The Second Longest War in the United States

Photograph Source: Lorie Shaull – CC BY-SA 2.0

Other than the fact I was born in Minneapolis, I have little connection to the place. My adult life never encouraged much interaction with my relatives who live in the area, so except for the rare visit, I don’t know much about it. However, I do understand police brutality and the nature of a police state. The current rebellion in the streets of the Twin Cities and around the United States—provoked by the blatant murder of a Black man by Minneapolis policeman who is also white and has a record of brutality—is a logical and emotional response to both.

The murdered man, George Floyd, was accused of trying to use a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill to purchase cigarettes. When confronted by a worker in the store where he made the transaction, Floyd apologized and gave back the cigarettes. Then, the police showed up, put him in handcuffs, and proceeded to kill Floyd. Videos of the murder show a big man in a police uniform pressing his knee on the side of Floyd’s neck for almost eight minutes until Floyd died. Despite the misleading reports that Floyd died later, the fact is that he was killed on that street by that cop. Three other cops did what cops usually do when one of theirs is engaged in brutal behavior—they blocked civilians from getting near the victim and threatened those who did come close demanding the policeman stop suffocating Floyd.

Now, I’ve unknowingly tried to pass counterfeit bills a few times at convenience stores when I lived in the Bay Area. Obviously, I’m not dead. Only once did the police get called. They asked me where I got the bill and let me go. Admittedly, this was back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when things were supposedly different. However, the crucial difference is not what time period the incidents occurred, but the color of my skin and the color of Mr. Floyd’s. The Minneapolis police know this and so do the rest of those who identify with the rulers in this country. This includes those politicians and officials who have spoken out against the police action. No one should be surprised at the rebellion in the streets. I doubt very many of the protesters are surprised at the reaction of the police to those protests. I know I’m not.

The tale behind the murder of Breonna Taylor is another too familiar representation of the US police state. Her murder from a fusillade of police bullets took place at the tawdry and often violent nexus where the never-ending war on drugs meets the US foundational racism. After another squad in the Louisville, Kentucky police department arrested an alleged drug dealer earlier in the day, another undercover police unit attacked Taylor’s home under cover of the night. Taylor was murdered in the attack. Her friend, Kenneth Walker, fired his weapon in self-defense. There was never any reason for the police to go near Taylor’s home and no drugs were found there. Although Walker was originally charged with attempted murder, no police have been charged, several weeks after the shooting. After public outcry from across the US, the charges were dropped against Walker. In my mind, Breonna Taylor was the victim of a drive-by shooting carried out by a gang of cops.

After trying to sweep the incident under the rug, various officials in Kentucky have taken minor actions against the cops involved because of public anger. That anger boiled over the night of May 28, 2020 when a protest turned violent. In fact, seven people were shot in the later hours of the protest. Police officials claim that no official police weapons were discharged at the scene. Given the current situation, that statement needs to be verified by objective sources. Although the public may never know, it seems quite possible that the shots were fired by white supremacists under cover of the night or by police provocateurs with unregistered weapons.

Speaking of white supremacists shooting Black people, this trifecta of racist murders began with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by three white supremacists in Georgia. This lynching in a development in small town Georgia would probably have gone unnoticed by the public if it weren’t for the cellphone video taken by one of the murderers, Apparently, that video would never have gone beyond the local police department if one of the employees there had not leaked it. The three men charged are not merely garden-variety racists all too common in the USA. Instead, they are one pillowcase short of full-fledged Klan. The intent to murder is all too clear on the cellphone video. It will be interesting to see how their defense team wriggles out of a conviction. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

Likewise, I will not be surprised if the cops in Louisville and Minneapolis get away with these murders, despite the blatant nature of the crimes. Recent history tells us that there will be many twists and turns in the stories around these crimes. Some will be true and some will be false. Some will be published with the intent to confuse while others will be published with the intent to clarify. No matter what, the fact remains that these individuals were murdered by people who think they can get away with murder. Just like in war, very few murderers get convicted for their crimes and very few such crimes ever get reported. As for those politicians across the mainstream spectrum decrying the murders; unless they are ready to fundamentally change an economic and political system founded on the capture, trading and breeding of other human beings, they should be ignored. While police are certainly a big part of the problem, the system they are protecting is the fundamental problem.

I am not a Black man, but I certainly know there is a war against Black people in the USA. The only war that has gone on longer than this war is the one against the people who were here when the Europeans first arrived.


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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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