Nationwide Uprising Against Failed State Triggered By Police Killings

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The nationwide uprising sparked by the murder of George Floyd and other recent racially-motivated events is a response to the bi-partisan failed state in which we live. It comes in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic and the largest economic collapse in the US in more than a century. These three crises have disproportionately impacted people of color and added to longterm racial inequality and injustice.

Black Lives Matter erupted six years ago when a police officer shot and killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. Since that time, police have murdered approximately 1,100 people every year. The response of the government at all levels to the crisis of police killings has been virtually nonexistent. While people seek to avenge the death of George Floyd, the problems are much deeper and the changes needed are much broader.

The Root of the Problem Is a Failed State

During the COVID19 pandemic, millionaires and billionaires have been bailed out by the government with trillions of dollars while working people were given a pittance of $1,200 per person and a short term increase in unemployment benefits for the more than 40 million people who have lost their jobs. Many workers who provide essential services have had to continue to work putting themselves and their communities at risk.

Urgently needed healthcare is out of reach for millions with no or skimpy health insurance resulting in people dying at home or not going to the hospital until their illness became serious. For this and other reasons, COVID19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color.

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report puts the mass revolt in the context of the long history of white supremacy that has existed since Africans were brought to the United States. Chattel slavery was enforced by the earliest form of policing, with the first formal slave patrol created in the Carolina colonies in 1704. After the Civil War and a brief period of Reconstruction where African people could participate in civic life, Jim Crow followed with white racists, often allied with Southern police, inflicting terrorism against the Black population through lynchings and other means. Black people were arrested for laws like vagrancy and then punished by being forced to work picking cotton or other jobs. This new form of slavery continues as inmates are forced to work for virtually no pay in prisons, are leased out to dangerous jobs like meat processing, or are used as scabs.

George Floyd’s murder enraged people who have seen too many deaths as a result of police violence. The murder in broad daylight with cameras filming and scores of witnesses showed the impunity of police who are used to not being held accountable for their violence. During the uprising, police have used extreme violence and targeted people with cameras and the media even saying they were the problem.

The root of the problem is a failed state that does not represent the people and has a deep history of racism and inequality that are being magnified by the current crises. The failure to respond to these crises is resulting in an ungovernable country as the social contract has been broken.

Lawlessness among the wealth class, corruption of politicians by campaigns financed by the wealthiest with payoffs to their children and relatives has set the stage for no respect for the law. As one protester exclaimed, “Don’t talk to us about looting, you are the looters. You have been looting from black people. You looted from the Native Americans. Don’t talk to us about violence, you taught us violence.”

Last Words of people killed by police from Twitter, Washington, DC May 30, 2020

The Failed State Cannot Reform Itself

George Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe,” echoed the same words of Eric Garner, who was killed six years ago by a New York police officer. Although there were protests then, not much has changed. The system failed to respond.

Failure starts at the top. There have been years of inaction at all levels of government. The New York Times reports “The administration has largely dismantled police oversight efforts, curbing the use of federal consent decrees to overhaul local police departments. Mr. Barr has said that communities that criticize law enforcement may not deserve police protection, and Mr. Trump has encouraged officers not to be ‘too nice’ in handling suspects.”

Trump poured gasoline on the current fire with incendiary rhetoric promising ‘looting leads to shooting’ echoing racists of the past and promising to send in the US military if Democrats can’t stop the uprising. Trump has put the military on alert to deploy to civilian protests. He maintains power by dividing people praising armed protesters who demanded reopening the economy despite the pandemic and calling unarmed protesters against police violence “thugs”.

On Friday, the White House locked down on security alert because of protests. Trump responded by calling for MAGA protesters to come to the White House. They did not come but protests at the White House have continued to increase.

Both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for the current rebellion. Joe Biden has described himself as a ‘law and order’ Democrat from the beginning of his career. He was the primary architect of the federal mass incarceration of Black people and helped add hundreds of thousands of police with militarized equipment to urban communities. He courts police unions that defend killer cops. And Biden opposed the integration of schools.

