POLICE AND THIEVES

14 06 2020

A couple of months ago, I was talking about “black swans” coming in for a landing here in America, and, since then, lo and behold, one I didn’t mention has come in for a very splashy landing, as the police murder of George Floyd, an unarmed, co-operative, African-American suspect in a misdemeanor case proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and unleashed a flood of anti-police, anti-racism protests around the country and around the world, protests that frequently turned violent, resulting in major damage to several US cities.

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Is this the way to treat somebody over $20? That’s the police in the street, but George Floyd was not a thief.

The violence, as it turns out, was mostly initiated by police and police-supplied provocateurs, as well as by right-wing armed resistance groups who decided that the police riots at demonstrations against police oppression of African-Americans was a good cover under which to step in and institute their own brand of anti-state violence, in hopes of sparking a widespread armed uprising. An article on Bellingcat noted:

On the Facebook page, Big Igloo Bois, which at the time of writing had 30,637 followers (when I checked, it was up to 32,000+), an administrator wrote of the protests, “If there was ever a time for bois to stand in solidarity with ALL free men and women in this country, it is now”.

They added, “This is not a race issue. For far too long we have allowed them to murder us in our homes, and in the streets. We need to stand with the people of Minneapolis. We need to support them in this protest against a system that allows police brutality to go unchecked.”

One commenter added, “I’m looking for fellow Minneapolis residents to join me in forming a private, Constitutionally-authorized militia to protect people from the MPD, which has killed too many people within the last two years.”

These exchanges offer a window into an extremely online update of the militia movement, which is gearing up for the northern summer. The “Boogaloo Bois” expect, even hope, that the warmer weather will bring armed confrontations with law enforcement, and will build momentum towards a new civil war in the United States.

I think that “the Boogaloo Bois” are missing an important point. The main thrust of the demonstrations  is not about fighting the police, it’s about the much more radical demand that American cities end policing as we know it, so there’s nobody to fight. More on that a little later.

Screenshot_2020-06-13 Convulsing in protest, US cities brace for more unrest following George Floyd death

Police defending their right to murder as they see fit. Note heavily armed protestor. Another thoroughly appropriate response from our law enforcement officers. Police in the streets, alright, but the young man with the flowers is not one of the thieves, who appear in our next illustration, but rarely in the streets…

As the protests grew and spread, things reached such a pitch that Our Dear Leader threatened to declare martial law, although everybody was careful not to call it that. In yet another surprising development, so many of our country’s top military officers publicly disagreed with that call so that the Trumpster had to walk it back. A near-coup?

One result of such widespread police violence against people who were peacefully protesting police violence is that the United States no longer has any moral authority whatsoever to criticize other countries over their handling of anti-government protests.

We have just had, and, to a certain extent, are still having, a national uprising. Police violence was just a match tossed into an already-existing pool of gasoline. How did all that gas get there?

I think the basis of it is widespread resentment of the way the privileged  class, “the 1%,” have used their ownership of the corporate world, and their virtual ownership of the government, to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us. While African-Americans have borne the brunt of this, both from being brought here as slaves and as a result of the myth of white, Christian superiority that pervades our culture, I think most Americans feel it, albeit often subconsciously. It manifests throughout our history as the populist resentment that has fueled both radical movements like the Industrial Workers of the World and reactionaries like Huey Long and Donald Trump.

Most Americans, black and white, are well aware that the recent “bailout bill” tossed most of us chump change and further enriched the wealthiest among us, and that We The People will be the ones paying the trillions of dollars of debt created by that enrichment. “Since the wealthy have looted us,” some Americans reasoned,”why  shouldn’t I go down to my neighborhood Target store, which they own, and help myself?”

Most Americans are aware that, as the country plunged in just four weeks to a level of unemployment that we took two years to reach in the 1929 depression, the wealthiest among us got 434 billion dollars richer while millions of people, many of whom were already living paycheck to paycheck, lost their jobs. Neighborhood stores were closed, but Amazon was open for business, and Jeff Bezos raked it in. It’s a good thing he didn’t say, “Let them eat cake,” but maybe we’re not quite there yet. In a few months, peoples’ unemployment checks will be drying up, and landlords and banks will be evicting and foreclosing. What’s going to happen then?

VegNews.JeffBezosBillGatesRichardBranson

OK, here’s some of the thieves….they don’t have to feel your pain–they’ve got your money.

