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Ferguson and the policing of capitalist society

By: 
Gurkirat Batth and Gurshishan Singh

September 1, 2014

Police in Ferguson, Missouri killed Michael Brown, a youth of colour who had his hands up saying “don’t shoot.” There have been similar cases all over the US (and in Canada, like the killing of Sammy Yatim) but this led to the largest public reaction—with people taking to the streets in large numbers. Thousands attended Brown’s funeral, including the family of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, two other black teenagers killed in recent years.
 
The community response prevented Brown’s death from becoming just another statistic, and highlighted the different methods used by the state to disperse people and bring “order” back to the community—going as far as imposing a curfew, using riot police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets, and calling in the national guard. Such widespread mechanisms of repression are used to protect a system based on inequality.
 
An unequal system
America is presented as the “land of opportunity” based on free market ideology, where you will be successful if you work hard enough. But the US (and Canada) were founded on colonization and slavery, and persist as racist and unequal societies. The average person spends an excess of 40 hours a week at work pouring their blood and sweat into making a living, and yet falls short on their monthly expenses. People are made to choose between eating healthy or paying their bills, which leads to deteriorating health on a large scale—especially for racialized groups.
 
While the whole economy seems to be suffering, one group of individual is flourishing, the same group that was responsible for the economic crisis. The 1% goes great distances to protect its interests, even as far as “donating” millions to all the candidates of corporate political parties. This results in laws that are better at protecting the corporations than people. The mainstream media, funded by the 1%, will always try to take the spotlight away from social and economic issues that plague society—blaming Brown for his own death for allegedly robbing a store, rather than blaming the racist police for killing him.  
 
This distracts from the crimes committed by the 1% that affect the global financial system and leaves millions bankrupt. These types of white collar crimes always go unreported and no one is held accountable; instead millions are paid out in bonuses to CEOs.
 
Violence
What the 1% can’t gain through the consent of the electoral system or the media, they impose through coercion. Institutions such the police, justice system and prisons are used to create fear among the population, force them to conform to the 1% and repress any threats; the first SWAT team was used against the Black Panthers. In essence, these institutions are implemented by the 1% to create fear among and control over the 99%, in order for the 1% to maintain their control over the means of production and increase their profits.
 
Because racism and other forms of oppression are central to increasing profits and dividing solidarity, capitalist institutions like the police are infused with racism. As the austerity agenda cuts jobs and services, there is a parallel increased in prisons, militarized police and domestic spying to increase control—which disproportionately target people of colour.
 
Even though individual police offers might come from the 99%, their daily experience is to enforce the laws of the 1% and repress ordinary people. The state makes them feel superior, empowers them with a monopoly of violence to defend an unequal system based on racism and private property, and defends them through legal immunity.
 
If the problems of Ferguson are to be fixed, the whole system needs to be scrapped and the power must return to the people. The 99% must join in solidarity, against police violence and in support of social and economic equality.

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