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.
While the liberal bosses prance around and pat themselves on the back for “making change” and proclaiming the end of racism in the U.S., three cops have been set free for the murder of Sean Bell in November 2006. Seems like the cops and the courts never got the memo.
Bell and two friends were shot at by plainclothes kkkops after leaving a bachelor party at a bar in Queens, NY. The cops claim that Bell and his friends first tried to run them over and that one of the men inside the car appeared to be grabbing for a gun in his waist. The cops then wasted no time shooting 50 BULLETS into the car, killing Bell and injuring his friends.
The bosses enlisted the ex-FBI informer and pacifier of black workers’ anger, Al Sharpton. Our class should not be led by this bosses’ agent who pervasively sells the snake oil of justice under capitalism. He’s done it before with Amadou Diallo who was shot 41 times by the fascist police, and Patrick Dorismond in Manhattan and countless others. The cops’ main role is to protect and serve the bosses’ private property and terrorize workers, especially black and Latino youth, so that they do not turn their anger into rebellion.
With the coming elections the bosses need to win black, and all workers, to U.S. imperialism to stay ahead of their rivals like China, Russia and Europe. Barack Obama and the bosses need to give them hope that the system can work for them in the face of years of slavery, Jim Crow racism, segregation, police terror, poverty like in New Orleans and after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Workers and students should organize their friends and co-workers to expose the cops’ role in the racist system of capitalism. No court will guarantee workers justice.
Amid escalating war in the Middle East, and threatening inter-imperialist clashes (see page 2), the rulers must impose wartime discipline on the home front — FASCISM. With the liberal, imperialist wing of U.S. capital leading the effort, a full-blown police state exists for black, Latino and immigrant workers and those of Arab and Muslim background:
•Chicago: In August, the police went on a racist rampage and brutally murdered four young black men in cold blood, in four separate incidents. This year the police have murdered at least 31 workers.
•Atlanta: Undercover cops shot and killed a 92-year-old black grandmother, Kathryn Johnston, in her own home.
•Cleveland: In May 2007, police killed three black people – Aaron Steele, Steven Ray and Ira Mitchell – within three days.
•Conneaut, Ohio: On Nov 17, Immigration Customs Enforcers (ICE) arrested an immigrant mother breast-feeding her child.
•North Carolina: Police shot and killed Phillipe McIver, a 23-year-old black man.
•Los Angeles: LA cops murdered Francisco Mondragon a 24-year-old schizophrenic.
• Minnesota: Law enforcement agents have killed five black people in the first half of 2007.
•New York City: Nov. 25 marked the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Sean Bell, a 23-year-old unarmed black man, murdered with 50 shots from NYPD gunmen. On Nov. 7, the same NYPD assassinated 18-year-old Khiel Coppin, shot 13 times (see box). Since then, they have killed at least ten more people.
•Jena, LA.: Six black youth are being legally lynched for standing up against the racism of fellow students who hung a noose under a “whites only” tree. On September 20, over 50,000 people marched in Jena, protesting this racism and supporting the six youth.
•Since then over 60 incidents of noose hangings have occurred nationwide. (NY Times, 11/24)
•Thousands of Muslim workers have been detained in the U.S. and the Middle East and imprisoned and tortured in concentration camps in Guantánamo and “secret” CIA jails.
On the road to waging imperialist wars to control the flow of oil, the U.S. war machine has been tripping over a few roadblocks. Two of the main ones are their troop shortage and the fact that a crumbling economy hits most heavily on the super-oppressed black and Latino workers and youth. On the one hand, they need to win black, Latin and immigrant workers to fight and die in their wars. But since racism is inherent to capitalism, it inevitably shoots and harasses black and Latin workers while using the threat of deportation to terrorize and persecute immigrant workers. This racist terror undermines many of these workers’ loyalty to the system.
As a result of such racism, 2.2 million people are imprisoned nationwide, 70% of them black or Hispanic. Every twelfth black male between 25 and 29 languishes behind bars; the figure for whites is 1 in 100 (Bureau of Justice Statistics). Liberal misleaders and reformers have been working overtime to try to solve this insoluble contradiction: the system’s inherent racism oppressing black and Latino workers and their need to super-exploit them for super-profits, versus needing to use them as cannon fodder in their wars. They try to divert workers’ anger into such reform efforts as “community policing,” “civilian review boards” and their election campaigns. But to fight police murders we can’t fall into this trap!
The only way to smash the Klan in blue is to smash the racist system — capitalism — that uses them to terrorize working-class communities. Communism — the system of workers’ power, a society run for need, not profit — will sweep away these new night riders and their politician masters, crushing them like the cockroaches they are. To achieve this, we must organize!
There is an alternative to capitalist oppression and its rotten culture: a society that produces for need, not profit; a society where the workers from all backgrounds can determine their own destiny as one united class; where we can stamp out selfishness, racism, sexism, killer cops, “workfare,” profit wars, prisons, deportations and national borders; where this system will be ground into the dust under the feet of millions of united workers and students.
That society is communism, and Progressive Labor Party is serious about organizing to make that world a reality. Join us!