no compromise

Black Misleaders Seek to End Protest
Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, Jun 3 2020

“Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was among the worst.”

The aftermath of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis, Minnesota police has created a national political crisis. The revulsion caused by this latest killing caught on camera spawned protests in Minneapolis and all over the country. Black people are the angriest, knowing they are at risk of the same treatment and because most police killings rarely result in convictions. But the mass actions present a problem for the rulers. Anger boiled beneath the surface after years of the race to the bottom austerity regime, the worsening economic collapse in the wake of the COVID-19 quarantine, and another Democratic presidential primary rigged by that party’s donor class to defeat the prospect of even minimalist reforms. While black people led the way, they were joined by many white people too. They are also angry about Floyd’s death and are primed to rise up against the injustices that are expanding and becoming more deeply entrenched against them as well. While COVID-19 created a health crisis it also left millions unemployed with nothing but meager benefits and a one-time payment of $1,200.

When these groups began a nascent campaign of solidarity, the system rose up against them in an effort to delegitimize them all. The story of Floyd’s cruel death began to take a back seat in the corporate media. Suddenly the propagandists who pose as journalists became concerned about the presence of white people in the protests. Who were they? Where were they from? What did they want? Were they “antifa” or anarchists or white supremacists? They were quickly joined by the political class of black misleaders who did the bidding of their patrons by dismissing the acts of rebellion. St Paul, Minnesota mayor Melvin Carter fired the first shot when he declared that every arrested protester was not from his state. But in fact the opposite was true, and 85% of arrestees were Minnesotans . Carter sheepishly responded that he had received bad information. The obvious and easily proven inaccuracy makes that assertion highly unlikely. He and others began using very dangerous talking points. They claimed to grieve for Mr Floyd and expressed a desire to see justice done while also saying that white protesters were using the demonstrations for nefarious ends. They even evoked the “outside agitator” trope from the bad old days of Jim Crow segregation. They pleaded for peaceful protest or no protest at all and some of them told outright lies.

Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms  was among the worst. She accused protesters of disgracing her city, George Floyd’s memory and Martin Luther King’s legacy all in one fell swoop. She told them, “Go home.” According to Madame Mayor every protester was snatching liquor, setting fires and pulling knives on the police. The rebellion was dismissed as criminality and despite any claims of concern for George Floyd, she proclaimed every participant a scoundrel. For good measure she added, “If you want change in America, go and register to vote!,” as if that act has magical qualities to make bad things disappear. Voting usually produces nothing more than mediocre sell outs like Keisha Lance Bottoms. It certainly won’t end police violence. The heights of the most shameful lies were reserved for Marc Morial , former New Orleans mayor and President of the National Urban League, and Susan Rice , former National Security Adviser. In separate interviews they both accused the Russian government of instigating discontent. “If it is white supremacists, if it is Russians, if it is other foreign actors who’ve tried to exploit the pain and exploit legitimate protests, then this is a new level in our country, and they should be arrested and prosecuted as well,” said the overly dramatic Morial. Rice said the protests were, “Right out of the Russian playbook.”

It is hard to believe that either of them really believes anything they said. They are opportunists and cynics and they are joined at the hip with the Democrats’ donor class. These black quislings obey everyone except their own people. Their con game is to give a pretense of black empowerment while doing the bidding of others. If that means repeating disproven propaganda, then so be it. The underlings and their patrons are afraid. They know that if young black and white people find common cause they may march for other reasons too. They may lead general strikes, demand an end to war or try to resurrect the Occupy movement. It is better to cast aspersions now instead of risking needed change that would undermine their positions. That is why they eagerly establish curfews and say nothing about the police violence against protesters. There are no white supremacists in these actions, and they invoke the dreaded words to stoke fear and confusion. The spontaneous rebellions are but a first step in establishing real grass roots organizing that must focus on police violence, political corruption and a system which puts black people most at risk of dying in a pandemic, being arrested for little or nothing, or earning a starvation wage if any wage at all. The Black Alliance for Peace campaign, “No Compromise, No Retreat” shows the way. The BAP candidate pledge will expose the likes of Keisha Lance Bottoms. Demanding that they demilitarize the police and investigate all police killings will bring about important organizational work. Their days of using their positions to undermine the popular will end only when a strong organizing apparatus forces them out.

