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The Movement Against Gun Violence at a Crossroads

In Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, Boston and other major cities across the U.S., hundreds of thousands of people, mostly youth, demonstrated against gun violence in schools. The movement stands at a crossroads: strengthen the police state and the Democratic party or embrace an independent program against state violence.

Jimena Vergara

March 25, 2018
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Photo via marchforourlives.com

This Saturday, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest school shootings and gun violence. It was one of the largest mobilizations of the Trump era.

At the heart of these mobilizations are young people who are fed up with violence in their schools, fed up with politicians beholden to the interests of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and fed up with white supremacist groups that terrorize Black and Latino communities.

The most recent mass shooting, which left 17 students and teachers dead in Parkland, Florida, caused widespread outrage among American youth — youth who we were told had become “accustomed” to incidents like these. While the “March for Our Lives” is based on legitimate and progressive indignation, the movement that spontaneously arose in high schools across the country is defined by a call for new gun control legislation.

Is there a problem with demands for gun control?

Yes: the problem with the demand for gun control is that it directly empowers the state to regulate or prohibit the ownership of guns. Is it desirable that the institutions of the state control all the arms in the country? Is it desirable that the police determine who should have the right to own guns and who should not?

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A Police State

The U.S. state holds the world’s largest arsenal of weapons. It is the primary aggressive force internationally, with an extensive network of lethal military bases around the world, with operations primarily directed towards semi-colonies. Perhaps the most criminal example is its unconditional support and funding for the Israeli state and its occupation of Palestine. Or perhaps the most criminal are the continued bombings of the Middle East, destroying Iraq, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. The continued existence of a torture camp like Guantanamo is yet another example that that the U.S. is the world’s most egregious human rights abuser.

Domestically, the state’s monopoly on violence serves to repress its own people. The US is a state defined by the mass incarceration of Black men and women, the widespread detention of immigrants, and police brutality against Black people like the young Stephon Clark, murdered last week in Sacramento, California. It is a state defined by increased militarization, with security guards in schools, metal detectors and in Compton, security gaurds carrying AR-15s.

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During the Trump Administration, the most repressive aspects of the state have deepened. ICE terrorizes undocumented workers, while the border patrol and paramilitary groups hunt down migrants throughout the South. Detention centers are packed with Latino working men and women. Local police forces have increased free reign and military grade equipment to continue murdering Black people.

Who are our friends and who are our enemies in the fight against violence?

Trump, the Republicans, and the ultra-right defend the right to bear arms so that white supremacist groups can continue to terrorize people of color and their party coffers will continue to be filled with NRA donations. There is no doubt that the NRA is a legal cover for white supremacist and fascist bands. Therefore, we share the hatred held by the hundreds of thousands who mobilized yesterday against the NRA.

The Democrats put forward the demand for gun control, attempting to capitalize on the mass mobilizations of youth. They stand to benefit from the chants at yesterday’s march to “vote them out”– demanding NRA Republicans out and gun control Democrats in.

Yet, the Democrats are not our friends either.

During Democrat-controlled administrations, Democrats promoted and administered imperialist wars and oversaw impunity in cases of police brutality. During both Republican and Democrat administrations, white mass shooters were treated like “mentally ill” and “disturbed” individuals while Black victims of violence were criminalized. It is no coincidence that the Black Lives Matter movement arose during the Obama years, with rebellions from Ferguson to Baltimore.

You may be interested in: What’s Behind America’s Gun Violence Problem?

If this new youth movement truly wishes to end violence, it must take up an independent program. We cannot trust in the same politicians who support armed police in our schools and who are complicit in police murders. These hypocrites shed crocodile tears for the victims of shootings in order to channel the outrage and energy of today’s youth into the Democratic Party.

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The true friends of a movement against school violence are the Black youth who are mobilizing against the murder of Stephon Clarke by the Sacramento police, the West Virginia teachers who went on strike for better wages, the Dreamers who face the deportations of their family members and fight to remain in the country in which they were raised. The friends of the movement are the women, especially working class and poor, who demand an end to sexual violence. To end violence in schools, it is necessary for students, their families, and teachers to organize independently of the capitalist parties who bear the primary responsibility violence in the US and abroad.

The movement can only win if it takes all of the strength and resolve we saw in the streets yesterday to go beyond the capitalist politicians; if it fights for the immediate end to police in schools, an end to the NRA and its allies, and an end to police brutality against the Black community, if it struggles to dismantle the border patrol and the paramilitary groups along the border who harass and brutalize immigrants, and if it seeks to end US imperialism and US wars and other attacks abroad.

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Jimena Vergara

Jimena is an author of the collection "Mexico en Llamas" and lives and works in New York City.

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