Despite threats, violence and a tirade of denunciations from last week’s Republican party convention, the Black Lives Matter movement continues to inspire millions of Americans to take action.
Thousands of marchers descended on Washington’s National Mall on Friday to demand racial justice and to mourn George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans killed by racist police.
The event came just days after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha – and the subsequent vigilante murder of two Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters in the city.
The Washington protest was one of many taking place across the US, as fires from the BLM movement continue to burn.
American sports have been thrown in complete disarray by a growing boycott movement that now encompasses basketball, baseball, football and Tennis. Players are saying that taking the knee and wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts is no longer enough – now they want to shutdown sport until there’s justice.
President Trump attempted to turn the movement into an object of hate in his speech to last week’s Republican Party convention.
“Everything we’ve achieved is now in danger,” he said. “This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life or allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”
But probably the defining event of the week was the vigilante murder of two BLM protesters in Kenosha. It poses profound questions for the movement.
Groups of armed white racists have for some time been able to gather near anti-racist protests and pose with their military-grade weapons while surrounded by police.
They’ve talked of defending property, but in reality wanted to spread fear and drive people from the streets. Their strategy backfired as emboldened demonstrators returned in greater numbers.
Alexander Reid Ross, a doctoral fellow at the Centre for the Analysis of the Radical Right, has documented nearly 500 incidents of intimidation or violence by armed civilians this summer.
But after the killings in Kenosha, three things are clear.
First, the guns are not theatrical props – the right wing thugs are itching to use them. Second, this armed far right can be inspired by the speeches of President Trump to “take action”. And third, that elements of the police collude with the vigilantes.
The seventeen year old killer Kyle Rittenhouse was a hard line Trump supporter whose Facebook page was littered with praise for the president and love for the police, alongside pictures of himself handling various weapons.
Rittenhouse appears in video footage of a Trump rally in Iowa in January, just a few feet away from his hero.
He had also been a member of the Grayslake Police Department’s Public Safety Cadet Programme, which “offers boys and girls the opportunity to explore a career in law enforcement” through “hands-on career activities,” such as firearms training.
During the Kenosha protests, police greeted the vigilantes with smiles while offering them bottles of water. And, after Rittenhouse’s shooting spree he calmly walked through their lines and was only later arrested.
Celebrating the murders, some of Trump’s high profile media supporters have been quick to defend Rittenhouse.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson, commentator Ann Coulter, and former baseball player Aubrey Huff have all waded in, with Huff describing the killer as a “national treasure”.
The violence of the right must now meet an equally resolute response from the movement.
It is vital that Black Lives Matter is not driven from the streets but instead returns to them in greater numbers. But something more than numbers is required. There needs to be a force that can paralyse the whole economic and social system that justifies atrocities such as police and vigilante murder.
And socialists should also reiterate that faced with this wave of violence that self-defence is no offence.
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