Socialist Worker

US cops use racist violence to protect racist, violent system

Issue No. 2707

Minneapolis cops firing tear gas at protesters

Minneapolis cops firing tear gas at protesters (Pic: Chad Davis)


The police form a racist, violent institution that works to crush ordinary people and uphold the interests of the powerful.

The world’s cameras have documented the ­movement against police brutality in the US. But that hasn’t stopped cops from meting out violence.

And they don’t just use fists and feet—they are armed to the teeth. 

The human rights group Amnesty International has denounced police use of “heavy-duty riot gear and military-grade weapons”.

Rachel Ward from Amnesty International USA said cops are being equipped “in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield”.

Horrific scenes have been shared across social media. 

Sprayed

One showed a young black man with his arms in the air—a cop pulled down his face mask and pepper sprayed him inches from his face. 

Linda Tirado, a journalist and photographer in Minneapolis, was permanently blinded in one eye after cops fired rubber bullets at her. 

In the same city, cops fired paint canisters at residents standing on their own front porch.

Officers in Louisville raided a public square, confiscating and destroying water and milk, which is used by protesters to ease the pain of pepper spray. 

And in New York and Los Angeles, cop cars mowed down a crowd of protesters. 

Some 5,000 members of the National Guard have been deployed too.

This militarised reserve, with its tanks and helicopters, is being used to intimidate and beat protesters off the streets.

The protests have shown that the cops are not neutral. 

The police force is a deeply racist institution because it exists to uphold a deeply racist system.

They’re used to crush resistance but also mete out daily terror for black people. 

Research last year from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showed that police killings account for 1.6 percent of all deaths of black men aged 20-24. 

That makes young black men over three times more likely to be killed by the cops that white men of the same age. 

The authors said that police violence should be treated “as a public health issue”.


Rage on the streets all across the globe

In Toronto, Canada, protesters highlighted the recent death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29 year old black woman who died during contact with police.

Regis fell from a balcony in her home while police were investigating a “domestic incident” on Wednesday of last week.

Thousands of people marched on Saturday chanting, “No justice, no peace.”

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, cops attacked a Black Lives Matter protest with tear gas. Protesters responded by chanting, “I can’t breathe.”

In France 10,000 people joined an anti-racist march last Saturday in defiance of a police ban. Although called before George Floyd’s killing, it became a focus for the rage over his death.

Thousands of people in Berlin, Germany, rallied in solidarity with Black Lives Matters protesters over the weekend.

They protested outside the US embassy and at the Brandenburg gate on Saturday and Sunday.

A mural for George Floyd also appeared on a section of the Berlin Wall.


Palestine protests link up struggles

Palestinians in East Jerusalem linked their struggle to the Black Lives Matter movement in the US after Israeli police shot an unarmed man dead.

Dozens of people protested over the killing of Iyad al-Hallak, an autistic Palestinian man.

Israeli cops reportedly shot Iyad ten times, claiming the phone in his hand was a “suspicious object”.

Iyad’s parents said he had been on his way to a special needs school where he worked.

Protesters chanted, “Iyad’s life mattered, Palestinian lives matter,” and one placard read, “Justice for Iyad. Justice for George”.

Protest organiser Shahaf Weisbei said, “Police violence in East Jerusalem is policy, just like the policy against black people in the US.”

  • Lebanese protesters flooded social media with tweets in solidarity with US protesters.

Their hashtag #Americarevolts referred to the slogan of Lebanon’s protest movement—Lebanon revolts—which last year.

It became the top trending tag in Lebanon within 24 hours.


Life’s hard in Minneapolis 

A long history of racism, poverty and state violence have fuelled the uprising in Minneapolis.

Minneapolis is portrayed as a liberal and prosperous city. 

But beneath that veneer is a glaring class divide and structural racism that has locked working class black people into poverty.

Unemployment in the US has soared during the coronavirus crisis. It was already high for black people. 

In the “Twin Cities” area of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, it was 10 percent for blacks compared to for 4 percent for whites.

Black people in the State of Minnesota are much more likely to be poor and unemployed compared to other US states. The state ranks 47th out of 50 states for its employment race gap, and 38th for its income race gap.

The city’s cops shot Jamar Clark in 2015 and Philando Castile in 2016. 

Police had received 18 complaints about officer Derek Chauvin before he crushed George Floyd’s neck. He had only been disciplined in two of them.

Racist president Donald Trump has boosted the cops. At a rally in the state last October Trump said, “The respect that we have for law enforcement is unbound.”

Lieutenant Bob Kroll crowed, “The first thing President Trump did when he took office was let cops do their job, put handcuffs on criminals instead of us.”


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