Apr 26, 2021
Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin is now in jail for killing George Floyd, convicted on all 3 counts of murder and manslaughter.
For many who witnessed the killing, there may have been a sense of relief that, for once, a cop was held at least partially accountable for killing a black man.
But this conviction changed nothing in the way the police will continue to function in this society.
Even during the trial, when you would expect the police to be on their best behavior, murders by cops didn’t even slow down. During the days of the trial, police killed an average of three people every day in this country, which is equal to the average of the 1,000 people killed every year by police. While the trial was going on, Daunte Wright was killed by cops 10 miles away from the courthouse. At the very moment that the verdict was being announced, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot 4 times and killed by a cop in Columbus, Ohio. The day after the verdict, cops shot and killed Andrew Brown, Jr., an unarmed black man, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Killings by cops continue, day after day. How could it be otherwise? The role of the police in this capitalist society has always been to control the population, to enforce vast inequality. That means they use violence against the population.
In the South, police forces developed out of the slave patrols that were used to catch and brutalize runaway slaves. In the North, the first large-scale police forces were organized to break strikes and attack striking workers. The role of the police has always been to support and maintain the exploitation of the laboring population.
About half of the people killed by police are white men, almost all of them from the working class. This number is mostly proportionate with the number of whites in the population.
But in this society founded on slavery and deformed by the racism that was institutionalized by it, black men are killed by the cops at three times the rate of white men. The repression and violence by the police fall most heavily on the black population, often the most exploited section of the working class.
The exploitation of the whole working class is increasing today, our standard of living is being lowered, the disparity of the wealth between rich and poor is growing. In this situation, the violence of the cops in working class neighborhoods, especially the black neighborhoods, is increasing.
The videotaped murder of George Floyd sparked millions of people to go into the streets in protest, something that we haven’t seen in this country in many years. The protests were a culmination of anger, not just about this one murder, but also anger about all the other people, especially black people, who were killed by cops before George Floyd.
There is no doubt that these protests in the streets directly led to Chauvin being convicted and sent to jail. It seems clear that the authorities, fearing more protests, worked to get Chauvin’s conviction. Chauvin became the scapegoat for the system that uses violence against the population every single day.
Is this a system that can be reformed with some changes, as some politicians would want us to believe? Of course not! A system where it took millions of people in the streets and months of protests, just to get one cop convicted, cannot be reformed. If one young woman hadn’t been there and had the courage to videotape the murder of George Floyd, would Chauvin even been put on trial?
By unanimously voting to convict Chauvin, the jury proclaimed that George Floyd’s life mattered. But it does not represent “justice”. We will have a just society only when the working class finds the way to throw out a capitalist system that sends the police against the population in order maintain its exploitation.