Workers Vanguard No. 964

10 September 2010


Remember Luis Soto! Free Angel Alvarez!

NYPD Kills Again

For Labor Protests Against Racist Cop Terror!

The following leaflet was issued by the New York Spartacist League on September 2.

On August 8, NYPD cops turned a crowded block in Harlem into a shooting gallery when they surrounded two young Latino men, Luis Soto and Angel Alvarez, and fired 50 bullets from their semiautomatic 9mm handguns. “The police tried to kill me!” Alvarez told his sister from his hospital bed after 23 bullets were removed from his 23-year-old body. They succeeded in killing 21-year-old Soto. A friend of Alvarez, an eyewitness, reported that Alvarez and Soto were fistfighting when a mix of uniformed and plainclothes “police gunned down both of them. Never one time did you hear, ‘Freeze,’ did you hear, ‘Stop.’ Not ‘NYPD.’ Not nothing. All you heard was shots.” The racially mixed working-class neighborhoods of Harlem are ordinarily laced with police, and were especially so that night, as there had been a block party earlier in the day. Any festivity is sure to be under massive patrol, to remind you that your every move is under the eye of a baton or a bullet. The cops shot wildly into a crowd of hundreds who were still out for the party. In addition to Alvarez and Soto, three other people were hit. Later that day, in Washington Heights, cops stormed and maced crowds at the Dominican Day Parade.

After the shooting, the cops’ initial accounts of the night were a pack of lies. First it was reported that Alvarez shot Soto and one of the cops at the scene. The reality is that both, along with everyone else shot that night, were hit by cops’ bullets. Despite eyewitness accounts to the contrary, the cops claim that Alvarez fired shots from a .38-caliber gun at them. Alvarez’s hands were never tested for gunpowder residue. A detective from the NYPD testified in court that he “could not conclude the .38 caliber revolver was actually fired at the time.” Critically wounded, Alvarez was initially held on charges that included attempted murder, attempted first-degree assault and various weapons offenses. But when Alvarez appeared in court on August 16, the prosecution had nothing but a charge of weapons possession. Lacking the flimsy strand of evidence needed to get an indictment, prosecutors invoked a rarely used preliminary hearing to keep Alvarez jailed for an additional 45 days without bail, while two grand juries “investigate” how to pin him with attempted murder. The D.A. wants to send him to prison for the rest of his life for the crime of surviving a racist cop street execution. Alvarez should not have spent a day in jail. We defend the basic democratic right to bear arms: No to gun control! Free Angel Alvarez! Drop the Charges Now!

Even in death, Luis Soto, the victim of this racist atrocity, is being vilified. A racist media campaign included descriptions of his “profanity” and use of “rap lyrics” on Twitter to portray him as a gang member. Cops raided the two men’s homes in search of “evidence,” as if anything could justify pouring dozens of bullets into them. The bourgeois press gleefully referred to this one-sided, all-out assault as a “Wild West-style shoot-out.” The New York Post ran a headline on August 20 that read: “Punk Had 21 Shots Coming: Cops.” The cops and their media vultures made their message clear: if you are young and black or Latino, it’s always open season. In fact, the cops’ barrage of bullets was intended to prevent Alvarez from surviving to tell of the hellish nightmare. “They took my grandson. It’s unjustified,” cried Myrna Soto. Indeed it is, as is every racist cop shooting in this country.

The killing of Soto and attempted killing of Alvarez are by no means an aberration. We will not forget Sean Bell, also killed in a hail of 50 cop bullets, and Amadou Diallo, shot at 41 times and killed by the police, as well as countless other victims of police terror. These killings are part and parcel of the police violence that is systematically employed against the black and Latino populations under racist American capitalism, where young men and women are treated as criminals under the guise of the “war on drugs” and “war on crime.” Racist state repression has only intensified under the bipartisan “war on terror,” which is camouflage for the imperialist rulers to ride roughshod from Iraq to Afghanistan and wage war at home against immigrants, black people and the rights of the population as a whole. Astounding numbers of black youth are unemployed or incarcerated in prison hellholes. Black oppression, deriving from the legacy of chattel slavery, is the cornerstone of American capitalism. We fight to win the entire working class, including white workers and Latino and other immigrants, to the fight for black liberation, which is strategic to the American revolution.

