UPRISING: Hundreds of Thousands March in US for Racial Justice and Police Reform, While Tense Days Lie Ahead; Protests Lead to Minneapolis Vow to Abolish its Police Force

UPDATE: If they are sustained, the protests can lead toward more repression, or genuine reform, such as Minneapolis pledging to dismantle its police force on Sunday, writes Joe Lauria. 

Minneapolis to Abolish its Police Department;
Massive Protests Across Towns and Cities;
Denver Judge Rules Against Gas and Projectiles;
Congress Considers Ending Pentagon Program

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators poured into American cities and towns on Saturday to protest police violence against African-Americans in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in Minneapolis, Minnesota nearly two weeks ago, where on Sunday the city council pledged to take apart the city’s police department and replace it with a public safety system.

Saturday’s organized demonstrations came after eleven days and nights of spontaneous protests in cities across the nation in which citizens squared off in violent confrontations with heavily armed police.

In Washington, tens of thousands of protestors gathered at different locations including the Lincoln Memorial, Freedom Plaza and Capitol Hill and at the park across from the White House, the scene of the most contentious events over the past week.

President Donald Trump is still reeling from serious criticism, from within his own party and administration, for his reaction to the protests. While decrying the death of Floyd, Trump reacted harshly to largely peaceful protests that also included some incidents of arson and looting.

He called governors of the 50 states “jerks” if they did not call out the state National Guards to “dominate” the streets and threatened to send in federal troops if they did not act. His defense secretary, Mark Esper, call those streets “battle spaces.”

But after Trump on Monday had military and local police use pepper pellets, rubber bullets and batons to clear peaceful protestors from near the White House to open a path so that he could walk across the street to pose in front of a church damaged by arsonists with a Bible, much of the establishment has turned against him.

Even Esper publicly opposed the president after that, saying he was against sending federal troops into states to quell the protests. The former defense secretary, Gen. James Mattis, said Trump was not even attempting to pretend to unite the country.

Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, has marched with the protestors and was able to get the military out of the city. But before she did, military helicopters during the week had flown low above protestors to scatter them, a tactic used in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there are still thousands of armed federal agents, some not wearing identifying markers, surrounding the White House.

In New York on Saturday, thousands of protestors gathered in parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, ultimately meeting at 34th Street. New York, as have dozens of other U.S. cities, has been under a nighttime curfew, especially after a spree of looting of high-end shops on Monday. The mayor, Bill di Blasio, has been under fire for defending police, who’ve been caught numerous times inflicting violence against peaceful protestors.

In Seattle, health care workers battling the pandemic joined in the demonstrations, chanting “Black Health Matters” and “Racism Is a Public Health Emergency.”

In San Francisco, hundreds of protestors briefly blocked traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. There are more than 20 demonstrations planned this weekend in the Bay Area.

In Philadelphia, thousands poured into a park near the Art Museum where some demanded a 10 percent cut to the city’s police budget. Defunding police departments has been a common demand across the country.

Officials Respond

Hundreds of instances of police violence against protestors captured on mobile phones since Floyd’s death on May 25, has led to a shift in the public mood and in the responses of authorities.

The vehemence and endurance of angry demonstrators appear to have taken government by surprise until Saturday’s organized marches. Police forces and municipal governments have begun instituting numerous reforms in direct response to the demands of the protestors.

For instance chokeholds and other tactics that have led to deaths of arrested persons are being banned in numerous police departments. The governor of California has called for a ban on “carotid holds,” the maneuver that led to Floyd’s death. A judge in Denver ruled that police could not use chemical agents or projectiles against protestors.

And in Minneapolis on Sunday, where Floyd was killed and the protests began, the city council pledged by a veto-proof majority to abolish its police department and replace it with a public safety system. “It shouldn’t have taken so much death to get us here,” Kandace Montgomery, the director of the activist organization Black Vision, told a crowd gathered at a rally. “We’re safer without armed, unaccountable patrols supported by the state hunting black people.”

