Workers Power – USA Reports – Part I
Workers Power in the United States has never made any pretense of being any sort of “mass party” of either workers or the oppressed. Indeed we understand that in the grand scope of political groups in this country, we are a vanishingly small, although growing, group of like-minded comrades attempting to make a difference in this country and the world, along with our international comrades in the League for the Fifth International.
One advantage that we do have is a rather wide spread of geographical localities where we are represented. Unlike most Leninist groups, we aren’t just located in the big cities on the coasts. Most of our members actually live where the majority of the US population lives, what the bi-coasters often call “fly over” country. So in order to take advantage of this widespread geographic diversity, we are presenting a collage of reports from areas where our writers actually reside and take part in class struggle on a regular basis with a cross-section of the US working class and the especially oppressed strata of that working class.
The reason this is important is to show just how widespread the unrest over George Floyd’s murder is to real people in the heartland of the United States. Although most of the unrest has happened in the bigger cities and most of the press has talked about the struggle on the east and west coasts, the murder of George Floyd has been combined with local police murders to create this pre-revolutionary situation even in the larger to mid-sized cities in the midwest, southeast, and mid-Atlantic states, as well as on the east and west coast. So here we begin this series with Part 1, reports from comrades in Nashville, TN., Dallas, TX., and Austin, TX. We hope you enjoy and will join us in the most important struggle of our lives, the struggle to end capitalism.
Nashville Protests the Killings of George Floyd, Daniel Hambrick, and Jocques Clemmons
by Marcus Otono
Like many US cities Nashville, TN the last weekend in May of 2020 saw the beginnings of a massive protest movement based on the latest example of police terror caught on camera in Minneapolis, MN, the murder of George Floyd.
Thousands of protestors filled the streets of “Music City” demanding justice for black people murdered by police. The protests continued for the following week into early June culminating in a peaceful protest on June 4th that was estimated at 10,000 people in the streets of this fast growing southern city.
And like other cities, the brutality of Floyd’s murder and a long history of local police abuses and murder were underlying a wave of more militant protests, characterized by the local power structure as “riots.” On Saturday night, May 30th, damage to property, including the Metro Courthouse which houses city government and businesses in the tourist and entertainment section of downtown suffered fires and broken windows. Symbols of oppressive authority like police and their cars were torched and pelted with improvised missiles, rocks, and bottles. At least 50 people were arrested.
Make no mistake, the murder of George Floyd, no matter its brutality, was just the spark that set the blaze. Local murders by the police going back decades, including Daniel Hambrick by Officer Andrew Delke in 2018 and of Jocques Clemmons in 2017 by police officer Joshua Lippert had built the pyre in Nashville. In an almost unheard of rarity, Delke was actually charged with first degree murder and will finally go on trial later in June almost two years after he committed his act of police terror on Daniel Hambrick. When an armed gang with a license to kill like the Nashville Police Department can intimidate, attack, and murder based only on the color of skin or the economic class of the community, resentment will build to the boiling point and a spark is all that’s needed to light the conflagration of an uprising.
Of course, the political toadies of the ruling class did what their first instincts always say to do during situations like this and called out the National Guard to restore “order.” But even this was undermined as on Monday June 1st, a local activist with a history of “speaking truth to power” convinced the Guard members to temporarily lay down their riot shields and join with the peaceful protestors in song. This apparently scared the Nashville elite more than any broken windows or broken black bodies could and on Wednesday June 6th a felony warrant was issued for the arrest of the activist, one Justin Jones and also Janeisha Harris, for supposedly damaging a police car during the unrest the previous Saturday night. As a result of this inflammatory, vengeance motivated action by city authorities, an emergency demonstration was called for on Thursday before he was to be arrested. Before either the arrest or the demonstration could take place, the District Attorney “withdrew” the warrant “based on further information that came to light.” This transparent attempt to intimidate a leader of the movement for the equal valuation of black lives and the subsequent call for an emergency demonstration shows what a real fightback against police terror can do. The power structure will attempt to intimidate, but the masses can shut this intimidation down quickly and forcefully. Just the threat of a militant mass demonstration in a volatile situation can get things accomplished and protect our leaders. This is a lesson for future struggles that loom on the horizon.
