Originally written on June 8th, we have expanded this article to include victories won in subsequent weeks. The current version was updated on June 30th.
Today marks five weeks since George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis police and five weeks of revolt that spread into a nationwide, ongoing American uprising against policing and anti-Black racism. As flames engulfed buildings and cruisers were destroyed alongside police precincts, some liberals wrung their hands and bemoaned the rebellion, arguing that riots were counterproductive or less effective than “peaceful protest” or activity through official channels. Similarly, some on the left have had a tendency to undervalue the centrality of crisis and the swiftness of change brought about by rebellion. They argue that change takes place through gradualist means, that people naturally gravitate towards the path of least resistance, working through existing institutions and long-term campaigns, especially electoral ones, to make change.
The world around us shows a different picture. In just a few heady weeks of struggle, long-spineless politicians have suddenly found a political will, overcome bureaucratic barriers, and scrambled to do the bare minimum for Black lives.
Below, we offer this list of victories achieved in short order over the initial weeks of the rebellion. Some are large, some are small and symbolic, and none of them are ultimately sufficient. But all of them would have been almost unthinkable mere weeks ago, a time when officials seemed unshakeable and the rules of the game unquestionable. This list is necessarily incomplete, as the battle has just begun and will require more struggles to consolidate gains and open new horizons on the path to abolition. These wins have also come at a cost, with multiple martyrs to police and right-wing terror, and thousands of arrests amid ongoing police brutality, while Black folks suffer the harshest of police reaction. The movement remembers these blows even as it takes to the streets to dismantle the systematic racism behind them. As we enter week six of our generation’s greatest collective struggle, the list of our movement’s wins proves a fundamental lesson: riots get results.
Week One & Two
- George Floyd’s killer was fired, arrested and charged with 3rd degree murder. Subsequently, the charge was upgraded and the other three cops involved as accomplices were also charged.
- General consciousness around policing and racism has shifted dramatically, with 54 percent of Americans supporting the protests and the burning down of the police precinct. This makes the burning down of a police station more popular than both Trump and Biden.
- A veto-proof majority in the Minneapolis city council pledged to take steps to disband the Minneapolis Police Department. This would not abolish the police in Minneapolis but is a tremendous opening for the struggle to reduce policing and institute alternatives.
- The Minneapolis School Board ended their contract with the police, a victory for the wider “Cops out of schools” movement.
- The University of Minnesota ended its contract with the police.
- Minneapolis Parks and Recreation ended its contract with the police.
- The State of Minnesota filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
- The mayor of Los Angeles announced that the city’s police budget would be cut by 100-150 million to reinvest it in programs to better conditions for Black residents.
- Los Angeles put a moratorium on adding individuals to the police gang database.
- The mayor of New York City announced he would shift an “unspecified” amount of money from the police budget to youth programs.
- New York City ended the police enforcement of street vendor violations.
- Louisville temporarily suspended the use of “no-knock” warrants, the kind of warrant that was used by police to kill Breonna Taylor, and took steps toward banning them entirely.
- Portland, OR public schools decided to end the use of police in schools.
- Transit unions in at least Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Boston refused to transport protesters arrested by the police. In Minneapolis, Boston, and Pittsburgh they also refused to transport police.
- Statues honoring the slave-owner’s reactionary cause, originally raised as a reaction to the Civil Rights movement, have been removed by local governments or direct action in Richmond, VA, Birmingham, Montgomery, Alexandria, VA, and Baltimore.
- The statue of a slave trader in Bristol, England was tossed into the sea.
- The mural of notoriously racist cop and mayor Frank Rizzo was removed in Philadelphia.
- Cracks have developed in the U.S. military, with a growing resistance among soldiers to being deployed to suppress protests.
- Los Angeles Pride announced that the Pride parade this year would be reinstated as a Black Lives Matter protest.
- Indianapolis Pride announced it will not have police at Pride events. Cops out of Pride.
- The cops in Atlanta who assaulted two individuals during protests were charged.
- Cops in Buffalo who assaulted an elderly man at a protest were arrested.
- The National Football League made a decision to allow kneeling protests by players.
- Dallas Police attempts to spy on protesters via anonymous submitted videos were soundly thwarted by a solidarity swarm of online K-pop fans who overwhelmed the police app.
- A Denver judge issued a restraining order limiting the use of tear gas and rubber bullets by police at protests.
- Seattle’s central Labor Council (MLK Labor) threatened to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild from the body.
- Mayors in Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago were all forced to lift curfews while protests continued.
- Officials from both parties in Congress were forced to announce the initiation of a process to place limitations on the 1033 Program, which funnels military equipment to local police departments.
- Fuji Bikes suspended the sale of bicycles to police departments.
- In San Francisco, unarmed professionals rather than militarized police will now be responding to non-criminal police calls.
- Hours after the police murder of Rayshard Brooks, the Atlanta chief of police resigned and the killer cop was fired.
- Denver public schools voted unanimously to remove police from Denver schools.
- Boston is cutting $12 million from its police department and redistributing the money to community services.
- Minneapolis city council voted unanimously to eliminate its police department and replace it with an as-yet undefined community alternative.
- Protesters in Seattle took over a police precinct and held the area against police for several days so far, declaring the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”
- Statues of the genocidal colonizer Christopher Columbus have been beheaded and removed in St. Paul and Boston, and defaced elsewhere.
