Welcome to the uprising. We’re beginning to learn that we can take on the ruling class — and its deranged, murderous servants — and win.
Protest doesn’t accomplish much if you only do it once or twice a year. That’s why, in ordinary times, most people don’t bother. But these are not ordinary times. All over the country people have been flooding the streets, every day and night for some two weeks, protesting the racist murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. In the past, protests would have raged for a few days, and most often, homicidal police officers would not only have walked free, but kept their jobs.
But this isn’t the past. Four officers have been fired and charged in Floyd’s murder. An astonishing number of police officers have been disciplined, fired and even charged in violence against protesters. In Louisville, where police shot and killed a black man over a curfew violation on June 1, the police chief has been fired.
Once, each of these triumphs might have been big news. But the movement isn’t satisfied, and the preliminary victories haven’t even stopped there. Statues beloved by racists, honoring racists — Frank Rizzo in Philadelphia, Confederates throughout the South — are coming down. New York City ended its unjust and authoritarian curfew, which was only an excuse to arrest peaceful protesters at the expense of public health. The New York and Minneapolis City Councils have banned the use of chokeholds. As many also protested the death of Breonna Taylor, a Louisville EMT who was murdered by police in her own home last March, cities have also been abolishing “no knock” warrants.
Institutions are quickly changing, too, as Americans begin to understand the extent to which the working class, especially blacks, immigrants and young people, are grotesquely overpoliced. Portland and Minneapolis are ending the use of police officers in public schools. The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Department also ended its relationship with the police department. Even more surprisingly, calls to abolish and defund the police are rapidly gaining traction. The Minneapolis City Council seems ready to disband its police department. Los Angeles is already making cuts to its police budget to fund other social needs. Until now, New York City’s truculent mayor has genuflected pathetically to a police department that despises him. He has been like a bullied kid trying to be liked by a gang of sadists who will only bully him more. Yet even he, faced with this uprising, has agreed to cut the police budget and divert the money into youth services.
Of course, many details of these plans remain murky, and every reform — especially at the national level — will be vigorously contested by the police unions, President Trump, and many Democrats, but it is astonishing for the movement to have come so far after not even two weeks of protest.
We are winning electoral victories, too. Not long ago, if even one socialist ran for City Council and beat the machine, we’d be elated. That did happen last week: Jeneese Lewis George, in Washington, DC, won decisively after her opponent sent out flyers “warning” that she’d fire police — perhaps voters liked the sound of that! But she wasn’t alone. Last week’s primaries were remarkable. In Philadelphia, Nikil Saval, a Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)–backed writer who supported decriminalizing sex work and ending stop and frisk, also decisively won his primary for the state senate, beating an incumbent, while another DSA candidate, Rick Krajewski, is ahead at the time of this writing, with more absentee ballots to count. DSA member and Our Revolution–backed Summer Lee, the first black woman to represent Southwestern Pennsylvania in the state senate, won reelection with 75 percent of the vote. Six Our Revolution–backed Berniecrats won primaries in Montana. Even the Republican primaries did not fail to spark joy: racist Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King lost his seat.
We continue to fill the streets, and act ungovernably, while also ejecting those governing who have failed the people. We’re also calling our friends and neighbors, telling them how to vote by mail, and explaining why they should vote for socialists and other left-wing candidates. We are building our institutions: DSA has now reached over 70,000 members.
And we’re just getting started. This movement will take specific forms and directions we couldn’t have predicted and, sometimes, wouldn’t have chosen; perhaps some demands haven’t even been part of our imaginary because they weren’t possible in our youth, or even last month. Many new to the movement will have to try new things that are uncomfortable. All of us are having to quickly acquire skills we don’t yet have. It’s time to pay close attention, listen carefully, and ask what we can do to help. We must also claim and celebrate every win.