Newark’s “Radical Mayor” Enlists Thousands to Spy and Snitch on Oppressed Communities

June 18, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Ras Baraka has set up a program called “Citizen Virtual Patrol,” which takes police-state surveillance of Black and Latino communities to new levels.

It is already the case that U.S. cities are saturated with private or government spy cameras—people have just gotten used to the idea of having their every public move recorded by someone. But Newark—which is more than 70 percent nonwhite—has gone a step further. Starting with 62 cameras and aiming for 300 more, cops are mounting round the clock surveillance on mainly lower income communities... and then livestreaming all of that footage onto a website that anyone with an email address can access. So far 1,600 people have signed up!

Baraka says this gives people “an opportunity to look at what’s going on in their neighborhood, a suspicious car, individuals that are there who shouldn’t be there ... anything of that nature.”

Think about what this means in a country where Black and Latino people are considered automatically suspicious not only by cops, but by a significant number of white people. In just the last few weeks, we’ve seen white “citizens” call the cops on a Black student at Yale because she fell asleep in her dorm common area and on two Black guys grilling in a public park in Oakland, California.

Now envision these George Zimmerman wannabes empowered with video feed from the ’hood, and told by the Newark director of police that “citizens can help us without putting themselves out there.” It’s not difficult to imagine hard-core racist trolls making a sport out of identifying Black people who look suspicious to them, alerting the cops and watching gleefully as people get jacked up, arrested, or even killed.

And that’s not the only problem. Among the oppressed there are all kinds of contradictions, and Citizen Virtual Patrol encourages people to bring the cops in to settle their scores, which is highly likely to make things worse, and means increasingly that the cops are in the middle of everybody’s business, finding out about every conflict, which can all be used to stir up divisions, recruit snitches, and identify leaders among the people who stand up against oppression and backward bullshit. All of this is immensely useful to the pigs in intensifying control over the people, particularly as they begin to rebel against their oppression, and especially if and as people take up the conscious struggle for revolution.

Ras Baraka and the Deadly Road of Trying to Make the System Work for the Oppressed

Ras Baraka is the son of the poet, playwright, and Black nationalist activist Amiri Baraka, and presents himself as a fighter against injustice. He describes himself as a “radical mayor.” He speaks with what seems like real heart about the conditions facing homeless people, about the lack of decent education, about jobless Black and Brown youth.

In 2017 he defended the righteous 1967 Newark Rebellion, saying that in the northern cities “people were moving [from the South] to find hope and employment and work and justice. They came, then was corralled and concentrated in poverty and segregation and racism still.... So all of these things create an atmosphere where people are frustrated, where they feel like they need to respond and that enough is enough.”

So why the fuck is Baraka spearheading this fascist program?

This is the logical outcome of the deadly road of working within the system, instead of working to overthrow it.

People like Baraka say that there is a way out of all the oppression without revolution, by getting people like them elected to office in cities with large Black and Latino populations. But the reality is that these cities are not independent entities—they exist within the larger system of capitalism-imperialism, which in the U.S. was built upon and still needs and enforces white supremacist oppression.

This system cannot and will not eliminate the oppression of people of color, and is in fact now moving in a genocidal direction. What it will do is offer to invest in the downtowns of impoverished cities, taking advantage of low rent and taxes while largely leaving the rest of the city and its inhabitants to rot, and blanketing their neighborhoods with police—and now, “virtual” citizen spies—to keep them under control, down, and away from the gleaming downtowns. And this is going on in Newark and is at the heart of Baraka’s plan to improve the conditions of the masses.

Baraka claims (and may believe) that he has “been able to figure out capitalism, or how to make sure that when productivity comes to your city the folks who’ve been there through the rough times are not pushed to the outskirts of the city.” He has enacted some reforms so that a small part of the jobs, housing, and tax inflow from this downtown investment trickles down to some of the masses.

But in the context of the continued brutal oppression of the big majority, all that amounts to is pacification. And the reality is that most of the wealth must be funneled into making downtown more attractive, and most of the jobs go to the mainly white and better off strata of professionals from the Newark suburbs and other areas. The new Whole Foods and the luxury condos going up downtown are far beyond the reach of the masses in Newark, whose average household income is $34,000 per year—$37,000 a year less than the statewide average.

And since capitalism cannot solve the problems of joblessness, poor education, police violence, and racism that give rise to crime and violence among the people, Baraka and others like him are compelled to amp up “enforcement” in the Black and Brown communities in order to make the city “inviting” and “safe” for capitalist investors. Whatever their intentions, Black “radicals” like Baraka end up as nothing more than front men for and enforcers of capitalism’s white supremacist rule.

This is nothing new. In fact, when Baraka was a small boy, a wave of Black mayors came into office in the wake of the ’60s rebellions—Coleman Young in Detroit, Maynard Jackson in Atlanta, Carl Stokes in Cleveland, Kenneth Gibson in Newark, and others. Most of them came out of the civil rights or Black nationalist movements, but all of them followed the logic of working within the system, and all of them ran smack up against the fact that the system as a whole was working to beat down, impoverish, and isolate the people they claimed and hoped to uplift. And from the standpoint of the system, it was helpful to have these “Black faces in high places” to preside over the workings of the system; they provided cover for policies and programs that would have been openly opposed as racist if carried out by white leaders.

