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.