As The Boss, Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
Blames Black Community for Violence
Chicago: Democrat-Led Cops
Continue Racist Killing Spree
For Black Liberation Through
Chicago police wade into crowd, beating community residents and arresting four, as angry crowd gathered at the scene after Harith Agustus was killed, July 14.
CHICAGO – On Saturday, July 14 shots rang out in the 2000 block of East 71st Street in the South Shore neighborhood as police gunned down Harith Augustus. Known as “Snoop” in the community where he lived and worked as a barber, he was the father of a five-year-old daughter. Patrons and coworkers knew him as a peaceful and quiet man. One told the Chicago Tribune (16 July) incredulously, “He cut my hair and got killed 10 minutes later.” Within an hour, an angry crowd of over a hundred gathered screaming “murderers” at the cops, who beat at least a dozen people with batons and arrested four. The next day hundreds poured out of the black community onto Lake Shore Drive to protest, as has happened so many times before … and since.
A Chicago Police Department spokesman said Snoop was stopped because he exhibited “characteristics of an armed person” (Chicago Sun-Times, 16 July). Like what? Like the cops with their Glocks? A body cam video released by the CPD (with the video scrubbed) shows Augustus talking with an officer when two others come up from behind and try to grab his arms. When he spins away and tries to escape, he is shot six or seven times in the back and side by a probationary officer. The fact that Snoop had a valid gun license, as the police later admitted, made no difference. Nor did having one save Philando Castile, who was shot to death in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota the year before after telling a trigger-happy cop that he had a registered firearm.
For the police in this rigidly segregated city, and throughout this country founded on the bedrock of slavery, it is always open season on black people. And on Latinos, immigrants, Native Americans … the list goes on. Moreover, we have emphasized, in Chicago and almost every other big city, Democrats are the bosses of the racist killer cops. We hold Mayor Rahm Emmanuel personally responsible for the police murder of Harith Augustus, and for the police killing of Maurice Granton on June 6, who was shot in the back as he tried to scale a fence. The cops say Maurice was armed, but no evidence was produced. In any case, having a firearm is a right. Lest we forget, the life of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was stolen by a cop in Cleveland, who executed the black youth for the “crime” of holding a toy gun.
Most recently, the CPD is refusing to release video footage of the police chase of 15-year-old Steven Rosenthal, who they claimed committed suicide while fleeing cops in in the West Side neighborhood of Lawndale on August 17. Two days later, his anguished family joined 120 protesters in protesting outside a West Side police station to dispute the idea that Rosenthal, a basketball player at Crane High School, would take his own life. A friend said “He wasn’t a gang banger, he was just a hooper.” Protesters chanted, “We want the tape” (Chicago Sun-Times, 21 August). The police claim video footage shows the moments before the fatal gunshot, but not the shot itself. How can that be? The CPD says the video will be released to the public “at some point,” but not now.
We’ve seen this before, all too many times. It’s all coming to a head in the trial set to begin September 5 of killer cop Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald in October 2014. It took 13 months and the order of a county judge to force the city to release the dashcam video which clearly showed Laquam walking away from the cops when he was shot (see “Chicago: ‘16 Shots, 400 Days ’,” The Internationalist, January 2016). In pre-trial hearings, the presiding judge ruled that the prosecution cannot refer to McDonald as the victim. “Certainly, there is a person that’s dead,” the judge said, but because the cop who pulled the trigger 16 times is claiming self-defense, “that doesn’t mean that the person is a victim legally” (The Root, 16 August).
With grotesque pro-cop rulings like that, the Van Dyke trial is sure to be explosive. And the tension is being stoked by none other than Rahm Emanuel, who engineered the police cover-up of the McDonald murder in order to get re-elected in 2015. Now running for a third term and under fire from right-wing media for a wave of shootings earlier this month, the Democratic mayor tried to deflect criticism by “blaming a lack of morals in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods for the recent spate of violent crime,” as Fox News (17 August) put it. Emanuel’s rant about the need for “family and faith” to foster “a value system and a moral compass” and “moral structure” for youth in rundown neighborhoods of closed schools and depleted or non-existent services positively reeks of racism.
Yet some of the same themes are echoed in protests, where
instead of denouncing racist police repression the focus is on
opposition to “gun violence” in general. This was the case of
the July 7 march of thousands that shut down the Dan Ryan
Expressway, which was endorsed by Emanuel and where march
organizer Rev. Michael Pfleger marched side-by-side with
Democrat Jesse Jackson Sr. and CPD superintendent Eddie
Johnson. An August 2 march along Lake Shore Drive and on to
the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field led by Rev. Gregory Livingston
was also billed as an “anti-violence” protest, as is
Livingston’s announced Labor Day (Sept. 3) march on Kennedy
Expressway to O’Hare Airport. Such calls only serve to take
the heat off the police, the gun thugs of capital.
Meanwhile, the reformist left is active in the Chicago
Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) and
pushing its Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).