The federal government has also responded. There is a bi-partisan push in Congress to end a program begun in 1990 in which the Pentagon makes excess military equipment available to police departments around the country, turning many into small, militarized forces, greatly increasing tensions in times of social unrest.  This would not likely have happened before these protests. Even the U.S. Marines  banned the Confederate flag, more than 150 years after the Civil War.

The outburst of widespread, and so far, sustained public vehemence has proven that even public officials can be moved. Government has long held it in its power to make reforms to policing, but refused to act.

The public anger is no doubt also fueled by decades of austerity and neoliberal economic policy designed to transfer wealth from the majority to a shrinking elite.

Towards the end of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. expanded his peaceful protests from civil rights, to economic repression facing black and white workers, and ultimately to a crusade against American militarism. Some say that broadening beyond racial issues to matters touching at the heart of rulers’ dominance cost him his life. 

Sustained protests that make economic demands, spreading to protests against America’s aggressive foreign policy might bring similar ruling class reaction, stunned by the anger of their population, which could go in two directions. 

There can be either an increase of force against an aroused people, or serious social and economic reforms. 

Watch the discussion of the nature and future of the protests on CN Live!:

 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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27 comments for “UPRISING: Hundreds of Thousands March in US for Racial Justice and Police Reform, While Tense Days Lie Ahead; Protests Lead to Minneapolis Vow to Abolish its Police Force

  1. SPENCERML
    June 9, 2020 at 18:45

    MLK JR `S Words are still true today—“The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today–my own government “

  2. Robert M
    June 8, 2020 at 15:33

    We the people, as slaves to an out of control system, have begun to wake up from their slumber. Politicians are the slave masters positioned by the elite to pacify, lie, cheat and abuse the slaves (citizens). Secret societies control the incorporated governments and own the international monopolized companies that rule the world. Never exclude the Vatican from this ponzi scheme.

    With that said,as the slaves revolt, we the people have a duty and responsibility to rid ourselves of a tyrannical form of government. The spark has lit the fire and the demands of change must expand well beyond racial discrimination and injustice. Our way of life must be realigned to our benefit and the republic form of government must be reinstated. We the people are sick and tired of being used and abused, robbed and jobless, endless wars, bribed and manipulated leaders, fake currency, poisoned and over medicated. We MUST DEMAND nothing short of a complete overhaul of the system.

    • JOHN CHUCKMAN
      June 9, 2020 at 14:20

      Big money and big military institutions look at kind of real change as poison. They are comfortably ensconced.

      and unquestioned by either American political party.

      They are after all in the business of killing and controlling whole societies abroad,

      You won’t find a lot of empathy with the plight of poor and ordinary Americans in their ranks.

      Very hard to reduce a plutocracy once it is established. And the same for the brutal empire serving it.

  3. Eugenia
    June 8, 2020 at 13:16

    “to abolish its police department and replace it with a public safety system”.

    Meaning what exactly? What is this “public safety system”- nobody knows and nobody gives a damn. If you are a victim of a crime or under attack, without the police, who would you call and where would you go to complain, to a local beauty parlor? The result madness would be a ruined city.

    • rosemerry
      June 8, 2020 at 16:36

      You obviously have not noticed that the “police who protect you” limit their actions to a very few, mostly privileged, people protected while the majority are considered to be criminals and treated as such as a matter of routine.

  4. Viper McSauce
    June 7, 2020 at 21:45

    All the laws in the world won’t have any effect if prosecutors decline to enforce them. There need to be separate ones who deal only with police cases and have no other interaction with cops. And there also need to be civilians looking those prosecutors over and bouncing any bad ones. This I command.

  5. DW Bartoo
    June 7, 2020 at 14:18

    Government has always had the power to change things, including its own policies.

    Is not that power the very reason that this government, ostensibly, was created?

    Surely those who penned the Declaration of Independence were fully aware of the power of governments to do as they pleased, for good or ill.

    The question is why has this government chosen to do (or not do) what it does.

    That raises the question of who actually controls this government.

    Some may yet imagine that the people control the government.

