After the Dallas police shooting, the reactionary forces in this country are trying to shift the national rhetoric and public perception of social violence in the United States. To directly counter and weaken the Black Lives Matter movement, and to break the solidarity it is gathering from working class sectors, a new bogus and dangerous slogan has been publicized: “Blue Lives Matter”.

By Florence Oppen.

 

For us, it is clear that the dominant and structuring forms of social and political violence in the United State are rooted in the capitalist state, a bourgeois state built upon the displacement and genocide of Native/Indigenous Americans, more than a century of slavery of the black population, and the reliance and repression of Asian and [email protected] migrant workers. The US state has systematically repressed Black and Brown lives, the lives of the most oppressed sectors of the working class. Against the confusing and ill-founded slogan of “Blue Lives Matter” today, more than ever, we need to say: yes Black and Brown Lives Matter, and we need to unite to fight back!

An Epidemic of Racist Police Violence in the U.S.

Reality speaks for itself in this country. It is sadly quite simple: while, even according to the Washington Post, police have never been more safe than under the Obama government, a real epidemic of police violence against Black and Latino youth is sweeping the country.[1] And this class and racial violence has clear origins in the United States: the development of capitalism based on slavery and genocide.

Obviously US law has allowed police to be among the safest sectors of the US population: “The national murder rate of the general population is approximately 5.6 per 100,000. The death rate for firefighters is 6.1 and the fatality rate for EMTs rests at around 7.0. With a murder rate of just over 4 per 100,000, the police are in less danger of facing death than other first responders as well as the general public.[2]

According to The Guardian, U.S. police murdered 1,146 persons in 2015 (304 Blacks and 193 Latinos) and up to now 706 in 2016 (174 Black and 115 Latinos).[3] Police violence and murders target disproportionately a specific category of the population: male Black youth between 15 and 34, who only represent 2% of the population but more than 15% of the police killings (a young Black male is 8 times more likely being killed by the cops than the average U.C. citizen).[4]

The current level of police violence has its origins in slavery and the Jim Crow days. After the legal abolition of segregation in the 1960s, Reagan´s “war on drugs” and the expansion of the prison system contained a veiled form of social segregation. And so while during the Jim Crow days an average of 38 African Americans were lynched per year, in 2015 the police has killed more than 300 youth.[5]

After Dallas, Obama Showed His True Colors

After the Dallas killing of 5 police officers on July 9th 2016, the Obama government made a sharp turn to publicly distance itself and confront BLM. First, he organized a state funeral for the officers that he attended along with Bush Jr., a showing of a strong bipartisan unity to defend the police force. Second, he met with the Fraternal Order of Police and made statements embracing the “Blue Lives Matter” reactionary framework, and considered those killings as a “hate crime”: “One really striking thing the president said in his opening remarks was that the shooting in Dallas in many ways was strikingly parallel to the Dylann Roof shooting in Charleston in the sense that it was a hate crime.”[6]

And finally, he went on to war with the BLM: that they better maintain “a truthful and serious and respectful tone”, and defended once again the actions of the police: “the vast majority are doing a really good job” and trying to protect people fairly “without racial balance.”[7]

Furthermore, several newspapers have reported that the FBI has started spying and repressing the Black Lives Matter movement, following the precedent of the US government persecution and criminalization of all initiatives of political organization and struggle of the Black population against white supremacy (MLK, Malcolm X, Black Panthers etc).[8] The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has reported that special surveillance airplanes, equipped with a thermal-imaging system, are dispensed to night urban riots to locate the houses of the participants of protests.

“Blue Lives Matter”: A Reactionary Offensive We Must Defeat

The Democratic and Republican parties, the police unions, the right wing, and supremacist groups in the U.S. have come up with a reactionary slogan to defeat the anti-racist youth: “Blue Lives Matter”. This slogan is a follow up to “All Lives Matter” which began to be counterposed to “Black Lives Matter”. By arguing instead that “All Lives Matter”, white supremacists wanted to erase the special and violent oppression Black people are subjected to in the United States, and sought to break the working class and [email protected] solidarity that was built around their movement. They were clearly unsuccessful.

But after the events in Dallas, a golden occasion was created to attack, once more, the Black Lives Matter movement. Now it is not anymore about “all lives”, and the abstract and liberal rhetoric of fake inclusion. “Blue Lives”, that is to say the lives of police officers and military, matter as much or even more than “Black lives”. The main problem with the slogan, however, is that this nationalist, pro-government and pro-repression statement is a false and dangerous analogy: there is not such a thing as “blue lives”.

“Blue” is not the feature of a sector of the population but a state institution. Blue does not refer to a class, race or gender social relation, or even to a religious creed. It refers to a position in the social division of labor: that of belonging to the repressive forces of a state apparatus. It has been historically proven that those repressive forces are designed to crush popular uprising and persecute minorities. Thus, “Blue Lives Matter” only means that the repressive force of the state matters and that it should be accepted, supported and increased. Thus, in concrete terms today, “Blue Lives Matter” means that arbitrary police violence against Black and Latino youth should be protected, and that racist, abusive and killer cops should be entitled to be met with submission or even applauded. We argue quite the opposite: that they should be kicked out of the police force, punished, and that the Black and Brown population have the political right of self-defense when they are attacked.

This slogan becomes even more repulsive and outrageous when Democrats, Republicans and the Tea Party want to make any aggression or wrongdoing to a cop a new legal category of “hate crime”, which places the police as an even more protected special group of citizens, with the extraordinary fact that they already have a special privilege: the right to legally exercise the use of force (including murder) on other persons, a right that is denied to the rest of the population.

