Categories: Editorials

Lesson from 2020: Abolish the police – and the system they serve!

May 27 marked the third anniversary of the police murder of George Floyd, which sparked a massive upsurge. But three years later the wave of racist killings has not subsided.

Demonstrators at protest over George Floyd’s murder, Philadelphia, May 2020. (WW Photo: Joe Piette)

Nearly two years ago, on June 25, 2021, Derek Chauvin, the white police officer convicted of lynching 46-year-old George Floyd on May 25, 2020, was sentenced in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to 22 1/2 years in prison. Chauvin had faced upwards of 40 years in April 2021, after a jury unanimously convicted him of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

A year later on July 7, 2022, Chauvin was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison, this time for depriving George Floyd of his civil rights. Twenty days after that, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, two of the other three former Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s murder, were convicted of federal charges and given prison sentences of three  and 3.5 years in prison, respectively. The third officer, Thomas Lane, who had held down Floyd’s legs, was convicted and sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. All three were found guilty of violating Floyd’s civil rights.

These convictions were due to the testimony of courageous witnesses and the outrage of millions of people, who for weeks after Floyd’s murder filled the streets in protests across the U.S. and around the world, demanding justice.

In the commentary “What real justice will look like,” posted June 29, 2021, Monica Moorehead wrote: “After the video of the lynching was made public, mass rebellions and protests erupted not only in Minneapolis but throughout the country and around the world, especially since it took days for Chauvin to be charged and arrested. These multinational, multigender and multigenerational protests, led by the Black Lives Matter movement, impacted every aspect of society, including sports and entertainment, especially throughout the summer.

“The naked brutality of the police with tear gas, rubber bullets and night sticks was put on full public display during peaceful and militant protests. Confederate statues and other symbols of white supremacy from the North to the South and worldwide were brought down by protesters.

“It is very rare that police officers like Chauvin are arrested, much less convicted and sentenced for killing any person, be they white or a person of color, unless sustained mass pressure from below becomes a decisive factor. Policing as a force in a society based on classes, like the U.S., is above the law. Police are mandated with the unprecedented authority to become judge, jury and executioner by a still-majority, white ruling clique of corporate billionaires.”

Nothing has changed

Politicians promised many reforms after these mass protests demanded that police be defunded or even abolished. Few of these promises led to concrete change, and police and politicians often joined forces in a backlash against progressive demands. Rather than reduce police violence against Black and Brown communities, laws passed in states like Florida have restricted the rights of demonstrators to protest.

Many politicians in local primaries this spring are running on platforms calling for more police. They cite increased gun violence as the bigger concern. But they make no analysis of where this violence comes from and do nothing to limit assault rifles.

Much of the violence stems from the cops.

In Atlanta, Georgia, cops arrested 22 demonstrators opposing the proposed Cop City militarized, police-training project in the Weelaunee Forest and charged them with domestic terrorism. On Jan. 18, Georgia State Troopers murdered Forest Defender Manuel “Tortuguita” Esteban Paez Terán during a massive police raid at the Cop City site.

Aderrien Murry, an 11-year-old Black child in Indianola, Mississippi, called police on May 20 when his mother was threatened with domestic violence. Police Sgt. Greg Capers, who responded to the call, ordered everyone out of the house with their hands up. Five seconds later, as Murry walked out with his hands up, Capers shot and seriously injured him.

Murry’s situation is not an isolated one.

As Moorehead wrote in 2021: “Nothing has changed before or after the Chauvin conviction and sentencing, in terms of Black and Brown people being racially targeted by the police. Nothing has changed for the families of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Shantel Davis, Elijah McClain, Walter Wallace Jr. and countless others calling for any kind of justice, whether these deaths were videotaped or not.

“As an act of solidarity, it is important to defend the right of the victims’ families and oppressed communities under constant police occupation to demand that accountability be arrests, convictions and jail time for killer cops. However, it is just as important for revolutionaries and socialists to call for the abolition of not only the police and other repressive arms like ICE but for the abolition of capitalism, a system that puts the profits of the superrich before the needs of the people. One cannot exist without the other.”

The police and the racists will fight even the smallest reforms. A struggle to defund police must be won against not only the Trump and DeSantis forces in the Republican Party but also against Joe Biden’s Democratic Party establishment. As Marxists-Leninists, who see the police as a central component of the state, a state that imposes the rule of the capitalists on the workers, we from Workers World especially solidarize ourselves with those who extend the demand “Defund the police” to mean “Abolish the police!”

But only by abolishing the racist, capitalist police — what Vladimir Lenin called “the bodies of armed men” that enforce class rule — and replacing them with popular organizations that answer to the working class and all oppressed sectors of the population, can the victories of today’s massive movement be made permanent.


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