Photo: Michael Ramos (Top Left), Adrian Medearis (Top Center), Breonna Taylor (bottom Left), Ahmaud Arbery (Right)
By David Martinez
While always prevalent in US society, recent weeks have seen more reports of racist murders and attacks by police and vigilantes coming to light. Some of the cases date back two months, appearing to be buried under the onslaught of reporting on the coronavirus. The pandemic itself has provided police yet another excuse to primarily target Black people, Chicanos, and Latinos in their enforcement of social distancing and health orders.
In late February in Brunswick, Georgia, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was jogging in a neighborhood in the area he lives when 911 dispatchers started to receive calls of a “Black male running down the street.” At the same time, father and son, Gregory and Travis McMichael, began to pursue Arbery, who evaded them for a short while, until he was cut off. The McMichael’s assaulted Arbery, who defended himself, but was shot down by Travis, shooting Arbery three times.
Gregory is a former police officer who worked with the local district attorney, who buried the case for months and pursued no arrests of the McMichaels. The killing only came to light when video of the incident was leaked and mass outrage ensued.
In March in Louisville, Kentucky, police killed Breonna Taylor, a 26 year-old Black paramedic, when they broke into her home to serve a search warrant for another person. Her partner, without knowing it was police who had invaded his home, discharged his licensed firearm, to which police responded by firing more than 20 rounds.
On May 3 in North Carolina, a group of fifteen white men came to the door of Dameon Shepard, a Black teenager, looking for another Black teen and a girl who they claimed was with him. At the head of the group was a police officer, Jordan Kita, along with three armed men. Dameon’s mother, Monica, was at home and was able to intervene to deescalate and save her son from possible kidnapping or worse.
Despite being told that they didn’t have the right person, Kita continued to place his foot in the door and demanding to be let in their home. The girl they were searching for was found later that night. The Shepard’s are one of two Black families in the suburban neighborhood in Pender County.
The uniformed officer, Jordan Kita, a New Hanover County Sheriff Deputy, is charged with forcible trespass, breaking and entering and willful failure to discharge duties. Austin Wood, one of the members of the mob, was charged with going armed to terror of the public.
In Houston, police have killed two people over the past few weeks. First, they murdered Nicolas Chavez, as he was having a mental health crisis in April. On May 8, the police killed Adrian Medearis, a 48-year-old gospel singer and choir director during a traffic stop for speeding. Houston police chief Art Acevedo met with his family and in a self-serving fashion, persuaded them to not release the video, claiming, “Not everybody wants their loved one to be in cyberspace for the rest of eternity and for their last minute on earth to be public.” Acevedo is the former Austin police chief and is notorious for seeking the limelight, attempting to push a phony ‘good cop’ image.
This past week, local news in Austin, Texas reported that no firearm was found in the vehicle of Michael Ramos, a Black, Latino man murdered by police in April. The non-existent firearm was the primary justification for police’s claims that he was a threat.
Austin police responded to a call that claimed Ramos was in the parking lot of an apartment complex in East Riverside waving a gun and using drugs. A rookie with three months on the street shot a bean bag at Ramos, who fell into his car and attempted to flee for his life, driving away. Officer Christopher Taylor then opened fire on the vehicle, further endangering the community and Ramos’ girlfriend, who was also in the car. Taylor has also murdered civilians while on duty before.
Apart from outright murders, the excuse of the pandemic has seen disproportionate targeting of Black and Latino people, who are more likely to face police detainment and brutality for the state’s repressive orders. In New York, 80% of citations have been against Black and Latinos. Videos from New York and other cities have shown the police tackling people, including a mother in the subway station at the Barclay’s center in Brooklyn. Police claimed she wasn’t ‘wearing her mask properly’ and proceeded to separate her from her child, then pushing her to the ground and placing her in handcuffs.
The racist killings and attacks only show that in times of economic and health crisis, the police and reactionaries have not relented in their racist paranoia and persecution of oppressed peoples. The state and its racist foot soldiers among the police and white petty bourgeois are only inviting greater resistance from the people who will rise up against their anti-people crimes.