Town Hall Meeting at the University of Maryland to Organize Against the Murder of Richard Collins III

By Karyn Pomerantz, June 5, 2017

On May 20, a white neo-Nazi student at the University of Maryland in College Park murdered Richard Collins III, a black student who was waiting for an Uber on campus.   This killing occurred just days before another neo-Nazi stabbed 3 people who were protecting 2 women from his vicious harassment. He killed two of the men and wounded a third who tried to prevent his stabbing two women because one wore a hijab.  Trump’s racism has emboldened many racists, spreading terror among black, Muslim, Asian and Latin people.

Through US history the ruling class, the super-rich and their henchmen, have used racial violence to repress resistance.  During Reconstruction after the Civil War, when free black people gained government positions, the KKK attacked black neighborhoods and union meetings.  After World War I, they set black towns on fire, instigated race wars, and lynched many.  Racists also murdered many civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evans.  Meanwhile, the police, the “Klan in blue,” assassinated Black Panthers.

These attacks engendered resistance as is happening at the University of Maryland.  In the 1960s, the Deacons for Defense and Justice, an armed group of black men, protected civil rights workers from Klan attacks.  During the 1970s, the anti-racist members of the International Committee Against Racism (InCAR) regularly roughed up Klan and Nazi members, causing the Grand Wizard of the Klan to announce a drop in membership.  College students picketed classes and spoke out against racist science that claimed intelligence was linked to skin color.  Faculty and other activists attended professional meetings to counter these theories.

On June 1, the Black Student Union, Protect UMD, student government organizations, and others invited students, faculty, staff, and community residents to a Town Hall meeting to strategize against the murder of Richard Collins III and other acts of racism, such as nooses found on campus.

One hundred (100) people attended.  The group was young and old, and multi-racial, including students from Bowie State University where Richard Collins studied.  We sat around tables exchanging ideas followed by an emotional and angry 2 hour speak-out.  African-American students expressed their fears and discomfort as UMD students.  They directed most of their anger and disappointment at Wallace Loh, the University’s President, and other administrators, describing his lack of a meaningful response to this murder, recent and past nooses, the pepper spraying of women at a graduation party, and anti-immigrant posters on campus.

Protect UMD, a coalition of 25 campus groups representing marginalized students and other issues, such as Palestinian rights, issued a set of 64 demands to counter the racism.  Demands ranged from more faculty of color, zero tolerance for hate speech, anti-racist trainings for staff and students to divestment from companies involved in prisons, more funding for multicultural groups and scholarships for students from underrepresented groups.  See http://www.dbknews.com/protect-umd-demands/#top for the complete list.

While many called for including more students on the Task Force investigating the violence, others claimed committees were a waste of time and a strategy to delay any response.  Several people asserted that universities socialize students to participate in capitalism and accept its ideas.  Many called for including more students of different backgrounds to fight back.  This outreach is essential to building a movement against Mr. Collins’ lynching, slashed health care, and other social benefits.

These racist attacks endanger all students and workers, although with different levels of risk.  The class of people who control business, media, and policies have always used racism to divide and weaken a much bigger working class who make everything run.  Plantation owners made it illegal for black, native and white people to interact, many union bosses excluded black workers, industrialists practiced discrimination to increase their profits, and politicians like Trump and Reagan slashed social services by portraying poor people as criminals and parasites.

As many other articles on this blog discuss, increasing repression will be needed as the U.S. continues to lose its place as the main economic world power and engages in more wars over resources and markets. Racism and nationalism are the main tools the bosses use to keep us from analyzing our problems correctly and uniting to fight back.

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