    A more realistic assessment would have to conclude that money interests, specifically, corporations, effectively control the U$ government, which is the reason that Ray McGovern coined the term “MICCI MATT”,

    Further examination makes clear that much of policy, if not virtually all of it, is written by lobbyists representing those corporate interests and the remaining bits of policy are reserved to political interests pursuing the divvying up of the spoils which remains the primary intent of electoral success.

    Indeed, public officials, really public servants, can be made uncomfortable enough to make changes, usually quite minor, to policies which anger the public sufficiently to make an elected official aware that her/his position is subject to change, as well.

    However, fundamental systemic change, real change, of the magnitude necessary,
    requires that every single public servant, elected, appointed, or hired, must understand, without doubt or quibble, that their personal position is not secure, is not guaranteed, is not permanent, or “safe”.

    While blatant racial murder, in the context of institutional and systemic racism, never really addressed nor changed, has been the spark which lit the fuse, it is institutional and systemic class war, baked into the structure of this government, from the beginning, which is the ticking mother of all timebombs.

    Many still believe the mythical fiction that this is a classless society.

    The larger U$ mythical fiction, of the shining City on the high hill of exception, as well, shields those who lie the nation into war, bailout the rich (twice in twelve years), while impoverishing the many, and militarize the police to ensure that property is sacrosanct and money and power never at risk as it plunders and pillages, not just the nation, but the entire world.

    To change those things requires far more than discomfited political squirming, much, much more, to a degree few dare contemplate.

    It requires an honest accounting, an honest history, an honest media, an honest academia, and a populace willing to accept no less, willing to understand what will be required of that populace.

    It is possible that a peaceful transition to a sane, humane, and sustainable civil society in the U$ may be brought about.

    But, frankly, that is not likely without a period of vicious terror waged by those who will not give up power or control.

    Until or unless there is an honest reckoning about racism and class warfare as systemic and deliberately waged by specific individuals to specific ends, that every person capable of conscious conscientious awareness, understands both what has happened and why, and agrees upon which, very specific, changes and principles must be established and enforced, it will simply be kabuki theater and more of the same with a pretty ribbon.

    How likely is the millionaire/billionaire class likely to give back their last pretty present of bailouts, tax exemption, and effective control of everything?

    How likely the intelligence(!) agencies to stop spying and suppressing those who would seek necessary change.

    How likely the U$ Military to eschew Full Spectrum Dominance?

    Those are the very sticky (and fraught) issues that would also require honest examination and complete change.

    Have officials the stomach for that?

    The hunger?

  6. michael Chattick
    June 7, 2020 at 14:14

    There is an old truism, real change in old organizations can only come from outside the organization, and that is why no real change will come to racism and Police abuses within US; expecting Republican or Democratic party apparatuses to change from within our present governmental structures is impossible.
    Problem is the populace at large has allowed by approval, assistance even outright granting government politics to not govern nation.but become rulers.
    government to have such control over them they are as useless as teats on a boar hop, useless even unto selves.
    Populace at large is without leadership outside of government from how to educate to who gets rewarded the most from public treasury and where corporate law overides even at cost of our lives Civil Governments ability to represent its people. .
    The very same tactics employed by both political parties today are the very same ones as employed at end of Vietnam Era and Civil Rights for Blacks, aided in silencing criticism of government programs with no more than touchy feely but no substance that allowed systems to remain in place and actually gain in power.
    And media did not do this by other than being a part of the system. journalistic/ political/ financial incestuous relationships.
    The present systems that have militarized and granted huge immunity from repercussions of Police abuse were put in place by both Republican and Democratic Organization by the american voters.
    BS of an informed middle class, which is an economic status of consumerism,
    that group has always been over 90 percent white and controller of the ballot box and none of their changes by establishment politics ever permanently improved equality of the races, changes came from the streets that made that political grouping fear losing their priveledged positions and both parties political powers interjected own leadership away from popular.
    Change will not happen as the herds are but led to a different pasture by same herd masters.

