1975.06.01: The Police: What They Are, Who They Serve (Red Tide)

Red Tide Police Article

Red Tide #18
June 1975

The Police: What They Are, Who They Serve
by Michael Long and Sue Daniels
[Michael Letwin  and Sue Bright]


Undoubtedly, the major victims of police harassment in the black, Native American, and Chicano communities are young people.

Mainly this harassment has taken the form of various “stay in school” programs. Stay in school plans are basically droves of police in and around the school who stop, question, harass, rough up, and arrest young people they find looking suspicious or “loitering.” What is loitering? Police Officer Nagy of the L.A.P.D. says that he generally makes arrests such as “boys picking up their girlfriends, and other criminal activities.”

Cops also ignore any due process of law. When a Red Tide distributor refused to answer any questions except for his I.D., a cop told him: “You have to answer any questions we put to you. You don’t have any rights worth shit.”

Pointing to the rising crime rate[,] which many young people are driven to, the police say their solution is to make sure we know they won’t leave us alone.

And once there is one pig, one guard, one noon goon, school is no longer any place where you come to get an education. There is no longer the consideration of whether you are learning anything or not – you are attending by force, the one thing that will always keep you there is that you might get your ass kicked if you don’t.

We are all tired of this shit, but it’s not going to get any better. As the economic situation gets worse, and more and more people are getting pissed off. We react in all kinds of different ways, sometimes without thinking about it, either by joining gangs, or just ripping off. But what we all know is that therte is no way that we are going to have any decent job[,] if we get one at all, and that we have no future in the “American Dream.”

The harassment of young people is tied in with the rabble-rousing among the police, politicians and some teachers for a stricter juvenile “justice” system. In Los Angeles, the issue started with the dope busts of over 200 suspected high school dealers. One woman suspect we interviewed recalled being woken up by the police around 6:00 in the morning, busted, taken down to Juvie, where for the next 12 hours she was questioned and threatened in every possible way to get a full confession. She also got to watch one 15-year-old being slammed against the wall by a guard “to show what would happen to us if we made too much noise.”

They think that they are too easy on us, so now they want to make sure that when a young person is busted they won’t just get probation or a few months in juvenile hall, but rather that we get kept for a long, long time.

So it comes down like this. The government sets up a rotten school system, a society without jobs or decent unemployment benefits (none for youth), no future[,] and a lot of pigs[,] and they expect us to be able to function within it. We tell these people that they can kiss our collective ass with their “solution.” All it’s a solution to is for them not to have to deal with the mess they have created and have to protect. And that’s what the pigs are all about. Protecting the rotten situation we live in now.

We must put an end to the police, their effects and their system. The Red Tide organizes campaigns against the police especially in and around the schools. So far we have done this in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Cleveland. We haven’t always won, but we’ve gone a long way towards making it known that the cops must be stopped, and that they must be stopped by a mass movement of working class people who are aren’t going to take it any more, who see that the police are only the most brutal representatives of an intolerable system of capitalism – the rule of the rich. JOIN US.


For 400 years in this country the white ruling class has oppressed black people and used poor whites against them as well. For the same amount of time, black people have fought back. It’s for this reason that blacks have borne the brunt of police activity more than any other group. This isn’t just because black people are oppressed, but also because blacks created an entire movement to revolt against their oppression. This meant resisting the police, because it is the police that have made sure that black people “stay in their place,” and who patrol the black communities with an eye out to bust or harass anyone for anything. In the black community, police don’t think twice about shooting first and asking questions later, or at all for that matter.


The most recent mass movement of blacks was the Civil Rights movement. This movement began in the 1950s, most intensively in the South. Although there is as much racism in the North as there is in the South, it was in the South original police repression against the movement took place. The movement called for an end to segregation in the schools, restaurants, buses, in public buildings and everywhere else. It demanded that black people have equal rights to employment, and that they be allowed to vote.

The white rulers were totally opposed to this activity because it challenged the existing order[,] which was arranged to keep white and black separate and opposed to each other. Throughout the struggles that took place, the local and state authorities made sure that the people who were fighting for equal rights for blacks were continually arrested, beaten, imprisoned and often killed, either by the police, or by KKK-type racist organizations that [were] set up to out-do the police. As the black movement developed it became clear to many blacks that the white rulers and their police would do anything that they could to stop the movement. Many blacks realized that becoming “equal” to the average white worker was not enough – it was necessary to destroy the rule of the rich.


The leader of this new movement was Malcolm X, ex-pimp, ex-Black Muslim. Malcolm said that black people couldn’t just expect that the rulers would grant their demands without a fight, but that blacks would have to organize “by any means necessary” to gain freedom. Malcolm called for blacks to arm themselves against the police and the racism of the white population, and not to go down to their death quietly.

Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965, supposedly by some Black Muslims. Since the assassination, it’s become clear that because of heavy police infiltration, including ex-body guards of Malcolm, the police department in New York may well have been responsible with the FBI for the murder of Malcolm.

1965 – WATTS

Malcolm predicted, but did not live to see, the uprisings that took place in the black ghettos of the country[,] starting with in 1965 with the Watts rebellion in Los Angeles. These rebellions also took place in Wash. D.C., Detroit, Harlem, Newark, and elsewhere. The rebellions, called “riots” by the white ruling class, their press, and even some so-called black community leaders[,] were the first time in years that masses of blacks revolted against unemployment, poverty, and conditions of the ghetto. Thousands of people took to the streets to take out their anger on the businesses and institutions in the black community that have for so long been symbols of racist and economic oppression. People ripped off stores, turned over cars, and fought the police and army.

Hundreds of police and troops were called in by the government to “restore order.” The order was of course that black people were not supposed to do anything about the fact that they lived in miserable conditions, that they were supposed to accept things like “good n******” Street battles took place where street by street, house by house, the cops and army retook the streets[,] fighting flaring on all sides.


Started in 1966, the Panthers decided that they would arm themselves and not allow the pigs to harass people in the black community. They began a program of following police cars around the community and when they stopped anyone, the Panthers would be there, armed to make sure that the cops didn’t beat up or bust anybody, and that if someone was arrested they weren’t thrown around.

The pigs didn’t stand for that kind of uppityness on the part of the Panthers, largely because they understood that if the Panthers got away with acting this way, other people wouldn’t think that the police were as powerful as they seemed. Because of this the FBI and the pigs again teamed up to destroy the black liberation movement. Starting with the murder of Bobby Hutton and frame-up of other Panthers in 1967, police all over the country started a campaign against the Panthers. Headquarters of the Panthers were attacked and raked with gunfire without warning in cities across the country, in Chicago and Los Angeles[,][ for instance. Panthers were thrown in jail on all kinds of charges[,] including murder, and others were just assassinated, as in the case of the Chicago Panther leader, Fred Hampton, who was killed in his sleep by the police in 1969. The combination of police harassment, frame-ups, and murders, connected with the fact that the Panthers relied on a very unstable part of the black community (the permanently unemployed, hustlers, etc.) combined to destroy the Panthers as a real force by the early ‘70s.


By now it’s clear that the local and state police, the FBI, the CIA, and every other organization of pigs in this country have calculated and planned for the past 20 years to completely destroy the black movement. In the process they have killed some of the best revolutionaries who ever lived.

But the idea, the power, the strength is still there.

That strength is not in Africa, the NAACP, the church or the hustlers – it is in the working class where we must building a movement where blacks organize independently to fight for their rights, and to force this racist, useless system out.

[Historical Note: The Red Tide was a revolutionary high school underground newspaper and youth organization that existed from 1971-1981. See: http://theredtide.wordpress.com/]


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