All posts by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

COVID-19 Crisis Failure, People Must Save Themselves and the Economy

Positive COVID-19 Test (Shutterstock)

The US is at a moment of truth. This week, Congress has to face up to a pandemic that is out of control and an economy that is collapsing. The Republican’s and Democrat’s proposals show they will fail this test. The people will need to protect themselves and lead from below.

The pandemic is worsening with more than 60,000 new cases and approximately 1,000 new deaths daily. Deaths, now over 158,000, are spiking across the sunbelt and increasing across the Midwest. By Election Day, the US could have 250,000 deaths making COVID-19 the third largest killer after cancer and heart disease.

The economy shrank at a record 32.9% annual pace in the second quarter, the largest since records were first kept in 1947. Jobless claims increased for the second week in a row with 1.4 million new people seeking unemployment benefits and continuing claims have risen to 17.06 million. More than 35 million people have lost their jobs since March.

In the face of these depression-era numbers, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are planning enough spending to rebuild the economy. President Trump, who has botched the response to the pandemic, is unable to lead but seems willing to sign anything that passes Congress.

Boxes of food are distributed by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, at a drive thru distribution in downtown Pittsburgh, 10 April, 2020 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar.)

Republican HEALS Act Will Spread the Virus, Deepen Economic Collapse

The Republican Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act seeks to push people back to work and reopen schools even if it is not safe to do so. Their proposals to cut unemployment benefits are designed to make workers desperate so they will work in conditions that put their health at risk. A large portion of school funding is restricted to schools that physically reopen forcing unsafe schools. Here are some of the details of the bill:

Health care: The inadequacy of for-profit healthcare has been magnified by the pandemic. The loss of jobs resulted in millions of people losing their health insurance on top of almost 30 million people who were already uninsured. Republicans do not include a funding increase for Medicaid, which 70 million people rely on. The National Governor’s Association reports states are experiencing budget shortfalls ranging between 5 and 20 percent. The Republicans do not provide any funding to state and local governments to make up for this loss of income. Without new funding, states will have to cut Medicaid eligibility, reduce benefits, or reduce payments to providers at a time when the economy and virus mean more people need it.

Food: The Census reports 26 million people do not have adequate food. Food banks are reporting shortages and 14 million children are going hungry but the Republicans did not extend funding for food assistance programs. The Republicans did not extend either the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as food stamps, or the Pandemic EBT program, a benefit for households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals, which ended in June. In contrast, they did propose a 100 percent deduction on business meals through the end of 2020.

Housing: The eviction moratorium expired last week. It protected an estimated 12 million renters in federally-backed properties. The HEALS Act does nothing to prevent evictions from restarting. There are 110 million Americans who live in rental households. Twenty percent of them, 23 million people, are at risk of eviction by September 30 according to the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. With the cut in unemployment benefits, the Census Bureau estimates 24 million people will be unable to pay next month’s rent, including 45 percent of Black and Latinx households.

Worker safety: As workers are being forced back to work, the HEALS Act cuts their ability to sue at a time when worker-safety is at its greatest risk in a century.  Senator McConnell calls this a “red line” that must be in the final bill. His proposal would preempt the few state workplace safety laws that exist and supersede such federal worker safeguards as the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, among others. The Republican proposal would erect almost insurmountable obstacles to lawsuits by workers who become infected at their workplaces and limit damages. To be immune, employers would merely have to show they were  “exploring options” to comply with federal law, or they found the risk of harm to health could not be “reduced or eliminated by reasonably modifying policies, practices, or procedures.” A worker whose lawyer issues a demand letter and settlement offer would find themselves potentially facing litigation by the employer against them. If employers sue workers, there is no limit to punitive damages. These provisions would be retroactive to December 1, 2019, and remain in effect at least until October 1, 2024.

Student debt: The HEALS Act doesn’t extend the interest-free payment pause on federal student loans or halt debt collection on government-held student debt, two forms of relief in the original CARES ACT. Without extending the relief Congress first granted to student loan borrowers through the CARES Act, 40 million people are likely to have to resume payments on September 30, 2020 at a time when there are Depression-like levels of unemployment.

Business support: The Act provides $100 billion more for the problematic Paycheck Protection Program, which has been rife with corruption as members of Congress and the administration as well as their friends, families, and donors got payouts. Big businesses got loans even though the program was intended for small businesses, making small business owners furious. Black and minority businesses were denied loans. Money is needed for main street businesses but PPP needs major changes rather than just pouring more money into the failed program.

The bill also includes $1.75 billion for the FBI building. This was added at the insistence of the Trump administration because the president’s hotel is across the street from the FBI. Without funding to refurbish the building, the FBI could move to Virginia or Maryland, leaving the current building to be torn down and likely replaced with a hotel that would compete with Trump’s hotel.

Military spending: Nearly $30 billion in the HEALS Act would be allocated in a brazen giveaway to the military. The bill includes billions for the Pentagon including $686 million for F-35 stealth fighters, $650 million for A-10 ground attack airplane wing replacements, $1.4 billion for four expeditionary medical ships, and $720 million for C-130J transport aircraft, $375 million for armored vehicles, $360 million for missile defense, and $283 million for Apache helicopters. This is reportedly being added to make up for money taken from the Pentagon for the border wall and comes after Congress recently passed a record military spending bill.

Paramedics taking a patient into an Emergency Room at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The Democrats Fail To Use Their Power

The Democrats control the House of Representatives. Nothing can pass the Senate without Democratic Party support. The Senate Republicans are divided and Trump is desperate to sign a bill. Polls show Republicans could lose the Senate so they need to pass a good bill. The political alignment favors the Democratic Party but it still isn’t doing what is needed.

The Democrats passed the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act in May, a $3 trillion proposal compared to the $1 trillion HEALS Act. Two months ago this may have been adequate but now that figure needs to be increased as more jobs have been lost, state and city governments have lost income, and the cost of treating the virus has increased with more cases.

A “red line” for the Democrats should be funding state and local government with at least $1 trillion to continue basic services. More than 20 million people work for state and local governments such as firefighters, teachers, police, sanitation workers, and transportation workers. The Economic Policy Institute estimates 5.3 million jobs will be lost without state and local funding. President Trump and the Republicans do not want another massive increase in job loss, so the Democrats are in a strong position to make this demand.

The decrease in unemployment benefits should be another unacceptable “red line” as this will further shrink the economy. The Economic Policy Institute finds the loss of the extra $600 of unemployment benefits, which people are currently spending on basic needs, will result in the loss of an additional 3.4 million jobs.

One area where the Democrats can build on some agreement is the $1,200 COVID-19 relief payment to individuals. These payments are too small. A good COVID-19 relief package would increase payments to $2,000 per person monthly for the duration of the pandemic and recession for households earning under $150,000 as suggested by Sen. Bernie Sanders. This would slow the economic collapse and ease suffering.

It is essential to extend the moratorium on evictions not just for federally-subsidized housing, but the federal government should also cover rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the crises. Otherwise, millions of families will lose their homes in an election year, which should be politically unpalatable for both parties.

Health workers give people free Covid-19 tests in Arlington, Virginia, on May 26 (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

We Need a Plan

What is missing from both the Republican and Democratic bills is a strategy to control and stop the pandemic. The virus is 7 months old and still spreading rapidly. President Trump has failed to lead so Congress must do so. The bill should include a massive investment in making rapid testing available across the country. Every business and school should have rapid testing capability before they reopen. This should be combined with hiring 500,000 public health tracers so those who have been exposed to COVID-19 can be tracked to prevent further spread of the virus.

Everyone wants to restart the economy but this must be done safely. In addition to testing and tracing, workplaces and schools must be safe. School districts should decide whether to restart or continue web-based learning and should be supported by the federal government whatever they choose. Hundreds of thousands of tutors who can do one-on-one teaching to support web-based learning are needed. With high unemployment, especially among recent graduates and college students, there are people available to take on this task.

Congress should authorize OSHA to rapidly enact stringent standards for workplaces to reopen, along with funding for necessary safeguards. There should be increased funding for OSHA workplace inspections and investigations of inadequate safety. Employers who meet the standards for a safe workplace should have legal protection from frivolous lawsuits but employees should also have the right to sue if workplaces do not meet safety standards. This approach protects both workers and employers and will reduce the spread of the virus.

Neither party handled healthcare well even before the pandemic. COVID-19 has magnified the failure of for-profit healthcare. To stop the spread of the virus, Congress needs to break away from its privatized approach to healthcare. With the widespread job loss, 5.4 million workers lost their health insurance as did millions more family members. This is the largest decline in health insurance coverage in US history. The rapid response to this healthcare crisis should be the expansion of Medicare to everyone in the United States. Ideological opposition to publicly funded healthcare should not block this essential step. The long term failure of our healthcare system and widening health disparities demonstrate why we need a community-controlled, public, universal healthcare system.

Workers strike over safety (Yahoo Finance)

he People Must Rule, and Protect Ourselves

Congress and the President are unlikely to enact the laws needed to confront the pandemic and economic collapse. As a result, both will worsen. We will have to take action to protect ourselves and build popular power to win our demands.

We need to organize mutual aid to people meet people’s basic needs, such as for food and housing. Many cities have vacant buildings owned by the local and federal governments. As homelessness rises, these should be taken over to house people. We discuss the practical steps for taking over homes with Cheri Honkala this week on Clearing The FOG, (available as a podcast on Monday).

We build popular power by taking the streets as people have been doing for over two months now across the country, only buying essentials, refusing to pay rent or debt payments, blocking evictions and by building in our workplaces for a general strike.

Our actions must not be about which presidential candidate from the two parties of the millionaires to elect. Only one serious presidential campaign is right on COVID-19 and the economy, the Green candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker. Our actions need to be about building a people’s movement that grows in power before and after the November elections. No matter who is elected, the people will need to resist, create new systems and rule from below.

Popular Movements Can Overcome Authoritarian Policing

Portland protests say Go Home Feds as protests grow (by Noah Berger, AP)

Today is the 60th day of protests since the murder of George Floyd. This weekend, people marched in cities across the country in solidarity with Portland and in opposition to the US becoming a police state.

President Trump sending troops to cities added fuel to the nationwide uprising against racist police violence. Protests have grown not only in Portland but in Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Omaha, Austin, Oakland, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC, among other cities.

Trump is not a ‘law and order’ president, he is a chaos and disorder president. He is mistaken to think that increasing conflict in cities throughout the country will save his failing 2020 campaign. Just as his hyped attack on Central American caravans backfired before the 2018 mid-term elections, this escalation is also backfiring as people are mobilized to stand against Trump’s authoritarianism.

While Trump’s actions are the focus of current protests, Portland demonstrates there is a long history of police violence that preceded Trump. Mayors have allowed police violence and Joe Biden, when he was Chair of the Judiciary Committee, authored legislation that led to over-policing and encouraged police militarization. While Trump sending in militarized troops to cities needs to be opposed, police violence is bigger than Trump.

Federal troop pushes a mother back during a demonstration against the presence of Trump’s federal enforcement (Reuters)

Trump Sends In Federal Troops, Escalates Violence

While federal officers protect federal buildings across the country that is not what Trump is doing. He is using the excuse of protecting federal buildings as cover for sending in federal troops to dominate cities.

On June 1, President Trump made his plan clear, warning governors that if they did not get control of the cities, he would send in troops. He told governors “You have to dominate, if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time.”

June 1 was also the day that National Guard troops in Washington, DC fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets into non-violent protesters in Lafayette Park across from the White House so Trump could walk across the park for a widely denigrated photo-op holding a bible in front of St. John’s church. Trump said last week that he sent personnel to Portland because “the locals couldn’t handle it.”

