In the summer of 2020, the people of the United States witnessed the largest anti-racist struggle in the country’s history after a video of the brutal murder of George Floyd by officer Derek Chauvin went viral. While Floyd’s murder was the catalyst, the first year of the pandemic was marked by increased police and vigilante violence. Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot in a botched “citizen’s arrest” by vigilantes and Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead while asleep by police, were among the most egregious cases. In the year 2021, it was the turn of the US government, particularly its judicial system, to respond to the protests of 2020. Historic trials of the killers of unarmed Black people and protestors were set to answer an important question: how would the system respond to the outcry of millions against racist violence?
California prisoner, Talib Williams, is bringing a class action lawsuit on his behalf as well as other Black incarcerated people who were targeted by a July 20, 2020 raid at Soledad, California’s Correctional Training Facility (CTF). The suit seeks a reprieve from the state-sponsored terror that is their norm. Injunctive and declaratory relief, among other remedies, are necessary to stop the violence, change CDCR policy, and compensate the prisoners for the degradation they have suffered. The raid took place against the backdrop of nationwide Black-led uprisings that occurred after the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. It was part of a white supremacist backlash against the demands for justice for Black people across the country.
North Carolina - After a number of delays and questionable prosecutorial behavior in their attempts to force a plea-deal because of the weakness of their case, Dedan Waciuri, a resident of Greenville, North Carolina is scheduled to be tried December 7th in the city of Greenville on two charges: “damage to government property” and “inciting a riot.” These charges stem from a protest organized in Greenville on May 31, 2020, in relation to the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and police violence directed at members of the Black community in general. The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP), a national anti-war and human rights organization believes that the charges against Dedan, a member of BAP’s Coordinating Committee, are a blatant attempt to send a message to the Black communities in Eastern North Carolina that resistance to oppression and the fight for human rights will result in confronting the full weight of the power of the state.
After four days of deliberations, a jury acquitted 18-year old Kyle Rittenhouse on all charges related to his killing of two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 25, 2020. That night, thousands had hit the streets to protest the August 23rd police shooting of Jacob Blake, who was left paralyzed after being shot in the back seven times by Kenosha city police officers. Rittenhouse traveled from his home state of Illinois to join a right-wing militia at the protest. Rittenhouse was charged with five felonies including first degree intentional homicide. He argued that he acted in self-defense when he fired his semi-automatic rifle, killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and injuring Gaige Grusskreutz. The court proceedings were riddled with unusual moves on the part of Judge Bruce Schroeder, who had Rittenhouse draw the names of jurors to be designated as alternates in a game show-style raffle tumbler.
Rittenhouse, 17 at the time of the shootings, had traveled to Kenosha from Illinois to join a far-right “patriot” vigilante militia calling itself the “Kenosha Guard,” which had been mobilized to “defend property” and assist the police with crushing the protests that had erupted two days earlier following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake was shot seven times in the back at point-blank range in front of his children, leaving him paralyzed. The Kenosha shootings occurred in the midst of the reverberations of the largest demonstrations in American history, during which an estimated 15 to 26 million people took to the streets following the murder of George Floyd to protest the epidemic of police killings and official cover-ups.
On August 25, 2021, Kyle Rittenhouse drove across state lines with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and killed two people. He then, carrying the murder weapon, walked past a police line as witnesses screamed that he was getting away, got back in his car, and drove home. All in a day’s work for the young Rittenhouse, a vocal member of the Blue Lives Matter “movement” who came to Kenosha, Wisconsin (a town and a state that he didn’t live in) with the express intention of using violence against Black Lives Matter protesters — framed, of course, as a “defense” of property. Rittenhouse’s trial began on November 1 and it has quickly become clear that the worst assumptions of many activists are correct: the fix is in and the criminal “justice” system is clearly working to protect Rittenhouse.
As students at the University of South Florida quietly sobbed during a moment of silence for George Floyd last summer, they had no idea their candlelight vigil, organized before a monument to an assassinated civil rights leader, had been infiltrated by federal agents. They were not aware that the campus police department charged with their protection had invited federal drug cops to dress in plain clothes and stand beside them as they took turns venting their anger and frustration—fear over the growing number of unarmed Black people being shot dead by police. The students weren’t the only ones being monitored. At least 51 times last summer, drug enforcement agents were asked to surveil Americans engaged in First Amendment activities stemming from the backlash over Floyd’s murder.
