By Sandra Harris
Thousands of people have taken to the streets to rebel in response to the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota this week, which led to uprisings in nearby St. Paul, and in other cities including Memphis, Tennessee, New York City, and Los Angeles, California.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old man from Houston, Texas who had recently lost his job due to business closures from the coronavirus, was accosted and detained by police Monday evening after officers were called to investigate an alleged forgery at a corner store after a staff member called police to report someone using a counterfeit $20 bill.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck as he was being handcuffed after claiming he “physically resisted arrest” while three other police officers, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng, stood by to prevent bystanders from intervening.
Video from bystanders shows Floyd pleading with the officers by repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe,” requesting water, and begging the officers not to kill him. People argued with the police, pointing out that they were hurting him, to which they responded that Floyd was “fine,” because he was still talking. Shortly after, Floyd went unconscious, suffocating to death with Chauvin’s knee still on his neck. A Fire Department report stated that Floyd did not have a pulse when he was loaded into an ambulance and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The four officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) the following day. People began protesting on Tuesday, marching from the site where George was murdered to the Third Precinct headquarters. As the people’s anger against the racist police grew, protesters smashed windows at the police precinct and vandalized squad cars. As crowds gathered and more protesters joined in the rebellion, police in riot gear fired sandbag rounds, tear gas, and pepper spray to subdue the crowd, however, the masses did not back down, and continued to damage more property.
In a demonstration of their allegiance to property owners and large corporations, significant attention from the ruling class media was focused on a nearby Target, which was looted, vandalized, and later burned down. Minneapolis is the corporate headquarters for Target.
The corporation has a longstanding partnership with MPD. In 2004, they donated $300,000 to the city in to set up surveillance cameras throughout downtown. Target also began a “SafeZone Collaborative” to support a sprawling surveillance camera system throughout other parts of the city. More recent reports from 2011 detail Target’s “forensics lab” in Minneapolis to help local police analyze surveillance footage in criminal cases.
At least 30 fires, including 16 structure fires, were reported during protests on Wednesday. Several businesses and an ‘affordable housing’ development were burned, along with a charter school. The rebellion also paralyzed metro services in the Twin Cities area. By late Thursday night MPD’s third precinct building was successfully burned down.
Protests also took place outside Derek Chauvin’s home, which was heavily protected by hundreds of police. His driveway was spattered with red paint and had “murderer” written across it; “a murderer lives here” was also written along the road.
Derek Chauvin recieved 18 conduct complaints during his 19 years as a police officer before finally being fired on Tuesday. Failed presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, who is being considered for Vice President by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, was the Hennepin County Attorney during this time who declined to prosecute Chauvin for several “excessive force” incidents along with other police officers. He had been a part of one murder and two “officer involved shootings.”
Politicians quickly moved to suppress the mass protests. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order on Thursday activating the Minnesota National Guard to stop the rebellion, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the city will now begin an “all-out effort to restore peace and security in our city,” authorizing a “unified command structure” to allow the Police Chief to use resources and officers from other jurisdictions.
Social Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who represents Minneapolis, also spoke out against the rebellion, despite claiming to side with the masses, telling the press: “To watch our city burn really is one of the most devastating things to happen to us…to me it’s important for people to realize that violence begets violence and more force brings about loss of life and more devastation. We have to find a balance here, we have to be able to peacefully protest, but work to protect one another, and to make sure our communities will be intact and prioritized.”
The ruling class fears the righteous anger of the people, and will do everything in its power, from wagging a disapproving finger at combative protests to unleashing the full force of militarized police on them. Phony ‘socialists’ like Omar opportunistically traffick in the masses’ struggles while denouncing anything that goes beyond the limits of conventional ‘peaceful’ protests or threatens the ‘law and order’ of US imperialism.
The masses understand that it is right to rebel, and that the only viable tool against the racist police is revolutionary violence.
*A Word on “Rioting and Looting”
Tribune of the People stands in unwavering solidarity with the struggle of black people against the police and the capitalist system, and with the people of Minneapolis who have led the way in the uprising. When the people rise up it is denounced as a “riot” by the ruling class, so that it can be condemned and not understood as an act of integrity and resistance. Likewise the term “looting” is deployed to condemn the people for taking what is theirs, an attempt to call their reclamation “theft.” Theft is when the boss steals profits from the labor of workers, when the workers themselves lay their hands on the fruit of their own labor, this is righteous expropriation. Not enough damage can be done to corporate store fronts or merchandise to ever pay back the crimes they have committed against the people, but the people are right to express themselves in this way. We will continue our work covering the struggle; it is our readers who must keep the fires burning. *Note from Tribune Editorial Board