For Labor/Black/Immigrant Action to Fight Racist Terror
Fury Over Minneapolis Police Murder of George Floyd
Only Revolution Can Bring Justice!
On May 26 thousands of angry protesters converged on the place where George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis, Minnesota police the day before.
MAY 28 – “I can’t breathe,” George Floyd kept saying as the police officer dug a knee into his neck. This murderous torture continued for 8 minutes and 46 seconds as Floyd, 46, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, lay handcuffed on the ground. Then he stopped breathing – yet another black man murdered by the racist police. For millions across the country and the world, it hauntingly, unbearably recalls the last words of Eric Garner, the Staten Island, New York man that a cop killed by chokehold in 2014 as Garner kept saying, eleven times over, “I can’t breathe.” A cellphone video of the police lynching showed Floyd desperately pleading with his killer, a Minneapolis cop: “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. Please, man” (Star Tribune, 27 May).
Thousands marched through South Minneapolis Tuesday afternoon and evening, chanting “Black lives matter,” “I can’t breathe,” and demanding that the four cops responsible for Floyd’s murder be arrested and prosecuted. Protesters gathered at 38th Street and East Chicago Avenue, where Floyd was murdered, filling the streets in all directions, and then marched for three miles to the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) 3rd Precinct. There windows were shattered, and a squad car was totaled. Some protesting youth climbed on top of the building. When they were met with riot police, tear gas and rubber bullets, protesters erected barricades with shopping carts from a Target store across the street and fought back with righteous anger. Good!
Large-scale protests continued on Wednesday and are spreading to other cities. In Minneapolis, police swarmed the area where furious protests were taking place. Now Mayor Jacob Frey has requested “support” from the National Guard. On top of wanton police murder of a black man, they add racist repression of the community. As outrage spread, a Metro Transit bus driver, member of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005, announced that he would refuse to transport arrested protesters, as the MPD was demanding, and called on his fellow union members to do likewise. With police menacing the masses demanding justice for George Floyd, the entire workers movement and defenders of black and democratic rights must demand: Cops and National Guard, get out NOW!
This latest racist outrage occurs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is killing African Americans and Latinos at staggeringly high rates. Capitalism’s built-in racist oppression means that those most exploited and most oppressed – who are most “essential” to profits and most expendable to the profiteers – are the most likely to die. And now the rulers’ racist police choke another black man to death – it is too much to take. It has to end. To put an end to it we have to overthrow this capitalist system of racism and death.
Thousands march from site where George Floyd was killed to Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct, 26 May 2020. Below: Internationalist Group signs at May 26 protest.
The African American, Latin American, Native American, poor and oppressed communities in the Twin Cities, including a sizeable Somali population, have long been targeted by the police. In 2015, 24-year-old Jamar Clark was shot in the head by Minneapolis cops while handcuffed and on the ground near the 4th Precinct. The next year, Philando Castile was shot to death in his car in front of his girlfriend and four-year-old daughter by a police officer in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. In 2018, Thurman Blevins was shot dead by two white cops as he pleaded, “Please don’t shoot me. Leave me alone.” And last December, Chiasher Fong Vue, a Hmong man, was killed by a squad of nine MPD officers who fired over 100 bullets.
Today, as the pandemic has led to mass unemployment, the ruling class fears that the killing of George Floyd could lead to a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that started after the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and took off in 2014 as hundreds of thousands protested the police murder of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and so many others. And as right-wingers have besieged the Minnesota state capitol demanding an end to the COVID-19 shutdowns ordered by the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) governor, an uproar against racist repression could trigger a backlash, like the armed KKKers who attacked a BLM protest against the police murder of Jamar Clark.
So Minneapolis’ DFL mayor Frey and black police chief Medaria Arradondo moved quickly to try to get out in front of the protests. “Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” said Frey after watching the bystander’s video. On Tuesday, Arradondo fired the four police involved in the arrest of Floyd. The next day, the mayor said that the cop who had his knee on Floyd’s neck should be arrested and tried. But as we wrote after the cop slaying of Clark:
“Democrats and Republicans will not and cannot put a stop to racist police terror because they depend on the guard dogs of capital to maintain ‘law and order.’ Some of these politicians feign support to protests like Black Lives Matter in order to make sure they don’t get ‘out of control’ (i.e., threaten the domination of United Healthcare, Target, Best Buy, 3M, U.S. Bancorp, General Mills and other giant corporations). And if protesters can’t be assuaged by ‘I feel your pain’ bromides, the liberals call in the cops.”
–“Minneapolis: ‘Cops and Klan Go Hand in Hand’,” The Internationalist No. 42, January-February 2016
In the massive BLM protests in 2014, a slogan chanted by the Internationalist Group, “Eric Garner, Michael Brown – Shut the whole system down!” was quickly picked up. But with all the mass marches in the streets – or shutting down Interstate highways, as protesters did for a few hours on I-94 after the cop murderer of Philando Castile was acquitted – it will take much more to shut down the capitalist system. That is why the IG and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth call to mobilize labor/black/immigrant action against racist police terror. It is the power of the multiethnic working class, grouping around it all the oppressed, that can actually bring the wheels of racist American capitalism to a halt. And that is also why, as many chanted “No justice, no peace,” we chanted the hard and necessary truth, “Only revolution can bring justice!”
