Viewpoint: Stop BAMN, by any legal means

BY BY REGGIE BROWN

Published January 24, 2006

Correction Appended: This article incorrectly called the group Stop BAMN By Any Means Necessary. The group's name is Stop BAMN By Any Legal Means.

Every now and then, as students stroll through the Diag on the way to class or home, there is a group on the steps of the Grad library spewing rhetoric to children of all ages whom it has bussed in from Detroit-area schools to push its agenda. BAMN, which stands for "By Any Legal Means," is a group that many students know very little about, except that it fights for affirmative action. But the story of BAMN has sinister beginnings. As The Michigan Review has reported, BAMN is a Marxist group created under the Revolutionary Workers League, which aims to incite revolution to overturn capitalism in the United States. BAMN's history is filled with riotous behavior and shows a habit of supporting radicals. This is a history I'm sure most University students know very little about.

To find an example of BAMN supporting a radical, we need only to look back to 2002, when an activist in the Detroit area named Malik Shabazz was disrupting Detroit-area school board meetings. The board took Shabazz to court, and BAMN came to his defense. Who is Shabazz? He is a radical segregationist who told the Metro Times he hopes that we will see "separate societies segregated on the basis of skin color." For this to happen, he believes, the "white capitalist power structures of the West must be eliminated," through armed revolt. That doesn't fit well with the teachings of Dr. King, who BAMN claims to support.

In a display of BAMN's ability to debate a topic on its merits, during a Dec. 14 meeting of the State Board of Canvassers, the group incited a riot. Prompted by Luke Massie and Shanta Driver, national co-chairs of BAMN, those in the room whom they had brought along (more Detroit-area students, of course) began to yell "They say Jim Crow, we say hell no!" The crowd then began climbing onto chairs before surging toward the front of the room and a table set aside for visitor testimony, near where the board itself was seated. The crowd flipped the table, nearly causing it to land on the court reporter. At this point, police entered the room to restore order and arrested a 17-year-old student on a misdemeanor charge. This account is available online at www.chetlyzarko.com/essays/boc-12142005.html.

Not that this is new territory for BAMN. Jessica Curtin, a BAMN member and University alum, was arrested in 1998 for rioting and destruction of property right here in Ann Arbor. During that same protest, Luke Massie (at it again) was also arrested for destruction of property, as The Michigan Review reported. Things also turned violent at a 2001 BAMN rally at the University of California-Berkeley, where two bystanders were beaten before riot police were able to bring the situation under control.

During one of the most recent BAMN rallies on the Diag, I had a chance to chat with a few of the youngsters who had been bussed in from Detroit. I asked them about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, and they had no idea what I was talking about. I tried to explain it quickly to them.

"Are you with us?" they demanded to know.

I explained that I wasn't and tried to tell them why.

"FAG!" The young student screamed, then proceeded to spit on me. Twice.

Well put. That discourse convinced me that BAMN really means what it says on its website, that "(It) will employ the methods of . mass education and action, of democratic discussion." In true Lincoln-Douglas-style debate, that young student was able to prove BAMN's relevancy. In a letter to the editor published in the Daily after that same rally (Civil rights advocates lacked civility on Diag, 10/28/2005), an Asian student revealed that BAMN protestors had yelled racial slurs at her, then threw soy sauce at her. How's that for racial sensitivity?

BAMN will only screw up this campus as long as it operates here. The problem is that many people - I suspect even many students who are a part of BAMN - do not fully understand what it is that the group stands for. Just look at its name. "By Any Legal Means" clearly implies violent intent, which has been confirmed by the various violent acts carried out by BAMN's members. Even those who support affirmative action need to understand that BAMN only serves to hurt the cause it tries to promote.

Brown is an LSA junior and writing on behalf of The Coalition to Stop BAMN, By Any Legal Means. He is also a member of the Daily's Editorial Board.