Justice Department Serves Injustice
The killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager, by a “neighborhood watch” captain, George Zimmerman, has sparked widespread monopoly media coverage and exchanges on social networking sites. Demonstrations in New York, Georgia, Florida and elsewhere have expressed people’s outrage and are demanding justice for Trayvon — specifically that the individual who killed him be charged and tried. Zimmerman has now been charged by a Florida state prosecutor with second degree murder and is expected to be released on bail.
Many people have spoken to the fact that the killing of African American youth guilty of no crime is not new, citing numerous recent and historical examples. These include March killings by police of black youth: Justin Sipp and Wendell Allen, both 20 and both from New Orleans, Louisiana; Michael Lembhard, 22 of Newburgh, New York; Kendirck Lavelle McDade, 19 of Pasadena, California. February police killings include those of Stephon Watts, 15, Calumet City, Illinois (near Chicago); Remarley Graham, 18, Bronx, New York, both unarmed and killed in their homes.
There are also the more well-known examples of Oscar Grant killed by Oakland, California transit police in 2009; Sean Bell killed in a hail of 50 bullets by the New York Police Department (NYPD) the day before his wedding in 2006; and Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant shot 41 times on his doorstep in 1999, also by the NYPD. Many of the youth were killed because police claimed they looked “suspicious,” or were “suspected” of having marijuana, or of having a “weapon” that turned out to be non-existent. These are just a few of the many hundreds of cases of police killings and brutality against African Americans, Puerto Ricans, Latinos and all youth on a yearly basis.
Voice of Revolution denounces the killing of Trayvon and all youth unjustly gunned down by police and their agents. There is no question that those responsible should be charged and tried, starting from the top, from the President, Justice Department and Homeland Security.
Unjust Violence Against Civilians is Sanctioned and Promoted
Despite the large amount of monopoly media coverage of the Trayvon killing, several things stand out in both the coverage and ongoing discourse, mainly by their absence. It is rightly said that killing of unarmed civilians guilty of no crime and simply “looking suspicious” cannot be justified. Claims of self-defense by Zimmerman, given he had a gun and Trayvon was unarmed, are widely and justly denounced as illegitimate, as are similar claims by police guilty of killing youth.
But what is absent is that it is precisely such unjust violence against civilians that is sanctioned and promoted by the state, from the President, military, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security on down. Targeted assassinations of those “suspected” of terrorism who “look” Arab are carried out and applauded; drone killings of civilians, including whole wedding parties repeatedly occur; Navy Seals, known for their assassinations, torture and other illegal actions are promoted as “models” for all; the entire criminal war against Afghanistan has been done in the name of “self-defense,” with the U.S. military carrying the guns and unarmed civilians in Afghanistan killed by the hundreds of thousands. How is it that when an individual like Zimmerman claims self-defense and kills an unarmed civilian it is denounced and demands are made for him to be jailed, but when the government carries out violence against whole communities and peoples in the name of self-defense it is supposed to be accepted? Why not charge and jail all the criminals, starting from the top? When Navy Seals are applauded for killing with impunity and police departments are all highly armed and trained to use violence against “suspects,” many more police killings and those by police informants like Zimmerman are the result. The Zimmermans only exist in a situation where violence is sanctioned and protected by the racist state.
Little has been said about the fact that “Neighborhood Watch” committees are a creation of the police for securing informants and individuals to do policing of neighborhoods. People like Zimmerman and private security guards are armed and encouraged to look for “suspicious” activity, which commonly means simply having youth walking in the neighborhood, especially if they are African Americans. They are not neighbors assisting other neighbors, they are police agents acting for the police and following their example, with police in turn following the example of the military and federal forces. Indeed, police forces are now militarized to such a degree city officials like New York City Mayor Bloomberg brags about having his own army, equipped with tanks, helicopters and missiles, to use for his own private interests.
Clearly those in power have abandoned political solutions to social problems like widespread poverty among the youth, growing inequality and prison-like schools that youth are abandoning in droves. They use violence as the weapon of choice to avoid providing economic, political, cultural and social problems with solutions that serve the people. For the “war on terror,” Arabs and Muslims are targeted, for the “war on drugs,” it is African Americans and other national minorities. These wars have been waged with impunity against the peoples and provide no solution. On the contrary they are used to justify expanding police powers and the government’s impunity to use violence.
Justice can be found not in relying on the very state responsible for the racism and violence, but on self-reliance and political empowerment. Organized self-defense and organizing as collectives for our rights is a path forward — a path that relies on our own efforts and is in our hands to decide.
Justice for Killings and Brutality by Border Patrol
People living on the southern border and rights organizations working there report that killings by federal agents have become an epidemic, similar to police killings of African American youth in many cities are. At least ten unarmed people are known to have been killed by border agents and there are likely more that have gone unreported. There have been no charges or punishment for those involved.
