Apr 4, 2018
People in Sacramento have been carrying out protests for two weeks against the murder of Stephon Clark at the hands of the Sacramento police. Four days after the shooting, protestors shut down the local Interstate and blocked basketball fans from entering the Sacramento Kings arena. A week later a demonstration forced the cancellation of another Kings’ game.
Clark was a 22-year-old father of two children. He was completely unarmed. After someone had broken car windows in the neighborhood, a sheriff’s helicopter spotted Clark in his grandmother’s own back yard. Assuming he was the guilty party, they sent two cops there, who, within three seconds, opened a barrage of 20 rounds. Clark immediately fell to the ground.
At first, the cops claimed he had crowbar in his hands, later a “toolbar.” But video from the cops’ own body cameras showed those were lies. In other words, we have no reason to believe anything they say when they now claim they “thought” he had a gun. The fact is, he didn’t have one.
The cops also claimed Clark was charging at them. An independent autopsy, conducted by Dr. Bennet Omalu, showed just the opposite. Omalu is a former chief medical examiner for San Joaquin Valley County in California and a professor in the UC Davis department of Medical Pathology. Omalu concluded Clark was hit eight times; six shots from behind, one to the back side of his neck and one to the front of his thigh. Omalu demonstrated that this one hit Clark when he was on the ground or falling.
Police shootings of young black men in this country are regular occurrences. In Sacramento alone, this was the third such fatal shooting in the last two years. A few days after the Sacramento killing, a cop in Houston shot and killed another unarmed man. Danny Ray Thomas. Thomas, upset about the death of his two children at the hands of his wife, was walking in traffic with his clothes pulled off. He had no weapon. But when he walked toward the cop, the cop shot him.
A Washington Post study shows a consistent pattern of close to 1,000 fatal shootings in each of the last three years. Not all the shootings involve black people. A good number of those shot are either white or Hispanic. But the number of black people killed in such shootings is vastly disproportionate to their share of the population. Not all those shot were unarmed – but many were.
People have been protesting such killings for years. But police almost always ignored the testimony given by witnesses in the neighborhoods. In recent years, however, the widespread prevalence of cameras in cellphones has led to videos that capture the actions of the police – exposing their fabricated accounts.
With those videos circulating not only in local areas, but on the internet, more people have seen the reality of what has been happening. Anyone paying attention could rattle off the names of many outright killings of young men at the hands of the cops. But this still raises a question: how many more occurred out of sight of video cameras?
In any case, even with the videos, charges rarely have been filed – it’s enough for a cop to claim he thought his victim had a gun, even when he didn’t. But even when charges were filed, prosecutors often made little effort to get a conviction. Few of the killer cops have ever been convicted. The cops typically got the backing of police officials, prosecutors, the courts, the U.S. Justice Department and most politicians.
In other words, the killing of innocent people at the hands of the cops amounts to modern-day legal lynching. It’s outright terrorism – and it’s aimed at people living in poor neighborhoods, especially black neighborhoods. Instead of working to erase the causes of poverty, and to improve living conditions in the neighborhoods, this capitalist system uses violence and the threat of violence to impose control over the victims of poverty. Instead of working to uproot the causes of racism, this system reinforces it.