On Monday, May 25th George Floyd, a Black man from Minneapolis, spent a counterfeit $20 bill at a local store. The police were called. Twenty minutes later George Floyd was dead, murdered in cold blood with Officer Derek Chauvin's knee on his neck, as three complicit officers watched passively.
Derek Chauvin has a long record of police misconduct, with over a dozen prior complaints that were sealed, dismissed, and resolved with no disciplinary action. Chauvin was involved in at least two police shootings since joining the MPD in 2001, including the 2011 shooting and wounding of an indigenous man. The Minneapolis Police Department as a whole has a long record of unjustified and racist murder of civilians, including the 2016 police murder of Philando Castile.
The city reacted quickly by firing the four officers involved in George Floyd's murder; but they have so far refused to arrest or indict any of the officers involved. On Tuesday the people of Minneapolis, fed up with the arbitrary violence and abuse they suffer at the hands of their police, took to the streets to make their voices heard. Protesters chanted George Floyd's name, "Hands up don't shoot", "No Justice; No Peace", and "Shoot at us, We shoot back!" Buildings in the vicinity of Floyd's death were tagged with slogans -- "ACAB" (All Cops Are Bastards), "Fuck the police", "Fuck 12", and "Save a life -- Kill a cop".
Some media commentators have claimed that the protests "turned violent". This framing ignores the fact that police initiated the violence by murdering an unarmed man in cold blood, and then defended the murderer. The police inflicted violence on the community, and the community responded with violence, and regardless of what the law says their violence is morally justified. While cable news and corporate rags have been quick to brand the protests in Minneapolis "riots", it is more appropriate to describe it as a rebellion.
Police responded to the uprising with indiscriminate use of force, firing mass quantities of tear gas, "less lethal" bean bag rounds and rubber bullets, and mace. Protesters forced the police back and caused substantial damage to the 3rd Precinct building, a few blocks from the location where Floyd was murdered. Windows were smashed, doors kicked in, protesters occupied the lobby, and the vehicle pool was broken into and police vehicles destroyed. After a prolonged struggle, by Wednesday the police had retaken the Precinct and fortified it. Police continue to assault community members near the Precinct, with violence especially targeted at members of the independent press and protesters with cameras. The police have also deployed Stingray devices, surveillance tools that spoof cell towers and allow police to engage in mass digital surveillance, targeted denial of service, and spoofed text messages.
The protesters meanwhile engaged in mutual aid and provided medical assistance to those injured by police. Water and milk mixed with liquid antacid were made available to those hit with tear gas or mace, and street medics provided first aid and triage to those injured by so-called "less lethal" munitions. Stores owned by multinational corporations were expropriated, and poor and working class individuals impoverished by the economic effects of COVID-19 were able to acquire food, clothing, medicine, baby formula, diapers, household goods, and other essentials that were otherwise denied to them by the tyranny of capital. The solidarity displayed by the multi-racial coalition of anti-police protesters should be an inspiration for all.
Credit should also be given to the various solidarity protests around the country, especially in LA where several hundred protesters took to the streets, blocked the 101 Freeway, and tagged the LAPD headquarters. The LAPD responded to this protest with lethal force by ramming their cruisers through the crowd at speed, injuring several people.
Every community has the inherent right to defend itself. The actions of police and the state, both in the current moment and historically, against the Black community provide more than enough justification for that community to rise up in its own defense. This can, and is, accomplished through a variety of tactics including but not limited to: peaceful marches, mutual aid, and the possession of firearms. These things, used in proper measure, are the tools for the defense of a community against oppression.
We must be careful, however, to distinguish between the use of firearms for community defense, versus the undisciplined or reactionary use of firearms for other reasons. When people from outside the community come to the protests carrying guns, looking for an excuse to use them, that is not community defense. When people from outside the community guard private property against the people, rather than defend the people from the police, that is not community defense. When people opportunistically pose with firearms so they can make a splash on social media, that is not community defense.
Community defense is when people from within that community carry arms and put their bodies on the line, standing between the people and the State, to serve as a warning that if the police engage in lethal violence, there are people who are able and willing to shoot back. This role cannot be fulfilled by any outside militia, whatever its orientation. These actions must be organized spontaneously by the people on the ground, with the consent of their community. And these actions must be carried out in a disciplined and responsible way, with strict muzzle discipline and adherence to local laws, so as not to give police an excuse to escalate.
We support the people of Minneapolis' right to protest, to march, to provide each other with aid, and to arm themselves. We support them in their struggle for justice against the police and other oppressive structures. We do not want, or wish for, an escalation of violence. Violent confrontations can quickly spiral out of control, and often end up harming those we wish to protect. More often than not, it is the police that are guilty of this escalation. We encourage every person to exercise their rights in a safe and responsible manner. Defend your communities the best you can with the appropriate tactics.
The history of the United States of America is one of racism, bigotry, theft, and violence. Racism: against Black, Native, Asian, and Latino communities, and all other peoples not conforming to the dominant white narrative.
Bigotry: against women, the LGBTQ+ community, non-Protestant religous groups, and all that present themselves to the world differently than the ruling class.
Theft: of land, lives, and labor; all subsumed to relentless onslaught of capital.
Violence: against any and all that seek justice for or freedom from all the crimes above.
The murder of George Floyd by police, and the violence that has been perpetrated against subsequent demonstrators are the continuation of this disgusting history, and one that will continue until the the ruling class and the structures they support are removed from the necks of the people they subjugate.
The people on the streets of Minneapolis have every right, and the necessity, to seek justice and an end to the system which oppresses them. We stand in solidarity with them.