Police State in Italy
Anti-riot police officers, some wearing a protective respiratory mask, stand guard following a revolt of prisoners against measures including a ban on family visits, as part of new rules introduced to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, at the Sant'Anna prison in Modena, Emilia-Romagna, in one of Italy's quarantine red zones on March 9, 2020. - Inmates in four Italian prisons have revolted over new rules introduced to contain the coronavirus outbreak, leaving at least three inmates dead during or following the clashes at the Modena Sant'Anna jail, according to prisoner rights group Antigone. The Repubblica daily reported six deaths, citing police sources. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP) (Photo by PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP via Getty Images)

Don’t Let Panic Force You to Support a Growing Fascist Police State

Its important to contextualize what’s happening throughout the world today with the challenges facing us from the potential  growth of COVID-19.  If what we are learning is true, this virus has devastating capacity.  Even if you are healthy and strong, you can hold the virus, without knowing it, for up to a fourteen day incubation period.  During that time, you can unknowingly pass the virus on to countless people who do not have the benefit of a strong immunity system.  This is an unprecedented element that forced me to start thinking isolation, despite the fact I’m really not concerned about the virus as it relates to impacting my body.

Those are obviously real concerns.  Its also worth repeating that millions of colonized and oppressed people across the world are forced daily to live under martial law conditions.  Empty shelves at stores.  Restricted movement.  Lack of food and healthcare resources.  In countries like Zimbabwe, Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela, these stark conditions result in large part due to U.S. led capitalist economic sanctions against them for refusing to tow capitalism’s line.  In other parts of the world the exploitative nature of capitalist dominated production of goods and services continues to maintain this system of very few haves, and millions of havenots. 

All of the above is connected to the real anxiety about COVID-19 in the U.S. and other capitalist countries.  Consistent with what these empire nations do in colonized countries as daily policy, their approach to addressing the challenges of COVID-19 are led with a military, guns first, strategy.  Meanwhile socialist Cuba, despite having extremely limited resources due to the 58 year U.S. economic blockade against them (for daring to implement a socialist revolution 90 miles from the U.S.), is leading the way in confronting COVID-19.  They have worked with China to develop a vaccine using an anti-viral medication called Interferon.  The medication works with the body’s natural proteins to formulate a boost to the body’s own immunity system.  Cuba has shared the medication with China and virus epicenters like Italy.  In fact, Cuba has sent dozens of doctors to Italy to help treat the virus there. 

The U.S., with its profit over people capitalist dedication, has been forced to announce that the medical resources to adequately treat the virus do not presently exist within this country.  Consequently, the focus on martial law, social distancing, curfews, etc.  Lip service is being given to providing finances to working people.  Some of that may happen or not, but you can bet on corporations, especially large ones, being bailed out with your tax dollars. 

While all of this is happening, this military first approach is setting the stage for some intensified police state realities.  The focus will suddenly be on people “looting” toilet paper or even food and the resources of the state will be loaded up towards stopping people from getting what they need, not ensuring they have the medical and human resources they deserve. 

Its important that in the midst of this we all don’t fall victim to the push to support this police state.  The stage is set for the empire’s “us against them” mentality of “othering” people who don’t fit i.e. colonized people, LGBTQ, poor people, houseless people, etc.  Its these populations who are most vulnerable right now. 

Please accept that under any circumstances, the police and the police state are not your friends.  Under no circumstances does it benefit you, your family, or your community, for you to talk to police about anything.  Not even about the weather.  If the virus intensifies as expected, panic will increase.  In their consistent efforts to do everything in their power to ensure we remain afraid of each other so that we never focus in on the super-rich who are really responsible for all these problems, we can see things becoming much more drastic.  During these increasingly difficult times, its going to be crucial that people don’t allow themselves to become unwitting snitches for state sponsored repression. 

Establish electronic ways to keep in touch with people around you that you can trust or networks of people you trust, even if they aren’t in your immediate vicinity.  Maintain contact and stay aware of breaking developments.  Ensure those developments are communicated clearly across your networks.  Establish check ins to compare notes.

Talk to people you know who may be more vulnerable to police terror. People who have issues happening like outstanding warrants need help establishing a regiment that permits them to lay low.  Don’t drive around with expired driver’s licenses or vehicle registration.  If you have to go out for anything extended, try to make sure someone knows where you are going.  And, of course, always observe all the frequently mentioned practices to prevent the spread of this virus. 

Make sure you have plans on how you can defend yourself if needed and recognize common sense practices such as if you are traveling at night, even just to the store, etc., have car keys ready before getting to your vehicle so that you can readily enter and be on your way.  The same with your living conditions.  Check on others around you, especially those living outside.  And watch police, military, whomever, and what they are doing with people.  Use your video when you can and when necessary, but be prepared to lend a helping hand.  Its not helpful to video someone being brutalized when you could have helped them.  If you don’t know how, reach to those of us with skills and experience in this area and we will do our best to help you prepare.  In other words, do everything you can to ensure you are not placed in a position where you feel desperate enough to depend upon the police state.

Finally, don’t ever forget that the capitalist system is the core reason behind this situation.  I provide the example of Cuba because their socialist development clearly illustrates that there are many effective ways to serve and protect humanity when people come first.  The fact people aren’t first in capitalism contributes to conditions where a virus can grow out of control.  So, capitalism is at fault, even just based on that reality, not the mention the fact we don’t know where or who the creation of this virus can be attributed to, but we do know the capitalist countries have a history of producing viruses and other biological warfare as weapons for population control. 

And despite the fact your loved ones may be police and/or military, or you may be yourself, the undisputed reality is that these armed and trained state institutions like police and military are here for one purpose – to protect the interests of the capitalist system.  They are not here to protect and serve you and the proof of that is borne out by the fact they are being deployed to control your movements, not to distribute food.  You don’t employ armed, trained mercenaries to distribute food.  Any of us can do that.  You deploy them to control the movement of people.  That’s what they are going to be doing.  Don’t help them do this.  Instead, build capacity among your groups and people to protect yourselves and your surrounding communities.

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Ahjamu Umi is revolutionary organizer with the All African People's Revolutionary Party, adviser, and liberation literature author.