Many people in the US and around the world are celebrating the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, last May. The guilty verdict on all three charges—third-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and second-degree unintentional murder—is a welcome one. The verdict shows the power of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement from last summer and in recent protests against the police murders of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and too many others.
Most cops are never charged for their racist violence. Not-guilty verdicts are the norm in the rare instances that killer cops are charged, so this guilty verdict should be celebrated as a victory. We cannot underestimate the role the BLM movement played in bringing about this verdict by pressuring the court through protests in Minneapolis and across the country. Pressure must be kept on the Chauvin court case as it moves into sentencing. And there are still three cops who helped murder George Floyd that must be held responsible. We must keep the movement on the streets to ensure that the murderers of Breonna Taylor, Adam Toledo, Elijah McClain, Daunte Wright, and countless others are held accountable.
The Chauvin verdict is already being used by the corporate media, the Biden administration and the Democratic Party to reinforce the status quo of the militarized, bloated, and repressive police apparatus in the US. They argue that Chauvin is just one of “the few bad apples” in police forces across the country, but racial profiling, mass incarceration, and police violence are built into the criminal-legal system.
Biden and the Democratic Party may claim to support the conviction of Chauvin, but we have to remember that they have done nothing to fundamentally challenge police brutality and racism. Biden himself openly rejected the key economic and social demands of the BLM movement, namely defunding the police. In fact, Democrats have been the architects of police brutality and expanding the War on Drugs, including Biden, who was an author on the 1994 Crime Bill that played a crucial role in creating mass incarceration.
After the murder of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter protests broke out around the world, and despite being demobilized as energy was diverted into the 2020 elections, the movement has finally re-emerged after recent police murders. To build and sustain the momentum of the BLM movement, to renew the fight to defund and demilitarize the police, it’s crucial that democratic organizations of community members, activists, and progressive unions coordinate national actions. Democratic committees could discuss and decide the movement’s demands, tactics, and future actions. Such committees should have elected leadership positions, subject to immediate recall by popular vote. Check out our program for building a socialist fight back against racism and police brutality for more details.
There’s no true justice for George Floyd, but the movement reignited by protests surrounding the Chauvin trial is an important step towards fighting systemic racism and the rotten capitalist system, at its root. As Malcolm X said, “you cannot have capitalism without racism.” Capitalism relies on systemic racism, the criminal legal system, and State violence to enforce inequality, injustice, and exploitation. Only a socialist world rooted in solidarity and a multi-racial struggle against all forms of oppression can provide true liberation for all!
Extract on policing from ISG’s “Against Racism and Police Brutality” pamphlet:
Police Demilitarization & Accountability
DEMILITARIZE THE POLICE! In the U.S., the police act more like an occupying army than a force concerned with public safety. Outlaw the sale of surplus and new military equipment and armored vehicles to police departments. Ban the use and ownership of chemical weapons by police departments and heavily restrict the carrying and use of firearms by officers. Disband particularly militarized and costly police units such as anti-gang units and SWAT teams. End “warrior training” programs and instead fund de-escalation training, with an emphasis on mental health competency and racial sensitivity.
END “NO KNOCK” RAIDS. We have a right to defend our residences and to see a warrant before police enter our homes. “No knock” raids, such as the one which led to the death of Breonna Taylor, contradict this fundamental right and routinely result in unjust killings of bystanders and innocent people. Law enforcement must be required to announce themselves and wait outside until the resident comes to the door to see their warrant.
END SURVEILLANCE PRACTICES AND ATTACKS ON OUR RIGHTS TO ORGANIZE AND PROTEST. Stop the use of drones, facial recognition, electronic surveillance, and other technology that contribute to the surveillance state. Police, ICE, and other law enforcement bodies should immediately stop all contracts with the companies that provide this technology, such as Amazon and Microsoft.
POLICE OUT OF OUR SCHOOLS! Public schools should be a safe space for students and staff to learn and work. Police officers in schools have done little to prevent mass shootings, often hiding in their offices during emergencies, and have actually served the purpose of criminalizing minor offenses committed by students. Police in schools routinely brutalize and needlessly arrest students and make schools unsafe, is proportionately targeting students of color and students living in poverty. We need to stop criminalizing children and end the school-to-prison pipeline, firing police in schools and instead allocating resources to better counseling, more teachers and support staff, and college readiness and career preparation programs.
DEFUND THE POLICE! Dramatically reduce bloated municipal and county police budgets, especially through demilitarization. Police officers are currently among the highest-paid public employees in most cities and towns, especially when you count overtime and detail pay. Use the money cut from police budgets to expand necessary social services and programs—like emergency housing services, mental health, and addiction treatment, and domestic violence shelters—that are not only vital to improving the health of our communities but are also proven to be the most effective ways to reduce the most common forms of crime.
DECRIMINALIZE POVERTY AND BAN RACIST POLICE PRACTICES. End the policing of poverty-related and so-called “lifestyle crimes” such as non-violent drug offenses, sex work, loitering, homelessness, and undocumented immigration. Being poor is not a choice, it is a product of capitalist exploitation and inequality; it should not be treated as a crime. Decriminalizing poverty will help reduce the racist dimensions of policing. End the use of arrest and ticket quotas, which serve to encourage harassment of workers and inflate crime statistics to justify more funding for the police. Policies of racial profiling, “broken windows” policing, “stop and frisk”, and the racist War on Drugs should likewise be banned. End police cooperation with ICE, Border Patrol, and Homeland Security. Abolish ICE!
END QUALIFIED IMMUNITY FOR COPS! Police benefit from legal protections unlike those available for any worker, which shelter them from punishment. Ending qualified immunity will ensure that cities and towns are not on the hook for enormous legal settlements against violent, racist officers. And while we must understand that the function of policing within a racist capitalist system is the bigger problem, not individual “bad apples,” we should support democratically determined consequences, including immediate firing and convictions, for all individually criminal police officers.
COMMUNITY CONTROL AND OVERSIGHT OF THE POLICE. We cannot trust bureaucratic city councils and powerless “civilian review boards” to discipline police and protect us. We need to demand the formation of community control boards for each precinct, composed of democratically elected residents with the ability to hire, fire, subpoena, investigate, and charge police officers along with setting police budgets. Community boards can also convene investigations to ensure that police do the necessary work of investigating hate crimes, murders, and sexual assaults, not brutalizing people of color, workers, and the homeless