An Attempt to Increase Even Further the Repressive Power of Police

“Blue Lives Matter” thus is not only an ideology that is consciously devised to divide working people, and to create a disgusting and unprincipled alliance between a sector of the white working class with police and military forces (and we know there are many working class families that depend on those wages). It is also a legal and institutional offensive to reinforce even more the power of police.

The state of Louisiana passed in May of 2016 a bill (HB 953) that makes any attack or aggression against a cop, a firefighter or medical personnel a “hate crime”, with the same legal aggravations to discrimination for creed, race or gender.[9] Now Michigan and Florida are talking of similar initiatives.

Earlier, in April, some Republican Congressmen introduced the Blue Lives Matter Act 2016 (HR 4760) with the intention of having that become a federal legislation. Up to now, only 16 Republican members support it, and even if the chances for such a law to pass are very low, it is still an unprecedented threat.[10]

In fact, confrontations with police are already charged with a special legal aggravation in 37 of the 50 states. The most outrageous cases are New York and Michigan where any murder of a police officer leads to a mandatory life sentence without parole.[11]

Unite Our Forces to End Police Impunity and Fight for Black Liberation

Police killings are met with complete impunity and intolerance. According to the project Mapping Police Violence, 97% of the killings committed by cops go unpunished by the law.[12] The judicial system and the special “Bill of Rights” that police unions and reactionary fraternities have negotiated provide a number of special protections to police officers, that are obstacles to independent investigations, the coming forward of witness and the dismissal of cops found guilty of violence or abuse.

The British newspaper The Guardian has been gathering all the loopholes and special protections that allow US police to behave, in some areas, as a special paramilitary force of white supremacy. The most aberrant legal disposition is the legal charge that justifies a policeman murdering someone labelled “suicide by cop”. That legal clause can frame any sort of recurrent petty crime or erratic behavior as an intentional form of suicide by the offender as it is interpreted as a form of seeking death by looking for a police confrontation. It therefore exempts the police officer of any responsibility, who is retroactively attributed to the victim.[13] But above all what protects police from legal prosecution are the special “Bills of Rights” they have, which become an obstacle to any process of independent investigation or accountability to anyone but their true bosses: the 1%.

This is why it is key that all working class organizations, especially labor unions but also community groups, take a clear and public position in support of Black Lives Matter/Movement for Black Lives [M4BL] and demands the trial, punishment and immediate suspension of all cops under investigation, the irrevocable termination of all the officers found guilty and the immediate revocation of any special rights for police.

In a moment where working people are struggling to recover from the economic crisis, with low wages and low employment rates, and the sever impact of austerity cuts, it is important to build a national movement that follows the demand of reparations and the invest/divest strategy suggested in the Movement for Black Lives Platform. Our state and federal governments should be taxing the rich to funnel the money to public services, like education, expanded social security, and a real single-payer healthcare system. They should cut the money spent on prisons, wars, the militarization of police and the surveillance of civil society.

Full Support to Black Lives Matter!

Immediate Suspension of All Policemen Under Investigation and Dismissal and Punishment of All Found Guilty!

Let´s Stop All “Blue Lives Matter” Initiatives and Invalidate Policemen “Bills of Rights”!

Labor Unions Should Support Black Lives Matter!

Money For Jobs, Education and Healthcare – Not for War, Police and Incarceration!

 

[1] “Under Obama, the average number of police intentionally killed each year has fallen to its lowest level yet — an average of 62 deaths annually through 2015.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/07/09/police-are-safer-under-obama-than-they-have-been-in-decades/

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/stop-blue-lives-matter_us_57bc6d8ae4b07d22cc39ab0a

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database

[4] “Despite making up only 2% of the total US population, African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths logged this year by an ongoing investigation into the use of deadly force by police.” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/31/the-counted-police-killings-2015-young-black-men

[5] http://qz.com/726245/more-black-people-were-killed-by-us-police-in-2015-than-were-lynched-in-the-worst-year-of-jim-crow/

[6] http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/obama-dallas-police-shooting-hate-225390#ixzz4MMkUbJBQ

[7] http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/287162-obama-urges-black-lives-matter-protestors-to-have-respectful

[8] http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/fbi-greenlights-crackdown-black-lives-matter-protesters

[9] “The change to Louisiana law would mean that those convicted of committing felony hate crimes against police officers could face a maximum fine of $5,000 or a five-year prison sentence. A hate-crime charge added to a misdemeanor carries a $500 fine or six months imprisonment.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/05/26/louisianas-blue-lives-matter-bill-just-became-law/?utm_term=.c23f66be95cd

[10] http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36959-federal-blue-lives-matter-legislation-picks-up-steam-advances-myth-that-cops-are-under-threat

[11]At least 37 states have enhanced penalties for assaulting a police officer, regardless of the attacker’s motivation. Some states do that by considering harming a police officer to be an “aggravating factor,” which heightens the severity of the sentence for the alleged offense. In New York, being convicted in the aggravated murder of a police officer carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. It is also an automatic first-degree charge. Michigan has a similar law.

These protections extend beyond police officers. Florida law, for example, mandates that the assault or battery of public transit employees — along with law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMTs — be reclassified as a higher charge. Other jurisdictions — including New York and Washington, D.C. — add extra years in prison for assaulting a bus or taxi driver in hopes of deterring violence against transportation workers.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/louisiana-hate-crime-police_us_5745ba0ee4b055bb1170c4de

[12] http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/

[13] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/06/suicide-by-cop-the-counted