Dec 8, 2014
Protests swept across the country in the wake of a New York Grand Jury’s failure to indict Daniel Pantaleo, a white police officer, in the death of Eric Garner. Thousands demonstrated, shouting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” and “I Can’t Breathe!”, two slogans associated with the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the earlier police killing of Garner. Taking over downtown streets and blocking roadways and bridges, in New York City, Cleveland, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Miami, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, New Orleans and in many other cities, demonstrators raised their voices and their fists in protests over these killings by police.
In one month’s time, back to back, two grand juries failed to return any indictment in the cases of Brown and Garner. To add insult to injury, in this same period of time Akai Gurley was killed by police in the stairwell of a Brooklyn building and a 12-year-old, Tamir Rice, was shot to death in Cleveland for pulling a toy gun on a policeman who shot him two seconds after arriving on the scene.
Clearly, the horrified reaction of the population of Ferguson, followed by wave after wave of demonstrations over other police killings has forced even those at the top of the political system to speak.
One day after the Garner verdict, the headlines announced that police were being cited for abuse in Cleveland. The U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appeared on the scene to reassure the population, speaking out on the “tragic losses” of Brown, Garner and Rice and about “the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect.” Meanwhile, politicians began to speak about the Garner murder; headlines reported that even the conservatives had a problem with the grand jury verdict. Hillary Clinton, presidential hopeful, actually acknowledged that African-American men are more likely to be detained, searched and charged with crimes than whites – and praised Obama ... for setting up a task force.
This carefully couched “concern” from Holder and Clinton is a clear sign that the demonstrations have created a problem for the politicians who administer the system and, finally, for the Obama administration and the upper class it represents. Since the film of Garner’s choking death was viewed by millions, it is harder to ignore. But now are we supposed to believe that we have a glimmer of hope for justice?!
The killings of unarmed citizens in Cleveland that prompted this investigation occurred back in 2012! Two black people were gunned down by officers firing 137 rounds at close range after a 20-mile chase by 62 patrol cars. It took more than two years for the Feds to figure out that this was excessive?? Please! And in the meantime, how many more have died?
After an interview with Obama about the killings, rap artist and community activist Tef Poe said, “What comes from that? I don’t know. I don’t expect much from the same system that has its boot on our throats.”
In a society that defends profit over human life, with its huge inequalities, divided into the haves and the have-nots, violence is used to keep the population in check. This will not go away or even diminish as the economic crisis gets worse for the population. And the horrible reality of racism will continue as well; it is a longstanding tool of the U.S. ruling class to divide the working class.
The calls for calm, the urging to look to the Justice Department for help, the politicians calling for reform are all a shell game, pretending that all of this systematic violence is going to be addressed.
They look to control the population’s reaction only, to move demonstrators off streets, to stop any potential challenge to property, to continue the status quo – a status quo that buries the truth with the dead, victims of a system that is racist to the core.
The hope for a stop to the violence, the racism, the killing lies in the continued protests by the population. Finally, what is needed is to challenge the capitalist system that nurtures inequalities, where the rich and super rich are held harmless for their crimes, while those who sell a “loosie,” a single cigarette, to get something to eat are executed.
The police that serve this system will never be reformed because this unfair system needs their violence to defend itself. But demonstrators are right to expose them and to demand justice until such time as a fight can begin to build a new system to wipe this rottenness off the face of the earth.