To Snitch or Not To Snitch: The View From The Other Side

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The “Stop Snitching” slogan that has spread through urban America like a wildfire... emerged out of the county and state prisons of America and was a legitimate backlash against unscrupulous law enforcement agencies striking deals with unscrupulous criminals to testify, truthfully or falsely, against their co-defendants or any other individual charged with a crime with whom the D.A. lacked the evidence to prosecute. read more | freesalim.net

[ Article originally published in
The Defenestrator | See also: The Defenestrator Newspaper releases 40th Issue ]


I decided to write this article in response to the endless criticism that is being directed against the “Stop Snitching” movement by critics claiming that Hip Hop is responsible for the “Stop Snitching” movement and the “Us vs. Them” mentality youth of color have towards law enforcement agencies. As a former gang member and street combatant of the drug wars that dominated the streets of Philly in the late 80’s and a member of the generation that came of age listening to Hip Hop I believe I am qualified to offer a frontline perspective from the other side of the issue, especially as one who was sentenced to life without parole as a juvenile because of the testimony of a snitch co-defendant that was close to 10 years older than I.

The “Stop Snitching” slogan that has spread through urban America like a wildfire, which many refer to as a “movement”, has emerged more so as an “urban phenomenon” that is not organized or directed but rather is spontaneous and fluid. This phenomenon emerged out of the county and state prisons of America and was a legitimate backlash against unscrupulous law enforcement agencies striking deals with unscrupulous criminals to testify, truthfully or falsely, against their co-defendants or any other individual charged with a crime with whom the D.A. lacked the evidence to prosecute. It was born of prosecutors granting immunity and informant fees to criminals in exchange for their testimony only to see these same criminals leave prison and resume a life of crime in the hood. It was born of prosecutors striking deals that allow drug kingpins to keep the profits of their drug empires in exchange for their testimony against street level dealers that worked for them only to see these “kingpins” released to become bigger kingpins while on the payroll of the state and federal authorities. It was born of prosecutors striking deals with 30 year old triggermen who murdered in exchange for their testimony against their 16 year old co-defendants. It was born of grown men breaking under pressure providing statements to the police implicating a juvenile co-defendant as the ringleader of a murder. It was born of prosecutors striking deals with jailhouse informants who came forward time and time again claiming a prisoner “confessed” their guilt in a casual conversation on the yard.

Is it necessary to continue? There are countless other examples. It is these circumstances combined with the countless families within the black and latino communities fractured due to the testimony or statement of a snitch who abused the system and the prosecutors who were/are their partners in crime. This gave birth to the “Stop Snitching” phenomenon.

I do not want it to be interpreted that I am ignoring the endless suffering of families within the black and latino communities that have lost a loved one to gang or drug related violence. I do want it to be emphasized that “Stop Snitching” is not directed to the majority of people within these communities that are working class people. It does not apply to the grandmother living in terror from idiot thugs terrorizing the neighborhood and robbing working class people of their hard earned dollars and possessions. It does not apply to child molesters who prey on children, child murders, rapists or any category of sexual predator. “Stop Snitching” is directed at those who are in the “game” and street life, informing and telling on people in exchange for the freedom to continue their criminal activity. It is a call to responsibility: If you are captured, be prepared to do the time and accept the consequences. Ride it out. Don’t cut statements or strike deals to save your own ass.

Just as Hip Hop did not create the “Stop Snitching” phenomenon, it did not create the “Us vs. Them” mentality between law enforcement and youth of color. The “Us vs. Them” mentality between youth of color and law enforcement has long been raging within American society. Youth of color did not create this conflict, it was created by law enforcement agencies that are saddled with historical, institutional racism and prejudice and view youth of color as “the enemy” and our neighborhoods as “enemy territory” and “free fire zones”. Every major urban rebellion in this country was a direct response to police brutality against persons of color! The history of this relationship is so extensive it would be a waste of time to further elaborate.

Why is no one challenging the “blue wall of silence” among law enforcement agencies that encourages police officers not to snitch on each other or even stop fellow officers from committing acts of brutality on individuals. How many officers were not charged with or acquitted of murder, assault or civil rights violations because officers refused to testify against a fellow officer. Is it any wonder why gangs refer to police as just another gang? Why is the policeman’s code of silence legitimized by the state?

