YDSA statement in solidarity with protests against white supremacy and the police state. If you are a YDSA member and you have been out protesting, we encourage you to send a short eyewitness report to firstname.lastname@example.org, so that we can uplift revolutionary struggle and counter the reactionary lies spread by powerful media institutions. Please include the location of the report, how you would like to be identified (anonymous reports are welcome and encouraged), and any video or images you would like to share.
(Image: youth- and student- led Black Lives Matter protest in Oakland, California. Credit: Ariel Boone, Democracy Now!)
In the days since the brutal murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of four Minneapolis, Minnesota Police Officers, over 4,000 largely peaceful protestors have been arrested and countless more brutalized by militarized police forces around the country for the crime of demanding justice and an end to racist state violence. George Floyd’s death was the latest in hundreds of police murders of unarmed black and brown people in the US in the last few years, and came at a time of brewing unrest as the United States sinks further and further into an economic recession and the COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 100,000 nationwide. Over the last six days, cities across the country have seen hundreds of thousands of demonstrators rise up to demand justice, only to be met with tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets shot by unprovoked police officers into unarmed and peaceful crowds.
Now in its second week, the protest movement has only grown despite massive crackdowns from militarized police forces and repressive curfews in states around the country. The protests, which are now taking place in all 50 states, are overwhelmingly led by young people, and in many cases are an outpouring of multiracial solidarity against the police state. Demands have arisen to defund police departments, who in most cities receive the vast majority of public funding, and redistribute their resources to public education, healthcare, and other desperately needed social services. The brutality displayed by police officers against protestors, journalists, and legal observers is only an escalation of the racist and classist repression policing has encouraged since its beginning, and lays bare the truth that law enforcement and their enablers are, as Karl Marx wrote, “not the representatives of a civil society which administers its own universal interests in them and through them; they are the representatives of the state and their task is to administer the state against civil society.”
Liberals and the mainstream media have chosen to focus not on the hundreds of examples of police beatings and shootings of non-violent protestors, but on the small number of people engaged in the destruction of property and stealing of commercial goods. On the first nights of the uprising, protestors targeted police headquarters and vehicles and corporations that exemplified the capitalist police state, such as a Target where the police had been developing new tactics of repression and luxury retailers that cater to the wealthy and facilitate the displacement and over-policing of the working class. Meanwhile, police and other white supremacists have attempted to stoke violence and encourage looting in otherwise peaceful gatherings. And while media figures wring their hands about the justified destruction of private property, police have rolled down quiet residential streets and fired paint canisters at people with the audacity to sit on their own porches in broad daylight.
Many liberals who have spoken out about the protests may pay lip service to supporting the uprisings, but condemn the “looting,” showing theselves more concerned with stolen televisions than the stolen lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the hundreds of unarmed and innocent black men and women who have been brutally killed by a militarized occupying force with roots in slavery. Few have stopped to ask why any of this is happening in the first place, and many have gone so far as to try to explain away the uprisings as spurred on by “outside agitators.” Aside from being ridiculous and irresponsible, this narrative is proof that people who are comfortably insulated from the violence of capitalism and racism are unable or unwilling to acknowledge that these protests are not an isolated incident: they’re a symptom of the longstanding rot at the heart of America, a disease for which the only cure is a mass, multiracial, working class movement that can win racial equality and an end to the inherently unjust system of policing. As DSA member and Labor Notes staffer Chris Brooks writes, “The protests aren’t a conspiracy: people are really pissed.”
In fact, if anyone is an outside agitator inciting violence, it’s police officers — most of whom are white and live in suburbs far from the urban sites. The police have been acting as a hostile military occupation and raining down unprovoked, militarized violence on unarmed civilians for several days now. This should stand as a complete refutation of the other well-worn liberal narrative, that instead of taking to the streets, those incensed about racism should take to the ballot box on November third and peacefully remove Trump from office. In addition to being incredibly patronizing and tonedeaf, it’s just false: people have been voting, and voting for Democrats. Yet as the violence meted out by police over the weekend shows, Trump is only the head of a vast hydra that includes just as many Democrats as Republicans.
Some of the most brutal examples of police repression — Boston, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Buffalo, and Minneapolis, to name but a few — took place in democrat-run states. Democratic Mayors and City Councils are the ones commanding police to brutalize peaceful protestors. Joe Biden, Democratic nominee for president and longtime racist law-and-order democratic, said police should shoot protestors in the legs instead of the chest. But anyone with a conscience knows police should not be shooting protestors at all. Liberal solutions like the “eight that can’t wait” are insufficient reforms that do nothing to limit the power of the police and reify the false idea that a fundamentally white supremacist, violent institution can be changed for the better.
Voting for Democrats is not enough: we need a mass movement to demand in this moment that police forces be defunded, and their ample resources redistributed to social services that have gone underfunded for decades and that have been pushed to the limits by the COVID-19 crisis, and in the long term move toward the abolition of incarceration, capitalism, and the police state in favor of a peaceful, equal, and democratic society. Socialists in this moment need to do everything they can to support this uprising, and to ensure that the rupture in public opinion created by these protests does not allow fascism to creep in. We need to organize, to build a mass socialist movement that can provide the sorely needed perspective on this crisis, and work to build lasting organizations of working people to fight for an end to the twin scourges of white supremacy and capitalism, in the streets, in the labor movement, and in our chapters and our communities.
YDSA stands in solidarity with all protestors and everyone fighting to ride the world of white supremacist capitalism. We condemn the falsehoods and biased framing presented by mainstream media corporations which are throwing in their lot with capitalist, imperialist interests and baldly rewriting history as it happens right before our eyes. We denounce the neo-fascist president of the United States who is attempting to limit freedom of speech on social media even as he demands to be allowed to threaten violence and foment misinformation from his own Twitter account. Any illusion that we have a free and fair press in this country is undercut by the corporate conglomerates that control access to information, and obliterated by the numerous attacks by police against clearly identified journalists.
As socialists, we know the truth: the United States is, and always has been, a fortress of white supremacy built on the backs of working people. We see that the real violence that is “erupting” around the country is the direct result of police brutality — the unprovoked attacks on peaceful protestors in the streets today, and the ceaseless suppression of people of color and the working class for centuries leading up to this moment. We see what the mainstream media refuses to show: that people standing up for their rights is the only way that change can happen, and that the capitalist state will do all it can to stop it. That’s what’s happening right now, and those are the stories we need to be telling.
If you are a YDSA member and you have been out protesting, we encourage you to send a short eyewitness report to email@example.com, so that we can uplift revolutionary struggle and counter the reactionary lies spread by powerful media institutions. Please include the location of the report, how you would like to be identified (anonymous reports are welcome and encouraged), and any video or images you would like to share. The Activist will publish these reports in the days to come, as a record of this unprecedented movement against capitalism, racism, and state violence.
Please protest safely, protect yourselves and each other, and know that a better world is possible and if we stand united we will make it there together.