Workers Vanguard No. 988

14 October 2011


Drop All the Charges!

Know Your Enemy: NYPD Arrests Hundreds

The hundreds of “Occupy Wall Street” protesters trapped and arrested on the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1 received a bitter lesson on the role of the police and the nature of the capitalist state, as did the young women whose pepper-spraying at pointblank range on September 24 drew international attention to the protests. If this was a first-time experience for many of the demonstrators, the arrest of black protester Hero Vincent called to mind the brutal treatment meted out to ghetto youth every day by the NYPD. In an interview with Democracy Now, Vincent recounted how four laughing officers yelled, “Stop resisting arrest” while kicking him in the stomach as he lay helpless on the ground. He now faces a trumped-up felony charge of assaulting a police officer. We demand: Drop all charges against the anti-Wall Street protesters!

Many protesters have bought the liberal organizers’ line that the “white shirt” commanders are the problem, while the “blue shirt” cops are themselves victims of Wall Street. Reinforcing this myth is the illusion that the cops who are beating and arresting protesters are just a few bad apples. In response to the September 24 police assault, an statement calling for a march to NYPD headquarters bleated: “Let us also be clear that, when approached as individuals, members of the NYPD have expressed solidarity with our cause. It has been inspiring to receive this support.” On an October 5 march through Lower Manhattan, organizers led demonstrators in chanting, “Police, join us! They want your pensions, too!”

The cops are the hired guns of the capitalist class, “earning” their pay (and sweet retirement) by breaking strikes and terrorizing the ghettos and barrios to protect the interests of Wall Street. As revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky put it, “The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker” (What Next?, January 1932). The pro-capitalist trade-union bureaucrats betray the interests of workers by organizing cops and security guards into the unions.

The nature of the police as guard dogs of capital is seen in any outbreak of class struggle. To punish the NYC Transport Workers Union for its 2005 strike, which for three days all but shut down the financial center of U.S. imperialism, the police dragged the union president off to jail. In the current vital struggle against union-busting in Longview, Washington, two International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 officials sought to aid a 57-year-old grandmother whose rotator cuff was torn by the cops. The Local 21 leaders were hurled to the ground and cuffed, their eyes directly and repeatedly maced. Now they’re charged with assaulting the police! (See “Defend Longview ILWU Against Bosses’ Cops and Courts!” WV No. 987, 30 September.)

Police violence is systematically employed in enforcing black oppression, a cornerstone of American capitalism. Just one day after the arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge, police fired multiple rounds into 57-year-old Yvonne McNeal, killing the black homeless woman in front of the shelter where she lived. A protest statement by Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ) noted: “When police targeted largely white Occupy Wall Street protesters, they used pepper spray. When faced with a vulnerable woman of color, they chose to use lethal force as their first option.” McNeal was affiliated with QEJ, which marched on Wall Street in her honor.

The capitalist class gives the police a license to kill, and they exercise that license with impunity in New York City as elsewhere. Amadou Diallo was shot dead in the Bronx in 1999 by cops who fired 41 bullets into him; Sean Bell died in Queens in a hail of 50 NYPD bullets in 2006. In 2010, Luis Soto was gunned down when cops emptied their semiautomatics into a crowd of hundreds at a Harlem block party.

In a speech that polarized the Occupy Wall Street crowd on October 8, a member of the Spartacus Youth Club fought against deadly illusions in the police, declaring: “Cops defend the capitalist system. Blue shirt, white shirt, a cop is a cop! They are not workers!”