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Workers Vanguard No. 997

2 March 2012

Gunning Down Blacks, Spying on Muslims

NYPD Racist Rampage

A spate of terror carried out by the New York Police Department against black youth in recent weeks gives a raw picture of life in Barack Obama’s “post-racial” America. On February 2, cops gunned down Ramarley Graham, a black Bronx teenager. Graham had run when police tried to stop him, since the small quantity of marijuana he was carrying could have meant jail time. Cops from the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit chased after Graham, smashed into his home, beat his grandmother and fatally shot him in the chest—another stolen life in the racist “war on drugs.” He was the third person gunned down within a week by the NYPD.

Two weeks before, four cops savagely beat Jatiek Reed in broad daylight on a busy street in the Bronx. The gruesome scene, with this black youth lying helpless on the sidewalk as cops thrashed him with nightsticks and passersby screamed in protest, was filmed and posted on the Internet. Reed’s mother told the press, “His whole back is black and blue like they were beating on a slave.”

On February 6, some 500 people gathered in the Bronx to protest Ramarley Graham’s execution. At the protest, Graham’s older sister told the truth: “This is not just about Ramarley. This is about all young black men.” Just the day before Graham’s killing, cops in the Chicago suburb of Calumet City stormed into the home of Stephon Watts, an autistic black 15-year-old, and killed him with two bullets to the chest. The cops gave the usual lie that they shot in self-defense. Stephon’s mother, Danelene Powell-Watts, a unionized auto worker, rightly called her son’s death a “coldblooded murder.”

Ramarley Graham’s fate is the lethal result of the NYPD “stop and frisk” campaign, which last year alone victimized some 686,000 people, the overwhelming majority of them black or Latino. Working to defuse anger over Graham’s killing, a spokesman for black Democrat Al Sharpton’s National Action Network declared, “The police are not our enemy; they are here to protect us, but the system is insensitive to our community and it needs to be overhauled” (Amsterdam News, 16 February).

The fact is that the NYPD is an army of occupation in the ghettos and barrios and the strikebreaking enforcer of capitalist “law and order” against the entire working class. No amount of “overhaul” or “sensitivity training” will ever change that. The brutalization and killings of minority youth are not an aberration but part of the everyday workings of the system of capitalist repression. The cops are paid to protect the interests of the tiny class of exploiters—the 0.01 percent—that lords it over working people and minorities. The same police force that shoots down inner-city youth hauled off the leader of the TWU transit union Local 100 when it defied the state’s Taylor Law and went on strike in 2005.

Muslims Targeted

It is a clear and present danger to black people, immigrants and the labor movement that the powers of the NYPD, along with police agencies coast to coast, have been augmented under Washington’s “war on terror.” In NYC, this is exemplified by an elaborate campaign of espionage and surveillance against Muslims that was developed after the September 11 attacks.

In a plan designed and taught by CIA agents, policemen of Near Eastern and South Asian background along with Pakistani cab drivers (many of whom were blackmailed into becoming informants) have worked as “rakers” and “mosque crawlers.” They’ve been trolling ethnic bookstores and beauty shops in search of “suspicious activity” and loitering in restaurants, hookah bars and mosques, eavesdropping on conversations and listening to sermons. These spies became an integral part of the NYPD/CIA “Demographic Unit,” which was partly modeled on how Israeli authorities operate against Palestinians in the West Bank. The NYPD also has a special program to spy on Shi’ite Muslims in a domestic application of U.S. imperialism’s escalating threats against Iran. Now an uproar is building on campuses following revelations that New York police have been systematically spying on Muslim student groups at 16 universities in at least four states.

Shining some light on this racist campaign, Tim Robbins reported in the Village Voice (19 January 2011) that NYPD brass were showing officers The Third Jihad, a “documentary” that purports the existence of a 1,400-year-old Muslim conspiracy to take over the planet. The film features interviews with various officials, from the CIA and FBI to NYC police commissioner Raymond Kelly. The fantastical web of conspiracy it weaves includes groups like the Muslim Student Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and university Middle Eastern Studies departments. For good measure, the film’s narrator smears Muslim women “whose highest aspiration is to send their children on Jihad missions.”

Police spokesmen initially reacted to the revelations by dismissing the film as a “wacky movie” that no one watched. But it was later reported that the film was shown to 1,500 NYC cops as part of “counter-terrorism” training. While Muslims became a special target after September 11, 2001, the NYPD has a long history of “profiling” specific ethnic populations to carry out political witchhunts. As Sam Roberts of the New York Times reported in a January 3 blog, in 1919, two years after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, a New York State legislative committee headed by Clayton Lusk zeroed in on immigrants as part of “a sweeping investigation into organizations and individuals suspected of being socialist, communists or anarchists.” The NYPD and state police prepared maps identifying “enclaves of Germans, Irish, Russian Jews, Austro-Hungarians, Syrians and blacks, among other groups.”