The presence of federal troops in Portland and being sent to other cities is based on an executive order signed on June 26 to protect “Federal monuments, memorials, statues, or property.” Homeland Security director, Chad Wolf, created a task force made up of Border Patrol, Coast Guard, U.S. Marshals, and other agencies. Three different operations have been announced: Wolf’s “Protecting Americans Communities Task Force”; the Department of Justice’s crime-fighting “Operation Legend” announced on July 8; and “Operation Diligent Valor,” which includes the Portland police mission.

Legal analysts and commentators are debating whether the actions of federal troops in Portland are legal. The government argues they are merely protecting buildings and when they go blocks away they are investigating who damaged buildings. The Oregonian questions that writing, “Even if the federal agencies have legitimate license to defend the courthouse, ‘The real question is: Is it being used as a pretext?’”

It is evident from federal troop actions in Portland that this generalized federal policing is beyond federal authority.

Reports and videos of unidentified Border Patrol agents in camouflage grabbing people off the street, stuffing them into unmarked vehicles, and driving off are unconstitutional, illegal actions.

Oregon officials including the governor and Portland mayor have asked Homeland Security to keep its troops off of Portland’s streets but Chad Wolf has refused. Oregon’s senators have also opposed Trump sending paramilitary squads to Portland.

Some, including the District Attorney of Philadelphia Larry Krassner, say federal troops should be prosecuted when they violate the law. The Oregonian reported that Steven Wax, a former Federal Public Defender, called on Oregon’s US attorney and the Multnomah County district attorney to convene grand juries with subpoena powers to investigate alleged criminal acts by federal officers. Potential charges could include kidnapping, assault, and racketeering conspiracy, he said. The district attorney and attorney general are conducting a criminal investigation focused on the injury of a protester, 26 year old Donovan La Bella, on July 11 who was shot in the head with an impact munition near the federal courthouse and subsequently needed surgery.

Oregon’s attorney general, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, state legislators, and others have filed at least four lawsuits against federal agencies. US District Judge Michael H. Simon issued a 14-day order barring federal officers from targeting journalists or legal observers and said in court that he was disturbed by several images of federal officers using force against non-aggressive demonstrators. He noted the July  18 baton-beating of 53-year-old Navy veteran Chris David who tried to talk with federal officers outside the courthouse and the injury of La Bella.

As our guest on Clearing The FOG, constitutional lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard makes the point that courts need to protect the rights of all people to protest and not make journalists and legal observers a separate category with greater rights than others.

The Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) carries weaponry of the sort usually used in Afghanistan or Iraq (John Rudoff)

Paramilitaries Instead of the Military

We describe these federal agents as “troops” because that is what they are. President Trump threatened to use the Insurrection Act to deploy armed services to states but people in the military and legal scholars opposed him. Instead, Trump has sent militarized troops from civilian agencies into the cities.

The Department of Homeland Security sent Border Patrol Tactical Units (BORTAC) from Customs to Portland. BORTAC is an elite paramilitary unit that includes snipers and other highly trained troops who often operate outside of the US and are based along the Mexican border.  These “Specialized Response Teams” wear the US Army’s camouflage and use military gear. BORTAC units have been deployed to war environments, including Iraq and Afghanistan. While not a violation of Posse Comitatus, which forbids the use of the military in domestic law enforcement, they subvert the intent of the Act.

An internal Homeland Security memo found the federal troops were not trained in riot control or mass demonstrations. It also stated this kind of federal action was “going to be the norm” so training was needed. Trump has promised to send troops to “Democrat” cities in an election year spectacle.

In addition to on-the-ground troops, the US is using the US Air Force ‘Cougar’ surveillance plane over Portland.  The Intercept reports the flight data shows tight, circular surveillance flights over Portland. Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Government Secrecy Project, asks “What is their mission? Under what authority are they operating, and who authorized them?”

Trump is using police as a prop in the 2020 election with Portland as a campaign stage. The campaign seeks to win votes in the suburbs, which he won by 4 percent in 2016 but is now losing by double digits. Trump’s re-election campaign has spent over $983 million in 2020, more than the $878 million spent in his entire 2016 campaign. Despite this spending, he is behind Biden by landslide margins in all of the battleground states. He fired his campaign manager and is obviously getting desperate.

Trump is mimicking the ‘law and order’ campaign of Richard Nixon but this is a different era when police violence and racism are on video for all to see. Protests after police murdered George Floyd took place in cities of all sizes and in many suburbs. A national consensus is developing that racist police violence exists and it must end. Images of militarized police shooting and tear-gassing unarmed protesters is likely to backfire against Trump.

Portland protester enveloped in tear gas waves US flag (Nathan Howard for Getty Images)

Police Violence is Bigger Than Trump

Before the federal troops arrived, Portland police were using extreme violence and chemical weapons against protesters. The Portland Police Bureau already had a temporary restraining order for its violation of protesters’ free speech rights and another for arresting journalists and legal observers. Another court ruling largely prohibited local police from using tear gas, but that has not stopped federal troops from doing so. When Mayor Ted Wheeler, who also serves as the police commissioner, came to the courthouse protests people jeered him and signs called him ‘Tear Gas Ted.’ Wheeler was teargassed himself by the federal troops.

The Intercept describes how the Portland Police Association has dominated elected officials for decades. In meetings with the mayor, one police union president would put his gun on the table. The union contract protects racist cops making it hard to fire those who’ve used deadly force. When the new contract was being considered in 2016, people protested at City Hall and the police rioted forcing protesters outside where police in riot gear then surrounded the building as city officials approved their union contract.

The NY Times reports that of the 35 cities in the United States with populations larger than 500,000, Portland is the whitest with 71 percent of residents categorized as non-Latino whites and only 6% are Black. This stems from the state being founded as a state for white people. A 19th-century law called for whipping any Black person found in the state. In the early part of the 20th century, Oregon’s Legislature was dominated by members of the Ku Klux Klan. As the destination of Lewis and Clark, Oregon symbolized the conquest of the American West and the subjugation of Native peoples.

Police violence in Portland is disproportionately against Black people including being stopped by police and targeted with the use of force. Slate reports, “When the police chief banned chokeholds in 1985 after officers killed a Black man with the hold, officers made T-shirts that said, ‘Don’t Choke ’Em. Smoke ’Em.’ In 2012, the Justice Department reported that the PPB had an unconstitutional ‘pattern or practice’ of using excessive force against people with mental illnesses.”  The Portland police have also been sympathetic to right-wing, white supremacist organizations when they demonstrated in the city.

With this history of white domination, some would think racist policing would not be a political issue but the evidence of racist police brutality has struck a chord not only in Portland but across the country. Portland has had a strong protest movement over inequality, neoliberalism, wars, and more. The police have a long history of using violence against protests resulting in court settlements for victims. Now, opposition to racism, capitalism, and fascism has led to a unified movement.

The Wall of Moms, followed by a Wall of Dads, combating tear gas with leaf blowers, has been joined by a wall of veterans. Veterans are challenging the federal troops, telling them they are following illegal orders. Other affinity groups forming “walls” include grandparents, chefs and lawyers. People have made shields and are wearing helmets and gas masks to protect themselves against federal violence. Some are using hockey sticks to hit tear gas containers back toward federal troops.

Most local officials have opposed Trump’s threats to send troops to their cities and have threatened litigation. Lori Lightfoot, a neoliberal Democratic mayor, initially opposed federal troops coming to Chicago but, after a phone call with Trump and a promise that troops would work under the control of the US Attorney with a very limited role, she changed her mind. Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, has faced protests at her home for this.

Alliances with federal police can be problematic. Separate from the current controversy, Albuquerque, Atlanta, St. Paul, San Francisco, and Portland all pulled out of federal-local task forces because federal agents have violated local rules regarding racial profilinguse-of-force policies, and requirements to wear body cameras.

While Trump is putting himself at the center of current police violence, the reality is police violence is bigger than Trump. The system-wide challenges with policing are deeply entrenched. Police defend the status quo including racial injustice and class inequality. Whenever political movements develop to respond to racial and class unfairness, the police have undermined their politically-protected constitutional rights. Now that the conflict has heightened, it is time for the people to resolve it.

Retired US Army major intelligence officer Jenine Betschart (center) protests outside the Multnomah County Justice Center along with the ‘Wall of Moms’ as night fell on the city (Daily Mail)

People Can Protect the Right to Protest and Limit Police Powers

Militarized police violence is the wars abroad coming home. Strategic tactics like the Wall of Moms and veterans in broad opposition to militarized federal police demonstrate how movements can stop Trump’s authoritarianism, limit the actions of police and protect the right to protest.

At the beginning of this century, mass protests in Washington, DC against corporate trade agreements led to violent responses by DC and federal police. Litigation by the Partnership for Civil Justice followed. The result was large monetary awards to protesters but also agreements between the parties that put in place “best practices” to protect the right to protest in Washington, DC. Now both local police and federal police are bound by these agreements.

We interview Mara Verhayden-Hilliard on this week’s Clearing the FOG Radio (available Monday night) about whether the current protests could also lead to the protection of our rights. The overreach of President Trump and the violent reaction of local police is an opportunity for change. To succeed requires smart litigation that protects all protest, not a hierarchy protecting media or legal observers, and the litigation must act in synergy with the people.

People cannot give up the streets but must oppose violent police with strategic tactics that continue to pull people to support the movement and oppose police violence. Our goal is to transform the concept of public safety to mean programs that meet people’s basic needs and build a national consensus for policing that is defundeddemilitarized and democratically controlled. Already the movement has changed the opinions of people in the US.  We must build on that success, and continue the pressure for change no matter who is elected president.

Building On Victories For A Stronger Climate Justice Movement

While the climate justice movement has been winning important victories, stopping and slowing pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, and putting the future of fossil fuels in doubt, the political system, long connected to the fossil fuel industry, is still fighting the urgently needed transition to clean sustainable energy. Both President Trump and former Vice President Biden put forward energy plans that do not challenge fossil fuels.  The only candidate with a serious climate plan is Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.

The movement needs to build momentum from these successes for more actions to stop fossil fuel infrastructure. As the reality of the climate crisis hits more people, fossil fuels will become high-risk investments while the cost of solar, wind, thermal, and ocean energy is declining.

Propped Up by Massive Subsidies

The fossil fuel industry is being propped up by massive subsidies without which its extinction would be faster. A 2019 IMF report found that $5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017, the equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found “the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education.”

In the era of the climate crisis, COVID-19, and recession, these subsidies are not justifiable. Christine Lagarde of the IMF has called for removing fossil fuel subsidies, noting the investments made into fossil fuels could be better spent elsewhere. She notes: “There would be more public spending available to build hospitals, to build roads, to build schools and to support education and health for the people.”

The era of fossil fuel domination is coming to an end. It is up to people to organize to hasten the transition to a clean, sustainable energy economy. The deeply embedded fossil fuel industry can be defeated. The people have shown they can make it impossible to build fossil fuel infrastructure.

Friends of Nelson Facebook page

Movements Can Stop Fossil Fuels

In early July, three pipeline projects suffered major blows. Their defeats were the result of more than a decade of activism by thousands of people. People risked arrest, went to jail, confronted police, petitioned, lobbied and litigated, slowing the projects down and making it impossible to profitably build pipelines and other infrastructure.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was canceled on July 5. On July 6, a federal court ordered Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down pending an environmental review. Unfortunately, a court of appeals ruling allows the pipeline to continue to operate while the litigation is resolved. That night, the Supreme Court let a Montana court ruling on the Keystone XL pipeline stand, meaning the project cannot be built until much of the litigation is settled.  Construction of the Keystone XL is blocked until 2021. Joe Biden has pledged to oppose the Keystone XL. If he is elected, activists will have to hold him to that promise.

