Why the George Floyd Protests Succeeded Where Others Failed

Yves here. This post describes some of the factors that pushed the Black Lives Matter protests past a tipping point. Recall that Black Lives Matter looked about to achieve a break-out into national consciousness after the killing of Eric Garner. “Die-ins” in high-profile places like Grand Central, which regularly had substantial non-black participation, were getting traction. Lambert was tracking Black Lives Matter intensely at the time and saw how Democratic party operatives moved quickly to try to assume leadership or at least influential positions and succeeded often enough to co-opt the movement. The tactically brilliant die-ins inexplicably stopped.

The reason for featuring this post is to look at an example of activism/movement building that made headway. But having said that, I am not enthusiastic about the author’s claims about the supposed effectiveness of the “defunding the police” demand. It was taken too literally by opponents as a push for no police at all, and some supporters even backed that idea. That demand has generated pushback from the Dems, with Biden promising to increase police budgets (and I don’t buy the idea that embedding social workers will produce more judicious policing; look at how embedding journalists in military forces is a deliberate strategy by governments to generate friendly accounts).

It would have been more persuasive to give concrete examples of what “defunding” would mean, like entirely reconstituting the police force, as was done successfully in Camden, NJ, or getting rid of the budget for military toys and related training. Note that the Pentagon recently confirmed that giving military equipment to local police forces was unproductive, save that some sold it for real money to other police units.

Although correlation is not causation, the transfer of military equipment to police parallels change in police training to a paramilitary approach. From a June Atlantic article:

To be sure, federal military-surplus transfers like those through the Defense Department’s 1033 Program do little good, and much harm: Police departments obtaining used Army filing cabinets at cost isn’t cause for concern, but there’s no earthly reason for small-town cops to wear military fatigues, ride around in mine-resistant Humvees, or carry bayonets. Studies suggest that police departments that receive such equipment see no measurable improvement in officer safety or crime rates, but greater quantities do seem to correlate with higher rates of officer-involved shootings and reduced public trust.

By Nara Roberta Silva, a sociologist with a Ph.D. from the State University of Campinas, Brazil. She is a Core Faculty Member at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, where she researches and teaches on social movements and democracy, global Marxism, post/anti-colonialism, and social theory. Originally published at openDemocracy

Grievances are commonly pointed out as great protest and movement sparkers. When protests erupted after George Floyd’s death, it was common to hear in news analyses and protesters’ testimonials that Floyd’s fate was “the last straw”. But while blatant racism certainly inspired the protests, it is crucial to consider other elements for a more accurate picture of their rise.

The “last straw” argument is based on two factors. First, Minneapolis diligently adopted the Obama-era reform playbook following other high-profile police killings, including Jamar Clark’s in 2015 and Philando Castile’s in 2016. For five years, the city has implemented a range of measures including training officers in de-escalation tactics, the hiring of more African-American cops and early-warning systems to identify problem officers. But none of that prevented a white officer with a record of complaints from placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.

Second, by late May, it was evident that the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic was distributed unequally. African Americans and Latinos are getting sick and dying at higher rates, even in areas where they make up a smaller portion of the population. In this context, the death of George Floyd was a strong symbolic representation of the scandalous disposal of racialised bodies in the current United States.

The current struggle for racial justice does not imply that racism has gotten worse – even in light of the atrocious state-of-affairs. Floyd’s murder and the disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths among African Americans could be considered sparkers, but what made the spark become a fire?

Preexisting Networks

With the spread of the new virus, mutual-aid networks flourished across the country, especially in large cities and metropolitan areas. These networks offered immediate relief when lockdown measures and a surge in COVID-19 cases led to job losses, forced isolation, and, consequently, increased inability to provide for oneself.

A distinguishing feature of the early summer demonstrations was how diverse the locations they occurred in were – from small towns to large cities, rural to urban areas. This suggests a hyperlocal presence and connections – the result of months of community organising. By addressing communities’ needs, mutual aid networks facilitated the work needed for and during the protests. For example, they provided a targeted audience to invite to the demonstrations, resources to take to the streets (from microphones and bullhorns, to signs and banners), and potential in-street support (like first-aid and de-escalation teams).

When demonstrations broke, several Slack channels, social media groups, and email lists started to share information about safety guidelines, coordinate to gather and distribute supplies for protesters, spread the word about bail fund initiatives and have calls to provide shelter or bathroom stops for those on the streets.

The rapidness in putting a demonstration together is also inspirational. It is not a coincidence that numerous US teenage groups without protest experience or activist background have organized local actions independently. Furthermore, in places such as New York City, preexisting mutual aid networks helped overcome the challenges imposed by both the hesitation or inability to commute brought by the pandemic and the one-week curfew enacted when protests grew in numbers. Rather than concentrating in a few traditional locations, demonstrations turned to the neighborhoods and, in consequence, ignited impressive liveliness. By engaging with each neighborhood’s geographical references and identity, protests drew in even more people.

A Vision for the Future

A proper assessment of the current struggle for racial justice must consider not only what triggered the movement – but also why it has lasted. In other words, this movement has not only taken people to the streets but also opened paths for organisation. The most important contributor to the enhanced capacity to organise was the demand to defund the police – and its embracement by a larger number of movement participants and supporters.

Defunding the police has always been a central idea to contemporary abolitionist thinkers, circles, and organisations. But until now, this was a fringe proposal often sidelined by calls for police reform or broad criticism of racism. Police reforms’ constant failed promises of hindering racial disparities slowly undermined arguments for incremental change and paved the way for those who have repeatedly highlighted reformism’s weaknesses – or even naiveté.

But the mainstreaming of this demand should also be understood in light of the pandemic. With cities scrambling to guarantee proper equipment for medical personnel and fighting numerous simultaneous crises, the disproportionate sum allocated to police departments across the country appears even more unjust and irrational. That funding could be potentially diverted to services such as physical and mental healthcare, housing development and preservation, youth and workforce development.