Conditions for the masses continued to worsen, and along with that, the drug epidemic (heroin at that time) and accompanying crime escalated and were indeed real plagues confronting the people—plagues that essentially arose from, but also deepened and reinforced, the oppressed position of Black and Latino people.

Unable to uproot or significantly impact these conditions—because, again, these conditions thrived on the inequalities and misery this system ceaselessly generates—these mayors set out to attack the problems of crime and drugs by... escalating police repression. The War on Drugs—the driving force of mass incarceration that eventually threw millions of Black people into the brutal prison system from which they emerged (if they survived) largely unemployable and with almost no options to survive legally—was initiated and guided by Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and others at the highest levels of the system’s political apparatus. But caught in the logic of “working within the system,” these Black mayors largely threw in with the War on Drugs, opposing the decriminalization of marijuana, and supporting the ever-increasing sentences imposed for drug users and small-scale dealers, and the mandatory minimum sentences that translated into life sentences for petty crimes of survival.

Again, this is not about intentions, it is about science. As Bob Avakian (BA) has pointed out, “There is nothing more unrealistic than the idea of reforming this system into something that would come anywhere near being in the interests of the great majority of people and ultimately of humanity as a whole.” (BAsics 3:2). What is actually needed, what is realistic, even if difficult, is a thoroughgoing revolution that would uproot the whole system, and that would enlist the masses in the struggle to build a whole new world based on meeting the all-around needs of humanity, and not those of capital. Any other road has proven to lead people to becoming enforcers of the oppression of the people they may have set out at one point to serve.

quotes from BAsics: from talks and writings of
Bob Avakian

you can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics


Let’s talk about work and housing together. Look at all these neighborhoods which under the rule of the capitalist system have been allowed and even encouraged to rot. Look at the youth and others just hanging out on the street corner with nothing to do or no way to do anything that doesn’t get them into one kind of trouble or another. Imagine changing all that because now we have the power over society—we go to these youth and we say, “Here, we’re going to give you training. We’re going to give you education. We’re going to bring you materials. We’re going to enable you to go to work to build some beautiful housing and playgrounds and neighborhoods here for yourself and those who live here.” Imagine if we said to them, you can not just work, you can be part of planning all this, you can be part of figuring out what should be done for the benefit of the people to make this society better and to contribute to making a whole different and radically better world. Imagine if for these youth, they could have a way, not just to make a living, building housing, hospitals, community centers and parks and other things people need, but at the same time, they could have the opportunity and the dignity of working together with people throughout society to build a whole better world. There’s absolutely no reason why these things aren’t possible except that we live under this system which makes them impossible.

BAsics 2:6


You can think of this in terms of politics and the state: If you didn’t have, not only laws but a state apparatus of repression with the armed forces, the police, the courts, the prisons, the bureaucracies, the administrative function—if you didn’t have that, how would you maintain the basic economic relations of exploitation and the basic social relations that go along with that? How would you maintain the domination of men over women, the domination of certain nationalities or “races” over others, if you did not have a superstructure to enforce that, or if that superstructure—the politics, the ideology and culture that is promoted, the morality promoted among people—were out of alignment with those social and, fundamentally, those economic relations? Once again, you wouldn’t be able to maintain the order, stability and functioning of the system.

This is fundamentally why a system of this kind cannot be reformed. This goes back to the point that’s in the Revolution talk about systems, and how they have certain dynamics and “rules.” You can’t just play any card you want in a card game or slap a domino down any time you want, anywhere you want, because the whole thing will come unraveled. And you can’t have, as any significant phenomenon, cooperative economic relations in a system that operates on the dynamics of commodity production and exchange in which labor power itself, the ability to work, is a commodity.

A lot of reformist social democrats will talk in these terms: “Let’s have real democracy in the superstructure” (they don’t generally use terms like “superstructure,” but that’s the essence of what they mean) “and then,” they’ll say, “on that basis let’s ‘democratize’ the economy.” What would happen if you tried to implement this “democratization” of the economic base? That economic base would still be operating on the basis of, would still be driven by, the anarchy of commodity production and exchange in which, once again, labor power is also a commodity—in fact, the most basic commodity in capitalist relations and capitalist society—and soon your “democratization” of the economy would completely break down, because the dynamics of commodity production and exchange would mean that some would fare better than others, some would beat out others—plus you have the whole international arena where all this would be going on.

BAsics 1:21


The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.

BAsics 1:24


The first great step or great leap in the road to communism is seizing power from the capitalists. Without that none of this is possible. But seizing power from them opens that way to making the advance to communism.

Socialism is the new society established after the seizure of power. Socialism is three things: a new economic system, a new political system and a transition to the final goal of communism. Let’s talk about what this will make possible right away, once power has been seized. Let’s talk about the whole different nature of socialism as a society in which the masses of people are digging up the old rotten and putrid soil of capitalism and moving forward to the goal of a communist world.

BAsics 2:5

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