“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”: Right Where They Want Us

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“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”: Right Where They Want Us
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“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”: Right Where They Want Us

    The video of unarmed father and grandfather Eric Garner being choked to death is terrible and horrific, just like the death of the unarmed teenager Mike Brown. It might remind one of some kind of ISIS propaganda, the only difference being the police did not release this footage themselves.

    The part after they kill him and they have him limp and propped up, yet still seem confused like, "What's wrong with him?", should make everyone stand up in outrage. In Spike Lee’s movie “Do the Right Thing”, when the police choke Radio Raheem to death, how did people react? It might seem like there’s only one thing to say in this situation: FUCK the police!

    However there have been serious problems with the response by the general public to these events. For those in America who even do consider it an injustice and aren't taking the side of the police, their position can be summed up by the soundbites and tag-lines “black lives matter", or "we need justice." What we need to do is destroy capitalism, smash the state, and bury racist police forces with them.

    Think about it; to finally escape the astral disassociation of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the comfort of your homes only to point out that all humans deserve the dignity of not being killed by the police is not profound at all. In fact, it’s not much different from saying the police should kill the same amount of black people as they do white people, or Latino or Asian. In the end they are still killing people. They are killing poor people.

    Believe it or not, the American government used to kill white people all the time, too. If you're not fimiliar with this, just take sometime and learn about the history of the labor movement in this country. The police have a murderous habit, history has already given us this indictment many times.

    It’s tragic the majority of people still have not recognized that the role of the police, and the state in general, is and has always been to separate the haves from the have-nots, in the interests of the ruling class.

    That should be the main take away; poor people are the victims under capitalism. And instead of sobbing and rioting, the reaction should be focused and conscious. But instead what we hear is “we need justice”, go easy on us, “hands up”, we surrender.

    Meaningful resistance to these situations can only come from one place: an awakened, united and revolutionary working class. However, the slogan “hands up, don’t shoot” is representative of a working class which is none of these things. It is instead reflective of a class that does not know it exists, that doesn’t know it alone has the power to carry out meaningful social revolution that can stop the police, the greedy bankers, capitalism itself, and create a new society that will focus on peacefulness and the fulfillment of peoples lives and need— instead of, “How can I make a quick buck and get this money?”

    The focus, the fetish of “non-violence” among social “activists” is equally concerning and also provides hard, material evidence of a working class that has basically surrendered. So instead of focusing on these motifs, as humans and people who work to make a living, we should take more radical stances. Instead of arguing pointlessly about whether or not this capitalist society is post-racial (which it clearly isn’t and never will be), we have to say we are workers and together we can halt this system. That’s the only way forward.

    When even Jon Stewart doesn't know what to say, we say this: a communist future is the only future worth fighting for. Question what you have heard and start to realize this reality. Or keep getting murdered by the cops.

Jamal Rayyan
3 December 2014

Nice post Jamal, the

Nice post Jamal, the intersection of class and race in the history of captialist development is self-evident, but at the same time very difficult to unravel. As you point out, its not like the police never kill white people. Personally, as I listen to the media coverage I often find the tremendous empathy I have for the victims in these events tempered by confusion (or is it anger?) at some of the comments of the white liberal analysts. "White people cannot identify with the feelings of rage and alienation of African Americans, because they do not have the same history with police that leads them to consider them an occupying force in their 'communities'." Ask poor white "communites" in Appalahia that have been suffering the oxyconton epidemic about that. Or Lawerence O'Donnell last night, "A white person has never been strangled by the police?" Really? I kinda' doubt that.

Moreover, I am left wondering just who are these people they are talking about that cannot identify with what African Americans are going through? I mean they must exist, because somehow these prosecutors keep getting relected, but I don't know any of them. Just about everyone I know hates the fucking police--white, black, Latino, Asian, educated or not, decent middle class professional or blue collar manual laborer, Marxist or apolitical, and its not as if I live in a total ghetto.

And here is the rub--its as if the media commentary is designed to reinforce racial divisions--to obscure the very real class issues that undergird these events with the discourse of race. Because racial discoure is just so much more comfortable for the status quo, whereas issues of class point to more fundamental problems. Of course, none of this means racial issues are not real or somehow mere epiphenomena of class.

But one thing this all leads me to ask, and maybe it will cause some reflection in others as well, is what good was the much vaunted civil rights movement anyway if forty years later there is still an epidemic of cops killing black people and getting away with it scott free (in addition to mass incarceration)? I mean I guess there is a black President (who seems especially powerless to do anything about all this) and I guess Al Sharpton has his own TV show, but if your poor and black its open season. Of course, if you are poor and white, or a young white male dressed a certain way, you might not get a pass from the repressive forces of the state either.

hands up

I think some of the criticisms are spot on, Jamal. There does seem to have been a kind of backhanded demand for 'racial quotas' in police deaths.


