″Blue lives matter″ was the relentless message from America’s political leaders and the media establishment after the shootings in Dallas [7 July] that left five police officers dead. But that message is a bitter pill to those who recognize it is being used to sideline and silence a movement demanding justice for victims of police murder after two more killings of black men, captured on video, became international news.
The renewed protests following the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota (see Solidarity 411) — the largest national surge of anti-police violence activism in over a year — represent a much-needed return to the streets. But the chorus of official voices calling for “respectful dialogue” will be used to drown out our cries for justice and accountability. The celebration of police officers who “put their lives on the line” will be used to downplay the injustice of a system built on racism, repression and violence.
Calls for the Black Lives Matter movement to police itself will be used to turn attention away from the epidemic of police violence. Movement Those who identify with the Black Lives Matter movement — still young, diverse and largely unformed — must insist on independence from the political forces that want to opportunistically mute and exploit it. The revived protests of today have to become the stepping-stones to organising a broader challenge to the system that perpetuates violence, repression and racism.
Barack Obama, along with former President George W. Bush, personally travelled to Dallas to attend the funerals of the officers killed by African American veteran Micah Johnson. Where was Obama during the series of funerals for the victims of police — the Mike Browns, the Eric Garners, the Sandra Blands, Freddie Greys, Ramarley Grahams, Tamir Rices, Rekia Boyds? Obama and other politicians made much of the “sacrifice” of the Dallas officers, but failed to point out that police weren’t Johnson’s only victims. Like Shetamia Taylor, a 37-year-old African American mother, who was shot in the leg during Johnson’s rampage as she attempted to shield her four sons from the bullets. She was at the Dallas protest with her sons because, according to her sister, “[s]he’s got four boys who she just wants to be able to be peacefully out here in the world.”
The reaction to Dallas showed in stark terms the double standard applied to the use of violence in U.S. society. When cops are caught, time and again, engaging in acts of racist brutality and even cold-blooded murder, they’re singled out as isolated “bad apples.” But Johnson’s shooting rampage in Dallas is being used to smear the Black Lives Matter movement — prompting cynical calls for its restraint by those who would rather it disappear entirely. Fortunately, the slanders being leveled at Black Lives Matter were confronted by hundreds — and, in many cases, thousands — of people who took to the streets in Oakland and San Francisco, in Los Angeles, in Cincinnati and New York and many more cities. Everywhere, protesters — many of them young and inexperienced at activism — were determined to stand up in defiance of the idea that the movement should accept collective guilt for Johnson’s killing spree.
• Abridged from Socialist Worker