The Police Murder of Ismael Lopez: Consolidating Fascism in Practice and in Law



Ismael Lopez was a 41-year-old immigrant from Mexico. He had been living in the U.S. for decades, and ran a car repair shop in Southaven, Mississippi, a suburb of Memphis. He and his wife, Claudia Linares, were married in Crittenden County, Arkansas.

Around midnight on July 24, 2017, two pigs from the Southaven police department shot and killed Lopez inside his home. The cops said they were searching for a man in a house across the street from Lopez’s mobile home. Lopez had committed no crime, and had no warrants out for his arrest. But these pigs banged open the door to his trailer, and fired several times into the dark home. One of those shots penetrated Ismael Lopez’s skull and lodged in his brain, killing him. The killers of Ismael Lopez have been exonerated by both a grand jury in Mississippi and the FBI.

In June this year, Claudia Linares filed a $20 million wrongful death lawsuit in federal court. The suit says that Lopez’s civil rights—specifically under the Fourth Amendment, which states that people’s right “to be secure in their persons, [and] houses … against unreasonable searches and seizures” shall “not be violated”; and the Fourteenth. which says that no state “shall deprive any person (our emphasis) of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law …,” were violated by the murdering cops.

Arguing for a Legal Caste of “Non-Persons”

In September the city of Southaven responded. Their legal argument is that since Ismael Lopez was in the U.S. without papers, he “… may have been a person on American soil, but he was not one of the ‘We, the People of the United States,’ entitled to the civil rights invoked in this lawsuit.”

Think about what this means. Mississippi officials are arguing in federal courts that millions of immigrants are “non-persons” who have no rights protected by the U.S. Constitution and U.S. law. This argument declares entire sections of human beings to be “subhuman,” “vermin,” beyond even the pretense of legal rights. It is similar to what the Nazis in Germany had declared Jews to be—as they moved toward the creation of death camps that obliterated millions.

The argument made by Mississippi’s lawyers is being advanced by local officials in a particularly backward and historically racist section of the country. But the dominant section of the U.S. ruling class, and a large section of U.S. society, agrees with the thinking behind it. If it is upheld in federal courts—and Trump has been stacking the federal judiciary with Christian Fascist zealots for almost three years—it will be a major leap in consolidating full-on white supremacist fascism. It will give a complete green light to police of all stripes to murder and brutalize immigrants, and people they “suspect” of being immigrants. It will provide legal cover to all sorts of violence against those declared by law to be “non-persons.”

This is genocide in the making. Attacks on immigrants draw upon deep, centuries-long strains of white supremacy and hatred of immigrants in U.S. society. They have the potential to become horrors beyond imagination here and now.

A 21st Century Dred Scott

Shortly before the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, the Supreme Court issued its infamous Dred Scott decision. It ruled that Black people “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution,”  and that Black people had “no rights which the white man is bound to respect.”  Now, 160 years later, an argument is advancing in federal courts seeking to establish in U.S. law that immigrants without papers—an estimated 10.5 million people—have no rights police are bound to respect.

The lawsuit filed by Claudia Linares has not been decided. But the argument against it represents a deadly serious component in a fascist rewriting and recasting of the law and some of its long standing, underlying precepts. What are supposed to be civil and legal rights for everyone are being shredded.

Whatever happens in this case, it is an ominous warning of the direction society is rapidly moving. It should be a wake-up call that rouses to action everyone who refuses to live in a world in which entire sections of people can be hunted down, imprisoned, and murdered with impunity.

Ismael Lopez and his wife Claudia Linares


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