Ohio Cops Fired 90 Bullets at Unarmed Black Man
Walker, Executed by Akron Police
The Racist Killer Cops Never Stop
Under Democrats or Republicans
the Police Murder Machine Grinds On
Only Revolution Can Bring Justice!
Protest outside Akron City Hall and police headquarters over cop murder of Jayland Walker, July 3.
On June 27, police in Akron, Ohio were in hot pursuit of a car driven by Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old black man who worked as a DoorDash delivery driver. The cops claim they wanted to stop him for equipment and traffic violations, which have yet to be specified. When Walker bolted, running for his life, eight police officers discharged a fusillade of 90+ shots from their semi-automatic pistols, 60 of them striking Walker, mere seconds after exiting their vehicles. On Sunday, July 3, the police finally released chilling body camera footage, ending with the cops standing in a circle like a firing squad around the lifeless body of their unarmed victim.1 It was a summary execution by the police. When a crowd gathered outside city hall and police headquarters to protest Sunday evening, cops and state troopers drove them off with tear gas, arresting almost 50 protesters. The next day, July 4, police and troopers enforced a curfew with armored personnel carriers.
An execution for a supposed traffic violation – such is the “justice” meted out by the racist police in capitalist America. Of course, the police make much of the apparent fact that Walker had a gun and a loaded magazine on the seat in the car. So what? That’s no crime. The cops don’t claim he ever shot at or even pointed the gun at them or anyone else, and the police chief explicitly admitted that Walker was unarmed when he was killed. Nor did Walker have a criminal record, outstanding warrants or any of the other usual excuses cited by police to justify their murderous actions. He ran from the police? That does not give the cops the right to use deadly force (Tennessee v. Garner ). Jayland Walker was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and for what the police described as a “routine” traffic stop, the trigger-happy murderers in uniform took his life. Yet none of the killer cops has been arrested, or (so far) even identified.
[As we go to press, we have learned that yesterday, July 7, Akron police arrested Jacob Blake Sr., father of Jacob Blake who was shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020, and Bianca Austin, the aunt of Breonna Taylor, who was murdered in her bed by Louisville, Kentucky police in March 2020. Blake Sr. and Austin were in Akron to show solidarity with the family of Jayland Walker. At a protest outside police headquarters, they got out of a van where they were seated when they saw a black man attacked by police and then repeatedly punched by a cop while his arms were pinned behind his back. When Blake protested this vicious cop assault he was then brutally arrested, while Austin was arrested for filming the attack.2 There should be a nationwide outcry demanding that they and everyone arrested in Akron protests be freed and all charges dropped.]
In the summer of 2020, millions took to the streets to protest the racist police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and countless others. Yet the killer cops keep on killing. As signs of Internationalist Group and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth demonstrators at a July 3 protest in New York City’s Union Square declared: “Jayland Walker, Murdered by Cops – 90 Shots, It Never Stops – We Remember Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, George Floyd and So Many More.” Amadou Diallo was shot on the doorstep of his home in the Bronx in 1999 by plainclothes NYPD police who fired 41 rounds at him as he reached for his wallet to show his ID. Sean Bell was gunned down on the morning before his wedding in 2006 in a hail of 50 bullets fired by undercover police in Queens. Wanton, racist police murder was rampant long before 2020, and it has continued unabated ever since.
The Akron Fraternal Order of Police, a fascistic promoter of racist cop terror which poses as a “union” of these enforcers of capitalist repression, issued a statement on the murder of Jayland Walker saying that the “decision to deploy lethal force as well as the number of shots fired is consistent with use of force protocols and officers’ training.” Police are in fact trained to be executioners and are given “protocols” for relentlessly carrying out their deadly “mission.” According to the website mappingpoliceviolence.us, as of June 24 some 569 civilians were killed by police in the U.S. so far in 2022. That compares to 563 by the same date in 2021, 583 in 2020, 575 in 2018, and so on – the numbers are nearly identical, year after year.3 In a perverse way it is almost as if the armed fist of the capitalist class has a yearly quota of people they need to kill, and in the racist capitalist U.S. of A., the victims are disproportionately black.
Police murder of African American, Latino, Asian, Native American and white working people is not a matter of rogue cops, or training. It’s not a question of this or that policy but a system of murderous police repression. Yet compared to 2020, protests this year and last against the unending police murder have been few in number and small in size. Why? Because in 2020, the outrage over the wanton chokehold murder of George Floyd was fed by revulsion against Republican president Donald Trump who praised police shooting rioters. Now with Democrat Joe (shoot ’em in the leg) Biden in the White House, who always proclaimed his support for the police, protests have dwindled while the police killing machine grinds on and on.
This time it was in Akron, Ohio, but it could be Anywhere, U.S.A. In April of this year, Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old refugee from Congo, was killed by a Grand Rapids, Michigan cop after a brief scuffle during a traffic stop. Officer Christopher Schurr shot Lyoya in the back of the head at close range while the latter was nearly prostrate with the cop on top of him. And in the early hours of February 2, a Minneapolis police SWAT team served a “no knock warrant,” coming across a dazed 22-year-old Amir Locke who had been sleeping on the couch. Locke was not the subject of the warrant or related in any way to the investigation which this raid was part of. For Amir Locke, too, being at the wrong place at the wrong time was a death warrant.
Walker, Lyoya and Locke were all young black men cut down by the police in wanton displays of how the racist “justice” system operates. African Americans are three times as likely to be killed by police as whites, Native Americans more than twice as likely, Latinos 1.5 times as likely.4 And the racial terror enacted daily by police in the U.S. is supplemented by the attacks carried out by racists and fascists on black people and anti-racist protesters. There was cop wannabe Kyle Rittenhouse’s murderous vigilantism against protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha in August 2020. Or neo-Nazi Dylan Roof’s June 2015 murder of nine black parishioners in the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, SC, only two months after black worker Walter Scott was murdered by a cop in North Charleston in a traffic stop. These attacks are two sides to the same coin, an expression of the racial oppression embedded in the fabric of American capitalism.