The Keystone XL pipeline was designed to carry Alberta’s dirty tar sands oil across the US-Canada border into Nebraska and has been fought since 2011 by the Tar Sands Blockades, Bold Nebraska and others.  The Dakota Access pipeline was opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux uprising that brought Indigenous nations and climate activists together in a months-long struggle, often facing violent police repression. The DAPL is transporting fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin to Gulf Coast refineries. And, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have carried fracked gas through the Appalachian Mountains from West Virginia to North Carolina. All along the route, people aligned to oppose the project. Litigation and delays forced the large companies, Dominion and Duke Energy, to cancel the project even after investing $3.4 billion in it.

In another defeat that will empower climate activists, on June 30 in a 10 to 1 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to allow people impacted by fossil fuel infrastructure to sue 31 days after filing an administrative appeal on a permitted project. FERC had been preventing litigation by delaying the 30-day administrative appeal an average of 7 months and up to 15 months during which pipelines were being built.

FERC has been critical for the fossil fuel boom of the Obama and Trump eras. FERC and the fossil fuel industry act as one as all FERC funding comes from industry fees, not taxpayers. According to Ted Glick of Beyond Extreme Energy, which has been battling FERC for a decade, in an interview on WBAI, the vast majority of FERC commissioners since it was founded in 1978 have come out of the fossil fuel industry and many go back to the industry after leaving FERC. The same revolving door exists for many staff members too. FERC and the oil and gas industries have been working together to prevent court review, but with this new DC Circuit Court decision, that should stop.

All of these victories were the result of grassroots struggles by the climate justice movement. As one activist tweeted, “In case you thought that small actions don’t matter . . . this is a result of every tree-sitter, each person who chained herself to a piece of equipment, sat at an air board mtg, blocked a site.” Campaigns that challenge infrastructure at every turn make a difference. These victories are part of a nationwide uprising against fossil fuel infrastructure and the resultant thievery of private property by abusing eminent domain, the pollution of farms, rivers and forests and FERC’s steamrolling over communities.

The movement is making pipelines more expensive to build. Increased costs combined with low fossil fuel prices and low costs for solar and wind energy are making the industry a risky investment. There have been hundreds of bankruptcies. Symbolic of this is the recent bankruptcy of Chesapeake Energy, which was a leader in the fracking boom. It started to decline after one of the CEOs, Aubrey McClendon, died in a car crash in 2016 after being charged with corruption. Steve Horn reports on their ongoing corruption, writing, “Just a month ago, in fact, Chesapeake executives showered themselves with $25 million in bonuses, despite the company tumbling toward bankruptcy.”

USA Today reported that 24 oil and gas companies have already filed for bankruptcy since the COVID-19 pandemic and recession began. The Wall Street Journal reports that potentially 200 fracking corporations could declare bankruptcy in the next two years if the price of oil stays at current levels.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Fossil Fuel Industry is Not Defeated

Fossil fuel industry ties to presidents have run deep for decades. Both George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, were oil men. President Obama, who made the US a top producer of oil and gas, bragged, “We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some.” During his term, over a period of two years, the US built 29,604 miles of new pipeline. According to NASA, the equatorial circumference of the Earth is 24,873.6 miles.

President Trump, who denies climate change, is seeking to expedite the approval of oil and gas infrastructure. Former Vice President Biden said he will protect the fracking industry and opposes the Green New Deal. His recently announced climate plans do not confront the fossil fuel industry.

The Trump administration has issued a proposed rule to undermine the 50-year old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not requiring any consideration of climate impacts as part of the review of fossil fuel infrastructure. His proposal will play out over months or years during a public comment process. If it is approved, litigation can be used to stop it.

Trump is building on the work of the Obama-Biden administration that issued executive orders to speed up environmental reviews and did not include climate considerations in NEPA reviews until his final year in office. Their administration allowed large pipeline projects to be broken into small segments to skirt the NEPA review. Through the signing of the FAST Act in 2015, which led to the creation of a Federal Permit Improvement Steering Council, federal permits and the NEPA review process were streamlined.

Biden is doubling down on fossil fuels and trying to confuse people with the fraudulent phrase of “net-zero” emissions, which is a shell game that will not cut fossil fuel production. He is calling for investment in carbon capture utilization and sequestration to claim he will offset carbon emissions, but this is a political fraud as the technologies are unproven. Even inside the DNC, this strategy is questioned by their Council on the Environment and Climate Crisis, which opposes reliance of offsets and asks, “Why would we rely on it when we already have much less expensive, proven, clean green technologies?”

The movement must be clear in its demand to replace fossil fuels with solar, wind, and other clean sustainable energy sources. We must demand policies that are consistent with the reality of the climate crisis requiring urgent action.

Indigenous Environmental Network

Building On Our Victories

The recent victories indicate that the more we show our determination, risk arrest, challenge projects in the courts and build the case against fossil fuels in the era of climate crisis, the more infrastructure projects will be shelved. For those projects currently underway, the movement must continue to challenge them at every turn using the creativity and tactical variety that come from a movement composed of a broad base of people with different backgrounds, experiences and concerns.

The profitability of pipelines is already in doubt due to the strategic nonviolence of the movement and the changing energy market. Even with Trump and Biden mouthing support for the industry, they will not be able to overcome the realities of the market failure, the climate crisis and that people want funds spent on public health, remaking the economy and transitioning to a clean energy economy.

The nationwide uprising against racism and the movement against pipelines already have close connections due to environmental racism and alliances with Indigenous struggles. We need to make these cross-issue relationships stronger.

The economic collapse is an opportunity to remake the economy with the Green New Deal as the centerpiece of massive job creation, investment in education and the development of new industries. There is a growing labor uprising with PayDay Report tracking more than 900 wildcat strikes since March 1. Workers need to understand that confronting climate change will create 30 million good-paying union jobs and the Green New Deal is key to rebuilding the economy.

The climate movement against fossil fuels has already shown the ability to create this broad movement. Native Americans, climate scientists, farmers and ranchers, big environmental groups, veterans and activists all came together for the first time in some of these struggles. Future efforts can link climate justice, anti-racism, and workers’ rights work, as well as the anti-war movement because the US military is the biggest polluter and fossil fuel user on the planet, to create an unstoppable movement no matter who is the next president.

COVID-19 Corruption: Wealthy And Well Connected Get Rich While People Suffer

COVID Dollars from Fiscal Times

While corrupt elected officials and elites feed at the public trough, the economic collapse is hitting people in the United States hard. According to the newly released Bureau of Labor Statistics figures 47.2 percent of working-age people are without work and businesses are finding it impossible to pay their rent or keep their employees. The basic ability to feed children is in crisis, as nearly 14 million children in the United States went hungry in June, an increase of 10 million since 2018, and nearly three times the number of children who went hungry during the Great Recession, according to an analysis of Census data.

Newsweek summarizes:

Nearly half of U.S. households’ incomes have declined during the pandemic, with survey data showing both low-and high-income households being affected at about the same rate. For the week ending July 4, 1.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Evictions are expected to skyrocket with 23 million people possibly facing eviction by September.

The impact of the economic collapse will hit even harder in the week of July 25, when the temporary weekly increase of $600 in unemployment benefits enacted in the CARES bill ends.  There is strong opposition in Congress and the White House to continuing those benefits. The moratorium on evictions from federally subsidized housing will also end that week. The Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey found 30 percent of renters had little or no confidence that they could meet housing payments next month.

Amidst this crisis for most people, the investor class is doing well as the US stock market closed in June with one of the best quarterly rises in history. This is not surprising as the Federal Reserve and Treasury have funneled trillions to the wealthy. Pandemic capitalism is highlighting the wealth divide and the corruption of government working in cahoots with the super-wealthy.

The Rich Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out

While the government sought to hide where pandemic bailouts under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) were going, it is now being exposed. The PPP loans were intended to help small businesses maintain their payroll with loans that are fully forgiven if at least 60% of it is used on payroll costs. Recipients were kept secret, but public pressure forced them to release the information. The government is only releasing information on grants over $150,000. News agencies have filed suit to release all the information.

The self-dealing and corruption of big donors, members of Congress, the president and their families and friends are being exposed. These people are getting the bailout funds while others without those kinds of connections are suffering. Or, as Esquire mockingly described, the list of recipients  “was stuffed to the gunwales with fatcats, friends of fatcats, deadbeat fatcats, fatcat-financed organizations, and fatcats with political influence.”

Bailout Dollars Go To Elected Officials, Their Families, and Associates

Roll Call reports that $14 million in relief funds wound up going to members of Congress and their families. Businesses owned by lawmakers and their families move to the front of the line for bailouts. “At least nine lawmakers and three congressional caucuses have ties to organizations that took millions of dollars in aid,” Politico reports

The Washington Post reports Elaine Cho, the wife of Majority Leader Mith McConnell (R-KY) received aid, “Among some of those receiving relief were Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family’s shipping business. In addition, at least seven members of Congress or their spouses received loans, including lawmakers who were directly involved in shaping regulations and also benefited from a blanket waiver of ethics concerns.”

KTAK Corp., a Tulsa-based operator of fast-food franchises owned by Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) received between $1 million and $2 million, according to the Post.  Further, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) benefited when three of his car dealerships, located outside of Pittsburgh, received a combined total of between $450,000 and $1.05 million. Several plumbing businesses affiliated with Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), all based in Broken Arrow, Okla., each received between $350,000 and $1 million.

The Fiscal Times reports:

Among the lawmakers who own or have other ties to businesses that received loans are Republicans Reps. Rick Allen (GA), Vicky Harzler (MO), Kevin Hern (OK), Mike Kelly (PA), Markwayne Mullin (OK) and Roger Williams (TX) as well as Democratic Reps. Matt Cartwright (PA), Susie Lee (NV) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL). A company tied to the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) got a loan of between $350,000 and $1 million.

Forbes reports that West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a coal-mining tycoon, pulled in millions for his businesses. His Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs took a PPP loan ranging from $5 million to $10 million. His Greenbrier Sporting Club, a membership club that touts “luxury living,” infinity pools and more took a loan of $1 million to $2 million in April.

Trump Family, Friends and Business Associates Get Millions

ProPublica reports “Businesses tied to President Donald Trump’s family and associates stand to receive as much as $21 million in government loans designed to shore up payroll expenses for companies struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.” This includes a hydroponic lettuce farm backed by Dobald Trump, Jr., the president’s eldest son of at least $150,000.

Further, “several companies connected to the president’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, could get upward of $6 million.” ProPublica reports on Kushner-related grants, “The New York Observer, the news website that Kushner ran before entering the White House and is still owned by his brother-in-law’s investment firm, was approved for between $350,000 and $1 million, data shows. A company called Princeton Forrestal LLC that is at least 40 percent owned by Kushner family members, according to a 2018 securities filing, was approved for $1 million to $2 million. Esplanade Livingston LLC, whose address is the same as that of the Kushner Companies real estate development business, was approved for $350,000 to $1 million.” They also report that “up to $2 million was approved for the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, a nonprofit religious school in Livingston, N.J., that’s named for Jared Kushner’s grandfather and supported by the family.

It is not just Trump’s family, the Post reports, “At 40 Wall Street, an office building Trump owns in Lower Manhattan, 22 companies received loans, for a combined total of at least $16.6 million.” Similarly, tenants at Trump hotels received millions; e.g., “Triomphe Restaurant Corp, which operates the Jean-Georges restaurant at the Trump International Hotel on Central Park West, got between $2 million and $5 million. Sushi Nakazawa, a restaurant in the Trump D.C. hotel, received between $150,000 and $350,000 to support 22 jobs, according to the data.”

