On July 20-21, the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of the three organizations — Black Lives Matter, the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) and the Million Hoodies — launched U.S.-wide protests to defund police departments and redirect money to community needs.
Coordinated under the banner #Freedomnow, the new wave of protests is targeting police organizations and “law enforcement industry groups” that defend state-sanctioned police terror and racism.
The protests are a militant answer to vicious attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement by police groups, corporate media and ruling-class politicians following the shooting of cops in Dallas on July 7 and Baton Rouge, La., on July 17.
A July 18 videotape that showed a cop shooting Charles Kinsey, an African-American disability therapist, once again illustrated the need for continued fightback against systematic racist police terror. Kinsey had gone to the aid of a client, diagnosed with autism, who had wandered from his group home. The police were called to the scene by someone’s false report of “danger.”
Kinsey lay on his back near his client, hands in the air, explaining calmly that neither he nor his patient was a threat. The cop, a SWAT team member, shot him anyway.
The #Freedomnow protests dramatized the stark difference in government funding given to community-serving jobs like Kinsey’s and the money that goes to murderous, militarized police departments. In a Colorlines statement, organizers said: “Billions of dollars are spent on failed policing strategies, while U.S. education, health and housing crumbles; prisons are growing while earning opportunities dwindle. At the federal level, criminally negligent police departments continue to receive billions in grants and funding.”
In Durham, N.C., 400 people, called out by Black Lives Matter and the Durham Beyond Policing coalition, shut down city streets. Protesters said “no” to a new $71 million police headquarters, a $60 million annual police budget and continued targeting of immigrants by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They said “yes” to “meaningful investment in restorative justice programs and community needs that actually keep people safe, like jobs, health care and housing.” They demanded the City Council “disarm, defund and disempower the police” and “fund Black futures.”
Durham’s broad coalition includes #SayHerName; BYP100; Southerners on New Ground; United Electrical Workers Local 150, Public Service Workers; Black Workers for Justice; Stand Up for Racial Justice; Jewish Voice for Peace; and Workers World Party.
In Washington, D.C., BYP100, Black Lives Matter and Million Hoodies blockaded the national legislative office of the Fraternal Order of Police for 13 hours. Activists demanded police officers cease paying dues and break ties to the FOP.
In New York City, the local BYP100 and Million Hoodies occupied the “Patrolman’s Benevolent Association,” which represents NYC Police Department cops. Ten people were arrested as they demanded justice for Delrawn Small killed by a cop on July 4. Other demands included city officials funding community needs, not the police.
Dozens of other protests occurred, including in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Chicago; Cleveland; Detroit; Long Beach, Calif.; and St. Louis.
Police associations are not unions
In Oakland, about a dozen activists from the Anti Police-Terror Project coalition chained themselves to the doors of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, some with U-locks around their necks. One demonstrator said this chokehold represented how the local community felt.
About 60 percent of the city of Oakland’s annual general fund, almost $220 million, is spent on the police department. Housing and community development receive only $13 million. Protesters called on the city to “divest from the police department and fund schools, housing and jobs.” (eastbayexpress.com)
Activists were clear that they did not consider their protest to be anti-union. Black BYP100 organizer Clarise McCants said: “We’re definitely pro-labor union. But our message is that the Fraternal Order of Police is just not like any union.” (inthesetimes.com)
Members of Steelworkers Local 8751, Boston School Bus Drivers, came by to express solidarity with the APTP occupation. The drivers were in town as part of a speaking tour about their recent historic win over mega-corporation Veolia/Transdev.
Marxist view of the FOP
Police may try to call their organizations “unions,” but the FOP and other police associations are not unions. The Marxist explanation of class society is that the role of police under capitalism is to violently suppress workers and oppressed people who resist the horrors that capitalism imposes on them.
The police are armed groups completely in the service of the capitalist state. Police associations like the FOP advance state violence in many ways. They lobby legislatively for the transfer of more military equipment to local departments, block efforts to gather data on deaths in police custody, and protect cops that abuse, rape, murder and worse.
Monica Moorehead, Workers World Party candidate for president, told WW: “Not one cop has been convicted of any serious charge in the many recent killings by police, not even in cases where illegal actions by cops have been documented on videotape. The capitalist legal system has held that the police are ‘above the law’ because the cops’ role is first and foremost to protect the power and property of the capitalist class. Cops are exempt from punishment because they act at the behest of their capitalist masters, who ultimately determine what is ‘legal.’
“The ongoing Movement for Black Lives is intensifying the challenge to the structural role of police in maintaining an oppressive system. As the movement against racist state police terror expands, that challenge is growing. In our campaign we say: Defund and disempower the police! On to disarming and abolishing the police!”
Kathy Durkin, Terri Kay and Dante Strobino contributed to this article.