the Power of Labor and Minorities–
The young black man came home about midnight on February 4 to his apartment in the Soundview section of the Bronx. As he was going into his doorway, a Ford Taurus pulled up with four burly white men, who turned out to be plainclothes police. Suddenly they began pumping lead into him. The victim, claimed the cops, was fumbling for something in his pocket that they thought might be a gun. There was no gun, only his keys and his beeper. In the fusillade, they shot at Amadou Diallo 41 times, hitting him with 19 bullets.
“41 bullets.” “41 bullets.” This was heard over and over again last week as New York City reeled under the impact of yet another brutal police murder of a black man. This time it was a 22-year old African immigrant from Guinea gunned down in the entrance to his home. In August 1997 it was the sadistic near murder of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, viciously tortured with a toilet plunger in the 70th precinct in Brooklyn.
Once again, the streets overflowed with outrage. On Sunday, a thousand people crowded into the block in front of Amadou’s home in the Bronx, and again at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan two days later. Anger boiled over at Mayor Giuliani, who hideously praised the “restraint” of the New York Police Department that guns down racial minorities and immigrants with abandon. But responsibility for unleashing the killer cops goes far beyond the racist Republican in City Hall.
These licensed killers are the enforcers of “law and order” for the capitalist ruling class, from the Democratic president and the Republican Congress on down. Clinton orders millions of poor people thrown off welfare and attends every cop convention he can find, while raining death and destruction on the people of Iraq. The twin parties of capital defend the interests of the bankers and stock market speculators against the working people who make this city run, while riding roughshod over the oppressed minorities who are a majority of the NYC population.
The NYPD cannot be “reformed,” any more than the paramilitary LAPD whose videotaped beating of Los Angeles black motorist Rodney King has come to symbolize the racist police brutality of capitalist America, whose roots go back to slavery. Calls by black Democrat Al Sharpton for a federal investigation are a diversion to build illusions in the ruling class. The feds are enemies of black people, working people and immigrants. Giuliani is himself a former U.S. attorney, and Sharpton was a police informant who wore a wire for the feds and the NYPD “black desk,” taping black radicals and mainstream Democrats alike.
It will take nothing less than socialist revolution to sweep out the racist cops and their masters on Wall Street, as integrated workers militias and a workers state enforce the interests of the exploited and oppressed.
Amadou Diallo was executed in cold blood by a NYPD death squad, the notorious Street Crimes Unit. This sinister outfit cruises the streets looking for “potential crimes,” looking to provoke trouble. Their slogan is “the night belongs to us,” as they fan out through the city’s ghettos, barrios and immigrant communities, harassing and terrorizing residents. A Mexican garment worker who lives a couple of blocks from the shooting site and knew Amadou Diallo from the neighborhood told The Internationalist that people in her building are “afraid to go out after the sun goes down, even to get bread or milk” because they fear being attacked or harassed by the police.
Police death squads are a notorious feature of capitalist rule in U.S. neo-colonies in Latin America, from El Salvador to Brazil. In fact, many of the most brutal murderers were trained in the international police academy outside Washington, D.C., where they were taught torture techniques by American cop instructors. In the U.S. itself, there have been particularly murderous squads, such as the New Orleans police unit that as recently as the early ’90s murdered people who complained of police brutality.
But the NYPD Street Crimes Unit is not a bunch of “rogue cops.” It is part of a mounting use of police-state methods. Look at City Hall, a bunker surrounded by storm fences, police barricades, concrete barriers, heavy construction equipment and cop vehicles. Demonstrations in front of the seat of local government are banned, while anyone trying to attend city council hearings is given the third degree at cop checkpoints. It’s not just that Giuliani is a paranoiac. As income disparities between rich and poor dramatically increase, as social conditions in the U.S. become more like Latin America, so too do the “techniques” of the police who defend the interests of the capitalist ruling class.
The echo of police bullets punctuates the daily life of this city, as scores of young black and Latino men are shot down by the cops. Kenneth Banks, who was riding his bicyle in Harlem when police threw a walkie-talkie at his head to stop him from “fleeing.” Michael Jones, 16, was riding a bike in Brooklyn with a water pistol when cops shot him six times. Russell Jones, a rapper, shot and arrested for “attempted murder” of a cop: the Street Crimes Unit said his cell phone looked like a gun. Anthony Báez, choked to death by killer cop Livoti, because his football accidentally hit a police cruiser.
Rudolph Giuliani is a particularly blatant racist. The mayor put all of central Harlem under lockdown with thousands of cops last summer when he couldn’t outright ban the “Million Youth March.” Giuliani is carrying out a racist purge of minority students and particularly immigrants at the City University. Students and working people in NYC must fight for open admissions at CUNY. But it’s not just Giuliani and not just the Republicans. Black Democratic former mayor David Dinkins hired 6,000 new cops, the same cops who are shooting down black youth today! It was Democratic mayor Ed Koch who presided over the shootings of black grandmother Eleanor Bumpers in the Bronx, and black artist Michael Stewart in Manhattan.
Leading the demonstrations against Giuliani is the Rev. Al Sharpton, who calls for a federal investigation of the cop shooting of Amadou Diallo. But 15 months after the federal government began “investigating” the NYPD torture of Abner Louima, no action has been taken against the racist torture cops. Meanwhile, Muhammad Khalid spews out vicious anti-Semitism, doing his best to set one minority against another.
Various supposedly socialist groups tail after Sharpton & Co., putting a slightly more “militant” gloss on his slogans of “no justice, no peace.” The fact is that there can be no justice for oppressed minorities under this racist capitalist system. The capitalist misleaders and the reformist left feed the illusion that the oppressed are powerless. But the working class makes this system run, and the power of labor can bring it to a grinding halt.
Workers in key unions such as TWU Local 100 (subways and buses), AFSCME Local 420 and Local 1199 (hospital workers), DC 37 city workers, the heavily immigrant garment and restaurant workers, the powerful Teamsters and others should fight for their unions to mobilize massively in the streets and through strike action against this racist cop terror.
The police are the armed fist of capital. Class-conscious workers must demand: Cops out of the unions!
Amadou Diallo was an example of the international and multiethnic character of the working people of New York City. The workers movement must demand: Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!
The whole system of capitalist injustice must be taken on. It is urgent to bring out the workers movement internationally to save the life of Mumia Abu-Jamal, demanding immediate freedom for this former Black Panther facing execution on Pennsylvania’s death row.
The key is to forge a revolutionary workers party based on the program of Lenin and Trotsky who led the Russian Revolution. That is the program of the Internationalist Group, section of the League for the Fourth International. As we wrote two years ago when thousands of demonstrators were marching along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx protesting the acquittal of the racist cops who strangled Anthony Baez:
“Removing Giuliani and putting in a Democrat would solve nothing. When black Democratic mayor David Dinkins came into office, the cops went on a killing spree (mostly in Hispanic neighborhoods).... Moreover, Bronx district attorney Johnson and borough president Ferrer are both liberal Democrats, but they didn’t try killer cop Livoti for murder any more than Democratic Brooklyn D.A. Hynes brought charges against the cop murderers of Anibal Carrasquillo and Yong Xin Huang.... Democratic mayors across the country enforced the cutbacks ordered by Republican Reagan. Now a Republican NYC mayor will enforce the vicious welfare ‘reform’ passed by the Republican Congress and signed by Democrat Clinton. Together Democrats and Republicans are the partner parties of capital–they constitute the property party against the propertyless.
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