Summary: Comments delivered on June 6, 2020 to an Another Europe meeting based in London, UK, “America’s uprising: racism, violence, inequality and the far right” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StIDWxC7iAs&fbclid=IwAR3u5gdZg-d_3aOs4CYOiL0YBVvrDtbgcBMRk7KQ7lZNEbqBRLPrEQWuxXQ — Editors
Hello Brothers and Sisters, Comrades and Friends. My name is Christian Shaughnessy and I am a socialist and multiracial activist from Southern California in the United States. I thank the kind hosts for the invitation to speak at this lovely event and I wish only the best for the comrades in your own struggles to achieve human dignity.
I see there are many British friends in the crowd. As an American I take great pride in saying that close to 250 years ago the revolutionary fathers of my nation launched a war of independence against the tyranny of Great Britain. They sought to overcome imperialism, the denial of human rights, an imposed slavery, and the brutality of soldiers and policemen against the American people. I hope one day we’ll be able to achieve any of those things.
And so today we rise to recognize the murder of a man, Brother George Floyd, whose life was so cruelly torn from us. Rest assured, long after the names of his murderers are long forgotten his name will continue to live on for what it’s legacy set alight in a world of darkness.
Yet, we also rise to celebrate the birth of a new power in the United States and with your help the entire world. This power is one that says to the ruling class that we are sick and tired of the racism and police brutality that afflict our people.
At the uprisings many of you have seen online, young and working people of many races came together to demand dignity from power. The cleverest way the powerful strip you of your humanity is to tell your community you are a criminal. No people know this more than our Black brothers and sisters and people of color, who falsely bear so many of the felony convictions in American society. In most of the United States, the right to vote is stolen from those convicted of felonies. Student financial aid is stolen from those convicted of felonies. Good job opportunities are stolen from those convicted of felonies. Wages from one’s prison labor are stolen from those convicted of felonies. The legal right to firearms is often taken away. Then, especially for those who suffer the worst felony charge of all, having Black skin, your life can be stolen too.
Human life, even white life under capitalism, is disrespected on a daily basis. But the lives of people of color, and especially our Black Brothers and Sisters are treated the absolute worst. Disproportionately their race is blamed for violence, when it was people with white skin who caused the two world wars. They are blamed for looting, when it was rich men with white skin from New York and London who caused the Great Depression and Great Recession. They are told that they are lazy Welfare Queens, when it was their ancestors’ supposed predisposition to hard work, that made them the special target of human bondage.
In an age of smartphones and internet connections, even the most stubborn of white people find it hard to ignore the atrocities suffered by people of color in the United States. The video of Brother George Floyd’s murder, which I encourage every person here to see in its entirety, encapsulates the disregard for human life in the United States. A man walks into a store and supposedly uses a counterfeit 20 dollar bill, something so common I have probably done it many times in my life. He is pinned down to the ground like a dog on the street. He dies.
I will spare you the details of his death. For it is the glory of a man’s life we should celebrate, and not his passing. Because of Brother George Floyd, a spontaneous movement of the American masses has taken place. They demand murder charges placed on all murderers in uniform. The abolition of chokeholds and strikes to the neck. The end of police immunity for charges.
There are now serious proposals to defund police budgets and remove police from the areas of our lives that need social workers and therapists. In Los Angeles, California, the Mayor has announced that 5% of the police budget will be cut. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Brother George Floyd was murdered, the School system and Parks system have legally ended their relationship to the police department. The Minnesota City Council seek to disband their entire police department and other activists even demand the abolition of police everywhere.
These demands became real and socially acceptable to discuss precisely because power was made uncomfortable by the people. Thousands and thousands of people took and STAYED on the streets past curfews. They blocked roads and freeways. They disrupted businesses and lost rich folk’s money. They resisted the police nonviolently. They resisted the military nonviolently. Then some, with centuries of frustration and rage, took their anger out on the businesses around them. The police station that employed Brother George Floyd’s murderers was burned down to the ground. Barriers outside the White House, guarded by the elite Secret Service were overwhelmed so much, that the White House had to shut its lights off and President Trump had to hide in a bunker.
The Black Lives Matter Greater New York Chapter has stated that they support Black rights to self-defense against their oppressors. Armed white people, after all, used death threats to intimidate the democratically elected Michigan State Legislature into cancelling a session. Why did they do this? They wanted to end the “tyranny” of haircut bans during the Coronavirus. Black folks and all people of color on the other hand, deserve self-defense for genuine reasons. The BLM Greater NY leadership intends to train people of color in that self-defense. If the United States of America really was founded on human equality, then white folks and rich folks should not have a problem with this!
The People in power are now afraid. This did NOT happen because of the Democratic Party. This did NOT happen because Barack Obama or Joseph Biden, who both deported more people than Donald Trump, won the Democratic nomination. It did NOT happen because of Bernie Sanders or somebody giving a speech. This is happening because ordinary people are taking to the streets and hurting some people’s pocket books. No matter what kith or kin, or home or hearth, you come from, the principle remains the same; that people power overcomes oppression. If we want our struggles to keep on winning, it is our duty as activists to dance with the rhythm of the street, because if we don’t, we’ll miss the beat.
Rest in Power