The failure of leadership continues at the state and local levels with politicians closely tied to the Fraternal Order of Police, which aggressively defends police who kill civilians. Every city can point to a series of police killings with no prosecutions or acquittals and few convictions. Minneapolis is a city with a long history of race-based police violence. Indeed, violence against Indigenous peoples led to the formation of the American Indian Movement.  Tne Intercept summarizes some of the cases:

  • In 2015, the police killed Jamar Clark a  24-year-old black man. Protests lasted two weeks but led to no prosecution.
  • In 2016, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black motorist, was killed in a Minneapolis suburb. More than two weeks of protest followed and two years later the officer was acquitted.
  • In 2017, Justine Ruszczyk, a 40-year-old white woman, approached a Minneapolis police car to report a sexual assault. The police officer, Mohamed Noor, who shot and killed her was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and her family was awarded a record $20 million settlement.
  • In 2018, body camera footage showed Minneapolis police chasing Thurman Blevins, a 31-year-old black man, and shooting him to death. Prosecutors refused to file charges against the officers who killed Blevins.

Protests have led to some changes but they haven’t solved the problem. Money has been spent on body cameras, which have rarely had any impact. Similarly, training on de-escalation and racial sensitivity has made little difference.

Over the last six years, cities have increased funding for police departments at the expense of health, education, and other underfunded urban programs. Rather than providing people with necessities, the government has relied on controlling neglected communities with an occupying police force. Some of the police are even trained by the Israeli occupiers.

Even in the midst of a pandemic and economic collapse, the government cannot give people access to healthcare, protect their jobs, suspend their rents or control food prices. As Rosa Miriam Elizalde writes in her comparison of the United States to Cuba, the difference is a matter of values. The United States government spends more than 60 percent of the discretionary budget on weapons and war. It should be no surprise that the government acted more quickly to suppress people with militarized police, thousands of National Guard troops, and curfews than it did to protect their lives when the pandemic and recession started.

Abolish the Police, Protesters march through downtown Minneapolis. By Stephen Maturen for Getty Images.

Reform Is Not Enough: Defund The Police, Give Communities Control, Build Alternatives to Police

The country must look more deeply at policing. Retired police major, Neill Franklin, the executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership told the Intercept, “We need a new paradigm of policing in the United States. It needs to be completely dismantled and reconstructed, not changing a policy here or there.”

The Minneapolis group, Reclaim the Block, wrote a statement calling on the city council to defund the police department. Last week, they made four demands of their city council:

  1. Never again vote to increase police funding.
  2. Propose and vote for a $45 million cut from MPD’s budget as the city responds to projected COVID19 shortfalls.
  3. Protect and expand current investment in community-led health and safety strategies.
  4. Do everything in their power to compel MPD and all law enforcement agencies to immediately cease enacting violence on community members.

This is an agenda that makes sense for cities across the country. A growing movement demands the defunding of police departments. It is evident that the way to reduce police violence is to fund alternative non-law enforcement approaches to conflict resolution, safety strategies, and mental health as well as investing in neglected communities. 

Another growing movement calls for democratic community control of the police where communities elect a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). The critical difference between this and Civilian Police Boards is that the Accountability Council is democratically elected not appointed by the police chief or politicians who are allied with the police. Neill Franklin urges a national database of officers terminated for misconduct so they will not be hired by other police departments. 

The New York Times reports that “in 2012, the civilian board in Minneapolis was replaced by an agency called the Office of Police Conduct Review. Since then, more than 2,600 misconduct complaints have been filed by members of the public, but only 12 have resulted in an officer being disciplined.”  The most severe censure was only a 40-hour suspension. Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd, has at least 17 misconduct complaints, none of which derailed his career, in nearly two decades with the Minneapolis Police Department.

Chauvin was involved in the fatal shooting in October 2006 when Senator Klobuchar was Minneapolis’ district attorney. Rather than prosecuting Chauvin, she sent the case to a grand jury that declined to indict Chauvin. In 2011, Chauvin was involved in a high-profile shooting of a Native American. He was placed on administrative leave but was reinstated to the force when no charges were brought. If democratic community control of the police were in place, it is highly likely Chauvin would have been removed as a police officer and George Floyd would still be alive.

