Socialist Worker

Atlanta rises up to fight the killer police

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2709

Georgia National Guard troops on the streets of Atlanta at the end of last month

Georgia National Guard troops on the streets of Atlanta at the end of last month (Pic: Georgia National Guard)


Rage at the police killing of another black man has exploded onto the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, in the US. 

Protesters shut down a major motorway last Saturday night and set fire to a Wendy’s restaurant, where cops had shot Rayshard Brooks the previous day. 

Police had been called to the Wendy’s over reports that he had fallen asleep in the drive-through line.

Rayshard’s family said that he had been celebrating his daughter’s birthday.

Protesters rally around call to defund the police
Protesters rally around call to defund the police
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He was alleged to have been resisting arrest, but there are conflicting accounts of what happened. 

Body cameras worn by police officers didn’t capture the shooting as they were thrown to the ground during the incident. 

The Fulton County medical examiner’s office said an autopsy had shown Rayshard died after being shot twice in the back, and ruled the shooting was homicide. 

Garrett Rolfe, the police officer who killed Brooks, has been dismissed from the force and Atlanta police chief Erika Shields has resigned over the killing. Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday night in front of the Wendy’s, chanting, “Say his name! Rayshard Brooks!”

Calling for action against the police Rayshard’s wife Tomika Miller said, “If it was my husband who shot them, he would be in jail. He would be doing a life sentence. 

“They need to be put away.”

Over 

Protester Marquavian Odom told CNN News, “This is something that keeps happening over and over again. 

“We’ve been protesting about George Floyd and I thought there was going to be a change, but there wasn’t a change. 

“I thought the message was clear, but obviously we’re still not heard.” 

‘I am sick and tired of being sick and tired’
‘I am sick and tired of being sick and tired’
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Protest leaders called for supporters to refuse to spend money and refuse to go to work on Juneteenth—19 June—a commemoration of the end of slavery.

After protesters blocked all the lanes of Interstate 75/I-85, the street where Rayshard was killed, cops used tear gas and flashbang grenades. 

Atlanta has seen frequent protests since the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. 

Six Atlanta police officers are facing charges of using excessive force related to the arrest of two college students at a protest at the end of last month. 

The rage is forcing concessions from the top. 

The liberal New York Times newspaper commented, “In the past, police shootings have rarely prompted such swift and dramatic responses. It is more common for city leaders to stand with the police and urge patience as prosecutors and the police departments conduct reviews.”

It added that the “moves by Atlanta officials may have been taken with an eye to the streets”.  

They hope to head off “a potentially explosive reaction like those that have engulfed many cities over the last several weeks”. 


Tens of thousands take to streets to say, ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’

Tens of thousands of people joined Black Trans Lives Matter rallies across the US on Sunday.

Two black trans women—Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells of Philadelphia and Riah Milton of Cincinnati, Ohio—were murdered last week. 

An estimated 25,000 people marched in Los Angeles to honour Tony McDade, a black transgender man shot by a police officer at the end of May. 

“The protest is in direct response to racial injustice, systemic racism, and all forms of oppression,” said protest organiser the Black LGBTQIA Advisory Board Council. 

In Boston, Massachusetts, thousands chanted, “No justice, no peace, no anti-trans violence on our streets.”

And thousands joined a demonstration to say black transgender lives matter in Brooklyn, New York.

The fight for trans rights
The fight for trans rights
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Melania Brown is the sister of Layleen Polanco, a Latina woman who died of an epileptic fit while in solitary confinement in Rikers Island prison last year. She told the crowd, “Black trans lives matter. My sister’s life mattered. All of the loved ones we have lost—their lives matter.” 

The protests come as US president Donald Trump continues his assault on trans and non-binary people. 

He scrapped the part of the Affordable Care Act which protects transgender people from discrimination in health care and insurance coverage on Friday of last week. Right wing and religious groups have applauded the new rule. 

“Health professionals know they must base medical decisions on biology and science, not ideology,” said Dr Jeff Barrows, the Christian Medical Association’s executive vice president. 

But civil rights groups have said this rule sets a potentially fatal precedent.

 “A transgender person could be refused care or a check up at a doctor’s office,” said Lindsey Dawson, associate director of HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A report by LGBT+ think tank the Williams Institute estimated that nearly half a million adult transgender Americans are worried “they could be denied good medical care”. 


Protests demand probe into California hangings

Two thousand protesters marched and rallied in Palmdale, California, on Saturday of last week.  

It follows the hangings of two black men in California in recent weeks.

Robert Fuller, a 24 year old black man, was found hanging from a tree near the city hall in Palmdale last week. 

More than 215,000 people have signed a petition demanding a full investigation.

The family and friends of Robert Fuller believe that he was lynched.

At a news briefing protesters confronted city officials who were quick to describe Fuller’s death as a suicide. 

City Manager JJ. Murphy said, “Maybe we should have said it was ‘an alleged suicide’.” 

He then added, “Can I also ask that we stop talking about lynchings?” The crowd replied, “Hell No!”

Common 

Robert’s sister, Diamond Alexander, addressed the protesters near Palmdale’s city hall.  She said, “We just want the truth. My brother was not suicidal.” 

Protesters pointed out how common it is to see a Confederate flag in their areas.

They said officials should not be quick to dismiss racism as having played a role in Fuller’s death. 

Los Angeles county supervisor Kathryn Barger has now requested that California’s attorney general hold an independent investigation into Fuller’s death. 

Authorities are also investigating a separate incident in which Malcolm Harsch, a 38 year old black man, was found hanging from a tree. 

Malcolm was found near a homeless encampment in Victorville, 30 miles from Palmdale, on 31 May.

A statement from the Harsch family said, “Considering the current racial tension, a black man hanging himself from a tree definitely doesn’t sit well with us right now. 

“We want justice not comfortable excuses.”


Poor march on White House

Thousands of people joined events called by faith groups near to the White House last Sunday.

The protesters marched through the streets of Washington DC. They paused at stations to pray for “affordable health care” for “victims of police brutality” and for “the courage to speak truth to power”. 

They also chanted the names of people killed by police and spoke of daily acts of racism. 

Rev William Barber II of the Poor People’s Campaign said police killings and disproportionate coronavirus deaths of black people were consistent with the US’s “unnecessary accepting of death” .

He listed the deaths of Native Americans, Africans brought as slaves and children who suffered and died because of child labour practices. 

Later a crowd of hundreds gathered as close to the White House as they could get, chanting, “Trump, Pence—out now!”.


Hunger strike for freedom

Some migrants detained by US border guards have gone on hunger strike to show their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

In Bakersfield, California, Asif Qazi handed an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guard a letter. It read, “We, the detained people of dormitories A, B, and C at Mesa Verde ICE Detention Facility, are protesting and on hunger strike in solidarity with the detained people at Otay Mesa Detention Centre. 

“We begin our protest in memory of our comrades George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, and Tony McDade.” 

Asif added, “We’re trying to intertwine our causes in one general fight for justice, and we believe ICE falls in the category of  corrupt justice officials.”


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