December 2006    

Sean Bell Gunned Down on His Wedding Day –
Mobilize Workers’ Power Against Police State Repression!

50 Bullets: Racist NYPD Cop Execution, Again

In the early morning hours of November 25, a squad of New York City police surrounded a car of three unarmed black and Latino men, and unleashed a hail of bullets: 50 shots in total. The killer cops murdered the driver, 23-year-old Sean Bell, on the day he was to marry his fiancée and the mother of the couple’s two children, Nicole Paultre. Sean’s friend Joseph Guzman, 31, was critically wounded by eleven bullets, while another friend in the car, Trent Benefield, 23, was hit three times. Even though neither had done or were charged with anything, both were shackled to their hospital beds until protesters forced the police to remove the handcuffs, and they are still hospitalized. Meanwhile, the police are on a rampage, terrorizing the Queens community with a racist dragnet arresting witnesses.

Family photo of Sean Bell and his fiancée Nicole Paultre with their daughter.

While the media babble on about the “fog of the moment,” “contagious shooting” and other claptrap, this was an   execution by the cops. As the New York Police Department desperately tries to find someone to frame for the bloody crime their cops perpetrated, angry demonstrators recalled the 1999 murder of Amadou Diallo in the doorway of his home by a police death squad that fired off 41 shots. Where Mayor Rudolph Giuliani inflamed protesters with his vociferous defense of the police and attempts to smear their victim, his successor, Michael Bloomberg, has tried to cool things out, giving hypocritical condolences to Sean Bell’s family and companion, describing the fusillade of police bullets as “excessive,” and lining up Democratic politicians, first and foremost Al Sharpton, to back his lying claim that a fair investigation was underway.

Yet the stark reality is that there is not going to be an investigation to find out the truth of what happened that night but only a cover-up. As always, the bourgeois politicos are going to stand by their police, who are the armed fist of the bosses, the backbone of the capitalist state. Their task is to “serve and protect” the interests of the exploiters by riding roughshod over the exploited. Not that there is much to “investigate”: even if the cops managed to “find” a gun after digging up every block around the scene of their crime, it would still be racist police murder. What’s needed is to mobilize power – the power of the multiracial working class along with black, immigrant and other oppressed “minority” populations who together are the overwhelming majority of New York – to put a stop to police brutality. And that will take nothing less than socialist revolution.

Soon after Sean Bell and his friends left Club Kalua at 4 a.m. on November 25 after having a bachelor party on the eve of his wedding, a squad of plainclothes cops went after them. Trapping Bell’s Altima sedan between an unmarked van and an unmarked car, the police got out and began their deadly shooting spree. A white cop let loose 31 rounds, emptying an entire clip from his rapid-fire Glock automatic, reloading and firing off another. Police bullets were flying all over the place, hitting a lamp in a living room, breaking windows in a nearby AirTrain facility. But not a shot was fired in response. The cops said Bell had rammed them; the surviving victims say they were trying to escape what looked like a carjacking. The lead undercover cop claims he identified himself as police; at least five witnesses plus the victims say the police never showed badges or identified themselves in any matter until after the shooting.

Amadou Diallo was gunned down by a squad known as the Street Crimes Unit which prowled the Bronx supposedly looking for guns and drugs and repeatedly arresting innocent people. The police “perps” in Bell’s execution were part of another elite outfit, the Club Enforcement Unit, who were staking out 88 establishments in Queens looking for drugs and prostitution. The white cop who fired 31 shots has more than 600 arrests under his belt. The professional squad apparently didn’t have time to plant a “drop gun” on their victims, as the cops usually do. So the police have been desperately trying to dig up some “evidence” of a weapon or a mythical “fourth man” in the bullet-riddled car who somehow miraculously managed to escape in order to exonerate the killers. The press is claiming the killing was not racist because several of the cops were black and Latino. But the fact is that police gunmen overwhelmingly shoot minority “suspects”; the race of the individual cops isn’t key, it’s the system of repression that is inherently racist.

Demonstration in Foley Square to protest cop killing of Sean Bell, December 6. (Photo: John Roca/Daily News)

Going back over the years, protesters recalled the unending series of killings like that of Patrick Dorismond, killed in Manhattan in 2000 by an undercover narcotics detective who said he thought the young man was a drug dealer; a grand jury didn’t indict the cop. Many of the victims have been Latino, like Anthony Baez, choked to death while playing football outside his Bronx home in 1995; the killer cop walked. Columnist Bob Herbert in the New York Times (30 November) recalled the police execution of 10-year-old Clifford Glover, shot in the back in 1973; the 1976 killing of 15-year-old Randolph Evans, shot in the head; and grandmother Eleanor Bumpurs, killed by a police shotgun blast inside her apartment in 1984 in an attempted eviction. More recently there was the case of Malcolm Ferguson, murdered in 2000 by police only blocks away from where Diallo was shot to death; his mother, Juanita Young, who has persisted in fighting police brutality, was arrested in her home the day after Bell was killed by cops who kicked her in the chest and back. And this pattern of racist police murder isn’t limited to New York: just last month 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was killed in her Atlanta home in a “no-knock” police drug raid.

