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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 December 2014

"I can't breathe"

Uprising against police violence in the US

Eljeer Hawkins, Socialist Alternative (co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in the US)

Protests against police racism and violence are continuing across the US. After the explosions that took place following the announcement that police officer Darren Wilson wouldn't face trial for the killing of 18 year old Michael Brown, came the case of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.

On 17 July, Eric was approached by plain clothes police officers as he allegedly sold loose cigarettes. He had had previous encounters with police over the same issue. This time he declared he would not be harassed by the police anymore.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo applied a banned chokehold to Garner and continued to apply it after he took Garner to the ground. Garner called out "I can't breathe". He died at the scene. On 3 December a Grand Jury decided not to indict Pantaleo.

The Ferguson and Garner verdicts highlight the inability and unwillingness of capitalism and its two parties to seriously address or even curtail the militarisation of the police and the systemic nature of police violence.


In general the elite have seen the militarisation of the police, on top of the criminalisation of large sections of black youth and mass incarceration, as a key part of maintaining social control. Fear of crime is used to divide the working class on racial lines while poor black communities face a virtual police state.

The ruling class will not concede any weakening of overall police powers without a major social struggle by the working class, particularly by black workers and youth.

The labour movement must play an active role in this struggle for racial and economic justice. Police repression which targets black youth today will be used against workers' struggles tomorrow as it has been repeatedly in the past.

It is clear that the racist capitalist system in this country has a total disregard for the lives of working people, poor people and particularly black youth. Police kill black Americans at nearly the same rate as the past lynching during the Jim Crow (post-civil war racist laws) era and young black men are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than white men.

Escalate the action

The righteous indignation of working people and youth protesting the grand jury announcement is justified and must be escalated to end this daily misery.

The movement on the streets against police violence can become the beginning of a new black freedom movement. Such a movement must also take up the economic devastation which is being caused by capitalism.

The fight for a $15 minimum wage which has caught fire around the US is a brilliant way to begin to build the broader working class fightback which is essential to a successful fight against all forms of oppression.

None of us can breathe in a system of economic, political and social terrorism; the only medicine that can cure our ills is a system change. The struggle for democratic socialism and workers' democracy must be placed on agenda.

See for a full version of this article and updates

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In The Socialist 10 December 2014:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Osborne's savage cuts: No return to the 1930s!

Reject the lie that is austerity

Europe: a new wave of workers' struggle has begun

Save our NHS

Tenants can resist Scrooge landlords

Climate change: Sacrificing the future

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

Uprising against police violence in the US

Socialist Party workplace news

London bus drivers: Same job - we want the same pay!

1,000 firefighters march to defend Ricky Matthews

Students join Lambeth walkout

Sharpak Yate packaging strike

Rail franchise jobs: TUPE or not TUPE?

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

We have a world to win!

Socialist Students: fight for free education

Election appeal: finding cash to fight the cuts

Campaign news in brief

Socialist Party comments and reviews

The 1914 Christmas truce

Mockingjay: Part One

Broadband giants' expensive battle

Quiz 2014


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