The blue plague

Michael Brown

Michael Brown

Justice for Michael Brown!

The grim news that police have killed yet another unarmed African-American youth comes this time from Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. Michael Brown, just 18, had expected to enter college in a few weeks. Police have not yet come up with any explanation for why officers riddled Brown’s body with 10 bullets after stopping him as he walked with a friend to his grandmother’s house. Nor has the Ferguson Police Department even released the name of the killer cop, who has been put on “administrative leave.”

Would this even have made national news without the outpouring of rage from the Black community that followed the youth’s killing? An impromptu memorial the next night turned into a protest demonstration, surrounded by hundreds of cops in riot gear and armed with tear gas, shotguns and attack dogs. Youth repeatedly confronted the police with the cry “Don’t shoot me!” as they turned their backs and held their hands up high in the air.

Ferguson is actually part of greater St. Louis, which has lost population as industry declined. Ferguson is a city of 22,000 that is two-thirds Black; the police are almost all white. St. Louis grew into a metropolis during the era of slavery. Its wealth came from the exploitation and oppression of Black and Native peoples.

It took a Civil War a century and a half ago to end chattel slavery, but that revolution was never finished. A compromise between Northern industrialists/bankers and Southern landowners ended Reconstruction in the 1870s and allowed the rich whites to keep their huge plantations. A new wave of racist terror, spearheaded by the Ku Klux Klan, smashed the newly won political and social rights of Black people in the South and drove them back into the semi-slavery of the sharecropping system and racial segregation.

Even with the massive Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, de facto segregation still exists in many parts of the North and South, along with higher prices and lower wages, or no wages at all, that confront so many working-class Black communities.

The youth of Ferguson have every right to rebel and disbelieve official pronouncements from the FBI that it will “investigate” whether the police have carried out civil rights abuses in Ferguson. These investigations seldom go anywhere because they fail to address the root causes of the problem.

Police brutality is epidemic not because of a few “bad apples” or because they didn’t get better “sensitivity training,” but because the job of the police is to keep the people from rebelling against an economic system that is unjust and increasingly unable to provide the basic necessities of life. The capitalist system exploits all workers, but it is especially lethal to the Black, Latino/a, Native, Asian, Middle Eastern and other peoples from oppressed nations. The cops are in their communities to sow terror and keep them from rising up against their unbearable conditions.

Justice for Michael Brown! No justice, no peace!