Revolution #178, October 4, 2009

Case of Mark Barmore, Black Youth Murdered by Police

Reactionary Counter-Attack in Rockford, Illinois

On August 24, Mark Anthony Barmore, a 23-year-old Black man, was murdered, shot in the back, by two white cops in Rockford, Illinois. The cops had chased Barmore into the day care center of a church, and shot him down in front of 10-12 children—including three shots to the back, as he lay on the floor. The cops claimed that Barmore had wrestled one of their guns away; but witnesses contradicted this story.

In last week’s Revolution, we went into the official attempts to cover up, and the increasing resistance of the people of Rockford to this outrage. (See “Masses Rise Up Against Police Murder in Rockford Illinois,” Revolution #177.) For the next 10 days, hundreds of the Black people in the city poured out in marches and rallies, speakouts and vigils, town hall meetings, and church services, expressing their outrage at the brutal murder. Then, on September 12, one thousand people marched through the streets of Rockford to the police station, demanding justice. While overwhelmingly Black, this march also included whites and Latinos, some brought out by labor unions and churches, and some who were just outraged by accounts they read in the mainstream news.

But a reactionary response was not long in coming. On September 19, a crowd estimated by the main Rockford newspaper as numbering 1,000 people, almost all of them white, marched to “support officers Poole and North,” the two cops who shot and killed Barmore. The paper reported that “Marchers burst into applause and cheers as they walked past the Winnebago County Public Safety Building, the headquarters of the Rockford Police Department.” One of the cop’s wives wrote an editorial in the local paper celebrating her husband, including offering as “evidence” of his innocence that he has been involved in four shootings, and that “Each use of force was deemed justified and appropriate by grand juries.” In fact, what this underscores is that the whole court system is set up to put a stamp of approval on these police murders.

The very next day the guardian of Mark Anthony Barmore woke up to find that her van and two other cars on the block had been smashed up and painted with swastikas, vulgar language, “KKK,” and a gun with a bullet coming out it. She has also received harassing phone calls to her home including one that directed her to an online classified ad on Craigslist that shows Barmore’s “criminal record” and calls him “a dead thug” in hell.

This kind of reactionary mobilization in defense of murdering copsnot even a month after Mark Barmore’s killing—does not go on every day. The fact that such elements feel both emboldened and compelled to not only take to the streets, but then to engage in cowardly and vicious KKK-style intimidation, is an ominous development for the people. It is very much connected, in spirit and impulse if not organizationally, to the reactionary, white supremacist mobilization that has gone on all summer under the banner of “taking back our country.” (See article on page 3 for more on this movement.) This move actually raises the stakes of what is involved in Rockford even higher—for everybody.

This has not quelled the anger and outrage of the people over the brutal murder of Mark Anthony Barmore—and the overall oppressive conditions Black people face under this system. It is very important that the struggle for justice continue, and intensify, in the face of these attacks. And—especially now that there has been a racist counter-attack—it is very important that Black people not be “out there alone” in this. It is very important that progressive-minded white people, from Rockford and elsewhere, not only continue to join in this struggle for basic justice, but that now, with the stakes raised even higher, even more people step forward to visibly show their support.

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