But I see the 'hands up don't shoot' protests (their tactics and symbolism) as having a different motivation. I don't think that it really is 'surrender' as you seem to be implying. It's using the symbolism of surrender certainly, but it's doing it to point out, again and again, that the police is murdering people. The fact that people are protesting at all is significant, and like other forms of oppositional activity to the status quo, it might - just might - catalyse something else. New forms of organisation and struggle emerging, new questioning of the current state of affairs, even though these steps are at present tentative.



An anarchist on Libcom

An anarchist on Libcom mentioned that it was a good thing there hadn't been any demands during the protests/riots. I thought it wasrather anti-politics myself. Have there been any political demands? I posted a link to serving and veteran military although couched in constitutional terms calling National Guard to stand with protesters against the Police. I thought this was pretty significant even if not taken up to any great degree. It seems like quite an advanced position to take. Are there any groups which call for cops not to carry guns? I know it's not THE answer or immediately possible.

"Hands up, don't shoot", like

"Hands up, don't shoot", like sj points out, is meant to be symbolic of Mike Brown's death. In other words, if someone's hands are up in surrender, you shouldn't shoot them. More than two-thirds of the witnesses invovled in the indictment process say they are sure Mike Brown was killed execution style. That alone should be enough to "indict a ham sandwich" as the media pundits keep saying. So how come Wilson got away free? Also, why did he resign if he did absolutely nothing wrong in his position as an officer, as he continues to state so dilligently? Why was the DA considering prosecuting Mike Brown's father and uncle for inciting riots?

I don't think it's necessarily a working class position to say "the police need to stop murdering people" because when we look at history, thats pretty much been their main function. In many revolutionary situations, probably almost all, the police have done what?

So what are we calling for when we say "the police need to stop murdering people"? Are we basically saying the police force needs to be reformed? That sounds like a demand for reform when you really get down to it and in this declining period of capitalism not only is that unlikely, it's not possible.

Year, after year, after year police keep killing people. Back in 2007, one of my friends from class had a brother who was killed during a traffic stop while reaching for his wallet. There were 11 killed that year if I remember correctly. And I live in a small city.

The conclusion the scientific materialist draws from this, by looking at the evidence available, is that contrary to the rhetoric the politcians spew on a consistent basis, they in fact ARE meeting their goals. Every time something like this gets out of hand, the politicians and civil rights leaders say things like, "the police need more training in order to meet their goals", blah blah blah. And this only comes after periods of intense public outcry like the current one. Things settle down and then after a while it all happens again. And the funding of the police continues, even increases. So the conclusion one has to draw is that the goals they present us are false, and that the REAL goals are continuing to be met.

The Obama administration, along with Mike Brown's mother and stepfather, have been advocating that police officers carry body cameras with them as a solution to all these police murders. Hah! You have to be kidding me. In the age of unlimited, unrestricted government spying, you now also want them to have 24/7 footage of everything that goes on pretty much everywhere? Great idea. Like they really need more gadgets. They already have cell phone spy towers and drones.

Sj, like I said before I really don't find these protests and others like it too profound. I don't think class demands are at the heart of these protests. I think people are just asking to be fairly included in capitalism. In terms of the organizations and activists and various groups that have come from this, they are not very impressive either.

Only today in NYC have we started to hear calls of "shut down the system", but like I also said in the OP, this is just symptomatic of a working class that doesn't know how to shut down the system, because what they're doing is "Occupy Wall Street"-type demonstrations in the middle of the day during the work week. Nothing I've seen, unfortunately, has shown working class action in any meaningful way.

Is there any class content to

Is there any class content to the protests over the police killings? I think there is some. Basically, we have gone through a twenty year period of resurgent law and order and state violence in the vein of fighting crime and terrorism after the social movements of the sxities and seventies moved the state to mitigate some of the more open and antagonistic police practices for a time.

Everyone was complicit in this--the Democrats, as much as the Republicans. It was Clinton who suspended his Presidential campaign to return to Arkansas to "oversee" an execution; it was Clinton who signed into law the Republican Congress' omnibus anti-crime bill in the middle 90s. For over two decades, a candidate who didn't promise to get tougher on crime and criminals stood no chance at the polls. There is a direct line from this kind of politics to the development of a police culture and attitude that stresses subduing suspects with force, of being under seige, of not taking any personal risk in the performance of their duties--better to shoot someone or use an illegal strangle hold then actually take the risk of bringing someone under control in a non-lethal way.

Finally, I think people have had a enough of this shit and that is expressed in the outrage over these killings--but also in other ways, the growing consensus that the drug war is out of hand--that zero tolerance, "broken windows" policies destroy communities rather than protect them. 

But why now? Why are some parts of the bourgeoisie even waking up to the reality that these policies are often couterproductive to the stability of their society? I mean MSNBC is in a full on anti-police posture right now. Of course, the righties on Fox News (many of them at least) will continue in the vein of defending the police-- "If Eric Garner and Mike Brown would have just complied with the police, they'd be alive today," but it does seem like there is a growing movement afoot to try to mitigate some of the worst aspects of policing.

Will those factions of the bourgeoisie who want to address this succeed? That remains to be seen, (I kinda' doubt it) but the question for the working class is how to express its anger over these things without letting it get sucked behind the reformist campaigns for body cameras, grand jury reform, community policing, racial quotas on police forces, etc. Of course, that is always the question for the working class........