All eyes must be focused on them, and less so on Donald Trump. There is no antifa organization, it is instead a political idea of how to fight fascism. His mutterings about it being a terrorist group should be ignored. His ravings about “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” at the White House trigger panic but black mayors and their friends who seek to divert attention from their own corruption pose far bigger problems. The misleaders assisted in foisting Joe Biden  upon Democratic Party voters. While Trump did his usual routine of ginning up his followers with political red meat, Biden appeared in a black church and spoke of police stopping imaginary knife wielding attackers by aiming to shoot for the legs. This deranged and dangerous nonsense is the result of high level treachery amongst the black political class and is as dangerous as any Trumpian nonsense. The joint disparagement of grass roots protest by the misleaders and corporate media prove that it has the potential to bring real change. That is why they become more shrill by the day and it is why the people must act in opposition to them all.

Headline News
Ann Garrison, Black Agenda Report, Jun 3 2020

The world as we know it may be at the cusp of radical change, but right now it just looks like a blizzard of urgent headlines.

Louisville police shot dead the city’s beloved Black ‘BBQ Man,’ aka ‘Ya-Ya.’

That’s all I could muster today, given how hard it is to stop chasing headlines around the Web and focus more deeply as the citizenry struggles toward something better or further descends into violent dystopia. News can tyrannize attention, and I imagine that Black Agenda Report readers are suffering the same tyranny as I am. Executive Editor Glen Ford told me he was, when I told him that I didn’t know what I could do this week besides headline news.

Louisville: David McAtee dies under police fire, June 1

I did try to get in touch with Susan Short, the general manager of Pacifica Radio affiliate XOXO 91.7 LPFM-Louisville for an on-the-ground report, but her phone mailbox is full, and she didn’t respond to email in time for Black Agenda Report. Last night on Facebook she said that Louisville’s a war zone and that Mayor Greg Fischer has caved to the police union. Today she promised to connect me to a popular Black XOXO 91.7 LPFM-Louisville DJ who’s been on the front lines. Mayor Fischer did at least fire Police Chief Steve Conrad after Louisville police shot dead 53-year-old David McAtee just after midnight on Monday. McAtee was the city’s beloved Black “BBQ Man,” aka “Ya-Ya,” who ran a barbecue stand at the corner of 26th and Broadway. The police claimed that someone fired at them when they responded to a gathering after curfew in a parking lot at the same corner, and that they fired back, killing McAtee. His distraught mother said, “He never hurt no one,” and the mayor went to visit her. David McAtee died under Louisville police fire, but we’ll never know exactly how because the cops had their bodycams turned off. That’s why the chief got fired.

Louisville: Breonna Taylor dies under police fire, March 13

Louisville is also where Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American emergency medical technician, died under police fire on March 13. Here’s some of what the NYT compiled about her death:

Shortly after midnight on March 13, Louisville police, executing a search warrant, used a battering ram to crash into the apartment of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American emergency room technician. After a brief confrontation, they fired several shots, striking her at least eight times. According to The Louisville Courier Journal, the police were investigating two men who they believed were selling drugs out of a house that was far from Ms Taylor’s home. But a judge had also signed a warrant allowing the police to search Ms Taylor’s residence because the police said they believed that one of the two men had used her apartment to receive packages. The judge’s order was a so-called ‘no-knock’ warrant, which allowed the police to enter without warning or without identifying themselves as law enforcement. Ms Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said her daughter had had big dreams and planned a lifelong career in health care after serving as an EMT and as an emergency room technician.

Now there are National Guard, swat teams, militarized police, and curfews in cities all over the country, and Trump’s threatening to deploy more US troops. Last night I violated Alameda County’s 8-pm-to-5-am curfew by 10 minutes to get myself a little alcohol, but all the stores were shut down in compliance, even though I live in a sleepy little neighborhood on the county’s northwestern edge, where there’s rarely more than one person on the street at any given hour. This is bullshit, and now our infamous Sheriff Gregory Ahern has extended the curfew to June 5 with exceptions for emergency first responders, media, “people experiencing homelessness,” those seeking medical care, and people traveling to or from work. I probably could’ve found a press pass and come up with an excuse to cover the corner liquor store, but the sheriff doesn’t consider it essential. What does he know? I’ve gotta stock up before the supply chains collapse. I’m hoping to secure some vegetables in exchange for labor on a friend of mine’s rooftop garden, but there’s no room for a still.

