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

Mass Shooting in Jacksonville

Sep 4, 2023

On Saturday, August 26, Ryan Christopher Palmeter, a 21-year-old white man, shot and killed three people, all black, at a Dollar General in Jacksonville, Florida. Palmeter had earlier scoped out nearby Edward Waters University, an historically black college.

When cops arrived at the site of the shootings, Palmeter apparently shot himself to death. He was carrying an AR-15 decorated with swastikas. He left behind what authorities described as several manifestoes. The manifestoes have not been made public, but Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said they "detailed the shooter’s disgusting ideology of hate" toward black people and that he wanted to kill them.

Coincidentally or not, the shooting came on the same weekend as the 63rd anniversary of the ax handle beatings of lunch counter protesters in the very same city of Jacksonville in 1960, and the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963.

This is hardly the first time a mass shooter carried out a racist attack in this country. One need only think back to the mass shootings at a Tops Market in Buffalo just over 15 months before, which killed 10 black people and injured three others, and the 2015 one at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, resulting in the deaths of nine black parishioners. Both shootings were carried out by young, white men who openly supported white supremacist ideologies.

The racism behind these shootings and others is of course nothing new. It’s part and parcel of the history of this country. But they are also not disconnected from a clear increase in the voicing of hateful ideologies, which also have been encouraged by the not very well hidden machinations of far-right politicians, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis, who has conducted a systematic effort to prevent any teaching of the history of racism in Florida schools, actually had the nerve to show up at a vigil held for the Jacksonville victims. One person there rightfully shouted, "Your policies caused this!" and after DeSantis made some short hypocritical comments, he was roundly booed off the stage.

The Jacksonville shooting also reflects the problem of mental illness in this society, as the killer had previously been detained and held for a mental examination in 2017 at the age of 15 and was involved in a domestic incident the previous year. A neighbor suggested he may have gone off medication shortly before the shooting. He was clearly suicidal when he chose to carry out this hateful act.

Putting a stop to these kinds of acts means getting rid of a system that encourages them. The working class has the power to do so, but will have to stand up against racism and all other means the wealthy ruling class and its politicians use to divide us.