National Sections of the L5I:

Black Shootings Protests Across USA

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Saturday 13 December saw major demonstrations from coat to coast across the USA. Particularly large protests took place in New York and in the nation’s capital, Washington. Placards read "Black lives matter", "Hold cops accountable" and chants centred on the words of Eric Garner, choked to death, pleading with his NYPD attackers, “I can’t breathe”.

In Washington, DC, 25,000 marched Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. At the concluding rally, relatives of the victims of some of the most infamous police killings spoke, including Kadiatou Diallo, mother of 23-year-old Amadou Diallo, killed in February 4 1999, and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, killed by vigilante George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012.

The most recent victims were represented by the mother and the widow of Eric Garner killed on July 17. His mother, Gwen Carr, addressed the rally with the words,

"This is a history-making moment, it's just so overwhelming to see all who have come to stand with us. Look at the masses, black, white, all races, all religions. ... We need to stand like this at all times."

Another moving speaker was Samaira Rice, the mother of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, gunned down in Cleveland, Ohio whilst playing with a toy gun and Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, whose murder in Ferguson on August 9 and whose killer’s exoneration by a grand jury on November 24, instigated the present movement

"What a sea of people," she said. "If they don't see this and make a change, then I don't know what we got to do."

By far the biggest demonstration was in New York, where over 50,000 assembled in Washington Square Park and marched through the streets of downtown Manhattan, extending for a mile and a half . It, too, was headed by members of the families of people killed by police.

After the march ended, demonstrators halted traffic in Manhattan and others blocked the Brooklyn Bridge. A group marched to East New York where Akai Gurley was shot in a darkened stairwell on November 30 by a police officer patrolling a public-housing unit.

Meanwhile, other demonstrations occurred on the West Coast, some 3,500 in Oakland, and in San Francisco protesters marched up Market Street from the waterfront to City Hall briefly conducting a die-in in the city's shopping district.

Thanks to mobile phone videos, a number of police murders have now been caught on camera and thanks to YouTube the slogan of ten years ago, the whole world is watching, has come true.

As a result, protests have spread as far as London, where there have also been police killings of black people, though plainly not on the scale of the USA. What is vital now is to continue the movement and give it roots beyond the days of protest.

It would be great to believe the hope of Michael Brown’s mother that the magnificent response on the streets will make the police hold fire or the justice system give redress to their victims. But the sheer number of killings and their remorseless repetition since Michael Brown was killed, and with no one brought before a court, gives little cause for such hope.

A great opportunity for fundamental change
 
It is vital that a major movement for democratic rights, starting with the right to life for black people, indeed for all victims of racist policing, be organised. This demands the support of US Labor, not just in words but in deeds.  If the response to such atrocities was widespread strikes, as well as demonstrations, then something might start to change.
 
The state and city police and the National Guard must end their occupation of areas with large numbers of African Americans and other non-white citizens. All cases of police killings must be brought in front of a jury whose make-up accurately represents that of the area where they occur. Police and vigilante groups must be disarmed and stripped of the large amounts of military equipment (Humvees and other armoured vehicles) they have been buying.
 
The constitutional right to bear arms (which is vested in the people, in the form of a militia, not in private individuals as is often claimed) should be restricted to democratically controlled local militias, not to middle class vigilante groups, or those individuals who can afford to buy guns. Meanwhile, “self-defence is no offence” for these communities, which need to create their own defence groups to this end.  The “stand your ground laws”, which have been introduced in some states and which allowed Trayvon Martin to be murdered, must be repealed.
 
But, as well as killing by police, there are other political, social and economic inequalities that must be changed. All attempts to disqualify minority voters, to impede registration or to gerrymander voting districts must be banned and severely punished. Loss of citizenship rights through felony convictions must end, as must the scandal of the incarceration of much higher proportions of black and other minority Americans. Beyond that, the huge prison population must be massively reduced.
 
The huge number of killings is only the tip of the iceberg of the racism that all people of colour suffer on a daily basis as well as the gross inequality in terms of jobs and wages, housing and schooling. The numbers of white anti-racists on the demos also shows that this need not be the movement of a minority. To this end, it needs to appeal to poor white Americans who suffer many of the same measures of discrimination and deprivation because of their class and to demand citizenship rights for all permanent residents in the USA.
 
Such a movement can match and go further than the great civil rights movement of the sixties, much of whose work has been undone. The message of US socialists must be that the murderous police regime in US cities, the racism of the whole system, which exposes the much-vaunted democracy of the  “land of the free”, is rooted in that equally vaunted institution, capitalism.  This will necessitate a fundamental break from the Democrats by the minority communities and the trade unions.  

Without challenging and abolishing capitalism, the very soil out of which it grows, racism will regenerate oppression as it did after the Civil War and the brief period of Radical Reconstruction and as has happened since the great civil rights and social reforms of the 1960s. 

When a mass socialist movement is reborn in the USA, as it surely will be, the days of institutionalised racism will be numbered. What a great day that will be not only for Americans but for the people of the whole world. That is why the present movement doubly deserves the widest international solidarity.

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