Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is outraged but not surprised at the failure of the St. Louis County grand jury to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. The structural bias in our judicial and criminal justice system in favor of police who engage in violent action against unarmed Black and Brown people rendered the outcome unsurprising, yet still enraging. How can an unarmed person be killed by an armed police officer without there being a case for a criminal prosecution? The glaring injustice of the grand jury verdict is why tens of thousands of individuals across the country stormed into the streets after the announcement of the grand jury verdict. DSA joins others in demanding that the Federal Department of Justice continue its investigation into the conduct of the Ferguson police department and the possible violation of Michael Brown’s civil rights by Officer Wilson and the department.
Prosecutor Robert McCullough acted more as a defense attorney than a district attorney working diligently to indict someone whose actions created sufficient suspicion of illegal activity to summon a grand jury. In 2012, in the more than 160,000 grand jury proceedings, only 12 did not yield some form of criminal indictment! Hence the oft-repeated expression that a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich. But the absence of justice for Michael Brown is not unexpected in a world where Blacks are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than whites and where the prosecution of police for violent crimes (even involuntary homicide) is rare.
DSA urges its members to join protests against the Ferguson grand jury decision. We also urge our members and locals to deepen their organizing against mass incarceration, police violence and systematic voter suppression. The color line that still defines injustice in the United States can only be broken through the building of a strong, multi-racial and anti-racist Left that stands in solidarity with movements in communities of color struggling for racial justice.
Protests against Ferguson must not be a one-off isolated reaction. The events in Ferguson are a product of the systemic, structural racism that continues to characterize American society. This system of racialized capitalism not only yields radically unequal life chances for people of color, it literally devalues their worth as human beings.
The inability of many whites to see the failure to indict Officer Wilson as a product of systematic racism highlights the need for white progressives to step up their work against racism in white communities. The powers that be throughout United States history have stoked racism and racial division to divide working people and to convince too many whites of modest means that their racial privilege trumps their economic oppression. This divisiveness is increasingly powerful in a world where socio-economic inequality is greater than at any point since the 1920s.
DSA also favors the appointment of a presidential commission to explore alternatives to the militarization of local police forces and the excessive use of armed police violence against unarmed civilians. Police officers need to be better trained and must be demographically more representative of the communities they police, but such necessary interventions alone will not solve the problem.
The failure to break today’s Jim Crow sustains bi-partisan policies of neo-liberal attacks on social services and public education that harm working and poor people of all races. DSA hopes that the multi-racial protests against Ferguson marks the beginning of a new coalition politics that recognizes that justice for all is not possible unless systemic forms of racial exclusion and domination are abolished.
Passed by the National Political Committee: November 25, 2014.