What does it say about the leadership of the black and latino community when the most widespread protest phenomenon since the civil rights/black liberation movements amongst the youth today is a campaign to stop snitching? How is it that rappers and so-called thugs have the vision to capture and direct the anger, frustration and lack of direction of the youth while all the activists and educators have intellectualized the debate and have nothing to say? It is because the activists and educators have abandoned the hood. They have abandoned the prisons. In their retreat they have allowed the debate to be defined by the streets and those in prison. Instead of attacking the Hip Hop community and the youth embracing the “Stop Snitching” call they ought to be out there tapping into this discontent and frustration and directing it into more positive community action.

Like it or not the “stop snitching” call at its roots is about LOYALTY to one’s friends. If activists can re-direct some of this loyalty to one’s family, friends, neighborhood and people we could seriously begin re-building our neighborhoods and ending senseless murders. That ain’t going to happen when activists or community leaders align themselves with law enforcement agencies responsible for the injustices and hardships committed by snitching. The youth ain’t going to pay attention to anything anyone has to say when they align themselves with the biggest and baddest gang on the set = law enforcement. Here is the cold reality: At the end of the day, like it or not, that damn young thug on the corner with his hoodie pulled up and his baseball cap on and those hardened men emerging from prison with empty eyes are the people you have to talk to in order to put a stop to the senseless violence in our neighborhoods. Let’s start rapping...

Robert Saleem Holbrook
#BL-5140 SCI-Greene
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370





Mayor and Police Commissioner

Mayor and Police Commissioner back to earth, in 40 days

Mayor and Police Commissioner back to earth, in 40 days

"The whole city has problems with violent crime," Ramsey said. "You've got to start somewhere."

Is the honey moon over? The leadership is coming back to earth. How quick time fly. Seems like yesterday , The city was full of hope and glee.

Ramsey said "I'm not a miracle worker," he said. "I have to work with the resources I have. But I promise people, I'm focused on the entire city of Philadelphia, not just nine districts."

Nutter: "I got elected mayor, not monarch. When the mayor was pressed for Casino answers. A month ago he would have had his superman suit on.

ps This article hit home, i'm ashamed and scared at the same time. So are many of the other activist out there. Thanks for the cold hard slap in the face

Free Salim wesbite

Check out the Free Salim website:


On the front page is a statement written by Walidah Imarisha:

It is my immense privilege and honor to be asked to write a few words about an organizer, an activist, a writer, a thinker, a comrade, a brotha who I have the utmost respect and love for: Saleem.

I met Robert “Saleem” Holbrook, in 2001 through the Human Rights Coalition, a group of prisoners families. At that point he had been incarcerated for 11 years (that number is now up to 17 – more time in prison than free), serving Life Without Parole for a crime he was convicted of as a juvenile.

Like myself, Saleem is the product of an interracial relationships (“a fellow half breed,” as he likes to joke with me), and his mother, Rose, was one of HRC’s earliest members. Getting to build on being black folks in the struggle who happen to have white mothers was a really powerful experience for me, as it was not something I had gotten to do before. At that time, I had not met any other black folks who were able to honor the efforts and struggles that our mothers went through with our commitment to justice for our people -- black people -- and for all people. But both Saleem’s and my mother taught us what standing up for our rights and for the rights of the oppressed was in their own ways, and gave us the tools to be the people we are today. In 2004, Rose passed away, and I can’t imagine the pain of losing your mother, especially from behind bars. But, as with everything else, he used it to rededicate himself to the cause of justice, saying, “I still fight on encouraged by her words ‘Never give up!’”

