Documents in: Bahasa Indonesia Deutsch Español Français Italiano Japanese Polski Português Russian Chinese Tagalog
International Communist League
Home Spartacist, theoretical and documentary repository of the ICL, incorporating Women & Revolution Workers Vanguard, biweekly organ of the Spartacist League/U.S. Periodicals and directory of the sections of the ICL ICL Declaration of Principles Other literature of the ICL ICL events

30 November 2006

We Will Not Forget Sean Bell

50 Rounds: NYPD Killers

For Labor Protest Against Racist Cop Terror!

Sean Bell, a 23-year-old black man, was gunned down in a storm of 50 bullets by plainclothes vice squad cops on his wedding day as he left his bachelor party in the early morning hours of November 25. Bell’s fiancée Nicole Paultre, who is attending his funeral instead of their wedding, told the truth: “They barricaded him in and they executed him.” Sean Bell’s companions—Joseph Guzman, shot at least 11 times, and Trent Benefield, shot three times—were seriously wounded and then handcuffed to their hospital beds.

After the killing came the mudslide of lies, the first being that the men had a gun. While the killer cops were put on paid vacation, the police department unleashed every gun-sniffing dog and investigator with a metal detector to find something to justify this heinous crime. But there was nothing but the innocent victims’ blood to be found. Now a theory of “contagious shooting” has been concocted by the New York Times and other capitalist mouthpieces to try to explain away what happened—as if methodically loading two magazines in a 9-millimeter pistol and firing away at unarmed young black and Latino men is like catching the sniffles from your sneezing partner.

As shock in the community swelled to rage, the sellout black capitalist politicians moved fast to try to quash the anger of the people they claim to represent. Mayor Bloomberg rounded up the usual suspects to cool things down. Democrats like Congressman Charles Rangel, onetime FBI fink Al Sharpton and City Councilman Charles Barron, who uses his Black Panther past as a militant veneer for his service to the city rulers, flanked the mayor as he appealed for “dialogue” and conceded that Sean Bell’s killing appeared to be a case of “excessive force.”

City Councilman Thomas White Jr. got his comeuppance from several hundred protesters massed outside the Queens hospital where Guzman and Benefield lay wounded following the shooting. When the councilman preached, “We are not going to be angry,” the crowd roared back, “Oh, yes we are!” Now the NAACP is calling for a federal investigation—so the same Justice Department that justifies the torture of “terror suspects” is supposed to defend the victims of cop terror!

What’s called for is mass protest, headed by New York City’s integrated labor movement. The kind of independent working-class action that’s necessary was seen in New York City last year when the Transport Workers Union defied the no-strike Taylor Law and crippled the finance capital of the world for three days. The same Mayor Bloomberg who now expresses concern over Bell’s killing denounced the heavily black and immigrant transit workers as “thugs” for using their strike weapon. In defending themselves against the bosses and the government, the transit workers demonstrated the social power that must be mobilized in defense of the oppressed ghetto and barrio masses. A one-day strike or mass labor-led protest against racist cop terror would pack more wallop than a thousand photo-ops for Al Sharpton and Charles Barron. But this class-struggle strategy requires a political fight against the labor bureaucracy, which embraces the Democratic Party and the capitalist courts and cops.

Defining “acceptable force” will no doubt be a focus of the City Council and the police civilian review board. What’s acceptable? The 41 bullets pumped into the unarmed 22-year-old African immigrant Amadou Diallo in the vestibule of his home in 1999? Or the 20-odd bullets pumped into the backs of 18-year-old Antonio Rosario and 22-year-old Hilton Vega in 1995 in the Bronx as they lay on the ground as ordered by the police before their killing? Or will they draw the line at a more economical blast of bullets, such as police used to kill Timothy Stansbury, an unarmed 19-year-old, on the roof of his Brooklyn housing project in 2004, or Mingo Kenneth Mason, who was shot and killed outside a Harlem project with one bullet this September? The police arsenal of terror is not limited to semi-automatics: who can forget Haitian immigrant Abner Louima, brutally sodomized with a broom handle and beaten within an inch of his life in 1997 after being hauled into a police station for “questioning”?

It’s been 15 years since the videotaped vicious beating of Rodney King showed the world what happens all the time to black people in racist America. Young black men have always been targets of racist violence in this capitalist system. But not even an aged black woman sitting in her own home is safe from the cops. In Atlanta, 88-year-old Kathryn Johnston managed to fire several shots in self-defense before cops with a “no knock” warrant broke down her door supposedly looking for drugs and killed her in a hail of bullets on November 21. One week later, protesters stormed police barricades in front of Kathryn Johnston’s house. A church meeting was flanked with signs mocking the city’s paid leave for the killer cops. One read: “Kill a Black Citizen and Get Paid.” We say: Down with the racist “war on drugs”! No to gun control!

What happened to Sean Bell and Kathryn Johnston ought to dispel any illusions that having more black cops will change a damn thing. The latest victims were gunned down by a rainbow coalition of police: black, white and Latino, led by a white police chief in New York and a black police chief in Atlanta. As the New York Spartacist League wrote in a leaflet issued immediately after the killing of Amadou Diallo (reprinted in Workers Vanguard No. 707, 19 February 1999):

“Such brutal, sadistic cop terror is not an ‘aberration.’ The cops, courts and prison system are at the core of the capitalist state, the repressive apparatus which protects the rule, the property and the profits of the tiny minority which owns the wealth of this country. While the capitalist class drives to increase profits, squeezing the working class and starving the ghettos, the gap between rich and poor grows ever wider. To enforce its rule, the capitalists must strengthen their apparatus of murderous repression.”

It is crucial to understand that systematic racial oppression and segregation is a pillar of capitalist rule, and so it continues under Democratic as well as Republican administrations. Today the U.S. ruling class doesn’t need black youth even as a “last hired, first fired” reserve army of labor. That means the government has no need to educate them either. So astounding numbers are locked up in the vastly expanding prison system, and others are poached by military recruiters to get blown away in U.S. imperialism’s murderous occupation of Iraq. The “war on terror” is camouflage for the imperialist rulers to ride roughshod from Afghanistan to Iraq and for their war at home against immigrants, black people and the rights of the population as a whole. Bishop Lester Williams, who had been scheduled to perform Bell’s wedding, bluntly said in referring to the cops’ treatment of black Queens: “It’s little Iraq.”

Nationwide anger over the wave of cop killings should be tied to the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was railroaded to death row on false charges of killing a Philadelphia policeman in 1981. A former Black Panther and later a MOVE supporter and award-winning journalist, Mumia exposed the brutal workings of the racist cops and their “justice” system. For this he was victimized in a racist, political frame-up. The fight for freedom for Mumia is a fight against the capitalist state’s ultimate instrument of racist terror: “legal lynching” by the death penalty. In this struggle, no confidence must be placed in the “fairness” of the racist capitalist courts, and all confidence placed in the power of mass, labor-centered protest.

The hard truth is that the only way to eliminate police brutality is to do away with the system of racist American capitalism, for which the “gang in blue uniforms” is the front line of defense. To fight for this kind of fundamental social change requires the understanding that the working class, which creates the wealth of this society, must lead the way forward to equality and justice for all, through socialist revolution. When the profit system is smashed and replaced with a planned economy, utilizing the wealth of this country for human need instead of capitalist greed, then we’ll be on the road to completing the unfulfilled promise of the Civil War for black freedom. The Spartacist League, together with the Labor Black Leagues, is dedicated to the fight to build the revolutionary workers party that can lead this struggle. Sean Bell, Kathryn Johnston: We will not forget!

New York Spartacist League