OPINION: This is Only the Beginning.
This is the United States at the end of four years of Trump:
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has predicted that the United States will have reached 400,000 deaths due to COVID-19 by January 2021.
Real unemployment is at 12.1%, higher than it was during the Great Recession.
Militarized police continue to shoot civilians, disproportionately black civilians, including recent high-profile names include Walter Wallace, Fred Williams, and Jacob Blake.
The United States is no longer a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Environmental Protection Agency has been rendered impotent.
Tensions have increased between the United States and Iran, Russia, and China, the latter two being nuclear powers.
The United States is drone and air-striking eight different countries and running covert military operations throughout the Middle East and Africa.
Women in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainment centers are undergoing forced hysterectomies and more than 500 children have yet to be reunited with their parents after barbaric family separations.
While few Democrats were thrilled with Biden as a candidate, for many people, the prospect of Trump leaving the White House was enough to throw their vote the Democrat’s way. CNN’s exit polls showed that 70% of voters thought of their vote as a vote against Trump rather than a vote for Biden. The far left overwhelmingly put aside their distaste for the Democratic Party, with radicals ranging from the anarchist and linguist Noam Chomsky to the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party Bob Avakian endorsing Biden on the grounds that the world might not survive a second Trump term. Following the announcement of Trump’s defeat, people around the country took to the streets in celebration, the product of four years of hard-fought resistance seeming to have paid off.
That was the sentiment on Nov. 7 when a coalition of labor unions joined with the Democratic Socialists of America, the Revolutionary Communist Party, the Party of Socialism and Liberation and a group of anarchists to host a rally and march celebrating the defeat of Trump.
Cofounder of Black Lives Matter LA Melina Abdulla told the crowd at Los Angeles’ Pershing Square unequivocally that her vote was not a vote for Biden but a vote against Trump.
“This is the first, this is the dawning of a new day, this is the first of a new era of victories that are gonna come daily,” she said. “Because when we fight, we win! All power to the people!”
Pastor Q of the Church Without Walls spoke to a crowd that had at that point marched in front of City Hall.
“I wanna be clear about something,” he said. “Biden is not our hope. We are our hope… We are not here to play. We are not here to play. We are here to seize power and dismantle the system that continues to oppress our people!”
Los Angeles faced a different set of challenges from swing states this week. For the most part, the Trump-supporting presence was absent from downtown, the center of most organizing and demonstrating. Protests favoring the downfall of Trump and calling for police abolition were met with violence from the police. Those protests intensified during the last days leading up to the election and the days it took to count the votes. Activists were out in full force attempting to make it know that Trump’s brand of fascism had to go and that the police violence that seemed to be emboldened by it would continue to be fought fearlessly regardless of who won the election.
On election night, Nov. 3, a group numbering between 30 and 50 protesters marched from the Staples Center south along Figueroa Street. After they turned onto 18th Street, police cornered them from both sides with at least one officer having their gun drawn. Many were arrested, including Legal Observers of the National Lawyers Guild.
I drove in a car with two other activists, attempting to safely transport two other people away from the protest. On Olympic Blvd, our car was pulled over by four police cars. All five of us were pulled out of the car without being given a reason despite us explicitly requesting one. We were asked about our phone numbers, social security numbers, occupations and tattoos. After 16 minutes of standing with our hands behind our backs facing a wall, we were told why we were detained.
“Basically, you guys were observed by an undercover officer behind the skirmish line,” One of the officers said of the line being a line of cops that was separating protesters from the outside world. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I tell you this: we absolutely never crossed the skirmish line.
The next night, downtown was flooded with activism. In front of the Hall of Justice, Black Lives Matter held a celebration of the successful electoral ousting of the city’s District Attorney Jackie Lacey. While at this point, the presidential election was yet to be decided, results of local elections had been announced and it was declared that George Gascon would be the new DA. His victory was the product of years of activism carried out by Black Lives Matter including weekly marches to ballot boxes where people cast early votes for Gascon. The Revolutionary Communist Party led a demonstration around 5:00PM. Later in the evening, a group of anarchists took to the streets. Both protests had a heavy police presence. Police in riot gear with batons followed RevCom despite the organizers affirming that the protest was nonviolent. The anarchists were followed by police cars the entire time they marched. At one point, two individual protesters believed to be undercover cops were sighted filming protesters.
On Nov. 6, antifascists gathered at City Hall and Father Serra Park to defend Los Angeles from what had been rumored to be planned incursions from far-right elements from outside of the city. Throughout the whole day, fewer than 10 Trump supporters showed up, to whom the antifascists gave little time.
Instead, the day turned out to be a massive infringement by police against the First Amendment rights of protesters. For hours at City Hall, police drove by filming a small contingent of protesters who were expecting to be met by the other group from Father Serra. A massive police-bus periodically drove in and out of a parking lot menacingly as if to show the antifascists how ready the police were to throw them in jail. Around the corner from City Hall, a police presence of some 15 cars had built up. Before the group at Father Serra could even begin to march, police surrounded the park, ensuring that no protester would set foot in the street.
By the time the two groups converged on the steps of City Hall, the police numbers had grown larger than the protesters. Both sides of Spring Street, the street that City Hall’s front steps face, were blocked by police vehicles, not allowing traffic through. Police still asserted that if protesters or press stepped into the street, they could be subject to legal penalty.
Many police refused to wear their masks or put their masks over their noses despite pleas from protesters, albeit some, not all, of the protestors were quite rude. Police were armed with batons, rubber bullets and absurd numbers of zip ties on their belts, signaling a planned mass arrest. One cop filmed protestors with a camcorder the whole time, refusing to provide an explanation despite many requests for one. A local journalist told me that he heard the police captain explicitly tell the cop who was filming to “only film faces.”
Cops followed the protesters who marched a couple blocks to the park across the street from Union Station. The entire time, protesters were being filmed by the cop with the camcorder. When I asked why he was filming, the closest thing I got to an explanation from him was: “The same reason you’re filming.” I was filming to document the police’s clear infringement on the right of its citizens to dissent. I don’t think that’s why he was filming.
As we marched, some police began to become visibly irritated by protesters, attempting to engage in staring contests, stepping closer and closer to the sidewalk. Even at the park, where there was clearly no threat of the entirely non-violent protest (a fact corroborated on video by one of the officers) stepping into the street, officers formed a perimeter around the park and reinforcements arrived. Vans carrying dozens of cops holding on to the van with one hand, with weapons in the other, began to pull up and more cars arrived with their sirens on. Only as protesters began to leave did the police finally let up and leave the area.
Scenes like this have taken place since May, drawing out to the forefront what seems to many to be the fascist truth of our nation. It was tireless efforts against Trump and all that he represents that brought so many to downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 7 with joy over Trump’s defeat. Not one of the far-left contingencies downtown that day were under any impression that the work was over.
On the issue of policing in particular, Biden has consistently been on the wrong side of history. The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that put more than one million people behind bars in six years was authored by Biden. Under the Obama administration, militarization of the police accelerated. But by all metrics, Biden is better than Trump, Gascon defeated Lacey and two Democratic Socialists were elected to the city councils of Los Angeles and Burbank. The celebration was, as Melina Abdulla put it, for the “new era of victories that are gonna come daily… Because when we fight, we win!”