of the Racist Killer Cops
Demonstrators in New York City on December 28, the night it was announced that the Cleveland cop who murdered 12-year-old Tamir Rice would not be indicted for anything.
Build a Revolutionary Workers Party!
JANUARY 9 – If 2014 was the Year of Mass Protest Against Racist Cop Terror, 2015 was the Year of More Racist Cop Terror. After drawing up the annual balance sheet of official murder in the United States, the bottom line is 1,202 killed by the police, according to the tally of killedbypolice.net. In 2014 the body count was 1,108. And 2016? Still more racist cop terror, count on it.
Well over a thousand people a year, torn from family and friends, their lives cruelly snuffed out, their futures stolen by a lawless armed force that kills with impunity: the police. And those deaths are only the ones reported in the media. They don’t even include the name of Sandra Bland, found hanged in a Texas jail cell last July, because a county coroner ruled it a suicide. We say Sandra Bland was lynched, as so many others have been as well, by asystem of racist police terror. The name of that system is American capitalism, founded on chattel slavery and resting today on wage slavery. Racial oppression is in its DNA.
2015 also underscored how the entire capitalist “justice system,” from top to bottom, works seamlessly to protect the killers. As the year drew to a close there was a drumbeat of legal decisions in which cops were not charged or not found guilty in the deaths of their unarmed black victims. On December 16, a mistrial was declared in the case of one of the Baltimore police officers in the van where Freddie Gray was killed last May. On December 21, a grand jury hand-picked by a local judge and the district attorney in Waller County, Texas failed to indict anyone for Sandra Bland’s death. And on December 28 a grand jury in Cleveland, led by the nose by a DA who drip-fed the media with leaks favorable to the cop, brought no charges against the trigger-happy officer who gunned down 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November 2014.
Although the outcomes produced consternation and outrage, they were no surprise, since the ruling class depends on its badge-toting hired guns as capitalism’s first line of defense. And the police murder machine grinds on, at a rate of over three victims a day. So despite constant protests since the release of the dashcam video of Chicago police killing Laquan McDonald over a year ago, on December 26 Chicago cops shot Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and Bettie Jones, 54, a grandmother, as she opened the front door to let the police in.
In the face of mass protests of tens of thousands who marched night after night in 2014 over the police murders of Eric Garner in New York and Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the cops were never charged. And while there has been an uptick in prosecutions since then, with 24 last year compared to less than five a year over the previous decade (New York Times, 30 December 2015), killer cops are almost never convicted. While thousands of civilians were killed by police from 2005 to 2014, only eleven cops were convicted of anything, according to the Washington Post (11 April 2015).
The slaughter has become so notorious that there are now multiple lists of victims, updated daily. In addition to killedbypolice.net), the second and most detailed accounting is The Counted, a project of the London Guardian, which showed 1,138 killed by police in 2015. A third compilation, at mappingpoliceviolence.org, gave a total of 1,152, while a fourth, by the Washington Post (with the apparent intent of whitewashing the cops), showed a death toll of “only” 986. African Americans make up one-third of those killed by the police, and together with Latinos, Asians or Native Americana victims, fully half the victims are racial/ethnic minorities. Compare that to Britain, where 3 people were killed by police in 2015, 1 in 2014, 0 in 2013; or Germany, where 2 were killed in 2015, 1 in 2014, 2 in 2013. Like the death penalty, the massive racist killing by U.S. police goes back to the very foundation of American capitalism on the basis of slave labor. That bloody heritage continues to this day.
According to the Washington Post (26 December), “the kind of incidents that have ignited protests in many U.S. communities — most often, white police officers killing unarmed black men — represent less than 4 percent of fatal police shootings.” Instead, “the great majority of people who died at the hands of the police fit at least one of three categories: they were wielding weapons, they were suicidal or mentally troubled, or they ran when officers told them to halt.” But contrary to the Fraternal Order of the Police (FOP), running from the cops, as Mike Brown did in Ferguson, is not a crime: he might have (rightly) feared for his life. Nor is mental illness. As for “wielding a weapon,” by the Post’s criteria the pocket knife in the hand of Laquan McDonald and toy guns like that held by Tamir Rice count as “weapons.”
The fact is that the police consider a badge a license to kill with impunity, and the statistics bear them out. Since the killing goes on and on – and despite all the cellphone videos, surveillance cameras videos, dashcam and now bodycam recordings, the killers are almost never punished – liberals now talk of better police “training.” But the police are doing exactly what they are trained to do: shoot to kill. Virulent racism is well-nigh universal in police forces – a reflection of the fact that black and brown men in particular are targeted as “suspects.” Even where this is proven in great detail, for example in the Department of Justice investigation of Ferguson, nothing changes. What is hardly ever mentioned, however, is that the police have bosses, namely mayors and city councils, which in cities across the U.S. are Democrats. The federal government, which supplies local cops with huge arsenals of heavy weapons, and controls the FBI, ICE and other police agencies, is also run by Democrats.
From mayors Rahm Emanuel in Chicago, Frank Jackson in Cleveland, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in Baltimore and Bill de Blasio in New York City to Barack Obama in the White House and his attorney general Loretta Lynch, the political leaders who preside over the murderous police forces, and thus are responsible for the racist killing spree, are almost all Democrats. Obama, meanwhile, is running an international Murder, Inc., personally signing off on drone strikes that have killed thousands of civilians in Muslim countries. It is the Democratic Party of racist repression and imperialist war that is running the country on behalf of Wall Street. But since the Democrats’ partners in crime, the Republicans, like to play hard cop, especially in this election year, much of the anti-racist protest is directed at them. Racist state terror has been a cornerstone of U.S. capitalism throughout, and it is this system that must be shut down, by workers and the oppressed mobilizing our class power, leading to socialist revolution.
As the Internationalist Group has insisted from the start, only revolution can bring justice! ■