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‘My son was murdered’—two decades of racist killings

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A revolt is exploding over George Floyd’s racist murder at the hands of the cops. Socialist Worker looks at a horrific history of killings in the United States—and the inspiring resistance to them
Issue 2707
The movement remembers
The movement remembers (Pic: Elvert Barnes/Flickr)

February 1999: Four New York City cops shot and killed 23 year old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo in the early hours of 4 February 1999. They fired 41 shots, 19 of which hit Amadou. He was unarmed.

The four cops were later acquitted of second-degree murder.


January 2009: Bay Area Rapid Transit police shot 22 year old Oscar Grant in Oakland on New Year’s Day. They held Oscar’s face down on the floor of a train platform and shot him in the back.

Passengers shared footage of the shooting on the internet. A protest a week later drew nearly 1,000 people at a police station, and protesters than marched through downtown Oakland.

They chanted, “No justice, no peace,” and some shouted, “Gaza!”


Marching on the White House to demand justice for Amadou Diallo (Pic: Elvert Barnes/Flickr)


July 2010: The cop who shot Oscar Grant, Johannes Mehserle, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter rather than second degree murder.

Protests took place across California. Oscar’s mother Wanda Johnson said, “My son was murdered.”


February 2012: A “neighbourhood watch captain” George Zimmerman killed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida on 26 February. He claimed to have shot Trayvon in self-defence.

New York cops killed unarmed black teenager Ramarley Graham in the Bronx the same month.


March 2012: Nearly 5,000 protesters marched in New York chanting, “We are all Trayvon Martin.” Malik Rhassan, who helped organise the rally, said, “The sleeping giant has arisen – the hood is speaking.”

Trayvon’s father told the crowd, “We’re not going to stop until we get justice for Trayvon.”


March 2012: Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old African-American woman, was fatally shot on 21 March, in Chicago, Illinois, by Dante Servin, an off-duty police detective.


March 2013: Two plain clothes cops shot 16 year old Kimani Gray dead in New York on 14 March. Cops later arrested nearly 50 people for attending a peace vigil.


July 2013: An all-white jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murder—despite him admitting he gunned down Trayvon Martin. Protests spread across the US in response.


July 2014: Eric Garner died on 17 July after being put in a choke hold by New York City cop Daniel Pantaleo. Footage showed him telling cops 11 times, “I can’t breathe.”


August 2014: Huge protests took place in Ferguson, St Louis, following the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on 9 August.

Michael’s body was left lying on the street for four hours after cops shot him.

Protesters approached heavily armed police chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”

Police tried to enforce a curfew but faced concerted resistance. The National Guard was later sent in.


25 August 2014: Over 4,500 people attended Michael Brown’s funeral in St Louis.


October 2014: An off duty officer shot and killed black teenager Vonderrick Myers in St Louis, sparking more protests. Cops claimed he was armed, but witnesses said he was only holding a sandwich.


November 2014: Thousands protested across the US over the decision not to charge Darren Wilson, the cop who killed Michael Brown.

Nearly 3,000 National Guard troops flooded the streets of Ferguson, while cops attacked protesters with pepper spray and tear gas.


December 2014: Protests erupted after a grand jury ruled that New York cop Daniel Pantaleo should not be indicted over the death of Eric Garner.

Outrage over Eric Garners death

Outrage over Eric Garner’s death (Pic: Mike Mozart/Flickr)


December 2014: Cops shoot Jerame Reid dead in New Jersey on 30 December after stopping the car he was travelling in. Cop Braheme Days told Jerame to get out of the car and, “If you reach for something, you’re going to be fucking dead.”

Jerame tried to get out of the car with his hands up, and both officers shot him.


2 March 2015: Cops were filmed in California shooting a homeless black man dead as he lay on the ground. The victim was known as “Africa”.

He was killed at a homeless camp on Skid Row in Los Angeles. Footage showed cops dragging him to the ground and piling on top of him.

Black Lives Matter protesters held protests near the scene.


March 2015: Protests erupted in Madison, Wisconsin, after police killed unarmed 19 year old black man Tony Robinson. Officer Matt Kenny had forced his way into Tony’s apartment.


April 2015: Police arrested 25 year old black man Freddie Gray in Baltimore on 12 April. He died days later of spinal injuries.

Cops had cuffed Freddie on his hands and ankles, and the journey to the police station took 40 minutes. Freddie ended up with a spinal cord injury and crushed larynx.

He lapsed into a coma and died after a week.


April 2015: Riots erupted in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray. Officials called a state of emergency and announced plans for a curfew.

People chanted, “All night, all day—we’re gonna fight for Freddie Gray.”