  7. Aaron
    June 7, 2020 at 12:19

    And there is a third possibility – the preservation of the status quo. The thing is, they can pass all kinds of laws/”reforms” to the system, but the eternal problem here, that is like deja vu all over again, time after time, is that those are only true change if they are diligently and fairly enforced. There have been egregious incidents that continue with or without laws forbidding them on the books. It’s like in sports if a player commits a foul/penalty but the referee ignores it, and the game goes on, perhaps with the “winner” being declared unfairly. Just think of the atrocities and crimes committed with impunity from the Iraq war fiasco to the Wall Street fraud, and how many laws existed that just went unenforced. And the eternal conundrum ‘who polices the police?’ will still be an impediment to justice for all. And looking at these photos of the well-meaning masses huddled closely during a virus juggernaut, it makes me think, that for all of the sound and fury, any victories in the weeks to come may be pyrrhic.

    • bardamu
      June 8, 2020 at 10:47

      We ought to look at the possibility that the status quo cannot be preserved. After all, when was the last time this was accomplished?

  8. June 7, 2020 at 10:47

    Nothing will change for the better until oligarchic interests controlling Wall Street and the Chicago Mercantile are defunded, and the Federal Reserve system is dismantled. International banking systems (such as the IMF) are intrinsically fascist, and only serve to destroy independent banking and the potentials of local finance…

    There will be no “equal” justice as long as individuals such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates are allowed to dictate social policy through political bribery. PAC associations, corporate owned media, and political influence are purchased by organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Mellon, and many other capitalist interests. These social mechanisms need to be defined as anti-American and dangerously subversive to social order. They need to outlawed…

    Our legal systems are being held hostage by American B.A.R. association interests and judicial criteria… The corruption of civil justice via Statute law, and the establishment of the “Supreme” Court system is dictatorial and motivated by corporate agenda…

  9. Mark Stanley
    June 7, 2020 at 10:27

    Wow. Impressive. If only we could muster this kind of passion for anti-war protests.

    • AnneR
      June 8, 2020 at 11:28

      So true – but no one seems that concerned about what we are doing to other (brown skinned) peoples thousands of miles from these shores and who are zero threat to us (and would be less than zero threat if we didn’t keep on destroying so many of their lives, their ways of life and countries).

    • Anon
      June 9, 2020 at 12:09

      Absolutely! War is the greatest evil, but silence is violence as they say.

  10. Bob Van Noy
    June 7, 2020 at 09:35

    Joe, your final comment is completely accurate. We are at a very similar moment where we can correct our great inconsistencies as a Society, react with order and purpose to injustice and inequality, or turn to chaos. Truth and Reconciliation is a way forward. Thank you.

    • Bob Van Noy
      June 7, 2020 at 10:04

      Bob Marley “Everwhere Is War”

      hXXp://www(dot)defenddemocracy.press/everywhere-is-war

      hXXp://www(dot)defenddemocracy.press/remembering-kirk-douglass-powerful-open-letter-to-donald-trump/

  11. Moi
    June 7, 2020 at 08:47

    “America will be great again. ‘We will rule the planet for a thousand years,'” he says to his white supremacist base.

    “Set dogs on them” meaning those who protest unjust treatment at the hands of the authorities. “Bring in 10,000 troops to protect the capitol” from peaceful protestors.

    Listen to the rhetoric in Trump speeches. Paint a funny little mo under his nose and he’s a marshmallow version of Hitler.

    That’s where the danger lies. He’s susceptible to the real players, the one’s with real nazi tendencies. The 0.1% who see themselves as the rightful rulers of the world for the next 1,000 years.

    They’re the ones the police State ultimately serves.

  12. Sam F
    June 7, 2020 at 08:40

    We will not see serious economic reforms without a complete displacement of the DemRep duopoly, financed entirely by the rich and serving them alone. They simply use the Dems to lie about their intentions and substitute minor issues.
    With the years 2009-2010 in full control, the executive and both houses of Congress, the Dems did absolutely nothing.