Defunding the police means eroding the institution that has oppressed and killed people of colour regularly in the US – and, of course, in other countries – for centuries and has been extremely efficient as an arm of the prison industrial complex. And it offers a better position to contemplate restorative justice practices and deeply embrace abolitionism – a huge cultural shift.

What makes the recent protests unique is not merely their size, the number of participants, or the spread of supporters. What is novel is the emergence of a particular strategic path provided by calls to defund the police — a vision of the future that places organisers in a better position to plan their work, make decisions, and assess potential alliances. While the Movement for Black Lives has had a comprehensive policy agenda since 2016, the restructuring of the conversation around defunding finetunes the argument on racism’s structural, institutional dimension, solidifying a position that goes beyond the “bad apples” explanation.

A New Phase

The struggle for racial justice initiated early in the summer has entered a new phase after a right-wing counteroffensive. A fast reconfiguration of activist circles is unfolding as groups and organisations resettle and adjust their campaigns. The loosely assembled movement now has the ability to keep the pressure on by hybridising its organising models. This ability is crucial as elections approach, and the debate on social and political matters is likely to become narrower in scope and the issues related to racial justice reduced to misrepresentations of movement confrontational tactics (e.g. property destruction). In fact, the calls to defund the police have already been swiftly mobilised to promote “red scare” among voters and even fracture Black communities.

Public support or opposition to a certain demand does not follow a straight line and can increase or retract as the debate continues, policies are advanced (or stalled), and other issues get to the spotlight. But by having an eye toward the future, the movement can guarantee a smoother coordination of actions and bet on some meaningful transformation ahead.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Messaging and timing is important, sometimes movements arise simply because the right set of circumstances came together at the right time. I’d also not discount the ‘cool’ factor of high profile celebrities along with a very catchy slogan being more important than the actual reality of the movement. I was very surprised at how ‘BLM’ has caught imaginations around the world – I’ve seen photos of demonstrations from Chile to Japan in support, despite the lack of any apparent logic to Japanese teenagers marching in support of reform proposals in some US municipality. To some extent, its success lies in its vagueness – the concept of ‘black lives matter’ has been extended to ‘any oppressed minorities lives matter’, and of course, these days nearly everyone (including, it seems, plenty of white western males), see themselves as part of an oppressed minority.

    Whether by accident or design, BLM is a very effective slogan to build a movement around – unfortunately ‘defund the police’ is a pretty horrible one as its so easy to twist its meaning. Reform movements can’t always be accurately reflected in a catchphrase. There are plenty of precedents worldwide for largely successful deep reforms of policing – Ireland had two, first after independence in the 1920’s when the colonialist RIC was turned into a police force that was far more responsive to community needs, and again more recently when the RUC (which was essentially a paramilitary arm of the British State) in northern Ireland was (arguably less successfully) turned into the PSNI, which more or less has won community support). Every post colonialist country has had the same problem and have dealt with it with varying degrees of success. Entirely junking the old structure rarely works – but likewise, engineering a completely new mindset within an existing structure is extraordinarily difficult too. Unfortunately, the hard grind of deep institutional reform isn’t something that can be wished into being through catchy slogans.

    1. rtah100

      The RUC was a very troubled organisation, no pun intended, but I think calling it the paramilitary arm of the British State is an exaggeration. The British State had an actual military at its disposal in NI for most of the time. It has a dual role and in terms of ordinary policing, there were a lot of ordinary coppers in the RUC doing ordinary coppering (and incredibly, 10%+ were Catholic despite the force’s Unionist culture). Unlike the British police, the RUC was armed and its police stations fortified but, unlike British police, they were under daily attack. It was the most dangerous police force to work for in the world in the early 1980’s.

      It wasn’t innocent but it was not like Colombia or Mexico!

      1. SOMK

        Official figures had it at 8% Catholic in the mid-eighties, but that number is almost certainly exaggerated upwards and most of that number were older officers waiting for the pension, you may ask yourself why the RUC needed such protection from a populous who cheered the British army when they arrived in 1969? The reason the barricades went up was to protect Catholic communities from the RUC. A totally sectarian, militarised police force that enabled and enacted wide spread violence in reaction to a peaceful civil rights movement, colluded with death squads, with special branch units that operated a demonstrable shoot-to-kill policy, absolutely a paramilitary arm of the British state (a state that supplied shipping containers full of machine guns to loyalist terrorist groups, whilst the Republic were putting gun runners on trial). “97% Protestant and 100% unionist” in the words of Seamus Mallon. After all who do do you think unionists want ‘union’ with, who were the loyalists ‘loyal’ to?

        Neither Mexico, nor Columbia, nor America, but Ireland.

  2. The Rev Kev

    The way this spread was certainly surprising but that does not matter. What really matters is whether there are any long-term reforms enacted in order to avoid a repeat of the mass protests. Otherwise the next bout may turn out to be even more violent and widespread. What I would hate is that in a few years that when somebody mentions the BLM riots, that people will say ‘Oh yeah – I remember them. Now were they before or after the Pink Pussy Hat protests?’

    1. Karen Plessas

      I have to agree with you. What matters are the material benefits to society and so far, I see only one benefit from the BLM protests – it has taken all that anger about what the elite have done to us and deflected it onto the police. But we aren’t going to defund the police, because like it or not, we need them. So it is just one more of those empty protests, like all those pink hat protests.

      When people in this country get serious about attacking the economic issues that have brought us here, then I will believe that protests have some value other than just another real good feed good circus where people get to demonstrate their righteous anger and then go home to more of the same.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      What really matters is whether there are any long-term reforms enacted in order to avoid a repeat of the mass protests.

