Workers Vanguard No. 965

24 September 2010


No Reprisals Against Protesters!

Outrage Over LAPD Killing of Manuel Jamines

LOS ANGELES—On September 5 in L.A.’s Westlake area, cops from the notorious Rampart Division shot dead Manuel Jamines, a 37-year-old day laborer, pointblank in the head at six feet. The cop who fired the shots—witnesses report hearing three—is Frank Hernandez, the subject of a civil rights lawsuit pending in federal court for a previous shooting. An eyewitness said the impact of the bullets was so great that blood splattered across the street. Obscenely, the LAPD killing machine left Jamines’ body handcuffed and lying in his own blood in the bustling shopping area of 6th and Union.

For several days, hundreds of Westlake residents courageously protested this killing. Chanting “Assassination! Assassination!” protesters faced down a massive show of force by the police, who subjected them and bystanders to tear gas and rubber bullets. Demonstrators, including families with children, were forced to flee down streets and into alleys. More than two dozen protesters have been arrested, some facing possible felony charges. At least two of those arrested are being held by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.). The Partisan Defense Committee, a legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League, sent a letter to the L.A. District Attorney demanding that “no charges be filed against the two dozen protesters arrested for voicing their justifiable outrage” and calling for “the immediate release of those detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

L.A. Democratic Party mayor Antonio Villaraigosa immediately saluted the vicious killing as the act of police “heroes” who “acted with bravery.” Police reports claimed that Jamines had threatened passersby with a knife and “lunged” at the cops. In spite of heavy cop intimidation, eyewitnesses have come forward to state that the victim had nothing in his hands when the police blew him away, only 40 seconds after encountering him. Jamines’ brother-in-law, Tomas Gómez, captured the outrage of the community, “We are treated worse than animals. We are poor people and barely are bringing $100 to our families.” He noted that Jamines “didn’t speak either English or Spanish; we speak K’iche’. He didn’t understand what they said and in a few seconds they killed him.”

Manuel Jamines was a Mayan from Guatemala; his wife and three children live in a small village in the Solalá region. Several years ago, he had come north to look for work, like many in this impoverished immigrant neighborhood. Jobs have always been hard to come by for immigrant laborers in Southern California, but now in the “Great Recession” unemployment is especially high. To eke out a living many are forced to peddle wares on the streets, only to be viciously harassed by the cops.

The population of Westlake has long been subject to the notorious violence and corruption of the Rampart Division of the LAPD. In 2001, scores of cops from the division’s anti-gang unit were convicted of unprovoked shootings and beatings, frame-ups, stealing, bank robbery and more throughout the late 1990s. In 2007, cops brutally attacked demonstrators, journalists and bystanders at a MacArthur Park rally to support immigrant rights.

In L.A. and throughout the country, the capitalist rulers deploy the cops as a racist occupying army on the streets of the ghettos and barrios. It is the cops’ job to terrorize black people and immigrants and bust up picket lines in defense of capitalist rule and profits. As V.I. Lenin, whose Bolshevik Party led the 1917 workers revolution in Russia, wrote in The State and Revolution, “The state is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another.” The cops, like the prisons and prosecutors, are at the core of that organ of capitalist class domination. They are accountable only to the bourgeoisie whom they serve and protect as hired thugs—whichever capitalist party is in power, Democratic or Republican.

The killing of Manuel Jamines is part of a wave of cop terror against immigrants coming from the top. While criticizing Arizona’s notorious apartheid-style, anti-immigrant pass law, the Obama White House surpassed the Bush administration by deporting nearly 400,000 people last year. The Arizona law passed a week after hundreds of I.C.E. agents and other cop forces carried out a military-style attack on shuttle van businesses transporting immigrant workers in Phoenix, Tucson, Rio Rico and Nogales. Heralded as the biggest smuggling bust in I.C.E.’s history, these raids provide a chilling snapshot of the Democrats’ program for “immigration reform.” The government’s onslaught against immigrants emboldened neo-Nazis to rally at L.A. City Hall in April, where, protected by the LAPD, these scum called to “Reclaim the Southwest” for the white race. This fascist provocation underscores the crucial need for the labor movement to defend immigrants and organize the unorganized. We say: Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!

