Police violence: class politics

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
August 5, 2019

After the death of Steve Maia Caniço, rallies and demonstrations were held last Saturday condemning police violence. Both the anger and the questions expressed about the police and the government are more than justified.

The conditions surrounding the death of this young man of 24 who drowned in the Loire river in the early hours of June 22, are damning for the police force. The anti-riot police muscled their way in with batons and dogs against youngsters whose only crime was to have carried on the festival for half an hour over the agreed time.

They fired 33 tear-gas grenades, 12 “Flash-Balls” and 10 sting-ball grenades. Fourteen of the youngsters fleeing from the tear gas fell into the Loire. What did the police internal investigation unit say? That there was no link between the police force intervention and Steve’s drowning!

And Minister for the Interior Castaner and Prime Minister Philippe firmly supported this outright lie. For them, the police action was “justified” and “proportionate”. In other words, “move along now, there’s nothing to see here”!

This caused so much indignation that Castaner reluctantly conceded that there was “some question as to the use of tear-gas”. The internal investigation unit for their part acknowledged that not all witnesses had been heard… But they have already done and will do everything possible to bury the case.

The internal investigation unit and then the government will also continue to deny that there was a police mistake for the 151 schoolchildren in a town near Paris who were forced to kneel with their hands on their head, or for the death of Zineb Redouane in Marseille who was killed by a sting-ball grenade as she closed her shutters during a yellow-vest demonstration. They will bury evidence, they will lie and they will support the police.

Macron’s government, just like all the governments before is ready to cover up any abuse by the police because it needs the police to impose its policies. And because it counts on the police to silence, beat and repress any dissidents, no matter if it means wounding them badly or even mortally.

Political leaders on all sides lament the breakdown of the “bond of trust” between the police and the population. But, despite the fairy tale we are told, the main role of the police is not to ensure the safety of the population and help children and old people cross the road. Sure, the police often have to deal with people who run wild and they do their duty. But the reason they exist is first and foremost to protect an unjust and unequal social order against possible revolt.

Repressive forces are the ultimate weapon that leaders have for pushing through their anti-worker policies and upholding the order and interests of the big bourgeoisie. State violence against workers and the oppressed is a necessity for those in power. Any worker who has been committed to lengthy and determined strikes knows this. As for those who take part in the yellow-vest demonstrations, they’ve learned it the hard way.

Throughout the movement there have been hundreds of people injured. Some have lost an eye or a hand because the police force’s mission is to intimidate and discourage by brutally repressing all demonstrators, peaceful or otherwise. And this is very much a government strategy.

So much so that Castaner distributed awards to the main protagonists on June 16 for their dedicated and loyal service. Among those decorated were the commissioner who ordered the charge that seriously injured Genevieve Legay in Nice and the one who directed operations during the Music Festival in Nantes…

The minister for the interior is happy to honor those who break skulls because he wants to be able to count on them to clamp down on any protesting in the future. In a recent interview, Macron admitted that “the reasons that provoked the outburst of anger that led to the yellow-vest movement have not disappeared”. In other words, those in power know that there will be more social struggles and are preparing for them.

Well, the working class and the oppressed must also prepare! As long as we live in a society based on exploitation in which a minority of capitalists gets richer by pushing back the majority, we need to fight. And if we are to have a chance of winning, we must rally together and organize.