Ramsey Orta and Bella Eiko still ain’t free

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Ramsey Orta and Bella Eiko still ain’t free

Chief Alyx, Chief of the Black Hammer Times,

Ramsey Orta is out of prison.

So why do I still have this sickening feeling in my gut? Even after the news of his release and his successful Go Fund Me campaign, I can’t shake the feeling that Ramsey still ain’t free.

Cycles of abuse

In the summer of 2014, after filming the infamous video of the pigs lynching Eric Garner, within months it was clear that the pigs were targeting not just Ramsey, but his then-girlfriend, and even his mother. He was routinely tortured and poisoned by his jailers. Those same pigs even conspired to kill Ramsey by infecting him with COVID-19.

Even if we didn’t know the gory details of Ramsey’s story, or who the man behind the Eric Garner video was to begin with, each of us knows a Ramsey. We have family members, friends and neighbors like Ramsey. Some of us ARE Ramsey.

I say this knowing full well that Ramsey’s wife, Bella Eiko (a.k.a. Jessica “Hollie” Orta), has spent years recounting the story of how her husband abused her and how,

in 2016, he used the funds raised in his defense to stalk her, funds which she even helped raise.

Ramsey the activist and father–Ramsey the martyr–is also Ramsey the abuser.

I say this out of deep sorrow. Sorrow that two colonized people, under constant state-surveillance, should rush into a marriage to alleviate their loneliness and pain.

Sorrow that, after just two months of marriage in February 2016, their tumultuous life was exploited by the white nationalist state, when the pigs took the opportunity to escalate instances of domestic abuse and imprison Ramsey.

Sorrow for these ancient tragedies of colonialism playing out in ugly detail; colonialism which taught Ramsey to choke women, colonialism which left Bella few options but to call the pigs, despite every instinct telling her not to, out of the misguided belief they would keep her safe. I weep with sorrow for Bella and for her husband.

For every Ramsey Orta, there is a Bella Eiko.

We’ve got to move beyond the pigs

Ramsey’s abuses are heinous, and he should be held accountable, but the colonial pigs should have no right to intervene in that process. That should be self-determined by poor and working class colonized communities. Bella walked away from that relationship scared for her life, and the pigs didn’t change that. They never had Bella’s safety in mind – they just did what they always do: they captured and tortured a working class colonized man.

The day following the news of Ramsey’s release, Bella started her own GoFundMe. In the description, she says “In order to talk about police abolition we must also talk about the future we wish to replace it with. We will not be able to accomplish that safe future if we don’t hold accountable the actions of individuals that resemble those of the same patriarchal system.”

Nobody needs to tell her that calling the pigs is a contradiction–one that only deepens the traumas of colonialism.

She and Ramsey were both activists with WeCopwatch. She had been doing the work of filming the pigs before Ramsey got famous for doing the same. She even put in the work to overturn the contradiction by helping to raise funds for his bail, stating multiple times that the pigs were intentionally fabricating charges, using this opportunity to target both of them.

Since that night of February 13, 2016, it’s clear that neither of them has received closure.

The pigs will not heal our colonial traumas, and they will never bring closure. Where Bella is pleading for community and accountability, the pigs only tear communities and relationships further apart.

In her GoFundMe, Bella says she doesn’t want the pigs involved. I believe her, and our communities should learn to believe African women and organize for their safety BEFORE they become targets of horizontal violence.

Filming the people who film the pigs

If Bella understands the harm the pigs will bring, why did she turn to them when dealing with her abuse? To answer that, we need to ask: Who is Jacob Crawford?

Crawford is a colonizer who is the founder of WeCopwatch, the organization for which Ramsey and Bella worked. He is the first person Bella called after Ramsey assaulted her that night in 2016. It was Crawford who did not intervene after Ramsey allegedly used his donation money to track down his wife and continue abusing her. Crawford, in fact, deliberately left that episode out of his 2017 documentary. So, I suppose I’ve asked the wrong question.

The real question is: Who is Ramsey Orta in all this?

