Two recent developments prove once again that police terror and extralegal terrorism are inextricably tied to white supremacy under capitalism. On June 2, an African American mother of four children, Ajike Owens, was fatally shot by her white neighbor, 58-year-old Susan Lorincz, in Ocala, Florida.The 35-year-old Owens, affectionately known as “AJ,” was unarmed when she died of a bullet wound to the chest. Lorincz had attempted to defend the shooting by using Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, which says that a person who feels threatened by someone has the right to use deadly force if necessary to protect themselves. This is the same law used by the vigilante George Zimmerman, who fatally shot an unarmed 17-year-old Black youth, Trayvon Martin, in 2012 in a Sanford, Florida, gated community. Zimmerman was exonerated of this heinous crime.
Lorincz was finally arrested days later, with charges of manslaughter with a firearm, culpable negligence, and assault and battery in Owens’ death, once the police had dismissed the Stand Your Ground claim she had made. The Stand Your Ground law has been used by other racist vigilantes besides Zimmerman to try to justify assaults against people of color in Florida.
Owens went to Lorincz’s house to confront her, after Lorincz accused her children of trespassing near her property in a field and threw a Rollerblade at them, hitting one of the children. She had used racist slurs against the children. Lorincz shot Owens when she knocked without even opening the locked metal door, while Owens’ nine-year-old stood next to her.
Guilty of discriminatory conduct
Two weeks after the fatal shooting of Ajike Owens, on June 16 the Department of Justice released a damaging 89-page report of a three-year investigation that found the Minneapolis police guilty of a racist pattern of discrimination targeting Black and Indigenous communities.
The report was initiated following the public lynching of George Floyd May 25, 2020, by racist cop Derek Chauvin, that created an international mass outcry of protests with the popular demand of “Defund the police!” Chauvin, who was convicted of second-degree murder, is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence.
Even before the Floyd murder, Black people had been complaining for many years of abuse suffered at the hands of the Minneapolis police. “This is not a secret,” said Bridgette Stewart, a lifelong Minnesotan, who is Black and who has regularly spent time at the site of Mr. Floyd’s murder. “This is something that’s been going on in Minnesota for many, many, many, many years — longer than I’ve been alive.” (Washington Post, June 16)
The Post article raised some major components of the investigation including: patrolling neighborhoods of color “without a legitimate, related safety rationale”; violation of Americans With Disabilities Act by targeting people with behavioral health issues, including sending police officers to mental health calls when it wasn’t warranted and where their “response is often harmful and ineffective”; and violating the First Amendment rights of Black Lives Matter protesters, where “M.P.D. officers frequently use indiscriminate force, failing to distinguish between peaceful protesters and those committing crimes.”
The report includes well-known cases that are reminders to many people in Minneapolis of these numerous acts of brutality like the fatal police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, an unarmed white woman; a Christmas tree at a police station with racist decorations; and white-supremacist remarks made by an officer to young Somali people about the bigoted movie, “Black Hawk Down.”
There were also incidents when an officer threw a handcuffed man to the ground face first, an officer drew his gun on a teenager over the suspected theft of a $5 burrito, and an officer repeatedly punched a protester who was already restrained.
The report stated that after Floyd’s murder, Minneapolis “officers suddenly stopped reporting race and gender in a large number of stops,” despite a department requirement to collect that data. About 71% of traffic stops before Floyd’s death had race statistics, compared with about 35% after the murder.
Outcome of the report
In light of this report, the federal government has put the Minneapolis police under a consent decree. This means that there will be certain federally mandated “reforms” like those in consent decrees affecting police departments in Baltimore, Maryland; Seattle; Albuquerque, New Mexico; New Orleans; and other cities, assigned after complaints were made.
What this consent decree may look like concretely in Minneapolis remains to be seen, but the bigger question is whether or not such decrees will permanently eliminate police brutality in any form — and the answer is no.
There may be a reduction of brutality cases for a little while, due to the scrutiny by the federal government, but these decrees only serve as a Band-Aid on a much larger deadly cancer.
The real cure – abolish the state!
The acts of police and vigilante terror from Minneapolis to Ocala are not isolated. They are systemic and rooted in capitalism — a divide-and-conquer system that weakens and superexploits the working class. This in order to keep a small clique of billionaires in power to extract profits at the expense of human needs.
The police are a force that stands above society, meaning that they are generally exempt from any laws that keep their abuse in check — unless there is a massive movement that makes demands to arrest and charge them with their crimes, like in the case of the Floyd murder.
“But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it, and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state.”
Lenin goes on to say that the state is made up of special “bodies of armed men and prisons.” In contemporary society, those armed bodies also include women. The main point is that in order to eradicate the state, which also includes the courts, the media, government officials and border patrol, and white-supremacist and fascist elements like the Proud Boys, Susan Lorincz and others that are an extension of the state, you have to eradicate the root cause of class antagonisms that gave rise to the state — the capitalist system itself.
This is why to demand “abolish the police” is the only solution to all the empty consent decrees that don’t even begin to address the societal problems of the haves and have nots.
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