      Well, with corporations adopting BLM messaging everywhere you look, it sure seems like the movement has been entirely coopted and we’ll have to settle for feelgood corporate slogans rather than meaningful reform.

      When the Bucks refused to play and other teams from other sports joined in, I thought the movement might be getting somewhere as they were in a position to hit some billionaires right in the wallet. The players could have called for the head of the NYPD union to be fired as a condition of resuming play for example. But a little chit chat between Obama and Lebron James stopped all that, and everybody got back to balling for the billionaires, and Lebron has one more championship trophy. What did all those Lebron decided to speak for get out of it all?

    3. Timing, timing, timing

      I read it here in the water cooler or links that black lives matter every 30-40 years. This year black lives happened to coincide with the presidential election.
      If Trump is elected black lives will matter a lot and for a long time.
      If Biden is elected black lives will be matter of memories exactly like Rev Kev writes somewhere around pussy hats, pussy riot… well, who knows?

  3. cocomaan

    Seems to me that one of the reasons the protests were successful, which is left out of this piece but Yves points out, is that they were supported by one of the major political parties. BLM was not nearly as well supported by Democrats in 2014 because Democrats were in power. It was tacitly supported, but look at the Democrat convention: the highlight reels of the year included protests with every third image.

    1. 430 MLK

      Agreed on the uptake by the Democrats, which both legitimized the protests and afforded them some measure of local and national positive press.

      As a corollary to that, in my city, one major source of support has come from the neighborhoods that have led the way in gentrifying poor, largely black, residents to the margins. These neighborhoods are often composed of the city’s taste-makers, media/arts/academic/nonprofit people who self-identify as progressive, who spent a decade or more defining poor-removal as uplift and neighborhood rejuvenation, and who vocally supported the use of city subsidies for creative class infrastructure (which is largely gentrification infrastructure). The vocal solidarity with BLM has served to displace any agency from local neighborhood removal onto the backs of national ‘systemic’ police corruption.

      1. cocomaan

        That’s an interesting group to make a distinction out of and makes sense. I live in a rural area now so I am not connected into urban spaces but it makes complete sense based on my own experience. Reminds me of people in University City in Philadelphia calling themselves West Philadelphians.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          Or people from Sarah Lawrence saying they’re in Bronxville, when the school is actually in Yonkers.

  4. verifyfirst

    Yves–I don’t think the idea is to embed social workers with police 24/7–the idea is to substitute a social worker in certain cases, especially psychiatric, because social/psychiatric workers have different skills, more appropriate to some issues. And I think that will help–look for example at this program (which was on NC Links one day–thanks!).

    How iPads Changed a Police Force’s Response to Mental Illness

    Especially since we know from another NC link that some states (many states?) require more hours of training for a barber’s license that to become a police officer…..

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Some prominent Dems have proposed sending social workers in with policemen to deal with 9/11 “someone with a gun/knife” calls.

      The reason I am skeptical is:

      1. You seldom have enough info from a 9/11 call to know if the case is a psych case or not. So the choice is to send the social worker on the very few calls where it can be determined that the dangerous-acting person has psychological issues, or send them out pretty much all the time.

      2. #1 means the only hope for this approach kinda/sorta working (in terms of reducing police killings of people of color) is sending out social workers virtually all the time since you can’t pre-screen effectively (you might at most screen out cases that are obviously not psych cases, like raids on gang operations). That in turn results in the social workers suffering from the effects of embedding, since they will participate in some, potentially many, cases where their intervention won’t be useful and therefore would be perceived by the cops if they tried as increasing risk, whether true or not (the cops think they can judge the risk of their usual routine, they can’t judge the risk of alternate approaches).

      3. This will result in the psych workers being seen as:

      – Baggage

      – Potentially risky intervenors

      The only way you get different outcomes is luck: if social workers in some early cases are successful, establishing their cred with many officers. But if they have an early bad run, fuggedaboudit. So I anticipate results would vary dramatically by location, and it will be attributed to skill when it will be largely happenstance, as in the clustering over time of incidents where a social worker could deescalate effectively.

      1. cocomaan

        I’ve talked with various social workers about this idea. My thought: has anyone asked social workers what they want to do?

        I’ve had two responses:

        * from a social worker that was working back in the day, she already was called by the police to respond to things like domestic disputes. There’s a myth that this isn’t happening, when it is. Implementation has been department by department, but it does happen. And this is someone who was doing social work in the 90s.

        * from a conservative-leaning social worker who just got out of school: she says I will absolutely not do ride alongs with the cops. It sounds like a great way to commit suicide.

        To me, the assumption by people who aren’t in the social services industry is that “these are selfless people who are amazing and will willingly throw themselves into dangerous situations.” Meanwhile, the social workers get paid garbage wages and everything is underfunded and burnout rate is extremely high.

        1. fwe'zy

          To me, the assumption by people who aren’t in the social services industry is that “these are selfless people who are amazing and will willingly throw themselves into dangerous situations.” Meanwhile, the social workers get paid garbage wages and everything is underfunded and burnout rate is extremely high.

          Excellent point. Sounds a lot like the neoliberal method of shifting costs onto the lowest-paid worker and the community. “Defund the police” is a great inroad to austerity and “starve the beast” mode of governance/ public services.

          1. cocomaan

            Wow, interesting, never thought about defunding the police as a method of austerity. And the strange thing is that it’s coming from a wing of the Democratic Party that seems to be adverse to austerity.

            1. fwe'zy

              Do we really know where it’s “coming” from? Aren’t most issues just flashpoints to draw our attention and emotion, and to control us, have us at each other’s throats? I don’t know any cops and don’t have a demeanor they tend to respond well to. They are the scapegoats, the lightning rods and enforcers of last resort for the wider system, which thrives on inequality. The attack dogs. The COPS election flyer I received is as aesthetically and substantively removed from my sensibilities as you can imagine, and makes it obvious that the goal is to drive a dangerous wedge in the populace. Who is stoking and benefitting from this?

