Righteous Resistance to the Police Murder of Kimani "Kiki" Gray...
Repression from the System

March 31, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a correspondent

On March 9, two NYPD undercover cops cold-bloodedly murdered 16-year-old Kimani "Kiki" Gray on a residential street in Brooklyn's East Flatbush neighborhood. Kimani, who had grown up in the area and then moved away, was hanging out with old friends after attending a Sweet Sixteen party when police rolled up on him. In no time at all, Kimani was bleeding on the sidewalk. According to an eyewitness, as his life poured from him, Kimani cried out in terrible pain. A cop standing over him answered by saying "Stay down, or we'll shoot you again."

Protest against the police murder of Kimani Gray, March 24, 2013

March 24, NYC. Over 200 people massed on Sunday afternoon in East Flatbush, Brooklyn to protest the murder of 16-year-old Kimani Gray by NYPD undercover cops. The demonstration, which had been widely announced on radio and TV all day, was called by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, and people came from all over New York City, including the Revolution Club who pulled the rally together with a spirited mic check. The NYPD were out in force throughout the whole area like an occupying army. The march had been denied a permit, just as earlier in the week Kimani’s parents were denied a march permit. As Carl Dix told the crowd, “What they’re saying to us is ‘we can kill your kids but you can’t protest.’ We have to say, fuck no. We will fight back, we will resist!” As the march went through many blocks of East Flatbush, lots of people came out of their homes to stand on their steps and cheer the protesters; some walked right through the cops to join in, a few youth taunting the cops, “Ya gonna shoot me now?”  The march ended at the 67th Precinct, which was surrounded like a fortress.  Local TV, radio and newspapers were out all afternoon covering the protest.
Photo: Special to Revolution

Read how the New York Times reported the police's own story: they saw Kimani with his friends and that he "adjusted his waistband ... in a suspicious manner," leading them to draw guns and approach him. Think about this! According to the police, a Black youth adjusting his pants is reason enough to initiate a deadly confrontation, in the same way that Trayvon Martin walking at night in a hoodie was enough reason for vigilante George Zimmerman to stalk and kill him.

The Times reported the police version: Kimani "separated himself from the group" and pointed a gun at them, and their immediate response was to open fire, shooting at Kimani 11 times. The autopsy revealed that Kimani, a small young man who weighed perhaps 100 pounds, was hit seven times with hollow point bullets designed to do maximum damage. Three of the shots entered from the back!

Kimani's mother, Carol Gray, spoke about what happened: "Even after the first shot, why the second bullet? Why the third bullet? Why the fourth bullet? Why?" And she declared that her son had been slaughtered.

The smoke had hardly cleared before all the authorities rushed to declare, as they always do when the police murder the masses, that this was "justifiable homicide." NYPD Chief Ray Kelly declared: "There's nothing to indicate that this shooting, at this time, is outside the guidelines," and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated: "So far, all indications are that the young man had a gun." Bloomberg said this even though an eyewitness nearby had already courageously come forward to say that the police story was a lie, that Kimani had no gun, that the police gave him no time to surrender, that he was backing away when he was killed. "All indications" in the eyes of this system means that what the police say is the truth, and nothing else matters.

The police who murdered Kimani not only have not been arrested, they are still on "administrative duty" with pay, and there is every indication that the authorities plan to whitewash this murder completely.

Everything I just described, and more that I will get into below, reveals and concentrates the reality that this system, its mouthpiece politicians, and its murderous enforcers—the police—have complete contempt for the lives of the masses, and especially the lives of Black and Latino youth, who they hate and fear. And it points to the fact that nothing less than broad, fierce, and determined struggle can win any measure of justice for Kimani, and only revolution that gets rid of this whole system can put an end to the brutalization and murder of our youth at the hands of the police.

The Machinery of Death and the Machinery of Lies

No sooner was the system's machinery of death through with Kimani than its machinery of lies started cranking up, spewing poison to justify murder. For the most part the mass media repeated the police version of events as if it were proven, rather than what it most likely is—the self-serving cover story of notorious liars with blood on their hands. Although the media reported that there are "conflicting accounts" from eyewitnesses, they generally give these accounts no weight at all.

The system's main way to "justify" what the police did is basically to demonize Kimani, just like they constantly demonize the youth in general. Kimani was "no angel" the police say—as if that is the criterion for whether or not the police can murder someone. They released a so-called rap sheet, and video of him supposedly involved in a petty gang beef, and claimed he was a violent thug, implying that they had done the world a favor by killing him. The reactionary New York Post didn't just "imply"—in a column titled "Blame Kimani Gray," Bob McManus called Kimani "A 16-year-old aspiring sociopath," and refers to his friends who protested his murder as "punks." According to them, confronted by this dangerous criminal, the police had no choice but to gun him down.

There's no reason to believe the official lies about Kimani and what happened to him. Whatever exactly happened in the few moments it took for the police to steal Kimani's life, the deeper reality is that this system has put many of the youth in an impossible situation where often crime and gangs seem not just the only way to make money, but also the only way to get some respect, have some dignity and some protection.

