Revolution #260, February 19, 2012

The Outrageous NYPD Murder of Ramarley Graham

Thursday, February 2, 2012. A confused six-year-old boy stands in front of his home in the Bronx, crying. Neighbors say they heard him say, “They shot my brother.”

Eighteen-year-old Ramarley Graham lies dying on the floor of an upstairs bathroom. A member of the NYPD had just shot him in the chest, close range with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

A security camera video shows Graham walking up to his house, entering, and closing the door. A few seconds later, NYPD officers, guns drawn, come into the picture. They run up to the door and begin kicking it. They break into the house. Moments later Graham is shot.

Initial news reports repeat police claims that Graham had a gun. But these stories quickly fall apart as witnesses, the security video (which at least 63,000 have viewed), and the non-existence of a gun reveal that in fact—there was no gun! The police also claimed they found a small packet of marijuana in the house. To this, one young man spoke for many when he said, “They telling us he had weed. So what! They take a man’s life over a bag a weed! That’s bullshit!”

There is more. The police took Patricia Hartley, Graham’s grandmother, into custody. She was in the house during the police break-in and murder. Ms. Hartley was held for five and a half hours against her will and according to reports was interrogated by the police and representatives from the District Attorney’s office about what she saw. The family reported that Ms. Hartley was coerced to sign some sort of statement. All this while she was denied a lawyer or contact with family and supporters.

A few days before the murder of Ramarley Graham, four NYPD officers were caught on a cell phone video, in another Bronx neighborhood, savagely beating 19-year-old Jatiek Reed. The video shows Reed being thrown to the sidewalk and repeatedly kicked, punched, and struck with batons as bystanders scream for the cops to stop the beating. Then you see a cop turn on the person recording the incident, threatening them with a mace canister. After this, the police searched for a man who had yelled from an apartment window for the cops to stop the beating. And when they found him, they beat him up too.

Anger in the Streets

In the days after the murder of Ramarley Graham and the beating of Jatiek Reed, hundreds of people from the Bronx and around the city rallied to condemn these outrages and to support the families of the victims. People with the Occupy movement, the STOP “Stop & Frisk” campaign, students, artists, and Black, Latino, and white youth joined others and marched on the police precincts in the area.

A crowd of 100 people listened to local officials at a press conference on Saturday, February 4, who called for an investigation of Graham’s death. Suddenly a young man on a bicycle pedaled into the crowd, loudly speaking bitterness about the police. Some officials tried to shut him down but he was unrelenting. When two plainclothes cops began to move toward him, the mood of the crowd shifted in an instant. The anger and impatience, just beneath the surface, erupted and galvanized to defend the right of the man to speak out. The crowd began to march, chanting, “Fuck the Police” and “Police are NOT part of the 99%.”

Along the way folks grabbed up copies being handed out by revolutionaries of the “The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have: A Message, and a Call, from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.” One young woman told Revolution, after hearing about the movement for revolution and the possibility for a different kind of world, “It’s about time. We need a Plan B because this is not working.”

At the 47th precinct rally, Ramarley Graham’s sister told the angry crowd, “This is not just about Ramarley. This is about all young Black men.” Placards read, “Justice for Ramarley and Jatiek!” and “NYPD=KKK!” Defiant protesters stood nose-to-nose with police.

On Monday, February 6, hundreds turned out for a rally and march in the Bronx. Frank Graham, Ramarley’s father, told the crowd, “We are human beings. Stop treating us like animals.” “My son did nothing wrong. I want justice for my son, my baby.”

Outrage about these two incidents has spurred a bearing witness among the oppressed, a collective speaking out about all kinds of bitter experiences with the police: stop and frisk; illegal stops; warrantless searches; arrests for no reason; beatings; drawn guns; prison terms; and cold-blooded murder. Over and over again, people express their deep hatred for having to live this way. And many who have not directly experienced this abuse are learning about it and being moved to stand against it.

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