Since their creation by ruling elites in the late 18th century, the police have always been a tool to repress the economic and racial underclass. That has always been their purpose: to show the rabble who is boss, and to serve as both a deterrent and violent response to any urban uprising. As the urban police force was exported to the U.S., it was informed by the murderous practice of American slave patrols and Indian-killing gangs.
It is clear, then, the police are not a necessary aspect of a civilized society, since society got along for thousands of years without having the police. Instead, the police are a relatively new invention created by a relatively new phenomenon called the capitalist ruling class, to deal with the unique problem of an urban underclass of the working class, comprised mostly of people of color. And, because the American class system was created alongside its system of white supremacy, the American police force is also, without surprise, a tool for white supremacist racial terror. This racial-economic violence is its fundamental purpose, and therefore cannot be "reformed" away.
When you have absolutely no voice to speak on the matter of being hunted down like a wild animal at any moment of your life, you cannot be blamed for letting your hands do the talking.
Therefore, when on Monday, May 25, 2020, Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the neck of Black man George Floyd until Mr. Floyd lost all the air in his lungs and died, this was not an aberration. Officer Chauvin was, in fact, carrying out his hired racial terror. Whether Chauvin as an individual holds racist beliefs is not as important as this: he was hired to strike terror in the hearts of members of the subordinated urban working class and poor, mostly people of color, and African Americans in particular.
Further, we should not be surprised to learn that Chauvin's tenure as a cop continued, year after year, despite multiple instances of "excessive force." To the police force, and the economic and political elites that rely on them as their protectors, murder, torture, and other sadism are not "red flags." Rather, they are simply aspects of the job of being a cop.
It is completely understandable, then, that Minneapolis is burning right now. Liberating the goods of Target and other corporate pillagers; burning down cop shops—all of this is completely understandable. It is understandable that citizens of other American cities, too, are rising up, as they, and especially the African Americans among them, routinely experience the same exact racial terror to which George Floyd lost his life. Meanwhile, the system has no place for them to speak up on the matter.
Fundamentally, when you have absolutely no voice to speak on the matter of being hunted down like a wild animal at any moment of your life, you cannot be blamed for letting your hands do the talking. Or, in the words of MLK: "The riot is the rhyme of the unheard."
As of this writing, news just broke that Officer Chauvin has been arrested, four days after filming of his act of killing went viral. District attorney Mike Freeman, who finally made the charges leading Chauvin's arrest, stated today: "We have now been able to put together the evidence that we need...We have now found it." Call me crazy, but I do not believe it is evidence that Freeman has suddenly found. Rather, it is the fires on the streets that have caught his attention. He, and the elites that he works for, have heard the rhyme of the unheard.
It is just and it is good that Officer Chauvin will (maybe) be brought to justice. But, I hope that the movement for justice for George Floyd, and the movement for justice for all victims of police racial terror, continues beyond this cop's arrest, and takes aim at the institution of the police, and beyond that, the exploitative system of white supremacist capitalism. Only when that system is taken down, and replaced with a system fundamentally based on providing for the common need, can we finally have a chance to move from "just us" to justice.
Kyle Todd, P.C.
Kyle Todd is a Los Angeles-based civil rights attorney representing plaintiffs in actions against corporations and the government throughout California.