Also, Trump friends and associates such as “Albert Hazzouri, a dentist frequently spotted at Mar-a-Lago, asked for a similar amount. A hospital run by Maria Ryan, a close associate of Trump lawyer and former mayor Rudy Giuliani, requested more than $5 million.”  A Trump lawyer also received millions: “a Manhattan law firm whose marquee attorney has fiercely defended Trump for almost two decades. Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP — whose managing partner, Marc Kasowitz, was at one point the president’s top lawyer in the special counsel’s Russia investigation — was set to receive between $5 million and $10 million from Citibank.”

Trump media allies got PPP funding. Bipartisan Report wrote:

The conservative online media outlet founded by Trump confidante and FOX News host Tucker Carlson, the Daily Caller received as much as $1 million. Carlson sold his stake in the company on June 10. And, Newsmax, the Conservative TV network and website owned by another presidential confidante, Christopher Ruddy, got a loan worth $2 million to $5 million.

End Socialism For The Rich

Bailout business “socialism” would be something you’d expect libertarians and small government anti-tax advocates to oppose; however, among the recipients of PPP funds was Grover Norquist who wants the government to shrink “to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” His organization, Americans for Tax Reform took $350,000. The Ayn Rand Institute, The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism, which advocates  “laissez-faire capitalism,” took $1 million in PPP funds. Its board member, Harry Binswanger, said they would take the money because “the principle here is justice.”

In fact, if the principle were justice, then this kind of hypocrisy and corruption would be stopped and a program to help the vast majority of people who lack economic security, and the small businesses that will be unable to survive the economic collapse would be the recipients of this kind of funding.  This is the second time in a decade that the government has had to bail out capitalism with trillions of dollars. Maybe it is time for economic democracy, an economy that serves the people, not the wealthy.

As Richard Wolff writes, “Capitalism serves capitalists first and foremost.” That’s why recovery from the COVID19 pandemic and the current recession require changing the economic system to one that puts people and the planet over profits. There are efforts to make that a reality by creating worker-owned cooperatives, participatory budgeting and public banks. Some communities are organizing mutual aid including solidarity gardens where the food produced is given to communities in need and there are programs to donate stimulus checks to people without incomes.

If there was ever a time to build a different world, that time is now. Ajamu Baraka explains, “The current ongoing capitalist crisis has created the most serious crisis of legitimacy since the collapse of the capitalist economy during the years referred to as the Great Depression.” He urges us to keep the focus on class and race so we cannot be divided and to have a broad lens to connect what is happening at home to what the US does abroad. We must also recognize how the state will try to coopt and water down our demands. Change is coming. What it looks like is up to us.

Upcoming events:

July 16 – The Embassy Protection Collective hosts the “Strengthening Solidarity between Social Movements in Venezuela and the US” meeting via Zoom at 2:00 pm. Click here for more information.

July 20Strike for Black Lives.

Government Attacks Media As People’s Media Reveals The Truth

An Omaha police officer escorts freelancer Megan Feeney, a camera dangling from her zip-tied hands, on June 1, 2020. (Aaron Sanderford/Omaha World Herald).

NOTE: We are taking next weekend off to take care of personal needs. The newsletter will be back in two weeks. – KZ and MF

Government attacks on the media are escalating as the battle for the narrative grows in importance.

For the last decade, stories produced and amplified by the democratized media have put the power structure at risk. People saw government documents showing war crimes and violations of international law. We all saw police killing unarmed people and extreme militarized violence in response to nonviolent protests. These stories have been magnified by people realizing they are the media and sharing stories in their networks on a variety of platforms.

To maintain control, the power structure needs to stop people from knowing the truth. The recent RAND Report on the future of warfare cites the following concern: “As smartphones and social media saturate the developing world, militaries will find themselves harder pressed to control both what images the public sees and the narrative surrounding operations.”

Powerholders are striking back. This article focuses on two aspects of this conflict – the new indictment brought against Julian Assange this week and the attacks on media by the police during the nationwide uprising against police violence. Part of the job of each of us is to let them know we see what they are doing to try to hide the truth of their actions. We must hold them accountable for the false narrative they produce and their efforts to criminalize those who are the truthtellers and work to put out the true narrative those in power want to suppress.

Collateral murder video provided to Wikileaks.

Federal government’s new indictment against Assange based on smears

The leading truthteller who is under attack is Julian Assange. The prosecution of Assange will define freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and our right to know in the 21st Century.

This week the federal government sought to bolster its bogus case against Assange with more false and misleading claims in another superseding indictment. The centerpiece of the indictment remains the 17 Espionage Act counts for the publication of documents leaked by Chelsea Manning exposing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and illegal global diplomatic intrigues. The federal government did not add new charges but instead sought to mischaracterize Assange as a hacker because the charges based on the Espionage Act are problematic. The Espionage Act has never been used against a journalist and extradition from the UK is not allowed for political prosecutions. The prosecution of a journalist for reporting the truth about US foreign policy is clearly a political prosecution.

The federal government sought to define Assange as a hacker using speeches he gave at conferences calling for transparency and describing the power of government whistleblowers who share documents and hackers who acquire them. The government twists important political arguments made by Assange about the need to expose corruption and crimes of government, especially the US government, as conspiring with hackers.

To achieve this feat, they produced an indictment that “is riddled with inaccuraciesglaring plot holes, and amateurish errors, relies heavily on testimony from a literal convicted pedophile and diagnosed sociopath, and appears to be little more than a feeble attempt to legitimize the injection of the words ‘hacking’ and ‘hackers’ into the prosecutorial narrative,” as Caitlin Johnstone writes.  In addition, the prosecutors leave out important details including the FBI’s own complicity in hacking in an effort to set people up, including Assange, for prosecution.

They also sought to claim Assange and his colleagues at Wikileaks were conspiring with hackers because of the assistance they gave to Edward Snowden to avoid capture by the US government and move to Russia for political protection. Sarah Harrison of Wikileaks is described as a co-conspirator for her heroic role in saving Snowden from prosecution even though she is not charged with any crime. Other Wikileaks members are included as co-conspirators.

The new indictment points to statements made by Assange and other Wikileaks members at the Chaos Computer Club conference in Germany on December 31, 2013. Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, and Harrison participated in a panel discussion called, “Sysadmins of the World, Unite! A Call to Resistance.” This effort to turn a public speech by Assange into a hacker-conspiracy shows the desperation of the government to convict Assange. Kevin Gosztola writes in Shadowproof that “At no point does the Justice Department attempt to connect the alleged ‘recruitment’ of ‘hackers’ or ‘leakers’ to an actual individual, who heard these words and acted upon them.”

The original indictment, which claimed Assange assisted Chelsea Manning in acquiring classified documents, was obviously false. Manning had security clearance and legal access to the documents she leaked and did not need to hack the files. She had already downloaded the documents on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanomo Bay, and State Department cables before contacting Assange. During the extradition hearings it was revealed she asked Assange to help her acquire prohibited video games and music for her military colleagues. Assange did not even provide help to accomplish these innocuous objectives.

The government’s desperation is made glaringly clear in this new indictment as almost all of the new material has been on the public record in one form or other, for six years or longer. They date back to Assange’s speeches to public conventions of computer experts in the Netherlands and Malaysia, in 2009 and 2010.

As has been true with each of these indictments, the government is seeking to criminalize normal journalistic practices. This includes encouraging people with inside information to provide the media with documents that are in the public interest. Assisting whistleblowers with avoiding prosecution is common practice. Glenn Greenwald says you can find very detailed instructions on the New York Times and Washington Post websites about how to safely be a whistleblower.  He describes it as the “duty of a journalist to help their source not get caught.”

The investigation of Julian Assange began in the Obama-Biden administration. While Trump praised Wikileaks during his campaign, Mike Pompeo made it his goal to prosecute Assange and destroy Wikileaks to prevent any journalist anywhere in the world from reporting on US war crimes and corruption.

This prosecution is a threat to the fundamental purpose of the First Amendment that allows people freedom of speech to criticize the government without being punished for doing so. The First Amendment is not a protection of corporate media or some narrow classification of journalists but protects all people. The Assange case is important because Wikileaks has democratized the media by giving people a method to expose crime and corruption of governments and corporations. And, it is important because the US is prosecuting an Australian journalist, writing from the UK about the United States, thereby putting people at risk not just in the United States but anywhere in the world.

Police assault Australian media crew in front of the White House.

National uprising exposes attacks on media

The national uprising against police violence and the killing of people in communities of color are exposing more efforts to suppress the truth. This comes from arrests, harassment, and violent attacks on media reporting on the protests and showing police violence. Newsrooms are also complicit by suppressing reporting.

Charles Baker writes in Business Insider that in early June, “in Minneapolis, local law enforcement took aim at Linda Tirado, a photojournalist, and shot her in the eye as she covered protests over the police killing of George Floyd. They later subjected a black journalist from CNN to wrongful arrest. In Louisville, TV reporter Kaitlin Rust and her crew were targeted by local cops who peppered them with non-lethal bullets during a live broadcast.” This led to an open letter to police endorsed by groups such as the Society of Professional Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the National Press Club to stop the devastating targeting of journalists.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been 499 journalists affected in over 400 cases of press freedom violations in the United States since May 26.  The US Press Freedom Tracker reports more than 440 aggressions against the media during the protests, including 116 journalists attacked and 36 arrested. An example of this involved two journalists for the Associated Press who were assaulted by six police officers and ordered to leave the scene of protests in New York City. The police claimed they were violating the curfew; the reporters said they were essential workers and therefore allowed to be there. A video shows an officer responds, “I don’t give a shit.” Another reporter was violently arrested in New York and held for two nights in Manhattan Central Booking. And, another reporter was violently attacked while he held up his press credentials and shouted he was with the media, as shown in footage captured by the Associated Press.<

In Los Angeles, an independent journalist was arrested for covering protests after the curfew after he responded to the police who asked if he was press, saying “Yes, sir.”  In Oakland, a reporter covering a protest was arrested as the curfew approached despite her press credentials being visibly on display. There have been reports from many parts of the country including Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Atlanta, Worcester, Omaha, Dallas, Lincoln, Santa Monica, Des Moines, Denver, and Minneapolis among others.

The police also served a subpoena from the county prosecutor’s office for videos, photos, and audio captured by reporters for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com during recent protests in downtown Cleveland, thereby making journalists into an arm of the police. Also in Cleveland, police banned the media from covering protests.

Commercial media outlets have taken actions to restrict coverage of protests. US-controlled media outlets, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, have been censoring and downplaying the uprising and the violent police response. A Black reporter is suing the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for not allowing her to cover the protests because of a tweet she made. In response to a long history of media suppressing the voices of oppressed people, there is a growing revolt among Black journalists at the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times.

Knowledge is Power

This century there has been a dramatic increase in awareness of government and corporate corruption, state violence, and systemic oppression. The internet and social media platforms have given everyone the tools to expose what is going on. It is this awareness that has fueled the rise in consensus that there are significant crises, that the current systems can’t address these crises and that we need new systems. The facade of democracy is fading. That we live in a failed state is becoming obvious. And now we have a summer of rebellion beginning with the Memorial Day murder of George Floyd.

Sign-up on our home page for the Popular Resistance Daily Digest and use the reports to be the media. Share articles in social media and with your networks. A key task for activists is to be the media by building up their networks and reaching more people. 