Saleem had been truly politicized at the age of 23 when he was locked in various infamous control units throughout the state for almost three years straight. Control units consist of staying in a cell the size of an average person’s bathroom for 23 out of 24 hours a day, no physical contact with anyone but the guards, limited visiting and phone privileges, a complete void of outside stimulation. Control units are designed to break the spirit and have been proven to break the mind. They did neither in Saleem’s case, as he shows in his writing: “In isolation you have only yourself and I discovered myself. It was there that I seriously started to become politicized.” He used that time as a true souljah for the people, studying under the tutelage of a knowledgeable “old head” Dennis “Solo” McKeithan, reading, gaining wisdom and beginning to write articles (his first was entitled “Control Units: High Tech Brutality” and was published in a magazine in California).

In early 2001, just a few months after the organization was formed, Saleem’s mother Rose sent an HRC flyer to her son and it wasn’t long before Saleem got involved and started sending ideas for campaigns, giving feedback on projects, sharing his powerful and insightful writing with us, and dialoguing. I and many other members of HRC quickly came to trust his guidance and judgment, and I was impressed by his thoughtfulness and intelligence. It wasn’t long before Saleem was on our Advisory Council, providing guidance on the mission and working on different projects.

But through the six years that I have known Saleem through letters, articles and phone calls, I have come to respect him as more than just an amazing organizer (he helped put together Buried Alive!, a publication from HRC about solitary confinement that was presented at a conference in 2006; he helped to found the Pittsburgh chapter of HRC; he is the prison correspondent for activist publication The Defenestrator, as well as a regular contributor to many other publications); I have come to respect his integrity, his principles and his vision. We have dialogued quite often about the nature of the struggle to build a new just world, present, past and future. His articles show the depth of his mind and commitment, and the scope of his knowledge. His ability to link issues and ideas together theoretically while still finding practical applications for them within organizing work he’s doing is a talent that I have learned from and tried to emulate over the years.

Saleem understates the pain, torture and oppression he has lived through in 17 years in prison when he says, “I continue to struggle within the prisons against injustice and it has been a hard experience. I have spent years in the hole because of my activism.” But despite that, or perhaps because of it, he is one of the most dedicated loving individuals it has ever been my privilege to work with. In his own simple yet powerful words, “I will continue to fight for my freedom and to build a better world.”

-Walidah Imarisha

To Snitch or Not To Snitch

This article did not get any acclaim or discussion in the philly area!

I reposted it to a number of other list and no comments were recorded. The actions of most of the activist of color is sickening.

I should know, I am one. There seems to be a mental lapse or maybe those Rizzo and Hover years have taken a there toll. The leadership void is glaring.

The folks with the loudest bark all seem to be in lock up. The cash cow is about to come to the end. The federal funding will dry up and the so called progressive groups will have to work out of dedication verses being funded huge administrative funds to do the kasi (work) we did for free out of duty.

Now that we are electing mayors and governors the poor folks are suffering worst than ever. The DA uses the snitch to convict.

The black community must begin to police our selfs as our historical data reveals. We seem to waste time rallying around worthless causes like weak gun laws. The gun never killed anyone. The people do, we kill other humans, not the instrument. hell out law baseball bats and booze, or needles or top paper. maybe out lawing the numbers games called lotto would help.

Black folks spent 50-60 percent of our income trying to strike it rich daily.

enuf said...Thanks brother Saleem Holbrook, for keeping it real. Thanks to Aaron and the Phillyimc for reposting this article!