And most Americans are becoming increasingly aware of, and resentful of, the way they are exploited in their workplaces by large corporations whose basic purpose is to enrich their shareholders at the expense of their employees, the social fabric of the country, and the natural world.

In order to enrich the few, white people in this country, in and out of uniform, have been killing African-Americans, Native Americans, Central and South Americans, and Orientals, with impunity for hundreds of years, and the protests of those us Euro-Americans have murdered have been ongoing, but now, in the year 2020, some kind of critical mass seems to have finally been reached.

While I have issues with cell phones, they have been a critical element in reaching that critical mass, enabling ordinary citizens to document the stupidity and brutality of government and corporate officials and broadcast it to the world.

Another element, I think, is the fact that us Euro-Americans are on the way to being a minority in this country, and a lot us, even if we’re not consciously aware of it, are fearful that, once we are not the majority, we will be treated the way we have treated others. The demographic balance has already shifted among younger people, and will be working its way up as that majority of young non-whites ages and has children. These young people are the ones facing a future that’s no future, with computers and automation taking most of the jobs, and climate change possibly sweeping it all away. Stir in an increasingly tight level of repression by the police, whose primary job in our society is to protect the property and privileges of the wealthy, and you’ve got a pool of gasoline–and the murder of George Floyd provided just the right spark.

Some people worry about increases in crime if there are fewer police, but the fact is that the vast majority of what police actually do does not require somebody trained in, and oriented towards, the use of force. According to a study by the Vera Institute of Justice,

Only five percent of arrests are for serious, violent crimes….. the bulk of police work is in response to incidents that are not criminal in nature and the majority of arrests involve non-serious offenses like “drug abuse violations”—arrests .. which increased more than 170 percent between 1980 and 2016—disorderly conduct, and a nondescript low-level offense category known as “all other non-traffic offenses.” Collectively, these offenses make up more than 80 percent of all arrests. Further, these heavily arrested non-serious offenses disproportionately impact people of color. The data shows that arrests are applied with geographic disparity as well, concentrating most prominently in metropolitan—and particularly suburban—areas.

What it boils down to seems to be the old adage about “if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail,” except that, in the case of the police, their primary tools are firearms, teargas, tasers, and putting a knee on somebody’s neck.

George Floyd was stopped for allegedly passing a counterfeit twenty dollar bill. It’s not even clear he knew it was counterfeit. Since when is that a capital crime, let alone one that calls for execution on the spot?

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George Floyd

He’s not alone.

A court declared that Michelle Cusseaux was too severely mentally ill to live on her own. When police showed up to take her away for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization, she tried to defend herself with a hammer, for which she was fatally shot by a police officer. Several police officers should not have to shoot, let alone kill, a woman armed only with a hammer in order to subdue her. Why did her resistance merit for execution on the spot?

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Michelle Cusseaux

Eric Garner was killed by police for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. Since when is that a crime that calls for execution on the spot?

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Eric Garner

Tanisha Anderson, who was considered mentally ill, was killed when Cleveland police manhandled her after her parents called 911, asking for an ambulance. Since when is being bipolar a crime that calls for immediate execution?

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Tanisha Anderson

A Ferguson, Missouri police officer killed Michael Brown for allegedly jaywalking. Since when is jaywalking a capital crime, let alone one that calls for execution on the spot?

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Michael Brown

Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her apartment at one AM when police broke in with a battering ram, claiming they had a “no-knock” search warrant and were looking for a suspect in a drug case–who had already been found elsewhere. Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend fired back at what he thought was a “run of the mill” intruder, and hit one policeman in the leg, for which he was initially charged with attempted murder, although the charge was later dropped. None of the police involved in the murder have been charged, and the official police report on the incident listed her injuries as “none.”

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Breonna Taylor in her EMT uniform

Murderous police have often been excused as “a few bad apples,” but it is becoming increasingly clear that the whole orchard is rotten. I find it deeply ironic that, after I wrote that sentence, at the end of one writing session, I heard Republican Oklahoma Senator James Lankford, a white man, say in an NPR interview that he didn’t think there was systemic racism in our country’s police forces and that the problems were due to…”a few bad apples.” He proposed the same lame list of reforms that have been tried, and failed, over the last fifty years.  It’s time to try something new.  That “something new” is the growing movement to “defund” the police. As Harvard Professor Kahlil Gibran Muhammad put it on Democracy Now,

Defund takes the core idea of abolition and says, “If we were to start over, what would we decide police should be doing versus not be doing?” Now, I’m already picking a middle position between the notion that we simply wipe out police altogether, which is one abolitionist version of it. But defund, as it is being articulated in places like Minneapolis, is really a conversation of: We’re going to start over, and we’re going to start over by putting together a list, from everything from nuisance calls to wellness checks to claims of violent crime, and we’re going to decide what the police ought to be doing. And once we see what’s left over, then that’s the percentage of the budget that the police, a new version of the police, will keep. The rest will go to other public services.

