Friday, February 3, 2023

Justice For Tyre Nichols!

The brutal murder of 29-year-old African American Tyre Nichols by five police officers on January 7 in Memphis, Tennessee, brought memories of George Floyd's murder in 2020, sparking nationwide protests against police violence and racial discrimination.

In a statement, the African American Equality Commission of the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA) writes:

The Communist Party USA condemns the recent brutal police killings of Tyre Nichols, Keenan Anderson, Manuel Esteban Paez Teran (aka Tortuguita), and Herman Whitfield III. We demand justice for all victims of police crimes and terror, and an end to police killing Black people and the mentally ill.

We stand in full solidarity with the families of Black people murdered by the police as they continue to fight for justice. We call on all party and YCL clubs and districts to support the family’s demands, to organize actions in solidarity, and to fight for policies that will change the balance of power over the police: that means community control. We must be involved and lead in the people’s and working-class fightback against police terror!

On January 3, 2023, Los Angeles police officers brutally tased Keenan Anderson, a 31-year old Black teacher from Washington, DC. Anderson was chased and pinned down in the middle of the street by two LAPD officers, one with an elbow on his neck, then a knee dug into his back while he was handcuffed. The second stood over him with a Taser gun, shooting him directly in the back for over 90 seconds. Anderson was then taken to the hospital, where he died around four hours later. The LAPD has yet to identify any of the officers involved in the arrest. Of the six officers that were involved, five have since returned to work after a short time of being relieved of duties. Anderson was the third person of color killed by the LAPD since the beginning of 2023.

On January 7, 2023, Memphis police officers brutally beat Tyre Nichols, a 29-year old Black man, after a traffic stop. The assault lasted four minutes while Nichols did not resist, pleading with officers to let him go home to his mother’s house—some hundred yards away. The assaulting officers did not provide any medical assistance, despite Nichols requiring urgent attention to his fatal injuries. Tyre Nichols died in the hospital three days later on January 10th, after kidney failure and cardiac arrest resulting from the police encounter and beating.Five Black officers have since been fired by the Memphis Police Department, and have been charged and indicted for the murder of Nichols. A sixth white officer has recently been relieved of duty. The Memphis Police Department has also permanently deactivated its SCORPION (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods) unit, which was responsible for this deadly stop. The U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has opened a federal investigation into the case. We welcome these steps and call for the officers to be convicted of federal hate crimes on top of the current charges of second-degree murder.

On January 18, 2023, Atlanta SWAT police officers shot and killed Manuel Esteban Paez Teran (aka Tortuguita), a 26-year old queer Indigenous Venezuelan environmental activist. For months, activists with the Stop Cop City (Defend Atlanta Forest) movement have been peacefully occupying a region of the Atlanta Forest to halt the construction of a proposed $90 million police-training facility. The SWAT operation that left Tortuguita dead was to clear a protest camp, and officers claim that the protestors shot first. Protestors have since demanded an independent investigation and for a release of the body cam footage of the incident. Other activists involved in this movement have been arrested and charged with bogus “domestic terrorism” charges by law enforcement.

On April 25, 2022, Indianapolis resident Herman Whitfield III was experiencing a mental health crisis at his parent’s home when his mother called for an ambulance, but six Indianapolis Police Department officers showed up instead. Without any threat or provocation, IMPD officers tasered Herman III twice, double handcuffed him, kept him prone on his chest, and ignored his cries for help. Then, officers waited approximately three minutes for paramedics to arrive as Herman III laid on his chest, motionless on his parents’ living room floor. Herman III was murdered by the IMPD, and his parents were terrorized with a warrantless search of their home and threats.

The police killed 1,176 people in 2022, more than in any of the last ten years. The basic demands of police accountability and transparency have come out in light of these police crimes and terror that left these young people dead. Without true democratic political power in the hands of Black and working people, we will continue to see police murder without any accountability or justice for the victims and their families.

Community control of the police is vital, and can be implemented through civilian police accountability councils, where those impacted get to determine how they are policed, and get to determine accountability measures.

We call on all progressive people and organizations to take up the democratic demand for community control over the police, protecting and expanding democratic forms of struggle to end the ongoing, systemically-driven murders of Black people, Latinos, and others by the police.

Justice for all victims of police crimes!

Jail all killer cops!

Community control of police now!


Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL)

The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) condemned the murder of Tyre Nichols and called the people to protest in the streets. More specifically, PSL's statement reads:

Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was mercilessly beaten to death earlier this month during a traffic stop by five Memphis Police Department officers. In a few hours, the video of his murder will be released to the public. Righteous outrage is already boiling across the country, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation will be joining thousands in the streets tonight to demand justice. Only mass action can revive the movement against police terror, and to end that terror ultimately requires a revolution — a change in who holds power in this country.

Tyre Nichols was a beloved father of a 4-year-old son who grew up in Sacramento, California, and moved to Memphis in 2020. Tyre “was a beautiful soul and he touched everyone,” his mother remembered at a press conference, and had a passion for photography. That he was pulled over in what seemed to be a simple traffic stop and then brutally beaten for three minutes while completely defenseless is testament to the utter inhumanity of the police in this country.

This horrific murder is part of the day-in and day-out terror that Black America is subjected to at the hands of the cops. The oppression, inequality and exploitation of Black people is a defining aspect of U.S. capitalism — in fact, it owes its existence to it. From the foundation of slavery, this unjust order has always been enforced through unspeakable violence, repression and intimidation — particularly aimed at the Black community. This is not only because it disproportionately faces all the concentrated evils of capitalism, but because it has the most militant tradition of rebellion in the empire’s urban centers.

That the five officers who murdered Tyre are Black does not change this fundamental fact. The role of the Memphis Police Department as an institution is to contain and control the Black community with as much brutality as it sees fit. Anyone who becomes an officer, regardless of who they are, is signing up to be part of this.

That the cops and their victim in this case share the same skin color also speaks to police terror as a feature of capitalism itself. Wherever inequality is the sharpest, from South Africa to Jamaica to Brazil, police brutality is widespread. Around the world, it is common for institutions of repression to enlist people who are from the very communities subjected to the worst repression.

The five police officers had been in MPD’s “SCORPION Unit,” which was started in 2021 supposedly to “flood the target area” to “fight crime.” But in reality, this “special unit” — which has many parallels in departments across the country — is well known for its obsession with violence and the terror it inflicts on people in Memphis. When speaking to local outlet WREG-TV, Cornell McKinney said that he was targeted by MPD’s SCORPION Unit on Jan. 3 while at a gas station — in an encounter where police told him, “Put your hands up before I blow your head off,” while falsely claiming he had drugs in the car. The SCORPION Unit must be immediately disbanded as Nichols’ family has called for.

Drawing lessons from the struggle

In 2020, tens of millions of people took to the streets across the country and around the world against racist police killings in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. This was the largest protest movement in U.S. history. While the mass consciousness against police brutality is still there, the level of protest has declined significantly in the two and a half years since. That same spirit of resistance needs to be revived by demonstrating in huge numbers to demand justice.

But with each new wave of struggle, we also need to reflect on the lessons learned in past battles for justice. The fact is that more people are being killed by police than ever, hitting a record high of at least 1,176 last year. So why hasn’t the movement been as strong?

It is obvious that the capitalist state has studied 2020 closely from the standpoint of counter-insurgency, and is doing everything it can to manage the narrative around police violence in general and in the case of Tyre Nichols in particular, to prevent rebellion.

Since the 2020 uprising subsided, pro-police political forces have been on the offensive across the country. They exploited people’s concerns over rising violent crime, and falsely presented the cops as the only answer. All the Democratic Party politicians who were falling over themselves to adopt the rhetoric of anti-racism and make symbolic concessions in 2020, so as to tamp down the movement, have abandoned the facade. Joe Biden promised to “root out systemic racism,” but then last year released his “Safer America Plan,” which called for the hiring and training of 100,000 additional police officers. We should not forget that these same politicians largely endorsed and imposed the state curfews to stop the mobilizations during their most militant phase.

Meanwhile, the liberal arms of the capitalist state directed literally hundreds of millions of dollars to NGOs. The main function of this was to artificially build up a new layer of “leaders” without a revolutionary orientation, who typically represented little in the community, and ended up misleading and dispersing the movement into a thousand little pet projects rather than building it into a powerful national social force over the long term.

For several decades now, the dominant form of progressive organization has been the nonprofit, dependent on grants from large foundations and ruling-class donors, and operated primarily by salaried staff, rather than being dependent on and accountable to the masses of people. Regardless of the motivations of the individuals involved, this is not an organizational form capable of building a sustained people’s movement and succeeding in struggle against an enemy as formidable as the U.S. capitalist class. Political direction needs to come from grassroots leaders and organizations anchored in working-class communities.

The demands raised by the movement right now need to correspond with the overwhelming mass sentiment that cries out for justice. Killer cops should be locked up in prison, not only as a matter of justice for Tyre Nichols, but also to end the culture of impunity that emboldens police officers to carry out terrible abuses on a routine basis. Raising a vision for a new kind of society is an essential part of any uprising. But it should be threaded through the immediate demands that are capable of uniting millions in the streets, not counterposed to the yearnings for justice.

The police continue to kill with impunity all over the country. We need to turn the tide with massive mobilizations. Through unity and determination, the people can defeat the cops! 

Workers World

"Justice for Tyre Nichols! Abolish the police! Smash white supremacy!" points out a statement by Workers World:

Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man and FedEx driver in Memphis, Tennessee, was brutally beaten by Memphis police. Pulled over two minutes away from his house on Jan. 7, he was beaten so severely that he succumbed to his injuries three days later.

A week in advance of the body camera and street camera footage being released by Memphis police, the five officers responsible for the killing were fired, and their names and photos were released to the public. The day before the footage was released, all officers were charged with the second-degree murder of Tyre Nichols, a FedEx worker, as well as other charges like aggravated assault.

This response from the state was uncharacteristic compared to the standard response to a police murder. The five officers fired and charged are all Black, and they were not afforded the same legal impunity that white officers who murder Black people have been given. There are countless examples of police departments, so-called “police unions” and courts, bending over backwards to protect white cops for racist lynchings.

The fact that the five officers who killed Tyre Nichols are Black does not make this crime any less brutal or any less of an issue of racism. The Memphis Police Department, like every police department across the U.S., is an institution of white-supremacist violence and capitalist-class rule. Whether the perpetrators of this violence were Black or white officers, the result is that yet another Black person is slain, and white supremacy is maintained.

We must not see racism merely as a manifestation of personal prejudices and hate by white people toward Black people, but rather racism is a system of structural oppression — bigger than any set of individuals involved. We must understand that racism is inseparable from the capitalist socioeconomic system. Merely requiring sensitivity training for police or hiring more Black police officers will not end the violence, as is evident by this killing of Tyre Nichols.

Fighting racism must go hand in hand with fighting the capitalist system that perpetuates it. The racist violence of the capitalist system permeates our society from police violence in our local communities, to the for-profit mass-incarceration system, to the genocidal military-industrial complex. Workers World Party is in solidarity with all those in the streets fighting against white supremacy, police terror and state violence.

Justice for Tyre Nichols! Abolish the police! Smash white supremacy!