Protesters cause uproar at City Council, one detained

Abdul-Aliy Abdullah Muhammad is surrounded by authorities. (Image: Michael Butler)

A protest by the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative raised an uproar at City Hall on Thursday morning after members of the group disrupted the weekly City Council meeting, with one member being dragged out.

The Black and Brown Workers Cooperative is an activist group that has been advocating against councilmanic prerogative — allowing City Council members a vast amount of power over the usage of lands they preside over — and disrupted an event announcing Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s re-election campaign on Wednesday night.

Councilwoman Blackwell had very little to say about the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative or their protests. “For some reason they’ve decided this is what they want to do,” Blackwell told Metro. “I don’t know who these folks are or what their agenda is. We’re going to keep doing the job we’re elected to do.”

Following Wednesday night’s events that saw Blackwell associate Michael Youngblood caught on video asking activists, “You want to get raped?” members of the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative entered City Council’s meeting room Thursday and began chanting in an effort to disrupt the meeting. Police quickly surrounded the group of protesters and a melee ensued that spilled into the building’s hallway.

Black and Brown Workers Cooperative co-founder Abdul-Aliy Abdullah Muhammad, who refused to leave Council chambers, screamed as they were dragged out and violently wrestled to the ground by police officers on the hallway’s floor. Members of the Black and Brown Cooperative attempted to help pull away Muhammed to no avail. (As of press time, Muhammad was reportedly still in police custody, but it was unclear if they would face charges.)

Sister Taleah Taylor, a community leader in support of Blackwell, was vocal about her disdain for the cooperative’s protest methods Thursday morning. “I’m still completely livid at how they attacked our elderly the other night at Jannie Blackwell’s re-election campaign [event],” Taylor said. “It wasn’t the fact that they were protesting. We were laughing at them protesting because they weren’t making much noise and had no idea what they were talking about.”

Dominique London is one of the co-founders of the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative and affirms that the group is working with the community in mind by challenging councilmanic prerogative. “Essentially, this is another example of people refusing to hear the truth about their beloved elected officials,” London said. “They’re refusing to hear the truth about the way the city has been operating. [Officials] have been abusing their power. We’re challenging councilmanic prerogative. We’re saying power needs to go back to the community because they can’t seem to figure out how to keep tabs on land.”

But Taylor believes the cooperative crossed the line when a Blackwell supporter was hurt. “We continued and they were getting mad that we were chanting, ‘Jannie, Jannie,’” Taylor said. “The person in the video [of the incident] with the blue jacket hauled off and hit Ms. Ali in the face. That woman is 60 years old. You have no business disrespecting our elders. We had no problem with them protesting but they went about things the wrong way.”

London looks at recent examples of officials abusing their privileges as incentives to protest. “A judge [Rayford Means] was able to purchase city-owned property and flip it for three times what he paid for it. Why can’t the city keep track of stuff like this? Another councilman, Kenyatta Johnson, was just put on blast for the same thing: giving out lots to [his] friends for the same prices and flipping them for four or five times of what they paid. We’re challenging this. You’re not competent enough and fit to be put in charge of community land and it needs to be given back to the people.”

London wants people to understand why civil disobedience has become a primary option to raise awareness for the cooperative. “Jannie Blackwell isn’t the only target,” London said. “This is a campaign against a system and policies that aren’t right. That’s why we came to disrupt. We’re not asking for a seat at the table because we’ve done that. We were approached first at Jannie Blackwell’s event. Our comrade Aurica Hurst was approached by Michael Youngblood. Aurica was kicked and after she defended herself was jumped. We’re not waiting anymore.”
 

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