People are rising up, rising up against police violence! Smoldering rage ignited in a firestorm throughout the U.S. when police lynched George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Immediately there was public outrage, after seeing how white supremacists killed Ahmaud Arbery as he jogged through his neighborhood and after invading police shot Breonna Taylor to death in Kentucky while she was asleep in her own bed. All were Black; all are dead.
The videotape of Floyd being lynched by a cop during long minutes of deliberate strangulation propelled thousands and thousands of people — multinational, multigendered workers and oppressed people of all backgrounds — into the streets.
The people held the racist “injustice system” and the cops accountable. The Third Precinct building in Minneapolis — where the four cops who killed Floyd were stationed — was burned down. In Nashville, Tenn., the city hall and courthouse were set on fire. Cop cars were overturned and burned in New York City, Rochester, N.Y., Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cleveland, Los Angeles and elsewhere. And, yes, “property” was damaged, the property of capitalist banks and big chains — Wells Fargo, Starbucks and AutoZone torched and other buildings caught in the spreading blaze.
For centuries in the U.S., white supremacists — as agents of the state or as vigilantes like the Ku Klux Klan who “work hand-in-hand” with the state (sometimes one and the same) — have lynched African-American people and other people of color with impunity. To this very day, it is almost impossible to get a charge of murder — much less a conviction — when a cop kills a person of color “in the line of duty.”
It took four days of countrywide protests and physical rebellions to get just one of Floyd’s killers arrested. He was not even charged with first-degree murder, while the three cops who assisted the killer are still walking free.
An intensive ruling-class propaganda campaign is underway to shift attention and responsibility away from the state, as the main instigator of violence against the people, and instead blame protesters.
State authorities, like the U.S. president, are defaming the rebellious protesters with racist code words and trying to split the movement by demonizing the “radical left” — anarchists and anti-fascists (antifa), whom Trump has declared a “terrorist group.” Big-business commentators are trying to split protesters into good “peaceful” people and bad “violent” people, white youth versus Black youth, and “law-abiding” protesters versus those who were only harming property.
And there is the key word. The ruling class will let millions die, as long as their property — and the state system that props it up — is left untouched. When cops kill, they are virtually untouchable because the “duty” of police is first and foremost to beat down working and oppressed people and to keep any protest from touching the profits or property of the capitalist class.
No future under capitalism
The protesters are overwhelmingly young people who are working or unemployed, who are of oppressed nationalities and genders. Caught in the historic COVID-19 pandemic, they are losing jobs in the unprecedented economic crisis or risking their lives to keep “essential” unprotected, low-paying jobs. Maybe they or their family or neighbors can’t pay rent and are being evicted from their homes or are sick, maybe dying, because health care is just for people with money. They face a bleak future, if they survive the present.
And in the middle of this storm of oppression, the cops keep occupying, demonizing and killing them, their loved ones, their co-workers, members of their communities. These youth are eyewitness to some of these deaths, or they see them on videotape over and over, becoming consumed with the nightmare that what happened to George Floyd or Breonna Taylor could happen to them.
This young generation is the new nothing-to-lose-but-their-chains generation, and they are leading the battle against the murderous state.
They — and we — need active, strategic solidarity to win.
Already there have been inspiring examples: Union bus drivers across the U.S. — the majority workers of color — refused to transport arrested protesters. A young white woman in New York City knocked a bicycle cop to the ground after he punched a young Black woman protester. The Minneapolis school board severed ties with the city’s police force — a break in the school-to-prison pipeline. Countless people everywhere are contributing to bail funds for those arrested in the protests.
As the state ramps up brutal attacks on demonstrators with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and armed troops, our solidarity must be sustained.
More solidarity would be if state National Guard members everywhere refused to occupy their friends and neighbors with military force. For white demonstrators, more solidarity would be to go to protests and take leadership from Black organizers. More solidarity would be joining with oppressed Black, Brown and Indigenous people to defund and dismantle the police, to challenge an unjust legal system and fight to free all those imprisoned.
A new generation is leading — against racism and for justice, against dead-end existence under capitalism and toward a better world. They are not “rioters” — they are resisters. Act in solidarity with them and their uprising — now!