The 43rd Shot: The Feds Refuse to
Indict Cops Who Murdered Amado Diallo

Revolutionary Worker #1090, February 11, 2001, posted at

You said he reach sir
But he didn't have no piece sir
And now he rest in peace sir
In the belly of the beast sir
You guys are vampires in the middle of the night
Sucking on human blood
Is that your appetite?
Diallo! Diallo!

From "Diallo" by Wyclef Jean

Two years ago--on February 4, 1999--four New York City cops fired a deadly blizzard of bullets and killed Amadou Diallo, a young immigrant from Guinea, West Africa. Amadou was returning home late that night and was in the entrance to his own apartment building when four heavily armed men rushed up. The men were in plainclothes and never announced they were cops. They fired off 41 bullets--19 ripped through Amadou's body. As Amadou lay dead, the cops ransacked his apartment and interrogated his roommate--looking for anything that could justify the street execution of an unarmed man.

In March of 2000 came the 42nd shot. A state court acquitted the four cops who shot Amadou Diallo of all charges.

Now comes the 43rd shot. On February 4, the U.S. Justice Department announced that they will NOT file federal civil rights charges against the four murdering cops.

From the beginning of this case, the system has come down with one outrage after another. The machinery of the so-called "justice system"--the laws, the judges, the courts, the feds, all of it--has ground its way to finding the cops "not guilty" and ruling the shooting of Amadou "justified." The utter injustice cuts deep. It makes you want to scream at the madness and cruelty of the power structure. It makes you want to rise up and set things right.

The System Justifies Murder

In announcing the decision of the Justice Department, U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said civil rights charges were not warranted because the cops did not shoot Amadou Diallo "with the specific intent to use unreasonable force."

So, in the eyes of those in power, it was perfectly "reasonable" that the four plainclothes cops--members of the "elite" Street Crimes Unit--didn't identify themselves and just started shooting. Under their laws, it's "reasonable" that the cops shot at a man who had no weapon of any kind, only a wallet in his hand. This system considers it "reasonable" that the cops kept on shooting, again and again, even after Amadou Diallo had slumped to the floor.

At first, the system was not even going to indict these killer cops. But the outrage spread widely, and millions of eyes were watching closely. There were marches of tens of thousands of people. A thousand students walked out of their schools. More than a thousand people were arrested in days of civil disobedience actions. Under great pressure, the authorities were forced to bring their enforcers to trial.

But, as usual, the mechanics of the legal system worked at every step to protect the cops. A panel of judges moved the trial out of the city to Albany in upstate New York--claiming that the cops could not get a "fair trial" in New York City. As Carl Dix, RCP national spokesperson and member of the national coordinating committee of the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, said, "What does it mean that the authorities fear allowing the people of these neighborhoods the chance to judge these cops? If their claim that the police 'serve and protect' is true, what are they afraid of? Perhaps their fear reveals the reality of their policing mission--that they are really like an occupying army that brutalizes and murders people and are afraid of being judged in the communities they patrol?"

The trial itself was one long lecture on how to see the world "through the eyes of the police"--which is a sick, racist, and brutal point of view. The cops and their lawyers argued that everyone should accept that any Black man is a potential criminal and a danger to society, that any move is a cause for fear and a justification to shoot on the part of the police. The so-called "prosecution" treated the cops with kid gloves. The judge ruled that the jury could not hear about how these same cops had shot and brutalized other people. And at the end, the judge lectured the jury for almost four hours on all the different ways a cop is legally allowed to kill someone.

The ugly verdict of "not guilty" was a statement by the power structure: their police will continue to have a green light to brutalize and murder. This was not just the decision of one court and jury--but a product of a whole system working to protect itself and its enforcers.

The Feds Move In

As soon as the cops were acquitted, the power structure held out its next false promise--that the federal government would look into the possibility of charging the cops with violation of Amadou Diallo's civil rights. The Justice Department made a big public display of "investigating" the case. Eleven months later, it's crystal clear that the move by the Justice Department was aimed at protecting the whole power structure and its armed enforcers.

The authorities know that the decision to let the murdering cops off completely risks setting off the anger of the people. According to a report in the New York Times, the Justice Department's decision not to prosecute the cops was made several weeks ago--before the end of Clinton's presidential term. But Attorney General Reno delayed the announcement of the decision because of fears that "it would ignite protests at the Bush inauguration."

Why have the rulers rammed through the unjust verdict and decision on the killers of Amadou Diallo, despite their worries about the people's anger? Because this system needs organized bodies of armed men standing above and against the people. This is a system of haves and have-nots that needs the organized violence of its state to keep the masses of people down.

As Carl Dix said after last year's court verdict: "Let me get right to the point--the solution to the problem of police who have a green light to brutalize and murder, and to all the other problems the people face under this system today, is that the system needs to be overthrown. It's gonna take a revolution. We need a revolution led by the have-nots, the proletariat--our people of all nationalities and races who live under the occupying army of the police forces every day.... It's not time yet to launch an all out revolutionary assault. The system ain't deep enough in trouble, with the rulers divided up and fighting each other. And the people ain't ready to put it all on the line for revolutionary change yet either. But we can't sit around and wait while the system continues to wage war on the people. We have to organize ourselves to resist. Together let's make big trouble for the rich bloodsuckers who rule over us as we build resistance today--in preparation for the time when we can rise up in revolution, get rid of this system once and for all, and build a new world on the ashes of this messed-up one."


Possible civil rights charges were the last criminal case pending against the four cops, who continue to work for the New York Police Department. The family of Amadou Diallo has filed a civil lawsuit against the city and the cops. Saikou Diallo, Amadou's father, and Kadiatou Diallo, Amadou's mother, spoke out against the Justice Department's decision. Kadiatou said, "I have been betrayed by the criminal justice system."

The people will never forget and forgive the police murder of Amadou Diallo.

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