"Mark," (not his real name), a local business owner, told Revolution: "These kids really have nowhere to go—these corners are their playground, and the police never let them be." He described seeing young kids handcuffed and slammed face down on the sidewalk by cops. And he pointed out that there are no parks, no jobs, no community centers. "What are these kids supposed to do? Where are they supposed to be?"

Mark was speaking to something very deep—these youth, and millions of youth just like them around the U.S.—are growing up in conditions that scream at them that they are nobody, that they have no value, that they deserve nothing... and that their very lives can be stolen from them in a split second, because they "act suspicious," "adjust their waistband," run, or fail to run. Youth unemployment in the inner city is 40 percent.

It is not an accident that one in nine young Black men are in prison, or that more Black men are in prison than in college—there is a systematic policy of mass incarceration that is sweeping up millions. The NYPD, which just celebrated their five millionth stop-and-frisk encounter, is plainly trying to make sure that every Black and Latino youth in the city has a rap sheet—a bogus one constructed by the authorities as part of greasing the pipeline to mass incarceration.

In East Flatbush, police are a constant presence, systematically harassing the youth. Go up to any group of young men on a corner to converse, and they will always be keeping one eye on the police, waiting for the jump-out, the humiliation, the threats, and maybe the beat-downs or arrests. Even young teens and tweens are subjected to outrageous searches where they are threatened by armed police and talked to like they are dirt.

Protest and Police-State Represssion

All of this oppression, all of this pain, all of this bottled up anger, was the backdrop to the heroic outpouring of protest that erupted on March 10, and that persisted, grew, and drew increasing attention and support from many different people throughout New York and across the country.

Kimani's parents called for a candlelight vigil on Church Avenue, a few blocks from where he was killed, two nights after the murder. And starting then, hundreds took to the streets for five straight nights. Youth, including large numbers of defiant young women, have been the cutting edge of these protests. But the protests have also drawn in older people from the community and people from throughout the NYC area, including Occupy activists, anti-police brutality activists from other boroughs, anarchists and revolutionary communists.

This has been a very important mix, going up in the face of a tremendous amount of police intimidation that has turned East Flatbush—already a heavily policed area—into a virtual occupied territory. Walking the mile from the subway to the area where the vigils are held takes you past swarms of police—two or three on every corner, sometimes two or three more mid-block, cop-cars and motorcycles going up and down the streets, cops on horses parading around, and police helicopters hovering overhead. Youth on the streets tell stories of stepped up harassment all night and day as the police seek to take revenge and intimidate.

Police have repeatedly tried to block protests even going on the sidewalk, and have viciously attacked people when they took to the streets. There was a lot of back-and-forth on Monday and Tuesday, March 11 and 12, with hundreds chanting "NYPD/KKK—How Many Kids Did You Kill Today." People marched to the 67th Precinct, a mile away, where a phalanx of about 50 cops in riot gear stood guard to block access. Wednesday, many dozens of youth marched, joined by some older people from inside and outside the community, and boldly broke out of police constraints, sprinting through the streets, shouting "Don't Shoot," "Justice," and "Fuck the Police." Police viciously attacked again and again, sometimes falling on their asses as they chased youth, but often ganging up on them and beating them into the ground. At least 46 were arrested, including Kimani Gray's sister.

Besides arresting Kimani Gray's sister for protesting her brother's murder at the hands of the police, New York City authorities refused a permit application by the family for a protest march last Thursday.

It is Right to Stand Up to Police Murder

The system has been deeply stung by the protests, and its representatives—the mayor, the police, the media, and some self-proclaimed "community leaders"—have gone nuts attacking and denouncing the youth for going beyond the bounds of polite and submissive protest.

Bloomberg angrily declared that "the way to get answers is not through violence or law-breaking. We cannot tolerate that, and we will not tolerate that." No, the only acceptable violence is supposed to be police killing people. But since the media, the police and the politicians all speak for the same oppressive system and all repeat the same foul lies, what is wrong with the youth—who have no TV or radio stations, no "friends in high places"—what is wrong with these youth boldly standing up and telling the world that the "business-as-usual" harassment and murder of people like them that is concentrated in the murder of Kimani Gray cannot continue? This flies righteously in the face of the powers-that-be who claim that the minor disruption of traffic and business cannot be tolerated, but the wanton murder of Black and Latino youth can just go on, and on, and on, and on.

Eddie (not his real name), a young Black man who lives in East Flatbush, when asked what he thought about the protests, said they were "to get people's attention, it's not to hurt nobody, cause I ain't see nobody get hurt or anything. It's just to get people's attention. And if everybody hears what's going on and sees what's going on and understands what's going on and not just what the media says what's going on then some justice will come out of this. Sitting around and letting things just go is not going to make it happen. He [Kimani Gray] is not going to be the last one that's gonna be victimized by police brutality. He's not going to be the last one and he wasn't the first one. I knew that little boy since he was small. So it's like for him to be gone so quick is like heartbreaking."

