JEELANI SHAREEF, a 37-year-old Portland native, leads the Portland chapter of the Black Riders Liberation Party (BRLP), which bills itself as the “new generation of the Black Panthers Party for Self-Defense.” Shareef attracted notice earlier this month at a July 7 Don’t Shoot PDX and Black Lives Matter march in response to a pair of police shootings—both for his impassioned anti-police rhetoric (“You pull your pistol out and you bust that, because at the end of the day, it’s going to be you against them,” he said, becoming the subject of an upset Infowars post) and for confronting and protecting a right-wing blogger who pulled a gun on the crowd.
We spoke with Shareef about the BRLP, killings by and of police officers, and race.
On starting a BRLP chapter in Portland in 2014: “Initially, it was not for any kind of anarchy or going against the government. What had happened was a young lady was killed while she was pregnant—Ervaeua Herring—by some young African American males. When I got into it, it was more because we need to control our own people and stop the senseless violence and self-hate. At the end of the day, no one else is going to save our people but us. Clean your backyard before you try to clean someone else’s.
“It was for me to provide an outlet for my people to have unity and also to police ourselves. A lot of inner-city young men and women get into gangs because they want a sense of filling the void of militancy. We come from a long line of warriors and we want to be warriors and natural at heart, but it needs a right direction and focus. For me, that focus is building unity, providing a paramilitary unit that can train black people for whatever it is they need to face in life. It’s not a bad thing when Europeans go out and train with the NRA, but when black people do it it’s perceived as a terrorist thing, that they’re training for the government. We’re training just like anybody else wants to train."
- Jeelani Shareef speaking at a July 7 rally
- Doug Brown
On prison and self-defense: "We’d be a fool and ignorant not to know this land was built off guns and bloodshed, and it seems like this government—the white supremacy faction—they only understand violence. They killed the most peaceful person we got, Martin Luther King Jr. We had Malcolm X who was radical; he was a little angry, and by all means he had to the right to be, about the history that was kept from us, how we were treated, slavery. But they killed the most peaceful man we got—they only understand violence. You didn’t have to kill that man, you only killed him for the knowledge he knew and how he could unify people. That means you were only afraid of your infrastructure being torn down, and your lineage not being generationally passed down wealth. If you can keep the wealth in and keep them poor, and if they get swept up by this guy and unified, they might go against what you got going on and that’s to keep you rich and keep them poor.
"That was my whole thing about getting into the Black Riders Liberation Party was to police ourselves, give pride to ourselves, give dignity to ourselves, get away from this gang violence. If we’re killing each other and banging and doing gang stuff and going into the prison industrial complex, then they’re still fulfilling what their agenda is. Filling the prisons up—that’s what they want. I got in for that. There has to be someone who can go against the system, otherwise we’re just going to be swallowed up into it.
“I only teach my people about self-defense, defending yourselves even if it’s foreign or domestic, educating yourselves, liberating your mind, organizing and being prepared for whatever is to come. We don’t know martial law is real, but we know executive orders are real and it’s not about an ‘if,’ it’s about a ‘when’ the plan is going to be executed. There are a lot of conspiracy theories about people getting put in camps, we do know about FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] camps and how we’re going to be put there.
“I know I was on record saying, ‘Pull out your pistols and bust at them.’ By me saying that, it’s as a black person. The only time I’m gonna call 911 is on 911—this is our truth and our fear. It’s about that, and being very cautious about pulling over on a dark road where someone is not there to take care of you and film what’s going on, because it could be a life-or-death situation. At this point, we know that we can be killed under these civil laws and not have any laws that apply to us. One day, America is going to have to wake up and realize the hate you gave little infants will one day fuck everybody up, everybody as a people."
- Jeelani Shareef and Jessie Sponberg confront Michael Strickland
- Doug Brown
On approaching Michael Strickland, the 36-year-old blogger who pulled a gun on protesters earlier this month: “A lot of people saw at the protest that I said to arm yourself and bust back, but a lot of people missed that I stopped this guy who was down at the protest with a gun, a 30-round clip and five extra magazines. I didn’t go to him trying to incite violence or anything, I went there to peacefully save the people. I went off the podium, talking, to go address this situation with the man with a gun. I felt it was the right thing to do because people were down there on a peaceful protest, down there to be in solidarity with something that’s blatantly good vs. evil.