We can use violence interrupters, who are public health workers trained in the community, by the community, for the community, to in fact deal with conflict resolution. This is how it works in nearly every other country where police have not been militarized and given unlimited resources and power to police their own citizens as if they were soldiers in occupied territory. People resolve conflicts inside of healthy, functioning communities. So people in this country need the same training and resources to be able to do similar things. That’s what defund is about.

I want to put this movement to radically alter the way the way we assure public safety in the US in a deeper context, starting from what George Floyd’s brother Philonese said in his Congressional testimony:

George wasn’t hurting anyone that day. He didn’t deserve to die over $20. I am asking you, “Is that what a Black man is worth? Twenty dollars?”

This expresses the heart of what’s going on here. While the sexual excuses for killing black men have gradually faded in this country, the excuse of protecting property has remained strong. In addition to the Floyd case, we have Ahmaud Arbery shot on suspicion of burglary, the Los Angeles uprising of 1992 precipitated not just by the Rodney King beating, but also by the murder of 15-year old Latasha Harlins for allegedly stealing a $1.79 carton of orange juice–that the police found she hadn’t stolen. (Her murderer, the storekeeper, got probation, 400 hours of community service, and a $500 fine for “voluntary manslaughter.”) The list goes on, and on, and on.

I often say on this blog/radio show that capitalism is a system in which the rights of money and property, and those who control that money and property, are considered more important than the well-being of the society as a whole. That is what the police, as currently constituted, are here to support, and that is what is at the basis of the protests against their conduct. That is why we need not another attempt at “reform,” but a revolution in how we ensure the safety of our citizens, who are, increasingly, realizing that the disorder the police are allegedly here to protect us from is, in fact, created in large part by the conduct of the police.

Gee…that’s kind the same as the US military/foreign policy establishment creating the terrorists that we then need to fight, in order to assure that the United States, and the Corporate Persons for which it stands, will be able to exploit resources in foreign countries. Will some form of that realization be the next black swan to land?

In Seattle, Minneapolis, and elsewhere, people are increasingly appreciating the vision of a publicly-controlled, non-violent community of their fellow citizens, whose business it is to keep the peace, not to make arrests and suck people into the prison-industrial complex, never mind if it destroys the community. This is one aspect of the “participatory democracy” we Greens advocate. Can other manifestations of it be far behind?

If we want to end the distrust of authority shown by so many people, from the Boogaloo Bois to Black Lives Matter, the answer is not repression, but inclusion, at a couple of levels. One level of inclusion is “participatory democracy”–giving the people in a society a big voice, and vote, in decisions about how that society functions, rather than having “experts” and corporate opinions be the only ones that count. As I said, doing this with civic peacekeeping is just the first step. It can be applied to education, land use/zoning issues, and much more. Another level is “economic democracy”–turning our workplaces from dictatorships of the owners into, yes, democracies of the employees, in which they have an ownership stake and a voice in the management of the company.

Making our society more truly democratic would do a lot more than just ease tensions around law enforcement. It could help end gentrification, help end workplace sexual and racial discrimination and exploitation, create more cohesive communities, make it easier for us to go through the social changes we need to make in order to adapt to, slow, and possibly reverse global overheating. If we had a society without armed police on the street and elected thieves in government, I think everybody would be happier, and there would be benefits we can hardly even imagine now. The current uprising in America may be the first major step on the road to that. We’ll find out soon enough.

Zara McFarlane   Police and Thieves

Bunny Wailer  400 Years 

(The Amazon monopoly doesn’t sell that, so I had to “settle” for one of The Wailer’s early versions)

Bob Marley Burning And Looting

Staples Singers For What It’s Worth

Eliza Gilkyson, Dreamtime

Jimmy Cliff  Momma, Look Up The Mountain

Buffy Ste. Marie, Power In the Blood

Jimmy Cliff Universal Love


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