Today, although “Muslim terrorists” have replaced “reds” as Public Enemy No. 1, black Americans are yet again in the cross hairs, appearing as the only native-born group on an NYPD report listing “ancestries of interest.” The Third Jihad hones in on black American Muslims when invoking the spectre of “homegrown terrorists.”

The film also shows clips of liberal antiwar demonstrations, zooming in on a contingent of the reformist International Socialist Organization (ISO). The implication that such protesters are accomplices or associates of terrorists is a threat to the entire workers movement. When it comes to repressing dissent, the fish truly stinks from the head. As part of the concocted “war on terror,” the Obama White House has gone after leftists associated with defense of the Palestinians and signed a defense authorization bill allowing the military detention of U.S. citizens. Expanding police powers at home is but the domestic reflection of U.S. imperialism’s murderous terror in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world.

No Illusions in Police “Reform” Schemes

At a February 3 protest against the Muslim surveillance program, black City Councilman Charles Barron raised the call, “Ray Kelly must go!” As a bourgeois politician with a radical veneer, Barron’s role (when he’s not praising the NYPD for doing an “excellent job”) is to derail struggle against cop terror into schemes to get rid of the “bad apples” or otherwise “clean up” the department. He played this role in 2006 after the NYPD gunned down Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets, touching off thousands-strong protests. Barron declared that without an indictment against the cops who killed Bell, “there is going to be an explosion.” Barron got the indictment he asked for and the cops were put on trial. The result was that Bell’s killers walked free—in other words, business as usual. To the capitalist rulers and their courts, the cops were doing their job.

Tailing behind Barron and other bourgeois reformers, the ISO hailed protests calling for Kelly’s resignation as “positive first steps” (“Islamophobes in Blue,”, 6 February). The ISO whines that the police brass had no plans for “corrective training for officers” who watched The Third Jihad, intoning that “this isn’t the first time that police have been subjected to these warped and racist views.” The inane appeal for some consciousness-raising in the NYPD echoes calls raised by Sharpton and others for “sensitivity training” for cops. This has been implemented, and what it amounts to was seen in June 2009. At the same time that Sharpton and “militant” black preacher Herbert Daughtry were giving the cops training in “multiculturalism” at the Apollo Theater, police were tasering a black woman lying on a Harlem street in her underwear.

Offering a more left-sounding version of police “reform,” the Party for Socialism and Liberation responded to the killing of Ramarley Graham by raising the call, “Jail all racist, killer cops!” For the police enforcers of capitalist rule, racist killing comes with the territory. As we noted after the 2009 police killing of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California, “Even if one cop were charged and imprisoned, it wouldn’t stop police brutality and terror” (“Oscar Grant Killed in Cold Blood by BART Cop,” WV No. 928, 16 January 2009). That atrocity touched off a series of large, angry protests, and due to its notoriety the courts made a rare move by finding Oscar Grant’s executioner guilty of “involuntary manslaughter.” Having been given this slap on the wrist, the killer cop walked out of prison after eleven months.

The reformists reinforce the lie that the interests of workers and the oppressed can be met under this murderous capitalist system if only enough pressure is brought to bear, particularly through the agency of the Democratic Party. In counterposition to those who channel anger over racist cop terror right back into the very “justice” system that upholds state violence, we wrote in the aftermath of the Sean Bell killing (WV No. 884, 19 January 2007):

“The fight for justice for the countless victims of cop terror demands the independent mobilization of the working class and the oppressed against the Democratic and Republican parties of capital. Integral to that task is combatting the illusions in American democracy—the political shell for the dictatorship of the U.S. capitalist class over the working class and the poor—that are reinforced by reformist ‘leftists.’ As Marxists, we fight to forge the revolutionary workers party that is essential to leading the multiracial proletariat in the overturn of the murderous capitalist system. Nothing short of a socialist revolution that smashes the capitalist state machinery and replaces it with a workers state—where those who labor rule—can disarm the killer cops and open the road to black liberation.” 


Workers Vanguard No. 997

WV 997

2 March 2012


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Marxism and the Emancipation of Women

(Quote of the Week)


Gunning Down Blacks, Spying on Muslims

NYPD Racist Rampage


Karl Marx Was Right!

World Economic Crisis—Workers Must Fight for Power

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