- The Scottish Parliament voted stop sale of tear gas, rubber bullets, and riot shields and to create a museum of their relationship with the slave trade.
- Statues of the genocidal King Leopold II were toppled in Brussels and Antwerp.
- The statue of racist confederate leader Jefferson Davis was removed from the Kentucky capitol.
- New York repealed a law, known as Section 50-a, which kept police disciplinary records secret, opening them up to the public for the first time in decades.
- The NFL, Nike, and other corporations made Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, a paid holiday.
- Dockworkers of the ILWU announced they would shut down twenty nine ports across the West Coast on June 19th (Juneteenth) in solidarity with the protests over the murder of George Floyd and against systemic racism.
- NASCAR banned the use of confederate flags at all events and properties.
- After years of ignoring the righteous protests of Colin Kaepernick and others, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was forced to issue an apology and endorsement of protests against racism, while public opinion has swelled behind Kaepernick.
- After removing the only Black members of the dance team at the University of Washington, the dance team coach was fired and the cut members were asked to return.
- After public outcry, Trump was forced to back down and reschedule his racist rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma from Juneteenth.
- After 30 years of spewing pro-police propaganda and perpetuating racist stereotypes, the TV show “COPS” has been cancelled.
- Merriam Webster changed the dictionary definition of racism to include systemic racism.
- After public outcry, the president and board chair of the overwhelmingly white Poetry foundation were forced to resign.
- The Minneapolis Police Department is hemorrhaging cops, as demoralization spreads and police are quitting.
- The statue of Christopher Columbus at City Hall in Columbus, Ohio will be removed.
- The city of Rochester, NY is cutting $3.6 million from the police budget, cutting the incoming police class by half, and removing all police from schools.
- Colorado passed several police reforms, most notably allowing police to be held personally liable for civil rights violations (i.e. ending qualified immunity).
- The King County Labor Council in Seattle voted to expel the Seattle Police Officers Guild, freeing the labor movement of 1,300 cops.
- The NYPD announced it would disband its extremely racist plainclothes anti-crime units.
- The West Contra Costa Unified School District in the Bay Area voted unanimously to end contracts with police, redirecting $1.5 million to support African-American student achievement.
- Seattle City Council unanimously passed legislation banning Seattle police from using or purchasing teargas, blast balls, rubber bullets, and several other weapons.
- The statue of Thomas Jefferson, who enslaved and brutalized human beings, was torn down at Jefferson high school in Portland Oregon.
- Juneteenth was declared an official public holiday in Philadelphia, and an official paid state holiday in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia,
- The statue of Cecil Rhodes, the infamous British imperialist and white supremacist, at the University of Oxford is being removed.
- One of the cops who murdered Breonna Taylor will be fired.
- The cop who murdered Rayshard Brooks–who had already been fired–was charged with felony murder.
- Three Confederate monuments were removed from downtown Raleigh, North Carolina.
- The rebellion is breathing antiracist life into the labor movement, with over five hundred strikes recorded in its first three weeks, and more antiracist workplace actions being organized.
- A political strike against racism and police terror carried out by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union shut down west coast ports from Washington state to San Diego on Juneteenth.
- In the midst of ungovernable rebellion against racism, an overwhelmingly conservative Supreme Court of the United States took landmark votes protecting LGBTQ workers on the job and blocking Trump’s bid to end the DACA program. We consider these victories inseparable from the mass disruptive power of the antiracist uprising.
- The Oakland school district disbanded its police department and allocated 2.5 million dollars to student programs.
- The San Francisco Board of Education voted unanimously to end its contract with police and declared San Francisco schools “sanctuary space from law enforcement.”
- The Mississippi legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from their state flag.
- 272 cops in New York City have filed for retirement since the beginning of the rebellion. Unfortunately their positions will probably be filled, but demoralized cops quitting is undoubtedly a movement victory.
- The governor of Colorado overrode the decision of the district attorney and reopened an investigation into the killing of Elijah McClain in police custody from August of last year.
- Seventeen correctional officers were disciplined–only a slap on the wrist, and hardly enough–for the death of Layleen Xtravaganza Cubilette-Polanco, a trans-woman who died in custody due their negligence last year.
- St. Paul School Board voted to end its contract with the St. Paul Police Department.
- More monuments to colonizers and slavers have fallen: The statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of the Museum of Natural History in New York City has been removed. The City of Philadelphia will remove a statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza. Protesters toppled and set ablaze a statue of a confederate general in Washington D.C.
- Seattle Public Schools voted unanimously to suspend their partnership with the Seattle Police department indefinitely.
- Princeton University will remove racist president Woodrow Wilson’s name from one of their schools.
This is certainly a partial list, but it is reflective of the massive shifts and concrete gains that the rebellion has propelled from the realm of the unthinkable into reality. These gains, like any reform, are partial and tenuous. They are far from perfect. They are concessions thrown out by a system being contested trying to save itself. Their ultimate impact is yet to be settled. But they reflect how quickly things can change when people take action from below, disrupting business as usual through often illegal action, outside the designated and sanctioned channels. These wins, and surely more to come, are products of a struggle from below, fueled by rage and fire, celebration and joy. And we are just getting started.
This list is incomplete. You can help by expanding it.