A Call To Arms Part I

A Call To Arms Part I
By Shaka Barak
Dedicated To Del Jones

Punk Black males hiding behind Religion, Spirituality, Hebrewism, Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Pan Afrikanism, Nationalism, Integration, Miscegenation, Maat, Kemetism, Revolutionism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddism, Jehovahism, Civil Rights, Reparations, Repatriation while our children die. 100,000 murders of our children by our youth and others everyday and not one Black man has died trying to defend one Black Childs life except for firemen and policemen and most of the time they don't know that the child in the burning building is Black. Punk Black males have figured out how the white man was raised off his all fours and taught to look up towards the sky by the African race, who are the original men and women. Punk Black men can tell the world that it was the African who built the first civilizations and gave art, science, math and literature to the world. Punk Black males can tell of the Genius of our race in peace and in war under our great leaders of the past. But these same Punk Black males can't muster the strength to meet the manhood level of his counter parts today unless he is in the service of other races, as their dogs, that are told when to bark and bite and who to bark at and who to bite. Punk Black males say they will kill somebody about messing with their child or children but the funny thing is they haven't killed anybody but their child and children are not only messed with, but dead and dying if not physically but from the drugs and alcohol they consume.
These cowards, includes our elders who, are manning the ship of the destiny of the African race and are not living up to the standards of manhood produced by the leading and dominant races and nations on this planet. Bill Withers "window raising granny" and grandpas have abandoned their post and Jr. has run off with the shotgun they used to have at that window. Males who are not organized, not willing and therefore not able to defend our race parade themselves across the tabloids, TV screens and you hear their female voices on radio stations, sometime in groups of five, ten, fifteen, twenty at a time, with no clue of what to do and afraid to do it if they knew it.
They can say "Its glorious to die for a cause" only in a Last Poets poem. Every race comes into the Black Punk males so-called community, that has the fastest growing number of homosexuals that are about to outnumber heterosexual males, and pimp slaps the Punks and then walks way with the communities money in a Black bag that they take to their own community. Black Punk men don't even know how to fight except prize fighters and martial artist but most cant fight, cant box, cant use a knife, cant shoot a weapon and this has bred a race of youth who resort to guns, cause they cant fight, cause their Punk daddies that are around cant fight, box, use a knife or a gun. Punk Black males joined marches that call for putting down the guns when the whites who surround them and protect their marches all carry guns and wear vest and are ready to use their guns on the marchers if they got the chance. The other races make guns faster than you could ever collect and destroy them, in these phony gun collection drives that pay a gang banger $100 for an old gun that he can then buy three more guns with that same $100. Pretty soon in about 20 years the Punk Black males and so-called leaders will be dead and out of the way. The youth don't respect these leaders that push them into so called educational systems where not only are they not safe, but where most fail and drop out after they get their training to end up in jail. The Punk Black males have shown our youth over and over how they are high paid speakers and brokers of our pain, who position themselves to be male whores in the name of civil rights or some revolutionary crap. Punk Black males are afraid of our youth so much that they don't even drive in the hood at night and piss on themselves if five youth approach them from the front not just walk up from behind them. In Call To Arms Part II I will give solutions to Stopping the killing of our youth.
Shaka Barak
The Marcus Garvey Institute

"Stop snitching", huh? Tell

"Stop snitching", huh? Tell that to Sean Patrick Conroy.

Sounds like someone has a guilty conscience.

Just like an Indymedian to stand up for the bullies and thugs of the world.

You're a gangster. You poisoned, shot and preyed on your own people and you deserve everything you get. Live with it- you're not a victim. The ordinary people of Philadelphia are (particularly the poor), and they're lucky that there's enough law that people like you still get put away for a few years. It should be life, and capital punishment if you kill a civilian.

Mods, don't let gangsters and drug dealers use your board to justify their crimes and people might have a bit more respect for what you're trying to do. We have similar problems in UK indymedia with anti-semitic conspiracy theories being posted.

Just a thought!

"urban America"?

"Snitching" is not a problem in "urban America". It is a Negro problem, in the Negro ghettoes.

Really, it's fine if you choose not to cooperate with the cops to solve the murders of your own people.

Since you won't cooperate, I suggest that when the cops get no response to requests for information on the many, many Negro murders, the cops should simply close the case and be done with it.

It's not our problem. You can go right on killing each other.

Why is no one challenging

Why is no one challenging the “blue wall of silence” among law enforcement agencies that encourages police officers not to snitch on each other or even stop fellow officers from committing acts of brutality on individuals. How many officers were not charged with or acquitted of murder, assault or civil rights violations because officers refused to testify against a fellow officer. Is it any wonder why gangs refer to police as just another gang? Why is the policeman’s code of silence legitimized by the state?

THE POSTING above IS BULLSHMIT and the original poster dosen't know squat

Been there for over 23 years
Jon Pisano
Phila. P.D. retired

"Had a front row seat to the greatest show on earth ..."Frank Rizzo"

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Brett Gyllenskog

Brett Gyllenskog : Drug dealer that snitches on other drug dealers