The latest example of police terror took place on February 4 in the Soundview area of the Bronx. Four NYPD cops shot 41 bullets at Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man standing in the doorway of his building, hitting him 19 times. Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, West Africa, had been working as a street vendor in Manhattan. This latest murder has led to many mass protests.
Meanwhile, the local ruling class and its agents are working overtime to come up with some excuse for this murder. Mayor Giuliani immediately called on people to withhold judgment until all the "facts" are known. City Council President Peter Vallone, while stating that "there is something wrong that needs to be fixed," at the same time praised the integrity of the police department. Police spokespersons and lawyers have said they thought Diallo had a gun, although all that was found on him was a beeper and a wallet. The "48-hour rule," which lets cops wait 48 hours before talking to police investigators, simply allows all of them time to come up with a consistent lie to present to the public.
The capitalist rulers will once again try to cover up this crime by saying that this was a matter of police "overreacting," or of a "few bad apples." They will call for "better police training," more "sensitivity," etc. But these acts of police terror are no accidents; they are a constant feature of life in these capitalist United States. Just take a look at a few recent examples of such terror.
Last August 23, a 16-year old African-American youth, Michael Jones, was shot and wounded by cops who fired 17 bullets at him. And on September 16, in Bushwick, Brooklyn, police attacked a group of mourners after a wake for Cedric "Bingo" DeJesus. DeJesus had died from injuries sustained after police chased him into a car as he was riding his motorcycle.
The great majority of those murdered, wounded or simply harassed by the police have been African-Americans, Latinos and other oppressed peoples. But this does not mean that white workers can just sit back; rather they must stand up to defend their class brothers and sisters. Poor and working class whites are not immune from police violence. For example, on September 20, a 61-year old white man on Staten Island, Frank Esposito, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, became disoriented and began knocking on people's doors and windows. 18 cops beat him badly.
Almost all Blacks and Latinos have experienced the constant harassment and indignity of being stopped by police on the street or the subway and asked for ID, for no reason at all. Why would this happen if the cops were there to "serve the people."
The police are responsible for literally hundreds of murders of innocent people in the last few years; almost all of them have gone unpunished. If the cops were really there to protect people, as the capitalists claim, then wouldn't they want to remove the "few bad apples"? A sentence of 25 years to life for the 4 police murderers would do more to lessen police brutality than any "sensitivity training."
But the ruling class has no interest in putting an end to police brutality. The real job of the police is to hold down and terrorize the working and oppressed people. The police are armed agents of the capitalist state. Their role is clearest when they are called out to suppress political protests.
Last September 5, at least 6,000 cops were called out to confront the Million Youth March in Harlem. At the end of an entirely peaceful event, a police helicopter flew low over the crowd, and police using clubs and pepper spray attacked the stage. And on October 19, police attacked a huge march commemorating Matthew Shepard, the gay college student murdered in Wyoming earlier that month. Almost 150 people were arrested. The police are also called out against striking workers, to enforce court injunctions limiting pickets, etc. It is the duty of all workers and oppressed people to stand up against this.
What can we do? First, people of all nationalities must come out against these police murders. Then, we should build on-going organizations in our communities that can mobilize people against the daily police harassment. And finally, we can also build on the job against police terror. At first, this could take the form of walking out of work to join protests. But this could build to political strikes, which would help develop the consciousness and organization of all working people.
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