Founded in 1975, the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee (PFOC) describes itself as “a grassroots activist organization” that works to bring “social change” to an American nation it characterizes as rife with “racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and imperialism” — a land governed by “a capitalist system that favors a select few and oppresses the majority.” PFOC derived its name from a 1974 book published by the Weather Underground Organization. Titled Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism, this screed spurred the creation of radically minded “Prairie Fire” discussion groups in cities across the United States.
Portraying American history as an uninterrupted narrative of brutality and “imperialist expropriation,” PFOC accuses the U.S. of “systematically us[ing] its military, political and economic might to dominate and control the government, people and resources of other nations for its own benefit.” The organization refuses to recognize the United States as an entity with a legitimate right to exist — on grounds that the country’s creation and historical development were steeped in what PFOC views as irredeemable wrongdoing: “The early colonists stole Native American land and killed indigenous people. White settlers enslaved millions of Africans and used their labor to build the U.S. The U.S. government used military force to seize the northern half of Mexico in 1848 and to colonize Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Hawai’i in 1898.”
In PFOC’s calculus, more recent American history has been just as ignoble: “From Cuba to Iraq to Indonesia, U.S. attempts to control the world know no borders. The U.S. has plundered the resources and weakened the national identities and cultures of nations around the world. For millions of people, the result of U.S. domination is poverty, the violation of human rights and devastated environments.”
The issues of major concern to PFOC include the following:
(a) White Supremacy: “White supremacy remains a dominant ideology in the United States. This country was founded on the belief that white people are superior to people of color. … White supremacy is … a system of privilege that benefits all white people and permeates every aspect of our society … a society that blames people of color for poverty and crime.”
As evidence of the degree to which white supremacist attitudes suffuse American life, PFOC cites “racial profiling by the police, extreme bias in the application of the death penalty and in sentencing, and denial of adequate education” for minorities.
(b) Self-Determination for Oppressed Nations: “Here in North America, we support the right of the Puerto Rican, New Afrikan/Black, Mexicano, Hawai’ian and indigenous peoples to define and lead their struggles for liberation. We oppose the continuing efforts of the United States to crush these liberation movements.”
(c) Queer Liberation: “We support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender liberation. Queer people have the right to love each other openly and to define their own lives.”
(d) Women’s Liberation: “Institutionally and individually, male supremacy oppresses women. … The globalization of capitalism has increased the exploitation of women. … Inside and outside the home, women face violence from men. … A woman’s control of her own body and reproductive rights is still contested terrain.”
(e) Freedom for all Political Prisoners: According to PFOC, “close to 100 women and men are in U.S. prisons because they have dared to struggle for the liberation of oppressed peoples.” The organization directs special attention to the cases of: Sundiata Acoli, a Black Liberation Army (BLA) terrorist who murdered a New Jersey state trooper in 1973; Sekou Odinga, another BLA member who in 1984 was convicted on 6 counts of attempted murder of police officers; Leonard Peltier, an American Indian rights activist convicted of murdering two FBI agents in 1975; Mumia Abu Jamal, a former Black Panther convicted of the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia policeman; Marilyn Buck, currently serving an 80-year prison sentence for her involvement in a 1983 U.S. Senate bombing and other political attacks; Carlos Alberto Torres, who helped a Puerto Rican terrorist group carry out a series of bombings and other armed attacks on U.S. government offices and military installations in the 1970s and early 1980s; Janine Africa and Debbie Africa, both convicted for the 1978 murder of a Philadelphia police officer; David Gilbert, a Students for a Democratic Society and Weather Underground Organization member who was arrested in 1981 in connection with the killing of three people during an armored car robbery; Mutulu Shakur, best known for planning the infamous and deadly $1.6 million dollar robbery of a Brinks armored truck in upstate New York; Luc Levasseur, whose group United Freedom Front committed numerous bombing attacks and bank robberies in the northeastern U.S. between 1975 and 1984; Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, a former Black Panther Party and BLA member who was implicated in the shooting deaths of a San Francisco policeman and two New York City officers; Zolo Agona Azania, who sits on death row for his conviction in a 1981 bank robbery and the killing of an Indiana policeman; and Oscar Lopez-Rivera, who was sentenced to a prison term of 55 years for seditious conspiracy which included the bombing of 28 targets in the Chicago area.
While PFOC claims to support “non-violent civil disobedience” and “pacifism as both a tactic and a philosophy,” it “also respect[s] the right of people to take up armed struggle against colonialism for the liberation of oppressed peoples.”
On its website, PFOC has posted an October 29, 2001 article by one of its members, Benjamin Evans, who gave voice to the organization’s view of the Arab-Israeli conflict: _“_What does it mean when the current resident of the white house [sic] says he supports peace in Palestine, yet the U.S. continues to unconditionally support Israel. … People around the world know … that the Apache and Cobra attack helicopters used to assassinate Palestinian leaders, the armored pile drivers and armored bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes … [and the weaponry] used to attack Palestinians are provided by United States. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. … Like the Apartheid regime in South Africa, Israeli laws enforce segregation.”
In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, PFOC issued a “Statement on September 11th” that read, in part: “This is a human tragedy. We don’t want our government to bring this kind of tragedy and suffering to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq or anywhere in the world. … We need to understand what the U.S. government has done to create such strong anti-U.S. feelings. … The U.S. ignores the wishes of people in other countries and acts for its own benefit. This is why many people around the world see the U.S. as an arrogant superpower that will not listen to people’s demands.”
In that same Statement, PFOC expressed great concern “that fear and anger after the September 11th attack have led to racist attacks against Arabs and Muslims here in the U.S. Totally without justification, people in this country have attacked and killed Arabs and Muslims — and people who look Arab or Muslim. Large groups, mainly white men, have demonstrated at and attacked mosques …”
When the U.S. launched a military attack on Afghanistan in retribution for 9/11, PFOC released a December 15, 2001 “Statement on the U.S. War on Afghanistan and International Law,” which said: “Some people in this country believe that this is what Afghanis deserve since the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. But revenge will not bring back those who died on Sept. 11th. We appeal to people’s sense of humanity. Causing more suffering in Afghanistan will only cause more hatred and distrust. The people of Afghanistan did not bomb the World Trade Center.” Viewing the 9/11 attacks not as an act of war but rather as a crime to be dealt with via legal, and not military, channels, PFOC said: “Instead of bombing we propose an international tribunal, similar to the Nuremberg Tribunal after WWII which tried top level Nazis.”