From the July-August 2015 issue of News & Letters
Chicago’s solidarity with Baltimore
Chicago, Ill.—What is the truth about Freddie Gray’s death? He was murdered by the notoriously racist and brutal Baltimore Police. Baltimore has exploded in anger because of the attempt to obscure this obvious fact. This generation serves notice: That shell game is over.
The same clarity about the system was displayed by hundreds of determined youth who took to the streets of Chicago in solidarity with Baltimore protests. Chicago attempted a similar cover-up in the trial of Officer Dante Servin for his murder of Rekia Boyd in 2012.
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez formulated charges against Servin so that he would be found not guilty. He was off duty when he murdered Rekia, used an unregistered gun, and fired over his shoulder from his car. Yet charges of “involuntary manslaughter” and “reckless conduct” were dismissed because one of his shots hit the man he says he was aiming at, Rekia’s boyfriend Antonio Cross, who was holding a cell phone.
Questionable legal precedent holds that if a cop hits the person he aims at, he can’t be found guilty of recklessness—no matter who else he shoots and kills. This is a “legalism” that stinks of totalitarianism.
On April 28, hundreds gathered outside Chicago Police Department headquarters to show love and respect for Rekia Boyd, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and all the others whose Black lives matter. The crowd was largely young and multicultural. Sponsors included We Charge Genocide, Black Lives Matter-Chicago and Black Youth Project 100. Speakers, including Airicka Gordon-Taylor, a relative of Emmett Till, kept the focus on Black history as revolutionary history.
Following the rally, hundreds marched through the South Side despite opposition from the police. We marched and chanted down several streets, with police finally drawing a line at the University of Chicago.
As we marched through the South Side streets, the crowd continued to grow. This movement will also continue and grow. In Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, a new generation of revolutionaries sent back the message: From now on, there will be no business as usual!
Oakland’s killer cops
Oakland, Calif.—On June 12, 200 demonstrators blocked the intersection at Lakeshore and Lake Park Avenues. There, in the early morning of June 6, 30-year-old Demouria Hogg, father of three, fell asleep waiting for the stoplight to change. After failing for two hours to rouse him, the Oakland police smashed a window to gain entry. The suddenly awakened Hogg was fatally shot twice less than a minute later. While police have yet to release their own video recordings, they immediately released a photo of a handgun lying on the front seat. Police have not said the gun was a factor, only that “there was a struggle.” A large banner read: “Sleeping while Black is not a crime.”
Los Angeles—On June 9 the L.A. Police Commission came out of a secret meeting to announce that only one of the two officers involved in killing unarmed Black youth Ezell Ford (diagnosed as bipolar) on Aug. 11, 2014, was guilty of violating LAPD policy. Chief Charlie Beck doesn’t have to make the punishment public. Previously Beck stated that the killing was justified, revealing his estrangement from human rights.
Before the Commission went into secret deliberation, Tritobia Ford, Ezell’s mother, pleaded, “I beg you. He wanted to live. He walked the streets. I didn’t want him to walk the streets—but that was his right, and he didn’t deserve to die for it.” Ford was shot three times and the wound on his back had a muzzle imprint showing the gun was fired at close range.
Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez said, “Try to put yourself in this situation. The police shoot and kill a member of your family and you can’t get answers about why it happened…” Merrick Bobb of the Police Assessment Resource Center said, “I’d say things here in Los Angeles are as transparent as mud. There’s too little information about officer-involved shootings and other uses of deadly force.”
On March 1, another unarmed Black man, Charly Leundeu Keunang, also known as Africa, was killed by five or six LAPD officers in Skid Row. In both cases, police used the excuse that the victim was reaching for a gun. LA CAN, a human rights organization, has been asking the LA Police Commission for justice for Charly Keunang for weeks. There has been no response.
In January, following months of non-violent marches nationwide against police killings of unarmed Black youth, Black Lives Matter demonstrators occupied the sidewalk in front of LAPD headquarters for 18 days to meet with Chief Beck and demand that he fire the police who killed Ezell Ford. Beck refused to meet.
Black Lives Matter participants camped out in front of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s home for several days and nights demanding he fire Beck. Garcetti appointed Beck and the members of the Police Commission.
An organizer for Black Lives Matter, Don Matkin, stated, “We cannot wait for a single leader as a Malcolm X or a Martin Luther King.” Patricia Kelley, another organizer, said, “It’s direct action with love and dance. We marched, we cried. This is just a step. It’s not over.” She also quoted a South African saying, “Nothing about us, without us—is for us.”
The struggle isn’t over until we have new human relations, everywhere.