Benjamin Smith's July 4th Murder Spree

Revolutionary Worker #1014, July 18, 1999

Over the Fourth of July weekend, a reactionary white racist, Benjamin N. Smith, targeted Black, Jewish and Asian people in a bloody three-day rampage that stretched across two Midwestern states. Smith started on Friday, July 2, wounding six Jewish men as they emerged from a synagogue in northern Chicago. He drove into the nearby Jewish suburb of Skokie, where he opened fire on a family of Black people walking near their home. Ricky Byrdsong, 43, a former basketball coach at Northwestern University, died with a bullet in his back. Smith drove to a second suburb, Northbrook, and opened fire on an Asian couple--but missed.

Smith drove south through Midwestern towns, heading for Urbana, Illinois and Bloomington, Indiana, where he had been a college student and where classmates had rejected his racist rantings. Repeatedly he sought out Black or Asian people along the street and opened fire. In Springfield, he targeted but missed two Black men. In Decatur, he shot and wounded a Black man, Rev. Stephen Anderson.

In Urbana, he shot into a crowd of Asian students in front of a U. of I. dorm and seriously wounded Steven Kuo. On July 4th itself, he pulled up in front of a Korean church in Bloomington and opened fire--killing Won Joon Yoon, a graduate student at the University of Indiana. Police caught up with him near Salem, Illinois after he had stolen a van, and they claim that he killed himself to avoid capture.

Smith is a follower of the World Church of the Creator (COTC)--a right-wing church based on a white supremacist philosophy of RAHOWA (racial holy war). A year ago, this organization called on "pioneers" to move to Illinois, to develop a white racist base there, especially in its central farming regions. This is where Smith carried out his murder spree--targeting those people that white racists want to "purge" from the United States.

Oppressed people in the U.S. have had enough of such racist killers. Their time is up!

Their dreams of terrifying the people and enforcing white supremacy must not be tolerated. Their actions, plots, and ties to the system must be exposed to the world--and militantly opposed.

And their complete defeat and destruction will be an important part of the larger revolutionary struggle to overthrow this capitalist system itself and the white supremacy built into its very structures.

The programme of the Revolutionary Communist Party describes what will be done when the revolution wins victory within the U.S. It says: "Those who use the chauvinist banner to organize any kind of reactionary, racist movement and attacks on minority nationalities will be ruthlessly crushed. The KKK, Nazis and the like will be wiped out and their members forcefully dealt with, beginning with the leaders, who will be given the ultimate punishment."

RAHOWA and the Official Politics of Cruelty

Benjamin Smith's bloody rampage is especially intolerable and infuriating because it is not just the isolated action of one twisted mind. Benjamin Smith's actions were intended to enforce, tighten and glorify white supremacy in the United States. And such defense of white supremacy is being actively encouraged--even demanded--by powerful forces within the ruling class of the United States.

When the writings of Benjamin Smith and the COTC were excerpted in the media and on the Internet last week--Smith's racist and anti-immigrant obsessions repeated arguments that are commonly heard coming from high posts within the U.S. ruling class.

This system falsely portrays a whole generation of youth--especially Black and Latino youth--as criminal and dangerous. Leading politicians falsely describe affirmative action as an injustice against white people--and deny that there is systematic discrimination against Black people and other oppressed nationalities.

This system has promoted a siege mentality among reactionary sections of the people--a climate of resentment against immigrants, their languages and their very presence in the U.S. And this system and its top representatives have long used the language of war in the inner cities--"war against drugs" and "war against gangs"--classic political code words for an armed persecution of Black and Latino youth in the inner cities.

This system has been promoting a whole "politics of cruelty" aimed at the poor, at Black, Latino and immigrant people. At the street level, this officially encouraged climate leaves both cops and bigots like Smith feeling empowered, justified, even compelled to launch attacks against oppressed people.

This rampage by Smith is added to a long list of attacks by right-wing bigots, including: attacks on women's clinics and assassination of doctors who perform abortions; the burning of Black churches in the South; repeated attacks on Jewish synagogues by racist skinheads; the gruesome anti-homosexual killing of Matthew Shepard in Colorado; and the heartless lynching of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas.

Just last month, two racist boys opened fire in their high school in Littleton, Colorado--on Adolf Hitler's birthday. And now, Smith deliberately chose the patriotic holiday of July 4th to open fire for the so-called RAHOWA.

Using Fascists to Serve Police-State Moves

The actions of such unofficial hitmen for the system are connected by a thousand threads to the actions carried out by this system's official hitmen-in-blue:

First, there is the common underlying racism. There is a similarity between the "racial profiling" police use to target people on the streets and the way Benjamin Smith targeted people in his drive-by racist shootings.

Only a few weeks ago, the police of Chicago carried out their own racist murder spree--killing two young Black people in different traffic stops on the same night. Smith's murder of former coach Ricky Byrdsong hit hard in the Northwestern University community--which is still mourning the police murder of Bobby Russ, an honor student and athlete.

It is well documented that fascist groups like the COTC have had close ties with police and government forces. Many of the members of the fascist groups are themselves cops. Benjamin Smith was a major in "criminal justice." And even more important: the FBI and other political police in the U.S. have worked to secretly control and direct KKK and similar forces from behind the scenes--as they did to oppose the rise of the civil rights and Black liberation movements during the 1960s.

Though no evidence has yet surfaced linking Smith or the COTC to U.S. police forces, there is evidence that the COTC has had direct links with South African secret police and their covert operations. Two former members of an undercover South African police unit reported that their agency had used the COTC's South African chapter, during the 1980s, as a recruiting ground. Secret police agents working within the COTC in South Africa organized white racists to carry out their brutal and then-secret "dirty war" against activists of the anti-apartheid movement.

Meanwhile, the authorities have been using Smith and the COTC in another way--they are trying to manipulate the public outrage over Smith's murder spree to strengthen their own police-state powers.

Ever since Smith opened fire in Illinois, the officials and media have called for more police powers, more political police investigation of so-called "extremists," more laws to restrict "non-mainstream" political movements, more disarming of ordinary people through "gun control," and more censorship of the Internet.

The police have arrested the man who allegedly sold Smith his guns, and they are seeking to investigate records of gun sales to determine whether guns are being sold to "other extremists" (as if gun sales should be restricted according to political views!).

The media and the police have openly stated that there should be more ways to jail the leaderships of political groups for the actions of members. And officials have argued for recreating a special political unit (a new "Red Squad") within the Chicago police department.

State's Attorney Richard Devine, in Chicago's Cook County, announced that he will press for jail time for illegal gun use. Some in the media have pointed out that such new sentencing standards would hardly target white racists but instead, would target Black and Latino street youth from Chicago's inner city.

In reality, such laws and police powers--if they are passed--would rarely be used against racists like Smith or the COTC. But they would provide the police new ways of targeting the masses of people--including the revolutionary movement.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)