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Media seek to justify racist police killings

Published Feb 2, 2007 10:47 PM

On Jan. 12 a Milwaukee police officer shot David Boone dead in a predominantly Black neighborhood in the city’s North side.

Eight days later, Adam Quinonez, a student at the Career Youth Development Inc. alternative School of Excellence, was also shot dead in a barrage of cop bullets. Quinonez would have graduated in June.

In a rare occurrence, details of Boone’s killing made the front page of the Jan. 13 statewide edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the biggest commercial newspaper in Wisconsin.

Usually police brutality and killings are buried in the Metro section, if reported at all. But Milwaukee received international exposure after the savage police beating of Frank Jude Jr. and the acquittal of the white cops who beat him. Milwaukee police killed five Black men in 2005 and the Journal Sentinel and reactionary politicians need to appear concerned about the Black community.

This doesn’t stop them from relentlessly demonizing and criminalizing the victims of police murder and brutality, mostly Black and [email protected] The pattern is institutionalized nationwide: Make the victim the aggressor, or killable, in order to justify wholesale racist occupation and police terror in oppressed communities, instead of spotlighting the social and economic semi-apartheid conditions there.

With Boone it only took the Journal Sentinel three sentences in its breaking article on this police killing to demonize the victim. It reported that various arrest warrants tied to sexual assault of children had been issued Jan. 5 for Boone.

The U.S. historical record in relation to Black men charged with sexual assault should give progressives and revolutionaries pause regarding police versions of this killing. The Journal Sentinel went on to report, “Online court records indicate Boone is a felon, but details were not available.”

Thus, even before any details were provided, the Journal Sentinel had attempted to portray Boone as expendable. The newspaper tried hard to link Boone’s alleged attempt to escape from the police to his criminal charges, without ever acknowledging that Boone may have simply been trying to escape police terror.

The official description of the killing was familiar: Boone charged at the officer, tried to take his gun and then ran off. The cop claims that, after giving chase, he cornered Boone in an alley and, afraid Boone might use “deadly force,” shot him.

The cops aren’t saying how many shots were fired or where Boone was hit. Boone had no weapon—except maybe his bicycle, or his Blackness in the minds of the cops. The newspaper quoted no community witnesses.

The cop who killed Boone is on paid administrative leave pending an internal police department “investigation.” A police order delayed public release of the medical examiner’s report.

Recently retired Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann has been accused by many in the oppressed communities of covering up hundreds and maybe thousands of cases of police brutality and murder during his tenure.

Two days after being killed, Boone was criminalized and demonized yet again in the Journal Sentinel. The paper published accusations of sexual assault—even though Boone had never been convicted of any of these charges.

All this is aimed at deflecting anger and possible rebellions in response to the many horrific crimes of the police. The Milwaukee ruling establishment has a long history of promoting fear and racist ideology aimed especially at white workers to divide from the oppressed nations, their true allies in the fight for economic justice.

Fighting police terrorism and supporting self-determination for oppressed nations within the United States must be a central component of all working-class struggles. This is particularly imperative in the anti-war movement, as some of the most vicious facets of the domestic war are waged through state repression against the oppressed—whether that violence comes in the form of bullets or the people’s empty bellies.