CAARPR held a protest the Monday after Augustus’ killing and
it has been prominent in protests against the proposal for a
new $95 million police training academy in West Garfield Park.
The No Cop Academy campaign notes on its website, “Rahm
supports schools and resources for cops, not for Black and
Brown kids.” Very true. But the message that the CAARPR and
the reformist left groups supporting it – such as Freedom Road
Socialist Organization (FRSO), Communist Party (CPUSA),
Committees of Correspondence (CoC), Workers World Party (WWP)
– are promoting is that the answer to murderous cop violence
is a mythical “community control of the police.”
CPAC’s demands include “Re-writing the police ‘rulebook’ deciding what CPD can do on the streets” and appointment of a community-chosen superintendent. The idea that the ruling class will allow its subjects to decide who and how the police can repress is a potentially deadly illusion. It flies in the face of all historical experience, as well as contradicting Marxism on the class nature of the capitalist state. The cops are the guard dogs of capital, whose job is to “serve and protect” the interests of the bourgeoisie. Illusory “community control” will be no more useful to workers and the oppressed than police body cameras were to Eric Garner, or Snoop Augustus. Groups such as CAARPR, CPAC and the “socialists” that support them foster these dangerous delusions. As we have stated:
“It is the task of genuine revolutionaries to warn that all these supposed reforms – community control, community policing, civilian review boards, disarming and demilitarizing the police, more black police, black police chiefs, black mayors, women police and police chiefs, gay police, dashcams, bodycams, calls to jail killer cops, etc. – are ‘not only utterly worthless in controlling police violence, they actually serve to legitimize it’ (see ‘Killer Cops, White Supremacists: Racist Terror Stalks Black America ,’ The Internationalist No. 40, Summer 2015). The Internationalist Group doesn’t peddle illusions of impossible reforms to the nucleus of the capitalist state. We look to the working class, calling for labor/black/immigrant mobilization against racist attacks, cop terror and deportations.”
–“Black America Under the Gun,” The Internationalist No. 48, May-June 2017
Also prominent in the protests has been the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), through its refusefascism.org popular front. At the August 2 march on Lake Shore Drive, their banner proclaimed, “Trump/Pence Must Go!” What about Emanuel, the boss of the Chicago police, who before becoming mayor was the top lieutenant of Barack Obama? The RCP’s campaign amounts to support for the Democratic Party, which has held the Chicago mayor’s office and enforced segregation uninterruptedly since 1931. In claiming to have “joined with people in fighting the brutality and murder of the police and struggled with them to stop killing each other,” (Revolution, 6 August), the RCP Mao-Stalinists are building support for the party of brutal repression at the 1968 Democratic convention, adopting its rhetoric about “black-on-black crime,” and reinforcing the police monopoly on violence through gun control.1
The Stalinists and ex-Stalinists are far from the only ones pushing such illusory schemes. As they scrambled to climb aboard the “anti-violence” youth marches this spring (along with the RCP and just about every other reformist group), the social-democrats of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) called for the government to take over gun licensing and training (see our article, “‘Socialists’ Chase After Anti-Gun Movement,” The Internationalist, April 2018). These reformists also promote the ruse of police reform, arguing, “Until there is genuine community control over the department – and many other reforms besides – Chicago police will continue to literally get away with murder” (Socialist Worker, 5 June). The ISO is jointly calling the protest at the opening of the Van Dyke trial along with the CAARPR and Black Lives Matter Chicago.
And then there is the Democratic (Party) Socialists of America. What the DSA along with the rest of this gaggle of pseudo-socialists have in common, beyond utopian schemes to reform the police, is that they are endlessly buzzing around the Democratic Party. Some call outright to vote for the Dems (DSA, CPUSA, CoC), or do so indirectly (like the FRSO’s call to “Defeat McCain” in 2008); others sport a fig leaf of “independence” while sidling up to the Democrats (like the ISO, which adopted Obama’s “yes we can” slogan, and called his program a “breath of fresh air”). These opportunists might give open or backhanded support to “progressive” Democrats like former mayoral candidate Chuy García or an alderman like Carlos Ramirez-Garcia, or vote for some candidate of the Green Party, a minor capitalist party which acts as a pressure group on the Democrats. But whatever their tactical differences, they are all playing the game of bourgeois pressure politics rather than calling to break with the Democrats and all capitalist parties.
“Anti-Violence” Rhetoric Takes the Heat Off the Killer Cops
Moreover, by diverting protest against police murder into “anti-violence” marches, they adopt the rulers’ ploy of blaming the victims. As Oakland left activist and filmmaker Boots Riley noted after Bill Clinton took this tack in in a campaign rally for Hillary in the 2016 election, “The idea that it is black folks and our supposedly immoral and savage culture that creates our disproportionate rates of poverty and imprisonment is everywhere” (Guardian, 9 April 2018). This bogus claim unites bourgeois “opinion makers” from frothing reactionaries like Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly and Rudy Giuliani to Democrats Clinton (Bill and Hillary) and Obama. Boots Riley takes renowned director Spike Lee to task for his film about Chicago, Chi-Raq, with its story line that today’s civil rights movement consists of denouncing black-on-black violence.
