The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 1107 — June 15 - 29, 2020

Violent Police and Catastrophic Unemployment
—Stemming from the Same Root

Jun 15, 2020

When one-and-a-half million new claimants signed up for unemployment last week, almost all the media pushed this headline: unemployment is “bottoming out.”

“Bottoming out”? Meaningless drivel. Unemployment is catastrophic. It is even more catastrophic for the black population, who have always been “last hired, first fired.”

Today, the capitalist class that runs everything pretends there simply aren’t enough jobs for everyone to have a decent job at a decent wage. And if workers compete with each other for jobs, leading to racist developments, well, say the capitalists, that’s not their responsibility, these are “social problems.”

Yes, they are, and they spring from this same social class that requires the violence of the police to impose its interests, the capitalist class.

For a long time, many black activists have said, “if black lives don’t matter, no one’s life matters.” Just look at the facts, you see it clearly. The same police who brutalize black people also brutalize a good number of whites. They brutalize black people proportionately more, but whites, particularly poor and working class whites, don’t escape. In fact, there are more whites killed by the police than blacks. And Latinos and others suffer along with everyone else.

With the social explosion of the last few weeks, it seems, finally, that many more whites have begun to recognize this reality.

The same reality exists about jobs. If black workers are deprived of jobs and the decent income that comes with them, no worker’s standard of living is sure. Oh yes, white workers can keep their jobs longer before being fired, a little longer; their wages may be higher, somewhat higher. But those are just crumbs. Today, with this enormous increase in unemployment, as the system careens from one crisis to another, what are crumbs worth?

This catastrophic unemployment exists because the capitalists won’t hire anyone unless they can make a high enough level of profit. That’s another “social problem” we face today—the drive of the capitalists for profit at the expense of everything else.

This is a country that desperately needs work done. And there are plenty of unemployed workers who could do it. Bridges and dams are collapsing, roads crumbling. Schools are deprived of resources and the staff they need. But nothing is done because public money is going to subsidize the capitalists.

Water systems need to be repaired so we have no more Flints. Electrical systems that produce blackouts in the middle of summer storms need more maintenance workers to keep the lines in repair and more tree trimmers to eliminate the threat to lines. But workers aren’t hired because it would cut into profit.

In every factory running today, people are working too hard, lines are running too fast. Work spaces aren’t organized to protect us from communicable diseases. To make work reasonable would cut into profit.

This is the “social problem” we face. And it requires a “social answer,” a widespread struggle of the working class against the capitalist class which needs unemployment, just like it needs the police.

Young people have begun to fight today. Three weeks ago, many workers couldn’t have imagined this happening. “No one will ever do anything.” That’s what many said. And yet young people are doing something—massively—putting their elders to shame. Many of these young people are from the working class, but without much hope for a job, or a decent income.

It’s often true that struggles begin with the young. But such struggles have the potential to light a fire in the workplaces, the center where the working class holds the potential of power. Those in the workplaces today may be unemployed tomorrow; today’s unemployed may be in a workplace tomorrow. But we all will have the same fight to make—just as the black and white population both need to stand up against this same police violence.

This needs to be considered today in the workplaces.

Pages 2-3

Police Reform or Campaign Promises?

Jun 15, 2020

The stampede of politicians rushing to introduce legislation to reform policing in the U.S. is enough to make your head spin.

Democrats leading Congress are rushing to pass a bill within the month to address issues of law enforcement nationwide. The Republicans are scrambling to get ahead of the Democrats’ push.

All this action is a result of the real action of demonstrators in the streets protesting police brutality. A recent poll of the Washington Post registered a whopping 70% view on the part of Americans that the Floyd killing represented a systemic problem with U.S. law enforcement.

With elections right around the corner, business as usual is not looking so good for Team Trump. Quite simply, the Democrats are smart enough to press the advantage of the unpopular Trump law and order show to create a “kinder, gentler look” for their own Democratic candidates.

The huge apparatus that runs this country on a daily basis in large cities where police brutality is the norm, are most often Democrats. Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Minneapolis, with their “progressive” looking mayors and governors, are in “Blue States.” Democratic leaders have been responsible for policing cities riddled with police brutality for decades!