In the summer of 2020, in the course of the protests
against racist police brutality and murder, many on the
reformist left raised the call to “Defund the Police,” or
even “Abolish the Police,” often making this the centerpiece
of their intervention. While sounding radical, this was and
is an utterly reformist call, based on the illusion that
capitalism can exist without police repression. This
directly contradicts the Marxist analysis, centrally by V.I.
Lenin (in State and Revolution, written on the eve
of the 1917 Bolshevik October Revolution), of how the
capitalist state is based on “special bodies of armed men”
(police, army, etc.) and their adjuncts (courts, prisons)
and cannot be reformed. And it is contradicted by historical
experience in the U.S., where professional police forces
have always been instruments of racist repression,
originating in the slave patrols of the antebellum
(pre-Civil War) South. The capitalist state will never
“abolish” itself; it needs to be smashed by proletarian
revolution that establishes a workers state.
Internationalist demonstrators at July 3 protest in New York City denouncing the police murder of Jayland Walker.
In the mass protests of 2020 and again in the July 3 NYC Union Square demonstration denouncing the cop murder of Jayland Walker, Internationalists carried signs warning that there will be “No Justice in the Capitalist Courts.” Against liberal calls for gun control, which gives the police a green light for their murderous repression, we proclaimed: “No to Racist Gun Control – For the Right of Armed Black Self-Defense.” In response to the reformist illusions in “defunding”/abolishing police under capitalism, we stated the fundamental truth, that “Police Cannot Be ‘Reformed’” and called for “Black Liberation through Socialist Revolution.” And while many protesters chant “No Justice, No Peace,” our signs said, “Only Revolution Can Bring Justice.” We also called for workers action against racist police terror.
Liberal initiatives for “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” training will change nothing in the nature and actions of the police, an integral and constituent component of the capitalist state. Nor will appeals to vote for Democrats, including Biden, who promptly budgeted hundreds of millions of dollars more for police. At the local level, as Internationalist signs proclaimed, “Democrats Are the Bosses of the Racist Killer Cops.” Very concretely, the cities of Akron, OH, Grand Rapids, MI, and Minneapolis, MN, all have Democratic mayors, which hasn’t stopped the police murder machine. If anything, the opposite is often the case, as the capitalist rulers go along with alleged “progressive” or black Democratic mayors so long as the police are unimpeded in carrying out their racist repression.
Reliance on the Democrats, or vainly attempting to push them to “do the right thing” is a dead end. Police reforms, such as body cameras, “community policing,” or more “training” do not change the fundamental role of the cops. Calls to defund them (even to zero as some leftists called for) would not alter their social role, and more often than not police funding has increased in the wake of 2020. In the rare instances where police are “abolished,” as was the case in Camden, NJ, they don’t cease to exist but are simply reorganized along different jurisdictional lines. Instead, the working class and oppressed need powerful workers action against racist police terror. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) gave a taste of this power when it shut down all West Coast ports on Juneteenth 2020 in opposition to police brutality and systemic racism.
Capitalism is based on exploitation of the working class, fortified by brutally keeping down its most oppressed sectors, black, Latino, women and immigrant workers in particular. Over decades, the gains working people have won in the past have been ground down or eliminated, so that large sections are condemned to minimum-wage jobs with no security, such as the delivery work Jayland Walker was doing. This decaying system is in crisis, highlighted by the deadly COVID pandemic which has taken close to a million lives in the U.S. alone due to the chaotic, racially discriminatory and criminally inadequate system of medical care. This underlines that capitalism kills. And today, as black workers make up a large part of key industrial sectors, with a higher rate of unionization than white workers, the program of fighting racist repression with class struggle is urgently needed and eminently possible. The key question is leadership.
Akron, Ohio, along with being the home town of basketball star LeBron James is also the former “rubber capital” of the United States, home to the Goodrich, Goodyear, Firestone and General Tire companies that were key to the rise of the automotive industry. (Jayland Walker was executed in a Goodyear factory parking lot.) Grand Rapids is an important auto parts center, Minneapolis is a transportation and grain milling hub. In addition, all three cities have thousands of health care and education union members. In response to police terror, labor should use its power to shut the city down! But with the unions chained by a sellout labor bureaucracy to the Democratic Party of imperialist war, poverty and racist repression, this potential power is hamstrung. That underscores the Internationalists’ call to oust the bureaucrats, break with the Democrats and build a revolutionary workers party.
Racist police killings will not cease so long as capitalism endures, but undertaking a fight, now, to mobilize black, immigrant, labor action against racist police terror points the way forward. Black liberation can only be achieved through socialist revolution and it will take workers revolution to avenge Jayland Walker and the thousands who have fallen victim to the capitalist system of racist police murder. ■
- 1. See Akron police video of Jayland Walker
- 2. The video can be seen at the Beacon Journal: Bianca Austin films Jacob Blake's relative being arrested
- 3. The numbers provided by Mapping Police Violence, based on published accounts, are quite conservative, totaling somewhat over 1,100 every year. The figures from other sites tracking police homicides, such as killedbypolice.net and fatalencounters.org, were considerably higher, with the latter giving totals of 2,075 and 2,049 civilians killed in incidents involving police in 2021 and 2020 respectively. However, those sites have been discontinued or changed so that they have no comparable figures for 2022.
- 4. Figures from mappingpoliceviolence.us.