The powerholders are afraid because they can no longer control the narrative. Even those within their institutions, the corporate media, are breaking ranks and refusing to be complicit. The ruling class will do whatever it can to wrest that control back even if it means arrests and intimidation of people, breaking the law, and violating the Constitution.

The prosecution of Julian Assange, assaults on the media, and censorship of alternative voices are all an attack on our right to know. Knowledge is power. We must not lose the right to know what our government, state actors, and corporations are doing.

Julian Assange’s extradition hearing will be in September. The latest superseding indictment is another attempt to smear Assange’s reputation and weaken his public support. It is no coincidence that it came out just as the revelation of his two young children was garnering greater sympathy and Australian 60 Minutes did a favorable show on him. We must defend Assange by countering the smears, getting the truth out, and showing up for him. DefendWikileaks.org is one place to get information about what is happening and how to take action.

In this era, we all are protectors of the right to know. We encourage you to question what you see in the corporate media (and that includes the so-called public media like NPR), support independent media, and make it your responsibility to share information that counters false narratives. Learn how to be the media by covering injustice where you see it. It’s as simple as writing a letter to the editor or a blog, taking photos and videos with your phone, and sharing articles on social media.

Police Violence and Racism Have Always Been Tools of Capitalism

The system-wide challenges the United States faces with policing are entrenched and deeply rooted. When the historical and current practices of police are examined, it is evident police have been designed to uphold the status quo including racial injustice and class inequality. Whenever political movements develop to respond to racial and class unfairness, the police have undermined their politically-protected constitutional rights.

Police have used infiltration, surveillance, and violence against political movements seeking to end injustices throughout the history of the nation. It is the deeply embedded nature of these injustices and the structural problems in policing that are leading more people to conclude police must be completely transformed, if not abolished.

We advocate for democratic community control of the police as a starting point in addition to defunding the police and funding alternatives such as programs that provide mental health, public health, social work and conflict resolution services, and other nonviolent interventions. Funding is needed for the basic human needs of housing, education, employment, healthcare, and food especially in communities that have been neglected for years and whose low-wage labor has enriched the wealthy in this unequal society.

An alleged fugitive slave being seized (Getty Images)

The Roots of Policing are Rotten

The needs of the wealthy have been the driving force for the creation of police. Policing developed to control workers, many who were Irish, Italian and other immigrants seeking fair wages in the North and African people who were enslaved in the South. Victor E. Kappeler, Ph.D writes in “A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing” that “Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities.”

Police detain protesters as they march down the street during a solidarity rally for George Floyd on Saturday, May 30, 2020 (AP Photo: Wong Maye-E) 

A. Southern Police Created to Protect Slavery

In the south, the driving force of the economy was slavery where people kidnapped in Africa were brought to the Americas as chattel slaves, workers who created wealth for their owners. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database lists 12.5 million Africans who were shipped to the Americas, 10.7 million of which survived the dreaded Middle Passage. Of that, 388,000 were brought to North America. African slaves were forced to reproduce for their owners and to sell.

From the start, African people revolted against slavery and fought to escape it. This 400 years legacy of racist injustice that helped form the United States is the history we must confront. The roots of policing in what became the Confederacy and later the sheriffs who enforced Jim Crow grew out of the containment of slaves, the most valuable ‘property’ in the nation.

Olivia Waxman describes this history writing that in the South, “the economics that drove the creation of police forces were centered . . . on the preservation of the slavery system.” She describes “slave patrols tasked with chasing down runaways and preventing slave revolts” as one of the primary police institutions.

Gary Potter writes in “The History of Policing in the United States,” that:

Slave patrols had three primary functions: (1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves; (2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts; and, (3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside of the law, if they violated any plantation rules.

The purpose of slave patrols was to protect the wealth of the white people who owned slaves.

Potter writes:

The first formal slave patrol had been created in the Carolina colonies in 1704. During the Civil War, the military became the primary form of law enforcement in the South, but during Reconstruction, many local sheriffs functioned in a way analogous to the earlier slave patrols, enforcing segregation and the disenfranchisement of freed slaves.

Hundreds of laws were passed in the South around slavery and its enforcement but laws were also passed in northern colonies including Connecticut, New York, and others to control slaves. The US Congress passed fugitive Slave Laws allowing the detention and return of escaped slaves, in 1793 and 1850. Racist police made up the “kidnap gang” in New York City in 1830 who would capture Africans and bring them to a rubber stamp court that would send them to the South as captured slaves – often before their families knew they were arrested. Throughout this history, there were people who fought police violence and abuse as is discussed in The Black New Yorker Who Led The Charge Against Police Violence In The 1830s.

The history of racist policing did not end with the abolition of slavery. Police forces were involved in enforcing the racist Black Code, the Convict-Lease System, and JimCrow segregation. The terrorism of white supremacist groups like the KKK, the burning of black schools and churches and lynching became the common realities of the south. White police often did not stop, or seriously investigate these crimes; some even participated. In the era of Civil Rights, southern police used violence against nonviolent protesters – beatings, fire hoses and dogs.

This also occurred in the north. For example, Minnesota was infamous for arresting indigenous people on charges like vagrancy and forcing them to work for no pay.  This spurred the formation of the American Indian Movement. Dennis Banks describes, “The cops concentrated on the Indian bars. They would bring their paddy wagons around behind a bar and open the back doors. Then they would go around to the front and chase everybody toward the rear. ” They would be taken to stadiums and convention centers and forced to work for no pay. The police did not do this at white bars, only bars where Native Americans gathered.

The War on Drugs became the new disguise for police violence against black people. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news,” said President Nixon’s domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman to Harper’s Magazine. Mass incarceration of the 1980s, begun under President Reagan and continued under President Clinton with Joe Biden leading efforts in the Senate, disproportionately impacted black and brown people. Now slavery legally continues as prison labor.

AT&T workers on strike (Socialist Worker)

B. Northern Police Protect Commercial Interests, Hold Down Wages

The history of policing in the northern colonies was also driven by economics. Commercial interests protected their property through an informal, private for-profit form of hiring people part-time. Towns relied on a “night-watch” to enforce laws. Boston started a night-watch in 1636, New York followed in 1658 and Philadelphia created one in 1700.

As cities become more populated, the night-watch system was ineffective. Commercial interests needed more regular policing and so they hired people to protect their property and goods as they were transported from ports to other areas. Boston, a large shipping commercial center, became the first city to form a police force when merchants convinced the government that police were needed for the “collective good” thereby transferring the cost of maintaining a police force to the citizens.

A driving force for police expansion was workers, who were often immigrants, seeking better pay and working conditions. Abolishing The Police: A Radical Idea That’s Been Around For Over A Century, describes how the first state police force was formed in 1905 in Pennsylvania to combat workers forming unions. According to a study in 1969 by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, the United States has the bloodiest and most violent labor history of any industrial nation in the world.

Sam Mitrani, author of The Rise of the Chicago Police Department: Class and Conflict, 1850-1894, writes in In These Times that “as Northern cities grew and filled with mostly immigrant wage workers who were physically and socially separated from the ruling class, the wealthy elite who ran the various municipal governments hired hundreds and then thousands of armed men to impose order on the new working-class neighborhoods. Class conflict roiled late-19th century American cities like Chicago, which experienced major strikes and riots in 1867, 1877, 1886, and 1894. In each of these upheavals, the police attacked strikers with extreme violence, even if in 1877 and 1894 the U.S. Army played a bigger role in ultimately repressing the working class.”

Martha Grevatt points out that:

Throughout labor history, one finds innumerable accounts of cops engaging in anti-union violence. Police viciously attacked unarmed pickets during the 1994 Staley strike in Decatur, Ill., as well as the 1995 Detroit newspaper strike, to name a few examples. They arrested and harassed UAW members during last year’s strike against GM.

This is not only a time of growing protest against police violence but also against the mistreatment of workers. Over the last two years, there has been a record number of strikers not seen in 35 years. PayDay Report counts more than 500 strikes in the last three weeks with a peak number on Juneteenth at “29 ports across the West Coast” and the UAW stopping production on all assembly lines “for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor George Floyd.”  They have tracked more than 800 strikes since March.

Protesters march in a Black Lives Matter demonstration organized by the Dallas Black Firefighters Association on Juneteenth 2020 in Dallas (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Historic Time Of Uprising and Unrest Rattles the Police and Power Structure

The rebellion by workers and anti-racism activists is unprecedented in the lives of most people alive today. There is a nationwide uprising in every state and in thousands of cities and towns.  Repression by the power structure with militarized police and the National Guard has failed to stop the protests. Democrats have failed to divert the movement of the energy into the elections, as Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi have offered inadequate reforms such as more police training. Fundamental changes are needed.

Police will continue to make efforts to shut down the unrest. The FBI and local police have a long history of combatting movements. In addition to the violent response that has been well documented against the current rebellion, we should expect infiltration, surveillance, creation of internal divisions, and other tactics, even murder.

All of these acts against labor, civil rights, peace, environmental, and other movements have happened before and we should expect them again. Documents show a nationwide effort of police and the FBI to defeat the Occupy Movement that included entrapment of activists in crimes. There has also been aggressive police violence against people protesting pipelines and seeking climate justice.

Black activists continue to be a major focus of the FBI and law enforcement. Media Justice and the ACLU reported last week that one million pages of materials on FBI surveillance were discovered in a FOIA request showing widespread surveillance of black activists.

The small victories that have been won by the movement are already causing repercussions. Police are threatening to quit because they are being held accountable for violence, even though they remain protected by immunity from prosecution. A survey last week found 3 out of 4 Washington, DC police were ready to leave the force. CNN reported police in Minneapolis, Atlanta, South Florida, and Buffalo quitting. In Atlanta, police got the “flu” after felony murder charges were brought against the officer who killed Rayshard Brooks.

New York City police are planning a strike on the Fourth of July to show people what life would be like without police. However, this may backfire as during a 1997 slowdown and also during a 2014–2015 slowdown, crime did not spike, and may even have declined a bit. The nation’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Bob Barr threatened in December 2019 that if some communities don’t begin showing more respect to law enforcement, then they could potentially not be protected by police officers.

New York Police Department (NYPD) officers guard the main entrance of the Trump Tower in New York on November 14, 2016 (Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images)

To Transform the Police, The Economy Must Be Transformed

The US Constitution, written by slaveholders and businessmen who profited from slave products, puts property rights ahead of individual rights. The Bill of Rights was an afterthought. The result of treating people as property, Jim Crow laws, redlining, and other racially unfair economic practices has left Black Americans with a $13 trillion dollar wealth gap.

Max Rameau told us in a recent podcast, To Deal With Police, We Must Understand Why They Even Exist, that when we understand the purpose of police is to protect property, it becomes more evident why they cannot be reformed. Unless we confront neoliberal capitalism that creates inequality and a hyper-class-based society, the wealthy will always find someone to pay to protect them.

In fact, the call to defund the police can be easily thrown off course by getting activists fighting for small gains of cuts to police budgets, while the police are increasing their funding from private corporations. Already, as reported by Eyes on the Ties, “Police foundations across the country are partnering with corporations to raise money to supplement police budgets by funding programs and purchasing tech and weaponry for law enforcement with little public oversight.” Their report documents support to police from Wall Street and finance, retail and food industries, Big Tech, fossil fuel corporations, sports, and universities.

It is fantasy to believe police exist for public safety. As Justin Podur writes, “Society doesn’t need a large group with a license to kill.” Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report advocates for community control over police but he doesn’t stop there, writing “communities should control, not just the police, but much of the rest of their neighborhoods’ vital services and resources.”

