By Ed Dalton
It is impossible to speak of anything else except the need to be like Garrett Foster, that we need more men like him and that if there were, the struggle for a better world would be that much closer to culmination. Reactionaries and police lovers have already pulled out all the stops to shame the man who by all social and moral measures was a hero. Many of us at Tribune of the People had the pleasure of knowing Garrett and his fiancée Whitney Mitchell, both of whom were a staple at actions we have covered over the past two months. Being a protester itself is at times heroic, but this was just the start of the shining example Garrett provided to others on how to live and die.
Garrett was in the US imperialist air force. Like many youth from small towns he ended up there for complex reasons we cannot fully know. His career in the USAF ended when his fiancée Whitney was struck with a mysterious illness to which she lost her arms and legs. Lesser people than Garrett would not have made his heroic decision to leave the military and return home to care for the woman he loved. He stayed by her side as her primary caregiver and had fulfilled this role for almost a decade.
Whitney, who is a Black woman, is also a hero. Her physical condition never diminished her role in siding with her people and other oppressed people. They cooked food for the homeless, marched for Black lives, and against evictions in Austin’s working class community. Their love for one another is warming, and it was equally matched by their shared love for the people and the cause of the people.
We can amplify the call to be like Garrett by making the call to also be like Whitney, a hero in her own right, who has also made a heavy sacrifice. While Garrett has given his life in the defense of the people, Whitney has also sacrificed the love of her life, her best friend, and her caregiver.
Instead of being defeated by the tragic events of last night, Whitney continues struggling in the memory of her fiancé. She made plans to be at a community vigil the night immediately after her fiancé’s murder, at the very spot where Garrett gave his life for the people. When an Austin police officer, one of the very people the couple had spent the last 50 days protesting, attempted a PR stunt by giving her flowers only hours after Garrett’s death, Whitney rightfully rejected them, showing the world exactly what honor and integrity look like in the hardest moment in one’s life. A woman who is no stranger to hardship and bound to a wheelchair has stood tallest among us.
Love for the people and for one another exemplifies the essence of this struggle for anyone willing to look at it. It was this love that motivated Garrett, and it is clear in the way he lived and died. Garrett was there to protect those he loved, and the movement he was dedicated to. He was not afraid to die, and death greeted him far too soon. His death is heavy. The people of Austin will never forget Garrett. He will live on in every protest, on the lips of every protester who shouts down injustice, and in the hearts of every rebel who sets their sights on the exploiters and oppressors condemning the people to misery. Garrett inspires, and his death demands struggle.
In many ways, Comrade Garrett shared the fate of Black people. While many talk about putting white bodies on the line for Black lives, it was Garrett who did this every day, and not in a token performative way, but in his practice from morning to night. He lived for his fiancée and for the people and would die for this struggle, for the righteous struggle of Black people to live as free human beings in this backwards, evil society. Garrett was a fighter for Black people and him being white did not determine which side of the barricades he stood on. Whitney was his family, and as with many mixed families he undoubtedly feared for her safety when it comes to any interaction with the police. White people should be like Garrett and convince other white people to do the same.
When the murderer fired fatal shots into Garrett’s body, his comrades in arms fearlessly returned fire in defense of the crowd. The police will not protect the people. They are there as enemies of the people. It was the protesters themselves who without hesitation embodied the slogan “arms up, shoot back” while the murderer absconded from the scene, narrowly escaping immediate people’s justice. It is clear that this movement is a fighting movement, which is prepared to go all the way with the fight.
The loss is heavy but pales in comparison to the inspiration offered by the way Garrett lived, and his fearless sacrifice. There is no guarantee for those fighting for a better world. Any protest could be the last one for any protester, and everyone will greet death sooner or later, but most will not have shown the heroism of Garrett Foster, and most will not earn such a heroic death. All should pick up Garrett’s rifle which lay at his side and take it up in the service of the people, so that they might live and die for the people.
There is no higher calling, and it rings loudly. The conditions in the US are unacceptable and must be fought to the bitter end. No fate is worse than allowing US imperialism to continue. Garrett, before his death, joined in the chant “one solution, revolution!” and we must express to our readers, our friends and our families that we all must mean this, and mean it from the bottom of hearts the size of Garrett’s, with the courage and perseverance of Whitney.
We call on all our supporters to extend their support, love and gratitude to Whitney Mitchell, and take the oath to be more like Garrett Foster, who died fighting for Black lives, in service of the people. We call for yearly commemorations on the night of July 25 in the name of Garrett Foster and the struggle for Black liberation.