              Whoever came up with that slogan is most likely a savvy, cynical, high stakes beakwetter lobbyist/ strategist for privatization, bond vigilantes, and double-down extraction.

        2. Aumua

          Meanwhile, the social workers get paid garbage wages and everything is underfunded and burnout rate is extremely high.

          Right well that’s one of the main points of the “defunding” movement is that the funds are to be shifted from the massive, bloated police budgets towards i.e. social workers so that they have the training, personnel and whatever else they need to effectively fill that role. And so that they get paid well for it.

          Now if you put it to your social worker friends that way, they might have a different answer for you.

            1. Aumua

              Well shifting funds to the community in a sense is not the same as shifting costs onto the community. Hopefully you can make the distinction.

            2. fwe'zy

              I wasn’t clear: “Shifting” implies that we can’t have both, counter to our understanding of MMT. It is bare-pantry talk. “Beggars must be choosers” as a liberal bone tossed, to reform the conservative “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

              1. Aumua

                OK then we can have both bloated, out of control police budgets and well funded alternatives to policing, I suppose. But why not kill two birds with one stone?

              2. drumlin woodchuckles

                States, counties, cities, etc. don’t get to print their own Mandatorily Legal Tender Currency, therefor they don’t get to engage in MMT.

                All their money has to come from taxing activities already conducted in National Currency Money not issued by anyone but the National Government.

                So non-National actors like states, cities, etc. will indeed have to think about where to deploy their limited tax-raised funds. So defunding the police will have to mean spending the not-for-police-anymore money on social workers-or-whatever inSTEAD.

                ( Assuming MMT even is a real thing anyway even at the National Government level.)

                1. fwe'zy

                  A point, but not necessarily solid because it simply comes back to the fact that this is about cutting budgets. If “we” (as in TPTB) wanted something badly enough, there’d be a way to get it. Covid relief has shown that.

                  1. drumlin woodchuckles

                    “We” and “The Powers That Be” are two different, mutually exclusive and bitterly opposed groups of people.

                    “We” do not have the magic MMT money machines at our disposal. ” They” do. We and They want two opposite things.

                    We can only ever spend tax-raised money on this OR that at the sub-national level.

        1. Starry Gordon

          In the last year I’ve personally witnessed up close two events in which a deranged Black person was threatening random passers-by with a knife. In both cases the police were called and I feared the worst, but instead the police were able to talk the deranged person into calming down and eventually to get in an ambulance to be taken to a hospital. Evidently some kind of training other than guns’n’bombs is reaching the police. This is in New York City, where things can go wrong in a hurry, and I was favorably impressed for once.

          I would guess that the existence of BLM and other activist groups probably increases political pressure on the city government to encourage nonviolent resolution of such situations.

          1. ChrisPacific

            There are enormous state by state differences in the outcomes associated with police action. There was a report on this a year or so back here at NC:


            …extremely large differences also exist among the largest cities. New York and Los Angeles are both large, diverse, coastal, and liberal cities with strict gun laws, but every demographic group is much safer in New York than in Los Angeles today. White civilians in Los Angeles are almost four times as likely to be killed by police as those in New York. Latinos in Los Angeles are more than eight times as likely to be killed as those in New York. And Houston is even deadlier for white civilians than Los Angeles. In fact, the differences in overall rates is so great that white residents of Houston are more likely to be killed by police than African Americans in New York City.

            I have a feeling the scenes you witnessed might have played out quite differently in some other cities. (On the plus side, the evidence supports your conclusion that NYC police are apparently doing at least some things right).

          1. Bob

            So wait a minute the Eugene approach only works in an “exceptionally racially homogeneous, as in white” society ?

            Please people are people.

            Maybe just maybe there are common techniques that are universal to all races. And in fact these techniques are in use today.

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              Yes, unconscious bias against people of color is well documented. Go read up on the Harvard “Implicit Bias” test. People can’t change their results even when they retake it and understand how the test works!

              Even blacks can harbor unconscious bias against black. Malcolm Gladwell, who is half black, was appalled when he tested as biased against blacks.

              As a result, it is perfectly reasonable to say that you can’t generalize from a very white population to a more racially mixed one.

      2. The Historian

        There is a way to get more social workers on the police force – and that is to make it a point to recruit social workers as police officers. Right now the heaviest police recruitment efforts are towards ex-military.

        In addition, more social workers could be used in law enforcement training academies. If you talk to police officers about their training academies, you be surprised to hear how many of those police officers think that their academy was just their command staff trying to out-military the military. It is no wonder we have police officers that act the way that they do.

        I agree that untrained people should never be required to handle 911 calls where anything can happen, but those people who do respond should have more training now than they have about social and psychological issues.

        1. ChrisPacific

          Yes, I think the sensible answer is to get police to think more like social workers, possibly by giving them some level of training, hiring former social workers as you describe, or something similar. The best cops I’ve known already have a pretty good understanding that they are operating as social workers at least some of the time.

          Really, the problem isn’t that we don’t have good models to follow. We do – lots of them. The problem is that a lot of police departments aren’t following them, and are resistant to any efforts to change that. I think that’s what the ‘defund the police’ movement is all about, although I agree it does a horrible job of explaining that.

  5. Shiloh1

    I’d figure it out by looking at the political affiliations of the police chief, mayor, attorney general and governor of where they took place.

  6. Carolinian

    Did it succeed? I’d say the jury is very much out.

    And of course there’s another view that says all that mysteriously effective organizing has more to do with the coming election than any long term social movement–that this was the reason for media sympathy and greater traction this time.

    Should Trump be defeated it should be interesting to see what happens next.