As Richard Rubinstein writes in ThePolice May Pull the Trigger but it is the System That Kills:

Racism, police brutality, and economic injustice can be thought of as separate boxes, but they are part of one self-reinforcing system. And that system’s defining characteristic – the feature most resistant to change – is that it is based on the production of goods and services for profit, not to satisfy basic human needs.

Like many conflicts in the United States, the problems of police violence comes down to corporate-capitalists vs. the people. Racial separation and inequality are ways the ownership class keeps people divided so the people can be controlled. This is the reality of the US political system and the reality of policing in the United States, but we can change that reality by continuing to organize, staying in the streets and building our power.

The Uprising Is Only Beginning: Building Power To Win Our Demands

The current uprising against police violence and racism is just beginning. It is rapidly shifting public consciousness on issues of policing, violence against Black people and others, and systemic racism. The movement is deepening and becoming broader as well as putting forward solutions and making demands.

The confluence of crises including recent police violence, the COVID-19 pandemic, and economic collapse along with the ongoing crises of lack of healthcare, poverty, inequality, homelessness, personal debt, and climate plus awareness of mirage democracy in the United States have created a historic moment full of possibilities. If we continue to organize and build power, the potential for dramatic change is great.

As we wrote last week, there are dangers coming from liberal Democrats and the black misleadership class who are trying to quell the protests with distractions and weak reforms. To achieve changes that will solve the crises we face, demands must address the root causes of them. And, we must understand the dynamics of demands in social movements – what it takes to win and to hold the ruling class accountable for enacting them.

Anti-police violence protester confronts militarized police at the White House on June 3. 2020 (By Oliver Douliery from Getty Images)

Demands to Defund and Abolish the Police

The demands to defund and abolish police are now part of the national dialogue. This is a major advancement for the movement against police violence. The pushback against these demands is coming from across the mainstream political spectrum from Donald Trump to Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

When the bi-partisans unite, they are often wrong as they represent two parties funded by the millionaires and billionaires who put their interests first. Bipartisan means the various wings of the ruling class, represented by the two corporate parties, are uniting and that means a united attack on the people. They seek to protect systems that have created horrendous inequality and injustice. The police are the enforcement arm that protects the ruling class from the population impacted by that inequality and injustice.

Christy E. Lopez, a professor at Georgetown Law School who co-directs the Program on Innovative Policing, has worked inside the government on efforts to reform and control police for 25 years. Her conclusion: “it has become clear to me that ‘reform’ is not enough. Making sure that police follow the rule of law is not enough. Even changing the laws is not enough.”

There is tension within the movement against police violence between those who seek reform and those who want to change the whole system – to abolish policing as it exists and create alternatives. In 2016, activists across the country built encampments to heighten awareness for the demand to abolish the police, provide reparations for victims, and invest in black and brown communities. They demanded “community-based forms of policing in its place that are accountable to residents.”

Advocates of abolition consistently make the point that “abolition requires more than police officers disappearing from the streets. . . Police abolition could mean and require society to decrease and eliminate its reliance on policing.” It also means decriminalizing many activities that result in police abuse; i.e. decriminalizing or legalizing drugs and the untaxed sale of cigarettes that create illegal markets. Police spend more than 90 percent of their time on things people find annoying or social and health issues that police are ill-equipped to handle. These lead to police interactions that result in police violence, especially in black and brown communities.

Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson writes that the movement needs to become more radical, not more moderate. He points out that the solutions to the current crisis are deeper than reforming the police, explaining there are “calls to eradicate white supremacy, capitalism, heteropatriarchy, and settler-colonialism that have been on clear display.” The founding of police came out of the most extreme form of capitalism, slavery, where those with money owned other people as unpaid workers. Slave patrols developed into modern-day police so the very root of policing is rotten.

Max Rameau and Netfa Freeman write:

The core issue is POWER, not racism. We cannot change our reality by ending ‘racism,’ or the attitudes and opinions others hold of us. Our conditions will only change when we shift power into our own hands and exercise self-determination, thereby rendering the opinions of racists irrelevant.

When it comes to changing the power dynamic, one demand — democratic community control of the police — stands out among the others. Communities being able to hire and fire police officers, review their budgets, impanel a grand jury to investigate crimes, and approve police contracts among other changes, reverse the power dynamic. The people would be in democratic control of how their communities are policed and by whom. This is a long-term demand dating back to the Black Panthers, as Green presidential candidate Howie Hawkins points out. This transition to people-power over police is seen by many as the key transition step to abolition or replacement of the police.

Rameau and Freeman conclude that “the police MUST exist in order to protect property and wealth from those who do not have.” They argue that defunding police without changing that dynamic means the wealthy elites will find other ways to protect themselves, private police who are even less accountable than the public institution.

Akuno urges “the demand for abolition should be raised to heighten the contradictions. But, it must be accompanied by the call for revolution, and the organizing effort to dismantle the entire system.” He adds we “have to resist the elevation of the liberal and Democratic party narratives and positions. We have to assert a counter-narrative in all arenas — one that aims towards transforming the Floyd rebellion into something potentially transformative.”

People stand in front of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct sign in the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” while continuing to demonstrate against racial inequality and call for the defunding of Seattle police in Seattle on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (By Lindsey Wasson, Reuters)

Building Power for Positive Change

The power structure has started to make some concessions over the past few weeks of protests, but none of these has altered the systems that maintain the current inequalities and injustices.

Some police have been fired and charged for committing violence and murder. It remains to be seen if they will be convicted and kept from policing anywhere in the future. Some cities are talking about defunding or disbanding the police, but it remains to be seen what the details will be. Schools are breaking contracts with police. More segments of the population from the media to athletes to tech companies are challenging racism and oppression in our society. These changes are happening because the people power being displayed has exposed injustice, garnered support and put the elites in a panic. The elites need to give the people something to stop the protests.

The widespread actions of militarized police using extreme violence across the country backfired and resulted in the protests growing. Federal courts in Colorado and Washington ordered governments to stop using chemical warfare against US citizens. Adding 17,000 National Guard troops in 23 states caused the National Guard troops’ morale to plummet in embarrassment over using military force to stop people from exercising their constitutional rights. President Trump’s threat of military force caused divisions in the military as retired and active generals, GI’s and National Guard troops spoke out against it.

Popular power is growing in the United States, but to build enough power to win demands that significantly alter the economic and political systems will require sustained effort. While some reforms are significant because they may meet some needs of those in the movement, we can’t stop there.

As we describe in the second class of the Popular Resistance School, if movements make concessions too early, before they have the power to make sure their demands are met and to hold leaders accountable for their actions, they will fail. The ruling class will often feign concessions to quiet the rebellion knowing all along that they are still in control.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, after signing a police reform bill, exemplified this when he said, “You don’t need to protest, you won. You accomplished your goal.”

When negotiating demands, it is all about power. If the sides coming together to negotiate do not have equal power, then the weaker side will lose. They may be given promises, but they can’t force the power holders to keep them. It is significant that elements in the society are opposed to military attacks on people expressing their First Amendment rights, but we must continue to heighten the conflict until there are real splits within the power structure.

In order to maintain their power, the ruling class requires support from the people.

  • They require people to give them authority. That is why the autonomous zone in Seattle is so powerful, it is challenging that legitimacy.
  • They require people to do the actual work, from the bureaucrats to city maintenance workers to other essential workers. That is why the call for a general strike is so powerful. If workers slow down or withhold their labor, governments and cities won’t function.
  • They require skills and knowledge of people. The ruling elites don’t know how to run the machines or systems on which they depend.
  • They require control over material resources such as energy, water and property. Last December, electrical workers in France cut off power to the police stations, big businesses and management and turned the power on for workers and the poor.
  • They require the ability to punish people who disobey them. If guards and police refuse to stop people, courts refuse to prosecute and jails refuse to hold people, the power elites lose that control.

The bottom line is that we have the ability to remove power from the ruling class and that must be our goal if we are to win the changes we need in this moment of multiple crises. The seeds of transformation have been planted, now it is our task to nurture them.

We do that by putting out a vision of the changes we require and continuing to protest in support of that vision. We need to build relationships with others in our community to raise awareness of the crises and how to stop them. We need to support each other through mutual aid and building alternative systems to meet basic needs. Through our collective effort, we can stop the destructive machine and create a new world.

A Mass Uprising Is Here: Protect It From The Ruling Class

Demonstrators on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 in downtown Los Angeles (AP Photo:  Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The breadth of the uprising is astounding with antiracism protests in all 50 states and more than 500 cities plus more than 13,500 arrests in 43 cities. This weekend there were larger numbers of protesters in the streets including cities and towns of all sizes. In Washington, DC, where we were, the crowds were multi-racial and crossed all ages but were dominated by black youth. People were united in their opposition to racism and police abuse and their calls for systemic change.

While the crowds were notable in the nation’s capital, across the country, and around the world, what stood out this week is the palpable fear emanating from the White House. President Trump, who has blown racist dog whistles from his first-day campaigning in 2016, is afraid. His fear is demonstrated by ten-foot-tall black metal fences, fortified by concrete Jersey blocks surrounding not just the White House but all of Lafayette Park to the bottom of the Ellipse, and from 15th Street to 17th Street. Inside this fence are rows of smaller fences, mobile searchlights, and scores of police and military. Dump trucks block every entrance. The White House fence, which was built higher during the Trump-era, is covered in a white shroud to hide what is behind it. Comedian Sarah Cooper mocked Trump’s comments describing his visits to the secure bunker under the White House when the protests were at an angry peak. The failures of the US government to fulfill basic tasks of protecting and empowering people have reached a tipping point.

White House in the distance. Taken from Constitution Ave.  (Margaret Flowers)

This is a Take Off Moment for Ending Structural Racism

Racism in the United States did not start with Trump and it won’t end if he is defeated in November. The people at protests understand Trump is a symptom of deeper problems. While there were some anti-Trump signs outside the White House, the crowd was more focused on broader changes that are needed. The United States suffers from deep structural racism that creates economic inequality and an unfair criminal injustice system.

A national consensus is developing in favor of the protests. Polls indicate the public supports the uprising, sees the anger as justified, and even supported burning down the police precinct in Minneapolis. Three out of four say racial and ethnic discrimination are big problems with 87% of black people believing they are more likely than whites to experience excessive force. Multiple polls show sympathy for the protests and support for their goals. There has been a shift in views on racism with the biggest change in acknowledging racism coming in the managerial class where many used to believe the US had evolved into a ‘post-racial society’.

The persistent protest movement — which has been strengthening since there was a take-off after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO six years ago and with the thousands of murders since then — has built national consensus for change. Now, there are opportunities for change but also challenges for the movement. Ajamu Baraka, of the Black Alliance for Peace, describes some of them in Black Agenda Report:

The enemy knows how to quickly adapt in the ideological struggle: 1) undermine the emerging unity with white agitator propaganda, 2) follow up with declaration against something called Antifa as a terrorist group, 3) instruct the police to join demos and express solidarity, 4) release statements from police chiefs and others pushing the bad apples theme, and most important, 5) keep the focus on the individual and call for ‘justice’ for that individual to avoid attention on the systemic and enduring elements of Black and Brown colonized oppression.

March in Washington, DC on June 6 2020 (By Patricio Zamorano)

The Movement can Overcome the Challenges We Face and Win

Here are some of the ways we can overcome the challenges the power structure is putting in our way.

Divide and Rule – Unite and Build Power:  When the power structure sees white and black people uniting to work for common goals, it gets worried. It will do all it can overtly and covertly to divide the movement. For example, despite the FBI saying there is no evidence, the Trump administration accused Antifa (short for Anti-Fascist) of being an organization (it isn’t) committing violence at protests. In fact, a report found that a far-right group masquerading as Antifa was promoting violence. There is evidence that provocateurs, including officers in uniform, have been destroying property, and police have brutalized thousands of protesters over the past two weeks. Any attempts to denigrate one group or sow division, such as the ‘good protester/bad protester’ myth, must be met with skepticism.

