As Police Brutality Continues unabated, the War on the Poor and Minorities Enters New Phase
“There is a war on the police”, said a former “law enforcement officer” on MSNBC, today, after 3 officers were shot and killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Yes, indeed, it is a war, but it’s a war started by the state and which so far has been completely one sided: by the police against the people. What should be clear to us all is that the state has no intention of listening to people’s grievances and heeding their call for reform. That’s because the capitalist state began this war to protect the system from those it considers the biggest threat: those at the bottom of the society, the poor minorities, especially African Americans. Yes, it’s true: the police do “serve and protect”, but what’s left out is whom exactly do they “protect and serve”? The inner city police in American cities literally act as and are an occupation force. Poor neighborhoods are, for all practical purposes, a police state, with officers acting as the judge, jury and executioner, with total disregard for the rule of law and due process.
After the cold blooded execution of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police, by placing a gun right on his chest and firing several shots while he was pinned down to ground, the officers entered the nearby convenience store and confiscated its security system and video tape of the incident, without a search warrant and without asking the store owner of his consent. They even confiscated the cell phone of the owner, who had also recorded the murder, handcuffed him and took him to the station and detained him for 6 hours, just for filming the murder. That’s not an isolated incident. There have been many incidents, in cities all over the country, of police officers violently grabbing cell phones from individuals recording them, sometimes by pulling a gun on them and threatening to shoot them. They also routinely, without any repercussions, shoot at fleeing cars. One such case grabbed national attention a few years ago, when an officer opened fire on and shattered the rear window of a car full of children, including some in the back seat, when the mother of those children began to drive away when ordered to get out of the car. Can anyone really blame an African American woman for not wanting to be arrested and taken in by white police officers?
None of these police actions are legal, let alone moral or ethical; yet, they do it all the time and with total impunity. Even in cases like the murder of Alton Sterling, when the killing is totally unjustified, the city resists filing charges against the perpetrator. The only time they take any legal action against the officers is when there is incriminating video and only when they don’t own the video, themselves; otherwise, they keep the video from the public. As reported by Chicago Tribune on 3 January, 2016, the City has kept video evidence of police shootings in Chicago hidden from the public, refusing to release them to avoid prosecution of the officers. The murder of unarmed Laquan McDonald by Chicago police, by firing 16 shots, even after he was down and motionless, was released after over a year and only by the order of a judge following a lawsuit to force the city to release it. And it took 6 more months of public pressure to open investigation on over 90 such cases when there was video evidence of wrongful police shooting (Chicago Tribune, 3 January, 2016). What is clear is that when it comes to policing, especially in poor neighborhoods and ghettos, the state doesn’t give a shit about the rule of law or due process. Such niceties are only for the upper classes and only for public relations or rather public deception.
Not only does the capitalist state not have any intention of fixing the problem of police brutality, it has no choice, but to continue and even to expand and intensify it. Police brutality did not appear by chance. It grew out of the necessity of keeping the oppressed masses down, intimidated and subdued. The bigger the gap between the rich and poor, the bigger the “need” for police brutality and murders. But, those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.
What we often are told by the capitalist media is that not every officer is a racist psychopathic killer. That’s true: the rest file false police reports and lie to protect their comrades, plant a gun or drugs on their victims and beat peaceful protesters. You will also hear some talk about “the need for more diversity” in police ranks. That’s a diversion and distraction, meant, as all such diversions are, to take focus away from the real issue and offer a fake “solution”, which is anything but. The last 8 years of a “black president”, not to mention many high ranking Black officers, including police chiefs and mayors, have shown what was obvious to many of us, which is that it’s not the racial makeup of the police that matters, but the class nature and function of the police as an institution in the service of the white supremacist ruling 1% and an integral part of the capitalist system and necessitated by the class nature of the society. If any of those Blacks who are hired to serve the ruling class and protect the system act against their bosses, they will be dealt with promptly.
What you will also often hear is that it’s the “divisive and angry rhetoric” (the “rhetoric” of saying “stop killing us”?!) of those who protest against police brutality that’s creating “division” and incites violence against the police. Not only do such statements try to shift the blame away from violent, lawless and out of control police, who commit murders against the poor and people of color, but are intended to criminalize protesting against the police, opening the door to more draconian laws against protests. There is already talk of “federalizing” attacks on police and categorizing them as “hate crime”. The irony couldn’t be bigger. Racist police shoot and kill oppressed minorities out of racist hate and their attackers are to be labeled as perpetrators of “hate crime”.
As I write this, President Obama is expected to once again make comments condemning the murder of the 3 officers in Baton Rouge. That’s understandable. What is also understandable, is his stress that “we are one family” and “united” and that such “terror attacks on our dedicated police officers who heroically and selflessly put their lives in danger to protect and serve us can’t be allowed to divide us”. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that the rulers and billionaire owners of this country want people to believe more than that “we are one family” with the same “national interests”, which is what Obama excels in communicating to people, which is precisely what the ruling class noticed in him in 2004, during his speech at the Democratic National Convention, when the Senator from Illinois said: “There is no Red America and Blue America; there is just America. There is no White America and Black America; there is just America.” How different is this really from the “house negro” telling other slaves on a plantation that “we are all one family” and that “we shouldn’t let others divide us”? Yes, we are “one family”. It just depends on your definition of “one family”.