A spate of terror carried out by the New York Police Department against black youth in recent weeks gives a raw picture of life in Barack Obama’s “post-racial” America. On February 2, 2012 cops gunned down Ramarley Graham, a black Bronx teenager. Graham had run when police tried to stop him, since the small quantity of marijuana he was carrying could have meant jail time. Cops from the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit chased after Graham, smashed into his home, beat his grandmother and fatally shot him in the chest—another stolen life in the racist “war on drugs.” He was the third person gunned down within a week by the NYPD.
Two weeks before, four cops savagely beat Jatiek Reed in broad daylight on a busy street in the Bronx. The gruesome scene, with this black youth lying helpless on the sidewalk as cops thrashed him with nightsticks and passersby screamed in protest, was filmed and posted on the Internet. Reed’s mother told the press, “His whole back is black and blue like they were beating on a slave.”
On February 6, 2012 some 500 people gathered in the Bronx to protest Ramarley Graham’s execution. At the protest, Graham’s older sister told the truth: “This is not just about Ramarley. This is about all young black men.” Just the day before Graham’s killing, cops in the Chicago suburb of Calumet City stormed into the home of Stephon Watts, an autistic black 15-year-old, and killed him with two bullets to the chest. The cops gave the usual lie that they shot in self-defense. Stephon’s mother, Danelene Powell-Watts, a unionized auto worker, rightly called her son’s death a “coldblooded murder.”
Ramarley Graham’s fate is the lethal result of the NYPD “stop and frisk” campaign, which last year alone victimized some 686,000 people, the overwhelming majority of them black or Latino. Working to defuse anger over Graham’s killing, a spokesman for black Democrat Al Sharpton’s National Action Network declared, “The police are not our enemy; they are here to protect us, but the system is insensitive to our community and it needs to be overhauled” (Amsterdam News, 16 February).
The fact is that the NYPD is an army of occupation in the ghettos and barrios and the strikebreaking enforcer of capitalist “law and order” against the entire working class. No amount of “overhaul” or “sensitivity training” will ever change that. The brutalization and killings of minority youth are not an aberration but part of the everyday workings of the system of capitalist repression. The cops are paid to protect the interests of the tiny class of exploiters—the 0.01 percent—that lords it over working people and minorities. The same police force that shoots down inner-city youth hauled off the leader of the TWU transit union Local 100 when it defied the state’s Taylor Law and went on strike in 2005.
The NYPD is a clear and present danger to black people, immigrants and the labor movement. ( Workers Vanguard )