The list is endless: hundreds of victims of police brutality around the country in an unbroken string of racist repression. But this is not just “business as usual.” The “war on terror” unleashed by the government of Republican George Bush with the full support of Democrats in Congress has led to the intensification of police terror in the U.S. The U.S.A. Patriot Act legalized a raft of measures for domestic spying and arbitrary detention of immigrants. Over 2,000 immigrants, overwhelmingly of Arab and Near Eastern origin, were rounded up and held incommunicado for months after the 11 September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. Thousands more were deported without any pretense of due process. Shortly after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, NYPD police killed 57-year-old black grandmother Alberta Spruill in her apartment with a flash grenade; and in California, cops fired on an antiwar protest at the Oakland docks, wounding at least six longshoremen. After the pervasive use of torture by U.S. occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and at the Guantánamo prison camp was revealed, the government has moved to legalize these war crimes as well as warrantless wiretapping and other police-state measures.

Right now there is a concerted “bipartisan” effort by the partner parties of U.S. capitalism to keep the lid on New York. Democrat bigwig Al Sharpton (a former FBI informer), now considered respectable by a bourgeois establishment that previous shunned him as a “rabble rouser,” is talking about some kind of mass civil action along with Jesse Jackson where they can chant “No justice, no peace” without disturbing anything. NYC city council member Charles Barron has called for the removal of NYPD chief Ray Kelly (whom Sharpton supports) and wants the now-Democratic Congress to investigate. Yet Democrats, black and white, seek to keep protests limited to pressuring the government and line up silently behind Republican mayor Bloomberg on TV to show their support. Still, when Democratic councilman Thomas White Jr. told a crowd of 300 outside the hospital where Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield are convalescing, “We are not going to be angry,” the crowd responded, “Oh yes we are.”

The latest police execution brought together once more the families of the victims. Amadou’s mother, Kadiatou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant, traveled from Baltimore for Sean Bell’s funeral. Patrick’s mother, Marie Rose Dorismond, a Haitian immigrant, rode the bus from Miami to be there. A few feet from the coffin, she cried out: “Again? Again? Again?” The mother of Gidone Busch, a Hasidic Jewish man executed by the police in Borough Park in 1999, who maintains close contact with Amadou’s mother, unfortunately could not attend Juanita Young had just gotten out of the hospital after her latest abuse at the hands of the cops. While liberals put the blame for these tragedies solely on rabid reactionaries like Republican Giuliani (or Democrat Ed Koch), just as they call the occupation of Iraq “Bush’s war,” the 50 shots that rang out in Jamaica, Queens taking the young life of Sean Bell, like the 41 shots that cut down Amadou Diallo, are proof that racist police brutality is produced by a system.

That system is capitalism, and from the days of the slave-catchers – who terrorized blacks north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line – to today, when killer cops target blacks, Latinos, immigrants and anyone else who gets in their way, the system rests on brutal repression. In demonstrations against police brutality, the Iraq war and for immigrant rights, the Internationalist Group has emphasized that “Imperialist War Abroad Means Police-State Repression ‘At Home’.” The fight against racist cop terror cannot be limited to calls for investigations or the removal of particular police officials. The killers are not just “bad apples” or “rogue cops,” they are enforcers of racist, capitalist “law and order” which treats ethnic minority communities like occupied territories. The police think they can “get away with murder” against young black men in Queens because they have done so for years. “Racial profiling” is nothing new, it has just become more blatant since 9-11.

Today, the Democratic Party has become the main war party responsible for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In New York, the Democrats have been key in preventing mobilizations against cop terror that should have taken place in recent days. Many of those who came to pay their respects at the funeral and who have participated in various protests have carried signs saying “Justice for Sean Bell.” To achieve justice for the oppressed, to defeat imperialist war and the police-state repression it breeds, it is necessary to break with the parties of the oppressors and build a workers party that fights for the socialist revolution that will put billionaire Bloomberg and his capitalist cronies out of business. To put an end to the system of police brutality you have to sweep away the capitalist masters who give the orders and the guns to the killer cops. n

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com