By Kathleen Chandler
The movement in the U.S. Against Racism, Injustice, Impunity and Inequality is continuing relentlessly, seen in the massive demonstration under COVID-19 conditions in Washington, DC on August 28. August 27 marked the 90th straight day of protests in Portland, Oregon and a number of other cities which have also sustained actions for 90 days without letup.
August protests have focused on demanding that the country’s resources be directed to guaranteeing rights to security, education, housing, health care, immigration and other crucial matters. This culminated August 28 with more than 70,000 people converging in Washington, DC on the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington which took place on August 28, 1963.
Youth, women and workers united in demanding “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks.” The reference is not only to reject the ongoing racist police violence and killings but also the long-standing and growing inequality in all aspects of life as the government strives to keep its knee on the necks of the people, African Americans especially. African Americans have long played a militant and critical role in the fight for rights and in building broad resistance for change.
Various women who spoke brought to the fore the need to persist in the fight for change. Bridget Floyd, sister of George Floyd, said. “My brother cannot be a voice today. We have to be the voice. We have to be the change.”
“We’re at a point we can get that change, but we have to stand together,” Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said. Breonna Taylor, an African-American emergency medical technician, was killed on March 13 by police in Louisville, Kentucky, who were executing a no-knock warrant.
Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, told the crowd to “stand up together” and “keep fighting.” Unarmed 17-year-old African-American youth Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012 by a vigilante who was later acquitted of murder. This spirit of relying on the people’s forces and strengthening unity in the fight is evident in the continuing actions all across the country.
Adding to the outrage against injustice and police impunity, on August 23 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Jacob Blake, an unarmed African-American, was shot seven times in the back by a police officer as he entered his vehicle, while three of his children were in the back seat. He is in critical condition, paralyzed from the waist down, yet handcuffed to his hospital bed as a “threat.” Protests immediately broke out in Kenosha and across the U.S. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections was burned to the ground overnight on August 24. Police have responded to protests with tear gas, snatch-and-grab arrests and violence, and a fence was erected around the Kenosha courthouse August 25.
Another feature of this state-organized violence has been to unleash and provide backing for armed reactionary militia groups in Kenosha and Portland. Police are openly supporting their presence and not preventing their violence against demonstrators. One 17-year-old youth who travelled from Illinois to Kenosha to join other militia members there, is accused of shooting three protestors in Kenosha with an assault rifle. Despite demands to police by protesters to stop the shooter, he was allowed to return home and only arrested the following day after continued demands and protests in Kenosha and elsewhere.
The August 28, 1963 March on Washington was organized in large part by youth and students battling state-organized KKK terror across the south to secure the rights of African Americans to equality, including equal participation in the political life of the country. The march at which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, had historic significance in uniting forces from south and north in this fight. Generally, the struggle up to that point had largely been in the south, concentrated in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Numerous battles had been waged in the 1950s and early ‘60s against lynching, KKK terror, police brutality, for voting rights and an end to discrimination in schools, jobs and housing. These included the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in 1955; the fight for the equal right to education and opposition to the segregation of high schools and universities; and the Freedom Rides where northern students, black and white joined in the battle against segregation and for rights. Many had experience with the racism and brutality of not only local and state police but also with the federal government and its FBI, which organized and fomented KKK terror. The monopoly media tried to create fear of “riots” and violence ahead of the march, while the Pentagon had 19,000 troops at the ready. The youth and student organizers, from south and north, included many from the anti-war movement. They refused to be intimidated or provoked and instead went all out to mobilize and ensure an organized, united action.
This is a timely anniversary to draw upon, amidst a situation that once again calls on working people to act as an organized united force to defend rights and renew the society. Today’s actions are taking place at a time the rulers are desperately competing for the presidency. Both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions were replete with the morbid preoccupation with death and defeat should Americans not adhere to their version of how to Make America Great Again. Having no solutions and in their desperation to block the change now being fought for, both predicted dire consequences if the other were elected.
