By JOHN LESLIE
Activists in Delaware County, Pa., (a suburb of Philadelphia), including organizers for Delco Resists, protested outside of the Ridley Township police headquarters on Sunday evening, Oct. 10. They came together in order to shine a light on the continued indifference of local officials following an attack on a Black Lives Matter protest on Aug. 1, 2020. On that day, a march by BLM activists, including families with children and high school students, were menaced by right-wing thugs in cars, called racist epithets, and physically assaulted—as cops stood by. So far, no official action has been taken to redress this situation.
In the lead-up to the August 2020 march, there were threats of gun violence against the marchers on social media, and a false rumor was spread that the protesters were from Baltimore and had come to Ridley with the intention of burning down the police station. The former police chief, Captain Willoughby, was part of a group text of police officers, which makes it clear that police had no intention of protecting the right to protest. Willoughby has since retired with a full pension. The new police chief has continued the atmosphere of indifference to protesters’ demands for accountability.
At the Sunday rally, about 30 community activists gathered in a light rain to speak about their experience. A few white motorists yelled “white lives matter” and “white power” as they drove past. The rally was surrounded by a phalanx of police.
Speaking during the rally, Kayla Cocci said, “I’m here standing with all of you because I’m hurt and frustrated because I don’t feel protected by the officers surrounding me.” Cocci praised local high school students who protested on Aug. 1. “Fifteen Ridley high school students, instead of sitting behind their screens, got up and went to this march. I’m here because of them … because they believed in the Black Lives Matter cause and were brave enough to stand on that belief.”
Activist Carol Kazeem spoke, saying, “Those individuals want to justify [that] for me to walk down and you start calling me the N-word. Now what does that have to do with me saying I want equality? And you expect me to believe that all lives matter!”
Rally organizer Ashley Dolceamore stated, “We had a meeting with the new captain, Captain Dougherty, and township manager Joe Ryan in preparation for this rally. Almost the entirety of the meeting, township manager Joe Ryan was trying to gaslight us about what happened last year.”
The role of police under capitalism
Police under capitalism exist to enforce the rule of the rich and powerful and to protect their interests against the oppressed and working class. In the United States, policing is more often than not aimed at poor Black and Brown communities who experience the police as more of an occupying force than as so-called protectors. Police in part have their origins in the slave patrols that the Southern planter class used to keep enslaved Africans from running away. The police are the armed repressive apparatus of the capitalist state. Any worker who has gone on strike has learned that the police are not a benign institution.
Activists cannot afford to have illusions about the “neutrality” of the police, especially in situations where demonstrations are confronted by the far right. The police, politicians, and courts will not protect us.
Farrell Dobbs, a U.S. socialist leader during the last century, made it plain—the ruling-class “tactic is to protect the rights of the fascists while at the same time using fascist forces to try to keep others from exercising those rights. One of the forces used to implement this is that most malevolent of all the repressive instruments of capitalist rule, the police forces. The police structure is of a character that makes it a breeding ground for fascists.
“You don’t only have an army of capitalist cops that represses opponents of capitalism, you have a ripe recruiting ground for fascism itself. You not only have cops implementing ruling class orders in aiding the fascists, you have a police force that is honeycombed with fascists.”
Dobbs continued, “The line of the police is to defend the exercise of the formal democratic rights of the fascists, on the one hand, and not to “see” the violations of the democratic rights of the fascists’ victims. Meanwhile, the cops take full advantage of any violation of bourgeois-democratic law that the antifascists may commit. In any kind of confrontation between antifascist and fascist forces, the basic line of the cops is to protect the fascists in any way they can and to join in the victimization of the antifascists.”
Socialists support demands that do not reinforce illusions in the cops and judicial system. We favor demands that weaken the police structure, such as disarming the police, including ending programs that give military equipment and training to police. We want an end to qualified immunity and the criminal prosecution of violent killer cops. We demand the removal of police from schools, and the defunding of police departments—with the money redirected to meet human needs.
Photo: John Leslie / Socialist Resurgence