“Where is the rage?” was the headline of a two-page feature in the July 11 Daily News, paraphrasing Kelly when he chastised local politicians and public figures who criticize police harassment for not railing against violence in Black and Latino neighborhoods.
Seizing on workers’ real concerns about neighborhood violence, the article pointed out that “seventy-seven people were shot in New York last week during the heat wave, including a 3-year-old winged by crossfire as he played under a sprinkler” in Brooklyn.
“We have had demonstrations about virtually every other issue in this city, except the level of violence,” Kelly said at an event in Harlem. “Ninety-six percent of our shooting victims are people of color, yet these community leaders are not speaking out about that.”
Two days earlier the Daily News also had Kelly on the front page, quoting him in the headline: “We won’t back down.”
New York cops reported they conducted some 685,000 stop and frisks last year; 87 percent of those stopped were African-American or Latino. Common pretexts for the stops include “furtive movement,” “suspicious bulge” and “clothes commonly used in a crime.”
At the end of June and beginning of July appellate courts in New York overturned two arrests for alleged weapons possession arising from such arbitrary stops, ruling in both cases the cops did not have “reasonable suspicion” to conduct searches.
The Daily News went ballistic. A July 16 editorial was titled “Stop-and-frisk case exposes crazy legal thinking.”
The counteroffensive in support of the cops is designed to convince working people to willingly give up their constitutional and democratic rights in order to give the police— themselves the direct source of much violence in working-class neighborhoods—carte blanche to do whatever they want to supposedly protect working people from each other.
Many liberal critics of police “tactics” argue that the problem with stop and frisk is that it undermines trust in the police and is therefore “ineffective.” They call for reforming the program, to make it more selective and polite.
This view promotes dangerous illusions in the police and a lack of confidence in the capacities of workers.
The source of violence within the working class is the dog-eat-dog values and breakdown of human solidarity fostered by the very system the cops serve to protect, capitalism. It’s in the course of standing up to the consequences of the capitalists’ assault on our wages, unions and very dignity that genuine human solidarity is forged and workers transform ourselves, our habits, discipline and character.
Malcolm X, revolutionary leader of the working class, placed great emphasis on the importance of African-Americans standing up to racist oppression to recognize “your own self-worth.” It’s through collective struggle against the capitalist rulers—including their cops—that working people can turn our backs on the rulers’ view of us, as well as its reflections in ourselves and its effect on our conduct toward each other.
Róger Calero is the Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress in New York’s 13th District.
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