Rebellions in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland have shed light onto the brutal killings and injuring of hundreds of people every month. Law-enforcement and judicial abuse is a routine affair in major urban areas and suburbs.
By Abayomi Azikiwe
In response to the rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore along with other atrocities such as the killing of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin, Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina and so many others, a wave of demonstrations have swept the United States. These protest actions including civil disobedience have been covered widely through print, audio and television networks as well as social media.
Live streaming and posting of videos of mass unrest both violent and nonviolent illustrate the degree to which there is broad interest in the developing struggles. Elected officials are forced to pay lip service to issues involving mass incarceration and the militarization of the police.
However, nothing has fundamentally changed as it relates to the repressive character of the state. Policy reforms aimed at creating employment, educational opportunities and housing guarantees are non-existent on the part of the Congress, the White House and the corporations.
Statistics Reveal Systematic Racism and Repression
A recent study conducted by a leading newspaper based in England indicates the magnitude of the problem. The disparate treatment of African Americans when confronted by the police cannot be dismissed as coincidental.
According to the report “Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people, according to a Guardian investigation which found 102 of 464 people killed so far this year in incidents with law enforcement officers were not carrying weapons. An analysis of public records, local news reports and Guardian reporting found that 32% of black people killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, as were 25% of Hispanic and Latino people, compared with 15% of white people killed.“ (June 1)
These figures point to the issues related to the killing of African Americans who are not armed, however, police are known for identifying any possible weapon as a threat to themselves and public. The police shooting of Tamir Rice was justified because the cops said they thought the object in his hand was a real hand gun.
The two African Americans killed in Cleveland after being pursued by police were also killed unjustifiably because ostensibly law-enforcement believed they were armed. People have been gunned down because police reported that they reached for their weapon or possessed a knife, hammer, etc.
At the same time police use other types of deadly weapons to inflict harm and death on the oppressed and even whites. Even so-called non-lethal enforcement tools have been known to be deadly in numerous encounters between the cops and the people.
This same Guardian article notes that “police use of a Taser, deaths caused by police vehicles and deaths following altercations in police custody, as well as those killed when officers open fire. They reveal that 29% of those killed by police, or 135 people, were black. Sixty-seven, or 14%, were Hispanic/Latino, and 234, or 50%, were white. In total, 102 people who died during encounters with law enforcement in 2015 were unarmed.”Moreover, these killings of people from the oppressed nations “illustrate how disproportionately black Americans, who make up just 13% of the country’s total population according to census data, are killed by police. Of the 464 people counted by the Guardian, an overwhelming majority – 95% – were male, with just 5% female.”
Detroit Killings by Police Increase
In Detroit there have been three African American men who have either died or been killed in the custody of the police over the last two months. None of these officers have been indicted in these deaths.
Anthony Clark, 24, died after being handcuffed outside his car on the southwest side of the city on March 30.
Spokespersons for the police department said that he was pulled over because of erratic driving. The father of Clark reported his son suffered acute respiratory problems and had been placed on a breathing machine on several occasions.
The older Clark said that the alleged erratic driving was caused by Anthony’s illness. When he collapsed Clark was in handcuffs.
He told police that he could not breathe and was supposedly given his asthmatic inhaler which didn’t work for whatever reason. Clark died in police custody.
Police have not given adequate information to the family and civil litigation is being pursued.
After going to the hospital to find out what happened to his son, the elder Clark said “There was nobody there. The hospital chaplain was the only person who could tell me anything, and he said the EMTs told him my son had died of a heart attack. I tried calling police, and someone got on the phone and told me nobody was there to help me.” (Detroit News, April 1)
Later on April 27, Terrance Kellom, 20, was fatally shot ten times inside his home at a multi-jurisdictional task force consisting of local and federal officers. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Michael Quinn is credited with doing the shooting saying that Kellom came toward him with a hammer necessitating the shooting.
Several of the shots were to the back and a videotape of the killing was confiscated by the law-enforcement. Kellom’s father, other family members and friends say that the official account given by Detroit Police Chief James Craig is incorrect.
Kevin Kellom, Terrance’s father, said his son was never in hiding from authorities, and that police claimed they had a search warrant to enter the family home. Kellom said the search warrant only surfaced three hours after his son was shot to death by the ICE agent.
It turned out that this ICE agent was a former Detroit police officer with a troubled record. In 2008 he was charged with felonious assault after he was accused of holding a loaded police revolver to his wife’s head threatening to shoot. When she tried to call 911 the phone was supposedly broken by Quinn. The charges were later drooped due to lack of evidence.
Quinn while serving a 12-year tenure with the Detroit police, was also sued after he witnessed and participated in an act of brutality by his then law-enforcement partner Eugene Brown, who was involved in numerous police killings of civilians and assaults during the 1990s. After such a controversial past in law-enforcement Quinn was still hired by ICE where he has served for seven years.
No charges have been filed against Quinn or the other officers who were at the scene of the killing of Kellom. Demonstrations occurred in the immediate aftermath of the police action.
Later on May 23, Caso Jackson, 25, was killed in a flurry of police bullets after he jumped off a porch at his former home in northwest Detroit. News reports said Jackson had held his estranged wife and children hostage for several hours.
A video of the incident shows Jackson jumping off the porch of the home with what appears to be a rifle but no footage of him shooting at police was presented. Later he was gunned down by a team of SWAT officers.
These police actions reinforce the systematic attacks on residents of Detroit through foreclosures, evictions, utility and water shut-offs. The overall repressive atmosphere in the city creates a sense of siege on the part of many youth.
The right to self-determination and “democracy” is becoming more of an illusion in the U.S. particularly in urban areas where joblessness and poverty run rampant.