PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD, Aug. 20—Hundreds of workers, mostly Latino, attended a vigil to protest the brutal killing of plumber Manuel Jesus de Espina by a Prince George’s County cop. Manuel and his son were drinking in the stairwell of his apartment building, celebrating his 40th birthday. The cop, known for his swaggering brutality, claimed he feared for his life because Espina grabbed for his gun (or was it his baton? The story kept changing), but working-class eyewitnesses reported that Espina did not resist arrest but was beaten, blinded with pepper spray and then shot. Who do you believe? PLPers brought the message of militancy, anti-racism, multi-racial unity and the need for communist revolution to this gathering.
Under communism, there won’t be cops protecting rich people’s property, because there won’t be any rich people or private property. The communist leadership of the new society will resolve conflicts in a comradely way, jail racists and build a unified working class. The role of cops under capitalism is to terrorize workers and protect the bosses and their system. As anti-immigrant racism grows, the cops will increasingly brutalize and murder immigrant workers to fulfill this mission.
Today we are still exploited by capitalism and murdered by racist cops. In Prince George’s County, 14 workers have been shot by the cops since January 2008, several fatally. Twenty years ago, cops beat Gregory Habib, a Ghanaian student, to death here after he failed to stop at a stop sign. The cops were exonerated. “Going through channels,” advocated by leaders of the vigil, has never worked to hold cops accountable, and never will end this racist, fascist intimidation.
We are already campaigning against the lynching of Ronnie White (almost certainly by cops or prison guards) in his jail cell two months ago (CD, 30 July). Then came the needlessly brutal SWAT attack on the home of a Mayor Calvo of Berwyn Heights, and now Espina is murdered in Langley Park. These blatant attacks are just the latest in our area’s long history of police violence, racial profiling and murder. The grassroots People’s Coalition for Police Accountability (PCPA), led mainly by black workers in the County, launched resistance to police brutality over ten years ago, and the 2005 PLP Summer Project in D.C. joined that struggle.
Local politicians and some community activists called for patient reliance on the very system that oppresses all workers. They urged attendees not to “take matters into their own hands.” The wife of State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey (charged with investigating and prosecuting the lynchers of Ronnie White) hugged family members, spoke of justice for Mayor Calvo, but did not mention Ronnie White. She gave Mayor Calvo’s dead dogs killed by the cops more play than a lynched young black man! Politician Victor Ramirez, Delegate to the Maryland House of Representatives, actually blamed Manuel for his own death, saying that he may not have led the most perfect life, and then quickly added that violence never solves anything, so rely on the “justice” system and don’t fight back.
In addition to politicians, representatives of several African American organizations spoke out in solidarity as well. PCPA leader Dorothy Elliott spoke eloquently both about Ronnie White, and her son Archie Elliott, who was murdered 15 years ago by the cops as he sat handcuffed in a police cruiser. The translator never translated her words about Ronnie White!
The lack of militancy did not sit well with the hundreds of angry workers, who rushed to our militant bilingual signs charging PG County cops with racist murders, and linking the attacks on African American Ronnie White and Latino Manuel de Espina with the slogan, “Workers, United, Will Never Be Defeated.” Several new friends offered to help hold these signs, and hundreds more eagerly took CHALLENGE-DESAFIO as over 250 papers flew out of PLPers’ hands.
The organizers invited friends and coworkers of Manuel to speak after the politicians. In the beginning, they mostly spoke of what a great and loving father Manuel was. But then workers’ anger came out and stories of police brutality and intimidation rang out over the crowd. The organizers only let that go on for two or three speakers and then shut down the rally, fearing the growing militancy of the crowd.
PLPers spoke afterwards with workers. One man said, “It isn’t just here that this happens. It happens all over. As long as there is money in a system there will always be oppression and wars.” Another cited the importance of multi-racial and multi-gender unity in the common fight against our common exploiters. Several contacts were made and all were invited to our next events, including the annual PLP Crab Feast and the PCPA forum scheduled for September 9. Our fight against racism, police brutality and for the working class will continue until the exploitative system of capitalism is crushed by workers’ power.