So many of us have been marching against the police, challenging them in the streets and organizing massive demonstrations. In 2020, cop cars were set ablaze. A police station burned with an approval rating higher than the U.S. Congress! The consciousness of millions of people was deeply changed in the U.S. and around the world.
As the movement waned, our class enemies attacked us. As self-appointed leaders became millionaires, they led the movement to the Democratic Party, a party of police itself, as a backlash against the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement mounted. Both Democrats and Republicans whipped up fear of a non-existent “crime wave” and posed increased policing as the solution. President Biden called for more money for police. The Republicans actually increased police budgets and are currently fighting against any discussion of racism in schools. Former president Obama as well as Democratic party politicians attacked the movement and its central slogan “Defund the Police,” all while police increased their body count.
In fact, the cops killed more people in 2022 than any other year. When we leave the streets, the capitalists attack the working class and oppressed people even more viciously. The Democrats, like Republicans, are the party of capitalism, bombs, and cops. They didn’t betray the movement — they were never on the side of working-class and oppressed people in the first place.
New Year, Same Murdering Cops
Since the start of 2023, the police have murdered Keenean Anderson, Oscar Lopez, and Takar Smith in Los Angeles, all in the middle of a mental health crisis. The cops murdered Tortuguita in Atlanta for fighting against the environmentally destructive, anti- worker combat training center Cop City. And in a brutal video, cops beat Tyre Nichols to death. Anthony Lowe, a Black man and double amputee in Huntington Park, California jumped from his wheelchair to flee the police and was shot in his back as he hobbled away. Ohio police shot and killed Joe Frasure as he was packing up his late grandmother’s apartment.
There is no doubt that we need mass protests to fight police violence. Our rage must flow into the streets and we must make our voices heard.
But as workers, we have another, even more powerful weapon. To fight the horrors of policing, we must organize to strike!
Workers run all of society and have the power to shut down the economy, whether in a classroom, a factory, or a restaurant. The labor movement is slowly but surely waking up as more and more workers unionize. Amazon workers, teachers, railroad workers, and public and private sector workers can stop products from arriving and can grind the economy to a halt if we join together and refuse to work.
Chris Smalls explained it well in a tweet:
In 2020, SEIU called for a Strike for Black Lives on Juneteenth. Although the union didn’t mobilize nearly enough of its millions of members and the work stoppages were short, it was the right idea. During the West Coast port shutdown, also on Juneteenth, ILWU workers refused to offload or onboard cargo in solidarity with the BLM movement in conjunction with a mobilization of tens of thousands against the murder of George Floyd. That’s what I’m talking about! There are other solidarity actions that workers have mounted against the police. In Minneapolis, a bus driver refused to transport riot police to the protest lines. Building workers’ solidarity can lay the groundwork for workers across unions to strike against the police and support each other.
Additionally, we must call on the sectors of workers that these murdered men were part of. Keenan Anderson was a teacher. The teachers’ unions, the biggest unions in the country, can and should mobilize their members to march against the murder of a fellow teacher. They must organize the workforce to refuse to go to work and take the streets instead, demanding the defunding of the police and the refunding of schools. Books, not cops! Tyre Nichols worked at FedEx. Delivery workers at Amazon and at UPS must rise up for their brother, who worked day in and day out doing the same labor they do. Tyre NIchols won’t be at work, so all other delivery workers should rise up in protest.
Consider if Amazon, railroaders, public sector workers, nurses, teachers, graduate school workers and researchers, social workers, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, fast food workers and every other worker who went on strike or voted to strike or organized a union at their workplace actually walked off the job and into the streets against the police — It would shut the economy down and flex our power as workers against the police.
Police Are Not workers! Disaffiliate Them from Our Unions!
In some unions, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and SEIU, there are police as members. The police are not workers, they attack workers. They brutalize us, beat protesters who challenge them, evict, and kill workers. When the police go on “strike,” it has been to defend their murderous rampages. In 2017, NYPD organized work stoppages in protest of the BLM movement for Eric Garner and crime went down! Fewer cops resulted in less crime. Malcolm X suggested in a speech he gave in Los Angeles, “How can you have more cops and more crime? It shows you that the cops must be in cahoots with the criminals.” The police are the criminals! In Atlanta where the police are members of the SEIU affiliate, Rayshard Brooks, an unarmed Black man, was murdered by cop Garrett Rolfe. The police “strike” to defend killer cops. They break the strikes of workers including beating up SEIU janitors who went on strike to form their union. Unions like SEIU need to Drop the Cops and continue to organize actual workers to build our power.
Democrats and Republicans: A Party of Police and Strikebreakers
The strikebreaking Biden administration is terrified of our power. That is why the police who murdered Tyre Nichols have been charged with a crime. That is why the Memphis Scorpion unit, the unit directly responsible for Nichols’s murder, has been disbanded. Top cops like William Bratton and former cop, now Mayor of New York, Eric Adams are both Democrats. Through the Democratic Party, they fought for more money for police while they attacked Black people, immigrants, queer people and the disabled in the cities they ran.
The Democrats are terrified of another, more powerful uprising. The power of BLM is the reason Republicans like Ron DeSantis are blocking the teaching of Black History in schools. If the multi-racial youth are taught the history of racist foundations of the U.S. and the resistance to that oppression, they could feel empowered to make history themselves. Strikes and unions, just like Black civil rights, used to be illegal in the U.S. It was mass movements, uprisings, organization and strikes of a multi-racial working class that forced it to change.
Workers have the opportunity and ability to shut down the system. This is why Democrats, Republicans, and even the Squad broke the strike of the railroad workers. If we use our workplaces as organizing tools against racism and police murder, we can build the power to take control and shut them down!
Sympathy strikes and strikes outside of contracts in certain instances may be considered “wildcat” or even “illegal.” Recall that unions themselves were once illegal; what turned the tide for workers to win unions was organization, militancy, and mass mobilization. We have proven we can do that! It is time for us to undertake the fight for the political strike and the strike against the police.