Rosa Soros reflects on the protest after the death of Edir Frederico Da Costa.
What a farce! There was a state-sanctioned murder of another young black man in police custody (and, inevitably, another cover-up), yet it is the protest against this killing that is accused of turning “violent”. The very moment Edir Frederico Da Costa was at the mercy of racial profiling and a corrupt police force, the state forfeited its right to a peaceful protest.
The authors of this tragedy, deserves nothing less than the collective rage and anger of those who consistently come up state violence and repression. Martin Luther King said, “Riots are the language of the unheard”, and it is in this vein that we salute those who stood up against the violence of the state and the police.
However, there is a worrying tendency in the wider left to reproduce harmful discourse that replicates the logic of the bourgeois state, siding with the ruling class when civil disobedience crosses the boundaries of what constitutes a “peaceful” protest. On social media the usual suspects, liberals and social democrats, tweet their bewilderment as to why “local youth” are setting bins on fire in their own communities. But what is more concerning is that much of the self-professed “radical” left is mimicking this line of inquiry.
This is a red herring that attempts to distract from the political potency of riots and working-class self-defence against the state. We would do well not to get distracted. The idea of “community” needs to be evaluated through a material lens.
What constitutes a community? I’ve lived in Stratford, near Forest Gate. The area is not a wholesome, multi-cultural, vibrant hub of opportunity, but a fractured, anatomized borough of London in which the manifestations of social and economic inequality are very real and very visible. An area where the Olympic Park and Westfield shopping centre, naked expressions of corporate opportunism, have forced local families out into pockets of poverty, where several pubs are a no-go for lefties, black people and non-black people of colour, and where fascist stickers litter street lamps.
What community are we talking about? Why do we fetishise the idea of community, and even more so when discussing various disparate communities? What is there to salvage in a place like Forest Gate where the housing is less than fit for purpose, where gentrification is pushing rents higher, pushing ordinary people out, and bringing well-to-do “young professionals” in?
Class is what unites us. We need to re-establish class consciousness and recognise the valid expression of rage and disruption when people fight the state. According to Inquest, there have been 1,500 deaths in police custody since 1990 in England and Wales, and more than 500 victims were from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.
BME people in the UK only make up 14% of the population, which puts into perspective the systematic nature of racial profiling, racism in the police force, and the subsequent lethal police brutality that disproportionately affects the working class and precarious people of colour.
The violence that is enacted by the state against disaffected and marginalised people, and again any who challenge its authority, must be met with dissidence. In the words of Black Panther and revolutionary Fred Hampton, “I’m not afraid to say I’m at war with the pigs.”
We should not shy away from declaring class war (we have always been at war) and recognising how racism operates within capitalism and how the capitalist class maintains dominance through racism, sexism, and other modes of oppression.
This is our struggle, and we have a collective responsibility to turn solidarity into action. An injury to one is an injury to all. Solidarity in struggle, solidarity as action. If we are true revolutionaries then we do not squabble over bins lit on fire, but salute and stand up for those willing to defend themselves against state repression by any means necessary.