The widespread murderous behavior of the police in this country has been exposed for all to see. The murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, broke the silence. The people of Ferguson refused to be ignored. They took to the streets – day after day and month after month demanding justice and refusing to be silenced.
Now the focus is on Baltimore, Maryland where thousands have taken to the streets because of the refusal of the authorities to respond to the killing of Freddie Gray by the Baltimore cops. Gray was chased down after he fled from a cop when they exchanged glances. He was beaten and thrown in a police van and when he arrived at the police station he had suffered severe injuries – his spinal chord was severed, he had three fractured vertebrae and a crushed voice box. He fell into a coma, was taken to a trauma center and died a week later. None of the cops admitted to using any force, none have been charged. Finally six cops were suspended, with pay.
We shouldn’t be surprised at the attitude of the authorities. This is business as usual. Last year grand juries let the cops off who murdered Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York. Since then, video after video has been posted of cops shooting people down in cold blood, among them 12- year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.
Tens of thousands of people across the country have demonstrated against the brutality of this system and its cops. This has forced some officials to do more than conduct the usual cover-ups. There have been promises of investigations and even a few prosecutions. But the reality is, nothing has really changed. This past March, the police killed 111 people – 10 more than last year.
There have been many proposals to stop police violence. Some hope to reform the police or hope the federal government will crack down on racist cops. Others demand better training or monitoring of the police, or for the cops to wear cameras.
Asking those in power to monitor their police is like putting arsonists in charge of the fire departments. We can’t depend on them. We need to depend on our own forces. And the growing anger and mobilizations could be a start. People have begun to put those in power on notice that we will not tolerate the violence of their police. And, if tens of thousands of people respond each time a cop brutalizes someone, they may not be so quick to beat or shoot people.
We must stand up against this police violence. We must demand an end to these murderous practices. But, the reality is the police are the perpetrators of the violence of this system. In the poorest neighborhoods, wracked by the violence of poverty, the cops ride the hardest. Where people live more comfortable lives, police violence and other violence is minimal.
To put an end to the violence of the police means putting an end to violence of this society – the exploitation and the dehumanization that capitalism causes. Is this possible? Yes! We really have no other choice, if we are to have a livable future
We have seen millions mobilize in the streets in this country and around the world, demanding an end to brutal dictatorships, wars, racism and other aspects of capitalist society. The millions who do the work that make this system run have shown that we also have the power to shut it down. But over and over these mass movements have demanded changes only within the system. The result has often meant bringing in new leaders with their promises to make things better, but leaving things the same.
Making demands on the system cannot bring about the changes we need. A system based on exploitation can never create a fair and just society. Those in power require these police forces to keep us in our place – to accept the conditions imposed on us. But when we understand the nature of this society and our place in it and also understand our power and our possibilities, then things can change. If we organize and use our power to get rid of this system, then we will have the possibility to live like true human beings – free from the violence and the degradation that is imposed on us every day.
Who Really Looted Baltimore?
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Baltimore to protest the brutal violence of the police and the complicity of those who are supposed to monitor and control the cops. Once again a young Black man, Freddie Gray, has died at the hands of the police – this time in Baltimore. And again people, mostly young Black people, have shown their outrage at another police murder and lack of response by the authorities.
If the family and friends of Freddie Gray had not demanded an investigation and members of the community had not been involved, Freddie Gray’s murder would have gone unnoticed.
Now, instead of focusing on the violence of the police, the media and politicians focus on the so-called violence of those who are protesting the brutality of the police. Media attention is on the burning of cars and buildings and breaking into stores by some of those who have taken their anger to the streets. It has been focused on Stephanie Rawlings-Grace, the mayor of Baltimore who supposedly did not take up the Governor’s offer to bring in the National Guard quickly enough.
The media is now celebrating the cops, as the saviors from the so-called violent demonstrations in the streets. The National Guard and even cops from other states are occupying the city streets. Young people in the streets are labeled as thugs and looters. Gang members have been accused of plotting to kill cops. As usual reality is being turned on its head.
Whose order are these armed forces maintaining? Who has really looted Baltimore? This is a question those in positions of power want to ignore, just as they have ignored the systematic brutality of the police across this country.
Who Looted Baltimore?
Much of Baltimore is in decay, a shadow of its former self. Unfortunately it is not alone, It is another urban “sacrifice zone” to capitalism. Like Detroit and Flint, Michigan; Camden and Newark, New Jersey; Buffalo, New York and other former industrial cities; Baltimore has been abandoned by those who once used its population and the resources of the cities to generate enormous profits.
As the economy of the country shifted away from industrial production, the investments of those who owned and controlled the steel mills, shipyards, auto factories and other engines of production moved elsewhere. The huge workplaces that employed hundreds of thousands of workers at a living wage were abandoned for more profitable areas of investment.
The corporations looted these cities, taking what they wanted and leaving little behind. This is legal under their system. Under their laws, they owe nothing to those whose lives were spent producing billions in dollars worth of wealth and were left with nothing after they were no longer needed.
The majority of those who have jobs work in the service sector (90% in Baltimore). They work in the tourist industry working in the hotels and restaurants or work in the hospitals or cleaning the office buildings or doing other low-wage jobs.
Baltimore – Today
Population: In 1960 Baltimore was the 6th largest city in the country with a population of around 940,000. Today it is the 26th largest city with a population of 622,000. It is a majority Black city (64%) and one of the poorest in the country
Poverty: In Baltimore, 23.8% of the people live below the official poverty level and 39% of working-age residents are unemployed. In Freddie Gray’s neighborhood 52% are unemployed.
Abandoned Buildings: There are an estimated 16,000 abandoned buildings in the city. (Maybe 20 buildings were burned during the demonstrations.)
The Police: Baltimore police are notorious. Since 2011, the city has settled or lost an average of more than 20 police brutality cases a year. The city paid out $5.7 million and spent $5.8 million more on related legal fees. This year, the city’s budget was more than doubled, to $4.2 million, in anticipation of future cases. (Most cases never make it to court.)
Incarceration: One out of three Maryland residents in state prison is from Baltimore. The neighborhood where Gray lived is the “highest incarceration community” in Baltimore, according to a recent report by the Justice Policy Institute; three out of every 100 adults are in state correctional facilities. Maryland spends $17 million annually to incarcerate 458 people from this small neighborhood of total 9,189 inhabitants.
People are right to rebel! This is a criminal system that has looted and stolen our lives!