Statement on the Murder of Tyre Nichols

The Portland Democratic Socialists of America expresses our outrage at the murder of Tyre Nichols by the Memphis Police Department. This murder is part of the systemic violence of police everywhere against people of color and the working class. We offer our condolences to the Nichols family, and we stand in solidarity with the black community of Memphis and with all others protesting for an end to police brutality and racist violence.

55 years ago, civil rights leader and democratic socialist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis while organizing with striking sanitation workers. As socialists, we recognize the essential task of grappling with the profound interactions of capitalism and racism. We believe that anti-racist organizing rooted in class struggle is how we can fight back.

Police are the armed wing of the capitalist state, and their role in society is to enforce exploitation. It is police who break strikes, evict families from their homes, harass the houseless, jail the poor, and attack those who are suffering. Police do not act as a service for public safety, but rather as an occupying army, hurting those who need help, and defending those who cause harm.

The only way to rid our society of the capitalist police is the self emancipation of the working class into a socialist society. Protests, no matter how powerful, will not be enough. To win black liberation, the working class and oppressed people must organize and take control of society. The best way forward is an alliance between organized labor and the movement for black liberation — the coordination of an independent, anti-racist, working-class movement that fights to overturn racial -capitalism at the workplace, in the streets, and on the ballot line.

To meet this moment, protest energy must develop into political movement which can sustain itself. We cannot rely on the ruling class to deliver reforms.

To that end, Portland DSA calls for the following initial steps:

  1. The immediate reallocation of 50% of the PPB budget to fund housing, community services, education and healthcare
  2. The immediate establishment of a democratically elected oversight board empowered to investigate officers and hold the PPB to account
  3. End the war on drugs and tough on crime policies, provide full addiction care, and decriminalization of drug use
  4. An end to the sweeps of homeless encampments and the public provision of shelter to those in need
  5. The establishment of a labor slate for the 2024 city council elections, unified around proposals to reallocate money from the bloated police budget to provide for public services and fund housing, food, education, and healthcare.

This work must begin with public support for protests, and a movement to improve the lives of the most marginalized and oppressed. We must build a fighting socialist movement for black liberation.

Organized workers can overturn the racist, capitalist system. They can provide the winning leverage to Black Lives Matter.

The only way to win justice is to expand these protests into a mass movement. To achieve this, we must convince workers to join the struggle — unions and workers must become the strongest opponents of racism. This means a conscious project of reform within existing labor unions, and a coordination with organizations rooted in communities of color. We must also create our own, enduring socialist structures. And we must wholeheartedly support this protest movement.

With solidarity and shared struggle to guide us, a better world is possible.

In solidarity,

Portland DSA Steering Committee