The Diallo Verdict:
A License to Kill

Revolutionary Worker #1045, March 5, 2000

On February 25, 2000 a jury found the four cops who killed Amadou Diallo not guilty of all charges--after a four-week trial in Albany New York.

Amadou Diallo, a young immigrant worker from West Africa, was returning home in the Bronx, late one night last February. He was standing in the entrance to his own apartment building--when four heavily armed men in plain clothes rushed up. The men never announced they were cops. They opened fire--shooting 41 bullets--piercing his body 19 times. As he lay there dead, they ransacked his apartment and interrogated his roommate--looking for anything that could justify their street execution of this unarmed man.

And now, a year later, the machinery of this so-called "justice system"--the laws, the judges, the jury selection, the court procedures, all of it--has ground its way to a verdict for these killer cops--not guilty!

Saikou Diallo, Amadou's father, called it "the second killing" of his son.

The injustice of this verdict cuts so deep. It makes you want to scream at the madness and meanness of the power structure. It makes you want to take hold of events and turn the world upside down--to make things right. It makes you want to rise up.


There would not even have been a trial if thousands of people had not taken to the streets. The system would not even have indicted these killer cops. But the people did take the streets--through the Spring of 1999. A thousand students walked out of their schools. And more than a thousand people were arrested in days of civil disobedience actions. Millions of eyes were watching closely. And the authorities felt forced, under great pressure, to bring their enforcers to trial.

But the mechanisms of their legal system were in effect--working at every level to protect the cops. In December, a panel of judges moved the case out of New York City--claiming that the people who live in communities patrolled by these cops could not be trusted to reach the right verdict.

The trial judge ruled that the jury could not hear about how these same cops had shot and brutalized other people.

And who was in charge of pressing the charges? Naturally, the system's own prosecutors--who were unwilling and unable to attack those practices and policies involved in the nightly police killings of people.

Their so-called "prosecution" of these cops was one long pulled-punch. It was lame, half-hearted, and endlessly conciliatory. It was the prosecution who suggested that the jury be allowed to consider charges less than murder. When the cops took the stand to lie and blubber about how frightened they were of this lone unarmed man--the prosecution treated them with kid gloves.

This televised trial has been--from beginning to end--one long lecture on seeing the world "through the eyes of cops." And what a sick, racist and brutal way that is to see the world! The cops and their lawyers insisted that everyone should accept that any Black man is a danger to society, any move is a cause for fear and an excuse to kill. In their testimony, every person on Wheeler Avenue that night was a likely criminal. One cop even testified that it never occurred to him that Amadou Diallo might not be a criminal!

And then, at the end of the trial, the judge lectured the jury for almost four hours on all the different legal ways a cop is allowed to kill a person.

In all these ways, this ugly verdict was not just the decision of the jury-- but the product of a whole system working to protect itself and its enforcers. The power structure knowingly risked and defied the explosive anger of the people to ram this verdict through--to confirm (once again) the right of their cops to use deadly force against the people.

And why? Because this system needs organized bodies of armed men standing above and against the people. Capitalism is a system of haves and have-nots that needs the organized violence of its state to keep the masses of people in line. The USA is ruled by an exploiting class of monopoly capitalists who can only, ultimately, maintain their position and power in the world at the point of a gun--and for that, there must be police and soldiers prepared to use those guns.

Now, we can just hear some people saying, "There go those communists again--imagining the workings of social classes and whole systems behind a tragic shooting and a troubling verdict."

But imagine for a moment what it would be like if the tables were turned. Imagine if a black African immigrant worker had survived an armed confrontation with police--and one of the cops lay dead. Imagine (for a moment) that it was an African worker on that stand, explaining how he feared for his life and why he had to shoot in self defense.

Would the trial have been moved to a location favorable to the defense? Would the prosecution have been lackluster and reserved? Would the judge have lectured the jury for a day about how this proletarian might have been justified in pulling the trigger? Would the mayor of New York have announced that an innocent verdict renewed his faith in justice?

No. Never. Because the courts and laws are stacked. Because the oppressed and oppressor are never treated the same. Because only revolution can change the power relations of this society and lift the bloody police occupation off the oppressed communities.


The people are meeting this verdict with outrage and resistance. And yet, at this very moment, there are those demanding calm acceptance. Some have even suggested that militancy at a moment like this would be a betrayal of the cause--that it would be adopting the violent methods of police. What terrible advice!

The truth is there will be no justice without hard struggle. There is a world of difference between the force and violence of the oppressors trying to keep the oppressed down and the force and violence of the oppressed rising up. One is degrading, but the other is liberating.

The problem in the world today is not that there is too much violence; the problem is that there is too much counterrevolutionary violence and not enough revolutionary violence. But, in the world today, that is changing and will change even more.

Determined militant resistance is demanded by this moment. It is right to rebel. It is necessary to demand "Justice for Amadou Diallo" and necessary to fight to overthrow a system that is without justice.

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