Police Existence is Police Brutality
Since its inception in the mid-nineteenth century, the role of the police in the United States has been that of exploitation and oppression. In the 1800s in the North, police forced immigrants into deadly working conditions. In the South, their job was to catch slaves who had freed themselves from captivity. Today the police play a similar role. They enforce obedience in a society that exploits many so a few can profit, and suppress any attempt by the people to live free and sustaining lives, and to have control over their own labor, resources and communities. To name a few examples of policing at work:
- State repression against the 1920 West Virginian Miners strike, where police issued fake warrants, destroyed miners’ property and camps, beat people, and arrested leaders with bogus charges. The repression culminated in the Battle of Matewan, an armed clash that left many miners (and officers and state officials) wounded or dead.
- The 1950s Civil Rights struggles against segregation, in which cops such as Birmingham’s Commissioner of public safety, “Bull” Connor, coordinated with the KKK to attack multiracial Freedom Summer activists, and allowed white supremacists to bomb churches and terrorize black neighborhoods with impunity.
- The 1969 Stonewall riots, in which the NYPD raided a bar in Greenwich Village to enforce gender laws and harass queer and trans people, beating and arresting their victims. Hundreds of trans people and queers fought back, until the NYPD placed the village on virtual lockdown.
- The most recent police murders: Amadou Diallo in 1999; Sean Bell in 2006; Ramarley Graham in 2012; Kimani Gray in 2013; Michael Brown, VonDerrit Meyers, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and others killed in just the second half of 2014. These working class black men were barely surviving in a country crippled by economic crisis, the most racist prison system in the world, and militarized cities that rival most dictatorships.
This is just a fraction of the violence leveled by police in this country against many different marginalized communities, and against diverse forms of struggle and resistance. In every case, the police have been doing their job all too well: resulting in the deaths and continued marginalization of millions of poor, homeless, queer, black, brown, and immigrant people every year.
Yet as long as there have been police, there has been collective struggle against the murder and degradation of our families and communities. An entire generation saw this resistance for the first time, this year in Ferguson. Black people refused to be murdered in the streets, and rose up to protect one another, by whatever means necessary. Both Eric Garner and Michael Brown were protesting police inhumanity in small ways before they were murdered. Since their deaths, hundreds of activists across the country have followed them into the streets, and have faced beatings, arrest, imprisonment and surveillance. Of the hundreds arrested in New York City since the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, police particularly targeted queer people, the precariously employed, and immigrants. NYPD officers regularly shout “FAGGOT” while brutalizing and arresting us. When visiting activists at their homes or workplaces, they have threatened their victims with jail, deportation, or outright disappearance. We should not be confused, and assume these are only a few bad cops: history shows us the only consistent thing about the police is their racism, homophobia and misogyny—an integral part of keeping the poor and working class in line.
Can’t Touch This NYC is an anti police-repression committee. We aim to combat police repression in all of its forms in support of the fight for justice. While we will focus on arrests from the recent anti-police brutality protests for the next few months, we understand that all arrests, imprisonment, and abuse are part of the state’s repression of our people.
It is only to be expected that an institution invented to keep the people subordinated by repression and violence will meet the people’s resistance with repression and violence. But we will not back down. We stand with everyone fighting together, to determine our own destinies.
Can’t Touch This NYC