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

Long Beach California:
10 cops gun down a 57-year old grandmother

Feb 4, 2002

On the morning of January 19, the Top Value Food Market in Long Beach, California called police about a lady who had walked out of the store without paying for her groceries. The woman, 57-year-old Marcella Byrd, had been living in an assisted living center for senior citizens, being treated for schizophrenia.

Ten police responded to the call – only to gun down this black woman accused of the “dangerous” crime of shoplifting.

The Long Beach Police Department rushed to justify this senseless murder as “self-defense.” A spokesperson for the LBPD said that the police had first chased Byrd “for an entire city block,” and that when Byrd finally did turn around, she was holding a knife. The police said that they tried to stop Byrd by using “non-lethal” force, firing miniature bean bags at close range, but that this didn’t stop her. Byrd then supposedly raised the knife up in a throwing position – at which point, several of the cops fired their guns – in “self defense.”

Marcella Byrd, who stood all of 4 feet, 5½ inches, and weighed 260 pounds, could hardly constitute any kind of a threat to 10 cops – even assuming that she actually had a knife and the cops didn’t plant it on her afterwards. Only in stories told by police do seriously disabled grandmothers suddenly become superhuman threats.

As a spokesman for the Byrd family said, “One woman with a knife couldn’t be tackled by 10 officers? Why couldn’t someone sit there and talk to her, for 50 hours if necessary? It’s a life.”


But in this society, life is considered cheap – especially when the life belongs to someone who doesn’t rub elbows with the big thieves of this society.