This week, two Black men had their lives taken from them. Police murdered Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in cold blood. These two killings are just the latest in an epidemic of police violence that has been sweeping this country.
This violence is not new. The only reason these police murders are out in the open is because more people pull their phones out in response to cops drawing their guns. The one-sided accounts of the police are no longer the only ones told publicly. And again, people have taken to the streets refusing to be silent in the face of the wanton murder of Black and Brown people by the police.
A cop shot Philando Castile four times as Castile reached for his wallet to show his driver’s license. Castile‘s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, streamed a video from his car as he bled to death in the seat next to her. His crime? Driving near St. Paul, Minnesota in a car with a broken taillight! The day before, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Alton Sterling was shot at point blank range by one of the two cops who held him on the ground.
Even the politicians, from Obama to the Governor of Minnesota, to the Mayor of Baton Rouge couldn’t ignore these murders. They had to admit that something is wrong and some even spoke of the racism that underlies police murders.
During an anti-police brutality demonstration in Dallas, Texas protesting the recent murders, someone opened fire on the police from a parking structure. Five cops were killed and seven wounded, along with two people who were in the demonstration. According to the police, the man doing the shooting said he wanted to avenge the deaths of those killed by the police.
Now the politicians, the police and others are calling for an end to the violence. They are trying to shift our attention away from the role of the police, especially in poor communities. According to the Guardian Newspaper, which tracks police killings in the U.S., this year the police have killed 566 people. That is nearly three people a day! Of course Black and Brown people are not the only victims of this violence, but are more likely to be stopped, harassed, arrested and killed than whites.
The violence of the police has been rationalized by pointing to the violence in poor neighborhoods. Communities across the country have been stripped of the few resources that once existed. Education has been laid to waste. Social services have been cut. Jobs that pay a living wage have been eliminated.
The poverty that results and the hopelessness that arises from being pushed to the margins of society breeds the violence of the streets. Millions have been put in prison, while those who remain are imprisoned by the poverty of their neighborhoods.
Many people feel they have no choice but to look to the police to protect them from the violence that surrounds them. But the police can’t solve this. They are part of the problem. The police are the tool of a system that degrades, violates and destroys peoples’ lives as part of its day-to-day functioning. They are there to maintain the order – of poverty and exploitation.
In response to this police violence, people across the country have taken to the streets. This is a start, an important start. We cannot tolerate the actions of those who are treated like they are above the law as they carry out their criminal and murderous activity. We can’t rely on the promises of politicians, who have failed or refused to respond to this epidemic of violence. We cannot be fooled by promises to set up commissions to study the “problem”. We know what the problem is.
Those days are over. We need to find the ways to mobilize our real power. We need to bring more of us into the streets. We need to take the issue into our neighborhoods and workplaces and make it known that “business as usual” which places no value on our lives will no longer be allowed to continue.