This past Saturday, there were rallies and marches, involving tens of thousands of people in big cites and small towns all over this country. The people who gathered were diverse in age, race, ethnicity and gender, though certainly the majority were young. The cry against police brutality was to “Shut the system down” until there is justice.
This wave of protests against police violence and murder dates back to August, when Michael Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Ever since Brown’s murder, the community of Ferguson has continued its protests. Because of their determination, his murder by the police was brought center stage in this country. When grand juries absolved the cops of responsibility for the murders of both Mike Brown and Eric Garner in New York City, more fuel was added to the flames of resistance.
What can be done about this rampant police violence? Some believe that the federal government should get involved because the problem is at the local level. Or that it is a question of police training or monitoring, or of forcing the police to wear cameras. Are we to believe that police cameras won’t malfunction on command, in the same way that police testimonies almost always support their own criminal activity? We need cameras on the cops – in the hands of citizens. But in the case of Eric Garner, even the video evidence didn’t stop the cop who strangled him from getting off.
Unfortunately these solutions leave things in the hands of those who are in charge of the police terror in the poorest communities in our society. They have not shown concern for the lives of Black people. Asking this government to monitor its police is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse
These solutions ignore the role of the police – which is to maintain and protect the property and control of the one percent, to keep their system of exploitation and oppression in place so their profits keep rolling in. Racism and the violence linked to it have been an essential part of this system. Racism is used to keep Black people in the worst jobs or tossed into the streets.
The wealthy have passed on the cost of their economic crisis by imposing extreme poverty on many, especially in Black communities. Large sections of the population have been criminalized and under attack by a militarized police force in the name of the so-called “war on drugs”. This war on poor communities has locked millions away in prisons. In the eyes of this system, if you are Black and poor you are often considered to be a criminal.
We need to put those in power on notice that we will not tolerate their racist violence any more. And that is exactly what some people have done. Night after night hundreds and even thousands of people have marched in the streets, blocking traffic, bridges, and train tracks. The protests have forced those in power to pay attention. But as determined as these protests are, they are limited to causing temporary disruptions.
To make a real impact, the young activists in the streets will need to become organizers, to help others become active. It means connecting with more people, going to workplaces, neighborhoods, churches and schools. We can talk to everyone we see, provide them with information, with fliers explaining what happened. We can wear armbands so everyone who sees us will think about what happened. We can meet and discuss together about what we can do.
When millions of people begin to take a stand, everything can change. We saw this in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and 1970s. We saw it in the massive anti-war movement against the U.S. war on Vietnam. All movements begin with a few determined and courageous people who engage others. For us to succeed we can’t just be reactive, we have to be organized and put forward clear aims and goals. We need to mobilize the real power that could change this society. That power lies in the hands of the millions who do the work that makes this system run. And they also have the power to shut it down.
The last weeks are a sign of hope and if the movement grows and continues who knows what possibilities could lie ahead?
In the last weeks, two murderers were freed and the go-ahead was given to cops across the U.S. to continue to carry out their murderous activity. For some the belief in the fairness of this system was shattered. First came the acquittal of Darren Wilson, the cop who gunned down Michael Brown in Ferguson. Then came the acquittal of Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who suffocated Eric Garner, using an illegal chokehold, in New York City. The complicity of those who maintain the order of this society, from the prosecutors and politicians to the police, has been revealed. Their secret courts, known as grand juries, have been exposed as an official system to cover-up and acquit known murderers. The corporate media has tried to distract people from the realities of the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old Black youth who did not bow down to the authority of a white cop. Instead of being portrayed as the victim of a racist police murder, he was painted as a thief and a threat ¬¬– responsible for his own death. And Brown’s stepfather is under investigation for his angry outburst following the announcement of the grand jury verdict. The mask of justice was slipping off. With the acquittal of Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who killed Eric Garner, the mask of justice was removed. This wasn’t the orchestrated twisting of facts that we saw in Mike Brown’s case ¬¬– challenging the statements of eyewitnesses and taking Wilson’s pathetic whining as fact. The video of the murder of Eric Garner and his pleas, that he could not breathe as he was being suffocated by the cops, was plain for all to hear and see. And yet, the grand jury declared Pantaleo to be an innocent man. Even for some reporters this was too much. They couldn’t hide their own disbelief and wondered