By the Editorial Board
The conditions for the May Uprisings sparked by George Floyd’s murder were tied to many factors, but the core of their strength was the mobilization of the deepest and most profound masses to fight back against the police, racism, and US imperialism fearlessly. The people and their demand for a new society, in particular where Black people are liberated from the racism of the US ruling class, were the driving force of the rebellions. The people refuse to be ruled in the old way and took to the streets to make this clear.
However, while the rebellions were a fiery and bloody blow against US imperialism, they gradually receded due to internal and external factors, which demonstrates the need to draw lessons on what is necessary to achieve the people’s demands on a permanent basis. To liberate Black people from the existing order of economic inequality and reactionary violence and to create a new society that serves the working class, the people must take the heights of the May Uprisings even higher and continue to fight. The conviction of one police officer, and any other concessions made by the ruling class as a result of the uprisings, are not enough. The just demands of the people must be linked to the concrete conquest of power. As we have said before, “To counter power, you must seize power.”
The horror of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officers, like countless other police murders of Black people in the United States, was enough to chill the blood. However, no other racist police murder in recent times has sparked massive uprisings of millions of people across the world. There was a key component in the scale and ferocity of the uprisings: the mounting pressure built up by the economic crisis of imperialism, the New Depression, which was only exacerbated by the ruling class’s genocidal management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past decade, acts of rebellion and protest against the abuse and oppression perpetrated by the police and its ruling class have become a common expression of modern US politics. The people of Ferguson rose up for Mike Brown and Baltimore fought for Freddie Gray, with both reverberating in protests across the US. Before these, there were the great Black rebellions during the 1960s such as in Harlem, Detroit, Watts, and in the 1990s, with the LA uprisings after the Rodney King verdict. None of these reached the same widespread scale of rebellious mobilization against the old society as displayed in the May Uprisings.
On June 6, 2020, it is estimated there were protests in 550 locations across the US alone, and by early July, around 5,000 demonstrations had taken place. The data firm Civis Analytis said that over the course of the first three-to-four weeks of the uprisings, between 15 to 26 million people in the US participated in the protests. This was part of the largest protest movement in the history of the US, which even the ruling class was forced to acknowledge.
But it wasn’t just the scale of participation that marks the uprisings, it was the masses’ willingness to wield violence against the Old State, whether in the form of fire, smashed windows, or outright street battles with the state’s armed agents. Walls and surfaces became the people’s canvas, with anti-police, anti-racist, and pro-people slogans painted in the wake of many protests, and the symbols of the racist, colonial, and slaving history of the old society became targets for destruction.
In Minneapolis during the first week of the uprisings, at least 220 buildings were set on fire, from the victorious destruction of the third precinct, to the corporate-owned stores set alight and their goods expropriated by the people. Property Claims Service, a company that tracks insurance claims, estimates that the total claims related to the May Uprisings across multiple cities between May 26 and June 8 totaled upwards of $2 billion. And yet these sums do not settle the debts between the people and the Old State, which calculates its loss of private property, but the people count each loss of their sons and daughters who, unlike windows, can not be replaced. This is why the people fight with ferocity when they rise up.
The following is an overview of Tribune’s coverage of the May Uprisings and highlights from the period that followed. This overview is in no way comprehensive, but the selected articles present a concentrated history and analysis of the uprisings. We must revisit and emphasize the lessons of the rebellions in order to develop stronger understandings of the path forward. Importantly, looking back on the uprisings affirms the universal laws that it is right to rebel, and that the masses are the real heroes and the makers of history.
The people of Minneapolis-St. Paul, commonly known as the Twin Cities, demanded nothing less than immediate charges be brought against Derek Chauvin and his three accomplices as they took to the streets after Floyd’s murder. The city’s ruling class thought that firing the officers would be enough, but after the people set the city aflame and combated the police at every turn, the ruling class conceded to filing charges against the officers. This concession, however, still could not contain the flames. The heroic people of the Twin Cities set an example that was built on in the days to come, the single spark that started a prairie fire across the country.
From the start of the uprisings, Tribune emphasized that fighting for so-called justice from the imperialist ruling class and its judicial system was not sufficient, that the goal should be to fight for People’s Justice, which is taken by the people themselves, not granted by the ruling class. In the same vein, certain basic reforms like the banning of ‘less-lethal’ rounds and police chokeholds are noted conquests of the uprisings, however Tribune has always pushed the necessity of revolution and the seizure of state power.
The uprisings were clearly not just about George Floyd, but about resisting the hundreds of years of war waged by America’s ruling class on Black people. The beginnings of the uprisings were so explosive because they were driven by this rage, and especially because at the beginning, the participation of the masses came mainly from working class Black people and the poor, with multi-racial unity, and the outpouring of the youth, strengthening the collective force of the uprisings.