    1. David in Santa Cruz

      Color me cynical, but I happen to share the view that all these white people got “woke” due to economic anxiety stemming from the COVID shut-down and the upcoming election — that has been ginned-up and exploited by the political class.

      #BlackLivesMatter has been around — and mostly ignored by white gentrifiers — for half of the past decade, ever since Travon Martin’s cold-blooded slayer (who was not a cop) was acquitted. The movement was born during the 8-year presidency of a “Black” politician who essentially did nothing to correct systemic economic exclusion, militarized policing, and mass incarceration.

      Why have white people chosen this moment to so vigorously adopt/oppose the movement?

      1. k

        “Why have white people chosen this moment to so vigorously adopt/oppose the movement?”

        There are several possible answers. The first would be the weight of evidence from proliferating cameras passed a tipping point. Another possible answer is that the economic distress from COVID 19 has pushed large numbers of formerly apathetic whites into situations where they see the abuse directed at marginalized groups and realize they’re going to be joining the ranks of the poor and suffer abuse themselves. Racial disparities in policing are real, but there are also class based ones and in most interactions with the police you’re better off being rich than innocent.

        I don’t know if there’s evidence to back this up, but my personal feelings are that the abuses being directed at people of color will become normalized, backed up by court precedents and drift into use against poor whites.

      2. Aumua

        I happen to share the view that all these white people got “woke” due to economic anxiety stemming from the COVID shut-down and the upcoming election — that has been ginned-up and exploited by the political class.

        Yeah and you can bet a lot of them got “red-pilled” from it as well, which is I guess the alt-right version of woke.

    2. occasional anonymous

      It didn’t suceed, at all. For a while there was an opportunity for real reform, but that was utterly wasted with the call to ‘defund the police’, which more than a few advocates meant very literally, up to and including abolishing the police altogether.

      Polling on both these issues is overwhelmingly negative, particularly among the very minorities supposedly victimized the most by cops. Wanting cops to not gun you down is not the same as not wanting cops at all.

      The current protests have accomplished absolutely nothing, other than gotten a few killer cops actually charged (watch as they get acquitted), and given the right ammunition to fearmonger about law & order.

      1. Aumua

        Obviously our society is no where near ready for abolishing the police, and such a thing could only fail terribly were it to happen now. But that doesn’t mean we cant imagine some future where police aren’t necessary any more, or only have a very small milieu in which they operate. Or that we can’t take any small step toward that future. I mean God forbid that police budgets get reduced by one damn cent, right? No sir, they must increase year after year, not just the monetary amount but the percent of the cities total budget as well. I mean that’s the actual situation in most U.S. cities, and where is it getting us?

        1. occasional anonymous

          That’s not a future I want. Every society has some form of public security force. American police should be abolished so they can be replaced with community controlled forces. But ‘literally no police at all’ is a completely boneheaded concept that lands like a lead balloon with the public, and rightly so.

          1. Aumua

            It’s a future you don’t want, or one that you are unable or unwilling to imagine?

            But all in all we agree. I’m not suggesting abolishing police and replacing them with nothing, and I think neither are the vast majority of those promoting ‘defunding’.

            1. fwe'zy

              But all in all we agree. I’m not suggesting abolishing police and replacing them with nothing, and I think neither are the vast majority of those promoting ‘defunding’.
              That’s a straw man. People are questioning the adequacy of replacing cops with social workers, or “shifting” as you called it. Shifting the funds to social workers (absolutely no guarantee it’ll be a straight shift of total funds to social workers: more likely they will simply cut the budgets) is shifting the costs to lower-paid workers and the community because they are now expected to handle very heavy sh*t from a weakened position. Austerity and bootstraps, and probably setting up the social workers to fail. Good luck social workering organized crime that plagues vulnerable neighborhoods. Most likely the plan is to Enhance or Augment social work with a lean, tech-heavy human-light police force using drones and surveillance, etc.

  7. Louis Fyne

    let’s revisit this post on Inauguration Day.

    just saying.

    just being honest that letting apolitical rioters hijack the Floyd protests may have helped to give Trump another term.

  8. philnc

    The problems with the budget-friendlier model of policing we now have, always sending two (or one, in more parsimonious jurisdictions) guys with guns on every service call, have been well understood for decades. My late father’s generation of cops were vocal about it in private. Civilianization was just a budget gimmick that didn’t address the fundamental problem. With an average of only 5% of calls involving violence, but less than 30% of criminal investigations being closed by an arrest, there’s clearly something awry on the resource deployment side. For the last forty years most police time and effort has been focused on enforcing prohibition. If you eliminate that mission you’re going to have a lot of armed agents in need of retraining and reassignment. You could, and probably should, wind up with a public safety force where only 10% of the agents are armed — massively reducing incidences of police involved violence.The question: is our society, at the national level (where our fiat currency is issued), willing to make the material investments in expanded housing infrastructure, jobs guarantees and healthcare necessary to make them effective?

  9. michael99

    Many years ago I remember hearing that the police in some countries don’t normally carry firearms, e.g., in the UK. Maybe this mode of policing should be brought back.

    Police departments would still need to have armed squads to respond to active-shooter incidents and cases where a suspect is known to be armed and dangerous. But I’d like to see more police trained to do their jobs without the use of firearms. The training would probably be more like that of social workers. It could also include self-defense training – maybe some martial arts.

    The point made above about material benefits is crucial though. As long as the society has the levels of inequity and injustice that we have in the US, and politicians fail to do anything meaningful about it, more criminal behavior will result and more individuals will snap, and the police response only addresses the symptoms.