"Because people were down there being so good-hearted—and it wasn’t even a lot of my people, black people, down there—the only European that had a gun waived it at Europeans, and it took a black man to walk up to this man and tell him, 'Look, I don’t know what happened, but who’s the aggressor? Who do you feel threatened by?' I’m asking this man questions and he said, 'It was them over there.' 'So let me deal with it, I got them, I’m going to make sure you’re cool, but can you leave this place without incident?' Those are the questions I’m asking this man with the gun."
On his “anti-police” rhetoric: “I’m just a person speaking for millions of people who are just very frustrated. We’re angry, we’re very hurt. Four-hundred-plus years of hurt. People like to think slavery was so long ago, but we’re just a couple of generations from being bit by dogs because we’re black. You have to realize that when I speak and I speak with anger, I’m still growing. I’m still learning my way through this whole thing, and my big mouth is probably going to get me in more trouble than my actions. Because at the end of day, Europeans and their guns, they do. We only say. If you look at the statistics of the people who killed cops last year, it was mostly European men. We put so much stigma on the black-on-black violence issue—‘you guys are such animals’ and so forth—but if we take a step back and decode the whole media perception of black people, we can actually see that most of the cop killings were done by European men. Why are we still the enemy?
"You don’t see black people running around hanging people, lynching people, or doing any of that. If we’ve got the guns turned on ourselves, what are you mad for? These are the same people who don’t even want us on the planet anyway, so what are you mad for? So when you hear me speak in this kind of language and tone, and when I say I don’t give a fuck, that’s because I’m just angry as much as anybody else who had to look at their grandmothers with lashes on their back. There’s just too many games being played by America. And then there’s bombings on our own soil, the MOVE movement, when police literally dropped bombs on a black neighborhood.
"People think we’re not supposed to be this angry, and we tell people to shoot back. It’s either that or get shot! When I speak, it’s because I know this information and I think America as a whole is tired, and the government’s ugly hood is getting pulled up, because they’re showing they don’t care about people."
On the five police officers killed by Micah Johnson in Dallas: “I don’t agree with it, to a certain point. Do I understand why he did it? Yes, I do, because I’m just as angry as him. He was just as angry as a lot of people. People are just as angry as this guy who went and killed the police. People are starting to feel if police don’t come out and at least say [police killing people] is wrong—to step out and at least say this is wrong—and don’t be scared to put your job in danger, and come out unified in solidarity.... So until the police come out of their offices, behind that blue shield, drop the badge, and say they’re now telling the people that it’s not okay for cops to kill people today, people are just not going for it. So yeah, I’m mad, and I’m saying grab your gun and pistol. It’s not that I’m telling black people to do it, I’m just being a voice of what a lot of people feel. Do I agree with [Micah Johnson]? No, because I think it will only lead to more bloodshed. But do I understand why he did it? Yes.
"I understand a rebellion against the powers that be. America can’t keep its ugly hood up too much longer, because there are only so many distractions. People are starting to wake up and realize these distractions aren’t even working no more."
On the BRLP, nationally: "We have chapters from state to state. It was started in Los Angeles in 1996 and we have chapters all over. We’re not doing anything radical—I’m talk. Every chapter that I’ve been affiliated with, no one has really even been to jail. The Flint water crisis, we helped there as a people, what we should all be doing. The chapter I have now, we can put our money together and do what we’re supposed to do and take care of our own—send water and food, do what we can do to make sure our people is cool, because we can’t wait on FEMA—we saw that with Hurricane Katrina. For all the people saying we’re lazy and on welfare, I mean damn, give your hats off, we got together and created an organization that took care of our people with our own finances, we didn’t ask for nothing."
More on Shareef’s BRLP chapter in Portland: "We’ve got a few people, and some people who are just feeling their way through it. It’s a lot of information to take in and it’s a scary thing to get involved in, so a lot of people are still reluctant. We’re just giving information; we’re not trying to build a militia army to go do anything to anybody. We should know basic camping skills, we should know how to start a fire without a lighter or matches, we should know how to survive off the grid. I think everybody should. It’s been denied from us."
On his message: “If you’re going to stand with me in peace, be prepared to pick up a rifle with me in war. Practice peace but prepare for war. So what I’m telling everybody—European, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, no matter what you are—practice peace, be peaceful people, but prepare for war because the war has always been initiated by the dominant society. The police is only [there] to protect assets of the United States, to protect and serve. No one ever asks who they’re there to protect and serve.”