Exactly a year ago, US cop, Derek Chauvin stuck his knee into the back of George Floyd’s neck and watched him die - slowly - over 9 minutes 29 seconds. On 20 April this year, Chauvin became the first white US cop ever to be convicted of killing a black man in custody.
But for all the hype over this judgement, it wasn’t any great achievement. The next day and the day after, black men and women were still being stopped, arrested, beaten up, shot with tasers and bullets, and killed, in disproportionate numbers.
So, it is no surprise that black people are sceptical about a “new” awareness, that Black Lives might now Matter. Even though George Floyd’s killing sparked huge demonstrations and a reawakening over black civil rights - not only in the US, but here in Britain.
On 18 Jan 2021, BBC Panorama presented a programme entitled “I can’t breathe: black and dead in custody” about Kevin Clarke, who died aged 35 in 2018, after 9 Met cops “restrained” him, and Sheku Bayoh, who died aged 31, following restraint by five police officers in Fife in May 2015. The only difference with the George Floyd murder is that nobody was there to film what happened and broadcast it around the world.
And there are so many other similar cases, too many to mention. Like Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson, who died after he was tasered 3 times and kicked in the head by a white male and female cop duo, in 2016, while he was having a mental breakdown. It is only because the body cam was produced - after much resistance from the cops - that the truth came out.
Today it is obvious that the police is and remains “institutionally racist”. How could it not be, when the class society which it protects, bases itself on divisions between people and actually weaponises race and “difference”? The police uphold this system and they reflect it.
So, no matter how many enquiries there have been and will be in the future, very little changes and very little is likely to change.
40 years after the Brixton riots
There is another anniversary which speaks volumes in this regard: 40 years ago, in April 1981 riots erupted in Brixton, after black youth had enough of stop and search arrests (“suss” laws at the time) and attacked and held off the police for 3 days. Social regeneration (some, minimal!) followed.
But then it happened again: in 1985, Brixton cops shot young black mother Cherry Groce in the back having broken into her house looking for another suspect. They paralysed her for life. More riots followed and spread to Tottenham. As recently as 2011 widespread rioting followed the shooting to death of 29-year old Mark Duggan in Tottenham by cops who decided to be his judge, jury and executioner.
If you are black in Britain today you are more than twice as likely to die in police custody or as a result of “contact” with the cops, than a white person. You are 5 times more likely to have force used on you by police. And of course, 9 times more likely to be stopped and searched...
What’s changed since 1981? In fact it could be said that things have got even worse. And that this should prove beyond all doubt that the ruling capitalist class is incapable of “reforming” itself or its“armed bodies of men” which are there to protect and uphold the system by any means necessary.
So let nobody argue that in this society “all lives matter”. They do not. And some lives matter a lot less than others. In fact, the lives of the working class poor don’t matter at all to those in power over us. Why would so many have to rely on food banks if they did?
Patel's racist laws
After Glasgow residents forced police to free 2 Indian men they had arrested in order to deport them, Home Secretary Priti Patel, defended her immigration policy as “what you voted for”! Clearly, the locals who intervened did not agree, and took matters into their own hands.
In fact if there are straight lines to be drawn between events in the past and today, it is a line between the attempt of cops to “control” the Windrush generation in Brixton in 1981, the Home Office deporting 83 of them in 2018 and Priti Patel’s deportation of minor offenders to Jamaica and the other Caribbean islands last year.
Now she is bringing in yet more of her covertly (but often overtly) racist immigration laws. Maybe deportees will find themselves on remote islands. But for the time being they are crowded into ex-army barracks (which should have been closed on grounds of health and safety) like Napier in Kent.
The campaign against foreign workers and refugees, particularly black ones, is likely to be ramped up over the coming months, thanks to the 31 June deadline for the post Brexit migrant Settlement Scheme.
There is only one way which works when it comes to opposing such measures - and that is taking direct action. But if we want to be rid of all forms of racism into the future, there is no realistic way to achieve this, other than by overthrowing the class system - that is, by overthrowing capitalism itself.