After nearly three months of nationwide protests and riots against racist police violence, the Democratic Party leadership has decisively signalled that nothing will fundamentally change after the November election.
First, they nominated Joe Biden, author of the racist 1994 crime bill, who waxes nostalgic about working alongside segregationists. Now, as if that wasn’t enough, Biden has rounded out his ticket by announcing ex-prosecutor Kamala Harris as his running mate.
If you were looking for another individual who can equal Biden’s responsibility for administering the racist system of mass incarceration, it would be hard to beat Harris.
“Kamala Harris is a cop”: that was the popular anti-Harris slogan during the Democratic primary season. But she wasn’t just a cop. As the district attorney in San Francisco, and attorney-general for the state of California, Harris was one of the leading enforcers of a system that has given the US the most incarcerated population on the planet. At every stage of her career, her role as a prosecutor placed her on the side of the state, against workers and oppressed people.
In 2013, she fought the release of Daniel Larsen, who had his prison sentence overturned after serving thirteen years for a crime he didn’t commit. Larsen was exonerated from the charge of carrying a concealed knife, but Harris claimed that he hadn’t produced evidence of his innocence quickly enough. In a disturbing unearthed video filmed at a private club event, Harris is seen laughing about her decision to jail parents for their children’s truancy.
When the Supreme Court of California ruled that prison overcrowding represented “cruel and unusual punishment”, Harris fought against the early release of prisoners. Her legal team argued that emptying prisons would deplete the state’s source of cheap prison labour. As always, defence of the carceral state sits alongside defence of brutal capitalist exploitation.
In 2015, Harris stood against demands raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, opposing a bill that would require her office to investigate police shootings. She opposed the compulsory use of police body cameras, a measure that even many centrist liberals support.
Since becoming a senator, Harris has attempted to project a progressive image, claiming support for single-payer health care and tax reform. Centrists will be desperate to help Harris capture the votes of the millions who are moving into the streets to demand something better. The New York Times has already described her as “a leading voice on racial justice and inequality”. More shockingly, the “socialist” Bernie Sanders claimed in his endorsement tweet that Harris “understands what it takes to stand up for working people”.
But serving as a state prosecutor and standing up for working people are two opposed positions. No matter how many times Kamala Harris invokes inequality and racial injustice on the campaign trail, she is, was and always will be a cop.