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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people                              
Vol. 80/No. 28      August 1, 2016



Available Online
(lead article)

Thousands at funerals keep spotlight on cop brutality

Thomas Altfather Good
July 17 Staten Island anniversary of cop killing of Eric Garner. “When Black lives matter, all lives matter,” was a chant that day.
The funerals of Alton Sterling, shot dead by cops July 5 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, killed by an officer the next day near St. Paul, Minnesota, were attended by thousands, keeping the national spotlight on police brutality. Meanwhile, defenders of the cops are trying to use assassinations of police by individuals in Dallas and Baton Rouge to undermine this fight.

In Minnesota, as Castile’s casket was carried out of the Cathedral of St. Paul July 14, pall bearers and others in the crowd raised clenched fists in the air. Afterwards his family hosted a community picnic at J.J. Hill Montessori School, where Castile worked as a cafeteria supervisor. His co-workers and fellow Teamster union members served food to the hundreds who attended.

“Anyone of us could be Philando, and I don’t want my son to have died in vain,” his mother Valerie Castile said at the picnic.

Castile’s family set up a booth at the annual Rondo Days parade and festival July 16. Rondo is a predominantly Black neighborhood in St. Paul. A contingent that marched with a banner reading “We demand justice for Jamar Clark, Philando Castile and all those hurt by police violence” was met by onlookers with chants of, “No justice, no peace, prosecute the police.”

At the July 15 service for Sterling, Rev. Al Sharpton said that few cops are prosecuted but they “should go to jail like anybody else that commits a crime.”

Some of the biggest applause in Baton Rouge was for Abdullah Muflahi, whose video of the police killing Sterling helped expose the truth.

The relatives of Castile and Sterling, as well as other leaders of the fight against police brutality around the country, have condemned the killing of police in Dallas July 7 and Baton Rouge 10 days later.

According to Dallas police, Micah Xavier Johnson, who killed five police and wounded others as a peaceful march against police brutality was taking place, said he wanted to kill white people, especially white cops. A police SWAT team killed Johnson with a bomb.

That these racist assassinations have nothing to do with opposing police brutality is obvious. The explosion of protests two years ago after the cop killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, have been marked by the participation of demonstrators of all skin colors, including large numbers of workers and youth who are Caucasian.

Gavin Long was killed by police sharpshooters in Baton Rouge July 17, after he fatally shot three police officers and wounded three others.

In a video he filmed in Dallas July 10, Long said that protests against police brutality are useless. “It’s only fighting back and money, that’s all they care about,” he said, referring to police and government officials. “One hundred percent of revolutions have been successful through fighting back, through bloodshed.”

Trump as ‘law and order’ candidate

Donald Trump has taken advantage of the anti-working-class actions of Long and Johnson, as well as the July 14 terror attack that killed 84 people in Nice, France, to present himself as the candidate of “law and order.” He made “Make America Safe Again” the theme of the opening night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Hillary Clinton also made sure her support for the cops was highlighted in a July 18 speech to the NAACP. “As president I will bring the full weight of the law to bear in making sure those who kill police officers are brought to justice,” she said.

President Barack Obama spoke at the July 12 funeral of the Dallas cops, and issued an open letter July 18, “To the brave members of our nation’s law enforcement community,” declaring, “We have your backs.”

“The killing of cops undermines the fight against police brutality,” Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. vice president, told the Militant July 20, while campaigning among working people in Baton Rouge. “The problem is not this or that individual cop. Under capitalism their role is to protect and serve the wealthy owning class.

“Fighting police brutality is a working-class issue,” he said. “To eliminate police brutality we need to get rid of capitalism. We have to keep protesting, getting more workers and more unions involved, and keep on demanding that the cops be prosecuted.”

A July 11 article in the Washington Post notes that 1,502 people have been shot and killed by cops in the U.S. from Jan. 1, 2015, until July 10 this year, including 732 Caucasians, 381 Blacks and 382 others, mostly Latinos.

While the largest number of those killed by police are Caucasian, African-Americans account for 24 percent of the total, but are only 13 percent of the population. It’s because Blacks are an oppressed nationality that they are two and a half times more likely than Caucasians to be shot and killed by cops.

Blacks are in the vanguard of the fight, and the slogan of Black Lives Matter has inspired working people of all nationalities to stand up to police abuse. In Council, Idaho, supporters of Jack Yantis, shot and killed by sheriff deputies in November, have marched with signs saying, “Ranchers Lives Matter.”

Kevin Dwire and Tony Lane in St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to this article.
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