By JOHN LESLIE
On April 20, after less than 24 hours of deliberations, the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial delivered a verdict of guilty on all three counts of murder and manslaughter for killing George Floyd. Sentencing will take place in eight weeks.
Within minutes of the announcement, crowds came into the streets of Minneapolis and other cities, cheering and chanting the name of George Floyd and the word “justice!” One Minneapolis activist told reporters, “This is our first victory, [but] this just the beginning!” She said that people now need to demonstrate in the streets to demand justice for Daunte Wright. George Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, who testified in the trial, spoke similarly, stating that the fight for justice must not end with this verdict. “I know that he gave his life so that other people’s cases can get reopened,” Ms. Ross told The New York Times outside of the courthouse where Chauvin was convicted.
The verdict indicates that the state is willing to sacrifice one of its thugs in the hope that the police structure itself can be preserved. The ruling class will claim that this verdict proves that the system works. But whom does the system work for? The conviction in the Chauvin case is a rarity. Prosecutors, police departments, and cop unions have worked to ensure that police can kill and abuse with impunity for years.
The fact that Chauvin was tried at all is a direct result of the mass explosion in response to the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. During the Chauvin, more revelations of police killings and violence indicate that police in communities across the U.S. have continued their reign of terror. According to The New York Times, since the beginning of the trial, “at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead.”
The victims included:
• Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was gunned down on Sunday, April 11, by police officer Kim Potter in the Brooklyn Center suburb of Minneapolis. Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force, training officer, and president of the local police union, claims to have mistakenly pulled her gun when she intended to grab her Taser instead. Wright was murdered during a traffic stop, and Potter shot him as he attempted to reenter his vehicle. Prosecutors charged Potter with second-degree manslaughter three days later. The killing of Wright has sparked a new round protests, and the state has activated the National Guard. Cops and Guard troops have been attacking protesters and detaining and harassing press members.
• Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Latino boy in Chicago, was shot dead by a Chicago cop on March 29. Police body cam footage showing the killing was released in the wake of the Daunte Wright murder in Minnesota. The video shows that Adam had been holding a gun, dropped it, and raised his hands when police officer Eric Stillman shot him. John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, has called the killing justified and claimed that Adam Toledo was a gang member. “He tossed the gun,” Adeena Weiss Ortiz, a lawyer representing the Toledo family said. “If he had a gun, he tossed it. The officer said, ‘Show me your hands.’ He complied. He turned around.” The release of the body cam video has resulted in more demonstrations in the city.
• Karen Garner, an 80-pound, 73-year-old woman with dementia was slammed to the ground, handcuffed and hogtied, and had her shoulder dislocated by Loveland, Col., cops as she repeated her desire to “go home.” She allegedly walked out of a WalMart with $13.88 in merchandise, which store employees took from her before calling the police. Body cam video shows three of these brutes in blue savagely abusing this elderly woman, who was obviously confused and disoriented. Karen Garner’s attorney has filed a million-dollar federal lawsuit in response.
What is the role of police under capitalism?
Police under capitalism exist to prop up the existing capitalist social order through violence and intimidation. Police are essential to the maintenance of the system through strike breaking, the targeting of oppressed nationalities, and supplying fresh bodies to the prison industrial complex. In this role, police are regularly given broad discretion and what is called qualified immunity—a legal principle that grants government officials immunity from civil suits unless the official violated “clearly established” law.
District attorneys, who regularly work with cops, very often decline to prosecute police except in rare circumstances and then usually only under intense public pressure. Philadelphia prosecutors are notorious for working with cops to withhold evidence and coercion of witnesses. The “progressive” Philadelphia DA, Krasner, has enacted some superficial reforms but the fact remains that Krasner is part of law enforcement. So far, he refuses to work towards the release of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. Workers and oppressed peoples cannot rely on the cops, courts or capitalist politicians to protect us.
The police and military are the organs of state violence dedicated to the preservation of the capitalist state and enforcing the power and privilege of the ruling class. Police regularly fraternize with far right and fascist forces, sometimes providing them with training. Just this week, the head of the fascist Oath Keepers revealed that active duty police train the group’s members.
Policing in the U.S. has it roots in the racist development of capitalism in this country from slavery to Jim Crow segregation. In part, the origins of U.S. police lay in the slave patrols tasked with keeping Black people under control.
While many cops have working-class origins, they are not part of the working class. By taking the job of police officer, they leave the working class and cross a line to the side of our class enemy. Likewise, their unions, which work to protect the oppressors of the oppressed and exploited, should have no place in the labor movement. Police and prison guard “unions” are reactionary organizations opposed to the interests of working people.
The militarization of police has mirrored the growth of the national security state which spies on activists and has framed up Muslims and political activists. Every aspect of life from phone calls to emails is under scrutiny. In the wake of last year’s antiracist rebellion, Republican-dominated state legislatures have passed anti-protest laws. Florida just enacted perhaps the most extreme example of such a law. Since the Jan. 6 attack on Congress, the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats have expressed support for new and more robust domestic terror laws. Such laws are a threat to democratic rights and free speech. Even laws that are supposedly aimed at rightist terror will more likely be used against the left, labor, and the people’s movements.
Right now, National Guard units are on the ground in Philadelphia and Minneapolis—in both cases, deployed by Democratic governors. These military units have no place in our cities any more than they have a right to be in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Guilty verdict is not enough! Advance the struggle!
The guilty verdicts returned are not enough. It is necessary to redouble our efforts in the fight against racist policing. Now is the time to take forward the fight by mobilizing the broadest possible forces to demand justice for victims of police violence and murder. At every level of society, the cry for justice must be heard. Workers, students, and community organizations must unite to fight against state violence and racist policing.
No Justice, no peace! End qualified immunity! Jail killer cops! Defund, disband, and dismantle police! No cops in our unions! National Guard out of Minneapolis and Philadelphia! Justice for Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo!
Photo: John Minchillo / AP