The struggle to end police terror

The struggle to end police terror


Editor’s Note: Below is the report made by Eric Brooks on behalf of the CPUSA African American Equality Commission to the CPUSA National Board on February 1st.

Today was the funeral for Tyre Nichols, a victim of the gross, institutionalized violence that is fundamental to U.S. policing. If you haven’t seen or shared the police cam video and funeral video, today might be a good day to do it.

Also, Chicago needs help in the upcoming election at the end of February for the police control board. It’s a big development. If you know of anyone interested in helping out, please let us know. Housing is available and expenses while in Chicago will be covered, but folks have to get there on their own. The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR), led by Frank Chapman in Chicago, is handling these arrangements.

The CPUSA is answering the call. The New York, D.C., Ohio, Minnesota, and Indiana Districts are already mobilizing to send people. Please raise this in every district, and send people to help if possible. Email with the names of comrades who are going to do that work or for more information. Election day is February 28, 2023.

Police violence against the African American community must be placed in the context of:

a.) bourgeois, organized U.S. violence at home and abroad, and

b.) U.S. police violence against all working people.

The U.S. spends hundreds of billions of dollars on external military violence, such as in Ukraine. The U.S. further spends $759,325,125 per day on internal policing, or $277 billion yearly—$25 billion more than the Chinese 2020 military budget. This policing is internal violence against communities, and results in roughly two deaths a day currently. That rate is accelerating.

Without diminishing the centuries old and disproportional impact of police murders on the Black community, the majority of people killed by the police are white workers. State violence is both a class and a racism issue.

The definition of state violence must also include the everyday non-lethal violence of evictions, homelessness, lack of quality education, lack of healthcare, and a porous social support system often designed to provide a facade of hope without the funding or intent to actually provide services. Bourgeois capitalist violence is pervasive throughout Black life, but most heinous and most urgently requiring action is the continuous slaughter of Black children, women and men.

National Nurses United released a statement on the killing of Tyre Nichols that included:

“Nurses declare that racism is a public health crisis. The threats to Black, Indigenous, and Brown people’s health exist in all facets of our society, but are perhaps most shocking and visible in abuses by law enforcement.

“As advocates for patients and nurses, we support the call to protect the health, safety, and personal security of all people in the United States, including the right to live in an environment free from fear of violence and discriminatory treatment. We support comprehensive and systemic changes in policing practices, including stronger de-escalation methods to limit the use of lethal force, ending of racial profiling, stronger disciplinary enforcement for misconduct, and greater independent public oversight and accountability.

“As nurses, we call for reversing the excessive increase in public spending on policing and prisons by funding an economy of care that reinvests in public health, mental health services, public education, job programs, housing, nutrition, transportation, day care, retirement, and at-risk youth programs. Nurses know we must improve these social determinants of health for our patients and communities in order for them to heal and thrive.”

This call links police murders with other health issues.

The CPUSA must get to the forefront of the struggle against police killings on the ground with rapid response calls to action, prepared materials, meme creation, and a clear analysis that speaks to the fact this is not a problem of “bad cops” but rather of a violent, oppressive, and exploitative economic system and bourgeois society that needs fundamental democratic change. The struggle against police murder of Black folks is a struggle for justice and peace at home, and for democracy, linked to similar struggles in other areas, domestically and internationally.

The January 7, 2023 police killing of Tyre Nichols highlights the institutional, state nature of police terror. In Memphis, with a Black woman as Police Commissioner, six Black policemen pulled Tyre Nichols from his car and beat him so badly he was unrecognizable. He died three days later. The fact that all the policemen combined in the attack raises the question: what was going on here? Was this a hit? A settling of a grudge? As of January 27, five of the police officers were arrested on second-degree murder charges, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of official oppression, and one count of aggravated assault. However, this is not the system working. Tyre Nichols should never have been murdered.

All the officers arrested were part of the SCORPION anti-violence unit. This unit was created in October, 2021 to address the high murder rate in Memphis. The use of police to address crime, without addressing other underlying economic and social factors, is pure state oppression.

The CPUSA has to respond more quickly to police killings of Black people. Materials need to be prepared now to explain that murders by the police are instances of systemic state terror. Districts have to respond rapidly, preparing materials, showing up as CPUSA members in organizing meetings and marches, publicizing the murder in People’s World, and engaging quickly and fully. On this question there can be no hesitancy. We must confront racist state terror wherever it rears its head.

Tyre Nichols stopped in response to police lights. An officer walked up to his car and immediately pulled him out.

While holding Tyre in a position in which he can’t be prone on the ground, the police press a taser against his leg and keep shouting at him to lay down, though they prevent him from doing so. It is clear Tyre is justifiably scared, and when he can, he runs off. At no time is he a threat to the police. They get him on the ground again, and spray him directly in the face with a chemical. He cries out for his mother; they spray him again. …

I am not going to walk through the entire event, because I cannot capture the depth of the depraved indifference to Tyre’s life shown by the officers, the completely unnecessary use of force, and the sense of entitlement displayed by the officers. They beat Tyre to death for no reason. A supposed traffic stop (for which there was no cause) should not end up with a dead young Black man. This is the capitalist state in action in the Black community. Black officers and Black police commissioners in and of themselves do not challenge or fix the systemic racism that permeates capitalist society, a society built on the oppression of Black and working people.

It is against this background that communities are finding various ways of fighting back.

The struggle against police crime may be entering a new phase in Chicago with a focus on community control of the police, spearheaded by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, with full support from the CPUSA.

Some of the Black and people of color killed recently include Tyre Nichols (Memphis, TN), Keenan Anderson (Los Angeles, CA), Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Atlanta, GA), Herman Whitfield III (Indianapolis, IN), Jayland Walker (Akron, OH). There are many more over the last decades, demonstrating again the systemic source of the continued killing of Black folks by the police nationally.

Black people account for 13% of the population, but 27% of those murdered at the hands of the police in 2021. 2022 saw the most people killed by the police ever, with 1,176 killed, an 11% increase from 1,055 in 2021. Six people, including Tyre Nichols, have been killed by police in the first month of 2023. The trend of police terrorizing Black children, women, and men continues unabated.

As Leslie Mac, an organizer and activist from Brooklyn, said, “We’ve seen a double down on reform measures that have already been proven not to work, that don’t get to the heart of the white supremacy that is built into policing this country.”

The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression has been fighting to change existing power relations by organizing to win community control of the police. In July of 2021, the Chicago, I.L. City Council, after a NAARPR-led campaign, approved creation of democratically elected Chicago Police District Councils with policy, budget, and hiring and firing powers over the police. There will be a council elected for each of the 22 police districts. People are running for a total of 66 seats on these councils now, with February 28, 2023 being election day. Three councilors will serve in each of the districts for four-year terms.

This is a democratic struggle to ensure people are elected who will stand against police killings of Black folks. The NAARPR is calling for people to come to Chicago to help with get-out-the-vote activities. Expenses will be covered, except travel.

Party members who would like to go to Chicago to assist in this struggle, but are unable to cover their own travel costs, should speak to their club and district about receiving financial help.

Editor’s note: Party members who would like to go to Chicago to assist in this struggle, but are unable to cover their own travel costs, should speak to their club and district about receiving financial help.

Images: Community control means nobody decides but us! by The Chicago Alliance (Twitter); comparison of police and community budgets in NYC by Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) (Facebook); Stop killer cops by CPUSA (Twitter); Black Lives Matter / Community control protester by Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (Facebook)


Related Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer