Police Torture of Abner Louima: Lies, Damn Lies...and the System's Damage Control

Revolutionary Worker #924, September 21, 1997

On the morning of August 9, Abner Louima was beaten and raped with the handle of a toilet plunger in a New York police station. At least four cops beat him. The main cop who raped Abner Louima paraded around the stationhouse like a maniac, waving the plunger he was going to use. He shouted, "This is Giuliani time," as he carried out his sick and brutal deeds.

Not a single cop in the stationhouse responded to Abner Louima's screams. Not a single cop lifted a finger to accompany Abner Louima to the emergency room, even though they knew that he was suffering severely and in possible danger of death. A nurse at the hospital where the cops took Louima was overheard to say that this time she couldn't go along with it and lie for them. Later the police commissioner said that he was shocked because "this wasn't brutality, this was criminal"--as if brutality is not a crime. And of the nearly 100 cops at the precinct who have been interviewed on this, only two have come forward to say a single word.

The lessons of this should seem clear to anyone:

  • At a minimum, that there are extremely sick and brutal cops on the New York police force who run rampant.
  • At a minimum, that the leadership of the department does not consider police brutality to be a crime, and almost all the officers will go to great lengths, including perjury, to cover up even the worst, most murderous instance of it.
  • That there is very likely an ongoing, business-as-usual conspiracy between police and the city hospital system to cover up severe cases of it.
  • To top it off, that the police understand their most brutal and sadistic actions to be part of Mayor Giuliani's program.

    Any ordinary person, no matter how cut off from reality, must now consider the evidence that there is in fact an epidemic of police brutality, and must at least wonder whether police brutality and murder are just "business as usual" these days.

    But the major media are promoting a different set of lessons.

    On August 29, ABC World News Tonight covered the demonstration of over 5,000 people in New York against police brutality. They gave the demonstration literally a few seconds, before getting to the "meat" of their story--that in other cities, the people who are putting a stop to police brutality are...the police! Yes, ABC decided that the main thing people needed to know about were the supposed efforts of the Los Angeles or New Orleans police departments to root out brutality and corruption. (Somehow Mayor Giuliani's similar program, called CPR--Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect--was not covered.)

    The September 1 Time magazine played another chorus of the exact same song. To quote Time: "Headlines about brutality have overshadowed the real news: more cities are reining in police misbehavior." And they, too, went on to focus on the wonders of the born-again LAPD.

    Too bad they didn't get around to interviewing the Gutierrez family. They could have told Time about how their 14-year-old son Jose Antonio was shot in the back and killed in cold blood just two years ago by the LAPD. They could have told Time how just this past July Antonio's mother, Ana Maria Gutierrez, was arrested and brutalized by the LAPD over a bogus traffic violation.

    On one level, this media whitewash calls to mind the old Richard Pryor line--"who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?" It is ridiculous and pitiful double-talk of someone caught in the act.

    On another level, we must take this very seriously. They are drumming into people that what happened to Abner Louima is an "isolated incident" and that the police themselves are already taking care of the problem. They are telling middle-class people in particular to forget about the whole nightmare and go back to sleep, to let them "handle the situation." And they are letting us know that they intend to whitewash this, and that they may very well decide to even set Abner Louima's attackers free. After all, they have a whole program at stake here--a whole way they intend to control social upheaval and deepening divisions in society--and they are going to use everything at their command to keep it together.

    We cannot allow this. We have to get the real story out, relying on ourselves and our actions. We will have to fight tooth and nail for justice for Abner Louima, and we will have to unite everyone we can to get the real meaning of this case out there: that police brutality and repression is an epidemic and that it will take the massive resistance of the people to stop it.

    This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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