  10. Cas

    Rise of the Warior Cop by Radley Balko is an excellent book on how the US police turned into militarized attack squads, and best of all the book offers solutions, such as eliminating no-knock warrants, military equipment, neighborhood policing (which is actually the source of much petty harrassment and often driven by police precinct quota demands), etc. Here’s an online version of the book:
    I agree that the “defund the police” slogan was a tactical error. It’s so bad, I can’t help but wonder if it was deliberate sabotage. Then again, as my father would say, don’t blame on malice what can be explained as simple stupidity. If the slogan was “reform the police” i.e., re-form the police force, the movement wouldn’t have lost those white and/or middle class supporters who by no means want to defund the police. The establishment response of virtue signalling (kente cloth, Jamie Dimon kneeling) then a quick pivot to sensitivity training (yeah, that’s the ticket) awakens my cynicism. I wish BLM would stay focussed on police re-form, especially accountability for the murders and other abuses (e.g., property forfeiture), no-cash bails, sending poor people to jail for not being able to pay fines) we might get some where. If police officers lost their pensions and jobs if found guilty of reckless use of force, that would get them to shape up. Of course they seem to always get away literally with murder.
    I remember having a conversation with police in The Netherlands years ago and being told their police had college degrees, typically in social work. I do think having the police respond to every social concern is a mistake. The boy (12 years old?) shot by a policeman in a playground being the example that haunts me. And recall it was a woman reporting “suspicious behavior” and saying she thought he might have a gun, who called in the police. So society plays its role. If there was another public agency to call for these issues, that decouples it from the police, that might help. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m afraid the moment has already been lost.

    1. Carla

      The boy was Tamir Rice, murdered by Timothy Loehmann, a 26-year-old white police officer, in Cleveland, Ohio in 2014.

      Wikipedia: In the aftermath of the shooting it was revealed that Loehmann, in his previous job as a police officer in the Cleveland suburb of Independence, had been deemed an emotionally unstable recruit and unfit for duty.[21] Loehmann did not disclose this fact on his application to join the Cleveland police,[22] and the Cleveland police never reviewed his previous personnel file before hiring him.[21] In 2017, following an investigation, Loehmann was fired for withholding this information on his application.[22]

      A review by retired FBI agent Kimberly Crawford found that Rice’s death was justified and Loehmann’s “response was a reasonable one”


      1. RMO

        The mentality described in that book (and elsewhere) seems to me to be the more important problem with policing. It’s also why I have my doubts that focusing on racism is likely to result in any substantial changes. Aside from the difficulty of somehow changing internal thought process and (sometimes subconscious) biases as opposed to concrete changes in policies to accomplish the goal of having the police kill fewer people I strongly suspect that even if you could wave a magic wand and make every police officer in the US completely “colour blind” and free from racial judgement the only result would be innocent citizens of all races being murdered in equal proportions.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          It is probably more about extreme Police Cowardice and Cowardly Violence by violent coward armed police. It is more about Police Copism against Citizens than Police Racism against Black Citizens.

          One wonders whether Black Lives Matter focuses on Black victims in order to cover up the fact of non-black victims. One wonders whether BLM harbors numbers of Leftard WokeNazis whose job it is to put the spotlight on “racism” in order to divert the cameras away from more general murderous Police cowardice and general Police aggression against the citizenry whom they sneer at as being mere “civilians”.

          The extermination of Nazi Fascist Police UNIONS in parTICular will have to be part of the
          “final solution” to the “policing question” in America today.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          I suspect the “BLACK lives matter” aspect of the movement is designed precisely and exactly to put the spotlight on police “racism” against Black people in order to divert the cameras away from police aggressionism against all the citizens whom the police sneer at as being mere “civilians”.

          A place called Bad Cop No Donut keeps track of incidents of police aggression against citizens even if those citizens are White.

        3. Aumua

          It does kind of suck that the whole conversation has pivoted to be about race almost exclusively, instead of about the systemic issues with policing as an institution of which racism is just one.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            It would take a lot of work to de-pivot the conversation back to ALL of the problems we have. But if enough people refused to play the particular race game and simply refused to collaborate in making the stereotypical “hard conversations” which “we must have” work out as planned, the sooner the Race Merchants will be forced to give up on selling their wares.

    2. Janie

      In addition to offending officers losing pensions, whopping civil judgements may get action. A suit is pending in an egregious case near Huntsville AL from 2015, in which someone called police to check out a small brown man. The non-english-speaker had just arrived from India to help care for his infant grandchild and was looking at his new neighborhood. Three policemen responded and one tackled and damaged him. Enough punitive settlements might gain traction for better policing.

      One such award caused a shutdown of many local services in a small, self-insured Arizona town a few years ago, and that got the citizens’ attention.

  11. DSB

    We are 20-weeks in. Has anyone heard anything about the forensic toxicology report on George Floyd? [No not the autopsy blood toxicology report.] They take 4 to 6-weeks to provide cause of death. Not a peep from the Hennepin County Medical Examiners office.

    Lets see where this goes after it is released.

    1. Angie Neer

      Are you hoping it will show drugs that could have contributed to his death? That might be material in the criminal prosecution of the officer, but otherwise, so what? Would that mean it’s OK to kneel on someone’s neck for 8 minutes after all? Do you think all the pent-up anger and frustration over routine brutality and militarization will be changed the slightest bit by a finding that there was some aggravating medical factor in this one case? I don’t.

      1. DSB

        I failed to answer some questions you posed to me in your reply. They are important and deserve a response. First, the point of my comment was to identify a significant piece of evidence that at this point is missing. I personally believe it to have the potential to alter the path of what has taken place since Memorial Day. On that we appear to disagree.

        Second, my only hope for Mr. Floyd is that he receive justice should it be deserved. Whether the cause of death is cardio-pulmonary or overdose, the outcome for him is the same. However, as you correctly point out, the implications for Officer Chauvin are changed by the final cause of death. To the extent the venom and hate is directed at Chauvin, it lets the system off the hook. Rogue cop, racist cop, etc. Chauvin’s actions deserve to be judged as to the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department. If he carried out his duties within their policies and the outcome is deemed wrong, the spotlight should shine on the MPD. Again, singling out the officer lets the system off the hook. The system does not get reformed if that is the case.