We must strive for greater unity in the movement by linking our struggles and promoting a common vision of the society we wish to create. Just prior to the police murdering George Floyd, a movement was building for a general strike. That campaign is ongoing and is being manifested in various ways. Payday report cites more than 220 wildcat strikes, many involving working-class people of color, that have occurred in the United States since early March. Rent strikes are taking place and millions more are ready to rent strike. Black Lives Matter is calling for a statewide general strike in Washington state on June 12. The general strike campaign calls for nationwide actions on the first of each month.

The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is calling for a national day of action on Saturday, June 13 calling for the transformational change of democratic community control of the police.

Offer Weak Reforms – Demand Systemic Changes: People exercising their First Amendment rights are calling for transformational changes such as abolishing the institution of police, ending the militarization of our communities, and investing in black and brown communities. Already, a few groups are working to shift the demands to a weaker platform such as spending less money on police and banning the knee-on-neck technique that officer Chauvin used to kill George Floyd. Banning techniques such as chokeholds have failed. Police still use them and they get away with it. While there must be justice for George Floyd and others killed by police, this is not only about convicting police who terrorize communities, but about stopping police terror and the entire racist system in the United States that is repressing people at home and abroad. Police serve as enforcers of the racism that pervades education, healthcare, housing, employment, the legal system, and foreign policy. The movement may celebrate minor victories along the way, but we must build power to win systemic changes that end the institutions and policies that perpetuate structural racism and inequality.

Diversion to Elections – Escalate Street Heat: There are already efforts to distract the movement to focus on President Trump and divert people’s attention to the upcoming presidential election. The Democratic mayor of Washington DC took performative action when she had “Black Lives Matter” painted on 16th Street in front of the White House, but DC residents weren’t having it and called her out for increasing the police budget while cutting social programs. In a recent essay, Obama urged reforms enacted through elections as have other black misleaders, as Margaret Kimberley describes.  The always-opportunist Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime Democratic operative, has called for a March on Washington on August 28. This will likely be a Democratic Party anti-Trump rally to kick off the final months of “get out the vote” for the presidential election. People know the record of Joe Biden – opposing integration of schools, escalating the war on drugs, being an architect of mass incarceration, and supporting the interests of his corporate donors over the necessities of the people. We will not elect our way out of these crises. We must continue to build our capacity to stay in the streets, even if it is once a week, and our pressure through tactics like strikes and other forms of non-cooperation to build enough power to overcome the ruling class.

Unleash the Counter-Revolution – Defy It:  If the movement is not defeated by these tactics, but instead grows larger by unifying fronts of struggle and escalating our demands, there will be more efforts to suppress us. In Occupy, the Obama administration, through the FBI and Homeland Security working with local police, escalated their tactics, sending infiltrators into the movement to create divisions and throw the movement off course. It entrapped participants in crimes with serious consequences and used the media to create opposition. We know this is coming, so we can be prepared. Our goal must be solidarity, protecting each other, and remaining persistent with unwavering demands. When the power structure escalates their tactics, it is a sign we are winning. It is a show of weakness, not strength on their part and that means it’s time for protests to escalate.

These are all some of the common tactics used against popular movements. In our web-based free school “How Social Transformation Occurs“, we review these and other strategies used by the power structure and how movements can respond. People involved in the vibrant movements of our times need to be well informed so we are a movement of leaders who are prepared to win.

Marchers in Washington, DC on June 6, 2020 (Patricio Zamorano)

The Movement Is Already Defeating The Ruling Class’ Tactics

The media described the uprising as a “riot” involved in violence and property destruction but the movement responded by using videos to show black organizers trying to stop people, some of whom seemed to be undercover police or white supremacists. When mayors put in place curfews, people came out in larger numbers to ignore the curfew. When police assaulted people with batons, rubber bullets, and chemical weapons, they were caught on camera and shown to be the instigators of violence. In response to thousands of complaints about police actions, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best announced a 30-day ban on the use of tear gas and a review of police actions with an emphasis on de-escalation.

As the result of a class-action suit in Colorado, federal Judge R. Brooke Jackson ordered the police to stop using tear gas, rubber bullets, and other “less-than-lethal” forces like flash grenades and ordered body cameras to be used at all times. The judge noted videos of police injuring people, including journalists, without giving any warnings.

When President Trump threatened to use the military against people, there was a rapid response opposing him. Some GI’s and National Guard troops have refused to follow orders against the people. Courage to Resist has set up a fund to defend them. And, a lawsuit was filed against the police’s actions.

The movement for change in the United States has grown and matured in recent decades. We must continue to protest, be non-compliant with the power structure, defy the opposition’s tactics, support each other’s needs, and build alternative structures. This is how we will transform our society in a way that respects human rights and protects the planet. The time is now. Let’s keep doing the work.

Nationwide Uprising Against Failed State Triggered By Police Killings

The nationwide uprising sparked by the murder of George Floyd and other recent racially-motivated events is a response to the bi-partisan failed state in which we live. It comes in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic and the largest economic collapse in the US in more than a century. These three crises have disproportionately impacted people of color and added to longterm racial inequality and injustice.

Black Lives Matter erupted six years ago when a police officer shot and killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. Since that time, police have murdered approximately 1,100 people every year. The response of the government at all levels to the crisis of police killings has been virtually nonexistent. While people seek to avenge the death of George Floyd, the problems are much deeper and the changes needed are much broader.

The Root of the Problem Is a Failed State

During the COVID19 pandemic, millionaires and billionaires have been bailed out by the government with trillions of dollars while working people were given a pittance of $1,200 per person and a short term increase in unemployment benefits for the more than 40 million people who have lost their jobs. Many workers who provide essential services have had to continue to work putting themselves and their communities at risk.

Urgently needed healthcare is out of reach for millions with no or skimpy health insurance resulting in people dying at home or not going to the hospital until their illness became serious. For this and other reasons, COVID19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color.

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report puts the mass revolt in the context of the long history of white supremacy that has existed since Africans were brought to the United States. Chattel slavery was enforced by the earliest form of policing, with the first formal slave patrol created in the Carolina colonies in 1704. After the Civil War and a brief period of Reconstruction where African people could participate in civic life, Jim Crow followed with white racists, often allied with Southern police, inflicting terrorism against the Black population through lynchings and other means. Black people were arrested for laws like vagrancy and then punished by being forced to work picking cotton or other jobs. This new form of slavery continues as inmates are forced to work for virtually no pay in prisons, are leased out to dangerous jobs like meat processing, or are used as scabs.

George Floyd’s murder enraged people who have seen too many deaths as a result of police violence. The murder in broad daylight with cameras filming and scores of witnesses showed the impunity of police who are used to not being held accountable for their violence. During the uprising, police have used extreme violence and targeted people with cameras and the media even saying they were the problem.

The root of the problem is a failed state that does not represent the people and has a deep history of racism and inequality that are being magnified by the current crises. The failure to respond to these crises is resulting in an ungovernable country as the social contract has been broken.

Lawlessness among the wealth class, corruption of politicians by campaigns financed by the wealthiest with payoffs to their children and relatives has set the stage for no respect for the law. As one protester exclaimed, “Don’t talk to us about looting, you are the looters. You have been looting from black people. You looted from the Native Americans. Don’t talk to us about violence, you taught us violence.”

Last words of people killed by police from Twitter, Washington DC (May 30, 2020)

The Failed State Cannot Reform Itself

George Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe,” echoed the same words of Eric Garner, who was killed six years ago by a New York police officer. Although there were protests then, not much has changed. The system failed to respond.

Failure starts at the top. There have been years of inaction at all levels of government. The New York Times reports “The administration has largely dismantled police oversight efforts, curbing the use of federal consent decrees to overhaul local police departments. Mr. Barr has said that communities that criticize law enforcement may not deserve police protection, and Mr. Trump has encouraged officers not to be ‘too nice’ in handling suspects.”

Trump poured gasoline on the current fire with incendiary rhetoric promising ‘looting leads to shooting’ echoing racists of the past and promising to send in the US military if Democrats can’t stop the uprising. Trump has put the military on alert to deploy to civilian protests. He maintains power by dividing people praising armed protesters who demanded reopening the economy despite the pandemic and calling unarmed protesters against police violence “thugs”.

On Friday, the White House locked down on security alert because of protests. Trump responded by calling for MAGA protesters to come to the White House. They did not come but protests at the White House have continued to increase.

Both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for the current rebellion. Joe Biden has described himself as a ‘law and order’ Democrat from the beginning of his career. He was the primary architect of the federal mass incarceration of Black people and helped add hundreds of thousands of police with militarized equipment to urban communities. He courts police unions that defend killer cops. And Biden opposed the integration of schools.

The failure of leadership continues at the state and local levels with politicians closely tied to the Fraternal Order of Police, which aggressively defends police who kill civilians. Every city can point to a series of police killings with no prosecutions or acquittals and few convictions. Minneapolis is a city with a long history of race-based police violence. Indeed, violence against Indigenous peoples led to the formation of the American Indian Movement.  Tne Intercept summarizes some of the cases:

  • In 2015, the police killed Jamar Clark a  24-year-old black man. Protests lasted two weeks but led to no prosecution.
  • In 2016, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black motorist, was killed in a Minneapolis suburb. More than two weeks of protest followed and two years later the officer was acquitted.
  • In 2017, Justine Ruszczyk, a 40-year-old white woman, approached a Minneapolis police car to report a sexual assault. The police officer, Mohamed Noor, who shot and killed her was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and her family was awarded a record $20 million settlement.
  • In 2018, body camera footage showed Minneapolis police chasing Thurman Blevins, a 31-year-old black man, and shooting him to death. Prosecutors refused to file charges against the officers who killed Blevins.

Protests have led to some changes but they haven’t solved the problem. Money has been spent on body cameras, which have rarely had any impact. Similarly, training on de-escalation and racial sensitivity has made little difference.

Over the last six years, cities have increased funding for police departments at the expense of health, education, and other underfunded urban programs. Rather than providing people with necessities, the government has relied on controlling neglected communities with an occupying police force. Some of the police are even trained by the Israeli occupiers.

Even in the midst of a pandemic and economic collapse, the government cannot give people access to healthcare, protect their jobs, suspend their rents or control food prices. As Rosa Miriam Elizalde writes in her comparison of the United States to Cuba, the difference is a matter of values. The United States government spends more than 60 percent of the discretionary budget on weapons and war. It should be no surprise that the government acted more quickly to suppress people with militarized police, thousands of National Guard troops, and curfews than it did to protect their lives when the pandemic and recession started.

The Failed State Cannot Reform Itself

George Floyd’s final words, “I can’t breathe,” echoed the same words of Eric Garner, who was killed six years ago by a New York police officer. Although there were protests then, not much has changed. The system failed to respond.

Failure starts at the top. There have been years of inaction at all levels of government. The New York Times reports “The administration has largely dismantled police oversight efforts, curbing the use of federal consent decrees to overhaul local police departments. Mr. Barr has said that communities that criticize law enforcement may not deserve police protection, and Mr. Trump has encouraged officers not to be ‘too nice’ in handling suspects.”

Trump poured gasoline on the current fire with incendiary rhetoric promising ‘looting leads to shooting’ echoing racists of the past and promising to send in the US military if Democrats can’t stop the uprising. Trump has put the military on alert to deploy to civilian protests. He maintains power by dividing people praising armed protesters who demanded reopening the economy despite the pandemic and calling unarmed protesters against police violence “thugs”.

