By Jakob Stein
On Sunday morning, Chas Moore, founder and executive director of local non-profit Austin Justice Coalition (AJC), announced that the group was canceling their “peaceful protest” planned for that day, citing safety concerns after the mass rebellion the day prior. His rationale for the cancellation, as well as his body of work in ‘police accountability’ activism, are both indictments of the bankrupt politics non-profits that actively work with the police in the name of reform.
In a livestreamed statement, Moore said that “other people of color and white folks” had “co-opted” and “colonized” black anger in the current uprising, and that there was no way to “guarantee Black people’s safety” during the event. His words display a bald-faced cowardice in the face of the largest upswing in rebellious political activity in decades, especially considering the fact that Black people in the US can never be guaranteed safety and that is precisely why so many people have taken to the streets in rebellion.
Moore justifies this by stating that the uprisings in Minneapolis and Atlanta were “Black-led” and asserts that the one in Austin was “predominantly white,” without backing up his statement in any way. In fact, videos from last weekend’s protests show quite the opposite – Black, brown, and white people led and participated in fierce confrontations with police, property damage, and the expropriation of stores in an inspiring demonstration of popular unity against the people’s common enemy in the police.
Thankfully Moore does not actually have much clout among the working masses of any race, and thousands of people attended the action ready to rebel, despite his trepidation. Unable to pass up a chance to be in front of bourgeois news cameras, Moore himself still showed up to the very demonstration he ‘canceled’ and shamelessly chided the audience saying, “if you have any sense you won’t march.” His words and actions should be viewed as objectively counterrevolutionary, doing everything in his power to prevent any meaningful action against the racist police.
Ironically, Moore’s attempt to prevent the “hijacking” of his event by militant protesters was, in practice, capitulation to their leadership.
Moore’s implication that outside, radical agitators are responsible for instigating violence against the will of Black people actually mirrors what his good friend, former APD chief and current Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo, tweeted on Wednesday: “Interesting to find some of the radicals @Austin_Police have been facing in their city trying to hijack the march by 60,000 Houstonians last night in honor of #GeorgeFloyd and his family.” In a response to another user he also claimed, without a shred of evidence, that people from Austin came “not to protest, but to incite.”
When Acevedo announced that he was leaving APD to become the new Police Chief in Houston, the Austin Chronicle wrote, “The Austin Justice Coalition is fronted by Chas Moore, a charismatic young black activist who’s gone from despising Acevedo to commending him as a city leader.”
“Moore speaks to one idea specifically as a method of raising community awareness for the policing profession,” the same article continues, “diversion programs where people who get speeding tickets and other minor offenses aren’t required to pay a ticket. Instead, they can do a ride-along with a patrolling officer. ‘So they have a better insight of what a cop’s 9-to-5 looks like,’ says Moore.”
The idea that working-class Black and brown people could benefit from police ride-alongs and a “better insight” into their point of view is insulting at best and downright dangerous at worst.
“The fact that [Acevedo] can willingly take criticism from the community – but, at the same token, sit down with community members and work toward a better policing model – I think that’s pretty remarkable,” Moore said in a statement to local NPR station KUT. In an article from the local CBS affiliate from the same time period, the author writes, “Moore says Acevedo giving young, black activists a seat at the table is playing a huge role in building trust.”
What is clear from Moore’s statements is that as long as professional, salaried activists get a seat at the table with our oppressors, they are deserving of his stamp of approval.
Moore’s praise of Austin police is not limited to Acevedo, in the four years since current Chief Brian Manley took the reins of APD, Moore has given statements to the media like, “I think Austin has the potential to be an example city of what community policing looks like and what accountability looks like,” “I always tell people I’m willing to lose my street cred by saying that I think our police department is moving in the right direction,” and “the department grasps the role of policing in the current political and social climate, doing its best to bolster relationships, particularly in the black, immigrant and marginalized communities that have been historically oppressed.”
The reason Moore vacillates between being a critic of the police and being their champion has to do with his particular role and function in the capitalist/imperialist system. Every repressive government needs representatives from the people to legitimize their oppression. In the case of ‘police accountability’ non-profits, this process contains four steps: 1) after yet another case of police brutality or misconduct, pose as an opponent of the police to garner support from the community, 2) channel the people’s anger into elections, a change in leadership, or piecemeal reforms, 3) promote the police as making positive steps forward, 4) rinse and repeat, all the while collecting money in the form of grants and city contracts for ‘diversity’ and ‘bias’ trainings.
Organizations like AJC consistently promote respectability politics in order to keep their ‘seat at the table.’ For example, in an interview with local ‘justice’ blog, Grits for Breakfast, in which Moore participated with two police union representatives, he said “We wanted the information on the bad cops because everybody thinks we’re anti cop group, but we’re not, we’re anti bad cop. We’re anti secret cop and all that type of stuff.”
At the end of the day poverty pimps like Moore and AJC function as intermediaries between the masses and the imperialist institutions that oppress them. In times of acute crisis and mass rebellion, these groups reveal their true nature by attempting to quell the people’s anger and redirect that energy into dead-end legal processes. The masses were right to ignore Moore’s warnings on Sunday, and their continued rebellion is a sign that the people are rejecting the false promises of politicians and paid activists in ever greater numbers.