Police killing Black and Brown people hasn’t let up even though the public's attention may have been diverted from it as a constant nationwide tragedy for which the federal government shares responsibility. Despite this, the feds have been working hard on reformism that will outfit the Democrats with something to campaign on in the next presidential election. The radically spontaneous uprisings in response to the murder-by-cop of George Floyd in Minneapolis that rocked the entire country during the spring and summer of 2020, compelled a response from the feds. Any response by the feds, however, can’t address the root causes of the problem. So Biden’s DOJ is doing it’s part to dress up the empire in a costume of genuine responsiveness to police reform.
One year ago, thousands of people engaged in protest in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer. A persistent protest demand was for defunding police departments. The appeal of this rallying cry was obvious. Police in this country are a law unto themselves, killing and brutalizing at will, and rarely being called to account. Often these fatal encounters occur after minor offenses are committed or in the case of black people, when a call for assistance instead leads to death. The premise of defunding police is well intentioned but faulty. In the past year we have seen sleight of hand in cities like New York where alleged funding cuts amounted to nothing more than budgetary trickery. Even in Minneapolis, where the movement began, defunding became nothing more than a name change.
When protests broke out several weeks ago in a Minneapolis, Minnesota suburb over the police killing of Daunte Wright, tensions were already high thanks to the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer found guilty of murdering George Floyd. State and local authorities were ready for the unrest — and so were their federal partners. Armored vehicles and soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard became a symbol of the militarized crackdown. Other less visible federal forces were also at work. Thousands of feet overhead, Department of Homeland Security surveillance planes and helicopters circled Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis and surrounding areas, according to Air Traffic Control records and flight data.
A federal judge has ordered police in Columbus, Ohio, to stop using force including tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against nonviolent protesters, ruling that officers ran "amok" during last summer's protests of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Judge Algenon Marbley of the Southern District of Ohio described the actions of the Columbus police as "the sad tale of officers, clothed with the awesome power of the state, run amok." He opened his 88-page opinion with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: "But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights."
One thing is unambiguously clear: Derek Chauvin being found guilty is the result of a historic popular uprising. Chauvin’s brutal murder of George Floyd ignited a massive resistance from Minneapolis’ Third Precinct into the smallest towns and biggest cities in the United States. The Party for Socialism and Liberation was proud to participate in this historic movement that brought millions into the streets, many for the first time. New leaders emerged and are now in the struggle for the long haul. “Justice for George!” was screamed in Trafalgar Square and painted on walls in Port-au-Prince. One Senator was alarmed enough to call for the Army to be sent into the streets and the Mayor of Chicago pulled up the drawbridges to save Trump Tower.
Denver, Colorado. On March 25, 2021, after over nine hours of testimony at a preliminary hearing, Adams County Court Judge Leroy Kirby dismissed the First Degree Attempted Kidnapping charge against Lillian House, Joel Northam, and Eliza Lucero of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (“PSL”). This represents a major step forward in the defense against the political prosecution levied by Aurora police and prosecutors against the leaders of peaceful demonstrations in Aurora this past summer demanding justice for Elijah McClain. The defendants could have faced 12-24 years in prison for this single charge if convicted. At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution provided no evidence that any of these protesters committed any act of violence, or barricaded any entrance...
After a three day trial an Iowa jury has found Des Moines Register reporter Andrea Sahouri not guilty on misdemeanor charges stemming from her coverage of a June 2020 demonstration against racist police violence. Police pepper-sprayed the journalist in the face and arrested her as she covered a local protest against police brutality. The police alleged that they ordered the crowd to disperse, but three people including two journalists testified under oath that no such order or notice was given. Body cam footage would have cleared any question of what happened yet this was brazenly deleted by the police. During the trial Sahouri testified to her brutalization by police: “I put up my hands and I say ‘I’m press’ because he was coming like, right at me, and I didn’t think it was a good idea to run from officers,” she said. “