The Police Killing of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams by 137 Bullets
That's Why We Call Them Pigs!

December 16, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a Revolution paper seller:

In the night of November 29, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, a Black man and woman, were driving in downtown Cleveland when the police began chasing them, joined by the highway patrol, sheriffs and two other communities' cops. After a 25-minute chase, the two ended up trapped in a cul-de-sac in East Cleveland, a poor, mainly Black community. As the car was stopped, 13 Cleveland pigs shot 137 bullets into the car, 23 bullets hitting Russell and 24 bullets hitting Williams.

As the news broke, people were shocked, outraged and shaken. A Black woman told me, "I never saw so many police cars in my life, not even on TV. What happened is a modern-day lynching. Every time I think things like this has sort of simmered down, something worse happens and so we have to get out and protest some more." As we were talking, I read her BAsics 1:24: "The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness." She said, "Yes, what has happened here is madness."

The police claim they heard a gunshot coming from the car Timothy Russell was driving, but no gun or shells have been found in the car or along the route of the chase. His brother said the car had a bad muffler and frequently backfired. And why would the police force a 25-minute high speed chase? In fact, the chase was called off by a police supervisor, but the pigs continued and ended it with the execution.

Hardly a day after this lynching, the media came out with the "criminal" records of Russell and Williams—to send the message, from the point of view of those in power, that they are among society's "throwaways" and deserved what happened to them. The head of the police union said Russell and Williams were the "bad guys" for driving away from the cops, while defending the cops for doing a "good job" that night. Cleveland Mayor Jackson said that the city needed to wait for the investigation to be over to comment. But clearly, by any human standard, this was a wanton act of terror against two Black people. As one family member said, "We don't want to hear 'we are going to investigate'; we want the cops locked up now, not the way they are treated now, working at a desk job and working out in the gym to relieve stress. What about us and how heartbroken we are about our loved one who was murdered? In fact, lock them up or they might do it again."

A rally and march was held on Monday, December 3, near the murder site. A Revolution reader said, "Look at the list of people killed by police, from Ramarley Graham to Sean Bell to Oscar Grant, to Milton Hall and thousands of others. No, these are not isolated incidents or the police doing their job. We need to rely on ourselves, not on the system. We are in dire need of revolution, anything else would be falling into their [the system's] hands and SILENCE." Then over 60 people counted 1, 2, 3…135, 136, 137 as we marched up the hill to where the killing took place. As the counting went on and the numbers increased, our eyes got wet, as we felt some of the horror and pain that Malissa and Timothy must have felt as the bullets kept coming at them.

As we stood at the site of the lynching, several people spoke, including family members and people from a number of groups. I read out BAsics 2:16, where BA talks about Tyisha Miller, a 19-year-old Black woman who was killed in 1998 by Riverside, California police while passed out in a car, and ends by saying, "If you can't handle this situation differently than this, then get the fuck out of the way. Not only out of the way of this situation, but get off the earth. Get out of the way of the masses of people. Because, you know, we could have handled this situation any number of ways that would have resulted in a much better outcome. And frankly, if we had state power and we were faced with a similar situation, we would sooner have one of our own people's police killed than go wantonly murder one of the masses. That's what you're supposed to do if you're actually trying to be a servant of the people. You go there and you put your own life on the line, rather than just wantonly murder one of the people. Fuck all this 'serve and protect' bullshit! If they were there to serve and protect, they would have found any way but the way they did it to handle this scene. They could have and would have found a solution that was much better than this. This is the way the proletariat, when it's been in power has handled—and would again handle—this kind of thing, valuing the lives of the masses of people. As opposed to the bourgeoisie in power, where the role of their police is to terrorize the masses, including wantonly murdering them, murdering them without provocation, without necessity, because exactly the more arbitrary the terror is, the more broadly it affects the masses. And that's one of the reasons why they like to engage in, and have as one of their main functions to engage in, wanton and arbitrary terror against the masses of people."

As we left the site, we again counted the 137 shots. And as darkness fell, we held up our signs for passing cars to see, some with "137 shots is why we call them PIGS," and we continued to chant.

There was a meeting with the mayor and police chief where people disrupted the bullshit from the officials about how they are going to get to the bottom of this, with "Murder," "Murder," "Murder" and then counted 1 through 137. Many people are saying the 13 pigs should be convicted of murder and be held in jail NOW, just as the people who do a lot less than murder would be.

In a serious situation like this one, lots of questions and debate come up. People have asked about how with all the protest through the years, why do the cop killings keep coming? People have trouble making sense of this. Some say we have accomplished so much with a Black president, a Black mayor, reforms in the police department through a federal investigation (one reform being to call off high speed chases because of bystanders being killed in them)—but the killings go on. Another issue that has sharpened up is the role of religion and prayer. At the funeral of Timothy Russell the ministers never mentioned the police murder, only that he "is deceased," that he is "in the hands of God," and on and on. Afterwards a few people said how the ministers used religion to hold down people's anger at what happened. Another issue that has come up is the view that we need new policies and new officials, while at the same time there is a growing sense there is something deeply wrong with this society and its political structure that the police would do such a thing, a growing sense that the police are not there to serve and protect the people. There is a lot of pondering and discussion in this situation, a jolt that makes people look for bigger answers that get to more fundamental contradictions deep in the workings of this capitalist/imperialist system.

Malissa Williams's cousin told me, "We want to fight!!!" There is a determination to fight this through and not let up until these 13 pigs are locked up for murder. There is a growing feeling among people that Timothy and Malissa did nothing to deserve this lynching. What could they have done to deserve this? Just being Black in Amerikkka will "deserve" this, from Africans thrown overboard from the slave ships, to 400 years plus of enslavement, to the thousands of lynchings, to the mass incarceration today, to the pigs that kill thousands every year, and on and on. And our answer to that is: Stop the Pigs From Killing Black People! FIGHT THE POWER, AND TRANSFORM THE PEOPLE, FOR REVOLUTION!

Photos: Special to Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.