Workers Hammer No. 192

Autumn 2005


Cop execution of Jean Charles de Menezes

“We may be poor but we are not that stupid”, said Giovani de Menezes, the brother of Jean Charles de Menezes, who was gunned down on the Tube by police on 22 July. Rejecting officials’ insulting blood money offer to the family of £15,000, he said, “We will not exchange money for my brother’s life.” The fury and disgust expressed by the family of the slain 27-year-old Brazilian immigrant has grown daily, as millions now know, due to leaks to the press, that the government’s cover-up of the horrifying police killing was a complete pack of lies.

Blair’s government and Scotland Yard officials now complain that the fury over de Menezes is distracting the public from the “war on terror”, escalated after the 7 July terror bombing of London transport and the 21 July bomb scare. But the cop execution of de Menezes is what Blair and Bush’s “war on terror” is all about — expanding the state’s deadly powers of repression against the population domestically.

Just about every single “fact” given out by police following the killing of de Menezes, whom they initially claimed was a terrorist suspect, has turned out to be a lie. He had no rucksack (where a bomb supposedly could have been hidden), he was not wearing a bulky padded jacket, he did not run from police, he did not jump over a ticket barrier. Actually, as the Guardian (17 August) reported, “According to documents obtained by ITV News from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating the shooting, Mr de Menezes was filmed on CCTV cameras entering the station at a normal walking pace and even picking up a free copy of the Metro newspaper. He was wearing a denim jacket.”

The Observer (21 August) reported that police officials revealed to them that the surveillance team following de Menezes “felt that he was not about to detonate a bomb, was not armed and was not acting suspiciously [emphasis added]”. However, a second, armed police unit then entered the carriage where de Menezes was seated. He stood up and they grabbed him. While he was held down, they opened fire. Seven shots to the head, another in the shoulder, while he was helpless: the death of Jean Charles de Menezes was a cop execution, pure and simple.

While the killing of an unarmed civilian in London has shocked the British public, “shoot-to-kill” has long been the de facto policy of British imperialism for “IRA suspects”. For this reason, the lies about de Menezes were instantly recognisable to Northern Ireland Catholics. As Mark Thompson, a spokesman for Northern Ireland-based Relatives for Justice, said:

“The accounts, as described by eyewitnesses, of the intent to kill had all the characteristic hallmarks of numerous shoot-to-kill incidents claiming hundreds of lives spanning three decades here including the all too familiar and characteristic headlines of the right wing press in seeking both to justify the unjustifiable and vilify the victim immediately afterwards.”

Daily Ireland website, 29 July

The Metropolitan Police didn’t hesitate to “shoot-to-kill” long before there was any pretence that it was necessary to stop “suicide bombers”. In 1999, they gunned down Harry Stanley in Hackney; the 46-year-old Scottish man supposedly “sounded Irish”; the sawn-off shotgun the police alleged he was carrying was a table leg. In 1996, police blew away IRA supporter Diarmuid O’Neill in an early morning raid on his home in west London, then claimed he died in a “gun battle”. He was unarmed, and was riddled with bullets after CS gas was thrown into his room. Likewise, when the SAS executed three unarmed IRA members in Gibraltar in 1988 — firing 16 bullets into Sean Savage at point blank range while his hands were raised in surrender — they falsely claimed the victims were about to detonate a bomb. And it’s not only “shoot-to-kill”: a sickeningly long list of mainly black deaths in custody includes, most recently, the 6 August death of 32-year-old Paul Coker in Plumstead, southeast London.

Ominously, the operation that culminated in the death of de Menezes saw the first use of a new, secretive, “Special Reconnaissance Regiment” of the army, which “draws on members of the 14th Intelligence Company, and the Force Research Unit, which handled all military intelligence informers in Northern Ireland” (Sunday Times, 24 July). The Force Research Unit is the sinister agency that colluded with Loyalists in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

The family of Jean Charles de Menezes is calling for a public inquiry and for the police officers responsible to be charged with murder. The murderous and arrogant caretakers of the tattered British empire, from Tony Blair on down, are defending their police killers. As cries rise for the resignation of police chief Sir Ian Blair, Ken Livingstone said Blair “is the best news that London policing has got” (Guardian, 24 August). Once again, these Labour politicians are vehemently defending the interests of their capitalist masters against popular outrage — which means defending the cops’ right to kill anyone, anywhere, especially if their skin is even slightly dark, without warning or reason. The day after the shooting, the cops arrogantly insisted that they’d do it again.

We support the family’s every effort to find out the truth, expose the state’s lies and to see that some form of justice is done. But we are under no illusion that a public inquiry will do either. Over 30 years after Bloody Sunday, when the British Army shot and killed 14 Catholics in Derry in 1972, following a public inquiry that took over 400 days of evidence from more than 900 witnesses, the British state has yet to admit that the army did the killing, or even that the victims were unarmed civil rights protestors! Far from being prosecuted, General Sir Michael Jackson, who was a captain in the Parachute Regiment in Derry on the day, is today head of the British Army, overseeing the bloody occupation of Iraq. It is the imperialist rulers, from the toadying British hangers-on to the United States, who are the biggest terrorists in the world. The only way to get rid of state terror for good is through revolutionary struggle to sweep away the entire machinery of capitalist state repression and the capitalist system itself.

Adapted from Workers Vanguard no 853, 2 September 2005.