The Spark

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

When “Help” Kills

Sep 14, 2020

Joe Prude knew his brother Daniel needed help, so he called emergency services. Daniel Prude was given a mental health evaluation—and released.

At 3 a.m. the next morning, March 23, Daniel fled his brother’s house and took off his clothes. Naked and bleeding, he knew he needed help: a passerby recorded a video of Daniel Prude begging someone to call emergency services for him. But instead of help, they sent the police. Rochester, New York cops put a “spit hood” over Prude’s head and held him face down on the street for more than two minutes, until he stopped breathing.

In Tucson, Arizona, in April, Carlos Ingram Lopez was also going through a mental health crisis. He also took off his clothes in public—and police held him face down, handcuffed, for 12 minutes, while he pleaded for water, and for his nana, until his heart stopped.

These killings provoked enough outrage to draw attention. But many police killings that are called “justified” also involve someone in crisis. War veteran Joseph Jesk was shot by police in Bridgeview, Illinois last October, after he allegedly pulled a BB gun on a cop. On August 25, Damian Daniels’ brother called for help, but when police arrived they killed Damien, a veteran, after they say he reached for a gun. The list goes on, and on, and on.

When the police don’t kill, they bring mentally ill people to jail. According to the Cook County Sheriff, about one third of the 7,000 people in the jail on any night have serious mental health problems, making Cook County Jail in Chicago the country’s largest concentration of people in need of mental health care.

The people who run this country, at every level, have made the conscious choice not to spend the money to provide mental health care to those who need it. Yet we live in a society that by its very functioning creates mental health problems, from addiction to PTSD. So mentally ill people are forced to rely on their families, or pushed onto the streets.

And when they reach a crisis point, there is no one to send but the police—the same police who every day brutalize Black people and Latinos like Daniel Prude, Damian Daniels, and Carlos Ingram Lopez.

From the perspective of the capitalists who run this society, if they don’t have family members who can afford expensive private treatment, the mentally ill are just a problem to be dealt with, as cheaply as possible.

The working class has a different interest: in building a society in which our friends and family members in crisis can get help, get treated like human beings—and stay alive.