Thursday, May 28, 2020

George Floyd's Murder Sparks Response. People Just Don't get up and Decide to go Looting Today.

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

So I got corrected today because I didn’t stress on social media that the people gathering at a Target store in Minneapolis and others that took merchandise from another Target store in the area were “looters”. Well, technically, they were “looting” if we are to comment on this situation from the comfort of our homes.

I don’t know how black folks maintain their calm when someone (almost always a white person) says such things.  The eruptions taking place in US cities today, are in response to yet another another black man, George Floyd, murdered by the police while pleading for his life; “I can’t breathe” he said. The list of these murders is too long to go in to. But here in my area Oscar Grant was shot in the back laying face down on the floor, four or five transit cops over him.

Years ago I was closely involved in the case of Jerrold Hall who was shot in the back of the head by a transit cop here in the Bay Area. He was unarmed and walking away form the cop at the time. Here I am 25 years later and black people, especially males, are being murdered almost daily by state security forces.

In Louisville, just a short time before George Floyd was murdered by the police, Breonna Taylor was shot 8 times by Louisville police. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was asleep with her when the cops stormed in to their apartment under the protection of a “No knock” warrant. Despite having this type of warrant, the police say they announced their presence, Kenneth Walker and neighbors say they didn’t Consequently, the couple thought they were experiencing a home invasion and the boyfriend, Walker, shot at the intruders, wounding a cop. He was initially charged for this. In response, the cops fired, 25 rounds into the building, killing Taylor. Some rounds entered other apartments; they just don’t care.

A short time before this, a black man, Ahmaud Arbery, was basically assassinated by three white men in Brunswick Georgia, all connected in one way or another to the police.

There are too many incidents of this nature to list here but this is the environment in which the present protests are occurring. It is the most frustrating thing to hear people complain about looting and lecture the black community about the need to work within the established institutions. However, when they don’t work, other measures have to be taken.

In addition to this climate, we have right wing racist organizations becoming more open about their views bolstered by the racist and sexual predator Donald Trump who resides in the White House. As Martin Luther King pointed out, riots are the language of the unheard. When the so-called democratic institutions fail, then people have no recourse but to express their anger in another way. Even so, smashing up a corporation that, here in the US has the same rights as a person, is not the same as damaging a local hamburger joint or community business. The corporation is correctly seen as a representative of the system that that is at the heart of the matter, the institutionalized racism and violence that accompanies it.

I am an English immigrant. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I was reading about “English” people being killed by the cops as black people are; or if it was Catholics or Jews. The country would be in an uproar.

Of course, taking ones frustration out by attacking a corporation, even one like Target that is anti-union, anti-worker and abuses its employees is not the most productive way to deal with this situation. But being criticized by people who have said nothing about the objective situation that has brought this about holds no water at all.

I put this video on this blog and my Facebook page today showing a man dressed in black and his face covered by a gas mask smashing store windows. The difference I would have with the title is that the saboteurs may well be white skinned, But they are a certain type of white people. This one was confronted by a black person at the protest who asked if he was a cop. This guy is either a cop, a provocateur, or a member of white nationalist or fascist organization. The goal is to discredit those who are protesting the murder of George Floyd. This is why after the initial anger has died down some, it is important to organize and direct the resistance and use this power of workers and all oppressed people, organized and unorganized against capitalism and the perpetrators of racist violence. In this way we can also police ourselves and keep provocateurs out.

The cities and economy can be shut down easily but it takes organization. This would be the way to deal with any social injustice but in the absence of a powerful independent social force based on working people, the marginalized and specially oppressed sections of the working class, the initial response is anger and lashing out. This is to be expected and we should take no criticism of this from armchair social critics or racists.

In the aftermath of the Katrina events which was a market (capitalist) driven catastrophe, we witnessed the beginnings of working class communities and working class self organization and defense teams developing. The state fears this.

US working class history is a rich and militant one.  We have not had national working class parties like workers in other countries have. We have won what we have through direct action and battles in the streets against the most brutal bourgeois or ruling class in history. Native Americans are still here and fighting despite the genocidal wars against them. The Africans that were brought here have fought since slavery and on in to the modern era to be free from one of the most brutal and violent regimes that ever existed. And the great battles to unionize and win the right to organize from the early days of the formation of the AFL to the rise of the CIO on the 1930’s is out history and the struggle is not over yet.

I spoke to a friend in Louisville very briefly tonight. At times, I have sensed a tone of desperation in her voice as the attack on people like her, on black folks just doesn’t let up. Many black friends share this view including some small business people,  they are just so accustomed to it they wonder if it will ever end.   “Don’t you know I’m in the middle of a social disturbance” she said.  “Oh dear…,” I replied,  “…I’m so privileged, I’m sitting on my porch drinking a beer.” She laughed. But there was excitement in her voice, she was in a good mood. This is what happens when we fight back, even when the strategy isn’t always the one we’d choose. But when one is in a war, all is fair, as the saying goes. We don’t always get to choose the path.

For that glorious moment we are not the victims. That will move us forward but we should etch Malcolm X's statement toward the end of his life when he had many experiences under his belt and had drawn certain conclusions about the world. He said that "you can't have capitalism without racism." He was a person that thought about his words and we should heed them.

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