Compared to the previous decades’ snail-paced policing and criminal justice reforms, the past two weeks have see absolutely sweeping changes. These changes weren’t won through votes – they were won through open, disruptive, and occasionally destructive rebellion in the streets across America.
Whatever your opinion of the protests and riots that have sprung up across the country in the weeks since George Floyd’s murder, you cannot deny their effectiveness, at least in the short term. These successes offer a devastating critique to power of the political right, for which I am exceedingly glad. They also have razed many of the criticisms from the left about the effectiveness of rebellion and potential of chaos. The left’s arguments in favor of gradualism, in favor of the path of least resistance, and of working within in the system are not thoroughly refuted by any means, but those who make those less-radical cases are forced to at the very least reassess many of their preconceptions.
Many of these victories are small. Many are symbolic. Some are large and undeniably meaningful. All leave room for improvement, and none of them were without cost: in the past two weeks, over 10,000 protesters/rioters have been arrested; countless more have been assaulted and brutalized by cops; and of course, the lives of the black and brown martyrs that sparked this fight can never be regained by any amount of positive change.
The following is a list of rebellion’s victories so far. Of course, it is an incomplete list – many victories will never be known outside of the neighborhoods they occurred in – but it is an impressive list all the same.
- The cop who murdered George Floyd was fired, arrested, and charged with 3rd degree murder. Then his charges were increased to 2nd degree and the other officers involved were also charged.
- Public opinion about policing has changed significantly. 54% of Americans support the seizure/burning down of the Minneapolis police precinct. Notably, this means that the destruction of a police station is more popular than any 2020 presidential candidate.
- The Minneapolis school board has severed their relationship with the Minneapolis PD, meaning no more cops in Minneapolis public schools.
- The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board unanimously voted to sever their relationship with Minneapolis PD.
- The University of Minnesota severed their relationship with Minneapolis PD.
- A veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis city council has pledged to take steps to disband their police department.
- The state of Minnesota filed a civil rights lawsuit against Minneapolis PD.
- The mayor of Los Angeles announced a divest/invest initiative, which will cut $100-150 million for LAPD’s budget and reinvest it into social programs geared toward minority communities.
- Los Angeles has announced a moratorium on LAPD adding more people to the gang data base, which forces them to report bad actors and increase discipline against officers that violate the rules.
- The mayor of New York City has announced a shift of an unspecified amount from the NYPD budget to youth programs.
- New York City has ended using police to enforce street vendor regulations.
- Louisville, KY has put a moratorium on no-knock raids, and has taken steps toward banning them permanently.
- The Portland, OR school board has ended the use of police in public schools.
- Transit unions in (at least) Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, San Franscico, and Washington D.C. have refused to transport protesters arrested by the police to jails. In (at least) Boston, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh, the unions refused to transport police officers at all.
- Statues honoring the racist and reactionary Confederacy of the United States that were raised as an intimidation tactic against the civil rights movement have been torn down by local governments in (at least) Alexandria, VA; Baltimore, MD; Birmingham, AL; Montgomery, AL; and Richmond, VA.
- In Bristol, England, a statue of a slave trader was tossed into the sea.
- A mural of racist cop and former mayor Frank Rizzo was removed in Philadelphia, PA.
- The U.S. military is cracking, with several former and current high-ranking officers expressing dissent towards Trump and active-duty soldiers showing resistance towards being deployed against protesters.
- Los Angeles Pride announced that they will have a Black Lives Matter protest this year instead of a Pride Parade.
- Indianapolis, IN Pride announced that they would no longer have cops at Pride events.
- The cops in Atlanta, GA who assaulted two motorists on camera were charged.
- The cops in Buffalo, NY who assaulted an elderly Catholic Worker protester were arrested.
- The NFL has decided to allow kneeling during the anthem as a form of protest.
- A judge in Denver, CO issued a restraining order that limits the use of tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters by police.
- Seattle’s central labor council (MLK Labor) has threatened to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild from the council.
- Mayors in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City were forced to lift their curfews while protests and riots continued.
- Officials from both major parties in Congress have initiated a process to place limits on the 1033 Program, which acts as a pipeline of military equipment to local police departments.
- Fuji Bikes has suspended the sale of their products to police departments.
- Anarchists in Seattle have taken over a several-block area of the city, forced out the police, and have begun establishing necessary infrastructure in the new “Free Capital Hill” autonomous zone.
- Protesters beheaded a statue of genocidal slaver Christopher Columbus in Boston, MA.
- Protesters tore down a statue of Christopher Columbus and threw it into a lake in Richmond, VA.
Of course, the full ramifications and effects of these changes have yet to be seen. There is certainly a moral case to be made (one that I tend to agree with) that changes forced through coercion and violence can only take us so far, and often have unintended consequences. There is also the unavoidable fact that many of these changes did not come from a sincere sense of justice among those with power, but rather from their desperation to placate the rising masses.
The rebels who have grasped these achievements are fueled from a fire from below, and they are just getting started. Those with power would be wise to take them and their concerns seriously.