Mandatory Credit: Photo by M Stan Reaves/Shutterstock (6069938c)
Ramsey Orta who videotaped Eric Garner’s arrest at Richmond County Supreme Court to begin prison term. Ramsey Orta to begin prison term, Richmond County Supreme Court, New York, USA – 03 Oct 2016

To Crawford, Ramsey is not a person. He is a mascot, a one-hit-wonder, a cash cow. It is because of people like Crawford why leadership by colonized people stands clearest as a mandatory aspect of revolutionary work. It’s the difference between weak-willed activism and unified revolution!

Where has WeCopwatch gotten African and colonized communities in its seven years of its existence? What material changes has filming pig brutality brought us besides another venue to watch our colonized siblings die and report after report of the activists winding up dead?

Without Ramsey Orta, no one would even know the name of WeCopwatch. And yet it is Ramsey, the working class colonized man, who has spent the better part of five years in prison. It is Ramsey who has been harassed and framed and tortured by the pigs. Jacob Crawford is nothing more than a media queen using our pain for a paycheck.

The plain truth is that neither Ramsey Orta, nor Bella Eiko, needed a documentary or some convoluted copwatch training. They needed the pigs off their backs. Bella, in particular, needed someone to intervene on that night her husband attacked her.

It’s a disturbing trend, and a relevant one, considering the countless videos coming out on social media during these recent rebellions following the lynching of George Floyd. The pigs have billions invested in surveillance and the filming of colonized people during these anti-colonial struggles feeds into that state surveillance as more faces for their hit list.

Crawford did not intervene, not in February, nor afterwards. Crawford is not a revolutionary leader. He is a career opportunist, just another leech dividing colonized people from each other. We should abandon the idea of calling the pigs at the same time as we abandon the idea that colonizers can ever lead the struggle against colonialism.

All the murders caught on camera show that the pigs don’t care whether they are being filmed. They are murdering us because they have us out-organized. Only the leadership of poor and working class colonized people can ensure material change.

Looking back at the GoFundMe, it was Kim Ortiz, an African woman, and co-founder of Copwatch, who responded to Bella’s countless cries for help.

Healing the divide

I confess, the past few days have left a bad taste in my mouth. To scrutinize Ramsey Orta, to hunt down the receipts of his violent abuse against Bella, which she only kept because she knew the world would deny her safety, still coils my stomach after reading the accounts of the pigs doing the same investigations to incriminate him.

I watched Bella’s initial statement of her attack, where she is still willing to defend Ramsey and even raise money for him. I’m sure she knew what violence the pigs would reap at the slightest excuse. I felt a sickening feeling because we now know that no one in the community would intervene when he continued to stalk and abuse her.

It has been four years since Ramsey was handcuffed for assaulting Bella and kidnapping her son, and it has been six years since the filming of Eric Garner’s lynching by the pigs.

Ramsey’s GoFundMe has raised well over $300,000 to secure his legal defense funds and ensure his financial stability.

The day after his announced release from prison, Bella started her own GoFundMe with the help of Kim Ortiz, which raised over $100,000 in twenty-four hours so that she is able to do the same, on top of filing for divorce from her husband.

I wish them both the security they’ve searched for and been denied these past few years.

Still, it must be said: there will be another Ramsey and Bella. So long as colonialism stands, there will be many more. Ramsey still isn’t free because colonial society is just a big version of prison. The trauma from colonialism and prisons affects all of us. It traps us in a cycle of violence which we misdirect at each other, so Bella is also not free.

Becoming a revolutionary is a vow to fight for freedom in your lifetime. The revolution does not just need us to organize around smashing white power. It needs us to build power for all poor and working class colonized people: all genders, all ages, all body types and sexual preferences, all nations and religions. Revolutionary love means burning down the prisons AND ensuring safe housing and accountability for each and every one of us in the community, even when we do harm. Organizing networks of support is the collective responsibility of the entire colonized community, not just it’s working class colonized women. In Bella’s own words, “That is work we as individuals should take into our own hands with our own community instead of putting that emotional and physical labor on the black women in our lives.”

Revolutionary love means liberating the land which allows us to sustain those communities, and make that land a place where no one lives at the expense of another.

Revolution is the only antidote to white power. It’s the only medicine that will heal the colonial divide.

Black Power!

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