Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Don’t Fall for the Copaganda: They’ll Take A Knee, Then Tear Gas Thousands

Cops in cities across the U.S. are marching in protests and taking a knee in “solidarity” before continuing to attack demonstrators. These empty acts of “copaganda” obscure the racist violence of the police, and serve to diffuse the protests.

Otto Fors

June 3, 2020
Facebook Twitter Share
BRYAN R. SMITH / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES, JOHN MOORE / GETTY IMAGES

Amid growing protests across the U.S. against the racist murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, cops in several cities have shown “solidarity” by taking a knee and participating in demonstrations. Images of these acts, including cops praying, and shaking hands with and hugging protesters have proliferated on social media and mainstream news networks where people are keen to show “good apples” in the police force. However, these hollow acts are a tactic to undermine the protests, and obscure cops’ violent role as unreformable tools of capitalist oppression

Police have performed acts of “solidarity” at numerous protest sites, from Washington state to Des Moines, Iowa to Southern Florida. A picture from Schenectady, New York shows police officers solemnly taking a knee across from protesters doing the same, raising a fist in the air, and dutifully documenting this “copaganda” on their smartphones. In New York City, some protesters went as far as to cheer and thank cops who prayed with and hugged protesters. Even in Ferguson, Missouri, site of the 2014 uprising in response to the murder of Michael Brown, cops marched with protesters and kneeled for photo ops. 

These videos and photos are being played on a loop on CNN and MSNBC in an attempt to improve the public’s perception of the police. Predictably, liberals and bourgeois media are lapping the images up, calling them “moving” and “heartfelt.” Many protesters also reacted positively, including Seattle musician Raz Simone who said, “I feel like it’s been a great success… Nothing has changed in a day. But… I think it’s beautiful that everybody is out here in unity.” This is a key tactic set up by the capitalist media and the Democratic Party: To diffuse anger at the police, and give symbolic (and irrelevant) concessions like cops joining the protests and saying that they, too, believe Black Lives Matter. 

These images of “solidarity” reaffirm liberals’ view that the police is a legitimate force for good, but a few “bad apples” require discipline or training. From this perspective, there is no need for police abolition; rather, we just need to increase the number of “good apples” and encourage toothless oversight measures. Sectors of the cops have taken this approach — performing “solidarity” — not because they are against police brutality, but because it is a way to co-opt the demonstrations and dilute the strongly anti-cop message. Make no mistake, this is a way to end the current uprising. It is the “carrot” to pacify the movement, while cops simultaneously use the “stick” of violence and curfews. 

An examination of the police’s brutal actions within minutes of these photo ops lays bare the cops’ motivations. Journalist Touré documented on Sunday how leaders at the Barclays Center protest in Brooklyn invited police to kneel with them and even handed them the microphone. However, within 15 minutes of the speech, the police were once again “in attack mode,” tear gassing protesters and violently taking some into custody. This took place across the United States: the locations where cops took a knee later became sites of intense police brutality by the same officers, a fact conveniently omitted by bourgeois media. 

The police continue to violently repress protesters and act with impunity, regardless of their empty acts of “solidarity.” They have used tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets, driven SUVs into crowds, and brutally tackled people to the ground, whether they are protesters, medics, or journalists. On Monday morning, police in Louisville, Kentucky murdered David McAtee, a 53 year-old Black man. Despite the systematic police brutality on display in U.S. cities, bourgeois politicians and the media have overwhelmingly overlooked it, in many cases defending these tactics. 

The police are the targets of the current demonstrations. No amount of arm-linking, fist-bumping, knee-taking, or speech-making will change this fact, and spreading “copaganda” will only perpetuate the myth that “good apples” are the solution to police violence. The police are a fundamentally violent and racist armed wing of the state whose primary purpose is to protect capital and reproduce inequality. We must abolish them, along with the racist, capitalist system they are meant to protect.

Facebook Twitter Share

Otto Fors

Otto is a college professor in the New York area.

Guest Posts

The Tide Is Turning: New Yorkers Are Speaking Out for Palestinian Liberation

The cit's anti-Zionist movement is speaking out for Palestinian liberation. Attitudes in the city's Jewish community are shifting rapidly.

Ana Orozco

February 23, 2024
Protesters at the University of Michigan holding Palestine flags and a big banner that reads "DIVEST."

University of Michigan Faculty Senate Approves Divestment Resolution

The University of Michigan Faculty Senate recently passed a measure calling for divestment from companies investing in Israel's attacks on Gaza. Will the university’s capitalist bosses change course and support democratic demands to stop funding genocide?

Ryan McCarty

February 4, 2024

If Palestinian Lives Matter, the UAW Should Not Endorse Biden

The UAW bureaucracy is meeting in Washington DC, where they are discussing, among other things, whether to endorse Joe Biden for president. If the UAW cares about its own call for a ceasefire in Gaza, it should refuse to endorse Biden (as well as Trump).

Daniel Nath

January 23, 2024
Scenic sunset over the Mediterranean Sea

Yearning Waves: A Palestinian’s Tale of Dreams and the Stolen Sea

A Palestinian shares his pain and sadness over the hoops he must jump through in order to experience his own land.

MOST RECENT

No More Aaron Bushnells

Aaron Bushnell was a victim of the U.S. military and a world where it's normal for people to burn. He should inspire a massive movement for a world without despair.

Samuel Karlin

March 3, 2024
Black UAW workers, a black-and-white image, holding signs that say "UAW ON STRIKE."

To Achieve Black Liberation, Class Independence Is Key

A united, working-class party fighting oppression is our only hope for Black liberation.

Tristan Taylor

February 29, 2024
A banner reads "Real Wages Or We Strike" at a rally for CUNY, which is experiencing cuts from Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul.

CUNY Faculty and Staff Have Gone One Year Without a Contract — It’s Time to Strike

CUNY workers have been without a new contract for a full year and the university has yet to make any economic offers. It's time to take action.

Olivia Wood

February 29, 2024
Aaron Bushnell, who self-immolated in protest of the genocide in Palestine.

Aaron Bushnell’s Cry of Despair in the Face of Genocide

The media and international community was profoundly affected by the self-immolation of U.S. soldier Aaron Bushnell in protest against the genocide in Gaza. His death and desperate act of protest starkly shows the cruelty and brutality of U.S. Imperialism and Zionism.

Enzo Tresso

February 28, 2024