The murder of George Floyd and the massive rebellion and protest that followed are the most remembered images of 2020. Unfortunately, images of Black people being lynched and murdered by white people in and out of uniform have been the most haunting images of American history. But the images of rebellion in 2020, of millions of people throughout the USA and the world rising up against racist police repression - and the system of oppression that police tyranny serves and protects - have inspired new hope and courage in the struggle for Black liberation.
The George Floyd and Breonna Taylor rebellion happened within the context of a pandemic with massive unemployment, poverty, death and all forms of social misery stalking the land. It occurred at a moment of crisis when the government was refusing to address the sickness, death and gaping inequality exaggerated by the pandemic. It occurred at a time when neither the government nor the police were keeping anyone safe. In this moment, while we were already living in a state of siege, Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in the blast of day.
On that fateful day of May 2020 when George was murdered while begging for his life, we saw in a flash the stark reality that it is our oppression that lies at the root of police repression; we were all feeling Chauvin’s knee on our necks. Then the people’s rage and anger erupted like a fire rocket lightening up the night of our ignorance, showing us that a principal block in the road to liberation is the police who protect and serve not the people but the status quo.
We have learned in the dirt and blood of battle that through organization and struggle we must lead our people out of frustration. Before, during and after the uprising we have advocated that the way out of this politically imposed nightmare of police tyranny is to heighten like never before the struggle for community control of the police. We must understand that the demands to defund and abolish the police are a reflection of the fundamental fact that the police as they presently exist cannot be reformed. They must be replaced in accordance with the needs of the people effected by the dictates of community control.
Our comrades in Minneapolis, Chicago, Florida, Los Angeles, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Washington, D.C. and around the country are taking new legislative initiates and ballot initiatives, to establish community control of the police.
In Chicago the George Floyd, Breonna Taylor rebellion heightened our financial and people resources to the extent where our organizing capacity quadrupled. As a result, we now have the broadest community-based, labor-based and faith-based movement for community control of the police in the history of our movement. We now have a majority of the city council supporting our people’s ordinance - Empowering Communities for Public Safety.
On the national level there are two bills in Congress that clearly come in the wake of the 2020 Black-led uprising and they are the George Floyd bill and the House Bill opposing voter suppression. Two sacred democratic rights are at stake here: the democratic right to end police tyranny in our communities and the democratic right to vote. These have historically been fundamental demands of the Black Liberation movement.
In commemorating and celebrating the 2020 rebellion let us recognize that it is precisely this rebellion that has given us the tail winds for change in the coming period of struggle for freedom, justice and equality. We are on a path. A path we are determined to follow all the way to liberation.
Commentary by Frank Chapman, Executive Director of NAARPR