Targets On Our Backs
by C. A. Matthews
killed a young black man named Tyre Nichols in Memphis after a routine traffic stop. A
large contingent of police shot
killed a climate activist, Manuel Teran, while he camped in the Weelaunee
Forest (a.k.a. “Cop City”) in Atlanta. In Florida, officers handcuffed Jose Ortega Guiterrez, a homeless man not charged with any crime, then took him to an isolated location and beat him until he was unconscious. These recent incidents have made it readily apparent that ordinary Americans are walking around with
targets on their backs.
“To protect and serve” is a slogan painted on many cities’ cop cars. But who are the police really “protecting” when they are, in fact, beating and shooting just as many people as the so-called criminals are doing? Who are these cops “serving” when they take an innocent life or destroy their victim's health by beating him into unconsciousness simply for being homeless?
We’re on a record pace this year for mass shootings already. Did we really have to add to this shameful total, officers?
Don’t worry—there won’t be any cuts in funding or manpower at your local police department anytime soon. In fact, we might actually witness yet another round of increases in police budgets. Mayors and police chiefs will explain their reasoning for these increases in these words, more or less: “We just have to give our officers more weapons, more riot gear, more lethal fire power because… It’s dangerous out there.”
It sure is. It’s dangerous to be a young black man driving a car. It's dangerous being a homeless person on the street. It’s dangerous to be a climate activist who is expressing his opinion that a forest shouldn’t be chopped down and destroyed for the sake of building a police training center to teach even more killers in uniform to kill even more of us for the sake of… protection and service?
You would think after the horrible death toll of students and teachers in Ulvade, Texas, not that long ago that most Americans would have caught on to the truth of the matter. Many of us sat horrified as we observed the lack of concern the school police officer displayed while a shooter roamed the halls of the elementary school. We should have known better. That cowardly cop was acting completely in character.
The police in the United States of America aren’t tasked with protecting you or your loved ones from harm. They’re tasked with protecting the property of the wealthy and powerful. They’re tasked to serve those with wealth and power. Working class kids in small town Texas aren’t all that wealthy or powerful now, are they?
That’s why the police in the US carry guns—and aren’t afraid to use them usually. Their rich masters expect them to keep poor folks away from their expensive material possessions and off their exclusive property. The upper classes expect the working classes to respect their authority and to defer to their taxpayer-provided bodyguards.
In contrast, police officers in many countries don’t even carry firearms while performing everyday traffic control stops or safety patrols of neighborhoods. It's possible these cops view their citizens as actual human beings worthy of protection and service and not as targets. You never know.
There's also one big difference that's never mentioned by mainstream media pundits when trying to explain away American police brutality. Police in other countries have never been tasked with returning runaway slaves to their masters, dead or alive, like the officers of the Slave Patrols once did. The US police system is based upon the Slave Patrols and slave catching. It's not based on protecting and serving the public as a whole. American policing is all about protecting and returning property (read: "slaves") to their owners.
That bit of history might explain why ordinary Americans are often seen as bullseyes and not as human beings. The only human beings who count in the eyes of American law enforcers are those who can afford to keep slaves. Police forces who do a good job protecting the property of the wealthy are usually well-paid for their service, too. This payment goes beyond mere salaries and health benefits. It includes such things as "qualified immunity" or getting away with murder simply because a person is wearing a cop uniform with a shiny badge on his or her chest.
What’s the solution to this dilemma? If the solution to ordinary people shooting each other on a regular basis is to institute some kind of gun control, then the same solution could be applied to the trigger-happy, violent cops. Take away their guns.
I'm serious. If British "Bobbies" can survive their shifts without a firearm at their side, then why can't American cops?
I mean, who needs an AR-15? Nobody—and I mean nobody. It’s a firearm for killing people as quickly and efficiently as possible. A deer hunter doesn’t need an AR-15. A police officer certainly doesn’t need one. And I’ll go out on a limb here and say even a soldier doesn’t need a weapon that is capable of mowing down hundreds of human beings in a matter of minutes.
Nobody should have the right to kill or injure anybody with handguns, rifles, semi-automatics, automatics, knives, tasers, batons, or with their bare fists, knees, boots, or whatever object they may have on them at the time. Nobody.
American taxpayers shouldn't be forced to furnish police forces
with military-grade killing machines that could be used against them later. Our communities need more
mental health care workers and social workers to
go out on calls whenever a person is experiencing a crisis such as homelessness. We need peacemakers to deal with activists/protesters, not trained killers.
