On Memorial Day 2020, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police. George Floyd and bystanders cried out and pleaded for his life as MPD officers put a knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes, choking him to death in broad daylight. This was an act of police violence committed against an innocent Black man. As one of the most recent in a long and painful history of state-sanctioned violence enacted on Black bodies, George Floyd’s violent death was a breaking point; it was a reminder that law enforcement doesn’t work to protect or save Black lives, and in fact actively works to end them. This week, GABRIELA Los Angeles joined nationwide protests in solidarity to express outrage and grief, and to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other victims who have been murdered by the state.
Playing out against the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic that has been disproportionately affecting Black communities, Minneapolis and cities across the United States are burning as an outward manifestation of collective grief and trauma. Protestors joined in solidarity with the call “enough is enough,” led by groups such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Movement for Black Lives (M4BL). For days on end, people have been assembling peacefully in socially-distanced car caravans and on the ground protests, and as well as more urgent and militant displays of mass disobedience. These uprisings demand acknowledgment and accountability for the devaluation and dehumanization of Black life at the hands of the police; an end to the systemic racism that allows this culture of corruption to go unchecked and that allows for Black lives to be taken; and the national defunding of police departments. Echoing liberation calls made by the Black Panther Party, BLM is calling for radical, sustainable solutions and transformations that affirm the worth and allow for the prosperity of Black lives.
The mass mobilizations are about more than #GeorgeFloyd. Demonstrators have been highlighting the need to abolish the systemic racism that enables police lynchings to go unchecked. Protestors themselves have been characterized by the mainstream media as instigators of violence, looting, and vandalism. The calls of the protestors have been “met with unmitigated terror, explicitly ordered by President Trump” (Movement for Black Lives). Repainting the picture from one of demonstrations born of grief and trauma, to one of senseless, destructive riots has given the US government all the excuse it needs to deploy state of emergency tactics in efforts to further silence the people: establishing curfews in many cities, parading troops of officers wearing riot gear, using tear-gas against protestors, deploying the National Guard in at least 21 states, and contributing to the escalation of violence in the situation.
This goes to show that the government, for better or worse, when motivated, can and will enact rapid response. Police officers are drawing military-grade weapons on unarmed protestors in Minneapolis and across the nation right now. Meanwhile in hospitals, doctors, nurses, and staff still lack the PPE or medical equipment they need to care for the hundreds of thousands suffering from symptoms of COVID-19. When Target windows are smashed, when goods are taken from stores, when private property is at stake, the government is more than able to summon and deploy billions of dollars in resources. However, when the global COVID-19 pandemic threatened the health and wellbeing of every person in the nation, the national response was slow, clumsy and inadequate at best. With over 100,000 deaths resulting from COVID-19, the government completely failed the people. The coronavirus pandemic, initially touted as “the great equalizer” has also been shown to disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities in America. It has magnified the systemic inequalities that persist in the United States resulting in Black and Brown people dying at higher rates from the infection, being more likely to live in viral hotspots, losing jobs at higher rates, and even being cited more frequently—and violently—than white people for social distancing violations.
Police use of excessive force (read: lethal force) in minority communities is well documented. The danger of being Black when pulled over is so common that someone developed a 'Not Reaching' pouch to placate any police officer’s suspicion that a Black driver may be reaching for a weapon instead of their ID. The disproportionate risks of driving while Black also includes searches which can lead to arrests that “open a trapdoor into the criminal justice system, which has a lifelong impact, especially for those without the financial or other resources to negotiate it” (NYT). Even children are subjected to this trauma. In 2019, a Black family was held at gunpoint by police when their child inadvertently walked out of a 99 cent store with a doll, while in 2014 in Cleveland, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police as he carried a toy gun in a park. Whether it occurs during a routine traffic stop, a mental health wellness check, or even for no reason whatsoever, these violent deaths as well as dangerous microaggressions underscore the racist mentality of the institution of policing itself.
While the media has focused on characterizing protestors as opportunistic looters, the real looters go unchecked: the corporations who operate those stores have used the COVID-19 pandemic to steal $500 billion in potential relief aid, while millions of unemployed citizens were issued a single check for $1200 and forced to choose between paying rent or buying food. And never mind relief for undocumented residents—oftentimes refugees from countries devastated by US foreign policy then left to fend for themselves. What is this system that values the profitability of the economy over the literal health and welfare of its own people? A system that prioritizes the preservation of private property over the lives of human beings?
When officials make the claim that it’s just a “few bad apples” in the police force, it suggests two things. First, that these officers are acting independently; second, that the institution is only a little broken and that we can somehow reform or fix it. But the truth, which for the past few days has penetrated society’s conversations more than it has in recent years, is that this system is functioning exactly as it was designed to from the start. Since January 1, 2015, 1,252 Black people have been shot and killed by police. This number doesn't include deaths in police custody or those who were killed using other methods. The culture of police violence is an extension of the principles this nation was founded on.