The “bi-partisanship” that is sorely lacking on issues that affect the Nashville working class was on full display in the response to this uprising. Heavily armed and riot control clad police were in place at peaceful demonstrations, as were the National Guard, part of the military arm of the government. They all agreed with these measures from the Republican governor to the Democratic mayor of the city, no matter how much money they had to spend. Yet because of the coronavirus shutdown and the resultant tax shortfall, the local budget proposed by the mayor increased criminal justice expenditures while cutting funds for schools, housing, transit, social services, infrastructure, parks, libraries, community centers, and rental and tax relief for poorer residents. Budget priorities in a taxation shortfall clearly shows who this society is built to serve and it’s not you and me. Our needs remain unmet while the oppressive arm of the state is expanded.
Nashville came together to protest the killings of George Floyd, Daniel Hambrick, Jocques Clemmons and dozens of other local victims of police terror. Black, white, and brown, all the skin colors that make up the Nashville working class were represented on the streets in a week of protest. Local union members and leaders, DSA, and a myriad of social justice interest groups were all there to protest officially sanctioned murder. Reforms have been offered up and other steps have been called for like the adoption of a People’s Budget that puts our priorities first and the replacement of police chief Steve Anderson. But these reforms will only gain temporary relief and are always only contingent on the fear that street action inspires in the ruling class. What they offer today to get you back on your couch, they will take away tomorrow to line their pockets.
If proof is needed of this assertion, you need to look no further than the reaction after Daniel Hambrick was murdered by Andrew Delke. This killing strengthened the calls for a Community Oversight Board (COB) for the Nashville police and a referendum was passed in November of 2018 to create this “reform” to policing in Nashville. And it passed overwhelmingly with a 60% majority. Yet since then the COB has been hamstrung in carrying out its stated mission by police intransigence in providing necessary tools and information to investigate police crimes. The local police “union,” the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is complicit, along with the NPD’s administration. These reactionary bodies serve only to protect the so-called “bad cops” from facing due justice. Cops have a primary function in bourgeois society to protect “private” property and to intimidate dissent and, as such, they are not a part of the labor movement. And they’re obviously not a part of social justice for black and other working class people.
The fact is that we don’t really need police at all. We can provide security for our communities, both from violent criminal elements and from agents of the state, with black, brown, and worker militias. We can try our own miscreants with People’s Tribunals based in our neighborhoods, along with trying killer cops for their crimes with these same Tribunals. If the police solution to every problem is a bullet or a knee to the neck until death, this is definitely a case where the cure is worse than the disease.
Ongoing protests against police brutality in Austin Texas and reactions of city, police and police union
by Kayla Molodoy
Protesters have rightfully claimed the streets of Austin, the capital of Texas, daily Since Friday May 29, demanding justice for George Floyd and Michael Ramos, who are bound together as unarmed men of color murdered by police. Ramos, who was black and Latinx, was the latest unarmed person killed by police in Austin, a city that espouses progressive politics but has a long and ugly history of segregation and deadly racist policing. Not to mention APD claims the highest per capita rate of police shootings during mental health calls among the 15 largest U.S. cities, which is a violation of international human rights standards. The use of violent force by police during these peaceful protests demonstrates the underlying treachery of cops toward citizens that birthed the protests in the first place.
Marchers have blocked various streets, even a couple of times closing off Interstate 35 which is a historical dividing line segregating blacks and whites in Austin since 1928. A car fire was started at the main police station but protests have otherwise been generally peaceful. At times as many as 10,000 people have congregated and over 50 protesters have been arrested. More than eleven people including medics and journalists have been severely injured with “less lethal” bean bags shot from rifles into crowds of people, including people while unconscious from tear gas. Two men were critically wounded and one pregnant woman was shot over 15 times in the back and abdomen. Another man was shot in the eye which he may lose and has multiple titanium plates in his head and face as a result. It is illegal to use bean bag rounds above the waste.
Two of the most severely injured by bean bag shots are Levi Allala, a 16 year old Hispanic honors student and Justin Howell, a Texas A&M university student. Allala was simply walking by and stood to watch what was happening on a high embankment away from the protest. Nowhere near the crowd, he was shot in the head by police while standing alone, sustaining life threatening complications including brain damage. Also critically wounded by a “less than lethal” bean bag shot to the head was Justin Howell. Police claim they were aiming at a man who had thrown a bottle of water and a backpack toward them. They claim to have missed the suspect and hit Justin by mistake. There is no evidence anything was thrown at police. Howell was hit in the back of the head causing extreme injuries, including brain damage. In an unedited video five people are carrying Justin’s limp body toward police headquarters, begging the officers to get him medical attention. As they do, the police fire some 15 rounds, many of which hit the medics and protesters carrying Justin, over the course of about 30 seconds.
