by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 5, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1441)
The intensity and persistence of protests following the brutal murder of George Floyd, suffocated to death under the knee of the now ex-Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin has stunned the US power establishment. The elite are terrified; they see the writing on the wall. They have always used the divide and rule tactic but in the recent protests, whites, blacks, Hispanics and others have come together to demand an end to police brutality and injustice. This is a new phenomenon.
And Donald Trump has done nothing to provide a healing touch or inspire confidence. It is not in his genes; he is a divisive figure. When the people needed leadership and a steady hand at the helm, they found a president hiding in the White House bunker turning the lights out so that protesters would not be able to see inside!
For more than a month after Floyd’s brutal murder, protests have continued in cities throughout the US as well as abroad. #BlackLivesMatter has becoming a rallying cry everywhere. Sporadic cases of vandalism and arson have been deliberately conflated and blamed on the protesters. Trump has led the charge calling peaceful protesters “thugs” and threatened to unleash the army. He has also presented himself as the “law and order” president. There is no “law” in the US as we shall presently see; only “order” being imposed by the police, the attack dogs of the corrupt system.
Even some Uncle Toms and Aunt Jemimas have been trotted out to blame Russia for the protests. Susan Rice, who served as Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, said the protests were straight out of “Russia’s playbook”. Ms. Rice has obviously been sipping too much American KoolAid. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, also an African American, castigated protesters for “smashing windows” and “destroying police cars”, telling them to go home. “This is not a protest… This is chaos,” she said. “A protest has purpose.”
It is not clear what purpose she had in mind but she ignored the fact that police brutality has continued unabated (On June 11, another African American, Rayshard Brooks, was shot dead by Atlanta police) and peaceful protests in the past have yielded no results. There is reason for people to be angry. But the “looters” and “window smashers” are not African Americans; they appear to be agents provocateurs out to discredit the #BlackLivesMatter movement to serve the establishment’s agenda. The agitators, their faces covered, have been apprehended by genuine protesters and handed over to the police.
Apart from opportunistic African American politicians, some media outlets have also amplified the arson attacks. This is clearly an attempt to divert attention from the corrupt, racist power structure based on violent repression. The media’s response, while not surprising, still raises questions about the conduct of the club-wielding thugs (aka the police). They have even attacked and arrested several journalists who were reporting the protests. Surely, this should have spurred the media to focus on the conduct of the violent criminals masquerading as police and the oppressive power structure. Perish the thought. Top American officials continue to deny that there is systemic racism in the police force; just a few “bad apples”!
The US establishment demands that people should protest peacefully and then go home amid promises of police reform. This is a story the protesters have heard before. Far from the police being reformed, they have become more brutal in their suppression of African Americans and murdering them as a routine matter.
After all, what threat did poor George Floyd pose to the police? He did not resist arrest, was handcuffed and lying on the ground with four policemen on top of him while one had his knee on his neck. Despite pleas that he could not breathe, there was no let up. Such callous disregard for human life can only be displayed by people that know there will be no accountability, that they are above the law and can squeeze the life out of a poor unemployed person. Why, because he used a counterfeit $20 bill?
Police brutality in the US is the norm. On average, at least 1,000 people are shot and killed by the police each year. In percentage terms, fatalities among African Americans are much higher than other groups.
“Based on nationwide data collected by the Guardian, black Americans are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to be killed by police when accounting for population. In 2016, police killed black Americans at a rate of 6.66 per 1 million people, compared to 2.9 per 1 million for white Americans.” Another report found that “Officers being convicted or even charged with crimes for fatal use of force is exceedingly rare: it happens less than 1% of the time,” according to the Guardian’s investigation.
What terrifies the US establishment about the latest protests is that they have transcended the race barrier. Barring Trump’s white supremacist stormtroopers, people can no longer be divided along race lines. The threat of using the military to crush “rioters” and “looters”, as Trump put it, was firmly rejected by the military top brass not because they care for human life but because 40% of the military is made up of African Americans. They are the rank-and-file—the cannon fodder for every foreign military adventure—that will refuse to kill their own kith and kin. This is how revolutions begin.
The rank-and-file reflect the American society, a population of mainly poor and minority people for whom the military provides an avenue for employment and perhaps less discrimination. The overwhelmingly white officer class cannot ignore the feelings of soldiers under their command. The establishment’s mouthpiece, the New York Times, summed up the situation in the following quotations: “Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright of the Air Force, who is black, wrote an extraordinary Twitter thread declaring, ‘I am George Floyd’.
General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued an apology for appearing alongside Trump after the latter through Attorney General Willian Barr, ordered the police to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park by using force. He had to go to a nearby church to be photographed holding a Bible in hand! General Milley called his appearance with Trump a “mistake” and said, “I should not have been there” insisting that the “military must remain strictly apolitical”. He had earlier released a message to top military commanders (June 3) affirming that every member of the armed forces swears an oath to defend the Constitution, which he said “gives Americans the right to freedom of speech.” This was a direct repudiation of Trump’s threat to use the military to crush protests.
This, however, should not be interpreted to mean that the military brass has suddenly turned peaceniks. The military’s mission is to wage wars against people in distant lands and to plunder their resources for empire. Should divisions erupt in military ranks, overseas missions of plunder will not be possible. Further, there is a real danger that the US might be plunged into civil war.
This may still happen. Trump is desperate to cling to power. As his approval ratings plummet for mishandling the pandemic and the protests, this might lead to his losing the November election (actually selection). This may prompt him to unleash the heavily armed militias against peaceful protesters. Given that there are more than 370 million guns in the hands of the people, it could become a messy affair.
The jig is up for the corrupt, oppressive US political system. It is beyond repair; meaningful reform of the police may be too late and, in any case, they are not likely to happen. Despite the dog eats dog mentality of raw capitalism, the police union is the only organized force. Elected officials are terrified to take on the police to end their criminal conduct. Besides, entrenched power elite are able to mobilize vast financial resources to defend policemen in court. After all, the police are their attack dogs.
Is it any wonder that since 2015, while the police have murdered more than 7,000 people (blacks, whites and Hispanics), only five policemen have been charged in a court of law?
The US establishment rules by instilling fear in people. If the police powers to terrorize and kill people are curtailed, the system would collapse. The vast majority of people of all colours—blacks, whites, Hispanics—live in abject poverty. It is the tiny minority at the top that has monopolized all resources.
Over three-quarters of US wealth is owned by the richest 10% of Americans. And $40 trillion has gone to these individuals in the last 10 years since the recession of 2008-2010. The bottom 50% have actually seen a decline in their household income.
America is ready for a revolution. When it begins, the rest of the world will have a ringside view.