        Continuing on the topic of officer actions, my reading has left me with the impression, the only basis for leaving Mr. Floyd on his stomach was to do harm. The action was seen as somehow a manifestation of racism or vindictiveness. Again, this is my impression. Plenty of comments, and even one of the three rookie cops on the scene, have asked why Chauvin didn’t change Mr. Floyd’s position. Again, MPD policies will be instrumental in answering this. However, I note an April 14 article seen on CNN.com that I feel must be mentioned. The headline of the article reads, “Such a simple thing to do: Why positioning Covid-19 patients on their stomachs can save lives”. The article goes on to say, “Doctors are finding that placing the sickest coronavirus patients on their stomachs — called prone positioning – helps increase the amount of oxygen that’s getting to their lungs.”


        Wouldn’t it be interesting if the actions of Officer Chauvin were found to follow the science and doctors with regard to the use of prone positioning to improve breathing?

        1. Angie Neer

          DSB, you clearly have studied this case in great detail, which I have not. But my point was that, while the recent outrage was triggered by the killing of George Floyd, it wasn’t caused by it. The causes are much wider and deeper than one incident, or even all the famous incidents of recent years. You correctly point out that it would be wrong to let a “bad apple” narrative divert attention from systematic problems. That would be confusing the forest with the trees, and I’m only commenting on the forest.

          Regarding the suggestion that Chauvin might actually have been a health-care savant by holding Floyd on his stomach—sorry, but that is just an absurd stretch.

  12. drumlin woodchuckles

    I only skim-read the article, but in my brief skim-read, I did not see any mention of the fact that the many minutes of the slow careful police department torture-murder of George Floyd were all caught on Candid Cellphone.

    It is being able to post that entire film sequence On Line for Millions to See which is what allowed this incident to become the nucleating incident for a long-term movement.

    Therefor, it seems important that hundreds of millions of people should have camera Cell phones with them at all times so they are ready to video any such police aggression. And immediately upload it to the Whole Web, for the Whole World to see. If two or more people were to video cellphone the same event, it would be harder for police to abort the video-taking process in real time. If the number of cell phone videographers filiming the one same incident were 4 or 5 or more, interrupting the recording process would become even more difficult for the police.

    Every police officer should remember at every instant of every workday at all times to . . . ” Smiiiiile, you’re on Candid Camera”.

    And part of what citizen-safety movements might want to focus on is the crushing and destruction and abolition and extermination-from-existence of Nazi Fascist Police UNIONS!

    If “worker solidarity” means solidarity for Nazi Fascist Police UNIONS . . . then “worker solidarity” is a crock of shit.

  13. Sue inSoCal

    Am I alone in thinking that George Floyd’s ties to pro-athletics is what made this (murderous) incident unlike any other? It certainly seemed like things started to really move quickly after his high school friends in Houston raised their voices. Community policing is possible. But it’s certainly a much more difficult program to implement than simply acting like an arm of the military, imho.

    1. Angie Neer

      I don’t know anything about his ties to pro athletics, but I doubt that has anything to do with it. The important thing is it’s all on video, and there is no plausible argument that the officer’s actions were justified.

  14. Duke of Prunes

    To me, the “spontaneous” uprisings across almost every major (and many minor) cities, smells a lot like the “color revolution” certain three letter organizations allegedly fomented around the world in the last decade. Perhaps there is an uncooperative “strongman” that needs to be replaced by a more compliant puppet.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps. They again, this might all be just a spontaneous vulcan mind-meld moment among millions already primed to respond in a certain way to an overcertain overstimulus. And the slow pleasure-torture-murder of George Floyd on candid cellphone going on for minutes could well be that overcertain stimulus.

      And lets not forget about the Overtly Public police departments who attacked peaceful protesters in order to make them get violent. Lets not forget about how Police Departments bring crime and violence with them wherever they go, especially in political tension situations.

      The Floyd murder could be the Pearl Harbor Moment for tens of millions of Americans. And since hundreds of millions of Americans already made hundreds of millions of individual decisions to buy hundreds of millions of individual smart phones and cell phones and computer video-watching machines, no Three Letter Organization to organize anything is needed.

      I suspect some of the . . . RIOTS! . . . . were carefully instigated by false flag deep cover CREEPers and Stormtrumpers and Government Secret Police. Who was thoughtful enough to pre-deliver and pre-position whole pallet-loads of throwable bricks at demonstration sites? Probably not the BLM people.
      Probably Trumpists and CREEPists and Secret Government Police.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        And lets not forget about the Open Display Overtly Visible Police Departments who attack protests and demonstrations in order to turn them into riots. Lets not forget about the police who bring their own crime and violence with them wherever they go, especially when they go to protests in order to create riots.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        And on further reflection, this all reminds me of why I have supported the concept of shooting looters and rioters and arsonists. Most of them probably are just looters and rioters and arsonists. But some of them are going to be secret policemen, secret Stormtrumpers, secret CREEPers, etc. If we were to shoot them all . . . each of them . . . all of them . . . . we stands to reason that we would be shooting the false-flaggers along with the rest.

        Kill them all. Nixon’s Ghost will know his own.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Here is an example from a much later thread of an undercover ICE provocateur after having changed out of its Black Bloc disguise and returning to its home.

          What if all visible Black Blocs at this venue had been shot? This secret false-flag ICEman would have been among them.

          Kill them all. Nixon’s Ghost will know his own.

  15. Duke of Prunes

    I saw this earlier today. I don’t doubt that these things happen, but that video shows nothing to me. I’m just supposed to take the author’s word that this guy was formerly dressed as bloc. It could just as easily be a regular cop coming in to work. Without evidence of how he was previously dressed, it could be anyone.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      That could be a fair point. If there is not seamless chain-of-transformation video footage showing the one same guy from Bloccer to ICEman, then we can’t really know for sure.

