End of Illusions
Grand Jury Decisions in Deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner Expose Reality of Capitalism
BY MARTIN SAYLES and ROBIN WAKIPAJAN | DECEMBER 8, 2014
NEW YORK, N.Y., December 7 — As we go to press, mass protests continue across the country in response to grand jury decisions that have cleared the police officers responsible for the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City.
On Nov. 24, a St. Louis County grand jury returned a “no true bill” (a legal term for no charges) against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson cop who shot and killed Brown while he stood with his hands in the air. Nine days later, on Dec. 3, a Staten Island grand jury handed down its own “no true bill” in the case of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, who applied a chokehold on Garner, provoking a heart attack.
While residents and activists in Ferguson and nationally had come to expect that Wilson would not be charged in the murder of Brown, it was believed that the video footage of Garner being killed was more than enough to convince the grand jury to indict Pantaleo.
Thus, the decision to not charge the cop in the death of Garner came as a visible collective shock across a wide spectrum of the American population. Both conservative and liberal commentators were left speechless by the outcome, with pundits like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and The Blaze’s Glenn Beck joining with their liberal counterparts, including MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, all wondering out loud how this could have happened.
At the same time, thousands of workers and young people have taken to the streets across the country to demand justice and condemn police terrorism. Unlike past protests, however, the liberal slogans of “reform” and “community policing” have increasingly been displaced by calls for the dismantling of the existing state apparatus.
With protests spreading from city to city, there has been a growing acknowledgement that “the system” does not serve poor and working people — especially African Americans and Latinos. Many protesters and other activists carried signs with a statement by iconic civil rights advocate, historian and self-described communist W.E.B. Dubois: “A system cannot fail those who it was never designed to protect.”
(This quote was also featured prominently in the Workers Party’s Nov. 25 statement on the Ferguson grand jury decision, “The System Worked,” available here.)
Protests have also taken place around the world. Workers and young people in Canada, Britain, France, Italy, India, Australia, Korea and Japan have joined demonstrations expressing their solidarity. Even in countries torn apart by years of war and occupation, such as Iraq and Palestine, protests demanding justice now for Brown and Garner have taken place.
The Police and Capitalism’s Loyal Leftists
As we saw after the first week of militant (and, at times, armed) protests in Ferguson following the killing of Michael Brown, the exploiting and oppressing classes were quick to mobilize their loyal leftist lieutenants and send them into the protests with the goal of making them “respectable” and tied to the Democrats.
But after the dual blows of the Brown and Garner grand juries, and the brutal murders of two more young, unarmed African Americans — 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, shot twice in the stomach in less than two seconds by cops, and 28-year-old Akai Gurley by NYPD officers in Brooklyn doing an unauthorized patrol of his apartment building with guns drawn — and years of a seemingly uninterrupted killing spree by the armed agents of the capitalist state, the last thing that many people were concerned about was being “respectable” or having to grovel at the feet of the police.
This didn’t stop these loyal leftists from trying to “get a handle” on the protests … by working hand-in-glove with the cops! Even before the Ferguson grand jury decision was released, numerous self-appointed “community leaders” and burned-out “activists” approached the cops to work out ways to insure their stage-managed protests were “peaceful” by organizing participants to finger protesters to the cops for arrest.
This self-appointed snitch squad organized by the liberals and “community leaders” was present at nearly every major protest, and had the support of phony “radicals” like members of the so-called “By Any Means Necessary” sex cult, the New Black Panthers and some of the “socialists” orbiting the Democratic Party.
Several of these pro-cop leftists denounced protesters as “reckless,” “stupid” and “disrespectful,” echoing the language used by the more vile elements on Fox News, Newsmax and other radically-reactionary cable and Internet outlets. Both capitalism’s left and right mouthpieces were united in demanding that protesters “know their place:” behind the “respectable” liberals and cowering before the mighty cops.
At a couple protests, Workers Party supporters were hounded by these leftists for our principled stance in calling for armed workers’ self-defense and exposing the brutal reality of the capitalist system, and more than one of these “radicals” threatened to finger us to the cops.
The System Worked … Over and Over Again
While the focus at the moment is on the murders of Brown and Garner, we cannot forget that hundreds of people, overwhelmingly African American and Latino, are killed every year by the armed agents of capitalism. Every 28 hours, someone in the U.S. is the victim of a police shooting. More are subjected to other forms of violence and terrorism, including intimidation, harassment, wrongful detention, beatings, shakedowns and home invasions.
This reality of life for poor and working people — especially workers of color — gives lie to the ruling classes’ propaganda about such actions being done by “a few bad apples” or not reflective of the police in general. Thousands upon thousands of such incidents every year is not an “aberration” caused by “bad apples,” it is the standard operating procedure for these armed and organized enforcers of the exploiters and oppressors’ vision of “law and order.”
Until now, reported incidents of police violence that resulted in the emergence of anti-brutality movements have been relatively small and geographically isolated. However, the increasingly rapid succession of such cases across the country, combined with the power of social media to bring these incidents to the public’s attention, has pushed popular anger beyond its historical boundaries. The movement is quickly reaching a tipping point, beyond which even the loyal leftist lieutenants of capitalism will no longer be able to keep it all under control.
What happens when that tipping point is reached remains unknown. Like all mass movements, much of it will depend on the program that comes to dominate among those involved. But one thing is certain: The only way to put an end to police terrorism once and for all is to disarm and disband these armed gangs as part of the overall effort to end capitalist rule.