As an indication of the refusal by the federal government to address this problem, March marked the one-year anniversary for two brutal attacks by the Border Patrol against unarmed individuals they claimed were “suspected” of crimes. No action against those responsible has been taken, despite growing and undisputed evidence.
Jose Gutierrez, a long time resident of Los Angeles and father of three children born in the U.S., was shot with tasers by Border Patrol agents near the San Luis Port of Entry in Arizona, leaving him in a comatose state for several weeks.
While José was still receiving vital medical attention Border Patrol pressured hospital officials to transfer him to a hospital in Mexico, putting his life at risk. Intervention and broad promotion of the case by human rights and immigrant rights organizations in Los Angeles secured a stay from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and blocked the deportation.
José, a talented musician, is now at home in Los Angeles, where he is still recovering from debilitating injuries. The federal government has not taken any action against those responsible for injuring José, including those at the top who foment such actions.
It has also been one year since Carlos La Madrid, 19, a citizen, was shot and killed by Border Patrol agents, near his family home in Douglas, Arizona. The Border Patrol said Carlos was transporting a small amount of marijuana, which commonly carries a fine or minimal jail sentence. Instead the Border Patrol executed him as he tried to run for safety.
Efforts by the family of Carlos have also brought out that there are many similar examples of government brutality and killings along the border. This includes a young man in Nogales, Sonora who died in a January shooting by Border Patrol. Despite repeated efforts by human and immigrant rights groups in Arizona, Texas and elsewhere to hold the government to account for these killings and to end all such executions, justice has not been served.
The federal government is in fact fomenting these crimes and impunity for them, as it extends spying, unjust arrests, violence and assassinations abroad and at home, all on the basis of people being “suspected” of possible crimes. The actions are not those of enforcing laws but rather use of violence and killings with impunity to safeguard the rule of U.S. imperialism. Arbitrary police powers are being extended by the federal government, which has made clear it will enforce such executions, not prevent them.
As further evidence, new video has been made public of the gang killing by Border Patrol of an unarmed man as he lay defenseless on the ground. A dozen or more agents repeatedly beat and tasered Anastasio Hernández in May 2010. He died from the beating and the criminals responsible, from the top down, have not been charged.
As the inability of the federal government to solve any social problems grows — whether one addresses police killings or rights of immigrants and youth — the racist U.S. state is extending its police powers, its use of force and violence to maintain its rule. This reality brings to the fore the need to reject this old government with no solutions and to organize to break new ground in creating a society and government of our own making where such crimes are banned and punished.
The federal government and monopoly media are currently trying to focus attention on George Zimmerman and urge people to rely on the Justice Department for justice in the Trayvon Martin killing. This has served to divert from the fact that it is precisely the President, his Departments of Justice and Homeland Security that organize and sanction state racism and use of violence against unarmed civilians. This is readily apparent in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, where assassinations and massacres of civilians repeatedly occur, justified in the name of “suspicious” behavior, or that individuals were a “threat.” Even the language of “suspect” and “suspicious” and claims of “self-defense” are the same, whether at home or abroad, whether against African Americans or Arabs. The large majority of those killed are not guilty of any crime but rather are civilians branded as suspicious or a “threat.” The monopoly media and police widely promote African American males as a “threat” simply for being.
The federal government has a long history of claiming to oppose racist violence while actually being the main guardian and perpetrator of such violence. They were the ones that infiltrated, armed and protected the KKK, south and north. Few can forget the experience from the 1960’s and 70’s where the federal government was responsible for assassinations, infiltration, spying and wrecking of organizations that defended the people, all while claiming to “investigate.” The Justice Department is constantly “investigating,” while rarely charging and even less rarely securing guilty verdicts. And when charges are done, it is not the Justice Department itself and its representatives that are charged, only those at the bottom, just as the military only charges those at the bottom for massacres, not the generals. The Justice Department is one of the main institutions responsible for institutional racism and cannot be an instrument of justice to oppose racist violence.
It is also the federal government that is pouring massive funds into militarizing state and local police forces and increasing use of the military here and abroad. Neither the Justice Department nor Homeland Security act to end the racist and genocidal mass incarceration of African Americans, to end violence against civilians, to provide security by defending the rights of the people, of the public. Indeed they are organizing increasing violence in the name of “securing” the interests of the private monopolies, like the military monopolies. They are the ones guaranteeing impunity for the crimes, large and small, permitting military and police agencies at all levels to kill and use violence.
