Nov 24, 2014
In Ferguson, Missouri, authorities are focused on controlling the response of the population to a Grand Jury decision on whether or not to indict police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson shot to death black teenager Michael Brown approximately three months ago. Brown was unarmed, and according to witnesses, had raised his hands in surrender.
The governor has declared a state of emergency, enabling him to call out the National Guard. City and state officials are encouraging the population to stay calm. Friends and family of Michael Brown are being urged to call for a peaceful, non-violent protest, if necessary. And the business owners, oh yes, the business owners are bemoaning the prospect of lost profits.
They are complaining that the almost daily protests that have occurred since the most recent shooting of another teenager, Vonderrit D. Meyers Jr, in October have been interfering with business as usual. They are worrying that their profit margins for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, will be compromised, and they worry that possible rioting could ruin businesses and even spread into the more affluent areas, even into St. Louis proper. As one commentator said, “People like to buy stuff when they’re happy, when they’re in a good mood, when they’re optimistic. As you get people who are in anxious or worried or fearful moods, they’re less likely to open up their wallets and spend.”
This callous, shallow perspective is, of course, the perspective of a social class that benefits from the daily exploitation of the working and poor population. Profit comes first, not the perspective to stop the nationwide police killings of almost 400 people a year, mostly young black men.
The perspective to stop the killings by police, to confront power with power and violence with self defense, violent if necessary, is a perspective with roots in the black social struggle that goes back hundreds of years. It is a viable, historical perspective. In the rebellions of the 1960s, riots that engulfed major cities across the U.S. forced the mighty U.S. capitalist class to alter its direction and behavior. They forced the mightiest armed force in the world, the U.S. military, to withdraw from the Viet Nam war, uncomfortable with fighting a war abroad and one at home at the same time. And it forced the ruling class to hire, for the first time, large numbers of black workers into the factories and plants; to open doors of employment that had been closed to the black population.
Yes, the population can stop the indiscriminate shooting of young black men by police; and yes, the police can be pushed back. The response of the population in Ferguson and St. Louis has already made owners tremble for their business and focused international attention on the violence of the system.
While fights like those in Missouri reach a limit when they confront the larger capitalist system, they are a training ground for larger struggles to come, to address not just those who carry out the violence like the police, but those who orchestrate this violent system for their own profit. And as they spread and continue, they provide an important protection against the continued murder of young black men by the system.