The racial makeup of protesters has been roughly representative of the racial makeup of Austin; 49% white, 33% Hispanic or Latino, 8% African American. That percentage differs considerably from people killed by cop; 28% of those shot by police in Texas in 2015, the first year such statistics were reported, were African-American, though blacks make up only 12 percent of the Texas population. Among the others who were shot, 28% were Hispanic, 43% were white. Racial disparities also show up in the state’s in-custody death reports. 27% of the 1,118 people who died in police custody in Texas from 2005 to 2015 were African-American.
In Austin, two organizations have been represented in the protests as such; Austin Justice Coalition which is predominantly a black, politically liberal group – and Red Guards, a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective. However, the majority of protestors have no specific organizational affiliation and are simply justifiably outraged and willing to hit the streets.
The first long overdue acknowledgment by Austin City Council and APD chief of police Brian Manley to the outrage over ever increasing US police brutality was a special emergency city council meeting where citizens were allowed to air grievances – over 300 people spoke directly to council and police chief. The president of the police union, Austin Police Association, was absent from the special hearing.
The plea to “defund the police” was made by citizens repeatedly during the hearing and has since become the buzz word by the media. Activists asking for “defunding” mean to divest funding from the police department and put it toward other resources that could better serve diverse communities, such as health services, housing, parks and cultural centers. Thursday, June 11, Austin City Council plans to vote on several items which have been placed on the meeting agenda. These agenda items are in alignment with Austin Justice Coalition’s demands.
Banning the use of tear-gas, rubber bullets, bean bags, etc.
Using deadly force as a last resort, use de-escalation tactics first, banning shooting at people fleeing
Reducing military-grade equipment
Ending no-knock warrants
Not using enhanced facial recognition
Delaying the July cadet class for the Austin Police Department
Item 50 goals:
Zero racial disparity in traffic stops
Zero racial disparity in arrests and citations that result from traffic stops
Zero use-of-force incidents
Zero deaths at the hands of APD officers
Item 93 converts the council’s existing Judicial Committee to a new Public Safety Committee, putting policing issues, criminal justice, EMS, fire, code compliance, and emergency management under the committee’s purview.
Item 96 aims to cut and reallocate funding from APD in the upcoming fiscal year 2020-2021 budget process – a budget set to be formally adopted in August.
During the special hearing in which he had his video screen blacked out for most of the time, Manley admitted his officers hit the WRONG person, (Justin Howell) a person who was peacefully protesting – but has yet to apologize or take any responsibility for his officers’ incredibly faulty and cruel response also saying that “beanbags won’t be used THIS week in a crowd situation but they’re appropriate for other uses.“ In a previous televised response, Manley took no responsibility, cried openly, offered his prayers, hoped for a speedy recovery of the people for whom his policies have caused immense damage they will experience for the rest of their lives. After the many humiliating tongue-lashings he received during the hearing, Chief Manley is now agreeing to some of the proposed city council items. So far.
But The Austin Police Association, the cop union, citing what it calls “the greatest moment of unrest in recent City history,” says the items on the agenda – particularly items 95 and 96 – could cut over 190 police positions from the next City budget, creating what the union says would be “an additional public safety crisis in the midst of the one we are experiencing right now.”
Some on the council and activists alike have called for reallocating as much as $100 million from the department’s $400 million budget.
Red Guards’ demands which have not been acknowledged by city council, APD or APA:
1. Fire and prosecute Mike Ramos’ killers: Officer Mitchell Pieper and Officer Christopher Taylor
2. Fire Chief Brian Manley, who first updated the public about Mike’s death and said it would be a “lengthy” and “multi-pronged investigation.” It is under Manley’s leadership that APD’s murderous legacy continues.
3. End the “Riverside Togetherness Project,” a $1 million dollar grant from the Department of Homeland Security to increase surveillance and foot patrols in the Riverside area. The project’s claims to “increase trust, reduce crime, and revitalize,” are obvious attempts to police and displace Black, Chicano, Immigrant and working class people to make way for profitable real estate developments.
We know these demands are not the be-all and end-all solution. The root problem is the capitalist system that enlists these vicious racist police officers. A system that issues annihilation to the people daily cannot bring justice, it lives on our misery and our blood, puts us to sleep and dashes our dreams on the rocks. Only the people have the potential to change everything by organizing our communities, fighting the rotten sewage, and toppling the old order.
We won’t wait for the state to dispense their lengthy and multi-pronged sham investigation. We will defend our friends and family right now, while uplifting Mike and all victims of police brutality.