Federal officials and institutions must be held accountable for their role in subjecting the people to violence and repression. This cannot be done through asking for “investigations,” and asking them to oversee the “overhaul” of local police forces. They are the very ones responsible for the militarization and shoot-to-kill policies. These old institutions, part of the U.S. state apparatus of repression, have shown they are racist to the core, act with impunity against the people and are spreading violence as a means to block change that favors the people.
Far from calling on the federal government to intervene, what is needed is to break new ground in building institutions of our own that do serve our interests and defend our rights. Let us organize as collectives and step up the organized struggle for our rights. Let us organize to be decision-makers ourselves, creating collectives and institutions where we decide. Let us act to deprive the government of power by advancing our fight for empowerment.
Anyone notice that the monopoly media refers to George Zimmerman as “white and Hispanic” or "white Hispanic"? Strange language in a country where slave laws had even “a single drop of African blood” making someone black. Children of slave owners most certainly were not called “white and black,” but rather slaves. President Obama is also not referred to as “white and black,” though his mother is white. And peoples of Central and South America today are also not called “white and Hispanic,” but rather Hispanic or Latino. This is part of the racism of the U.S. state, where the color of skin, black or brown, whatever shade, determines what is used.
The monopoly media has played an important role in the Trayvon Martin case to widely promote the disinformation of the racist U.S. state. This includes striving to separate the Trayvon case from the epidemic of racist police brutality and killings nationwide. The problem is to be seen as individuals like Zimmerman, perhaps local sheriffs, but not the racist U.S. state.
Zimmerman had to be called “white and Hispanic” otherwise the charge of him as a racist would not fly. As well, doing so hides his role as a police agent and informant through the Neighborhood Watch, or this role is at least made less significant. In fact, his connections with the police and role as their informant are a main reason he was not charged and was roaming the neighborhood armed and looking for "suspicious" people.
The disinformation also presents the local, southern, Florida police as the main problem, again divorcing their role from that of the federal government. The federal government, including the military and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, systematically promotes and itself carries out mass killings of unarmed civilians abroad and mass incarceration and genocide of African Americans at home. It is not just small southern police that are racist, it is the U.S. state itself, from top to bottom that is racist to the core and has been from day one. Accountability for Trayvon begins with the state and with the federal government, its institutions.
The racist U.S. state and the imperialist system it defends is the main source of racist state attacks by all levels of government and the main force providing impunity for these crimes. The Florida police and Zimmerman can act with impunity because the U.S. state sanctions and promotes it.
Accountability and punishment needs to target the top and not be limited to those at the bottom. The disinformation about the U.S. state serves to divert the just struggle of the people for accountability for these crimes and for an end to state-organized racist attacks. Federal institutions, like the Justice Department, are to be relied on to “investigate,” and charge individuals responsible at the local level. And these individuals usually are limited to the one person that actually pulled the trigger, in this case George Zimmerman. The Federal government is turned into a “friend” while individuals at the local level are to blame. The people are to fight amongst themselves with divisions fomented, with blacks to target whites and also for this case, to pit Latinos against African Americans. Supposedly, the problems reside with the people themselves, while the racist state responsible for the crimes is let off the hook entirely.
If one looks a little further, it is possible to imagine that this particular case was widely promoted and made a focus of attention precisely because it was not police who did the killing, it was in Florida so the “racist south” card could be played, and it provided an opportunity to divert from the role of the federal government as criminal in the on-going killings of unarmed youth, especially African Americans. Certainly youth across the country are as outraged about the many other police killings as they are about Trayvon’s killing. This was evident in the many signs at rallies listing local police killings and many comments about Oscar Grant and Troy Davis and others. It was with broad, repeated and on-going promotion by the monopoly media and likely manipulation of social networking by the government and its agencies that Trayvon’s case was given center-stage and the outrage demonstrated manipulated. Having the Justice Department charge Zimmerman became the main demand, alongside calls for the Justice Department to “investigate” other such killings, or “overhaul” local police departments. Zimmerman has now been charged by the Florida state prosecutor, no doubt urged on by the Justice Department. This served to simultaneously stop the protests while making it appear that the very institution responsible for state racism, the Justice Department, is instead the one who can be relied on to stop racist killings!
The racist U.S. state itself must be the main target in fighting police killings and those at the top held responsible for the impunity given to those at the bottom to carry out such killings. George Zimmerman should be charged and so should all those responsible, starting at the top, with the federal government.
Organized self-defense of youth against police killings and united struggles to defend the rights of all is a fight that is in our hands to organize. Taking this direction means that outrage at all the unjust and racist actions of the state can be utilized to strengthen organized resistance and break with any illusions about relying on the U.S. state. Racist institutions cannot end racist police killings. Only institutions of our own making where we, united, decide can do so. Let us organize today to bring into being such institutions as crucial to our struggle to end racist state violence and killings.