On Friday, the White House locked down on security alert because of protests. Trump responded by calling for MAGA protesters to come to the White House. They did not come but protests at the White House have continued to increase.

Both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for the current rebellion. Joe Biden has described himself as a ‘law and order’ Democrat from the beginning of his career. He was the primary architect of the federal mass incarceration of Black people and helped add hundreds of thousands of police with militarized equipment to urban communities. He courts police unions that defend killer cops. And Biden opposed the integration of schools.

The failure of leadership continues at the state and local levels with politicians closely tied to the Fraternal Order of Police, which aggressively defends police who kill civilians. Every city can point to a series of police killings with no prosecutions or acquittals and few convictions. Minneapolis is a city with a long history of race-based police violence. Indeed, violence against Indigenous peoples led to the formation of the American Indian Movement.  Tne Intercept summarizes some of the cases:

  • In 2015, the police killed Jamar Clark a  24-year-old black man. Protests lasted two weeks but led to no prosecution.
  • In 2016, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black motorist, was killed in a Minneapolis suburb. More than two weeks of protest followed and two years later the officer was acquitted.
  • In 2017, Justine Ruszczyk, a 40-year-old white woman, approached a Minneapolis police car to report a sexual assault. The police officer, Mohamed Noor, who shot and killed her was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and her family was awarded a record $20 million settlement.
  • In 2018, body camera footage showed Minneapolis police chasing Thurman Blevins, a 31-year-old black man, and shooting him to death. Prosecutors refused to file charges against the officers who killed Blevins.

Protests have led to some changes but they haven’t solved the problem. Money has been spent on body cameras, which have rarely had any impact. Similarly, training on de-escalation and racial sensitivity has made little difference.

Over the last six years, cities have increased funding for police departments at the expense of health, education, and other underfunded urban programs. Rather than providing people with necessities, the government has relied on controlling neglected communities with an occupying police force. Some of the police are even trained by the Israeli occupiers.

Even in the midst of a pandemic and economic collapse, the government cannot give people access to healthcare, protect their jobs, suspend their rents or control food prices. As Rosa Miriam Elizalde writes in her comparison of the United States to Cuba, the difference is a matter of values. The United States government spends more than 60 percent of the discretionary budget on weapons and war. It should be no surprise that the government acted more quickly to suppress people with militarized police, thousands of National Guard troops, and curfews than it did to protect their lives when the pandemic and recession started.

Venezuela And Iran Show Solidarity Can Overcome US Empire

Commemorating 100,000 COVID-19 Deaths

The official milestone of 100,000 dead in the United States from COVID-19 is near. This figure is certainly an undercount as thousands of deaths from COVID-19 are not being recorded. Before our weekly news analysis, we pause to commemorate those deaths.

The US, with 4 percent of the world’s population, has 28 percent of the COVID19 deaths, disproportionately impacting black and brown people. Why is the US doing so poorly? President Trump surely deserves a great deal of blame. He continues to make major errors and critical mistakes were made in the first few months when Trump said on January 22: “It’s just one person coming in from China. We have it totally under control” and, on February 26: “When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple of days will be down to zero.” The Trump Death Clock reports 58,614 deaths could have been prevented if the US had acted more quickly.

But the problems are deeper than Trump. The US healthcare system is the most expensive in the world yet it is out of reach for tens of millions of people. The nation has never adequately invested in public health and does not have a community-based healthcare system that would have allowed immediate tracking of the virus. No state has met the requirements for reopening its economy, yet many are doing so. The nation has not put in place the testing and tracing needed to monitor and eliminate the virus.

This weekend, images of people at beaches and in malls without taking safety precautions compound the errors. In the next month, the impact of this recklessness will be widespread illness and death. We see nothing in US public policy coming from either party that will prevent that likely reality. Rather than fixing obvious errors in policy, the bipartisans are compounding them. We need to keep pushing for more. Our next General Strike call is May 28 at 7 pm EST. Our speaker is Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson and People’s Strike. Register at bit.ly/MayDayMeeting.

Iranian oil tanker, Fortune, arrives in Venezuelan waters and is escorted by  the Venezuelan navy (photo from TELSUR)

A Victory For Sovereignty, Independence, And Peace

This week, Venezuela and Iran faced up to threats made by the United States and defied the illegal US sanctions by sending five oil tankers from Iran to Venezuela. The US’ long term unilateral coercive measures have prevented the two countries with the largest oil reserves from selling their oil. This economic terrorism has caused tens of thousands of deaths in each country. Despite this economic warfare and constant threats of military attack, the two nations joined together in solidarity and broke through the US blockade to deliver much-needed oil and supplies to Venezuela.

This was a victory for sovereignty, independence, and peace. It was an act of dignity for both countries to take this successful stand against the United States. They have shown the world that illegal US economic sanctions, which impact 39 countries and one-third of the world’s population, can be defeated. They set an example that other nations can refuse the US’ unlawful demands. Acting together, the world can end the abusive unilateral coercive measures, end dollar domination, and create a multi-polar world where nations large and small have sovereignty and independence from hegemony.

US navy ships in the Caribbean (photo from Military.com)

US Threats And Show Of Force Dissipate

Last week, President Trump told a conservative audience that the US has Venezuela surrounded. Earlier this year, Trump ordered a US armada to the Caribbean to target Venezuela, including destroyers, littoral combat ships, Poseidon maritime planes, AWAC surveillance aircraft, and on-ground special forces units. This is the largest US military presence in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama.

Anonymous White House officials told Reuters the US has been “looking at measures that can be taken” to stop the “unwelcome”  impending delivery. The Washington Post quoted an unnamed high-level Trump official saying the administration “would not abide” Iran’s support of Maduro and “The president has made clear the United States will not tolerate continued meddling by supporters of an illegitimate regime.”

These threats are occurring just weeks after the failed May 3-4 mercenary invasion of Venezuela organized and led by ex-US special forces troops. The Bay of Pigs-like attempt to enter Venezuela by sea with 80 mercenaries was stopped by the Venezuelan government with the assistance of fishermen in the civilian militia. Two former US special forces and some Venezuelan military defectors are under arrest. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has promised to use all means at the disposal of the United States to free the US citizens.

This week, US courts allowed the seizure of Venezuela’s largest foreign asset, CITGO, worth an estimated $8 billion. A federal judge approved the sale of the  CITGO refineries after the US Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling. Foreign Minister Arreaza denounced the sale as an act of piracy and said, “There are 12 children waiting for a bone marrow transplant” that was going to be paid for by CITGO profits.  On May 14, Venezuela filed suit in a London commercial court that seeks to force the UK Central Bank to return an estimated US $1 billion worth of Venezuelan gold. Venezuela plans to use the gold to buy food, medicines, and healthcare equipment to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic reports Reuters.

The ultimate corporate media source, the Wall Street Journal, urged military action to halt the Iranian tankers, warning of the “risk to U.S. interests in doing nothing.” They claimed “President Trump has the legal power to declare an emergency and interdict the tankers.”  It warned the US needs to be prepared to respond to Iran in the Persian Gulf if they do so.

Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity published a memorandum to the President warning that taking action would result in serious blowback from the world against the US. Further, such an action would be illegal and an act of war that would have unpredictable consequences, not just in Latin America but in the Middle East where there are many US targets. They urged the administration to stop “saber-rattling” as “huffing and puffing hasn’t blown Maduro’s house down.”

The five supertankers – Fortune, Forest, Petunia, Faxon and Clavel – carrying around 1.5 million barrels of fuel have to pass the belligerent US armada. Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said, “They will be escorted by Bolivarian National Armed Forces boats and planes to welcome them in and thank the Iranian people for their solidarity and cooperation.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi accused the US of threatening piracy and vowed a decisive response.”  Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami warned the United States “Iran will not tolerate obstacles [to its oil ships]. Both the United States and other countries know that we will not hesitate. If the obstacles continue or increase, Iran’s response will be forceful.”

Both Iran and Venezuela warned the United Nations that any action by the United States to stop the oil tankers would be illegal. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif wrote UN Secretary Antonio Guterres. Venezuela’s UN ambassador, Samuel Moncada, alerted the agency to the “threat of imminent use of military force by the United States.” The letter warned: “Ships with British, Dutch, French and American flags are bordering the coasts of our country, with a hostile and aggressive attitude . . . threatening the imposition illegal of a naval blockade.” He urged the UN Security Council to take immediate action to end the “warmongering and criminal policies,” of the US, which threaten the peace, security, and stability of the region.

Earlier in the week, the US blocked the Security Council resolution denouncing the attempted mercenary invasion of Venezuela. Ambassador Moncada thanked the countries that stood up for international law in the Security Council. Maduro said, “We have had a great victory in the UN Security Council” by exposing the US to criticism from the world.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro shake hands at Wyndham Concorde hotel in Magarita, Venezeula, on September 16, 2016 (from Reuters)

The First Iranian Supertanker Enters Venezuelan Waters

While the world waited for military conflict, on Saturday night after 7 pm local time, the first supertanker entered Venezuelan waters and is currently being escorted by the Bolivarian Republics’ military to port. The US did not intercept the tanker. Hopefully, this will continue for the remaining four tankers and the US will end the economic war against Iran, Venezuela, and other countries.

The arrival of these tankers from Iran marks a historic milestone as it is the first time that the Middle Eastern country exported fuel to Latin America. This is one example of many of US sanctions bringing nations together in solidarity against the United States. The US is caught in a paradox — the more it exercises force, the more power it loses as nations unite against US domination.

Venezuela’s strategic ties to Iran date back almost two decades, when President Hugo Chávez, the founder of its socialist state, struck a flurry of economic and financial deals with the president of Iran. The two nation’s were co-founders of OPEC in 1960. In 2008, Venezuela shipped gasoline to Iran when US sanctions were crippling its industry. Maduro has continued to build bilateral relations with Iran resulting in economic and other trade deals as well as through OPEC and the Non-Aligned Movement.

On Friday night, a group of Venezuelan youths raised the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran in front of the mountain barracks where Commander Hugo Chavez rests as a token of appreciation for the shipment of fuels. People in both Venezuela and Iran celebrated the victory over the US blockade.

Now is the time to build on that success to grow the movement against the US’ illegal coercive measures. The Sanctions Kill coalition is holding a series of webinars to educate and organize toward that goal. The first was on May 9 and featured representatives from six countries. Speakers included Ana Silvia Rodriguez Abascal, Charge des Affaires of the Cuban Mission to the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Francisco O Campbell, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Bashar Ja’afari, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations and Carlos J. Ron Martinez, Venezuelan Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The next webinar will be on Sunday, May 31 at 1:00 pm EST and will feature representatives from Gaza, Venezuela, and other nations. It is taking place during an international week of action against imperialism from May 25 to 31.

The Non-Aligned Movement, a decades-old coalition of 120 nations representing 55 percent of the world’s population, has become reactivated. They met in Azerbaijan in October 2019 and in Venezuela in August 2019.  Both meetings denounced US sanctions and US military threats around the world. Nations are starting to provide assistance to sanctioned countries. In April, Britain, France and Germany used a new trade mechanism that bypasses US sanctions called Instex to send medical aid to Iran. These are positive signs.

While the victory of Iran and Venezuela is significant, it does not end the US economic war against the two countries. The US is persistent in its foreign policy goals and both countries need to be prepared for US escalation as a result of the Iranian supertankers going to Venezuela. Both countries cherish their independence and sovereignty. They will not give in. And they are building international solidarity. We in the US must demand that our government cease its hostilities and become a cooperative member of that global community.