By JOHN LESLIE
Read this article in French: https://anticapitalisme-et-revolution.blogspot.com/2020/05/etas-unis-stop-limpunite-des-flics.html?
In Chinese here
On May 25, an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, was murdered by Minneapolis cops. In a video shot by a bystander, Floyd is heard saying, “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. Please, man,” as a cop knelt on his neck and two other cops held him down. After Floyd went silent and motionless, the cop continued to kneel on his neck. Several people shot video of the incident and can be heard telling police to let him breathe and to check his pulse, and pointing out that he had become non-responsive.
Floyd, 46, worked security at a restaurant. Police claimed that they had stopped him because he matched the description of a suspect in a forgery case at a grocery store.
The whole incident reminds us of the death of Eric Garner in 2014 at the hands of NYPD officers, one of whom used a chokehold. Garner gasped, “I can’t breathe” as his life was extinguished by killer cops. His death sparked massive protests and “I can’t breathe!” became a common slogan of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In the Garner case, the grand jury declined to prosecute any police.
On Tuesday, May 26, thousands of protesters gathered near the place where Floyd’s life was stolen and surrounded the police substation. Chants arose of “I can’t breathe!” and “No justice, no peace!” In scenes reminiscent of Ferguson after the police murder of Michael Brown or in Baltimore following the murder of Freddie Gray, cops in riot gear moved against the peaceful protesters firing rubber bullets and tear gas.
A Socialist Resurgence member from Minneapolis reports: “This lynching happened exactly four blocks from our home. We were at the protest close to the corner where George Floyd was murdered, but the crowd was standing very close together. Almost everyone we saw was wearing a mask of some kind, as were we … protest solidarity event was to take place between 5:00 and 8:00 CST; stuff was happening since last night and continued on into the later hours surrounding the 3rd precinct building, where most folks marched to—about 2.5 miles from the murder scene. … Our daughter, who is more COVID-cautious than we are, drove from her apt in St. Paul to meet folks (at the) precinct, but turned away just as she drove to that corner because the thugs had pulled out their big cars and guns. They shot mace, tear gas and rubber bullets at unarmed protesters around the perimeter of the precinct building, while wearing high tech riot gear.”
Protesters responded by throwing tear gas projectiles and rocks back at cops. Some police vehicles and the precinct building were damaged. As the crowd tried to flee the assault, street medics and others tried to assist people exposed to tear gas by pouring milk in their eyes. A city councilor, Jeremiah Ellison, stated, “This is a disgusting display. … I have been unable to prevent the police from firing indiscriminately into the crowd. Moments ago, I held a towel to a teenage girl’s head as blood poured from it.” This is in stark contrast to the situation with mostly white armed far-right “reopen” protesters, who have been treated preferentially by police.
The four officers involved in the killing of George Floyd have been fired, but that is not enough. Killer cops must be prosecuted for murder.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey posted a statement on Facebook, “Being Black in America should not be a death sentence. For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a Black man’s neck. Five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you’re supposed to help. This officer failed in the most basic, human sense.”
Epidemic of anti-Black violence amid the pandemic
In recent weeks, video has circulated of the murder in Georgia of Amaud Arbery by a shotgun-wielding assailant. A group of white vigilantes had targeted Arbery for the “crime” of jogging while Black in the wrong neighborhood. The local district attorney had declined to charge Arbery’s assailants, apparently because one of the men is a retired cop. A public outcry caused an inquiry by state investigators and the arrest on murder charges of Travis and Gregory McMichael—who had previously been an investigator for the DA’s office. Subsequently, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who filmed the murder of Arbery, was also arrested on homicide charges.
On March 13, three plainclothes police officers served a “no-knock” warrant on the home of Breonna Taylor, breaking down the door as she and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, slept. Walker, hearing noises, fired a gun, hitting one cop in the leg. Walker said later that he had believed they were burglars entering the apartment, and that he had fired downward, not intending to hit anybody. But police fired back, hitting Taylor, an emergency medical technician, eight times and killing her. Police bullets entered several adjoining homes. Walker was charged with first-degree assault and attempted murder of a police officer.
The Kentucky commonwealth attorney has recently dropped charges against Walker. Nevertheless, this case has rekindled calls for an end to no-knock warrants. The subject of the warrant was already in police custody when the warrant was executed. None of the police on the raid were wearing body cameras.
In a recent incident in New York City’s Central Park, a white financial services executive, weaponized police against a Black bird watcher in the section of the park called the Rambles. Christian Cooper had asked her to put her dog on a leash, as park rules specify. He stated that the dog had been “tearing through the plantings.” She responded by calling 911 to report that “an African-American man, he’s recording me and threatening me and my dog.” Christian Cooper, formerly a writer and editor at Marvel Comics, filmed the interaction, and the video shows no threat. The woman, Amy Cooper (no relation), dubbed “Central Park Karen” by some, has since lost her job at Franklin Templeton.
“I videotaped it because I thought it was important to document things,” Christian Cooper told CNN. “Unfortunately, we live in an era with things like Ahmaud Arbery, where black men are seen as targets. This woman thought she could exploit that to her advantage, and I wasn’t having it.”
Fortunately for Christian Cooper, cops did not arrive quickly. Calling police on Black and Brown people can have devastating results. Eighty-one percent of the citations issued by the NYPD for violations of social distancing rules were issued to Black and Latinx people.
Police a bulwark of white supremacy
Police are a central tool of capitalist state violence against oppressed nationalities and workers. Any worker who has been on strike and faced cop repression knows this to their core. Police exist to protect and serve the interests of the ruling class. In the U.S., policing cannot be separated from the racist nature of the system.
The origins of police in the U.S., especially in the South, can be partially traced to the slave patrols formed to catch runaway slaves. Later, police were the enforcers of Jim Crow segregation. They remain an essential component of the mass incarceration machinery, which imprisons hundreds of thousands of young Black and Brown men and women. Police will also look the other way when fascist and far-right groups attack left-wing counter-protesters. Cop unions play a reactionary role in the labor movement by opposing progressive initiatives.
The Fraternal Order of Police and Police Benevolent Association is the largest police “union.” The Teamsters, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and the Service Employees International Union also represent police and prison guards. Building labor solidarity against police violence requires a challenge to the role of police unions and demanding that labor federations cut ties to these reactionary anti-worker organizations. Police are not a legitimate part of the workers’ movement. While police may be drawn from the ranks of the working class, they serve the interests of a racist capitalist social order.
No justice, no peace!
We must build a united movement against police murder and violence. We demand accountability for killer cops, an end to police militarization, and justice for all of the victims of racist police. We cannot rely on capitalist politicians and courts to protect us and end this horror. This means dismantling the police and prisons that are the mechanisms of force against workers and the oppressed.
Jail Killer Cops! Justice for George Floyd! Justice for Amaud Arbery! Justice for Breonna Taylor!
An appeal to our readers: If you liked this article, please consider making a donation to our Socialist Resurgence Summer Fund Drive, to help us continue to bring commentary and analysis to you from a revolutionary socialist point of view.