Both parties run the system for the wealthy upper class. Both parties have been satisfied to leave racism in place in all its hideous violence. They let skin color be a dividing line for continual poverty and perpetual insult and police brutality.

These “reformers” could have reformed the system a thousand times over the decades. But they didn’t. They perpetuated it because the systemic violence practiced by the police upholds the profit system they are part of.

Both parties and their system are corrupt and beyond reform. The population can only protect itself against state violence by continued struggles. It can only rid itself of this violence by throwing out the system that breeds it.

Looting Is NOT Why Poor Neighborhoods Lack Stores

Jun 15, 2020

All of a sudden last week, Chicago’s media discovered that there is a shortage of pharmacies and grocery stores in the poor black neighborhoods on the South and West Sides.

The Sun-Times headline read “Reeling Chicago communities ask, ‘Who invests in us now?’”The Tribune and the main TV news stations ran similar stories, trying to set up a few days of looting to take the blame for the lack of stores in big parts of the city. Some of these stories even brought up the old myth that neighborhoods still haven’t recovered from the rioting on the West Side that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

In reality, there is a lack of stores in all the poor neighborhoods, not just those hit by rioting 50 years ago. These neighborhoods have never had enough pharmacies, grocery stores, or other businesses, and that has nothing to do with a few smashed store fronts or stolen sneakers. It is a result of the lack of decent paying jobs for people who live in them—the same lack of jobs that is, underneath, also the cause of the looting.

This system that throws out a big share of its people is responsible for the lack of stores. Blaming the explosion of anger that this system finally produced turns reality on its head.

Chicago Youth Call for Police Out of Schools

Jun 15, 2020

Young people held a pair of rallies on Chicago’s North and South sides, calling for police to be completely removed from schools. These rallies were part of the larger movement in response to the racist police murder of George Floyd. Youth organizer and former Mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green rallied protestors at a CPS Network office in the Bronzeville neighborhood. One attendee summarized the demands: “We are here today to tell CPS we don’t need them in our schools no more.”

In devastated black neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West sides, the ruling class offers next to nothing to the younger generations. Unemployment in neighborhoods like Austin was in double digits before the pandemic. This wealthy country has resources to provide education, health care, employment, a good life. But in Austin, Englewood and Roseland, the ruling class leaves the population mired in poverty, marginal jobs and violence. The ruling class uses the police to keep a lid on—though as we saw, sometimes people blow the lid off.

The city places armed police officers in every school in poor neighborhoods—students can stare at the opening to the “School to Prison Pipeline” every day. The police are a constant reminder to the students of the complete lack of a future—and a constant threat of violence. Students’ desire to remove the police from the schools is understandable. But removing police from the schools will not, by itself, address any of the problems in the surrounding neighborhoods. And the ruling class has shown, again and again, that it has no intention of taking on those problems. After all, any money invested in poor neighborhoods would come out of their pocketbook. To provide a real future, we will need to end this society, built on exploitation.

LAPD Budget:
The Sky’s the Limit

Jun 15, 2020

In response to enormous daily protests in the streets, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared he will direct $250 million to youth jobs and some social programs. He and other city council members bragged that part of that money, $100 million to $150 million, will come from the budget of the LAPD. This is supposed to show that Garcetti, who pictures himself as a progressive, is increasing social spending at the expense of the police.

Who is Garcetti kidding? In Garcetti’s budget for the next year, the LAPD was the only department to get an increase, amounting to 7%. All the other departments were slated for big budget cuts, along with mandatory 28 day furloughs for all employees, which amounts to a 10% pay cut.

So, the LAPD’s current budget of more than 1.8 BILLION dollars, which eats up about 54% of the city’s general fund, will grow even more at the expense of everyone else. Meanwhile, for those in the LAPD, there will be no pay cuts.

Garcetti’s policy to boost the police at the expense of everyone else is nothing new. Since the massive 1992 L.A. rebellion following the Rodney King verdict, Los Angeles mayors, Republican and Democrat alike, have increased the ranks of the police by 30%, while slashing spending for sanitation, street lighting, capital improvements, parks and recreation, libraries, etc.