On the Ground
When the May Uprisings began, Tribune had only been in existence for less than three months. Despite our newness and limited capacity, there was no question that we would give all our energy to cover the uprisings faithfully in order to serve the people. Tribune’s members and supporters were out on the streets, shoulder to shoulder with the people, breathing in tear gas, and facing the threat of rubber bullets and potential arrests as part of holding our post in the class struggle within the trench of journalism.
Austin’s Support Committee (SC) recorded visceral documentation of the most combative protests in the city’s history. A Tribune reporter was one of the first on the scene to respond when Austin police targeted 16-year-old Brad Levi Ayala, shooting a “less lethal” round into the young man’s forehead. Throughout the May Uprisings, Tribune continued to document and report on protests and actions around the country wherever possible.
*CONTENT WARNING THIS VIDEO IS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC PROOF OF POLICE BRUTALITY*
Reactionaries Retaliate, The People Resist
The reactionary state retaliated against the people from the start of the uprisings with the police’s repression, legal persecution, and their low-intensity warfare, in the form of hollow gestures and public relations stunts like kneeling alongside protesters. But the ruling class has yet another tool at their disposal: the civilian reactionaries who act as proxies for the state in their vicious attacks against the people.
Throughout the May Uprisings, cowardly civilian reactionaries were met with the revolutionary violence of the people in the streets, and thus reactionaries began to adapt their tactics to the conditions, as described in “On the Reactionary Tactics and the Protest Movement for Black Lives”.
Inspired by the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, reactionaries used vehicles as a key weapon and tool, either to directly hit and murder protesters, or as a means to make incursions into protests while wielding firearms. Reactionaries rely on the state-sanctioned defense of their actions, which has become more pronounced with the passing of laws to protect the assailants of anti-racist, anti-police, and progressive protests in direct response to the May Uprisings.
In addition, some reactionaries adopted the Fifth Column approach, with groups such as the Boogaloo Boys worming their way in among protesters. Fifth Column tactics involve embedding within the people’s movements, hiding their intentions with an eclectic ideology, pushing adventurism, and acts of provocation that serve the aims of the ruling class.
Regardless of the depravity of the reactionaries, the people never let these attacks cow the movement, and at times, the reactionaries’ bullets were returned in kind.
On July 25, during an Austin march in solidarity with Portland protesters, Garrett Foster was gunned down by US Army Sergeant Daniel Perry. Foster died defending the march and his fiancée Whitney Mitchell, herself a dedicated fighter for the people. Together, they had been marching in the streets fighting for Black Lives for 50 days straight. While the loss of Foster was heavy, his sacrifice will never be forgotten and Tribune continues to raise his name alongside the people who cherish him.
Following Foster’s killing, the ruling class media worked to serve the police’s goals of hiding the identity of the Foster’s murderer. Tribune carried out the work to investigate and confirm the killer’s identity, and was the first news outlets to expose active-duty US Army Sergeant Daniel Perry as the gunman.
Nearly three months after the first uprisings, the people of Kenosha reignited the flames with explosive protests following the heinous police shooting of Jacob Blake in the back, which resulted in his partial paralysis. Kenosha’s combative protests that followed attracted a swarm of reactionaries who appointed themselves the defenders of the ruling class’s property. One of these flies was a teenager named Kyle Rittenhouse. While illegally carrying a rifle, Rittenhouse murdered two protesters, Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and mutilated another, Gaige Grosskeutz. Police allowed Rittenhouse to walk away freely, demonstrating again their support for the reactionaries who kill on their behalf.
The people of Portland persisted in continuous combative protests longer than any other city, gaining the ire of Trump and the state, as well as bringing on the focused attacks of right-wing forces who descended on the city at times. Michael Forest Reinoehl was a dedicated anti-fascist protester who carried out an act of People’s Justice when he shot the reactionary Aaron Danielson who was attacking Portland protesters in late August. For Reinoehl’s revolutionary action, the state marked him for assassination. On September 3, he was hunted down and extra-judicially executed in cold blood with the blessing of Trump himself.
Analyzing the May Uprisings
Throughout the May Uprisings, Tribune made analysis and applied the ideology of the proletariat, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, to synthesize key lessons from the events. Through this, the role of the politicians and the reformist non-governmental agencies, as well as the activist groups that advocate for working within the existing framework and alongside police were exposed. Now, at the point where the state has convicted Chauvin and attempted to forget about the May Uprisings, it is of paramount importance that the people take these lessons and apply them towards the struggle for power. The following highlighted editorials and analyses provide some of the sharpest understandings of the uprisings and their lessons.
