Again and again! People all over the world have now seen the video of the police murder of another Black man, Tyre Nichols, in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis police pulled him over, near his mother’s house, later claiming a traffic violation. Then five cops beat him, kicked him in the face, pepper-sprayed him, dragged him, much of the time while he was in handcuffs and screaming for his mother. He lay in the street for almost a half hour before they got him on a stretcher. He died in the hospital three days later.
That was not the end of it. The police department fired the cops, but only after almost two weeks. What took so long? And it took almost another week to charge them with murder. And only after that, they released the video – fearing the righteous response of people in the community and around the country.
And that was not the end of it either. Politicians, from Memphis’s mayor and police chief to members of Congress to Joe Biden, used so-called “strong” language to say how horrifying the video is. They are right about that, but they are also hypocrites because they are responsible for policing in this country. Across the U.S., cops have murdered at least 1,110 people in the last 12 months, disproportionately Black and Latino. That’s an average of more than three per day! That number has continued to climb year by year, including in the almost three years since Minneapolis cops murdered George Floyd.
On the release of the video, people demonstrated in Memphis and cities across the U.S. We are outraged and need to show it. When people went into the streets across the nation and around the world after George Floyd’s murder, the politicians said a lot and did nothing. With this latest demonstration of police violence, the world was outraged and the politicians emerged, doing what they do. They told people to calm down and let them handle it.
It was the same old song from the Democrats (while the Republicans were mostly silent). They say they will pass new, stronger legislation to address the horror of the system they are paid to maintain. But, they are the creators of special police units like the one that murdered Tyre Nichols! Those cops were part of a police unit, created in 2021, called SCORPION, short for “Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods.” Is a scorpion supposed to make your neighborhood safe? It sounds like the name of a street gang! And that’s what it looked like, armed thugs taking down an innocent person. And now, in the face of public outrage, the unit has been disbanded.
Are we supposed to have faith that the politicians will fix things? How many times have we heard that? They may take us for fools, but we’re not. The politicians cannot and will not solve the crisis they have helped create.
They say that cops are supposed to enforce law and order. But this is a law and order built to maintain an unequal and racist society, based on the exploitation and brutalization of people in the interests of the one percent. The modern system of policing in the U.S. has its roots in so-called “slave patrols” as far back as the early 1700s, whose purpose was to capture runaway slaves and enforce slavery and racism.
Many things have changed since then, but much has remained the same. Cops, including Black cops, are trained today to maintain this order of inequality – a society that values the lives of some more than others. A system that values the rich over the working class; a society where the life of a Black person can be seen as not being equal to that of a white person. So, when Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, a FedEx worker, is driving to his mother’s home, he can be seen as a target by the police.
We can’t put our faith in politicians and police chiefs, whether they are white or Black. They are all about maintaining what they call law and order, which is the law and order of the private property of the one percent. We need instead to put our faith in ourselves and our ability to organize and fight for the just society we need and deserve.