Workers Vanguard No. 897

31 August 2007


Chicago Cops Keep on Killing

PDC Speaker: Mobilize Labor! Protest Racist Cop Terror!

For the Chicago police, it is once again “open season” on black men. On August 4, a police sergeant killed 42-year-old Gefery Johnson in his home on Chicago’s South Side with taser shocks as he was handcuffed naked in the bathroom, shouting, “They’re killing me!” Just two days later, Aaron Harrison, an 18-year-old high school student, was chased into an alley on the West Side and fatally shot in the back by Special Operations officers. On August 21, Johnny Goodwin, 21 years of age, was shot and killed by Gresham District tactical squad cops. And on August 23, Eric Tonson, a 17-year-old student at Orr High School, was critically wounded by a shot in the neck by a cop who later claimed that the unarmed youth had “reached toward his waistband.”

This wave of cop terror, in particular the shooting of Aaron Harrison, has sparked a series of angry protests drawing hundreds of people who have braved police intimidation. On August 6, cops arrested five black youth who had participated in a protest in Harrison’s West Side neighborhood earlier that day, holding them incommunicado overnight. The cops then slapped them with trumped-up charges of aggravated battery on a police officer and “mob action.” The Partisan Defense Committee issued a protest letter on August 10 to Mayor Richard Daley Jr. demanding, “Hands off the anti-police-brutality protesters!” Labor, civil rights organizations and others must demand all charges be dropped!

The latest cop shootings give the lie to the police “reform” scheme pushed by Democratic mayor Daley and passed by the City Council in July. This utterly cosmetic ordinance removed control of the city’s Office of Professional Standards—the agency that reviews complaints of police “misconduct”—from the police department and placed it in the mayor’s hands. This supposedly innovative change was in direct response to two highly publicized videos of police beatings in bars, one of which depicts a drunken off-duty cop caught beating a female bartender. As the ordinance was being pushed through, it was revealed that 30 officers from the same Special Operations unit that later killed Harrison had amassed 862 allegations of brutality and other “misconduct.”

Many of those protesting the current cop rampage are bitter over last year’s whitewashing of the torture scandal involving former Lieutenant Jon Burge, who from 1973 to 1991 headed the police Violent Crimes Unit. A special prosecutor’s report released last year acknowledged some instances of wrongdoing but covered up the far-reaching web of those involved. Burge and his henchmen had regularly extracted “confessions” from black “suspects” on the South Side through gruesome methods of torture. This was done with the complicity of the city’s Democratic Party machine, including when black mayor Harold Washington was in charge in the 1980s. The only penalty Burge received was his dismissal from the force in 1993.

On August 10, the Spartacist League and Chicago Labor Black Struggle League joined more than 300 people at a rally on the West Side called by the family of Aaron Harrison, the Rev. Paul Jakes, Democratic Party pol Al Sharpton and his National Action Network, whose central demand was for a federal investigation into the police shootings and harassment. We print below, edited for publication, the speech by a representative of the PDC at the protest.

* * *

We are outraged by the brutal killing of two black men, Aaron Harrison and Gefery Johnson, by the Chicago police! Outraged! My name is Brian Mendis. I’m with the Partisan Defense Committee. We’re a legal and social defense organization whose purpose is in accordance with the political views of the Spartacist League, and we take up cases and causes in the interest of the whole of the working people.

These racist killings by the Chicago Police Department were no aberration. In fact, the brutalization and oppression of black people is part of the job of these thugs in blue. Black oppression is built into the bedrock of American capitalism, from the days of slavery through the days of Jim Crow to today. The cops’ job is to “serve and protect” this racist capitalist system from the just anger of those being oppressed: blacks, immigrants, workers, the poor. We need labor-centered protest against racist cop terror! The multiracial labor movement has the power which needs to be mobilized in defense of black rights.

I don’t care whether you’re a Democratic or Republican politician. The Democrats have been running this city for 80 years—“Segregation City.” It’s not just Daley either. I don’t care if you’re a black Democrat. Remember: Harold Washington was mayor during part of the time when Burge was doing his torturing.

We can’t have any illusions in the federal government that they are any better. The Feds—these are the people who are shredding everybody’s civil rights at home, the government that is waging a brutal imperialist war on the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of the “war on terror.” And who is filling up the prisons with black youth? It’s the government’s “war on drugs,” a war against the ghettos and the barrios. The Feds are the people who carried out the COINTELPRO attacks on the Black Panther Party, including the assassinations of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark right down the block here, including the surveillance of former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, a political prisoner on death row right now for 25 years who was framed up for his political views. We say: Free Mumia Abu-Jamal now!

So people are angry, and people have a right to be angry. People have been brutalized, oppressed, segregated. The wrecking ball has been taken to their homes. They’ve been laid off, jailed, beaten and murdered for too long. It’s the system, the racist capitalist system. And there’s no reforming it. We need to mobilize the power of the multiracial labor movement to protest racist cop terror. The only way we’re going to end racist cop terror is by fighting to put an end to this racist capitalist system, by fighting for socialist revolution.