Shutting down Highway 101

A march in Oakland shut down Highway 101 for a while last Friday night, but the hottest city in the Bay Area has been San Jose, way down the peninsula in Silicon Valley. Protesters there shut down their own piece of 101 and lit quite a few fires. In San Francisco City and County, Mayor London Breed declared an 8-pm-to-5-am curfew but exempted the homeless, who number between 8,011 and 9,784, depending on how you count them. Either way, they’re the largest homeless population in the San Francisco Bay Area.  And, unless the State of California generates some kind of rent relief, homeless numbers will balloon from Del Norte and Humboldt to San Diego Counties soon. The State should pay everyone’s rent instead of devising some complicated loan repayment scheme to protect landlords and further punish people who can’t pay their rent because of COVID-19. After being out of work for months, people are supposed to be able to start paying months of back rent with interest?

Minneapolis: Mayor lets the 3rd Precinct police station burn

Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin might not have been arrested for murdering George Floyd if Minneapolis protestors hadn’t burned down their 3rd Precinct police station, but now Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is taking heat for ordering police to stand down, surrendering the city’s 3rd Precinct police station to protesters who burned it to. Right on, Mayor Frey. With leadership like that I’d respect his 8 pm curfew for at least one night. With schools and universities closed and 40 million people out of work there are fewer constraints to calm things down than there usually are. And how many of the suddenly unemployed will have a job to go back to? Twenty-five percent of restaurants are expected to close for good. Nordstrom’s closed 16 outlets and three boutiques, Victoria’s Secret closed 250 retail outlets, AMC Theatres may be closing permanently too, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Only Amazon and Walmart are allowed to take Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, California’s equivalent of food stamps — one more reason they’re expanding while the rest of the US contracts. Meanwhile the feckless feds have responded by promising job training. As what? Cops? Amazon, Doordash and Instacart delivery drivers? And though some protestors are wearing masks, they don’t seem otherwise worried about social distancing.

No Compromise, No Retreat: Defeat the War Against the African/Black People in the U.S. and Abroad
Ajamu Baraka, Black Agenda Report, Jun 3 2020

So, we say: Justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland; for our political prisoners; for the super-exploited Black and Brown working class; for oppressed Indigenous nations; and for the millions subjected to U.S. warmongering, sanctions and criminality. We say this to shift the focus from the individualization of this week’s rebellion back to the objective structures of white supremacist, global colonial/capitalist domination. (BAP Newsletter)

The ruling class is befuddled and confused about how to respond to the ongoing street demonstrations sparked by the murder of George Floyd. The mobilizations clearly disrupted their plans for “normalcy” with the forced opening of the economy. The ferocity of the demonstrations that had not been seen since the brief uprising in 92 in response to the Rodney King verdict seems to have caught the authorities completely by surprise. In the 1992 street actions in Los Angeles the nation and the world saw the first multi-racial, multi-national street action that was very different from the Black rebellions that rocked the U.S. in the 1960s. The racial configuration of the participants captured the range of non-European national minority communities and migrant peoples from across the Americas’ region. But even in a departure from what occurred in 92, the justice for George Floyd mobilizations today reflected the state’s worst nightmare – a multi-national and multi-racial action of whites, Latinx, LGBTQ, immigrant and migrant workers and Black youth, initiated by Black people with Black leadership. The response from the rulers was predictable but unsurprising in its ideological and strategic coherence to break that emerging coalition of social forces. I posted a comment on Facebook in response to what I saw as the counter-moves being made by the state. I was asked by several people to elaborate on those points, which I offer here. In my original Facebook post I said: The enemy knows how to quickly adapt in the ideological struggle:

  1. undermine the emerging unity with white agitator propaganda,
  2. follow up with declaration against something called Antifa as a terrorist group,
  3. instruct the police to join demos and express solidarity,
  4. release statements from police chiefs and others pushing the bad apples theme, and most important,
  5. keep the focus on the individual and call for “justice” for that individual to avoid attention on the systemic and enduring elements of Black and Brown colonized oppression.

