which is currently making the rounds on Facebook, depicting us as a town who doesn’t have a single soul supporting Kaepernick or his cause,” Martin wrote. “If I could find five people in one walk, imagine what an entire production team could have uncovered.”

Discussion is raging nationally on sports pages and elsewhere in response to what Kaepernick raises and about the many protests against cop killings.

A letter from San Francisco Police Officers Association President Martin Halloran demanding the 49ers apologize for Kaepernick’s “foolish” statements was widely publicized. But no apology has been issued. So far the National Football League has defended Kaepernick’s right not to stand for the anthem.

Kaepernick knew in making his protest he risked being cut from the team, with the fact that he has played erratically recently not helping matters. But with growing support for his stand and his right to protest, including from teammates, 49ers coach Chip Kelly has announced Kaepernick will be the backup quarterback going into the fall season.

Kaepernick’s no. 7 jerseys have moved to fifth overall among NFL jersey sales and jumped from 20th to first among 49ers jerseys.
Related articles:
Solidarity with Kaepernick’s protest
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