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Oppose the ‘Protect and Serve Act’

Commentary by Michael Sampson |
May 10, 2018
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Protest against police terror in New York City.
Protest against police terror in New York City. (Fight Back! News / Staff)

Jacksonville, FL - The “Protect and Serve Act” is new federal legislation introduced this week that looks to strengthen the Trump era mandate for a stronger police state. The legislation seeks to classify cops as a protected class and create another layer of protections and privileges for police officers, even though they already exist at certain state and local levels. Backed by police unions and introduced by pro-cop legislators like Orin Hatch from Utah in the Senate and John Rutherford, a congressman and former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office top cop, this legislation seeks to codify promises Trump made during his election to be back police and be the ‘law and order’ president.

One of Trump’s first gestures in office was signing an executive order calling for legislation protecting cops, parroting the false ‘war on police’ narrative that has been created by racist entities against police accountability. This legislation would classify police as a protected class that is subject to protection via hate crime laws. Federal hate crimes laws were passed to rectify centuries of national oppression and injustice that too often was the response to violence based on national oppression against African Americans and other oppressed nationalities, and oppression based on gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

The legislation would paint too broad of a brush as to what constitutes a hate crime against cops, seeing as anything from resisting arrest to accidentally touching a cop could potentially be prosecuted as a hate crime under this bill. Such legislation is a slap in the face to African Americans and other marginalized peoples who must live under the real threat of police terror and who continue to call for accountability. Any type of radical reforms such as community control of the police to deal with police crimes is met with heavy resistance from the establishment and state repression.

Groups like the Fraternal Order of Police and other law enforcement organizations, including the union that represents border patrol agents, backed Trump in his election and they are currently getting their return on investment. But these groups aren’t real unions. They protect killer cops from accountability. From the Trump administration calling the murder of the young African American man Stephon Clark in Sacramento a “local matter,” to Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolling back military hardware restrictions for local police departments, his administration so far has lived up to his earlier promises of being staunchly for a larger and increased police state.

Under the Trump administration, we saw the Department of Justice choose not to press federal charges in the case of Alton Sterling, who was murdered by police in Baton Rouge, and stalling the federal investigation into the murder of Eric Garner in New York. Sessions has even ordered a review of consent decrees, pushing back against small reforms passed by President Obama’s Justice Department which were meant to deal with local departments with a history of racism and discrimination, claiming they can lower police morale. Trump also applauded the unconstitutional ‘broken windows’ policing tactic used famously by Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York, a policy that encourage more criminalization and arrests of African Americans and Latinos.

This is all the reason therefore the Protect and Serve Act must be vigorously fought against by the African American national movement as well as its allies. In 2017, there were 32 bogus ‘Blue Lives Matter’ bills introduced into state houses. So far, Louisiana and Kentucky have passed their own versions of such and we can’t have that passed on a federal level. Over the past three years, at least 1000 civilians have been killed by cops, while in 2017, fewer than 58 cops died, the lowest number in 58 years, with 47 of those deaths being in traffic accidents.

It is imperative that activists and communities, call, email, write and protest their federal legislative reps to make sure this bill doesn’t see the light of day. It is currently on a fast track through the House of Representatives with bipartisan co-sponsors. We must continue to strengthen the movement against police crimes and fight back against the Trump ‘law and order’ agenda.

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