PHL DSA's Statement: Against Police Violence and Austerity, For Worker Power

We are outraged at George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police. Floyd’s killing and similar acts of violence stem from the brutalities and inequalities of U.S. society.

[Update June 8, 2020] On Friday, Philly DSA posted a statement on our website titled “Against Police Violence and Austerity, For Worker Power”. In doing so, we made a mistake that we deeply regret. Our statement did not sufficiently address the disproportionate impact of police violence on people of color, specifically Black Americans, and the significant anti-racist character of the protests. George Floyd’s life mattered, and all Black lives matter. In light of this, we are sharing a statement, written by committed Philly DSA activists and organizers, that responds to the recent wave of protests and demonstrations in our city. We feel their words account for what our statement missed. As a democratically-run membership organization, we are only as strong as our members working together.

Philly DSA affirms our support for the ongoing protests and calls for our members to raise their voices for justice with the hundreds of thousands doing the same across the United States. If your health allows it, please join our chapter and coalition partners at these two Philly DSA endorsed actions: I am A Human Being: Solidarity with Philly Sanitation Workers (Tuesday 6/9, 10:30am, Tuesday, LOVE Park) and Defund the Police: the Whole System is Guilty (Saturday 6/13, 12pm, 400 North Broad St).

[Original statement, June 5, 2020]

We are outraged at George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police. Floyd’s killing and similar acts of violence stem from the brutalities and inequalities of U.S. society.

Over the past several decades, the United States has increasingly traded investments in good-paying jobs and social services for investments in militarized police forces and prisons. Rather than provide for the material well-being of their populations, cities and states rely heavily on law enforcement to combat crime. They often disproportionately surveil neighborhoods that, due to segregation era practices like redlining and unequal access to employment, take on a clear racialized character. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened these conditions of inequality. Floyd had been recently laid off from work. His death was precipitated by the accusation that he had used a counterfeit $20 bill at a local deli. As the unemployment rate hit Great Depression levels this spring, similar arrests of those attempting just to survive the current crisis have become disturbingly common.

Reforms to law enforcement and the prison system are important means of preventing future killings. As socialists, we are also uniquely positioned to expose the economic dimensions of these instances of state violence and to push for demands that address their underlying causes. We know that failures to invest in social welfare spending and the abandonment of full employment and jobs guarantees policies led to our current predicament. In the mid-century, as large waves of African-Americans moved to northern cities, their hopes for stable jobs were met with white flight to the suburbs and sharp declines in factory work. The absence of jobs and a wealthy tax base to fund social programs led to a massive rise in poverty and crime in cities like Minneapolis and our own Philadelphia. Unable and unwilling to invest in production and social services, municipalities relied on comparatively cheap measures like police and prisons to govern. It is no coincidence that, as socialist organizations and the labor movement came under attack during the Cold War, investments in punitive policies rose while social service spending stagnated.

The response to Floyd’s killing must center on interventions that reckon with the roots of police violence. Nationally, we must fight for legislation such as the Workplace Democracy Act and a federal jobs guarantee. We also must make permanent the COVID-19 expansions to unemployment benefits. In Philadelphia, we have demanded worker protections to combat the widespread economic effects of the coronavirus crisis. Instead of further supporting the militarized police force, we must protect city employees’ jobs against layoffs and furloughs by making Philadelphia’s budget prioritize the interests of workers and require corporations and large non-profit institutions (like the University of Pennsylvania) pay their fair share. Further, we must work nationally to re-strengthen the rights of organized labor and locally to build union power in Philadelphia.

We cannot achieve economic and racial justice through budget cuts to law enforcement, police training programs, and community policing alone. Only by targeting the foundations of inequality, can we create a more just society for all working people.

What We Can Do

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