The Spark

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

SPARK Meeting in Baltimore

May 11, 2015

The following is a SPARK presentation given at a public meeting on May 3 in Baltimore:

On April 12th Freddie Gray was arrested without probable cause. He died a week later on April 19th after having his spinal cord in his neck 80% severed. They broke his neck! How and why did this happen? What the police say is damning enough. Why did they arrest Gray? They say because Freddie ran after making eye contact with the cops. So if you look a cop right in the eye they will arrest you?! He ran away – I guess so. You might run too, if you thought the police would kill you. And they did kill him! Brutally.

The cops say he was OK when they put him in the back of the van. OK. So something happened to him in the van. The police admit they did not buckle him in – which they say they are supposed to do. They repeatedly failed to buckle him in – since every time (four times) they stopped they had an opportunity to correct their “mistake.” And they didn’t. They repeatedly failed to get him medical attention. They admit Gray’s hands were cuffed behind his back so he couldn’t buckle himself in, nor could he stop himself from rolling and slamming around in the back of the van. At some point they stopped the van to put leg irons on him. This action would have made him less able to balance himself in the van. Gray was totally vulnerable – by police admission.

Cops Give Many Rough Rides

This is not the first time a black man has died in police custody. It’s not even the first time someone was paralyzed or killed for not being buckled in, in the back of a police van. So the cops knew what could happen on this “rough ride” as it is known by Baltimore City cops. They are not admitting that they gave him the “rough ride” with the customary deliberate hard stops and starts and so forth. But look, a man is arrested with no broken neck and then he comes out of the van with a broken neck, not breathing, no pulse – something is very, very wrong here.

This should have been treated as a criminal case from the get go – which it was not. The cops should have been charged immediately – as any ordinary person would have been for doing something similar.

All the cops who were involved were complicit in Gray’s death. All were responsible. They should all be in jail and tried for murder – instead of given a paid vacation! Even now, after they were arrested and charged, they are out on bail. Out immediately!

The mayor is telling people to be peaceful. Peaceful? The police aren’t peaceful. They are targeting young black men EVERY DAY. If you look at the cops “wrong” or too long, they will chase you down. If you run from them, they will shoot you in the back eight times. Sell cigarettes on the sidewalk, they will choke hold you and suffocate you so you can’t breathe. Walk down a flight of stairs with your girlfriend because the elevator doesn’t work – they’ll shoot you. Hands up – they shoot; Hands down … driving a car. Doesn’t matter. They’ll shoot you. Because they are gunning for YOU.

David Simon, the journalist who produced the TV show “The Wire,” based on Baltimore, explained the cops’ attitude this way:

“Probable cause was destroyed by the war on drugs.... There was a joke [told by police] about, ‘you know what probable cause is on Edmondson Avenue? You roll by in your radio car and the guy looks at you for two seconds too long.’ Probable cause was whatever you thought you could safely lie about when you got into district court.”

This is why people are angry. This is why people are in the streets. The protestors who looted – yes – little things. How about the big looters? How about how capitalism has robbed people of decent paying jobs, of jobs, period? Robbed young people of a decent education. Of their very lives.

Tanya Peacher, a 36-year-old Baltimore resident, said she’d never attended a protest in the city before, but watching a video of Gray’s arrest motivated her.

“I looked at my son,” she said, “and thought 'that is my son.' ”

Wearing a sign around his neck that said “I am Freddie Gray,” 33-year-old Dante Acree joined thousands of others outside City Hall. Acree said he came out to the protest because “it could have been one of my kids. It could have been my brother, my father,” he said. “I'd want the same support.”

A Policy of the Ruling Class

It’s not just Freddie Gray. It’s not just Baltimore. This is a conscious policy of the ruling class.

Why? THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH JOBS.

Black people – black men in particular – are the hardest hit with unemployment. After the urban uprisings in hundreds of cities across the country in the 60s and early 70s, after the social movements ended, better paying factory jobs started disappearing in the big cities that had been struck by revolts. Not just here in Baltimore but all over. Young black men couldn’t get a job where their father worked. Factories were laying people off; closing down; the bosses weren’t hiring. Then crack was flooded into the cities while jobs moved to the far-out suburbs or small towns.

This is when the deliberate policy of the ruling class began – in the 1980s, when starting with Reagan and on through Clinton, the Bushes, right on down to Obama – they instituted a war on young black men, code named “the war on drugs.”

What do politicians do with millions of unemployed black people that the capitalist class doesn’t want to hire?

What do they do with millions of unemployed black people who have a history of fighting back, of making themselves ungovernable, of making urban rebellions, and of changing the atmosphere in the factories they entered, facing down brutal foremen, tearing up unreasonable rules?

The ruling class has disappeared young black men – that’s what they did. Criminalize them. Target them. Imprison them. Create generations of young black men who can’t get jobs because they have a record. Can’t vote. Then maybe the ruling class has tied black people’s hands behind their backs and they won’t be able to make trouble and fight for jobs that capitalism IS NOT and CANNOT provide.

Or so the politicians thought, so they hoped.

This is the policy that has been carried out since the 1980s. And for the most part it has worked … up until now. It has enforced a bitter calm on the big cities. Up until … Baltimore.

Capitalism is in trouble. The bosses are pushing the trouble onto us to keep THEIR system afloat. Lay-offs, speed-up, pay and benefit cuts.

Their policy targets the heart of the working class. White workers are deformed by racism, trained to fear black men. White workers have been told in a hundred ways that black men are dangerous criminals.

But white workers have been caught up by the policy of criminalizing those who can’t find a job, too. White workers are laid off. White workers are in prisons, also caught up in the so-called “war on drugs.” There are white workers who are so blinded by racism that they can’t see how they’ve been manipulated by the powers that be. They can’t see how this divides us, weakens us. They can’t see how this division is used to keep us all down, to control us.

But what happens is NOT up to those who succumb to racism.

Angry Protests Show a Way

What happens now, even just in the city of Baltimore, depends first on the demonstrators continuing their angry protests – not letting up because charges were made against the six cops. But making a mess, stopping the Orioles game, shutting the city down, challenging police power … while a good start, all this is not enough. Charges are not convictions. And even with convictions, the police would still be enforcing the ruling class crack-down on young black men and others unable to find a job. Because there still are NO JOBS.

To deal with that will require a revolt against all of capitalist society. An overturn of existing structures. A revolution, which must mean building a new society that works for everyone.