The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Murder of Stephon Clark—Legal Lynching

Apr 2, 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, Black Lives Matter led a march that shut down the local Interstate and blocked basketball fans from entering the Sacramento Kings arena. A week later a protest caused the cancellation of another Kings’ game.

Clark was a 22-year-old father of two children. He was completely unarmed, and standing in his own grandmother’s backyard when one of two cops, directed there by a sheriff’s helicopter, shouted “Show me your hands! Gun!” Within three seconds, the two cops opened a barrage of 20 rounds, with Clark immediately falling to the ground.

The cops now claim they thought he had a gun in his hands. At first, they claimed he had a crowbar in his hands, then a “toolbar,” but video from the cops’ body cameras showed those were lies. The video shows that when other cops showed up, someone shouted “Hey, mute!” No further discussion could be heard. In other words, we have no reason to believe anything they say.

The cops claimed Clark was charging at them, but an independent autopsy, conducted by Dr. Bennet Omalu, showed otherwise. 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 shot eight times; seven shots hitting him from behind. One to Clark’s thigh hit him in the side, but Omalu concluded that one hit Clark when he was either on the ground or already falling.

Police shootings of young black men in this country have become regular occurrences. In Sacramento alone, this was at least the third such fatal shooting in the last two years. Just recently, a cop in Houston shot and killed another unarmed man, Danny Ray Thomas, who was struggling with the death of his two children at the hands of his wife, walking out in traffic with his pants pulled down around his ankles. When he walked toward the cop, the cop fatally shot him.

A Washington Post study shows a consistent pattern of close to 1,000 fatal shootings in each of the last three years. Certainly, not all the shootings involve black people, but they do so in numbers vastly disproportionate to their share of the population. Not all were unarmed–but many were.

Since the killing of Michael Brown and the series of demonstrations which followed in Ferguson, Missouri and the subsequent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, the people most commonly affected by violence at the hands of police, primarily poor and working class black people, have paid increased attention to such shootings. With the widespread prevalence of cameras in cellphones, people have begun to capture videos of actions of the police. When video evidence has become available, protests have sometimes forced officials to respond.

Only in rare instances have charges ever been filed, and in even fewer instances have the cops ever been convicted. Anyone paying attention could rattle off the names of many outright killings of young black men at the hands of the cops. They were captured on video for all to see. How many more have occurred out of sight of video cameras?

These killings at the hands of the cops amount to modern legal lynchings. Despite the protests being waged by people in the streets, killer cops can typically count on the backing of police officials, prosecutors, the courts, the U.S. Justice Department and most politicians.

The killings and consistent cover-ups by authorities are the demonstration of what the purpose of the police force is–an instrument to terrorize the poor and working class population, especially the black population, to keep them under control. The authorities aren’t about to “fix” it–these cops are doing what they were meant to do.