The white outside agitator trope: If it wasn’t frightening enough to see images of young white kids marching shoulder to shoulder with African and other colonized peoples, seeing white kids actually engaged in militant engagement with police authorities, which went beyond the approved forms of resistance, triggered a cognitive dilemma almost as serious as when they tried to comprehend and explain how China could escape the COVID-19 with five thousand deaths while the virus was killing tens of thousands in the U.S. That cognitive dissonance could only be achieved by resurrecting the outside agitator notion that emerged in the 30s and was directed at organizers from the Communist Party and militant union organizers who were working in the U.S. South. But that trope was given its fullest form in the Civil rights struggles in the 50s and 60s. It’s redeployment today is geared to 1) delegitimizing Black agency by implying that resistance of this sort had to be directed by white folks, and, 2) generating suspicion and even hostility toward white participants. Granted, issues of counter-productive tactics and police infiltration are real issues. But the state saw a vulnerability in evoking the white agitator trope that the black petit-bourgeois administrators in various cities enthusiastically embraced. Antifa as a terrorist group: With the ideological foundation of the white outside agitator, the next step was creating a more understandable target by inventing an organizational form in order to give the threat a more serious and ominous character. The problem should have been, though, that Antifa is not really an organization but an idea with a loose network of some organizations and mostly individuals, many of whom are anarchists with many other political orientations, who believe that the U.S. is facing a neofascist threat that should not be ignored. But the fact that Antifa is a mirage is secondary when the objective is to drive an ideological agenda. The success of this, however, is yet to be determined.

Instruct/encourage police to engage in public relations stunts like taking a knee or even walking with the demonstrators in some locations: Shrinking the distance between the police and the demonstrators is easy when the issue is being framed as “justice” for George Floyd, and by implication the idea that his killers were “bad apples.” Those kinds of political stunts are not even inconsistent with a simultaneous display of military prowess and heavy-handed treatment of demonstrators, especially if the idea is taking hold that it is the “bad apples” among the demonstrators that are deserving of policing. The bad apple trope plays right into the monumental political error being made by resisters by keeping focus on George Floyd as an individual, even if by extension the critique extends to the police and policing as a whole. The bad apple notion exempts a condemnation of the institution as a whole and diverts attention away from a deeper understanding of the role of the police as the leading edge of the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state. Hundreds of Black and Latinix people are dying every day from what the Black is Back Coalition calls the colonial virus known as COVID-19. Yet because we are not watching grandma take her last breath on the ventilator after having been laying around the hospital for days, her unnecessary death and the literal deaths of thousands of our people did not bring the people out of their houses during lockdown and into the streets. Those deaths will continue long after the other cops are charged, and the military secures the cities and people go home, because those deaths are generated by the contradictions of capitalism. They are produced by the structural violence that is inherent in a system that devalues all life but especially the life of non-European workers and the poor. So, the state has responded. The challenge for us is how do we counter the state’s attempt to pre-empt the development of a new movement.

The definition of the “people” is an historic one that emerges out of concrete struggle with specific historical conditions. The deep structural crisis of the system of national and global capital are creating the conditions for neofascism as a capitalist reform strategy. Therefore, we must not allow the state to undermine the basis for building new forms of solidarity among people who are finding their voice. And while Trump may be the face of this movement and the public attention fixed on his most bombastic statements and the spectacle of armed citizen groups showing up at various state capitals, he does not have complete power over the real rulers of capital. Trump barely controls the Executive branch and has had his program of radical nationalist economic reform, including gutting Obamacare, curtailed. Instead, he has become an administrator of the neoliberal agenda like the last five presidents before him. It is those ruling class forces who fear the masses and will give Trump or even Biden, if he is elected, free reign to continue to jettison the last vestiges of liberal democracy in order to maintain the rule of capital. When it was clear to the Obama Administration that he was not going to be able to co-opt the occupy movement, he moved with decisive action to shut it down across the country. Trump will move just as decisively and with same level of ruling class support to shut down the protests when he sees it politically advantageous to do so. Two things must happen fairly quickly. On the ideological level, a shift must occur away from the focus on individual justice for Floyd back to a critique and opposition to the ongoing structural violence of the system. It is clear that the state is unwilling and unable to protect the fundamental human rights of the people. The demand for People(s)-centered human rights provides a broad, radical framework for advancing concrete demands that can unite broad sectors of the population. And secondly, and most importantly, the theme and message around the importance of organization must be aggressively advanced. Mass mobilizations have a place but developing the organizational forms that will build and sustain the power necessary to bring about radical fundamental change is the primary challenge and historic task.

