by James Yeun
With the dawn of the Trump presidency, millions of people who are coming into the streets. We come to resist and express our frustration at the Trump administration. However, many of us for the first time are being exposed to revolutionary politics. This exposure is often first experienced through slogans.
A.C.A.B.! All Cops Are Bastards!
This is one such slogan. For anyone taking part in this movement, it is essential to critically assess why radicals choose to say All Cops Are Bastards (ACAB).
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Most commonly, we hear that when oppressed people say “fuck the police”, it is an understandable action given years of oppression. The rationale goes, “If the police wrongfully arrested your brother at the age of 16, and kept him without trial for three years and in solitary for over a year, what would you say? If the police strangled your father for selling loose cigarettes, would you be kind to his murderers? If the police killed your neighbors and friends with impunity, would you turn the other cheek, time and time again?” These stories are those of Kalief Browder, Eric Garner, and countless others in Black and Brown communities. To stand in solidarity with these communities means understanding the sadness and frustration that those we stand with have faced for far too long.
However, it is not just the horror of individual acts—it is that the police do it time and time again with impunity. It is the lawlessness of the law, that forces us to draw a line between the police and oppressed nationalities and the working class.
They would like us to believe that there is no better society beyond the police line
The aftermath of each of these horrors is telling. Kalief Browder went imprisoned for three years without trial. Eric Garner’s killer never faced punishment nor did any of his superiors. Black and Brown communities are terrorized with impunity.
It is not just the police. The judicial system allows killer cops to walk free, the media debates character flaws. In the richest nation in the world, we allow communities of color to go without function schools and other social programs—and then blame them for their community’s crime and poverty. It is not about the “bad” cops, the “crooked” judges, or even individual politicians. This is about a racist system and the racist institutions which make up that system.
This same system financially enriches the police as an institution and officers as individuals. We see that police officers enrich themselves through the exploitation of Black and Brown communities, often directly. The US Justice Department wrote in its report on Ferguson that “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public need.” In Chicago, since 2009, Chicago police have seized $72 million in assets and cash through “civil forfeiture”, a process of seizing the assets of individuals who have been accused, though not convicted, of a crime. According to the ACLU, over the last decade, Pennsylvania law enforcement have taken over $100 million in private property using the same procedure. These procedures always impact Black and Latinx communities disproportionately.
One point needs to be emphasized: the job of the police is to defend laws, regardless of moral content. The police label this as “Protect and Serve”. But when police brutalize workers asking for better pay or black and brown communities demanding racial justice, we know clearly who and what they are protecting and serving. To defend ALL laws, in a racist, capitalist society, is to protect and serve the 1% and white supremacy.
Look. We all have jobs. We all need to make a living. However, we all also hear the call to resist racism, historically this has been made through the direct opposition of laws, whether through revolution or civil disobedience. Firefighters can march in the streets. Doctors can oppose unjust laws. Lawyers can place human rights over property rights.
In a racist society, there will always be a distance between justice and the law. The police don’t defend justice, not because they won’t but because they can’t, as the armed enforcers of a racist system. Everytime we challenge this system, at the front-lines, we will always find the police in direct opposition to us.
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Protesters will inevitably confront police opposition. On the streets, we will always be confronted with the police. They will push us down one road or another, in an effort to either trap us or control us. Never to actually protect us. Never to help us express our outrage and sadness.
The police protect the racists. The police protect the rich, they protect Trump. The police always protect those who seek to take everything from us. They seek only to demobilize us, pacify us, and return us to our homes. They would like us to believe that there is no better society beyond the police line.
But we know better. Even if the path to a better society is difficult and narrow, we will pass through it and if the police stand between us and that society, we will break the police line, as we have done again and again.
We must say ACAB, All Cops Are Bastards, because we must travel beyond the horizon of blue and allow our society of laws to be a society of justice.