Support for change is growing. Bus drivers refused to transport arrested protesters for the police in Minneapolis and New York. Payday Report wrote transit union leaders nationwide are instructing members not to cooperate with police in arresting protesters. And Universities are dropping their contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department.

Protests continue nationwide. Thus far escalating police violence and the use of the National Guard has failed to stop them. The government may use the military, although by law there are restrictions on that. There will be efforts to pacify the protests by political leaders and non-profits who will try to take over the leadership. These must be rejected.

To achieve the changes we need, people must stay in the streets and connect the problems we face to the demand for systemic changes. We will need to support each other as many are doing by distributing food and providing medical care, jail support and legal representation. We urge people to meet in assemblies to discuss what their goals are, their vision of how communities could be organized differently and what actions they can take.  We need to build confidence in each other that we can work together for the future we want. That is how we will get there.

  • chetdude

    The uber-rich have gobbled up about $20,000 from each USAmerican man, woman and child.

    I don’t think they’re worth it…

  • il corvo

    Is it possible that the “root cause” might be a class struggle under the cover of a race struggle? The struggle being between the ruling elite and how they plan to control the masses. Instead of us focusing together on our common problems of long food lines, blown budgets, and militarized police, we are being divided along racial as well as law and order lines. The fracturing of this society is being orchestrated by the MSM so that the neo-liberal agenda continues undisturbed.

    There are two system justice, one for the Epstein’s of the world and the other for the rest of us. Let’s hope that this isn’t the first step towards marshal law.

  • kevinzeese

    Tonight President Trump was taken to a shelter in the basement of the White House because protests outsider are out of control. They have turned of the lights at the White House for further protection. The church across the street where presidents sometimes go to show-off their religion is burning. A hotel and the AFL-CIO a block away have been set on fire. Tear gas and rubber bullets are being used and the National Guard is out. Yes, martial law is a possibility, the reaction is hard to predict. If Trump order the military to shoot Americans — will they?

  • Southern

    A corrupt system cannot correct itself it needs to be taken down for the sake of every living being on the planet.

    Trump in a bunker shows the world what a coward he really is – that also reminds me of another bunker 75 years ago – however the point is that the upcoming election only provides candidates that will continue carrying the torch as if it were marathon relay run.

    Occupy Washington?

  • eight.of.wands

    yes, yes, absolutely yes, of course, HELL yes, couldn’t have said it better, yes, YES, oh for god’s sake yessssss, and yes………

  • eight.of.wands


  • SCM

    Excellent synopsis of the protests.

    As one protester exclaimed, “Don’t talk to us about looting, you are the looters. You have been looting from black people. You looted from the Native Americans. Don’t talk to us about violence, you taught us violence.”

    It’s not all about the police murder regime as this protester notes. He should have also mentioned the real looting was done by Wall Street. 5 Trillion so far while they chill in the Hamptons and ppl get evicted onto the streets. I don’t see how a nation that doesn’t invest in it’s people can survive. I mean UHC, UBC and take back some of those ill got gains Wall Street has stolen from our future and invest in our future.

  • SCM

    Class struggle is what it is – the murder of George Floyd just set it off especially among Black people who are the most victimized class living in economic dead zones and dealing with police state up close and personal since forever in the United States. Because of the lockdowns, which well healed people can endure forever, they can’t on $1200, if they even got it. As we move forward more voices like this article and Dr Wests recent media appearances will paint the board picture. And that is we are turning into “a third world shithole” that the CIA groomed world over with a few families owning everything, 5% serve and protect them with vicious force/death squads and 95% in poverty and destitution.

  • sabelmouse

    there’s still a difference re skin colour.
    and sex.
    both groups tend to be told to shut up lest it hinder the ”real” struggle.

  • The only one I have seen telling the black community to shut up because they are hindering the “real” struggle, is Mensch.

    Dude stands alone out on that flimsy branch.

  • pajarito

    Climate emergency activists must come to the aid of Black Lives Matter, into the streets in solidarity and support. Anti-war activists and organizations must now support and defend the struggle against racism and militarized police. Women’s rights and LGBTq movements must join in now to end exploitation and greed. Strike!! Strike!!

