Issues behind the Oakland shootings
Published Apr 1, 2009 4:33 PM
On March 21, Lovelle Mixon, a young Black man, was pulled over by two
motorcycle cops in Oakland, Calif. According to the Oakland Police Department,
the stop was “routine” and was for a “traffic
violation.” Other than that the details of the stop remain shady. But
such routine stops involving racial profiling occur frequently in oppressed
‘Stop police terror.’ March in Oakland
after police killing of Lovelle Mixon.
Mixon placed a call to his uncle from a cell phone. According to the uncle,
Curtis Mixon, “He was saying that they were talking on the radio, that
they were probably calling for backup, you know how they do. ... Then he said
he had to go.” (New York Times)
After the phone call, Lovelle Mixon apparently shot the cops and fled on foot
to an apartment complex. According to reports, Mixon hid out in a closet, and
as SWAT police entered the apartment he was in and the room in which he was
hiding, he then exchanged gunfire with the cops, hitting three, two fatally,
and was himself shot dead.
Since then, the police have made numerous claims against Mixon, including that
he was tied to a rape or several rapes, a homicide, and that he entered into
the sex trade as a pimp, the latter charge supposedly confirmed by a cousin. Of
Mixon’s choice to be a pimp, “That’s not something he wanted
to stay in,” his cousin said, “but he couldn’t find anything
else to pay the bills.” (New York Times)
This commentary is not an attempt to defend his choice to be a pimp, if it is
true, or any sexual assault. It is a usual course of police departments to
defend their actions and the actions of the state apparatus as a whole by
further demonizing victims of police brutality or anyone who is alleged to have
fought back against cops.
The final months of Lovelle Mixon’s life must be placed within the
context not only of the specific conditions of Oakland, Calif., and the fact of
national oppression but also of a deepening crisis of the capitalist system and
its disproportionate effects on oppressed communities.
The Los Angeles Times published a timeline of the last months of Mixon’s
life, following his release from the California Correctional Center in
Mixon served five years in prison before being released in October of 2007 and
securing a job as a janitor. He made his parole visits but was remanded back to
prison for nine months. According to family, he was willing to go back, because
once released he would get a different parole officer, as he felt the one he
had was abusive and demeaning.
When he was released in November, he moved back home to live with family
members and started seeing his new parole officer, submitting to visits and
looking for a job.
A New York Times article reports that Mixon’s grandmother revealed his
problems with his parole officer—that the officer would make him wait for
hours, stand him up, belittle him and threaten to revoke his parole a second
Ultimately not able to find a job, Mixon felt forced to resort to other means.
According to a 2003 report by the California Research Bureau, the unemployment
rate of parolees recently released was 70-80 percent and many of the prisoners
in California were remanded back to prison because of the strict zero-tolerance
policy that governs parolees in the state.
Beyond that, though, beyond the politics regarding parolees and the prices they
must pay for drug counseling and other classes that people released on parole
are made to pay for as a condition of parole, stands institutionalized racism
and the national question.
It is well documented that the U.S. has the world’s largest prison
system. In fact, the total number of people in prison, jails, on parole or
probation is 7.3 million, with 2.3 million in prison. Fifty percent or more of
the prison population is Black. California, with 170,000 prisoners, has one of
the largest prison populations in the world.
And in every city across the U.S. police brutality is rampant. Oakland, one of
the poorest cities in California, with a rich history of struggle, has seen a
number of police killings of people of color by police. The most recent killing
was of Oscar Grant III, who was executed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit cop,
Johannes Mehserle, while he lay face down on a subway platform.
In 2008 Casper Banjo, a 71-year-old Black artist, was shot by a cop at a
shopping mall. The people of Oakland have suffered through intimidation,
martial law, occupation and generally being terrorized by the police;
therefore, Lovelle was justified in defending himself from occupying cops just
as resistance fighters in Iraq are justified in defending themselves against an
Also killed in 2008 were six others, including Jody Woodfox and 15-year-old
José Luis Buenrostro. The year before, Gary King Jr. was brutally beaten,
tased and shot in the back by Oakland Police Department cop Patrick
This was and is the atmosphere that led to the four cops being shot, and it
could happen at anytime, as long as the racist conditions lead to blinding
poverty, mass incarceration and oppression and repression for people of color
at the hands of the police.
Lovelle Mixon was not a cold-blooded monster acting out of rage that was
unwarranted, but another example of a young Black man with the weight of
centuries of oppression bearing down upon him who had few chances to secure
better opportunities for himself.
He is a victim and casualty of the racist U.S. capitalist system and the cops
are merely armed protectors of that system who wage a constant war against the
poor and oppressed every day.
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