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Commentary :: Human Rights : Labor : Media : Organizing : Politics : Race : Social Welfare : War and Militarism
Outrage! Another racist murder by the NYPD: AVENGE SEAN BELL!
30 Nov 2006
The cause of justice for the victims of racist police brutality must
become the cause of all organized labor. In the past year we have seen
three brilliant examples of how to fight racism: last winter's New York
City transit strike, the May First general strike against anti-immigrant
laws, and the bold walkout last month by the latin@ and black workers at
the Smithfield hog processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina.
From the December 2006 edition of Working Class Emancipation
401-837-3685 laboraction (at)

Outrage! Another racist murder by the NYPD

By Fred Bergen

In the early morning hours of Saturday, November 25, New York police
officers fired fifty shots, killing twenty-three year old Sean Bell and
wounding Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman as they were leaving a
nightclub in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens. The three men were
unarmed. Sean Bell was to be married to his fiancée, Nicole Paultre,
that afternoon. Benefield and Guzman were arrested as they lay in
critical condition in the hospital, and were shackled to their beds.
Bell and Benefield are black, and Guzman is latino. The cops claim that
the men drove their car into an undercover detective, who had ordered
the vehicle to stop and had shown his badge, but one witness, Trini
Wright, told the New York Daily News that an unmarked police minivan
"smashed into [the victims'] car ... and they [the cops] jumped out
shooting. No 'stop.' no 'freeze.' No nothing." (New York Daily News,
November 27 2006, pg. 5).

The official response

On the night of November 25, billionaire New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg issued a statement from his Bermuda vacation home, siding with
the police. "We know that the NYPD officers on the scene had reason to
believe an altercation involving a firearm was about to happen and were
trying to stop it." But this was no altercation: the shots were only
coming from one side. As Bishop Lester Williams of the Community Church
of Christ, who was to marry Mr. Bell and Ms. Paultre, said, "That's an
execution." It couldn't be anything else when a twelve-year veteran of
the police force apparently fired his pistol thirty-one times at the
unarmed victims, which means that he emptied his magazine, stopped to
reload, and continued firing multiple times again.

By the time he had returned to New York and begun damage control
operations, Bloomberg had changed his tune somewhat. At a joint press
conference with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and black Democrat Al
Sharpton, Bloomberg admitted that the police had used "excessive force,"
while lauding Kelly as the "best police commissioner this city ever
had." While the blood was still fresh, Bloomberg opined that
"community-police and interracial relations are infinitely better than
they have been." In a most brazen and out-of-this-world attempt at
spinning a brutal act of murder, the capitalist press agrees across the
board, praising the tact and sensitivity of the mayor even before the
latest victim of his racist police had been buried. The New York Daily
News editorialized on November 28 that "The mayor's frankness ... had
the salutary effect of channeling outrage over the death of 23-year-old
Sean Bell toward constructive purposes," and decried as "wholly
unfounded" the "small number of black voices [who] have declared Bell's
killing ... to be evidence of systemic, institutionalized, racially
motivated brutality." (pg. 34) This is especially rich in hypocrisy
coming from the tabloid whose editors cried out from their front page
for the lynch-mob murder of black Transit Workers Union local 100
President Roger Toussaint on December 21 of 2005.

What other conclusion could we possibly draw than that which the Daily
News maligns as "wholly unfounded?" It doesn't matter that not all of
the police officers involved in the shooting were white, and it doesn't
make the slightest difference that Bloomberg was clever enough to
surround himself with black Democratic officials after the killing: the
job of the New York police, like that of all cops in the US, is to
enforce the regime of racist inequality that has been the foundation of
American capitalism ever since the first European colonists reached
these shores. In the city that forty-five of the four hundred richest
billionaires in the US call their home, nearly half of black men suffer
unemployment. The rich, white elite can throw bachelor parties at
exclusive clubs far away from trigger-happy undercover narcotics cops.
They don't have to worry about being gunned down with forty-one rounds
by the cops, as Haitian immigrant Amadou Diallo was in February 4, 1999,
if they reach for their wallets. White millionaires don't have to fear
being executed for the crime of stepping too suddenly out of a doorway,
as Timothy Stansbury, a nineteen-year-old black worker and student from
Brooklyn was, when he stepped onto the roof of his apartment on January
23, 2004 ("Best police commissioner the city ever had" Kelly presiding
in office.)

Investigations and institutional changes will solve nothing

At a rally outside the hospital where Benefield and Guzman were being
treated, hundreds of angry protesters shouted down more moderate
Democratic officials who called for calm and patience. Al Sharpton and
Democratic city councilor and former Black Panther Charles Barron have
occupied a more left-leaning position, calling for an independent
investigation and the possible resignation or ouster of Bloomberg and
Kelly. "We need a policy change," said Barron in a public warning to
Bloomberg, "And if you don't want to change the policies and protect us,
we need a regime change." Sharpton and others have demanded an
investigation and promised street protests. Jesse Jackson demanded that
the FBI, which is busy framing up seven innocent black men in Miami on
bogus terrorism charges, investigate the New York City police.
But none of these demands, even if they are met by the racist city
authorities, will do anything to stop the reign of terror that the NYPD
and other police forces maintain over the racially oppressed workers and
youth. No changing of the guard in the police headquarters or the
Mayor's office will bring the slightest measure of justice to the
victims and the entire communities that are terrorized by police
violence. Since the 1960's it has been common for black Democrats to
oversee the regime of poverty and oppression in the ghettos of the big
cities. This has been a convenient accommodation by the white
billionaire city fathers that has done nothing to end the gross
inequality of which they are the exclusive beneficiaries, nor end the
racist cop terror that maintains their class rule. Democrat David
Dinkins, the first black mayor of New York City, rushed to the
Republican Bloomberg's side, joining the chorus lauding Bloomberg's
supposed sensitivity. Self-proclaimed socialists who claim to be
"fighting racism" by supporting black Democrats and promoting their
"leadership" are just doing their part to prolong the life of this
monstrous system.

Smash racism with labor-black united action!

The cause of justice for the victims of racist police brutality must
become the cause of all organized labor. In the past year we have seen
three brilliant examples of how to fight racism: last winter's New York
City transit strike, the May First general strike against anti-immigrant
laws, and the bold walkout last month by the latin@ and black workers at
the Smithfield hog processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina.
Although in all three cases, the treachery of the pro-capitalist union
bureaucrats prevented the workers from winning a lasting victory, the
heroic mass action of the workers struck solid blows against the racist
discrimination that they were protesting. The fight for black liberation
in the US and all it entails, including a complete and unconditional end
to the occupation of the black communities by the police, can not
succeed unless it is linked to a struggle for working class
emancipation, because the black capitalist politicians have shown
themselves once again as nothing but pathetic props for the regime of
racist oppression. Likewise, there is no way that any labor struggle,
even the most partial, can hope to succeed unless the entire labor
movement makes the fight against racism its first priority, because
racism is the ideology and the social system created to justify and
sustain the heightened, super-profitable exploitation of black people,
first as slaves and now as wage workers.

We call for the immediate organization of rank and file union meetings
in New York and other cities to plan massive, united labor actions to
demand the resignation of Bloomberg and Kelly, and the immediate
disbanding of the NYPD, since it has had far too many chances already to
show its true face as a racist death squad at the service of the
billionaire city fathers.
See also:

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