  • sabelmouse

    but also i didn’t know this was about 1 poster you are fighting with, i mean ALL of societies struggles ?!

  • good article

  • floyd gardner

    Thank you, Kevin and Margaret. I don’t know if I could handle jail again [as in the early ’60’s;] but I am thrilled that younger folks are, again, willing to risk their own lives and freedom that ALL folks may be free.

  • mwildfire

    This is an exceptionally good, informative and thoughtful article

  • il corvo

    There is a ray of light in all of this. The massive demonstrations can be a template for how power can be taken away from the ruling elite and their dominion of politicians. As food becomes scarce, money dried up and an armed force in our face, people’s outrage could put the country on stand still and power could return to the people. When the people lead the politicians follow. This can be done without looting and violence and could be done by noncooperation. The window is quickly closing before social monitoring and draconian controls are installed.

  • esmaiil fotoohi

    I still insist, it’s not a failed state, it’s a failed system. Neoliberal Capitalism.

  • 0040

    Demilitarizing police has been rejected by the heavy hitters on both sides of Americas narrow political spectrum as some the goofiness produced by the Covid panic clearly showed. Bill Maher applauding troops on the street a month ago? A good idea going nowhere in todays toxic political environment as the rich hunker down and get tough with the poor . All sides terrified of what comes next , full on chaos..

  • 0040

    The Covid panic was the proverbial last straw. The oft played racism card may not quell the coming chaos this time.

  • Edward Winslow

    It is a good omen that the coward Donald Trump and the rest of his lickspittles have taken to a bunker. Let these chickenshits cower underground in terror of the wrath of the workers who are coming for them.

    We want our government to be very afraid of us.

  • 0040

    In case you haven’t noticed the Environmental Movement is now corporate and lily white , token colored people used for propaganda purposes not withstanding.

  • Mensch59

    The window is quickly closing before social monitoring and draconian controls are installed.

    For those who defend the power of the State, the response to every crisis — be it mass cooperative civil disobedience or civil unrest or warfare or pollution (causing destruction of ecosystems) or pandemics or famines or the threat of societal collapse — will always be in the service of every sort of totalitarian purpose.
    Statists become apologists for overt totalitarianism & authoritarianism quickly — trading hard-won civil liberties for (state imposed) safety and security in a heartbeat.

  • didactic1

    To contrary, US ruling class firmly in control. The conversation is about race and COVID. The protests and media are not demanding end to US Constitution, law and capitalism. No mass protests against trillion dollars security system. 20 percent unemployed and no revolution in sight.

  • didactic1

    All reminiscent of Sixties. As then, riots triggered and instigated by by Security State. Prelude to crackdown
    Have your safehouse ready.

  • didactic1

    The military will end politics.

  • chetdude

    To the contrary – a subtext of ALL protest in USAmerica is massive, popular resistance to the Ruling Class, capitalism and the “laws” promulgated to benefit the Ruling Class and exploit and control the “masses”.

  • chetdude

    Deeper — it’s the end times for Domination Hierarchy — the brief, 8000 year experiment that uses capitalism as its latest favorite tool of oppression of the many for the benefit of the very few and that is obviously choking on its own “success”.

  • didactic1

    I drove by both Pentagon and NSA today. Traffic was heavy at their off ramps. Their attitude is that the rabble can have the dilapidated streets. They have control of broadband, nuclear and bio arsenal and the regrettable love of most Americans. Trust me. They will hit killer cops with tough federal penalties. They don’t give a shot about the cops in black areas, blacks outside security services or most whites either. They care about intangible assets and high tech networks they control. Yellow Vests were rioting in France for over a year. They don’t give a shit about them either.

  • Drumroll

    The peaceful protesters in the streets are sending a clear message to those who have abused the power given to them that we do not trust them to lead us. With few exceptions, the incumbents represent the status quo, and the inequality and injustice we are coming together to protest requires policy changes if we are to survive as a nation – that’s what is at stake.

    There are 152,660,000 registered voters who make up the popular vote.

    There are 535 people in D.C. who are elected to represent us; 470 of them are up for reelection in 2020 – all 435 seats in the House and 35 seats in the Senate. Which one of your Senators is up for reelection, and who are the opponents? Who is your Representative and who are the opponents?