It’s obvious that for L.A. politicians, their primary job is providing more policing. The target of this policing is the city’s working class and poor, for whom real wages and living standard have been steadily declining—so as to better defend the interests of the very wealthy, whom the LAPD swears to “protect and serve.”

The Jobless Crisis and Class War

Jun 15, 2020

The Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy added 2.5 million jobs in May and the unemployment rate dropped to “only” 13.3%.

This report led many so-called experts to practically jump for joy, declaring that jobs were coming back and the economic recovery was just around the corner. But clearly the report made little sense. How could the Labor Department claim that millions of jobs were being added and unemployment was dropping during the same month when the jobless rolls leaped by the millions week after week?

That’s why some economists, such as Nobel-prize winner Paul Krugman, wrote that they suspected that the Trump administration had gotten the Labor Department to falsify the numbers in order to make them look better than they really are.

But in reality, the Labor Department did what it always does: make the unemployment rate look much lower by not including the great bulk of the jobless.

So, how much unemployment is there when all the jobless are counted? According to the New York Times, using the government’s own statistics, the real rate is 27%. That is twice as high as the official rate, when all the jobless are counted along with all those forced to work part-time when they really need a full time job.

In other words, today the level of unemployment and underemployment is comparable to the worst years of the 1930s Great Depression.

The capitalist class has already begun to make the working class pay for this crisis with enormous new attacks. It is turning tens of millions of temporary layoffs into permanent job cuts, with millions not even able to get aid for unemployment and the rest living in fear that the unemployment benefits will soon be drastically reduced or run out altogether.

The capitalists are using this growing mass of the unemployed as a threat against those with jobs or just coming back to work, by imposing big cuts to wages and hours, while pushing workers to do much more work.

These attacks follow in a long line of attacks against the working class. One result is an enormous mass of very low-wage workers. Last November, before anyone had heard of the coronavirus, a Brookings Institution study found that 53 million U.S. workers were already living in dire poverty, struggling to survive on an annual income of less than $18,000.

In other words, in this crisis, the capitalist class has tried to increase its profits by heightening the ongoing class war. The only way out of the crisis is for the working class to organize together and use the power that it has at the center of the economy in order to take on that tiny minority of capitalist exploiters.

Pages 4-5

The Youth Come Out Against Police Violence

Jun 15, 2020

This article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers’ group.

Despite the banning of demonstrations under the pretext of the public health crisis, rallies and protests denouncing police violence and impunity spread after June 2.

Twenty thousand people gathered on Tuesday in front of the courthouse in the Port de Clichy in Paris, thousands more at Saint-Étienne. Tens of thousands were on the streets once more on the following Friday and Saturday. More than a thousand in Caen, 4,000 in Strasbourg, 5,500 in Paris—these demonstrations develop, because the anger behind them remains strong. The death of George Floyd and the even more numerous demonstrations in reaction in the U.S. have also of course encouraged many people to go out in the streets.

The youth make up the bulk of these demonstrations. Many come from the working class, largely immigrant suburbs. For many, it was their first demonstration, and they discovered, to their surprise, their numbers and their anger.

Subjected to often humiliating police action, they don’t need journalists’ investigations to know that there are racist cops. For some, the insults and the profiling are everyday events, and the quarantine didn’t help.

When rookie police arrive from the four corners of France to the suburbs of Paris, for example, they are not necessarily racist. But the role that they take on quickly gives rise to suspicion toward the youth of these suburbs, especially the poorest. And in the suburban police stations, hidden from public view, it is common for arrested youths to suffer insults and even physical violence. The death of Adam Traore in Persan was preceded by that of Babacar in Rennes, killed by five bullets fired at point-blank range, and by the mutilation of Théo at Aulnay-sous-Bois. In every one of these cases, the state protected the cops and these crimes remain unpunished.

The youth have good reason to come out on the streets against police violence and racism. And the state is worried that their anger might turn against the system responsible for all of this rottenness.

