April 27 — The arrogant defiance and evasive obstructionism that the Baltimore police have put up in the face of the video showing them dragging a limp Freddie Grey into a police van are typical of the hardened attitude of police departments across the country.
The Baltimore police are accustomed to harassing, brutalizing and killing Black people with impunity. Like their counterparts in cities across the country, from Philadelphia to Tulsa, from Los Angeles to Cleveland, New York City, Albuquerque, Portsmouth in Virginia, Pasco in Washington state and other cities and towns, large and small, the Baltimore police are used to being a virtual law unto themselves. All the police killing that has gone on since Ferguson shows that they want to keep it that way.
In the month of March, 111 police killings were recorded. Apologists for the police say the killings have not increased recently; there are just more videos. But the fact is that in March there were 36 more recorded killings than in February. (thinkprogress.com, April 1) In the first three months of 2014 there had been 244 killings by police; this year there were 297 in the same period. These figures are compiled by private groups because no national statistics are kept.
The exposure of killer cops on video and in the capitalist media has not slowed down police departments across the country. If anything, the cops have been more murderous than ever, despite the exposure. The only thing that can push them back is the kind of mass resistance that was shown in Baltimore this weekend and, for months after the killing of Michael Brown last August, in Ferguson, Mo., and around the country led by Black Lives Matter.
Ruling class support for police
What is important is that the cops have the backing of powerful sections of the ruling class. For example, some of the biggest banks, war contractors, medical institutions and other corporations in Baltimore have watched day after day, year after year, as the cops brutalized the African-American community.
JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of New York Mellon, U.S. Bank, HSBC, Capital One and the other largest banks in the country have a major presence in Baltimore. The Johns Hopkins medical empire is the biggest employer there.
Maryland has 12 major military installations and 16 of the top 25 aerospace companies in the country. It has 70 of the top 100 defense contractors in the country, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.
The rich will not stop the brutality because the cops protect their interests 24/7.
Washington shows support at NYC funeral
What is true for Baltimore is true for the country at large. The cops are acting in concert with their political allies and powerful forces in the ruling class to undermine any attempt to curb their brutality.
The funeral in New York City for the two cops killed in December was an important message not only to the thousands of police from New York but also to police chiefs from all around the country who attended the funeral. They saw Vice President Joe Biden, FBI Director James Comey, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton all get behind the cops. They also saw hundreds of cops turn their backs on Mayor Bill De Blasio in open defiance — with no adverse consequences to them — because he had criticized them.
This manifestation of support for the cops by the highest officials in the capitalist state was meant to answer the growing Black Lives Matter movement. It was a major pledge of support and encouragement to the cops.
This political approval comes at a time when the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have used the cover of “fighting terrorism” to arm the cops to the teeth with combat weapons. These agencies have also tightened the police networks nationally. The upper echelons of the capitalist government have served as a national political force to defend the cops.
Resignation of Eric Holder
There is also a sense of victory among the cops and their champions in the ruling class over the unexpected resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder shortly after he visited Ferguson and expressed sympathy with the Black community. The timing of his resignation cannot be ignored.
Holder visited Ferguson on Aug. 20. He spoke at Florissant Valley Community College, where he addressed the mistrust of the cops by the community. “I understand that mistrust,” he said at Florissant Valley Community College. “I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man.” (www.justice.gov)
Holder told of being stopped by law enforcement officers in the Georgetown section of D.C. while running and again, for no good reason, while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike. He had his car searched, which he said was “humiliating” and left him “angry.”
Holder rubber-stamped the exoneration of Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown. But then he issued a report on Ferguson that was a scathing indictment of the cops and the racist city officials. It forced high-level resignations. Holder also launched dozens of investigations of abuse by local police departments.
Despite being a loyal servant of the ruling class, one month after his Ferguson visit, on Sept. 25, Holder resigned.
Which way will Loretta Lynch go?
Loretta Lynch, an African-American chief U.S. prosecutor from Brooklyn, has just been approved to become the next U.S. attorney general. It took six months to get consent from congressional Republicans, who obstructed her nomination in a struggle over abortion funding.
The ruling class is trying to steer her in a pro-police direction. The New York Times ran a major story by Matt Apuzzo on April 23 stating:
“As a career prosecutor with a law-and-order reputation, [Lynch] comes into office with strong relationships with many of the police groups who have felt unfairly criticized during a spate of high-profile episodes of African-American men dying at the hands of white officers.”
The Times continued: “Mr. Holder recently completed a nationwide tour of minority neighborhoods to discuss policing. Ms. Lynch plans a similar tour of police departments, signaling a change in approach … she has also described, in passionate and personal terms, how law enforcement is a force for good in minority neighborhoods.”
Whether Lynch will actually play the role that is expected of her remains to be seen. But whatever she does as attorney general, the police are not likely to reconcile themselves with her — because she is a Black woman and because she prosecuted the police who assaulted Abner Louima in New York City. While the police attitude will not change, the shift at the top of government is key in this case.
Mass resistance the only answer
As the cops continue with their racist aggression, the only answer is mass resistance. Raising calls to stop killer cops and to disarm the police are appealing and inspiring slogans. They should be raised everywhere. But they must be accompanied by mass confrontations with the police. The police can also be effectively pushed back by the “no business as usual” tactics of disruption adopted by the Black Lives Matter movement after Ferguson. These tactics interfere with the business interests of the bosses.
The militant struggle of the youth of Baltimore against police violence hopefully will spread to broader sections of the masses. This is the only language the cops and the ruling class understand.