Policing in the US is Not About Enforcing Law. It’s About Enforcing White Supremacy
Paul Butler, Black Agenda Report, Jun 3 2020

If we had something approaching equal justice, would we still even be the United States? On Friday the CNN journalist Omar Jimenez was arrested on live television as he covered protests of police brutality in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jimenez identifies as African American and Hispanic, and when the cops confronted him, he did just what minority parents tell their kids to do. Jimenez cooperated; he was respectful, deferential even. He said:

We can move back to where you like … We are getting out of your way … Wherever you want us, we will go.

It didn’t matter; the police officers put handcuffs on him and led him away, and then came back to arrest his crew. Jimenez narrated his arrest as they led him away. His voice is steady. His eyes, though. Jimenez is masked so his eyes are the only clue to what he’s feeling. His eyes are perplexed and terrified. I get it. When a black or brown person goes into police custody, you never know what is going to happen. You just know that when you leave police custody, if you are lucky enough to leave, you will be diminished. That is the point. What’s most interesting is not that Jimenez and his colleagues were released shortly thereafter without any charges filed (or even being told why they had been taken into custody). That’s what class will buy a black man in America. You don’t get it quite as bad as your lower-income brethren. Jeff Zucker, the CNN president, talked to Tim Walz, the governor of Minnesota, and the crew was quickly released. With an apology from the governor, not the cops. Cops rarely apologize, especially to black men. But what’s most interesting is what happened to Josh Campbell, a white CNN journalist who was in the same area as Jimenez and not arrested. Campbell said his experience was the “opposite” of Jimenez’s. He said:

They asked me politely to move here and there. A couple times I’ve moved closer than they would like. They asked me politely to move back. They didn’t pull out the handcuffs.

It’s a cliche that the US has two systems of justice, separate and unequal, but I prefer the word Campbell used. The US has “opposite” systems of justice – one for white people and another for racial minorities, especially African Americans, Latinx and Native American people. White progressives love to focus on class subordination (I see you, Bernie Sanders!) but there is something sticky about race. Jimenez’s professional status and calm demeanor did not stop the police from treating him like a regular black dude – the subject of their vast authority to detain and humiliate. They didn’t have an actual reason and they didn’t need one. Jimenez’s dark skin was the offense. This is how powerful a drug white privilege is. Here we have the cops policing a rally protesting police brutality against a black man. Even in that context, when the whole world is watching figuratively, and CNN’s audience is watching literally, the cops can’t help themselves. They go all brutal lite. They play “who’s the man” even when the black man, like Jimenez, goes out of his way to show he already knows who the man is. “You are, officer, Sir.” What the cops round up are the usual suspects and the usual suspects are always black and brown.

The whole world has seen the sordid violent recording where George Floyd narrates, over 10 minutes, his own demise. Actually, there is not 10 minutes of narration because Floyd goes limp and silent after several minutes, but that does not cause former officer Chauvin to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck. The officers had received a radio run to go to a local store, where Floyd had allegedly tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd is across the street from the store, chilling in his car with a couple of friends, when the officers approach like they are apprehending violent offenders. They order Floyd and his friends out of the car, put Floyd in handcuffs, order him to lie face down on the ground, and pin him down with their knees and hands. Floyd complains he can’t breathe. A cop responds:

Well, get up and get in the car.