Let’s Talk About “Looting”

Jun 15, 2020

Some politicians are lamenting what they call “looting” during the protests. In fact, they exaggerate greatly. But since they raise it, let’s talk about looting.

Why have these same politicians said nothing against the outright robbery carried out against the laboring population? Is it really possible they haven’t noticed what the biggest thieves have been doing for years?

Landlords like the Trump family made their first billions by charging extortionate rent on vermin-infested apartments; the Kennedys simply “invested” in such real estate.

Respectable bankers like Chase, and mortgage brokers like Quicken Loans, structured mortgages designed to trap unwary householders.

Companies like Microsoft and Apple became the wealthiest in the country by establishing communication systems that require vastly overpriced phones and computer material.

Small shopkeepers may not make much of a living for themselves, but they are the vehicle through which big distributions chains dump less than decent quality, sometimes really bad quality, food in neighborhoods that have no other choice than the small stores.

And just look at the BILLIONS handed out to banks and big corporations in the COVID-19 bailout! Talk about looting!

This is a society organized around theft. Ultimately, it boils down to the theft of value that every worker produces through their labor.

There Can Be Solidarity among the Oppressed

Jun 15, 2020

After some stores were broken into in a Mexican neighborhood in Chicago last week, some men from the neighborhood attacked black people passing through their neighborhood and a suburban one, throwing rocks and bricks at their cars and shooting at least one man in the hand while he was traveling with his family.

But other people in the neighborhoods responded to stop what should correctly be called a racist attack. Some people directly confronted those carrying out the attacks. Others organized solidarity demonstrations in Mexican neighborhoods, attracting hundreds. A car-caravan was organized through parts of the South Side, with many cars flying Mexican flags, outfitted at the same time with signs declaring “Black Lives Matter.” Mothers organized a solidarity march, meeting at a church on the border between a black and Mexican neighborhood on the West Side. Many young Latinos participated in protests against the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor across the city.

It should be obvious today—it’s been obvious for a long time—that only the capitalists are served when workers let themselves get pulled into racist fights against each other, whether white against black or Mexican against black, etc.

This time, at least, the bigger number of Mexican people who oppose this insanity made their voices heard.

From Unacceptable Shortage to Ridiculous Overproduction

Jun 15, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Today there are 40 million French-made washable facemasks that cannot find a buyer, and the bosses who threw themselves into the business claim to be on the verge of bankruptcy. But when the epidemic began, everyone had to hunt for facemasks. The government ran out of its stockpile, and there was a flagrant delay before new ones were ordered. Against all medical advice, the government declared that wearing facemasks was of little use.

Facemasks became a commodity for contraband and speculation. Governments robbed them from each other. Scammers forged certifications for bad masks. Caregivers had to make do with whatever they had on hand. Then textile companies began to manufacture them, encouraged by the government. They were counting on a growing market and guaranteed payments. But within a few weeks, both the epidemic declined and disposable masks were massively imported and distributed. The market collapsed.

The government tried talking with business experts. They consulted the bosses of trendy Le Slip Français for a solution. However, resorting to spandex professionals might not be enough to overcome the errors of the capitalist economy!

Dying More from Hunger than from COVID-19

Jun 15, 2020

Translated from Voz Obrera (Workers’ Voice), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in Spain.

In India, the economic recession caused by the lockdown deprives millions of families in big cities of their livelihood. Tens of thousands go hungry.

Meanwhile, in the countryside, this year’s very abundant crops of grain are rotting. Tons of tomatoes are spoiling. The highways and railroads have been closed, so they can’t be transported.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, like so many others, expertly uses the army and police to prevent working people from getting around—quarantining them with assaults by billy club. But the government is unwilling and unable to organize the supplies people need to ensure their health and food.

Drastic Situation

Jun 15, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

The COVID-19 pandemic affects Africa like the rest of the world, but apparently not as badly. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 2,300 deaths from the virus. But the health catastrophe threatens to impact other diseases which are already ravaging the continent, like AIDS and tuberculosis.

Sanitation systems were cut back to the minimum. They were already insufficient to combat conventional infectious diseases. The resources devoted to COVID-19 are lacking for everything else.

In sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS treatment centers are closed. They can’t deliver anti-retroviral therapy to the 16 million patients who rely on it. In 2018 nearly half a million died from AIDS, but experts fear this year it will be twice as many. The same catastrophic mortality will result from childhood pneumonia, tuberculosis, and malaria. As for Ebola, the WHO was prepared to announce that this epidemic was over. But they had to delay the announcement when new cases appeared. And the same treatment shortages hit patients with diabetes and hypertension.

A Small Step ... Backwards!

Jun 15, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

On May 31 two NASA astronauts entered the International Space Station 250 miles from Earth after 19 hours of space travel. Coming half a century after people first walked on the Moon, this event was banal. But the media presented it as a major accomplishment.

There are two reasons. The Crew Dragon space capsule was launched into orbit by a reusable Falcon 9 rocket made by billionaire Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. Also, after the Space Shuttle program ended nine years ago, this was the first time an American rocket carried astronauts again. Trump attended the takeoff and raved about the powerful technology before promising that Americans would soon set foot on Mars. Remember that Russia currently launches most of the women and men who work on the International Space Station. Russia was the first country to launch a person into orbit back in the time of the Soviet Union. So Russian engineers had a good laugh at Trump and his bragging.

As for SpaceX’s rocket, it is recoverable and therefore reusable, unlike those of Russian, Chinese, and European competitors. This is its main innovation. It also can carry much heavier loads. But, contrary to what Elon Musk’s starry-eyed admirers claim, this advance owes nothing to his personal talents or to the institution of private property. Elon Musk became rich by financial speculation in the early 2000s. He cultivates the image of a visionary held back by regulations, government inertia, and even lack of daring on the part of his board of directors. But SpaceX owes all its success to NASA, a public institution. SpaceX only avoided bankruptcy in 2008 by signing a lucrative contract with NASA to supply the International Space Station. Musk has consistently taken advantage of NASA and U.S. military facilities and experience for his launches while charging them high prices, even as he offered discounts to commercial customers.

Throughout the history of capitalism, from the building of the railways in the 19th century to space travel in the 20th century, private capitalists would have made no significant progress or investment without constant help from governments. Today, investments and scientific programs for the future of humanity are made at the discretion of megalomaniac capitalists like Elon Musk—or Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, whose company Blue Origin markets space tourism to wealthy people. This shows how senile the social system is.

Pages 6-7

Disband Capitalist Society & Its Police

Jun 15, 2020

The following article was the editorial in SPARK workplace newsletters of June 8.

The murder of George Floyd touched off an explosion. More than that, it set in motion a movement. Not a state went without protests. On one day, there were one hundred and eighty-one protests, according to one media count. But the days have continued one after the other. In most big cities, there are two or three or four, sometimes five or six, sometimes dozens of different demonstrations. Even small towns, places that never before had seen demonstrations, added their voices to the protest. And in Washington, D.C., against which Trump threw the military last week, promising to “dominate” its streets, tens if not hundreds of thousands of protestors made the streets their own last Saturday.

It truly is a movement, with all the contradictions of a mass movement, but also with some of its strengths: the initiatives taken by uncounted, nameless people to organize action; the realization people get that they are part of something much bigger than themselves. People silent for too long found their voice.

The demand of many demonstrators was for the police to be controlled, if not “defunded,” “disbanded,” and the brutal cops replaced.

Certainly, it’s true, some cops are more brutal than others. And many police may not be brutal—as individuals. But the police as an organized institution systematically act with violence and impunity. It is true in New York, where the police have long had a reputation for being particularly aggressive; it is true in cities like Detroit where the police supposedly have been “reformed”—several times over, in fact.

If somehow there were a way to get rid of the “brutal” ones, the institution of the police would still be brutal. The police have a role to play. They “protect and serve” the class that runs a society based on steep inequalities, with enormous wealth accumulated in a few hands at the top, wealth drained out of the labor of the masses of people. If there were no coercion, no organized violence to keep the laboring people in check, the few at the top could not monopolize so much of society’s wealth.