In one of our first analyses, “The People’s Conquests and the Capitalist State” we noted how in the wake of uprisings the state immediately began to dole out small concessions here and there, but these were only attempts, “to appease the mass anger and put an end to the struggle against the police.” We warned that these appeasements could not be used as reason to stamp out the flames of rebellion, and that people must, “[…] imagine what could be accomplished with even more intense struggle,” that is, the conquest of a entirely new society.
The CHAZ/CHOP (Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone/Capital Hill Occupied Protest) took shape in Seattle during the May Uprisings as an area temporarily conquered by the people and operated by them as a functional “no-cop zone”. In a response to a letter to the editor calling for a similar area to be developed in Austin, the editorial board broke down why the Seattle experiment devolved into a festival space, and was neither autonomous, nor a real strategy towards conquering power.
In “Three Points on the People’s Struggles,” we dissected three common liberal refrains with regards to the rebellions. First, that one should expect resistance, not dialogue, from Black people who are not allowed to breathe under this old order. Second, we dissected the police abolition myth, which has become a dogma of the anarchist and liberal left. Third, we contrasted reformists with revolutionists.
Reformists deny the essential role of revolution in transforming society, while revolutionists hold that “change does not come about by leaving the parasitic classes (who do not work) in power; liberation only comes through the seizure of power by force of arms. It is not enough to change the laws of the elite. To adjust the settings on their society, their laws need to go and be replaced by the laws of the working people.”
Reformists have taken every chance to trumpet any small police reform since the uprisings, but these crumbs can not add up to a full meal, even as revolutionaries will “snatch the crumbs from the table in their continuing efforts to flip it over and smash it to bits.”
Reforms such as police defunding are some of the most meaningless ones, and in fact can have the opposite effects to those claimed by their promoters. In “Analysis: Police Reforms, a Pyrrhic Victory,” a Tribune writer exposed how the Austin City Council’s so-called “defunding” of the police would only result in other parts of the state replacing the lost funds with more severe policing. The writer emphasized that the people “must be warned against disguised capitulation in the form of voting and meager, easily reversible reforms,” and educated in, “understanding the need to quite literally overthrow the entire ruling class and every single one of the apparatuses it uses to oppress and exploit the people.”
Rebellions and Revolution
The May Uprisings and the summer of rebellion that followed were a heroic display of the masses revolutionary potential, their creativity, and their willingness to shed their blood against all the power of the US imperialism. There are countless more stories, lessons, and analysis that can be drawn from them than what we can highlight here, but we hope this provides a useful overview to all those who seek to build on the collective experiences of the people during the uprisings.
Earlier this year, in “Mass Protest Movements Come and Go, Struggle is Permanent“, Tribune wrote: “The only revolutionary view of uprisings and movements like this is to consider them in two respects. The first is to view them as a school of war, a place where the people and the revolutionaries learn and teach one another to resist and rise up better and more organized. The second is through improving the duration and intensity of the uprisings and movements to recruit the disorganized people into organized and stable bodies which can continue the school of war in ‘peacetime.’”
What is shown more starkly now a year after the May Uprisings, with the continuous racist police murders of Black people, and the economic equality that deepens under the general crisis of imperialism, is the pressing need to develop greater organization, greater militancy, and most importantly a higher class consciousness across the working class and people of the US, and the world. Rebellions can not only be sparked by specific instances of ruling class brutality, but revolutionary situations must be acted upon by the organized masses under a Communist Party in the leadership over the working class. A revolution must be planned, coordinated, and carried through to its necessary resolution: the overthrow of the existing order and building of a workers’ state. Only this will achieve the aims of the people in the US who desire a new society.
Maoism teaches that in practice, a successful revolution requires three instruments: the Communist Party, its army, and a united front composed of the friends of the people. Only with these tools can the people successfully resist the inevitable counter-insurgency that reacts to all uprisings and revolutions, which attempt to drown the rebellion in blood and bullets, or disarm the people through methods of low-intensity warfare such as opportunism, bribery, electoralism, and more.
We cannot get to the heart of the matter, that is, power, and cannot sufficiently sweep away opportunism and the forces of counter-insurgency which seek to co-opt, crush, and repress revolution without bringing the proletarian outlook and practice to the people who clamor for a new world. The May Uprisings were yet another advance of the people and the proletariat in the US, who learn how to fight by fighting, and will apply their lessons towards the making of revolution with greater and greater success until the inevitable victory of the people over the old order.
PEOPLE’S JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE POLICE & REACTIONARIES!
LONG LIVE THE MAY UPRISINGS!
IT IS RIGHT TO REBEL!
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