The System's Green Light for Killer Cops
Five days after Diallo verdict, police kill again in the Bronx
Revolutionary Worker #1046, March 12, 2000
On February 25, a court in Albany acquitted the four cops who killed Amadou Diallo.
Only five days later, on Wednesday night, March 1, a squad of plainclothes cops barged into a building in the housing projects and chased Malcolm Ferguson down a hallway. One cop caught Malcolm and put a bullet in his left temple. The cop was so close that Malcolm's blood was all over his gun. Malcolm was unarmed.
Malcolm Ferguson, 23, is dead in the Bronx. He died at 1045 Boynton Avenue--only two blocks away from where the NYPD put 19 bullets into Amadou Diallo.
Someone is washing down the blood on the hallway floor of this building in the Bronx. Someone is calling the funeral home, picking out a casket for Malcolm Ferguson. Someone is helping his mother who is gasping for air. Asthma is taking away her breath. The police have stolen away her son.
Malcolm Ferguson was in the streets--with thousands of others--after the Diallo verdict came down. And he was one of the people arrested for protesting the outrageous verdict. "Unbelievable," said Josh, a 17-year-old youth with Refuse & Resist! "Some of us were in jail with Malcolm the night of Friday, February 25, held all day Saturday. One of the last acts of Malcolm's life was to stand up against police murder. Now, days later, he's been killed by police."
The cops who shot Malcolm Ferguson claim that they suspected there was a drug deal going on in the building where they shot him. They claim they found bags of heroin on Malcolm's body. New York's Mayor Giuliani went on TV to claim that Malcolm Ferguson was "a serious criminal" and cited his previous arrests for drugs. Giuliani called on the community to "stand up and support" the cops who shot Malcolm down.
Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson, said: "They murdered my son. That's it. They murdered my son. The mayor is going to judge a person just by what's on a piece of paper? What they're saying about him is a stone-faced lie. That boy was human, like you and me. They didn't have to kill him."
The judge in the Albany trial of the four white cops spent four hours explaining to the jury all the different ways cops might be legally justified in shooting Amadou Diallo. He explained that, according to the law, there is a special standard for cops: to claim they acted in "self defense"-- they only have to have a "reasonable belief" that they were in danger.
Amadou was standing in the vestibule of his own home when the cops confronted him. It was four white cops against one unarmed young immigrant from Africa. The police had bullet-proof vests. They had 9mm pistols. They had him trapped in a 5 by 7 foot vestibule. They fired 41 times. They shot Amadou 19 times.
They said in court they had to shoot him because they were afraid of him, because he was "peering" out of his own doorway and he seemed to make a move to pull something from his pocket.
Amadou's spinal cord was severed quickly and he went down. The cops kept shooting. One of their bullets went up through the sole of Amadou's shoe, through his foot. That bullet hole in Amadou's shoe proves that he was down, while they were pumping him with lead.
But the judge asked the jurors to put themselves in the shoes of the police who shot Amadou. To consider that it was the cops who needed to act in "self-defense."
Standing in your own vestibule, breathing, in the nighttime, in the poor community--the cops consider it reason enough to stop you, then kill you and then claim it was "self defense."
Who is killing who? Despite all the talk of the cops fearing Amadou--the problem on New York streets is not cop killers, but killer cops.
The Verdict of a System
Self-defense? Would it have been the same if an African immigrant worker had shot a cop and testified he feared for his life? Would his trial have been moved to a favorable spot? Would the prosecution have pulled their punches? Would the judge have lectured on all the circumstances where he had a legal right to kill cops? Obviously not. In this system there are two standards. One for the enforcers and one for the people.
And that too reveals something about the class nature of this society and its state--about the role of the state as an enforcer for keeping people in their place.
By the time the trial was over--by the time the police authorities, the prosecution and the judge were through--it was a foregone conclusion that the jury would find the cops not guilty.
These four white cops, with the blood of Amadou Diallo on their hands, walked out of an Albany courtroom free men, still cops, still empowered by the state to police the people. It was a green light to police murder seen in squad rooms all over the rest of the U.S. Cops in one Brooklyn precinct cheered after the verdict, "We're gonna celebrate tonight!"
The cops had insisted they were just doing their job. The court had agreed. And in a sick, twisted way that is exactly true--it is their job. Because repressing, brutalizing, murdering and generally trying to terrorize the oppressed people and all those who would stand up against this system is precisely their job. It is their political role as armed enforcers of the bourgeois state and the capitalist-imperialist system.
And once again this murderous job has been upheld by the so-called legal system--the court, judges, and prosecutors--who are just another part of the same oppressive state machinery.
And it wasn't even enough that these murdering cops were vindicated in the court and let off. It wasn't enough to send riot cops against the protesters. It wasn't enough that the judge spent the morning after the verdict celebrating with defense lawyers in a bed-and-breakfast. None of that was enough.
The police of New York City had to go out and kill again--another young Black man, Malcolm Ferguson, in the very neighborhood where Amadou Diallo died.
And what are the people supposed to think and do? Are the people supposed to hope that some new judge, or new court, or new investigations will someday cause this system to reverse itself? Are the masses of people supposed to cling to false hopes that this system will recognize that we too are human, with hearts and lives and dreams?
What hope of reform is there, in a system that declares Amadou Diallo, standing in his own doorway, was dangerous and suspicious--a system that releases his killers to go kill again?
This system is utterly unreformable. And the people have the right to stand up against it, to organize ourselves, to defend ourselves, and to resist the outrageous attacks and verdicts of the authorities. And, in every way, we need to prepare ourselves and our movement to end this system itself.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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