We’ve all been waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it has. Officer Darren Wilson has not been indicted.
Mike Brown is one among many, both in the St. Louis County and nationwide, to be killed by police forces or vigilantes. When they are not killed outright, Black Americans – particularly when they are from the working class – are subject to larger rates of imprisonment for the same crimes committed as whites, lasting job discrimination despite formal equality under the law, media stigmatization and, most pervasive of all, crushing poverty. The everyday realities of poverty and inferior access to social services that are on the chopping block for all poor people but whose withering stings especially hard in poor communities of color are just as real as shocking events like the federal response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the killing of Mike Brown.
President Obama’s response to the verdict was flaccid. Once again, the President implored protesters to remain peaceful, condemning those who “[used] this as an excuse to vandalize property.” As these lines are being written, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is ordering more National Guard troops to the St. Louis suburb where police and National Guard are already present in heavy numbers and integrated into a unified command structure. Since August, the Democratic Governor’s actions have proven again and again that he is not on the side of justice. The Red Party condemns Governor Nixon, President Obama and the Democratic Party to which they belong. We condemn the big business media that has, by and large, aggravated the situation with its hypocritical coverage. We condemn the role of the capitalist state’s so-called justice system, from the police to the judiciary, for denying justice to Mike Brown’s family.
The Grand Jury proceedings were highly irregular. Remember that an indictment is not the same thing as a criminal conviction; the normal purpose of a Grand Jury is to decide whether there is probably cause to merit bringing a case to trial. The Prosecutor’s role in this, as the title implies, is to prosecute. But St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, bucking regular procedures, didn’t recommend any charges, employed much more evidence than is even usually used in criminal trials themselves, and used direct witness testimony – as if the Grand Jury hearings were the actual criminal trial!
There is a lot of crowing from media and politicians about “violence.” This slanted focus, its emphasis on acts of “rioting” by demonstrators instead of highly organized police violence, has eroded support for the movement among many white people, since the weakening of the workers movement over the past decades has atomized many whites who now depend on the major media to shape their views. We can’t draw an equal sign between unorganized acts of property damage (which takes place in the context of centuries-long subjugation) and highly organized, officially condoned state violence.
Putting the emphasis on looting is nothing more than middle class moralism, an attempt to reinforce the old narrative of savage black hordes, animals who have to be kept in their place – and it just so happens that what best keeps them in their place is a boot on their necks. Also, it should go without saying that a damaged Walgreens is not as important as a stolen life. Still, acts of looting and vandalism are above all an expression of anger with no channel to go through. We should refuse to condemn those who, in their justified rage, commit acts of looting or vandalism. But we should also recognize that those kinds of outbursts aren’t helpful.
Organization is key. The black freedom movement has so far taken extraordinary steps forward in and around Ferguson. Author Jelani Cobb, on the streets of Ferguson this morning, was just one among many to note how quickly the protests began, how quickly thousands on thousands of freshly politicized people with no prior experience of political struggle taught themselves the fundamentals of structure, and how long they’ve lasted up until now – despite heavy police repression and a torrent of overt and implied racism from the establishment, these protests are the second longest black-lead protests in fifty years. Anyone can see that we have come a long way, both numerically and in consciousness, even since Trayvon Martin’s murder just a few years ago.
Any victories we’ve ever won have been through determined struggle. The black freedom movement doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it’s at its strongest and has its broadest possible appeal when it’s wedded to other struggles of workers and oppressed people. The Civil Rights Movement tied itself to labor and the Vietnam anti-war movement; the Black Panther Party allied itself with the radical social movements of the day and was stronger for it. The political establishment has shown its true colors and is a formidable opponent – we should have no illusions that, after the Grand Jury decision, the President and the Attorney General will deliver justice by bringing up Officer Wilson on federal charges. Let’s retake our best traditions and bring them to an even higher level.
Solidarity and justice! We call on trade unionists to fight in their unions for a labor movement that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the struggles of people of color. We repeat the enduring words that an injury to one is an injury to all. Just like the connections drawn this summer between Ferguson and Gaza, the struggle anywhere must be in solidarity with the struggle everywhere. We need a workers movement that organizes all oppressed people in all nations.
Down with the racist, anti-worker justice system! For elected judges with the right of recall and open judicial proceedings. Release non-violent offenders from prison. For democratically controlled self-defense councils, not police, to keep public safety. Finally, we call for a clean break with the twin parties of capitalism. For a revolutionary socialist party to fight the long fight toward a world where poverty, institutional racism and police brutality are in the trash bin of history where they belong!