Can the working class be mobilized against police terror? There’s no better place in the U.S. to ask that question than Minneapolis, with its long history of labor struggle going back to the 1934 Teamster Strike that shut the city down. In that knock-down, drag-out fight, workers squared off with scabs, strikebreaking cops and deputies of the Citizens’ Alliance (which later allied with the fascist Silver Shirts) in the “Battle of Deputies Run,” turning Minneapolis from an “open shop” haven into a solid union town. And the answer to the question is, yes, the workers movement can and must come out in the thousands demanding an end to racist cop repression. It could happen now, not just in the distant past, but that requires class-struggle leadership.
Six years after Eric Garner’s murder, five years after Jamar Clark’s, four years after Philando Castile’s, two years after Blevins’ and six months after Fong Vue’s, the video of Floyd’s killing is a stark reminder that nothing has changed in the racist, capitalist U.S.A. On May 6, Sean Reed livestreamed his murder by Indianapolis, Indiana police on Facebook. After shooting Reed, one cop can be heard saying: “It’s going to be a closed casket, homie.” On March 13, Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician in Louisville, Kentucky, was shot while sleeping in her apartment by police thugs who stormed in to serve a “no-knock warrant.” And on February 23, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed in Georgia by a retired cop and his son. The two chased Arbery down in their pickup truck while he was out for a jog, and shot him dead like a couple of Ku Klux Klan night-riders. The lynchings never stop.
27 May 2020 Los Angeles protest over murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
“Driving while black,” “jogging while black,” “sleeping at home while black.” Floyd is just the latest addition to the endless list of African Americans and Latinos murdered by the police, in a country where racist repression is and always has been the linchpin of capitalist exploitation. This goes back to slavery days, when runaway slaves would be hunted down by squads of slave catchers. These patrols paved the way for modern-day police departments. In recent decades, the police and courts have ramped up mass incarceration, particularly of black men, while cops across the U.S. kill an average of over 1,500 civilians a year, with black men five times as likely to be gunned down by police as white men (see “Black America Under the Gun: Workers Revolution Will Avenge Philando Castile,” The Internationalist No. 48, May-June 2017).
In Minneapolis, 31 people have been killed by police since 2000, 21 of them black. As in 2015, the city has asked for a civil rights investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI investigations of police departments from Chicago and Baltimore to Ferguson, Missouri, have shown that they are shot through with racism, but have changed nothing.
Another favorite cop-out to disguise the racist nature of the cops is to put some “black (and Latino) faces in high places” to head the police. Arradondo is the first black police chief of Minneapolis. He replaced Janeé Harteau, who was a liberal identity politics dream: the city’s first Native American, female and openly gay police chief, all in one. She introduced body cameras and “implicit bias training.” But police racism isn’t implicit, it is overt and systemic: it expresses the function and nature of the police and “criminal justice system” in this racist capitalist society. Harteau managed to tough it out through the crisis over Clark’s killing, but was forced out after police murdered a white Australian woman, Justine Damond, outside her home, after she had called to report a possible sexual assault. This happened just weeks after the Latino cop who killed Philando Castile was acquitted. Whatever the ethnicity, the job of the police is to enforce racist capitalist “law and order.”
One demand heard in Tuesday’s protests, trumpeted by various opportunist left groups, is the call to “jail killer cops.” Certainly, Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneed George Floyd to death, Tou Thao who stood by and protected his murderous partner, and the other two officers involved are all guilty of murder and should spend the rest of their lives behind bars. But as revolutionary Marxists, we must warn that this won’t happen in the capitalist U.S.A.: the bourgeois politicians will go all out to protect their professional killers-in-blue. Similarly, calls by reformist leftists for “community policing,” “community control of the police” and the like only build illusions, which can be exploited by skillful capitalist politicians, as Minneapolis mayor Frey just did by calling to jail and charge killer cop Chauvin. (Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a favorite of the pseudo-socialists, didn’t even go that far, only calling for an investigation.)
Those who stand on the side of the oppressed must look not to the bosses’ state but to our own forces, above all the working class. After Jamar Clark was killed in 2015, over 200 union members from around the Twin Cities protested outside the 4th Precinct, including from the Minnesota Nurses Association, Letter Carriers, SEIU Healthcare MN, St. Paul Federation of Teachers, and CWA Local 7250. We need much more today.
Class-conscious workers and defenders of democratic rights should respond to the police murder of George Floyd by fighting for mass workers action joining with the black population and all the oppressed to shut the Twin Cities down! This means breaking with the Democrats and all capitalist parties and politicians. In almost every big city in the U.S., Democratic mayors are the bosses of the racist killer cops. It is urgently necessary to build a revolutionary workers party. The inescapable fact is that justice for George Floyd and all those killed by this racist system can only be achieved by socialist revolution, which alone can bring down the murderous capitalist state and open the way to black freedom and the liberation of all the exploited and oppressed. ■