May 2015: A white cop was acquitted of killing an unarmed black couple in Cleveland in 2012. Some 13 officers fired 137 bullets at Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams’ car.

Cop Michael Brelo was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault.


June 2015: White supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.


August 2015: A state of emergency was declared in Ferguson, Missouri, after cops shot a young black man during a protest marking the anniversary of the police killing of Michael Brown.

Eighteen year old Tyrone Harris was hospitalised after the attack.


July 2016: Thousands of protesters took to the streets after cops killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Protests took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the murders took place.

More protests erupted in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Ft Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Memphis, Nashville, Newport, RI, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Washington DC and other cities.


August 2016: Protests erupted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, after cops shot and killed 23 year old Sylville Smith. He was the 721st person to be killed by cops in the US so far that year.


September 2016: Protests began in Charlotte, North Carolina, after police shot black man Keith Scott. The protests defied a state of emergency and curfews.

Black Lives Matter activist Sonya Patrick said young people had come out “in their thousands”.

Racism and revolution in the United States
Racism and revolution in the United States
  Read More

October 2016: Protests took place across the US after cops shot Carnell Snell Jnr in Los Angeles. He was running away from them with his hands in the air at the time.

Activists marched on the governor’s house. More demonstrations took place in Houston, Seattle – and Vancouver in Canada.


May 2017: Hundreds of thousands took part in A Day Without Us day of strikes and protests. It aimed to highlight the importance of migrants in the US.


August 2017: Heather Heyer was murdered in Charlottesville, Virginia, after far right activist James Fields drove a car into anti-fascist protesters.

At least 19 others were injured. Donald Trump criticised violence on “many sides”.

Mass demonstrations against fascism and racism swept the US following the murder.


August 2017: Thousands of anti-racists came out to oppose a right wing demonstration in Boston, Massachusetts. Organisers estimated 45,000 people came—and opposed a racist demo of 25.

Activist Vida James said, “The government and the police are actors of institutional racism.”

Another 3,000 demonstrated in Dallas, Texas, against racism. In Houston, Black Lives Matter protesters demanded the removal of a “Spirit of the Confederacy” monument from a park.

And thousands of protesters in Vancouver, Canada, also dwarfed a pro-Trump demo.


September 2017: Angry protests erupted in St Louis, Missouri, after a judge found cop Jason Stockley not guilty of murdering Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. The National Guard was called in – but a march around the city took place.

Marchers went to St Louis University chanting, “Out of the dorms and onto the streets,” and brought students out.


February 2018: Students organised after a racist school shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Killer Nikolas Cruz was a member of a white supremacist group. Students called for a national school walkout.


March 2018: Hundreds of thousands joined March For Our Lives across the US in protest at mass shootings. Students and young people organised them.

Tens of thousands marched in Parkland, Florida, where students had previously held a 17-minute walkout, one minute for every student killed during a shooting in February.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Delaney Tarr said, “We are not here for bread crumbs, we’re here for real change.”

Some 800,000 marched in Washington DC, 150,000 in New York City, and 40,000 in Los Angeles, California.


March 2018: Stephon Clark, a 23-year-old black American man, was shot and killed in Sacramento, California on 18 March 2018 by police officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet. The officers were cleared.


June 2018: Antwon Rose II, a 17-year-old African-American who was fatally shot in East Pittsburgh on 19 June by police officer Michael Rosfeld. Rose was unarmed when shot. Rosfeld was found not guilty of criminal homicide


July 2018: Police killed Harith Augustus in Chicago by shooting him in the back, sparking angry protests. Police held protesters on the floor and beat them.

Other cops in Vineland, New Jersey, killed Rashaun Washington. They shot him three times.

Rebellion against police murder tears through United States
Rebellion against police murder tears through United States
  Read More

August 2019: Racist Patrick Crusius carried out a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. He had posted a racist manifesto online hours before. He singled out “race mixing” and said he was targeting Hispanic people.

At least 20 people were killed and 26 injured.


March 2020: Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician (EMT), was shot eight times when officers entered her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, on 13 March.

They were executing a search warrant as part of a drugs investigation, but no drugs were found in the property.


May 2020: George Floyd, a black man, was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin on 25 May 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—2 minutes and 53 seconds of which occurred after Floyd became unresponsive.

  • Police shot 223 black people dead in the US in 2017, 209 in 2018, 235 in 2019 and 31 in 2020 so far.
  • They shot 179 hispanic people dead in 2017, 148 in 2018, 158 in 2019 and 13 so far in 2020.
  • This compares to 457 white people in 2017, 399 in 2018, 370 in 2019 and 42 so far this year.

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