From Minneapolis to Louisville to Kenosha, America has been in open revolt for three months. Led by Black organizers and driven by hundreds of years of state-sanctioned violence, the pain and suffering of Black Americans has once again been etched into the urban fabric.
In response, the violence of the American police state has been on full display. In video after video, we have seen peaceful protesters maced, assaulted, tear gassed and shot at. In Louisville, the National Guard shot and killed an innocent man, days after a Louisville police officer permanently blinded a reporter with a rubber bullet. In New York City, two NYPD cruisers drove into a crowd of protestors, and officers brutalized protesters around the city. In Minneapolis, an eighteen wheeler attempted to murder a crowd of thousands protesting on the highway, and the cops responded by pepper spraying protesters. In Philadelphia, cops fired canister after canister of tear gas into a trapped crowd of peaceful protestors. In Kenosha and Portland, vigilante White supremacists have attacked protesters while the police stand idly by.
No one with their head screwed on straight can deny the obvious: Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Atatiana Jefferson and countless other Black Americans have been murdered by the police, and the people’s righteous anger at their crimes has been met with a militarized crackdown.
If you recognize that the American police are committing vicious crimes against Black Americans, that is a start. But it is the bare minimum. I am begging you, seriously, I am begging you — do not let it be the end of your political evolution. Let this moment radicalize you.
The police — and their international counterparts, the military — are not an institution to be reformed, nor are they a fundamentally good institution that has attracted a few “bad apples.” No amount of training, no amount of technology, no amount of “accountability” will stem the tide of police violence, because the police as an institution are essential to the maintenance of racial capitalism.
The police, borne out of slave patrols, settler violence against indigenous communities and efforts to quell working class rebellion in the north, are the shock troops of capital and the agents of White supremacy. They have monopolized violence, and used their monopoly on violence to enforce capitalist exploitation, segregation and racialized brutality.
We’re having a national debate about the morality of looting, while ignoring that the police enforce legal looting every day!
When private developer-vultures gentrify and loot Black and Brown working class communities, the police are the muscle enabling it to happen. They carry out the evictions and protect the right of private developers and landlords to dispossess working people of their homes.
When homeless communities assert their fundamental human right to shelter by setting up tent cities, it is the police who are called in to destroy their belongings. Their guiding logic dictates that the rights of private property are more valuable than the rights of human beings. In June, in Minneapolis, the police and the owners of the Sheraton Hotel abandoned the hotel to the community. As a result, the community organized the hotel into housing for 200 homeless individuals. It’s amazing what happens when the police aren’t around to enforce an inhumane distribution of resources!
The looting of our precious natural resources is a natural condition of capitalist expansion and growth. When that exploitation is challenged, whether at Standing Rock or by the Wet’suwet’en Nation in Canada, the police are called in to violently clear the way.
When unions strike and stand up to their bosses, the police are called in to break the strikes. The legal looting of workers’ value in the form of profit by their bosses is made possible by this threat of violence.
When any country dares stand up to the dominance of multinational corporations and international capitalism, the military is called in to enact policing on a global scale. The looting of the world’s natural resources, from Guatemala to Bolivia to Iraq, is fervently defended by the United States’ military.
And when we point to the real perpetrators of societal harm — the bankers in 2008, the oil companies who are pumping pollution into the air and water or the drug companies who let people die to protect their profit margins — the police are nowhere to be found. They exist, and have always existed, in service of private property and White supremacy.
The police’s monopoly on violence is at the foundation of capitalism. It is at the foundation of injustice, inequality and racism. Policing is inseparable from exploitation.
You may not agree with everything I am saying, and that’s fine. But I want to challenge you to use your imagination, to engage with ideas that you had previously thought radical and to analyze the moment we are living in systematically. Ask yourself: Why have police reforms failed? Why did the Minneapolis Police Department — one of the most “progressive” police departments in the country — murder George Floyd, then begin brutalizing protesters? Why were the police born out of efforts to control Black, indigenous, working class populations? Would the police react in this way if the rebellion did not so pointedly challenge their legitimacy? What would the world look like if we took the hundreds of billions of dollars we pour into the military and police every year, and put it into housing, education, healthcare and reparations?
I’m also not claiming to be a spokesperson for the police and prison abolition movements. I encourage you to read Angela Davis’ autobiography (or really anything she’s written). Malcolm X’s autobiography changed my life. George Jackson, Assata Shakur, Frantz Fanon and Huey Newton’s work is indispensable. This article lays out the case for defunding the police and putting that money towards housing, education and jobs. This article demonstrates why the police will always exist to protect the ruling class and the hegemony of private property. This book and this book on police abolition are available for free right now.
Now is the time to expand our imaginations and the scope of our analysis — while simultaneously educating, agitating, organizing and rebelling. Most importantly, once educated, we must defer to black and indigenous organizers. We are here to support in any way we can, not co-opt the movement.
We are in a moment of world historical proportions. This rebellion can be — and in many ways, already is — about more than justice for killer cops. It can be about mass liberation, about a world without the racialized brutality of police under capitalism. There is a better world out there, yearning to be had — a world organized around the common good, around harmony and rehabilitation, around compassion and solidarity. Never forget that abolition is not about anarchy — it is about directing our resources towards creating the conditions that make cops and jails unnecessary.
Solidarity with everyone on the streets, fighting the rebellion in real time. Solidarity to everyone who has been fighting this fight since Sandra, since Trayvon, since Rodney, since Emmett.
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