When the police make a high-profile arrest, they make him or her walk in public through the throng of reporters. It’s called a “perp walk.” On June 6, Minneapolis’s reform minded young mayor, Jacob Frey, refused to commit to disbanding the police in a crowd of thousands. He was booed and forced to do a “people’s perp walk” through the crowd and back to his condo. Shortly after that, the Minneapolis City Council voted to disband their police force – as a longer term “goal”. This is attracting a lot of attention. But what does it really mean? Oaklandsocialist talked with a union steward and anti-police brutality activist in Minneapolis. We will call him “Activist”. He warned: “We have to be prepared for them to do some things we wouldn’t expect.” In other words, not allow those steps to undermine or divert the power of the movement. He explained: “they’re not going to get rid of policing… they’re going to move to some unique form of policing. The class relations are going to remain the same.…” He said that he wouldn’t be surprised if “abolish the police would win a popular vote among high school students.” He continued: “Because this has become a popular slogan, it will be difficult to just dress up the MPD…. They’re going to have to do some major changes….”
It won’t be so simple, though, since the police will resist and they are a major political player in Minneapolis like they are everywhere. “They’re going to have mass resignations from the police department,” he said. As for the police chief, Arredondo, who is “a very savvy guy”, Activist explained that “he’s managed to not go to war with the Fraternal Order of Police…. They have some weird things worked out.”
One possibility is that the police will systematically work to create chaos in the city, which would lead to calls for their support among all property and business owners. But as Activist said, “If people are serious about a world without crime that means a world without economic anxiety…” In other words, a world without capitalism. The Minneapolis Startribune reports that cops from Third Precinct are known for being especially brutal. For example, that cops from that precinct have kicked babies in the head and one of them kicked a handcuffed suspect in the jaw, shattering it and kicking out some of his teeth. So the question is, even if this precinct is so rogue, how has Arredondo the reformer allowed this to continue? Why did he allow Chauvin, with his long, long record of complaints, continue on the force? How many other Derek Chauvins are lurking on the force, just waiting for their chance to murder another black man? But even further: Why has this city council then allowed Arredondo to continue in office?
The fact that they have not called for his removal shows that they are not going to really disband the police. One possibility is that they will move towards some form of community-based policing. That means having more, small police bases throughout the communities. It means presenting the communities – especially communities of color – with a kinder, smiling face. Even the Third Precinct had cops who organized softball teams for kids. But in a way, these are even more dangerous, because the cops would use these contacts to spy on the community, not to put a stop to police abuse. The cops in the Third Precinct who organized the softball teams never blew the whistle on the more blatant racists and abusers, after all!
An alternative is already starting to develop: Community-based people’s committees. In Minneapolis, for example, one group is patrolling some black communities to defend small black businesses from attacks of white racist provocateurs. What their relationship with the cops is is not clear. But what’s really needed is such groups being elected by the residents and the workers in each community. Such community committees of public safety absolutely must be multi-racial; they cannot be all white in white neighborhoods. On such a basis, they could help settle many disputes and even “crimes” to the benefit of workers, not the capitalists. In any case, we need to be sure that the cops are not replaced by private security guards, some of whom are even worse than the cops! (Think: Private prisons.)
As for the movement there in Minneapolis, he described how the community has come together. “There’s free food everywhere all around the city…. Where George Floyd was killed, you can eat well every day.”
Activist proposed “building independent autonomous multi-racial community defense projects.” He noted the tendency towards building “mass assemblies” and reported that one such assembly of some 100 people had been organized in a matter of a few days.
This is something that can be organized in every city and town. One suggestion, though: These assemblies should have an elected leadership whose responsibilities and limits are clearly defined. Without that, a leadership will develop behind the scenes, one that is not accountable to the people.
A few years ago in France, the Yellow Vest movement shook French capitalism. They formed such local assemblies, which then elected delegates to a national assembly. That is what local “George Floyd Assemblies” could do here. Where can something like this lead? Oaklandsocialist believes that this would be the basis for a mass, working class party. It would not be a party that simply gives pretty speeches, nor even one that denounces the capitalists in words; it would be a party that leads the movement of the working class in the streets, work places, communities and in the unions too.
Meanwhile, don’t buy the hype! These capitalist politicians will make all sorts of concessions to our movement, but they won’t put power in our hands. We have to seize it ourselves.