What Will it Take to Stop Police Brutality?
By Carl Dix
Revolutionary Worker #1076, October 29, 2000, rwor.org
As part of the preparations for this year's National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, a program was held on October 18 at Revolution Books in New York entitled "What Will It Take to Stop Police Brutality?" Speakers included Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement; Ron Daniels from the Center for Constitutional Rights; Carl Dix, RCP National Spokesperson; and Sarah Hogarth from the Police Accountability Project of the National Lawyers Guild. Andreyeva Field, whose son Andre was murdered by police, read a statement by Nicholas Heyward Sr. from Parents Against Police Brutality and the October 22nd Coalition.
The following are excerpts from the talk by Carl Dix.
The days leading into Oct. 22, 2000, the 5th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, is a very good time to speak to--what will it take to stop police brutality? Oct. 22nd is the day to bring together all the resistance to police brutality all across the country. The day when people from different backgrounds, of different races and nationalities, immigrant and native born come together to say in one loud, unified voice: STOP POLICE BRUTALITY!
It's a day when people with different approaches to fighting police brutality come together to build a stronger movement of resistance. This political diversity adds to the strength of the National Day of Protest. At the same time it's important to exchange perspectives on how to carry this fight forward and what it'll take to win it. In that spirit, I want to lay out the position of the RCP on what it'll take to stop police brutality.
In a word, proletarian revolution: Millions of people rising up in armed struggle to overthrow this capitalist setup and going on to build a whole new world on the ashes of this messed-up one--a world where there's no handful of rich bloodsuckers exploiting and oppressing the majority of the people, where whites don't lord it over Black people and other people of color, where men don't dominate and suppress women and where one country don't run the whole damn globe.
It's going to take revolution to end police brutality once and for all because police brutality is built into the very fabric of this society. We live in a society divided into haves and have nots. The haves, the capitalist class, rule over the majority of the people and use force to suppress the people here in this country and around the world that they rip off. Enforcing the unjust conditions that their system forces millions in the U.S. to endure requires a police force capable of inflicting unspeakable brutality and murder. Not every cop has murdered someone, but most have helped cover up these abuses or looked the other way when they go down.
White supremacy is deeply embedded in the fabric of U.S. society--and police brutality is a key way that the system keeps Black people and other oppressed nationalities down--so the official brutality dealt out inevitably has a racist edge. If you want to end all that, and all the other indignities this system forces people to endure here and around the world, you gotta set your sights on making revolution and getting rid of this kind of dog-eat-dog set-up.
This is how far we have to take things to end police brutality and all the other problems this rotten capitalist set-up brings down on people, once and for all.
Some people ask: You say revolution is the solution, but what are you doing now? Don't we have to fight for concrete solutions today, or are you saying wait til the revolution comes to do something about it? We definitely ain't saying wait around. We're doing a lotta things about police brutality right now.
We're uniting with people to build a powerful movement of resistance to police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. We're creating an atmosphere of fighting back that can embolden more of the sisters and brothers from the bottom of society to stand up. We're unleashing the ferocity of the youth against the system. We're rallying allies from the middle class to stand with the oppressed. We're working to give people a sense that they have the right to organize themselves and defend themselves when the system's pigs vamp on them. We're building the places where we live and work into strongholds of revolutionary resistance to the system's attacks. We're exposing the system in the eyes of the people. And we're building strong revolutionary organization among different sections of the people. We're doing all this both to advance the fight for justice today and to get ourselves, and the masses, ready for revolution when the time comes.
For us, the fight for justice around police brutality and other issues has three levels that are related to each other. One level is fighting to win justice in individual cases. This has been the starting point for many in the fight to stop police brutality. Brutalizing, murdering cops should be put in jail. This is a simple demand and a just one. Yet it is rarely achieved. This is a source of great pain for parents and other family members who have had to bury loved ones murdered by those who are sworn to protect and serve.
The real heroes of the movement to stop police brutality are people like Iris Baez, Nicholas Heyward Sr., Margarita Rosario, Milta Calderon, Doris Boesky-Busch, Andreyeva Fields, Loretta Cerbelli, and so many loved ones of people who have been murdered by police. Rather than giving in to the overwhelming grief and sense of loss, they stood up and fought back. They inspired others like them who have to deal with brutal murdering pigs to join in the fight. They proved that we weren't powerless -- that we could join together and resist. Their testimony about how the authorities stole the lives of their children helped open the eyes of many others to how serious a problem police brutality and the criminalization of our youth really is.
Another level to the fight for justice involves winning large sections of people in society to deliver their verdict on what's right and wrong. The system's courts let the murderers of Amadou Diallo walk and never put the murderer of Patrick Dorismond on trial. But the people delivered a different verdict on those cases in the streets. Looking at the broader issue of police brutality, the authorities had sucked a lotta people into their line that the problem was crime and aggressive policing was necessary to deal with it, but we've been able to break thru their shit in the past few years. As people see case after case of people murdered by the police and nobody gets punished for this, as people see the parents of police murder victims stand up and indict the system for its crimes against their family, as people see the resistance movement grow and develop, many more eyes are opened to the truth that the problem is police brutality. This hasn't gone far enough yet, but things have changed on this front. And the work of the Oct. 22nd Coalition has contributed much to this happening. The exposure done by the parents, the impact of Stolen Lives have been key contributions to the development of a stronger movement of resistance.