    So even if universal health care was enacted, it would be watered down to nothing and soon privatized to nothing at all.
    Past reforms like the Civil Rights Acts are oversold and ignored in courts: never enforced without a death and a jury.
    The rich know that without widespread killing there is no protest at all, and protest is ended by simple fakery at reform.
    “A democracy, if you can keep it” Franklin said, and we did not, because the founders did not foresee economic power.

    Only the selfish are rich, and they speak only the language of force. Speak rationally and they have heard nothing at all.
    We will continue to have militarized police, promiscuous surveillance, fake elections, and extortionate health care,
    and will not have democracy, until people form action cells and destroy gated communities and mass media facilities.

    That’s just the way it works, and most people in the US will probably hide and seek selfish gains instead of organizing.
    That is the moral decay induced by money control of mass media, elections, and bribery of politicians via their parties.

    • Joe Lauria
      June 7, 2020 at 09:47

      Defeatism is depressing. Social progress has only come through sustained, massive pressure on people in power, such as ending child labor, winning an 8-hour day, or getting women the vote.

    • DW Bartoo
      June 7, 2020 at 18:27

      It is hardly defeatism to honestly look at the reality of both systemic racism and classism.

      Both were embraced, either wholly, as was classism, though it was not acknowledged as such, or largely, with a bit of “resistance” by those who opposed, yet acquiesced to slavery, even as most embraced the genocide of the original inhabitants, two parts of the racism (also now extended to others) still virulent in U$ society and system, today.

      Beyond that, the rise of U$ian (the Americas are not just the U$) Empire has been brutal, bloody, and mercantile to the extreme.

      The last forty-odd years of neoliberalism did not happen by accident, the policies arising from that economic “philosophy” were deliberately and intentionally designed to destroy whatever possibility, however slight, of genuine democracy, that is control of government and policy, by the people, as well as to ensure the impoverishment of the many.

      Because the intent was total control, as it was and is, of public awareness, and total knowledge of what every single human being was, or is, doing through a system of constant surveillance happily made possible by a certain event, the truth of which remains very murky to this day, followed by wars of convenient choice, based, in most cases, on what amounts to nothing but lies.

      Further, as we now know, the ability of political interests to hijack the attention of the body politic, to make it hostage to fabricated, evidence-free, assertions of foreign manipulation of U$ elections, as this site has been at prolonged efforts to expose and debunk, makes terribly clear the weakness of the information systems by which the many may understand both what is being cynically done to manipulate emotion and to prejudice any awareness of a sense of shared understanding of what actual truth is, or might really be.

      As well, the security of communication, between and among the many, is not only monitored by government agencies, it may easily be shut down in ways heretofore unimaginable, and impractical, if not impossible.

      The many are up against not simply an easily bought political class, but also against an elite that can only, honestly, be described as pathological.

      That term is not bandied about without evidence of patterns, oft repeated, which make obvious a disdain of the value of the lives of the many, in policy decision after policy decision, from economic sanctions on nations, to economic bailouts only for the elites themselves, from wars sought for resources and profit, to ignoring infrastructure, healthcare for the many, widespread homelessness, and growing hunger.

      Wealth and power, in obscene concentration, have successfully sought and obtained levels of control never before possible.

      While it is important to consider that reason and humanity may prevail, it is wise to realize that they might not.

      Yet one continues thestruggle, regardless.

      That is not defeatism.

      It is honest observation and realistic understanding.

    • Sam F
      June 8, 2020 at 06:34

      I agree: “sustained, massive pressure on people in power” is the way forward, not defeatism, hence my suggestion of forming action cells.

    • DW Bartoo
      June 8, 2020 at 07:19

      An honest assessment of what we are up against is not defeatism.

      Reason and humanity may prevail.

      But they might not.

      To acknowledge reality, to place hope in the context of cost, in blood, in injury, in death, and in the violently repressive response of power, is not giving up, it is conscious consideration.

      Regardless, the struggle must be joined.

      Victory is not guaranteed.

    • AnneR
      June 8, 2020 at 11:24

      Sam F – If only you were wrong; but disgracefully (not you) you are so right. Changing the system requires revolution NOT reform.