I guess that is what you call police humor. People ask why would the police treat another human being like this, and the answer must be because they can. There are rarely consequences. US police officers kill about 1,000 people a year (compared with the UK, where in 10 years, law enforcement took a total of 23 lives) and there are rarely consequences. Since 2005, when roughly 15,000 people have been killed by US law enforcement officers, fewer than 150 have been charged with murder. True, the officers in George Floyd’s case lost their jobs, and now face or will face criminal prosecution. This is only because of the video evidence and the high-profile protests. The reality is that, statistically, even these officers are likely to escape conviction. Of the 150 officers charged with homicide in the line of duty, the majority have been found not guilty or had charges dropped. For the moment, we who believe in justice are supposed to be satisfied that one cop, four days after the fact, has been taken into custody, when there are multiple videos of that officer with his knee on the victim’s back as the man complains he can’t breathe. As a black man, and as a former prosecutor, I had no idea it was so difficult to get arrested. US cops arrest about 12,000,000 people a year, but not usually each other. For the rest of us – I mean the rest of us black and brown people – we usually get arrested and charged the same day the cops decide we are guilty. The talk our parents give us about how to act around armed agents of the state is designed not so much to prevent arrests as to preserve life. It worked for Omar Jimenez. But not for George Floyd. On the ground, dying, George Floyd pleads for his life, respectful as a person can be when he is asking for mercy from the people who are literally crushing the life out of him. He says “please”, “officer”, and calls out to his dead mother. But the police do not remove their knees and feet and hands from Mr Floyd’s body. They don’t even stop restraining him when his body is limp and silent.

What’s to be done? Tinkering with the system makes a difference here and there but it is not enough. If a white woman was thought to have tried to use a fake $20 bill, it’s impossible to imagine the police storming her vehicle, ordering her and her friends out, placing her in handcuffs and ultimately her winding up dead. But as long as cops have that kind of power, people of color will bear the brunt. So one simple reform would be to not allow the cops to make arrests for any non-violent crime. It’s a power they can’t be trusted with, because they will abuse it. In the end, this is not about law enforcement. It’s about enforcing white supremacy. There’s no tinkering with that, what with white supremacy being the foundation on which the country was built. The consistent big question in the quest for racial justice has been how much white supremacy is central to the identity of the US. This is what Barack Obama and Ta-Nehisi Coates argued about. If we had something approaching equal justice, would we still even be the United States? In order to accomplish that we’d have to change the constitution, which authorizes much of the police violence that communities of color complain about, and the politics which exploits white anxiety about black and brown men. What does it mean for people of color to live in a country where, for them to have a fair shot, law and government have to be transformed? It means that we should expect more cases like Omar Jimenez and George Floyd, regardless of whether Trump or Biden wins in November. The real problem, ultimately, is not bad apple cops, even though these four officers are rotten to the core. The real problem is demonstrated in what a bystander told the officers as they restrained him to death. “He’s human, bro.” But Mr. Floyd was not human to these officers. Enforcing the dehumanization of people of color has become, in the United States, what you call police work.

The Promise of Street Rebellions
Russell Rickford, Black Agenda Report, Jun 3 2020

As we emerged from a weekend in which legions of protesters in Minneapolis and other cities faced extreme police aggression, it was crucial that we develop a clear analysis of events. What we witnessed over the last few days was a crisis within a crisis within a crisis. The immediate cause of the social explosions was outrage at the latest spate of racist violence. Fury over the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd overflowed, driving thousands of incensed people into the streets. They and others grappled with the surreal reality of having to confront a plague of racist terror amid a global pandemic that had already ravaged populations of color, exposing deep lines of racial and social inequality. But the dual assault of covid-19 and white supremacy (in the form of police and vigilante slayings) unfolded against a larger crisis of human disposability shaped by late capitalism and its relentless attack on vulnerable workers and the oppressed. The convergence of these crises highlighted the accelerating decline of the United States, a society in which systemic racial subjugation, often viewed with indifference by the great majority, has again become a spectacle that mocks any illusions of democracy.

The disturbing scenes in Minneapolis, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Atlanta and other sites of demonstrations against racist policing only reinforced the view—held by growing numbers of people watching in horror around the world—that America is a citadel of barbarism and racial hatred. In what must be described as a decentralized but highly intentional police riot, protesters (the vast majority of them peaceful) in several urban centers were indiscriminately gassed, pepper-sprayed, rammed, trampled, battered, shot with rubber (and in some cases lead) bullets and otherwise brutalized. The signs of proto-fascism were clear, from the gangsterism of militarized cops to the contempt of authorities (including our bloodthirsty commander-in-chief) for the basic rights and safety of civilians and journalists. The criminalization and collective punishment of anti-racist dissent—perhaps best symbolized by the armored vehicles that were deployed to aid in the intimidation of activists—stood in stark contrast to the treatment of recent anti-lockdown rallies, during which officials coddled armed white nationalists and other right-wing forces.