Or look at the death penalty. The capitalist class clearly wants to maintain the ability to use the machinery of the state to murder people. We can see this in the absence of debate over this issue in the presidential election in spite of the execution of Shaka Sankofa, a man that even Stevie Wonder could see wasn't guilty. But murdering Shaka sent shockwaves thru society. The more injustices they perpetrate, the more it enrages people. We need to tap into that rage and use it to fuel our movement, to create a climate where growing numbers of people are saying they will no longer tolerate police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation, and that they won't let them murder Mumia Abu-Jamal--a climate where more people are acting on that sentiment. It's going to take much more of this kind of sentiment--and massive and determined resistance to back it up--to put brutal, murdering cops, and those who are giving them the green light, in check.
But we need to go beyond putting them in check--we need to stop these outrages they enforce on the people once and for all. It's going to take revolution to do that. And the resistance we build today, thru working around Oct. 22nd and in many other ways, helps to get us ready and in position to make revolution. That's what we in the RCP see as the only way to get complete justice. Leading millions of people to rise up in armed struggle to get rid of this rotten capitalist system and go on to build a whole new world on the ashes of this messed-up one. A world where a handful of rich bloodsuckers no longer monopolize power and wealth and maintain their dominance by inflicting these outrages on the people.
This kind of society wouldn't need a brutal police force to keep people down. It wouldn't need to criminalize the youth because it would provide them with hope and opportunities for the future. And it would punish those responsible for the crimes committed against the people under this set up--the killer cops and those who unleashed them and backed them up.
Once we get out from under this dog-eat-dog set-up, crime will no longer be the kind of problem it is today. People won't be driven to numb themselves with addictive drugs to escape the suffocating reality we're up against today. People won't have to rip each other off to survive because the society will be set up to meet the needs of the people.
As I said earlier, within Oct. 22nd, there's a lot of different groups with different approaches to fighting police brutality. This diversity helps make it possible to build broad unity around the National Day of Protest. And the success of Oct. 22nd can help strengthen many of these different approaches.
We in the RCP recognize that people who promote other approaches to dealing with this problem are as serious about fighting police brutality as we are, but I must say that some of the programs they are behind won't cut it if your goal is really putting brutal, murdering cops in check, let alone stopping them, and those who unleash them. An example of what I'm talking about here is the approach of fighting police brutality by trying to win demands like a special prosecutor for police brutality cases, a Community Control Review Board "with teeth," improved training for cops, residency requirements, an end to the 48-hour rule and others.
This kind of approach rests on assuming that those in power, or at least significant sections of them, share our horror at how this abuse goes on unchecked and want to do something about it. But that ain't true, sisters and brothers. We live under a system that needs a police force that has a significant number of racist pigs who are itching to brutalize and murder people and needs to have the overwhelming majority of its members at least willing to help cover up these abuses or look the other way while they're carried out. Even where we're able to force them to back up and make a concession on a particular case, or even on one of the demands raised to deal with police brutality, they're gonna keep police brutality in effect because they need to have it.
Let's look at the call for special prosecutors. How are you going to get one who's different than the prosecutors we got in NY and across the country who refuse to indict brutal murdering pigs unless they're forced to by us raising hell in the streets? Do you think the feds would come in and put one in place that would be any different than these turkeys who shit on the people now? The feds have sent a couple of killer cops to jail, but for every one they've prosecuted I can show you five killer cops they refused to even investigate and another two where they did an ass-covering investigation and closed the case! Or on residency requirements, the NYPD would still be brutal enough to maintain and enforce the unjust status quo for the capitalist class if it had to fill its ranks from inside the city. We can also look at this another way. Would you want somebody like the pig who murdered Patrick Bailey and helped murder Amadou living in your neighborhood?
Some people say that community based policing is the answer. That's really a nice sounding cover for our oppressors' attempts to draw us into helping the pigs clamp down on us. What you really get when they implement those kinds of policies is the police worming their way even deeper into communities, forming snitch networks and things like that. You don't get a police force that works in the interests of the people.
Changing the laws or getting new people elected to office won't deal with this problem either. There's already laws on the books to send brutalizing, murdering pigs to jail. The problem is the criminal justice system is set up to exonerate them and send our people to jail, whether they did anything or not. This year's elections ain't gonna change that either since all the major candidates are running for office on law-and-order platforms.
I already talked about people having a right to defend themselves against the system's attacks and needing to organize themselves to do that. So big ups to people taking this approach to deal with the problem of police brutality, whether it's in the form of patrols to watch the cops with video cameras or more militant approaches. Self-defense is an important part of what people need to take up today to beat back the vicious attacks of the system. It also needs to be approached as part of getting ready for revolution. Cuz that's what it's going to take to get rid of police brutality, and everything else foul this set-up brings down on the people once and for all.
In sum--what's it going to take to stop police brutality? A massive, determined movement of resistance is needed to beat back brutal murdering cops today. And mass armed revolution is needed to stop police brutality and everything else foul this system brings down on people once and for all.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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