Riley noted that “Calls for gun legislation are actually calls for stricter policing and more police violence in black communities: gun control laws give police more powers to arrest – and we know that these policies will be racist in their implementation.” (The original title of Riley’s article at Creative Time Reports was “Guns Don’t Kill People, Capitalism Kills People.”) As we noted amid the anti-gun hysteria following the horrific Newtown school shooting a few years ago, the question is: “Who Controls the Guns?” (The Internationalist No. 34, March-April 2013). The Internationalist Group declared then, and we repeat today: “No to Gun Control: Racist Ruling-Class Ploy to Disarm the Population.”
This is not to dismiss or downplay the tragic death toll in black neighborhoods from gang violence, robberies and other anti-social activities. But their cause is not the presence of guns. As a Pew Research Center study cited by Riley points out, African Americans and Latinos are half as likely as whites overall to have a firearm in the home (19% and 20% vs. 41%, respectively). The real source of this violence is the gutting of social services (49 schools closed in South and West Side neighborhoods since 2014, half of all outpatient mental health clinics closed), gentrification that pushes out poor black and brown residents, and the economic devastation caused by the shutting down of industry, wiping out large sectors of the black working class.
An article on “Chicago’s Awful Divide” in The Atlantic (28 March) details the destruction: in 1960, 33% of black workers in Chicago were employed in manufacturing, by 2015 this had fallen to 5%. In the 1950s in North Lawndale, Western Electric employed over 43,000 workers, an International Harvester plant had 14,000 workers, and 10,000 people worked at the Sears, Roebuck headquarters. As Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson documented in his book When Work Disappears (1996), the Western Electric plant closed in the ’60s, Sears moved its headquarters downtown and the Harvester plant closed in 1984. The devastation continues as General Mills closed its West Side cereal plant last year.
Meanwhile, much of the black middle class moved out as the gap grew between rich and desperately poor. There is economic growth in Chicago, but little in the black and Hispanic sections of this rigidly segregated city. There are 700,000 jobs within a 30-minute commute on public transportation from the Loop and Northside, but only 50,000 within the same distance from the South Side. The disappearance of steady jobs has had drastic social consequences. A recent study showed that 60% of black youths between the ages of 20 and 24 in Chicago are out of work.2 In the decaying capitalist system, it’s no wonder that drugs and petty crime are rampant in these deeply impoverished areas, under constant and brutal police occupation.
The liberal and reformist organizers of the “anti-violence” protests are well aware of the connection between lack of jobs and these symptoms of social decay. But even as they call for the resignation of Rahm Emanuel, their real demand is for a bigger cut of contracts doled out by City Hall. Thus the September 3 march is demanding “visionary corporate and governmental partnerships” to “repurpose closed schools,” investment on the South and West Sides “commensurate” with Downtown and North Side, “resources for black led anti-violence initiatives,” and the like. This is a slightly more crass version of the usual reformist mantra of “jobs not war,” “schools not jails,” etc., as if it is a matter of budget priorities. It is not.
Lucrative government contracts or “public-private partnerships” are not going to alleviate black unemployment or rebuild the ghettos any more than poverty programs did in the 1960s and ’70s. Nor will electing Democrats to national office instead of Republicans, as the Clinton and Obama administrations showed. Capitalism in its death agony is devastating the working class, particularly black workers, but not them alone: the decimation of industrial jobs in the Midwestern “Rust Belt” in the name of “free trade” led many white workers who voted for Obama to buy into the “America First” demagogy of the all-round bigot Trump. Rather than this fool’s gold, the bottom line is that the fight against racist repression and for economic survival is inseparable from the struggle for socialist revolution.
Talk of “reforming” the police or controlling guns only serves to divert protest away from a revolutionary perspective and to strengthen the repressive agencies of the capitalist state, while leading protesters into the dead-end of bourgeois pressure politics. The stark fact is that there is no solution to war, poverty and racist repression under capitalism. Instead, it is necessary to break from all capitalist parties and politicians, first and foremost the Democratic Party, and to forge the nucleus of a revolutionary workers party, like the Bolsheviks of Lenin and Trotsky. That is the central message that must be hammered home as time after time we go into the streets to denounce one more atrocity by this murderous, racist capitalist system.
The Internationalist Group calls to mobilize the power of the working class in massive labor/black/immigrant mobilizations against racist repression. And as we have insisted, from Ferguson to Staten Island to South Side Chicago: Only revolution will bring justice! ■
- 1.RCP supporters have been harassed and assaulted by University of Chicago police, while seven of their supporters including Maya and Noche Diaz were arrested at this year’s Puerto Rican Parade. The Internationalist Group calls for all charges against them to be dropped.
- 2.Great Cities Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago, Abandoned in Their Neighborhoods: Youth Joblessness Amidst the Flight of Industry and Opportunity (January 2017)