Nor could the repression of last weekend’s protests, most of which were inspired by the ghastly murder of Floyd, be blamed on the lawlessness of militants and the misdeeds of the agents provocateur and opportunists (a minor tendency, it must be said) who embedded themselves among the demonstrators. Sober-minded observers were obliged to conclude that the activists of Minneapolis and beyond were being disciplined for having the audacity to condemn the summary execution of an unarmed black man who had been methodically and almost gleefully smothered to death, before multiple onlookers, by public servants who regarded his skin color as a capital offense. Yet there was another reason the Floyd protests elicited such ferocious responses from the state. Guardians of the status quo seemed to recognize the radical potential of grassroots mobilization. Perhaps they saw the street skirmishes for what they may be: the early stirrings of a popular insurrection. Unlike the pathetic, lily-white demonstrations of recent weeks demanding the reopening of commerce and recreation amid a lethal virus, last weekend’s multiracial upheavals were not the contrived acts of a few puerile reactionaries.

The ruling class need not fear neo Nazi and proud boy rallies. After all, such assemblies funnel collective anger toward the Other and away from the bosses and bankers. The latest urban uprisings, however, posed a genuine threat to the reigning social order. They were, in many ways, outbursts of anticapitalist feeling. By battling their way through metropolitan enclaves, the street activists of late May reclaimed the commons. They temporarily repossessed spaces that had been sterilized and privatized — equipped for capitalist extraction rather than for social use. They entered the public square not as consumers or as objects of elite manipulation, but as agents of justice and retribution. In so doing, the protesters — including young black folk and other marginalized elements — signaled their unwillingness to passively accept annihilation. They demonstrated, as well, their antipathy toward an economy designed to siphon their labor while consigning them to social (and quite possibly literal) death. The bitterness that had long festered, as billionaires plundered our social wealth and relegated the poor and precarious to a gutted landscape of austerity, finally erupted. In America the processes of racial subjection and material dispossession are inseparable. When that precinct in Milwaukee ignited over the weekend, the flames burned both for Floyd and for the vanishing dream of a moral economy.

Trump reportedly spent at least part of the weekend barricaded in the White House. How appropriate! He belongs behind a bunker, huddled alongside his oligarch cronies. The rich should cower. They should dread the unbridled fury of their racial and class victims. Inevitably, pundits attempted to discredit the protests by noting that, amid the chaos of the weekend, some looting occurred. How absurd. Spontaneous looting from below is nothing compared to finance capitalism’s organized pilfering from above. That our class enemies would try to equate the uprisings with hooliganism was entirely predictable. Capitalists want their subjects demoralized, isolated and inert. Elites and their proxies have always defined the mobilization of surplus populations as disorders to be crushed. The people must never be allowed to discover that their rulers have only the feeblest grasp on the monopoly of force. The truth is, the recent insurgencies were quite promising. They helped restore the political confidence of dejected and traumatized people. And they demonstrated that a portion of the rank and file is able and willing to redistribute the social cost of the wanton slaughter of black civilians.

The upheavals may also have strengthened the hand of those seeking meaningful reforms. Now is the time to escalate demands not only for demilitarized and defunded police, but also for rent cancellation, hazard pay, free utilities and other measures that can ease widespread suffering and help the exploited and abandoned back to their feet amid a disintegrating economy. Still, much more must be done. The confrontations of recent days must evolve. Militants must move beyond the stage of spontaneous resistance and transition from street battles to deeper political contestation. We need more than rage and will. We need concrete strategy. We need a sustained mass movement able to produce true social transformation. We need a coordinated revolt of workers, the poor and the oppressed. We need to shift from insurrection to outright rebellion. Only then will tables turn. In the meantime, leftists and galvanized workers must seize new opportunities. We must intensify the call for universal healthcare, housing and employment, along with racial justice, decarceration, ecological restoration and peace. And we must bolster our campaigns with fresh waves of strikes and agitation. Even as the smoke rose above embattled cities over the weekend, a dramatic reorganization of society was imaginable. History teaches us that revolution is never fully beyond our reach. But we must broaden and adapt our struggles to build genuine power amid the extraordinary conjuncture of our time.

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