PHOTO: The Wendy’s in Atlanta where Rayshard Brooks was shot, on fire after protests
By Mike Talavera
The police murder of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, Georgia on June 12 shot a hole through any hope that US police would stop killing people in response to the George Floyd protests. The incineration of the Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks was murdered the following night and the crowd that cheered as it burned shows that the rage of the people against the racist police has not gone away either.
The video footage depicting officer Garrett Rolfe shooting Brooks in the back multiple times made headlines because of its bare-faced cruelty, but there have been many more cases of police killings that have evaded the spotlight since Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on May 25. Tallying these other deaths forces anyone paying attention to reckon with the reality that police departments function as racist institutions who are paid butchers of working class people.
Since the police murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, US police have killed an average 1,000 people each year according to a Washington Post investigation, an average nearly twice as high as the official numbers kept by the FBI (which relies on voluntary submissions from police departments). There is no sign that this blood debt is decreasing, considering that the 74 police killings in May of last year jumped to 110 in May of this year, the highest in any single month since the Post began tracking police killings. Out of any one group, Black men are most under threat from police violence.
As astounding as these findings are, the mainstream press serves the same ruling class that the police do, so the magnitude of police brutality in the US must be assumed to be even worse than presented by the Post and other monopoly media outlets. Local media often regurgitate police accounts of police killings without question and accept highly redacted reports or edited bodycam footage as all the evidence needed to come to a conclusion. Police use other methods as well, like blocking or postponing legal inquests into their crimes.
In spite of these efforts to erase police killings, the stories of those murdered by the police are still out there for those willing to look. These include people condemned to die by the police for traffic violations, for having mental health episodes, or for participating in the recent mass uprising. No matter what the reason, no police killing is justified when their mission is to oppress people and protect private property.
Dreasjon “Sean” Reed
This past Tuesday, the mother of Dreasjon “Sean” Reed filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Indianapolis Police for the murder of her son last month. According to police, Reed, who was Black, was pulled over for reckless driving before running from his vehicle when officer Dejoure Mercer gunned him down. The mother’s attorney said that Reed’s family “does not trust the police department and has requested but not received the coroner’s report on Reed’s autopsy,” according to CBS Chicago.
On June 9, protesters gathered at Elmhurst Middle School in Oakland, California demanding answers for the police killing of Erik Salgado and his unborn child. Salgado was pulled over for reckless driving with his pregnant girlfriend and was shot multiple times after California Highway Patrol officers said he rammed his vehicle into theirs. Salgado’s family claimed he was shot 40 times and that his unborn child also died during the incident. The Dodge Hellcat Salgado was driving had been reappropriated during the mass protest on June 3 when 73 other vehicles were taken seized by the people from the San Leandro Chrysler/Dodge dealership.
Last month, a New Jersey State trooper fatally shot Maurice Gordon after pulling him over for reckless driving. Sgt. Randall Wetzel fired his weapon six times and then sadistically put Gordon in handcuffs as he lay dying.
In Pettis County, Missouri last weekend, an unnamed deputy shot and killed 25-year-old Hannah Fitzer after she allegedly refused to identify herself and verbally threatened the officer. A similar incident happened on June 16 in Mountain View Missouri, when officer Israel Guidry shot and killed another woman driver. According to Guidry’s own account, the unnamed victim asked him, “You going to shoot me?” to which he responded “I will if I have to.” Police did not recover any footage from his body camera.
In Denver Colorado last month, William DeBose was shot after he and his wife were accosted by police after he was pulled over for speeding. Police claimed Debose had run to his car and pointed a gun at police, but after viewing bodycam footage Debose’s family said he was shot in the back.
Last month in Tallahassee, Florida, police shot and killed Tony McDade, who was suspected in a stabbing incident that had occurred the same night (on what basis, police have not said). According to one heavily redacted police report, multiple officers were called to the scene because the crowd that had gathered around where McDade was shot was becoming increasingly upset.
As Tribune has previously reported, police shot and killed Louisville BBQ chef David McAtee during the mass uprising in Kentucky’s largest city.
In Las Vegas during a George Floyd protest, police shot and killed Jorge Gomez after they attempted to break up the protest with tear gas. Gomez was carrying a rifle, as were other protesters at the time. One mother of a son who had been killed by police said that Gomez had comforted her moments before police killed him.
And many more…
This brief list only covers some of the most recent police killings and does not include those from earlier this year like the Austin Police killing of Mike Ramos in April or those from the end of last year like the Los Angeles police killing of Alex Flores.
The horror of the state’s repression against Black people and the working class deepens if you also consider the murders that happen in jails and prisons, like the Brooklyn prison officer murder of Jamel Floyd, who died after being pepper-sprayed when being removed from his cell this month, or the death of Enrique Quiroz, who died under suspicious circumstances in Austin police custody.
Likewise, the scope of those terrorized by police widens if you take into account those who have suffered lifelong injuries from the police, like 16-year-old Jahmel Leach whose face may be permanently disfigured after police cracked down on protesters who were burning stores in New York City on June 1, or Justin Howell, who suffered permanent brain damage after he was shot by police at an Austin protest with a ‘less lethal’ round.
It is true that the recent protests have not decreased the amount of police killings, but that does not mean that the working class is not capable of defending itself against this brutality. All it means is that more organization is necessary: not organizations like nonprofits that cash checks from ruling class donors or NGOs that collaborate with police departments – mass organizations that are run by the people in the service of the working class.
These mass organizations against police brutality must be prepared for the long haul and unite based on their common interests. They cannot see themselves as isolated but as part of the mass movement sparked by George Floyd’s murder that reached every corner of the country. Black people, Chicanos, immigrants, and all of the working class must come together to bring an end to police killings.