out loud how the murder of a man accused of selling cigarettes was not a criminal act. For many, who understand the nature of this system of capitalism, and the racism that lies at its core, this comes as no surprise. But this open and blatant disregard for human life was more than many expected. The millions who did not take to the streets contained their righteous anger. But hoping that officials will promise to conduct investigations and provide cops with cameras will not change a thing. It will not stop the racism and the violence of this system. Some people refused to be quiet and took to the streets across the country – in the hundreds and sometimes in the thousands. They were right to be angry. Out of frustration, some windows were broken, stores looted and some set on fire. The collateral damage is unfortunate. But a broken window is property damage – murder is the taking of human life. They cannot be compared. The attention now focused on the brutality of the cops may slow the cops temporarily. And if it does – that is a good thing. But we know that police violence will not stop. The system they are serving and protecting cannot allow this. This system values profits, not human life. This system imprisons millions in a life of poverty. It locks millions away in its prisons. A generation of young people is being denied a future because their labor is not needed to produce profits for the one percent – the same one percent that is in the process of destroying life on the planet. What more proof do we need that a fundamental change is necessary? The question we face now is what to do. We cannot hope for things to get better without actively forcing a change. These demonstrations are a start. It is good that some people have shown a readiness to act. But we need to broaden our forces. How? By going into our workplaces, neighborhoods, schools and churches, to share information and fliers with others, wear armbands to show how we feel for all to see, and organize discussions and actions. We need to mobilize all of our power. Workers do all the work to make the society run and produce all the goods and provide all the services. If we can make it run we also have the power to make the system come to a halt. Then it isn’t just a question of demonstrating from the outside. It would mean organizing and mobilizing to stop the monster system from the inside. And we also have the power to put a much better society in its place.
This system, the system of capitalism, we live under has indicted itself again. In the last two weeks it has freed two murderers and given the go-ahead to cops across the country to carry out their murderous activity. For some people the belief they might have had in the fairness of this system was shattered. First was the acquittal of Darren Wilson, the cop who gunned down Michael Brown. Then came the acquittal of Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City cop who suffocated Eric Garner using an illegal chokehold.
The complicity of those who maintain the order of this society – from the prosecutors and politicians to the police who maintain order on the streets – has been exposed. Their secret court system, known as grand juries, has been exposed as an official system of cover-ups used to acquit known murderers.
We have witnessed the use of the corporate media to try to distract people from the realities of the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old Black youth who did not bow down to the authority of a white cop. Instead of being the victim of another racist police murder, Michael Brown was painted as the aggressor. He was portrayed as being a thief and a threat and responsible for his own death. And now Brown’s stepfather is under investigation for his angry outburst following the announcement of this travesty of justice. The mask of justice was slipping.
With the acquittal of Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City cop who killed Eric Garner, the mask of justice was removed. This wasn’t a matter of the orchestrated twisting of the facts that we saw in Mike Brown’s case – challenging the statements or eyewitnesses and taking Wilson’s pathetic whining as fact. The video of the murder of Eric Garner and his pleas for help, as he was being suffocated, were plain for all to see. And yet, in the secret court of the grand jury, Pantaleo was declared an innocent man. Even for some of those who deliver the news to us for their corporate masters, this was too much. They couldn’t hide their disbelief and wondered out loud how the murder of a man accused of selling cigarettes could not be a criminal act.
For many, the nature of this system, the racism that lies at the core of its functioning, comes as no surprise. But the open and blatant disregard for human life was more than many expected. The hundreds of thousands and millions who did not take to the streets contained their righteous anger. But wishing and hoping that officials who make promises to conduct investigations, provide cops with cameras and putting up healing centers will not change this reality.
Some people refused to be quiet and took to the streets across the country – in the hundreds and sometimes in the thousands. And, of course, out of frustration, some windows have been broken, stores looted and set on fire. The collateral damage is unfortunate. But, for many, the anger brought about by these state-sanctioned daylight lynchings burns hotter than fire.
The cops may slow down for a minute. But we know they will not stop. The system they are serving and protecting cannot allow this. The millions in prison, the millions imprisoned by a life of poverty, the millions who face the racism of this society in all its forms, the millions of young people whose future is being denied to them face an elite that that places value on profits but not on human life. They are the same one percent that is in the process of destroying life on the planet. What more proof do we need?
