Crisis looms as capitalists struggle to rein in police.
It certainly was a beautiful sight: Derek Chauvin being led away with his hands cuffed behind his back, and millions celebrated it across the nation. One person who was not celebrating was a cop in downtown Oakland who, when asked his opinion on the verdict, barked “no opinion”. He did not sound like a happy camper.The main thing is that millions will see that organizing and protesting works. That is a victory.
Everybody agreed that without the videos, especially that shot by 17 year old Darnella Frazier, Chauvin probably would have walked. In fact, without that video and the following massive protests across the country, there probably would have been no charges at all. That certainly was the plan of the Minneapolis Police Department. Their first report was headlined: “Man Dies After Medical Incident During Interaction with Police.” The report continued: “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later. At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.”
MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo
That makes the testimony of Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo all the more ironic. He testified that Chauvin’s actions were “not part of our training. And it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.” His testimony was important in securing the conviction, yet his own department had tried to cover the murder up in the first place!
DA Mike Freeman
Nor should we forget the initial statement of Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman. “There is other evidence that doesn’t support a criminal charge,” he said. Prosecutors never make such a comment if they are planning on prosecuting somebody. It was only the massive protests, both in Minneapolis and across the country, that resulted in the case being taken out of his hands and given to the state attorney general and his staff, who felt forced to prosecute it in a serious manner.
Trial Remains in Minneapolis
It was the protests, too, that forced the judge to keep the trial in Minneapolis, rather than move it out of area, as was done for the trial of the cops who beat Rodney King to within an inch of his life. As a result of the judge’s ruling in this case, the jury pool was not thoroughly filled with Trump supporting bigots and authoritarians. (In the case of the trial of the Rodney King’s assailants, the trial was moved to Simi Valley, a conservative nearly all-white area just north of Los Angeles, an area reputed to be favored for residence by cops themselves.)
MPD: A long record of brutality and abuse
A Washington Post survey reports that there are about 1,000 people shot to death by on duty police every year (1,021 in 2020). Despite being about 13% of the population, about half of those killed are black. The police killings is just the tip of the iceberg. Take the MPD: in a four year period (2016-20) NBC reports that there have been 2,034 formal complaints against the cops in Minneapolis and another 791 “inquiries”. One such “inquiry” came from Idrissen Brown, who said he was watching TV one evening when the cops showed up, said they’d had a report of a domestic dispute, threw him down the stairs, took him into a back alley and beat him up, and then dumped him in the street near his mother’s house. Brown contacted the MPD to complain, but his complaint was filed as one more “inquiry” because Brown felt too intimidated to show up in person at the police station. Nothing was ever done about his case. In general, NBC reports that “the filing process [for complaints] is difficult and unclear and that a large number are going uninvestigated.” The result is that of the official complaints, only 1.3% of the cops involved were disciplined.
It’s no better in other cities. “in Houston and El Paso, complainants must fill out a sworn affidavit and sign it in front of a notary public…”
In other words, filing a complaint against a cop is similar to filing a sexual harassment complaint against a boss. It is intimidating and has to be overwhelmingly blatant, and with overwhelming evidence, to get anything done. And then the discipline is usually minor.
Then there are the other instances of misconduct, such as the framing of Myon Burrell. He was 17 years old when he was picked up by the MPD for a shooting death of a young girl. Despite the fact that they had zero forensic evidence and seriously conflicting testimony, they framed Burrell and secured a life sentence for him. After 17 years in prison, Burrell was eventually exonerated and released in 2020. The cops and prosecutors who stole 17 years of Burrell’s life are still free.
Capitalists Conclusion: Rein in Police
The huge protests following the murder of George Floyd had an impact on the US capitalist class and their representatives. It forced them to recognize that the more blatant aspects of police racism and general abuse and violence threatens to further destabilize capitalist rule at home and weakens their ability to advance their interests abroad. Nor is this only an immediate threat to their stability; if allowed to continue, it will create an entire generation that has even less confidence in “the American system of justice”. And this will be taking place while the economic prospects for that generation dim and environmental crises loom. The securing of a conviction of Derek Chauvin as well as the reporting of the great majority of the media shows that they feel it necessary to rein in the police.
Police Will Resist
On the other hand, the over 800,000 law enforcement officers in the US will not take this easily, as that Oakland cop indicated. They have been made into heroes and given near complete impunity for many decades, and they won’t give that up easily.
Nor can the police surrender their racist practices. After all, what we have is a whole sector of the US working class – black workers – living in Depression-era conditions even during boom times. There is no way to keep “order” in that community without outright repression. And since cops don’t distinguish between a black worker and a black professional, then all black people are suspected “criminals” and potentially violent in their eyes. One might say that the spillover violence meted out to the rest of US society is simply inevitable “collateral damage” at this time. In the future, the racist repression will be increasingly used to repress the working class as a whole.
Therefore, a potentially huge crisis is in the offing as the capitalist representatives move to rein in nearly one million organized, uniformed, violent and often corrupt members of their own government. How this crisis will express itself is anybody’s guess, but it’s hard to see how it can be avoided.
Plans for Increased Repression
The capitalists’ representatives recognize this. That is why while they are
trying to rein in the police, they are simultaneously putting new repressive laws on the books. So far, according to one report they have pushed through 29 new repressive laws in 16 different states and 69 more such laws are pending. Interestingly, while many of these are “anti-riot” laws, the majority are aimed at preventing effective protests such as civil disobedience at oil, gas and coal facilities.
Need for Working Class Movement and Party
Oaklandsocialist will have a more in-depth report on this development soon. But what this makes clear is that both great opportunities and great dangers lie ahead. So far, the big bulk of the working class of all races has mainly stood on the sidelines, observing this situation. That is mainly due to the historic and present role of the union leadership as well as the role of the non-profits. What is needed is to figure out a program that speaks to the needs of the working class. Such a program would have to tie together all the crises we face and explain how a united working class can play an independent role in society, starting with the creation of its own political party.