Yet another Black man was killed by police, this time in Memphis. His murder by five cowardly police officers was senseless and brutal. Yet another mother has to bury her son. The outrage of the community of Memphis and all supporters of Black lives is a justified one. It is our vocal outrage and the now dormant yet relevant power of the 2020 mobilizations against police terror that forced the City of Memphis to release the police bodycam footage of Tyre Nichols’ murder, not their benevolence or sense of duty.
We know how this goes. We have seen the pattern all too often. Established civil rights leaders who have been absent from the streets because they are too busy chopping it up with politicians will be calling for calm, telling us to temper our anger. A city government void of moral credibility asks for calm, patience, and trust in their flawed process. Those of us who mobilize do so because we know that both the established “leaders” and government institutions are not to be trusted, even though we face the real possibility of state repression for mobilizing for justice.
So, we must stand firm and vocal against any repression of the movement and persecution of its participants. We also need to use the moment to not only pose the need for a revitalization of the movement in the streets. We need effective and democratic ways of organizing that prevent the momentum our activity creates from being co-opted by politicians and political parties who continue to fund repressive institutions like the police. We need to ignore voices of established leaders, social justice, and non-profit organizations who tell us that the only way to make big change is through small goals and projects. Tyre’s death proves that we will not stop police murder so long the system that maintains and protects the police — capitalism — is in power. We need a big structural change, the type that only a revolution against capitalism can create.
Our movement must learn how to have democratic discussion amongst ourselves, even at mass gatherings. We must ensure that the movement itself is making decisions over what it does. Additionally, we need to make sure that we are discussing the type of political strategy we need, which is not the same as having discussion about what actions we need to plan next. If we want to make radical change, our demands for justice require, if we want to take radical and revolutionary action, then we have to discuss how and where the working class and oppressed have the power to make that radical change.
Let’s not only shout justice for Tyre Nichols, let’s not only shout to defund and abolish the police, but let us shout the need for the movement to build democratic organizations that are politically independent of the Democrats and Republicans and won’t demobilize until real justice is served.