Banner image: Protesters celebrate as Minneapolis 3rd Precinct burns. Photo by Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune/The Associated Press
As Venezuelan Workers Solidarity, a collective of Venezuelan socialists in the US, we want to express our solidarity with the ongoing anti-racist rebellion and the movement for Black Lives.
This is a just struggle against systemic racism and the police and prison violence that most cuttingly represent it. We demand justice for George Floyd, murdered by Minneapolis police on May 25th, and for Breonna Taylor, murdered by police in Louisville, Kentucky on May 13th. We remember that justice has not been done for Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, Kalief Browder, Michael Brown, Layleen Polanco, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and so many other victims of police racism and racist vigilantes.
We demand the immediate release of those still detained for protesting, and justice for the over 12 people murdered and the hundreds injured around the demonstrations. We condemn the criminalization of protest, the attempts to call the military to the streets, and the mobilizations of armed fascists encouraged by Trump’s hate-speech. The brutal repression unleashed by police and National Guard over the protests in dozens of cities makes clear that the State’s priority is to break up working class solidarities, isolating and criminalizing minorities, and taking lives to protect the sanctity of real estate private property.
Since Reagan’s rule, passing through Obama’s and expanding under Trump, a mass carceral state has developed in the U.S., with the largest prison population and concentration camps for undocumented immigrants. Police bodies are supplied with military weaponry, and consume hundreds of billions of dollars a year to maintain repression towards capitalist order. This translates into constant brutal actions and extra-judicial executions, the destruction of black and immigrant families through incarceration and deportations, and quotidian aggressions and humiliations. The burning of the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct demonstrates the desire to erase the fortresses of those repressive bodies from our cities.
Trump, a far right white supremacist, mysoginistc and climate change denier, representative of powerful corporate interests, paramilitary groups and evangelical mega-churches, with a mass social base in racist and nationalist sectors, had as his first reaction to attempt to declare a state of exception by calling up the ‘Insurrection Act’ to militarize the streets. He incited further police brutality and paramilitary attacks by invoking the phrase of an infamous ‘60s racist cop, ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts.’
On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Party city mayors, representing more liberal bourgeois coalitions, governing the main cities of the country, have unleashed in an army-like manner their police forces, deploying curfews, terror tactics and mass arrests to repress the protests. They are accomplices, despite their speeches against Trump, both of the crisis under COVID-19, as well as of the repression and the maintenance of systemic racism through their politics of expanding police departments to shore up austerity.
The institution of the police is so discredited that activists will not fall for superficial reforms. Several cities have been forced to place budget cuts for police departments on the table, albeit without giving clear numbers on funding and staff reductions. Calls for the dismantling of the police, prisons, concentration camps and immigration police have become more popular than ever on the streets.
At the same time, for the left, Bernie Sanders’s intervention has been quite disappointing. Although his campaign comprised the most elaborate plan among Democratic candidates to lessen police brutality and mass incarceration, in recent statements he has emphasized protocol reforms and legal and conduct codes, as well as calling for removing federal funds from local police forces who violate civil rights. However, his proposal to increase wages to further ‘professionalize’ the police forces is, even from a friendly perspective, pretty tone-deaf. Thus, the movement has surpassed the candidate.
Mainstream media have tried to divert attention from the massiveness of the movement in order to divide it and criminalize protesting. They focus on the lootings, which are direct expressions of anger and despair in the face of a growing social crisis that unfolds as the government allocates far more resources to subsidize big capital than to support the 23 million unemployed and the tens of millions more who live precariously. In their fierce defense of private property and capitalist order, the police injure and murder protesters with impunity and use curfews to terrorize communities and criminalize mobilizations. Over 10,000 people have been arrested in the protests. Detainees are victims of deliberate overcrowding and deprivation of sanitary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In addition, there have been more than 150 attacks on reporters and journalists during protests, as well as on doctors, nurses, and legal observers.
In contrast to this repression, class solidarity has been strongly present. Transportation workers in New York––the labor sector with the highest proportion of COVID19 deaths––refused to transport detainees from the marches. Bus, ambulance, and fire truck drivers honk in support of the protesters. Nurses and doctors have joined the protests after their work shifts. Within unions – especially those of teachers, public workers, and health, transportation, legal, and social workers– rank-and-file movements are challenging the passivity and complicity of bureaucratic leaders, organizing their own demonstrations, and demanding the expulsion from regional and national labor councils of the police and jailer “unions” that defend violence against the working class. Grassroots unionists in the public sector are also combining their struggles against budget cuts with demands to defund police forces and increase taxes on capitalists.
The revolt has already achieved conquests. In Minneapolis, George Floyd’s killer was arrested, the severity of the charges against him increased, and the three colleagues of his who participated in the murder were also arrested. The demand to reduce the budget of repressive forces has had great repercussions. For instance, the Minneapolis Municipal Council announced that it would begin to implement (in the medium term) a plan to dismantle the police and establish a community security program, while the MN State AG continues an investigation into civil rights violations in the department. Los Angeles announced a $150 million cut to the police budget in order to finance social programs. New York State has seen proposals to reform the secrecy around police abuse and to implement budget cuts.
We cannot ignore the ways in which this anti-racist rebellion interpellates us as Venezuelans. In the case of Venezuela, indigenous peoples are subject to criminalization, massacres, and the denial of their most basic rights in favor of massive extractivist projects. Meanwhile, police death squads such as the FAES carry out thousands of extra-judicial executions each year, targeting black and brown youth in popular neighborhoods. This results in one of the highest police murder rates in the world. When massive protests against hunger and the restriction of democratic freedoms arose in 2017, the Maduro government murdered more than 100 people and also militarized the streets.
We strongly condemn the claims by self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaidó and his pseudo-chancellor Julio Borges, Trump’s political subordinates in Venezuela, that the just protests of people in the U.S. are being stoked by infiltrated Venezuelan agents. This criminal propaganda, beyond covering up the real causes of the protests, and looking for scape-goats among immigrants, is a desperate attempt to reap some sort of gain for themselves something out of the crisis while calling for further imperialist interventions on Venezuela.
Neither the dictatorial Maduro government, nor the pro-imperialist right-wing represent the Venezuelan people, which in its majority sympathizes with the struggles against racism in the U.S:, and suffers the enormous weight of the structural racism of our country. As a collective, we seek to promote solidarity, dialogue and mutual learning between the anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggles in our countries. We call upon our readers to act in solidarity with the ongoing rebellion, and to take lessons from it to confront our own national reality.