BLM Protests Report- Dallas, TX.
by Ada Wallace
While smaller, quieter protests began quickly after the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter protests in Dallas sprang into public appearance most notably on Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30. That weekend saw the largest groups, and it is also when violence first broke out.
On Friday, May 29 a group of approximately 1,500 protested by blocking highways, at a downtown police station, and City Hall. The protests went on late into the night, with multiple smaller groups breaking out into different areas around the city. A small group stayed downtown and hurled bricks at police vehicles, and this was, from what I can tell, the first instance of tear gas and less-lethal bullet use. Another group moved on into a nearby, heavily gentrified small business district where looting and vandalism occurred.
Saturday, May 30 saw the largest group of protesters, approximately 3,000. Tear gas, mace, and less-lethal firings occurred, while more sparingly compared to other cities, significantly more indiscriminately than the previous night and several severe injuries were reported. That night saw more looting, vandalism, and the notorious violent clash with the sword-wielding man downtown.
A curfew was quickly called on May 31, and while small groups attempted to protest downtown that night, they were quickly rounded up and arrested.
The following evening on Monday, June 1 another fairly significant event occurred. A group of approximately 800 protesters gathered at a police station outside of the curfew boundaries and then proceeded to march onto the highways. Though there was no police presence at the police station, there was a heavy presence blocking and redirecting the march onto a nearby highway bridge. Protesters were met by a line of police and quickly kettled by a line of police behind them.
Most terrifyingly, police shot incessant rounds of tear gas not only directly at protesters, but also onto the physically separated oncoming traffic lane of the bridge so that protesters could not access or throw teargas canisters away from them. This meant that the protesters were trapped in a small area of the bridge with massive clouds of tear gas and no escape.
Protesters were then put in handcuffs and detained on the bridge late until 3 or 4 a.m.
It is unknown why they were ultimately released. A police spokesperson initially stated they were being arrested for being inside curfew boundaries but was caught in the lie on news stations. (The protesters were not inside curfew boundaries). There have been reports that Dallas bus drivers refused to transport the arrested protesters, and that a Dallas city council member drove to the site and demanded their release.
While small protests (approximately 600-1,000) have happened daily since June 1, they have been during the day or far outside of curfew boundaries and have seen little to no police presence. They have also been largely peaceful.
Some specifics about the groups in our area:
Estimated racial makeup: ● 60% Black ● 25% White ● 10% Hispanic ● 5% Other
Estimated age makeup: ● 10% < 18 ● 30% 18-25 ● 40% 26-45 ● 20% >46
Estimated class makeup: ● 80% Petit bourgeois ● 10% Working class ● 10% Upper middle class
Sentiments expressed by speakers: ● 90% have been radical in nature: ○ Revolution ○ Abolish the police ○ Defund the police ○ Uncompromising to liberal reform ● 10% have been liberal messages
Groups/Organizations involved: ● Cara Mia Theatre ● Bishop Arts Theatre Center ● Soul Rep Theatre Company ● Teatro Dallas ● (And numerous other small businesses and niche orgs) ● Dallas Alliance Against Racist & Political Oppression ● Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation ● Not My Son ● Enough is Enough ● For Black Lives ● Democratic Socialists of America ● Party for Socialism and Liberation ● Next Generation Action Network ● Texas Organizing Project ● In Defense of Black Lives Coalition, including: ○ BYP100 ○ Mothers Against Police Brutality ○ The House of Rebirth ○ DSA North Texas
○ PCT – Palestine Action Committee of Texas ○ Free Them All Dallas ○ North Texas Dream Team
Demands of the In Defense of Black Lives Coalition (includes DSA):
● Divest from Police: Divest from prisons, police, surveillance, military equipment, and fossil fuels
● Invest in Community Health and Safety: Education, health, and safety.
● Depopulation of Dallas jails, prisons, immigrant detention centers, and juvenile facilities.
● End the Dallas PD War on Black People: Cease violent police activity and end racist mass criminalization and incarceration of black people.
Some other notes that have a significant impact on the demographics and turn out of Black Lives Matter protests in Dallas, TX. Our city is LARGELY a working class city with a small minority of extreme upper class.
● Census data: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/dallascitytexas
● 32% of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher education.
● “Phase 1 Reopening” of Texas (including retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and malls) started May 1. Phase 2 Reopening started on May 18, including bars, events, and youth organizations. Phase 3 Reopening started on June 3.
● With an economy largely based on service industry, retail, manufacturing, and other blue collar jobs, much of the population was working through the shut down as an essential manufacturing or blue collar job OR began working through mid-May as the service industry and retail began to reopen.