For the police to serve this tiny exploiting class, they have to be set apart from the population, wielding, or threatening to wield the means of violence against the population. This is the rock that all efforts to reform the police broke over.

One of the demands of previous movements was for the police to better reflect the ethnic makeup of the community. Today, some majority black cities—Detroit, Memphis, Birmingham Alabama and Oakland California, for example—have majority black police departments. In some cases, there may be less open blatant racism. But in each of these cities, there still is organized police violence. And finally, that means racist violence: people killed by cops who would not have been killed in the same situation if they had been white.

The problem is bigger than just the make-up of the police department, even if that is an aggravating factor. The police are a direct reflection of the capitalist class they serve. And, in that sense, it’s true, they have to be “disbanded.”

But if the police are to be disbanded, it can only come through a fight to “disband” the whole of capitalist society. The exploited laboring population, black and white, has to struggle to throw out the class sitting on all of society’s wealth.

The movement that seemed to explode out of nowhere may not be the revolution. It may go in very many different directions. But the people who poured into the streets, protesting the whole range of society’s ills, have opened a door to the future.

Without a struggle by people there is no hope. When a struggle this wide begins, no matter where it starts with what aims, it holds the promise of future fights. No longer can cynical people say that no one else will do anything. People are doing.

We can fight against the police and fight to make sure that everyone has a decent paying job, which finally is the same fight. In fighting for that, we can be the generation that prevents the capitalist class from setting us against each other.

Nursing Home Industry Cares … about the $$$

Jun 15, 2020

A million and a half older people live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and as of now, some 43,000 have died from COVID-19.

The industry to look after the elderly grew as more people live longer, with smaller families not able to care for older members. The industry got funded by Medicare and Medicaid, and charged thousands of dollars paid by residents or their families every month. The largest chains made billions, and were soon bought up by big investors. Their executives are paid millions while aides and maintenance and cafeteria workers often get minimum wage, with few benefits.

During the pandemic, the so-called CARES Act passed on five billion dollars to help nursing homes. Most of it went to the big chains. Yet aides and other staff report they must buy their own protective equipment. So much for “caring.”

In Maryland, a small state, the virus has caused about 2,700 deaths so far, two thirds of which are among people over age 70. The state admits half of these are in nursing homes, while manipulating the statistics to show fewer deaths. The governor bragged about buying 500,000 test kits, but even now, six weeks later, all residents of all facilities for the elderly have NOT been tested, nor has their workforce unless the residents or the staff showed symptoms. So much for “caring” for the elderly.

Care? No, this is a society that cares only about profit. For those who are sick, it shows no care, no organization to help—unless they have enough money to pay for insurance.

Wealth Over Human Health

Jun 15, 2020

Sixty of the largest U.S. hospital chains have received a total of more than $15 billion in COVID-19 related emergency funds from the federal government, despite the fact that they have collectively been sitting on $108 billion of cash reserves, while furloughing or laying off more than 30,000 workers.

These include world-renowned hospitals like the Mayo Clinic, giant private hospital chains like Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), Providence, Trinity Health, Beaumont Health and the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan, and so on and on.

In one case, HCA received about $1 billion in bailout funds. This huge hospital chain is worth $36 billion, made more than $7 billion in profits over the past two years, and paid its chief executive $26 million in 2019. HCA is now threatening its workers with wage cuts and layoffs.

In another example, the Providence Health System received at least $509 million in federal bailout funds, while it sits on nearly $12 billion in cash, and generates more than $1 billion in surplus per year. Because Providence calls itself a non-profit organization, it does not pay any federal, state or local taxes on that surplus.

By contrast, hospitals that serve low-income patients, rural hospitals, and small hospitals got almost no financial aid from the federal government. Most of these hospitals do not have enough cash to finance more than a few weeks of their operations. As a result, these hospitals could not provide much-needed healthcare to their patients, who are overwhelmingly the working class and poor. Many of these hospitals were forced to lay off much of their staff, and some are being forced to close.

So, the rich hospitals got the relief money. And the small hospitals got almost nothing.