There Are No "Outside Agitators" in the Struggle for Justice

The media and so-called "community leaders" have also condemned what they deem "outside agitators" for causing trouble in the neighborhood. One pastor said that "It's definitely outside influence who come in and start the crowd going and then leave at the end when all hell breaks loose." The New York Times picked up on this theme and did a major article which promoted accusations that local youth were "encouraged and incited ... [by] seasoned organizers." The Village Voice followed that up with a front page article entitled "Everyone Wants a Piece of Kimani Gray," slandering people who braved police intimidation to stand with the people most under the gun. In the Voice article they describe the protests as "a dysfunctional and tragicomic variety show, as postures of rage and ideology, solidarity and self-promotion share the stage. (See "People Rose Up in Righteous Protest Against Murder of Kimani Gray—And They Should Be Supported," Revolution, March 22, 2013, for a response to the Voice article.)

These attacks on the youth and on "outside agitators" are a standard response of the oppressors whenever and wherever the masses rise up against their oppression, but they still have to be answered.

First, while Bloomberg claims that protests were not "the way to get answers," and the Voice article and "community leaders" claim that they are counterproductive to the struggle for justice, the reality is that this response from the people was a major blow to the authorities' efforts to do what they always do after they murder one of our youth—to sweep the whole thing under the rug, to make sure that the only "answers" to see the light of day would be the police lies. Ask yourself, why is the murder of Kimani Gray a major news story 13 days after his death, why are establishment mayoral candidates like Christine Quinn suddenly calling for more "oversight" of the NYPD, why the calls for independent investigations? It is exactly because the protests have tapped and expressed the deep anger of the people, and because they have drawn attention and support around the city.

In contrast, the true intention of the system was revealed by Bloomberg's statement just one day after the murder that "So far, all indications are that the young man had a gun," even though eyewitnesses had already come forward to say that he did not have a gun. After that, Bloomberg's promise "that we will conduct a full and fair investigation" is obviously nothing but a sham to calm people down while the whitewash of the police is carried out.

Second, there are no "outsiders" in the struggle against oppression. People all across the world are living under the same brutal, people-killing, planet-destroying capitalist imperialist system and have a common struggle and a common enemy. Everyone has a right and in fact a responsibility to grasp this and then to act on it. Eddie spoke to this: "I feel like this is my neighborhood, New York is my neighborhood, this country is my neighborhood, anything that happens here or abroad I have to be a part of and I have to try and see what I can do. And if I can't do anything, I just can't. But hopefully I can."

Third, think about how really and truly perverse these complaints about "outsiders" are. Let's be honest here—the "norm" in this society is that every day the system is carrying out unspeakable crimes against Black and Latino people, not to mention people all around the world. And the vast majority of people, far too often, go about their business oblivious to all this. But here we have a situation where a significant section of mainly younger white people, as well as activists of other nationalities, have stepped up and put themselves on the line to say that this is not acceptable and they are ready to fight. This is a very good thing, and frankly it would be even better if when something like this happens in the future—as unfortunately we know very well it will, and probably not long from now—thousands, tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of people from "outside the neighborhood" came to stand with people who were being gunned down and protested throughout the city. A number of people in the neighborhood came up to "outsiders" to express heartfelt appreciation for their stand and their action.

At this point there is far, far, far too little of this. It is understandable that this kind of unity would be the worst nightmare of those who count on isolating the oppressed in order to keep them down. But those who claim to stand with the people should be nurturing, encouraging, and spreading this development, not attacking it. And if people doing this has the effect of emboldening the youth in the oppressed neighborhoods, all the better!

Fourth, the presence of outsiders is not just a matter of "more people" or "solidarity," it also brings in kinds of political thinking and ferment that aren't normally part of life in the oppressed neighborhoods. The activists promote a mix of political trends, agendas, and ideas about what's wrong with the world and what it will take to change it. This contributes to a situation where revolutionaries can, and must, lead people who are normally shut out of political life to understand what is behind illusions about slogans like "democratizing" this system of global exploitation and oppression. It is an opening to teach people how to compare and contrast less-than-revolutionary illusions and agendas with the kind of REAL change that only revolution can bring.

Struggle Continues

Two weeks after the murder, the level of outrage among the people remains very high. Mark said that "they [the authorities] think that this is going to go away, but it's not," and many other people expressed similar sentiments.

At this writing, East Flatbush remains under police-state lockdown—occupied territory. On Thursday night, police shot a 20-year-old young man who they claimed was a drug suspect who fired at them—that shooting took place only a mile from where marchers were protesting Kimani's murder.

On Saturday, March 23, hundreds of people attended Kimani Gray's funeral in spite of NYPD riot police in the streets, on surrounding rooftops, and on horseback. Many youth wore hoodies with pictures of Kimani on them.

On Sunday, March 24, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network called for a march demanding justice for Kimani Gray, and that the authorities drop all charges against arrested protesters.

This intense resistance in the face of savage repression, the broad unity in the face of reactionary efforts to divide people against each other, and the deepening discussion and debate about why these things keep happening over and over and over again, and what it will take to stop them, are very inspiring and encouraging. All this needs to continue to be built and spread by revolutionaries and by all who want justice.

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