By LARRY SMITH
As working and oppressed people demonstrate daily in the streets all over the country, cities including Los Angeles, New York City, and Portland have officially reduced their police budgets, reversing a continuous 50-year trend. The U.S. government and legal system are also responding to the demands of the movement in an attempt to give in just enough that people feel that their voice has been heard, and they get out of the streets.
The great hope for the ruling class in this country is that the government will maintain legitimacy and that its politicians in the Democratic and Republican parties continue to shepherd the movement into bolstering their “get out the vote” efforts.
While each and every concession forced out of the capitalist class is a victory for the movement, capitalism is not capable of bringing full justice for victims of police brutality or amnesty and rights for all immigrants. Instead of falling back in line with “political participation as usual,” the burning task of the moment is to form an independent political party of working people, based on a revolutionary program and capable of deepening mobilizations in the streets and on the job.
Trump outflanks Democrats on police accountability
On Tuesday, June 16, Donald Trump signed an executive order that puts into place accountability provisions recommended but never implemented under the Obama administration. Before the Ferguson uprising and initial Black Lives Matter movement forced the government to address police accountability, the Democrats expanded police budgets at all levels and oversaw everything from weapons transfers, increased rates of asset forfeiture, and the recreation of the COPS program. After the mass movement forced his hand, Obama put together the Taskforce on 21st Century Policing, which recommended, among other measures, a national database of police use-of-force to help keep track of aggression against communities. This minimal measure was never put into practice, however, and the vast majority of police brutality cases go unrecorded.
Trump’s executive order calls for a database “concerning instances of excessive use of force related to law enforcement matters, accounting for applicable privacy and due process rights.” It also gives the Attorney General the authority to withhold federal funds from police departments that refuse to participate in the data collection. These measures are incredibly weak and a transparent move to placate the masses in order to maintain the current structure of racist police violence. At the same time, the fact that they are being signed into law by one of the most virulently pro-cop “law and order” demagogues in recent memory is a stirring show of force for the Justice for George/Black Lives Matter movement.
As cities around the country cut police department budgets and make rhetorical stands for public services, activists must remember that any and all victories, however incomplete, are directly due to the millions who have taken to the streets in recent weeks.
Reactionary Supreme Court upholds DACA
On Thursday, June 18, the Supreme Court, which has a majority of Republican appointees, upheld Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This is another ruling that runs counter to the recent offensive against minimal gains for immigrants and LGBTQIA+ people. The Trump administration, using the apparatus given to it by “Deporter In Chief” Barack Obama, has actively defended separating families, removing so-called “paths to citizenship” processes, and increasing ICE sweeps and raids. The border wall and attempts to defund sanctuary cities are all central focuses of the Trump presidency.
Immigrant rights groups like Make the Road, Migrant Justice, and Mijente, as well as labor groups representing immigrant workers and heroic efforts from migrants themselves through massive caravans, have organized a pushback against these reactionary policies. It is the task of the current movement to connect with these efforts and create organizations capable of coordinating national mobilizations for immigrant rights, Black liberation, and Indigenous self-determination.