The filthy rich owners, big shareholders or financial controllers of these wealthy hospitals operate these hospitals as a business to increase their wealth. To them, their profits are more important than the health of the patients and well-being of the hospital staff. And the rich are using the pandemic as another business opportunity to squeeze out more money from us. This is capitalism.

Page 8

Racism Not New to Minneapolis Police Department

Jun 15, 2020

The movement that exploded after the video of the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis cops won a partial victory when the four were criminally charged, and rightfully so. The blame for this racist act, however, deserves to go beyond these four cops. Their actions are simply the latest in a long history of racist police brutality in Minneapolis.

The circumstances that led up to George Floyd’s murder alone demonstrate the racist culture in the Minneapolis Police Department. Derek Chauvin, the cop who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, faced 17 complaints against him in 19 years on the force. He was involved in three shootings. In one case involving a domestic abuse accusation, Chauvin burst into the bathroom of a home and started hitting an unarmed man and shot him three times in the abdomen, according to the victim. In another case, a woman complained Chauvin pulled her out of her car, searched her and put her in his police car, all over a supposed 10 m.p.h. speeding ticket. Chauvin never received any discipline over any of the complaints other than two letters of reprimand.

The cop who came to the scene with Chauvin, Tou Thao, had six complaints against him and was sued by one black victim who said Thao and his partner punched, kicked and kneed him and broke three of his teeth.

Yet the Minneapolis Police Department put Chauvin in charge of training two of the other officers who took part in Floyd’s killing. One of them, J. Alexander Kueng, was only on his third shift as a full-fledged cop that day, though he was hired in December. The other, Thomas Lane, was on his fourth day.

The police department’s protection of Chauvin is hardly an isolated case. The Reuters news agency found about 3,000 complaints against Minneapolis cops in the last eight years. Reuters found nine out of ten complaints resulted in no punishment.

Often, prosecutors have refused to indict cops in police brutality cases. Amy Klobuchar, now a U.S. Senator and recent presidential candidate, built her reputation as one such prosecutor in Minneapolis, who refused to prosecute cops on multiple occasions.

Courts have also protected Minneapolis cops from brutality charges. The U.S. Supreme Court created a doctrine called “qualified immunity” that shields cops from being held personally responsible when carrying out official duties unless their actions “clearly violate federal law,” even if civil rights were violated. Reuters found 28 federal lawsuits filed in federal courts from 2006 to 2018 in which Minneapolis cops claimed qualified immunity.

Certainly none of the cops involved in George Floyd’s murder are blameless, but the blame certainly extends to those far above them.

NFL Commissioner Finally Discovers Racism

Jun 15, 2020

Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), put out a statement condemning “racism and the systematic oppression of black people”. He said, “black lives matter”. And he said that the NFL was “wrong for not listening to NFL players and encouraging all players to speak out and peacefully protest”.

This all came from the head of the sports league that has, in the past, tried to silence black NFL players who have protested against racial injustice.

In 2016, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was one of the first players to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem. Kaepernick spoke out against racism, as did other players like Eric Reid. In retaliation, the NFL owners blackballed Kaepernick. No one would hire Kaepernick, who was one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Even though Kaepernick and Reid reached a settlement of a lawsuit against the NFL, Kaepernick still hasn’t been offered a job by any team.

In 2017, many other NFL players were protesting racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. After these players were attacked by Donald Trump (who said the “son of a bitches” should be fired) and were criticized by some racist white fans and the media, the NFL tried to enact a policy requiring players to stand for the anthem.

But now this same league commissioner, speaking for the same league owners, is speaking out against racism and supporting players protesting. What changed?

Maybe it is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people across the country are taking to the streets to protest the murder of George Floyd. And maybe it is not a coincidence that Goodell’s statement came one day after many star NFL players, including Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, put out a video demanding that the NFL condemn racism, say that “black lives matter” and that the league admit it was wrong for trying to silence NFL players. Goodell’s statement matched almost word-for-word what the players were demanding in their video.

Maybe the league commissioner and league owners realized that without the NFL players, 70% of whom are black, there is no NFL, there is no multi-billion-dollar TV contract, and there is no money going into the pockets of the team owners.