The question we face now is what to do. These demonstrations are a start. We cannot hope for things to get better without actively forcing a change. The reality is that we can act and fight back. Workers do all the work to make the society run – we produce all the goods and provide all the services. We also have the power to make the system come to a halt, if we organize and use our power. Then it isn’t any longer just a question of demonstrating from the outside – it is a question of stopping the monster system from the inside and putting something much better in its place.
Last week the grand jury finally ruled in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. No indictment was issued against policeman Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown. In other words, a white cop was legally justified in killing an unarmed 18-year-old Black youth. Unfortunately this should not surprise us. Police or security guards murder a Black person every 28 hours. And few who commit these crimes are brought to trial.
Following the grand jury’s announcement, the media shifted from coverage of Michael Brown’s murder to the actions of people who took to the streets, outraged by this verdict. In Ferguson and all over the US, people protested this miscarriage of justice. No longer was the fact that Darren Wilson fired 12 shots at Mike Brown, hitting him six times a question. No longer was there discussion of the fact that an emergency medical response team was not called and Mike Brown’s body lay, uncovered, in the street for four and a half hours. It was of no concern that Darren Wilson was not questioned or detained, but left free to collect his paycheck.
The media focused on the angry response – the blocked streets and highways, the stores burned or looted – the acts of those outraged by the legal cover-up of this murder. While there was a big outcry about destruction of property – isn’t it interesting that there was a total lack of response by fire departments across the country or by the militarized police? They just let everything burn.
And the media even tried to turn Darren Wilson from the murderer of an 18-year-old youth, to the terrorized victim of a cigar-stealing demon. The open racism of the corporate media could not be more obvious. A fully armed 28-year-old, experienced cop, terrorized by an 18-year-old? Wilson’s claim that he feared for his life as Michael Brown punched him didn’t show up in his hospital photos. His entire story seems to be a well-coached distortion of the truth – or in other words – a lie!
Wilson’s testimony before the grand jury was not given the close examination that was clearly given to the testimony of the eyewitnesses to the shooting. The politicians intentionally chose to take the case to the grand jury because the jury meets in secret and is controlled by the prosecutor. Brown’s death was not an accident it was an execution. The grand jury verdict was used as a cover up.
We cannot stand by and allow this violence to be carried out without a response. We cannot accept the lie that the police are there to serve and protect us. The only ones they serve are the big businesses and their politicians. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted by the media’s accusations of violence against those who took to the streets in anger. The media is not neutral – it is owned and controlled by the same big businesses.
It will take more than small street demonstrations and disruptions to stop the brutality of the cops. These demonstrations are just a way to try to stop business as usual. But it certainly would not have been better if there had been no response to this legal lynching. Certainly we cannot believe we can rely on the politicians and judicial system that carried out this travesty of justice.
So what else could be possible? What if a large number of workers had organized themselves and announced there would not be any business as usual if Darren Wilson was not charged? What if many who work at MUNI, AC Transit and BART had not gone to work? What would have happened if the hospitals ran short-staffed and other large offices and workplaces were closed across the Bay Area? And around the country! What if hundreds of thousands of people came out in demonstrations at courthouses and police stations around the country? That by itself would not put an end to police brutality. But it would certainly be a step toward organizing our forces for the fights ahead. And it would send a strong message to those in power.
The only way to put an end to this violence in the long run is to put an end to this system that depends on exploitation to make its profits. The racism and other forms of oppression are built into this system. It is this system that has the blood of Michael Brown and many others on its hands.
The Thanksgiving holidays are coming. Some of us will be lucky enough to come together with our families and loved ones and relax in a rare moment free from work. How often do we get a day off to eat good food, spend quality time with others? But even allowing us to enjoy this one day is too much for the bosses.
In past years the big retail stores came up with the idea of Black Friday, trying to get people to rush to shop the day after Thanksgiving to buy gifts for the upcoming holiday season. Last year they even opened some stores at midnight on Thursday, Thanksgiving day. This year, in their attempt to draw in even more shoppers, many big name stores plan to open their doors even earlier – some as early as 7:00 AM on Thursday.
This means some workers will be ripped away from their families on Thanksgiving day to work in the stores. And other workers will either leave Thanksgiving dinner early or skip it altogether to try and get to the stores when they first open.