Now, cynically wringing their hands over the depth of the anger over the killing of Jamines, the city’s rulers have charged “outsiders” with instigating the protests, taking a page from the playbook of black Democratic Oakland mayor Ron Dellums. When protests erupted in Oakland last year after transit police shot and killed Oscar Grant, a young black man and father, while he lay face-down and pleading on a BART platform, Dellums also blamed “outsiders.” It’s an old line, echoing the Southern segregationists who baited civil rights activists in the 1950s and ’60s as “outside agitators.”

In this case, the LAPD and local media have a specific target, the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). LAPD Police Chief Beck went after them by name, and the Los Angeles Times ran the online headline “Self-Styled Communists Helped Fuel Westlake Clash with Police,” carrying similar provocations in their printed press as well. We say: Hands off the RCP! No reprisals against the protesters!

The outrage over the killing of Manuel Jamines would find powerful expression if the city’s labor movement—Latino, black, Asian and white—mobilized in protest. While L.A. has historically been an open shop town, over the past two decades Latino workers have been at the center of a revival of labor struggle, including janitors, truckers, grocery workers and more. In 1992, after Los Angeles exploded in protest over the acquittal of the cops who brutalized black motorist Rodney King, we wrote in “L.A. Upheaval Shakes America” (WV No. 551, 15 May 1992) that the paramilitary L.A. cops “think they can get away with murder, and do, because they have never been on the receiving end of workers power.” The article quoted a PDC call for “powerful L.A. unions such as longshore, aerospace and city workers” to “organize work stoppages and mass mobilizations to solidarize with and defend the black community.”

An “L.A. Branch Statement” by the RCP raises the call to “indict and jail the killer cops,” while the Party of Socialism and Liberation’s ANSWER coalition called a September 18 protest around such demands as “community control over the police” and “no more raids, racial profiling or police violence targeting oppressed communities.” These demands reinforce the liberal lie that the cops—the guard dogs of the capitalist order—can be cleaned up and made accountable to the “will of the people.” The bitter reality is there will be no end to racist cop terror short of a socialist revolution that smashes the capitalist state and places the working class in power. When the bourgeoisie feels it has to clean up some especially egregious cop corruption or brutality, as in the 1999-2001 Rampart case, the aim is simply to refurbish the image of the capitalist state.

In sharp contrast to the RCP and PSL reformists, at the September 18 rally called to protest Jamines’ killing, the L.A. Spartacist League and Labor Black League carried signs including, “No Illusions in Civilian Review Boards! Racist Cops, Racist Courts—Enemies of Labor, Blacks, Immigrants” and “Black, Asian, Latino, White—Mobilize Labor Power to Defend Immigrant Rights!” The social power of the multiracial working class is held in check by the pro-capitalist labor misleaders, who tie the unions to the class enemy through support to the Democratic Party and put themselves forward as advisers to the ruling class on “immigration reform”—i.e., how the capitalists can best exploit immigrant labor—while barely waging any struggle to organize these workers. In L.A., the labor tops are busy funneling union funds to support Democrat Jerry Brown’s run for governor while they don’t say a single word about the brutal killing of Manuel Jamines.

What’s necessary is to unite the enormous potential social power of the working class with the anger of the ghetto and barrio masses in class struggle against the capitalists and their system. But unleashing that power requires a political struggle to oust the labor bureaucrats and forge a new, class-struggle leadership. This task goes hand in hand with the fight to build a revolutionary workers party that acts as a tribune of the people. As a Spartacist sign at the September 18 rally stated: “Break with the Democrats, Party of Racism and War! For a Workers Party that Fights for Socialist Revolution!”