    We have to tell them what we want because the reality of all of our lives is full of broken promises. We have to ask them how they plan to achieve equality and justice for all, guarantee free health care and education for everyone, transition to clean energy in time to save the planet and create good-paying jobs as the infrastructure is rebuilt, stop the endless wars, and become a good neighbor to the world for starters…

  • Southern

    Ask it’s pointless – Washington never asks if its alright to apply unjustified economic sanctions on countries who have done nothing to harm the US.

    Washington never asks if its alright to invade or bomb another nation for the sake of creating profits for their corporate masters – lies and propaganda are standard fare.

    Washington diktat denies democratic ideals everywhere it goes – The rest of the so called WEST [Washington Economical Submissive Territories] are in essence todays version of Vichy France – Puppet governments or vassal states, take your pick.

    The US has always been at war with other nations except for the four years leading up to the second world war.

    [I could go on the list is long]

    In the end I cannot have faith in the US electoral spectacle which actively denies Democracy right around the world – In the end the fate of the world depends on a system where the outcome of it’s duopoly elections is decided by the members of the electoral college – Perhaps most important of all is ending the electoral college and replace it with a system where the electorate is able to cast a vote for a candidate of choice directly as opposed leaving that decision to the 570 electors who for some mysterious reason are not bound by the outcome of the popular vote.

    Voting should be voluntary – no one should should be denied the chance for whatever reason.

    A corrupt system cannot correct itself.

  • chosen4/14/2014redmoon

    Is that all that this people protect about? What about our stupid modern pseudoscientific medical system that kills and disables millions of people? What about our unnecessary immigration system that replaces Americans with illegal aliens and working visa workers?

    Many of the people protesting here are the same stupid people that line up for free dangerous vaccines, and will vote for stupid ,and/or corrupt politicians that love illegal immigration. That is why I do not have much sympathy for them.

    At any rate, two wrongs do not make a right. Those stupid protesters have to stop destroying property and killing more people.

  • zak1

    I posted a comment here yesterday about grassroots efforts to reframe our militarized criminal justice model in terms of public health – for some reason my comment is still pending?

    My focus was on a landmark decision of the APHA – a leading public health organization – to define systemic police violence and racism in the US as a public health issue

    The APHA adopted a comprehensive policy statement calling for extensive decriminalization and divestment from law enforcement organizations in favor of alternatives to police and prison – the statement had been developed together with Critical Resistance, an abolitionist organization co-founded by Angela Davis

    My point was that our indie media needs a sense of focus and strategic momentum – a comprehensive and clearly defined solution can serve as a lightning rod for organizing that reshapes the national conversation – the way the Medicare for All proposal did for the healthcare movement

    The APHA decision was an enormous victory, and a major opportunity for reformers to help push this conversation forward – but such opportunities are all too often squandered by our fragmented left – unless our left media can at least take the trouble to pick up the ball and run with it

  • didactic1

    If only. 😁

  • chetdude

    It always looks like nothing will change until it does.

  • chetdude

    I went to a High School a few miles from the Pentagon in the late 50s/early 60s. We used to do duck and cover drills occasionally so we’d know what to do in case of nuclear war.

    We would laugh at the cognitive disconnect of practicing for survival of a nuclear exchange a few miles from Ground Zero – the Pentagon.

    And yet, we’re closer to nuclear holocaust today then we were then.

  • chosen4/14/2014redmoon

    The economic collapse came about because of the coronavirus bullshit. The coronavirus bullshit was made stronger by the stupid liberal media.

    This article fails to mention that.

  • SCM

    There was a huge map hanging in my bosses office at a DoD contractor in the 80s of ranked targets the soviets were likely to hit and believe it or not Washington was not a high priority – highest priority were rural where the missiles are, then industrial cities, then population cities. I always found it very interesting how they would cripple us. Opposite of what you’d think about nukes in that you’d assume mass murder and take out politicians would be first order of business.

  • chetdude

    I suppose a case could be made that the clueless, brainwashed, a**-kissing generals and admirals who haunted the Pentagon were among the most confused and least dangerous opposition so why bother wasting a missile on them.