It took a whole world movement to convict just one white cop, Derek Chauvin, of murdering one Black man, George Floyd. The verdict is meaningful, but it’s not justice. How could it be, given that it could not bring Floyd back to life and return him to his family and community?
The scales of justice have always been weighted to favor the capitalist class and their enforcers. Historically, cops have been able to kill with impunity. In this case, though, the lopsided U.S. legal system and the U.S. president were forced to acknowledge that a heinous crime had been committed. This is a testament to the power of the Black Lives Matter protests, led by militant Black youth, which inspired multiracial and international solidarity.
Nevertheless, cops’ deadly rampage against adults and children of color continues. Minutes before the Chauvin verdict was pronounced on April 20, an Ohio cop shot to death a 16-year-old girl, Ma’Khia Bryant. Police ended the lives of at least five more people across the country in the next 24 hours, and they had killed 64 people during the three weeks of Chauvin’s trial, including Daunte Wright during a traffic stop near Minneapolis and 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago. Only one cop has been charged with murder in any of these 64 cases.
As inspiring civil rights organizer Ella Baker said, “Until the killing of Black mothers’ sons becomes as important to the country as the killing of white mothers’ sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest.”
Ella Baker and other Black freedom fighters secured civil rights and important gains not only for African Americans but for every American, moving us as a people forward. Cops are there to put the brakes on these advances. They terrorize communities of color, kill without consequence, and act as strikebreakers at union pickets. They are the bodyguards of a corrupt profit system that has gorged itself off a pandemic that has killed millions.
Clearly, we cannot rely on the judicial system to do the right thing and hold cops accountable. What can be done to check this killing machine in blue? Only a strong mass movement making radical demands, like disarming the cops and creating elected civilian review boards with the authority to control them, can curb their racist violence. A push for such a board is making real strides in New York City.
Needed is a multiracial, democratic, disciplined united front with a working-class program, led by Black workers and grassroots community members. The wholehearted backing of unions is badly needed in this fight. Ejecting police unions from labor councils, which has already happened in several places, is a step in the right direction, depriving cops of the shield of the labor movement.
Will this be enough to end cop violence? No. Ultimately, working and oppressed people need to take power from the capitalist class, because that is whose interests the police serve. We need a socialist feminist system instead, one that will provide healthcare, jobs, housing and education for everyone, leaving no one behind.
Disarm the police! Slash law enforcement budgets and boost funds for essential social services.
Expel police unions from labor councils.
Establish community control over the police via elected civilian review boards with subpoena power and the ability to discipline and fire, partnered with independent prosecutors.
Statement issued by Freedom Socialist Party