“This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time,” Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden said. Speaking of the current resistance former president Barack Obama said, “[A]ny chance of success depends entirely on the outcome of this election.” For his part President Donald Trump, speaking of the election, said, “This is the biggest, this is it. Our country can go in a horrible, horrible direction or in an even greater direction.”
The words of all main speakers at both conventions reveal a desperate attempt to divert and block the striving of the people for empowerment, for the New to take hold, for a society where rights are provided with a guarantee. But the rulers have proven over and over that their way is the “knee to the neck” way which has shattered their “American Dream” to smithereens.
People across the United States, from all walks of life, are showing that they are not satisfied with vacuous promises and dreams. Their drive is for a new direction for politics and the economy, a direction where the rights of all are guaranteed and the people are empowered to govern and decide so as to make these guarantees a reality and hold those who govern to account. The old structures of inequality – embedded in existing social relations that protect private property of the richest few and enforced through the Constitution – are being challenged. People are demanding control over policing, increased funding for social services not the rich and an end to U.S. wars. They are rejecting the old “America” of Biden and Trump in favour of a new People’s United States.
This is broadly evident as working people in cities all across the U.S. have redoubled their efforts to organize themselves to oppose the racism, injustice, impunity and inequality – both locally and nationally – in the streets, in their workplaces, and on the political front in the key fights for the right to health care, and healthy and safe schools and workplaces amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The profound crisis facing the U.S. makes clear that only working people speaking out, relying on their own efforts and organizing in their own name can defend the rights of all and ensure a way out of the situation that favours them.
March on Washington – August 28
Justice for Jacob Blake
August 28, 2020
August 26, 2020
August 24, 2020
Protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin the day following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Top photo is outside the courthouse.
Actions across the country
August 26, 2020
August 20, 2020
August 10, 2020
August 8, 2020
Protest August 24, 2020, the day after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Program at the George Floyd memorial, August 17, 2020.
Candlelight vigil, August 26, 2020, for Jacob Blake.
Youth protest for nine hours outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters, August 26, 2020, during a vote to renew a contract with the Chicago Police Department, despite months of protests to get police out of schools, then they take over the intersection at Madison/State.
Defund Police protest, August 22, 2020.
Action August 17, 2020 demands Chicago police department be defunded and that funding be provided for housing security.
In actions on August 9 and 11, 2020, high school students organize to get police out of schools.
New York City, New York
One of four Marches for the Dead takes place in New York City, August 21, 2020. The marches are organized by families of people who have died of COVID-19.
Right to Housing protest, August 20, 2020.
Barrios not Billionaires protest, August 9, 2020.
August 12, 2020
August 8, 2020
A spontaneous protest formed to prevent the deportation of two long-time residents of the community on August 12, 2020. After a 10-hour standoff with police, immigration lawyers filed an emergency motion on behalf of the deportees.
San Francisco, California
March for the Dead in San Francisco, August 21, 2020, organized by families of people who have died of COVID-19.
Los Angeles, California
San Diego, California
Protest on August 22, 2020 against the wrecking of the U.S. Postal Service.
St. Louis, Missouri
Protest August 8 after Strauss Brands, a meatpacking facility, fired 31 low-wage line workers because they were advocating for better COVID-19 protections.
Rally August 26, 2020 for justice for Jacob Blake.
August 23, 2020.
Protests continue, August 22, 2020, demanding that bill HB8005, which criminalizes protesters be rescinded.
Protest outside session of Tennessee General Assembly, August 10, 2020, as it voted on bills HB8004 & HB8005, which criminalize and further penalize protests outside the state Capitol.
Greensboro, North Carolina
Protest outside U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s house demanding the U.S. Postal Service be saved from wrecking.
August 18 protest at Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Perduto’s house.
On August 17, protestors blockade the entrance of tear gas manufacturer, Combined Systems Inc (CSI) in Pennsylvania. “By shutting down this facility today, we are here to tell CSI President Jacob Kravel that his company’s production of tear gas must come to an end.” Five activists were arrested.
Wood-Ridge, New Jersey
TML Weekly Supplement, August 29, 2002 – No. 32