      And that can’t-be-sureness could well be the Black Bloc’s own fault if they don’t like being videographed from the moment of their first appearance somewhere to the moment of their last visibility there.

      Meanwhile, here is a visual meme-type joke for some humor on the lighter side.


  16. Sound of the Suburbs

    Divide and conquer.
    What if the 95% recognised that a white, male, privately educated elite were the problem?

    Inequality exists on two axes:
    Y-axis – top to bottom
    X-axis – Across genders, races, etc …..
    The traditional Left work on the Y-axis and would be a problem when you want to increase Y-axis inequality.
    The Liberal Left work on the X-axis.
    You can increase Y-axis inequality while the Liberal left are busy on the X-axis.

    On the X-axis you can divide and conquer.
    The last thing you want is them banding together against a small privileged elite.

    The liberal billionaires have put a lot of thought into this, but it can fly straight over the heads of many on the Right.
    It is all getting a bit out of hand in the US, but after weighing it all up, the liberal billionaires decided it was best to keep the Left on the X-axis.
    If the Left are on the Y-axis they will be after their money.

    This is the idea.
    While everyone else is fighting each other, the billionaires can accumulate more and more for themselves without interference.

    With democracy you need two parties.
    The rich need a liberal Left that won’t be after their money.
    The Democrats wealthy donors ensure they don’t stray into Y-axis inequality.

    The real problem is Bernie Sanders.
    Making sure he didn’t become president was the most important thing.
    Trump isn’t that bad.
    Bernie is looking at Y-axis inequality.

  17. DSB

    Yes Angie Neer, I do think it is entirely plausible that a Black man died of an overdose of China White on the streets of South Minneapolis. I have thought so ever since reading the New York Times article of May 29. In the article witnesses say, “He’s not in control of himself” and that “He is not acting right”. The article goes on to point out that, “Even before he was placed on the ground under Mr. Chauvin’s knee, according to the prosecutors’ account, while standing outside the car, Mr. Floyd began saying repeatedly that he could not breathe.” The signs and symptoms are consistent with opioid overdose.

    When a beloved celebrity dies the media consistently cautions the public not to draw conclusions as to the cause of death. They tell readers the conclusive evidence of the cause of death will take weeks before it is known. This is a reference to the forensic toxicology report. These tests typically take 4 to 6-weeks. For Michael Jackson it took 8-weeks and 3-days for the report to be released. Minnesota does not require the release of the report. In the case of Prince Rogers Nelson the relevant release is here. It took about 6-weeks. The same is true for others such as Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

    In the case of George Floyd there was no caution as to a rush to judgement because WE ALL KNOW WHAT WE SAW – right? Video doesn’t tell the whole truth. It certainly does not tell you the amount of drugs in George Floyd. It doesn’t tell you how much of the drugs had been absorbed into his organs. It doesn’t give you a sense of the musculature of George Floyd or the amount of pressure applied by Chauvin. With regard to this, the autopsy report says, “Layer by layer dissection of the anterior strap muscles of the neck discloses no areas of contusion or hemorrhage within the musculature.” The report goes on to say under special procedures, “An incision from the back of the head to the lower back, extending onto both buttocks, is dissected subcutaneously to the lateral aspects of the neck, the shoulders, and flanks. No areas of subcutaneous hemorrhage, soft tissue contusion, or other occult injury are found in the posterior neck, right and left lateral neck, shoulders, back, flanks, or buttocks.”

    Without damage to the neck upon which Chauvin’s knee pressed, the autopsy report goes on to introduce that multiple drugs were found in the hospital blood – THC, methamphetamine, fentanyl and norfentanyl. The level was high enough so as to be lethal according to Dr. Andrew Baker, the Chief Medical Examiner of Hennepin County, Minnesota.

    Now the counter argument to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner is provided by Dr. Michael Baden. Baden has a colorful history. He was fired by Mayor Ed Koch in 1979 after about 1-year in his post as Chief Medical Examiner for the City of New York. He was later dismissed as deputy medical examiner of Suffolk County, New York. Keep in mind that he does not conduct a second autopsy, but merely reviews what was done in the autopsy conducted by Hennepin County.

    Given the actions of George Floyd at Cup Foods and the autopsy report, I think there is enough evidence to research further the possibility that George Floyd died of an overdose and not “cardio-pulmonary” as identified by the medical examiner. That further research would be to order a forensic toxicology report to identify how much drugs had been absorbed into the organs of George Floyd. The outcome of which is a determination as to whether or not the cause of death was a drug overdose. Typically that report would have been received by about July 7. Today is October 15.

    You say, “… so what?”. I say a lot of death and destruction has taken place in the 3+ months for which a report that should have been received has not been disclosed. Surely, if the report was received and it absolved drugs from a role in George Floyd’s death, the medical examiner would want the world to know that, would he not? He took some flack for the comments about drug overdose in the handwritten notes. The Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (former DNP vice chair) would like its disclosure to shut up the defense attorney. Why not take the question mark out of the public conversation now? If the report shows drug overdose as the cause of death, then there are some people with blood on their hands. What does that blow back look like?

    How do you think the American public will feel about being lied to again? How will they view the rioting, looting, killings and maiming over a drug overdose? Are the protests and their concomitant impacts then deemed worthy and a sign of progress toward a brighter future for all? Or are they yet one more example of a false narrative that includes Tawana Brawley, Michael Brown (Hands up, don’t shoot was built on a lie) and Freddie Gray?

    I think real progress will be harmed if in fact the forensic toxicology on George Floyd is being held back from the public. Especially if the goal is political and not justice or appropriate change.

    I stand by lets see where this goes.

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