We must hire more people who can provide quality mental health care and defuse tense situations between ordinary people. No one has
ever been killed by a person carrying
a clipboard and speaking in a calm and reassuring manner to all parties. (At least, I hope not.)
Our tax dollars should be poured into fixing our neighborhoods, schools, hospitals and healthcare facilities (and not into the hands of private health insurance corporations who profit from our suffering). We need to spend more on housing those who are homeless and focus our energy into preventing others from becoming homeless because of the greed of landlords.
We certainly don’t need to keep pouring our money and resources into endless wars to kill even more people overseas. Everybody on Earth deserves to live in peace and relative prosperity. We must learn to act like good neighbors, not bullies.
We the People need to take the targets off our backs and place them where they belong—on the backs of the sociopathic billionaire capitalists. After all, they’re the ones causing all the trouble. We the People shouldn’t been seen as practice targets by their bodyguards in blue any longer. We must stand up to these injustices and speak out against all levels of government constantly raising police funding and adding lethal weapons to their arsenals.
If we don't, the next victim of a police killing or beating may be one of your
loved ones. Or it could be you. Why take that chance? #DefundThePolice #DemilitarizeThePolice #AbolishThePolice
More insight into the police murder of Tyre Nichols:
From The Class Issues in the Police Killing of Tyre Nichols https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/01/28/ucde-j28.htm
So far this year, at least 79 people have been killed, according to a tracker maintained by the Washington Post. At this pace, roughly three killings a day, 2023 will meet or top the 2022 toll of more than 1,100 people killed by police officers in the US. (…)
Police violence, like every other social evil under capitalism, is fundamentally a class question. There are more white people killed by police in the US than blacks or Hispanics, although blacks and Hispanics are killed in numbers disproportionate to their percentage of the population. Racism plays a part, but a part secondary to social class. The police are recruited from more backward layers of the population, and police departments are known to be riddled with fascistic and white supremacist elements, including many veterans of US imperialist wars around the world.
What the overwhelming majority of victims of police violence and murder have in common is that they are part of the working class. Racism is itself an ideological and political weapon long employed by the capitalist class to divide the working class, in accordance with the strategy of “divide and rule.”
Racialist politics buttress this ruling class strategy. Memphis is a clear example. The second largest city in Tennessee has a population of 635,000, over 65 percent of which identifies as African-American. Roughly 56 percent of the police likewise identify as African-American, including female police chief Cerelyn Davis. Within four months of being sworn in as police chief on June 14, 2021, Davis created the Scorpion unit, which has become notorious for its brutal and repressive methods.
More insight into the police ambush of the Atlanta Forest Defenders:
From NLG Statement In Solidarity With Atlanta Forest Defenders https://popularresistance.org/nlg-statement-in-solidarity-with-atlanta-forest-defenders/
National Lawyer Guild National joins our Atlanta and University of Georgia Chapters and comrades in mourning the devastating loss of a beloved community member. Tortuguita was a kind, passionate, and caring activist, who coordinated mutual aid and served as a trained medic. The Atlanta Community Press Collective is compiling memories and accounts of their life, and we encourage everyone to honor and remember Tortuguita through the words of those who love them.
As radical movement legal activists, NLG recognizes that this horrific murder and the related arrests are part of a nationwide attack on protesters, land defenders, and marginalized folks, especially Black, Indigenous, and other activists of color. Labeling these demonstrators “domestic terrorists” is a harrowing repetition of No DAPL activist Jessica Reznicek’s terrorist enhancement last year, and both are clear indicators that the people in power view protesters and environmental activists as enemies of the state.
Five Memphis Cops Arrested and Charged with the Murder of Tyre Nichols https://popularresistance.org/five-memphis-cops-arrested-and-charged-with-the-murder-of-tyre-nichols/
The police killings of Tyre Nichols and climate activist Manuel Teran are deeply connected. Both derive from the same culture of police brutality in the US that has its origin in slave patrols.— Steven Donziger (@SDonziger) January 28, 2023
It is a system designed to protect power and terrorize those who challenge it. pic.twitter.com/heqKEY2LJf
Again, the USA police are not here to protect you. They are here to protect the 1% elite FROM you.— Jory Micah (@jorymicah) January 28, 2023
White politicians like Biden always use terms like “heartbroken” in regards to their feelings on police violence instead of anger or rage. They dont want any structural change. They act as if police killings are a sad inevitibility.— Joel Margulies (@jmarg25) January 28, 2023
Statistically, at least 3 people will be murdered by an American police officer today.— 🅹🅾️🅴🆈աrecκ ☭ (@joeywreck) January 30, 2023
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