May 2003  

From Baghdad to Harlem and Oakland:
Imperialist War Breeds Racist Cop Terror

Alberta Spruill: Victim of NYPD Killer Elite

CBTU protest over Spruill killing MAY 20 – It was 6 a.m. A squad of a dozen heavily armed cops prepare to storm a building in the middle of Harlem. They’re supposedly looking for an arsenal of guns, stashes of drugs and vicious dogs. They get the word to go. Without warning. A battering ram breaks down the door of Apartment 6F at 310 W. 143rd Street. A deafening flash grenade is heaved into the apartment. What do they find? No guns, no drugs, no dogs, only a terrified Alberta Spruill, a 57-year-old city worker who was just about to leave for her job. She was coughing and screaming “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” The cops handcuff the quiet church-going black woman, but she tells them she has a heart condition. An ambulance is finally dispatched at 6:32. Upon arrival at the hospital at 8 a.m., an hour and a half later, Alberta was pronounced dead.

Members of Coalition of Black Trade Unionists protested in front of building where Alberta Spruill (inset) lived. Victim of racist cop terror was long-time member of DC 37, Local 1549 city workers union. (Photo: Mariela Lombard/Daily News)

This was not a “tragic mistake,” an “unfathomable incident,” as New York Police Department commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg claim. Alberta Spruill is dead because she was black. This was racist police murder!

Police spokesmen claim that they’ve never had problems before. Why, they do these “no-knock” raids all the time. They’ve carried out 1,900 search warrants so far this year. It was carried out by the Emergency Services Unit, which is “specially trained” for such paramilitary raids. They claim that the grenades are “designed not to hurt people” and that they are a “tool of last resort” (Daily News, 17 May). Sure, they only kill people, and they’ve already been used 85 times this year. What that says is that this kind of Gestapo-like tactics has become second-nature for the NYPD. Why did it take so long to get her to the hospital? And how many of those breaking-and-entering raids are carried out in white middle-class or upper class neighborhoods below 96th Street in Manhattan? The capitalist media don’t even bother to ask the questions. They don’t want to know the answers. Their job is to cover up the cop terror.

Racist terror has been used against black people in Harlem and all over New York since time immemorial, from the days of slavery through the anti-draft race riot in the Civil War and the brutal repression of the “Harlem riots” of the 1960s. More recently, flagrantly racist mayors like Democrat Ed Koch and Republican Rudolph Giuliani would egg on the killers in blue (and the ESU stormtroopers in black uniforms). The media credit the current mayor and police chief for issuing an apology, contrasting them to Giuliani who regularly smeared the victims of cop killings, declaring that the Haitian Patrick Dorismond was “no choir boy.” Right after taking office, Bloomberg said the likelihood of another cop execution like that of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx was “diminished” in his administration. But here it is again: wanton police murder. Apology or no apology, the fact is that Amadou was killed in a hail of 41 bullets, Alberta was killed by the terrifying explosion of a grenade, just because they were “breathing while black.”

Moreover, these police-state tactics are escalating in the climate set by (and often in direct connection with) the terrorist “war on terror” being waged by Washington, first against Afghanistan and now against Iraq. As U.S. soldiers fire into crowds of protesters in Baghdad and Fallujah, the capitalist cops are running roughshod over blacks, Latinos, immigrants, workers and protesters “at home.” In February you had massive cop harassment of half a million people who sought to march past the United Nations to protest the war on Iraq. Bloomberg’s and Kelly’s cops turned the East Side of Manhattan into a Stalag of police pens, using police horses to trample demonstrators, and interrogating prisoners about their politics. Nor is the escalation of cop violence a local phenomenon. On the West Coast, antiwar demonstra-tors and longshoremen at the port of Oakland were set upon by shotgun-wielding police who fired supposedly “non-lethal” rubber bullets, pellets and dowels point-blank into protesters at the beginning of April.

With the Fatherland Security department’s color-coded “terror alert” system (in which New York City is permanently on orange), the NYPD has its ongoing Operation Atlas. Troops armed with automatic rifles stand menacingly at subway entrances. For what? Someone is going to hijack the station and take it to Jersey? It’s only a matter of time until some youth is shot in the back with an M-16 for the “crime” of jumping a turnstile. (Meanwhile, the MTA cooks the books, handing hundreds of millions of dollars to the banks so they can claim a deficit and extort a fare hike from the pockets of poor and working people.) Throughout inner-city neighborhoods the police frenzy can be felt. Only three weeks ago, trigger-happy NYPD cops shot two black men dead on the streets of Brooklyn in the space of two days.

Meanwhile, the Bloomberg administration has launched an offensive against city workers. Friday was the day they handed out 2,000 pink slips telling long-time employees they no longer had a job. They started it off with a bang, leaving one city worker dead. The union bureaucrats whine that they have offered hundreds of millions of concessions to the city (just like their predecessors did in the bank-engineered “fiscal crisis” under Democrat Abe Beame in the 1970s, and under black Democrat David Dinkins in the ’90s). But they have done exactly nothing to bring out the power of labor to stop the wave of layoffs and cop terror. Instead, Municipal Labor Coalition leader Randi Weingarten of the United Federation of Teachers grotesquely parades around with the heads of the cops’ and detectives’ “unions.” We say: cops are not workers, they are the armed fist of the class enemy. We demand: Police out of the unions!

The list of black victims of the NYPD goes on and on: Eleanor Bumpurs, the Bronx grandmother gunned down in her home; Amadou Diallo, executed by an NYPD death squad on his doorstep; Patrick Dorismond, shot to death in a cop “sting” operation, and now Alberta Spruille, a city worker slain in her apartment by an NYPD Gestapo raid. Under Republicans and Democrats alike, whether with Giuliani insults or hypocritical Bloomberg “apologies,” the system of racist police terror continues. The press pats city rulers on the back because there has been little protest over the latest police killing (“A Response More Mournful Than Enraged,” New York Times, 19 May). They credit a “changing climate” and the “wait-and-see” attitude of Al Sharpton, among ot-hers. Black Democrat Sharpton declared when Bloomberg took office that it’s not just a different tone, “it’s a whole different sound system.” Now that he’s running for president and trying to look respectable and “responsible,” Sharpton soft-soaps the racist killer cops and calls instead for going after … Osama bin Laden.

There should be an outpouring of mass outrage, bringing the workers movement and the oppressed into the streets against cutbacks and cop terror. To defeat the imperialist war and colonial occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, to defeat the bosses’ war on working people, oppressed minori-ties and immigrants in the U.S., it is necessary to mobilize the power of the international working class. Against bour-geois politicians from Bloomberg to Sharpton, we need to build a revolutionary workers party. Police brutality and racist terror are endemic to capitalism. It will take socialist revolution to sweep away the killer cops forever. n

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