The election of Barack Obama was celebrated by many in Harlem who believed that it would mean an easing of racial oppression and economic suffering. The truth is that the only thing that has changed with Obama is the name of the overseer in the White House. The Obama administration and the Democratic Party have done nothing to advance the position of working people because that is not their job. Their job is to serve the financial interests of the bourgeoisie, which benefits from the oppression of workers, blacks, Latinos and immigrants. While cops rampage through the streets of decaying urban centers, there has also been increasing repression of immigrants, through deportations, beefing up border control and the passage of the Arizona anti-immigrant pass law. Obama opposes this apartheid-style law only in order to replace it with a more palatable federal version. Black rights and immigrant rights go forward together or backward separately. Black workers and the entire working class must stand for full citizenship rights for all immigrants and mobilize against racist and chauvinist anti-immigrant attacks. An injury to one is an injury to all!

In response to the racist cop shooting in Harlem there should have been massive labor-centered protests on the streets to unite the social power of the working class with the anger of the ghetto and barrio masses. New York City is a union town with a multiracial working class—black, white, Latino, Asian and immigrants from around the world. Transit workers, city and hospital workers have the social power to bring the financial capital of U.S. imperialism to a screeching halt. In 2005, striking transit workers gave the city a taste of labor power by crippling the city for three days, for which NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg called them “thugs.” In the end, the transit workers were sold out by their pro-Democratic Party leadership. To unleash the tremendous social power of labor requires a political struggle within the unions to build a class-struggle leadership by fighting to oust the pro-capitalist labor misleaders who subordinate the interests of working people to the bosses’ capitalist parties, Democratic and Republican alike.

Anger over the cops’ brutal shooting has been derailed primarily by former FBI fink and black Democratic Party hustler Al Sharpton. Sharpton and his National Action Network immediately organized an “Anti-Violence Summit.” Outraged residents of Harlem had to stomach Sharpton’s whitewash that the shooting was just “some overreaction” and his diatribes about people needing to “talk and discuss how we can come to terms with violence” and how he did not fight “to give you the right to be a hoodlum and a thug.” Sharpton sure is fighting like hell—on behalf of the racist hoodlums and thugs of the NYPD, who also spoke at this meeting! These “anti-violence” campaigns steer the blame for racist oppression away from the bourgeois state and put the onus on the victims. Such campaigns are also coupled with calls for gun control, which would mean the monopolization of guns in the hands of the racist capitalist state.

The cops are the armed fist of the ruling class, whose profits are derived from the exploitation of labor and the racist oppression of blacks, Latinos, immigrants and all minorities. Their purpose is to safeguard the bosses’ profit system through brute force: breaking strikes, rounding up ghetto and barrio youth, repressing social protest. The cops can’t be reformed—not with more black and Latino cops, not with civilian review board “watchdogs,” not with “community control” schemes. There will be no end to police brutality without getting rid of the capitalist state—the entire apparatus of cops, prisons, courts and armies—through workers revolution. What is needed is to mobilize the power of the multiracial working class in struggle against the capitalist exploiters and their state terror, in defense of immigrants and people living in the ghettos and indeed against the whole capitalist system.

Harlem and other urban centers in the U.S. are plagued with the likes of Sharpton and occasionally “radical” phrasemongering Democrats like NYC City Councilman Charles Barron. The role of these so-called “leaders” is to contain social unrest within bounds safe for the racist capitalist rulers. A few New York black and Latino Democrats, including Barron, have launched a “Freedom Party” that is not a political break with the capitalist Democrats; it was formed only to protest against the exclusion of “blacks and Latinos from the State’s (and City’s) power positions.” In fact, numerous black Democrats have been employed as governors (including current NY governor David Paterson), mayors and police chiefs of major cities in this country. Their job has been to keep working and black people down, to oversee cop terror and administer the slashing of social programs. Their value to the racist rulers is embodied in the statement by black former New York City mayor David Dinkins: “They’ll take it from me.”

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. The Spartacist League fights to forge the revolutionary workers party that is essential to lead 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 end capitalist class rule, racist oppression and cop terror once and for all.