One commentator, in retort to

One commentator, in retort to those who questioned why the police would even arrest Eric Garner for such a minor offense, mentioned that in the United States you can be arrested for any crime--no matter how minor. The Supreme Court has already said that you can be arrested for such petty offenses as not wearing your seat belt. Heck, in some states speeding is actually punishable by up to a year in jail. (Remind me to stay out of Georgia!)

And here is where some of the class content of the outrage at the police state comes into view--who bears the brunt of this over policing, leviathan like approach to society? The working class of course. Part of the furor in Ferguson--over and above the death of Mike Brown--was at the more mundane daily operations of the criminal justice system in working class communities--committ a minor traffic offense-- get a ticket, miss your court date because you have to go to work or have to take care of the kids--get a warrant, get arrested the next time you get pulled over on some bogus pretense, get fined in court, can't pay the fine--get another warrant, owe the court thousands of dollars. That's how the criminal justice system functions in working class communities across the country--as a giant revenue stream redistributing income from the working class to underfunded municipal coffers. Of course, no Republican thinks of this as a tax.

Its this kind of saturation of working class lives with the discourse and mechanisms of punishment, surveillance and harrasment--be it physical or pecuniary--that is generating so much outrage--even if it is still prensented in the reformist language of fixing a broken democracy. Of course, we know outrage isn't enough.....

Given that brief outline of

Given that brief outline of US society, is it one of the most authoritarian? That's kind of a rhetorical question really because I don't think you can make any kind of list and even if you could what use would it be. It certainly sounds authoritarian in a different way to say a country at war...ah but the US is (constantly) at war. The US is the most militarized country on earth. And Noam Chomsky says it's the freest!!

For all its talk of liberty,

For all its talk of liberty, the US state--in its various national, state and local forms--is pretty darn invasive. Then again, I remember almost geting a summary twenty quid fine on the London tube......

You got off light for a score

You got off light for a score jk, considering the fate of poor Charles de Menezes who, while waiting for his train to pull out, was pumped full of bullets - quite legally of course - by a British police death squad. If not on the same scale, the situation in Britain regarding the development of the police state is very similar to that of the US.

baboon - I remember that.

baboon - I remember that. Wasn't the fellow Brazilian? And didn't his death come right after the decision to arm the tube police or something like that?

rc - Seriously, fuck Chomsky. He's a bourgeois asshole. He lives on Cape Cod.

jk - Ah, great points! I've been working since 15...I've paid maybe $5,000 or more to the court system. That's easily around 3-5% of all the money I've ever made in my life. The majority of the court fees coming from a case where I was pulled out of my vehicle at work while delivering pizzas and resisted arrest. 

Hmm, there has been a lot of

Hmm, there has been a lot of commentary the last few days about what to do if you are ever stopped by police--the one constant of this is that you should always do whatever they say, do not resist, do not mouth off, do not protest. There is no appeal on the street. If they are doing something illegal or improper, deal with it later in court. In general, that is probably some pretty good personal advice--you aren't going to win a fight with the cops most times, and even if you do they'll find you eventually and probably fuck you up pretty badly.

There was one contrarian on this though--criminal defense lawyer Mark Geragos on CNN--who correctly stated it is not illegal to resist an arrest that is illegal in the first place. Still, good luck trying to convince the cop that is trying to arrest you that he is doing so illegally. Similarly, the ACLU publishes a pamphlet on how to handle yourself in a traffic stop. If the cop asks where you are going, you are supposed to say "I know you have a job to do officer, but I do not like to discuss my personal business." Yeah, I think I'll try that next time. Better get my affairs in order.

Dont Talk to PoliceAn law

Dont Talk to Police

An law school professor and former criminal defense attorney tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police.  

(Cop talks on the subject from 27 minutes onwards)


DONT TALK TO COPS says NYPD Detective 


NYPD Stop & Frisk Whistle blowers: From Behind The Blue Wall of Silencehttps://youtu.be/KMA5aEqixxY  

Jamal, Charles de Menezes was

Jamal, Charles de Menezes was indeed a Brazilian working here as an electrician. He was followed by an armed stake out team who were looking for terrorists. They followed the unfortunate man because he looked "foreign-looking". They followed him by foot, on a bus and down the tube where they executed him. The CCTV and eyewitnesses contradicted everything the police said but straightaway, as is the case with these things, the police, using their favourite newspapers, put out stories denigrated the man: he was running away, he jumped the barriers (he strolled through slowly), he had been taking cocaine, he was an illegal immigrant. All these lies just compounded the disgusting act of murder.

But it's not just these gangs of inept, trigger-happy armed clods that represent the police but the whole structure that, as we've seen recently, has a vast anti-working class methodology: the use of undercover policing, the complete lack of morality, spying on all sorts of political groups and individuals, accessing all sorts of information illegally and totally complicit in helping to draw up blacklists of militant workers

Those are great vids rc,

Those are great vids rc, thanks!