Put simply by the Red Nation Movement, “The US was built on stolen land by stolen people and the US Police force began as Indian killing and slave hunting for the state; there is no just reform of a racist and genocidal institution.” These institutions were never meant to protect the people. In fact, the institution of policing in America was built from the ground up based on the idea that certain people can be owned, and can be treated as property. White supremacy and racism are inherent to the institution of policing, which functions to protect capital and property by inflicting the highest rates of violence on Black and Indigenous people in fatal as well as mundane ways.
The swift deployment of state resources to police in response to the threat of property damage but not to save 100,000 citizens from a fatal virus shows that the struggle against racism is inextricable from the struggle against capitalism. Racism itself is a byproduct of capitalism: the hostile white nationalist mentality promoted by President Trump that calls Mexican migrants murders, rapists and “bad people,” is the same mentality that believes that Black people will steal your property and immigrants will steal your jobs, and it enables the police to preemptively and aggressively surveil these communities. Racism is a tool ingrained in our institutions to uphold racial hierarchies, and it is used strategically to pit marginalized groups against one another. It is used to conveniently rob marginalized groups of their collective anger toward injustice, toward those in power who squeeze the rest of society out of jobs that pay a living wage, the human right to healthcare and housing, and other basic needs that they privatize for profit. It is because of this orchestrated distraction from the real oppressors that many Filipinos and non-Black people of color think of themselves as separate from Black people who are protesting and acting in righteous anger in cities across the country. It is the reason for the urge to say, “Well, we’re more respectable than those people” and for the failure to realize that non-Black people of color can’t escape the constant interpersonal and institutional racism they experience and the economic hardship they live in unless we join together to expel anti-Black racism in all levels of society.
A window, a car, a building can all be replaced or rebuilt, but a human life can never be restored. We forget the very real and insidious violence being perpetrated each and every day on Black communities: the violence of underfunded schools, of not having access to clean water, of not having access to nutritious food, of unaffordable housing, of mass incarceration for non-violent offences, of being trapped in poverty with no access to resources to change your conditions, generation after generation after generation. Similarly, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more were legal under current law. With this critical context in mind, riots by Black people are in reality a righteous rebellion, and should be exempt from reproach from a society that constantly and repeatedly enacts violence, directly or by complicity, on Black bodies.
Right now, the entire world is watching as state terror unfolds in response to Black communities acting in righteous rebellion. In at least one incident, police violently cornered over seventy protesters who had to subsequently seek refuge in a stranger’s home. These tactics are exported beyond the borders of anti-Black America. The militarization of U.S. streets goes hand-in-hand with the government’s plans to sell at least $4B in arms to India, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, and more— arms used to kill the poor, the indigenous, and those resisting U.S.-funded war. All this to say, if the fascism that enforces racism is to be beaten out of existence, all oppressed people must take up the struggle for Black liberation, within and beyond the US.
Today we are witnessing on U.S. streets the impulse to revolutionary action. People everywhere know that there is no “going back to normal,” because normal itself is the problem. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dennis Carolino, Finan Berhe and so many more at the hands of racist police and the fascist state are witness to the fact that none of us is free until all Black people are free. The policing of Black and Brown bodies, the militarization of our streets, as well as the violences committed against working class communities and communities of color are symptoms of neoliberal policy championed by the most violent of all fascist states: the United States.
It is essential to understand that all liberation struggles are connected; our own liberation is bound with Black liberation. Likewise, Black people, in working for their liberation, are in fact working for the rest of ours. Disunity among the oppressed only hampers our collective fight. Align your mindset with other marginalized peoples, put your energy to work rerouting power back to the people who need it most. Protesting is not enough. While it is important to get out there if you are able, it is even more essential to get organized for the long haul. Societal change will not happen overnight. Grassroots people’s organizations enable us to hold space for one another in which to process and communicate about complex situations, to fight in solidarity for genuine change, keep each other accountable for doing the work, imagine the society we want to live in in the future, and to amplify that message.
Justice for George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, and the Fed Up-rising movements are liberation movements led by Black communities who have been laying the groundwork of resistance in the name of freedom for generations. It is our responsibility to join together in solidarity against the externalized and internalized white supremacy that pits people of color as well as poor and working class communities against one another. Only then can we abolish the oppressive institutions of racism and imperialism that operate under the normalized guise of capitalism. Justice for Black lives means abolishing the police, and justice for Black lives means overthrowing capitalism. We must work collectively in the people’s interests, to ensure economic justice and the return of power to their rightful communities. Let us come together to build a truly pro-people socialist society, one that protects the rights and dignity of Black and oppressed communities.
Filipinos for Black Power!
Filipinos for Black Liberation!
End Police Brutality, State Repression & White Supremacist Terror!
Down with Fascism and US Imperialism!
Long Live International Solidarity!
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