London's Street Execution of Jean Charles de Menezes

The Lies and the Danger of Silence

Revolution #012, August 21, 2005, posted at

Three weeks ago, Revolution reported on the assassination of the Brazilian immigrant Jean Charles de Menezes by London police. The cops put seven shots into de Menezes' head as he lay face down and was restrained by several plainclothes police. Since we first reported on this, new lies--and new truths--have come to light.

The police originally claimed that they began following de Menezes because he was acting suspiciously. But it's now come to light that they were surveilling the apartment building in which he lived, without even knowing who he was.

The police originally claimed that he had been wearing a bulky coat which could have concealed a bomb, and they even floated quotes from "eyewitnesses" that there had been wires dangling from it. But it's now come to light that de Menezes was wearing a Levi jacket, on a cool summer day.

They originally claimed that they had evidence he was "involved" in the attempted bombings in London the day before. But they had no evidence and he had no connection with any of this. He was an immigrant from Brazil, an electrician on his way to work, when he had his brains blown out by police.

The police originally claimed that de Menezes had run away from them, jumped over the ticket gates, and then raced down the escalator. But video footage has now been released which shows de Menezes using his travelcard to go through the gates.

The police originally claimed that they had identified themselves to Jean Charles de Menezes and warned him. But it's now come to light that several witnesses say that the police did NOT identify themselves; and it's further come to light that under a hitherto secret policy, the police did NOT have to identify themselves if they thought they were pursuing a "suicide bomber."

Lies on top of lies. All to justify the murder of an immigrant who decided to run away from several unidentified white men who were screaming at him and chasing him, with one of them waving a gun.

The British government has not apologized; indeed, the supposedly leftist London Mayor Ken Livingstone has supported the police, saying that the action they took was "appropriate" and intended to "protect the public." And the public was told to expect that such police killings might well happen again.

There have been some protests--mostly by the Brazilian community in London and in Gonzaga, Brazil, the hometown of Jean Charles de Menezes--but there has been little real outrage in London.

And so the murder of an unarmed immigrant becomes the new norm--appropriate action to protect the public (a public which, by definition, must exclude immigrants). And very few protest, or even speak out. This is a dangerous road, with a deadly logic.

The poem written 60 years ago by the German clergyman Martin Niemoller, drawing on the lessons of his years as a resister to the Nazi regime, rings out with chilling relevance:

"First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Commnist.
"Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
"Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
"Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
"Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."