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When will change come?

Cops in three cities gun down Black men

Published Jan 16, 2009 7:13 PM

In the early morning of the first day of the new year, as celebrations around the country were waning and millions were clinging to a hope of change coming soon with the first African-American president, the police of Bay Area Rapid Transit demonstrated the brutality of the capitalist state in Oakland, Calif.

In fact, within a 24-hour period, from New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day, three Black men in three different cities were shot by cops. Two were killed. Although some things on the surface may change, the racist nature of the bourgeois state—the apparatus that protects the capitalist system—remains the same.

New Orleans cops kill young father

In New Orleans at around midnight, as a fireworks display illuminated the sky, Adolph Grimes, who had evacuated during Hurricane Katrina and settled in Houston, arrived back in his home town to visit his family.

According to his father, Adolph Grimes Jr., “He made it at 12 o’clock exact, with a second to spare.” (nola.com, Jan. 3)

The time the family would get to spend with Adolph Grimes III would be short. Three hours later he was brutally gunned down by nine plainclothes cops, supposedly part of a drug task force.

Grimes was in his car waiting for a cousin when he was surrounded by cops. The end result was that Grimes, 22, married and the father of a 17-month-old son, was gunned down in a hail of 48 bullets. He was shot 14 times, 12 times in the back.

Police allege that Grimes shot first, but even cop superintendent Warren Riley admits that Grimes probably did not know the men in plainclothes were cops.

Grimes had a license to carry a handgun. Whether he had one or not, however, he had the right to defend himself from a perceived robbery or worse.

The onus falls on the police who provocatively approached the vehicle, most likely because a young Black man was in it.

Texas cops shoot ball player

On the same night, in the city of Bellaire outside Houston, which is at least 95 percent white, white cop Jeff Cotto shot Robbie Tolan, son of Bobby Tolan, who played professional baseball for 15 years with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The young Tolan, who played baseball for the minor league Washington Nationals, and his cousin Anthony Cooper were

followed by a police car on their way home from a fast food restaurant around 2 a.m.

Tolan and Cooper had exited Tolan’s SUV and were walking toward the house when they were told to get on the ground. According to Cooper, “He was saying ‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’ We were saying ‘Why? Why?’ We didn’t know he was a police officer.” (cbs11tv.com, Jan. 7)

Tolan’s parents came outside, and his mother was pushed against a wall, which reportedly elicited a response from Tolan. He was then shot, and still has a bullet lodged in his liver.

The cops said there were reports that vehicles were stolen in the area. Mike Morris, an uncle, said, “This is a classic case of racial profiling, I think.”

Family attorney Geoffrey Berg said of the city’s response, “I think the city would have done well had it said it was sorry that it happened—if the city had expressed some regret that a member of its police force shot a member of a family—the only African-American family on the block.”

Oscar Grant and family.

Killing in Oakland caught on video

Anger in response to the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant on the platform of a train station in Oakland has reverberated across the country. The brutal tragedy was captured on a cell-phone camera by a passenger inside a waiting BART train. The video was aired on KTVU on Jan. 6.

The person with the camera can be heard in the background saying, “Baby, I’m fine, I’m just recording.” Someone responds, “You gotta take pictures of this shit.”

In the video several men are seen sitting against a wall and one is on the floor in handcuffs. Three cops are standing. The passengers on the train are very vocal in response to the over-aggressive attitude of the cops.

Wanda Johnson,
mother of
Oscar Grant.

A person later identified as Oscar Grant, who is handcuffed and on his knees, moves and is pushed down onto his stomach. One cop has a knee in his back, another a knee on his neck.

The cop kneeling on Grant’s back stands up, pulls his gun from its holster and fires one shot into Grant’s back. Reportedly, the bullet entered Grant’s body twice, ricocheting off the floor after passing through him and entering him again. Grant died later in the hospital.

The shooting of Grant prompted an immediate vocal response at the station. People are heard banging on the train doors as they close.

After the cell-phone coverage was aired on Jan. 6, the community responded with rallies and a rebellion. When cops in riot gear approached a rally on Jan. 7, the day of Grant’s funeral, it turned into a full-fledged rebellion. That same day BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot Grant, resigned.

BART officials had refused to release the cop’s name, saying they had yet to interview Mehserle, whose state-appointed attorney had not gotten the cop to sit down for an interview.

While BART stalled, the people responded.

The shooting is so obviously a case of brutality and deserves the cop’s arrest on charges of murdering Grant that even Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums asked for an investigation, like that of any other homicide, and appeared at the rally.

The youth of Oakland, especially youth of color, have had enough. In videos of the rally, the young people grow increasingly agitated at the cop presence and attack a police car, ramming it with a dumpster. (cbs2.com, Jan. 7)

More than 100 people were arrested at the protest. It has to be demanded that they be given full amnesty. The people have a right to their indignation.

The righteous anger persists, as it should. On the same day as the rebellion, the public responded angrily at a BART public hearing. Another protest followed the next day and one is planned for Jan. 12.

A protester in the crowd on Jan. 7 held a sign referring to the situation in Gaza. Though the violence propagated here against communities of color on a daily basis by the police may not be as intense as the massacres and atrocities happening in Gaza, its aim and wellspring are the same.

The violence emanates from a perspective of those in control—to protect the status quo and to beat the oppressed and exploited into submission with violence.

The oppressed have a right to respond however they see fit. That response will grow more vociferous as the world, especially the imperialist nations, plunge deeper into economic crisis, and this crisis produces more crises and calamities natural to a system based on exploitation.

The oppressed and workers will advance politically. The demand for justice will ring in unison from Oakland to New Orleans to the Gaza Strip to Iraq to Greece: Stop state terror! Down with imperialist war!