This year’s shopping ritual shows the insanity of this economic system. Millions of people across the country have been evicted and become homeless. Tens of millions of us are unemployed having been fired or laid off from our jobs or never could find a job. Millions more are working part time because that is all that is available. And most workers are more broke than ever. Most of us are making less money and doing more work. So, if overtime is available, people work extra hours to make ends meet or to get ready for the holidays. We’re spending more time at work, and away from our families. We’re more stressed out. And we’re spending more on basic necessities. If there is one thing we don’t need to do it is even more shopping!
We are supposed to think that the cure for all that is bothering us is to buy more things, Since we don’t have enough time to spend with our loved ones – we’re supposed to show our love with presents. Since we’re so stressed out, we’re encouraged to buy ourselves gifts to make us feel better. And if we can’t afford to buy love and happiness, then we’re supposed to rely on the credit card and go further into debt. And if we are unwilling to do this – then we are supposed to feel that there is something wrong with us.
And who benefits from this kind of sick logic? The very same banks and corporations that are making record profits off of us in the first place. First they take our money by exploiting and overworking us. Then they take more of our money by convincing us to buy products we don’t need.
Black Friday is a symptom of a really sick and dysfunctional system. It is a system organized for the profits and benefit of the few at the expense of the majority. Their profits come at the cost of our health, our families, our relationships, our sanity, and our lives. Thanksgiving should be a day off, a day of rest, a day together – not a day to make the bosses even richer at our expense.
The current Ebola outbreak is the largest in history. So far there have been over 5000 official deaths but Doctors Without Borders, one of the main organizations on the ground in West Africa, reported that the outbreak is more likely as high as twenty thousand deaths, having wiped out whole villages outside the cities. But worst of all this is an outbreak that never needed to happen.
Over a decade ago, an Ebola vaccine was created and proven to be 100 percent effective in animal tests. But the vaccine never made it to the next stage of testing on humans because the big pharmaceutical companies didn’t want to pay the research costs. They were worried about being able to sell the vaccine once it was fully developed because they knew they couldn’t profit off of it if Ebola was only affecting poor countries in Africa. So they decided to wait. And only now, after it has spread to a few U.S. and European cases, do the pharmaceutical companies see enough potential profit to start steps to have the vaccine produced.
This is the pathetic logic that we are supposed to rely on in this fight against Ebola. Our actual health is not the issue – what’s at stake are not the lives of thousands, potentially tens of thousands in West Africa and maybe around the world. No – what matters are the profits of corporations. The sick priority, of putting profit over our lives, is what stands in the way of a real response to Ebola.
The Ebola virus is deadly and contagious, but it can only be passed through direct contact with body fluids. It can be contained as long as it is identified and medical personnel have the right protective equipment, training, and adequate staffing levels. But none of this was sent to West Africa as the disease was spreading. The U.S. and other wealthy countries didn’t begin to mount a response until it became clear it could spread to their countries. But even this response has been pathetic.
In the U.S. we see the same profit-driven logic creating obstacles to responding to Ebola. The hospital companies don’t want to spend any extra money – they want to make money. They aren’t eager to dip into their profits to pay for real training and prevention. After the first case in Atlanta, nurses reported that they didn’t even have the right protective suits. Their preparation and training was minimal. The hospital didn’t want to spend the money – and no extra money was provided.
And the same thinking is happening across the country. According to reports, most hospitals in the U.S. would be able to handle one or two Ebola patients at best. Hospitals and Emergency rooms are already stretched to capacity, packed full with hours-long wait times. It’s cheaper to keep staffing low, and just force everyone else to pick up the extra slack. If there were a real outbreak of any virus – this system of profit would be standing in the way of mounting a real response.
Even now, some hospitals have claimed to be preparing their staff to respond to an outbreak of Ebola if it does occur. But for them this means spending the least amount of money, and doing as little as possible. Hospitals have shown some videos and handed out some leaflets. And sent workers from already short-staffed departments into sessions to watch these videos. But the workers know this is just a show – a way to pretend like preparing.
Hospitals would need to stop short staffing every floor, increase personnel to allow actual training. There would need to be more rooms, beds, space, equipment. But this takes money and no hospital is willing to part with profits to pay for a real response unless they were forced to – probably only when it would be too late. But there’s more than enough wealth in this country to pay for all of this – and it’s a crime not use it.
The most devastating impact of the Ebola virus isn’t how deadly the virus is itself. It’s the conscious decision to hang back, and do so little. Even if the Ebola outbreak subsides, and hopefully it will, it won’t be because of the pathetic response of wealthy governments. It will be because we just got lucky this time.