      And when so much money – more even than during the robber baron era – is at stake for the less than 1% and the pols, no matter which face they present – Blue or Red, are either cronies with or simply in the pockets of the powers with $$$$ and the deep state actors (themselves hardly free of $$$ addiction or the even deeper addiction to power), reform absolutely will not make any effective changes, neither to our devastations abroad nor our plutocratic, segregationist system at home. Indeed they are linked.

    • willow
      June 8, 2020 at 16:05

      I disagree. Ralph Nader believes we have more power than we realize and we can effect that change at the local level. Case in point, Minneapolis City Counsel just voted to abolish their police department. Other cities are taking similar action

  13. June 7, 2020 at 06:04

    There will be both increased repression and ‘serious’ reforms. The bourgeoisie will reach out to Sanders to put the fire out. Hopefully the Millennial and Gen-Z black leaders won’t have a bar of that. This is a rare opportunity to start something far bigger and much needed. It would be very good if at least this uprising reached a level akin to the 1905 revolution in Russia, the ‘dress rehearsal’ for October 1917, as Lenin put it. Lessons will be learnt, and leaders created who will be looking for answers rather than sops like Sanders, et al.

    No-one should vote in the upcoming presidential election. There’s absolutely no choice and nothing will change from it. Boycott it and delegitimise whoever the ruling class inserts to run the plantation!

    • Skip Scott
      June 7, 2020 at 11:16

      Stephen-

      I would propose voting for a peace candidate instead, even if you have to write one in. Yes, it may likely be an exercise in futility. However, not voting is just the way Oligarchy likes it. They want you to feel hopeless and powerless, and like it best when they think very few are even paying attention. Whoever the ruling class inserts to “run the plantation”, they have already been “delegitimized” by the primary process. The powerlessness of any third party has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. People are told endlessly by the mouthpieces of the MSM that it is a two person horserace, and you need to vote the LEV candidate or risk your vote being a “throwaway,” or worse the reason the “wrong” person won despite the fact that they were really BOTH the “wrong” person. I strongly believe that there are enough people disenchanted with the current system to overthrow it. The current protests prove it. They just need to stop believing that they have no choice other than a “lesser evil”.

    • DW Bartoo
      June 8, 2020 at 08:16

      Well said, Stephen Morrell.

      Honest assessment, including recognizing any ballyhooed political pretense of “change”as, far too often, simply calculated hypocrisy, is not defeatist, is not cynical, is not intemperate, or self-defeating.

      Indeed, we may count on the Dem$ to make noises that suggest that they deeply understand, yet seasoned participants in the efforts to bring about genuine change have every reason to suspect that the real goal of the Dem “leadership” is made crystal clear with Biden’s campaign promise that, “Nothing Will Change.”

      One notes, for example, that some Black civil rights lawyers in Minneapolis view Keith Ellison, and his new role in the legal case around the killing of George Floyd, with suspicion, scepticism, and doubt.

      Why might that be?

      When the Democratic establishment of Minneapolis promises to “defund” the police what does that actually mean?

      If police officers are simply “let go”, how is the anger that action will cause among those officers to be dealt with, to be disarmed?

      Are the police to be replaced, as well they might be, by unarmed social workers who could, very well, do a far better job of dealing with human beings savaged and impoverished by a dysfunctional, failing neoliberal economic system brought into being through deliberate bipartisan policies?

      Will the role of the Dem$ in creating the policies of that neoliberal oppression be acknowledged, or simply ignored?

      In other words, vague, but emotionally attractive proto-policies, lacking clear definition, are but “task force” diversions intended to engender “feel good” responses but, in reality, offer no substantive remedy and are simply sops, calculated to defuse and diminish the outrage resulting from longstanding and genuine grievance, deliberately ignored by those now claiming to “get it”.

      Is it to be assumed that, somehow, those now so publicly “taking a knee”, just never noticed?

      When, perhaps, in truth, they just did not care to notice?

      Is that depraved indifference or merely a lack of conscious awareness?

      Neither suggest honest public service.

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