The Death of Akai Gurley at the Hands of the NYPD Is No Accident—IT IS MURDER!

November 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


On Thursday, November 20, just after 11 pm, Akai Gurley and a friend left another friend's apartment in the Louis H. Pink Houses in the East New York neighborhood. As soon as they entered the unlit stairwell of the building to walk downstairs, Akai was shot in the chest by a New York Police Department officer and died soon after. Just like that, another young Black man’s life was stolen. Mayor de Blasio called it a “tragic accident.”


NYC Revolution Club protests the murder of Akai Gurley who was killed by an NYPD police officer in the stairwell of the Louis Pink Houses public housing complex. Nov. 22, 2014. Photo: AP

Akai was just 28 years old. He had just spent the evening having his hair braided and was going home. He had a two-year-old daughter. And just like that, he was shot down and killed, his life just snatched away.

Yet another UNARMED Black man shot down and murdered by the pigs—and this time the NYPD is even being forced to admit that the man was totally innocent; they could not even make up some kind of bullshit story to try to justify their criminal act. The mayor asked people not to connect this murder to other recent murders of Black men by police, saying they all have very specific and different situations.

In fact, who could not make the connection between the murder of Akai Gurley and the murders of so many countless others cut down by the police? Who could not make the connection right now between this murder and the recent murder of Eric Garner, choked to death by the NYPD for supposedly selling loose cigarettes, and the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, who was cut down, unarmed with his hands up in the air? Who could not make the connection between the anger people are feeling about the murder of Akai Gurley and how the whole country right now is watching, waiting to see whether the grand juries will bring down indictments on the cops who killed Eric Garner and Mike Brown?

NO! The killing of Akai Gurley was not “an unfortunate accident.” This was the direct result of the Standard Operating Procedure, of the conscious policies of the police. This was the direct result of the NYPD’s policy of “vertical patrols” in the housing projects. The police go to the top floor and walk down through the stairwells. Bratton says cops have the discretion to have their guns drawn. The New York Times talks about how the “dimly lit stairways and dilapidated conditions create fertile ground for violent crime, while the constant presence of illegal firearms creates a dangerous and highly volatile environment for police officers and residents alike.” What bullshit! This is turning things upside down. The whole situation of these “dimly lit stairways” has not only created an unsafe situation for the residents of the buildings—but it has become an excuse, a rationalization for the police to justify “shooting people who appear in the darkness”—even if they are completely innocent!

The police and media all talk about how dangerous these patrols are—FOR THE POLICE! What about the danger these cop patrols pose for the people in the housing projects? This is NOT the first time that the police have shot someone in the stairway of a housing project. In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Heyward Jr. was killed in the stairway of his housing project by a NY Housing Authority cop doing a “vertical patrol.” In 2004, the NYPD killed 19-year-old Timothy Stansbury Jr. on a roof at the Louis Armstrong Houses in Brooklyn. A grand jury declined to indict the cop after he gave “emotional testimony” that he had unintentionally fired. He said he was startled when Stansbury pushed open a rooftop door in a place where the police said there was rampant drug dealing.

Imagine that happening anywhere else and to any other section of people! Imagine the NYPD doing “vertical patrols” in a high-rise condominium in Manhattan, with their guns drawn!

Enough Is Enough! People Need to Fight Back!

Two days after the murder of Akai Gurley, 200 people took to the street in a determined and defiant march called by the Black Autonomy Federation. The protest started at the front doors of the building where Akai was murdered and went first to the NYPD's 75th Precinct and then ended at the Public Service Area 2 (headquarters of the NYPD cops who patrol the projects where Akai was killed).

People were angry and outraged, chanting over the bullhorns, “From Ferguson to NYC, Fuck the police!” “These killer cops mean we got to fight back!” “Indict, convict, send the killer cop to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell!” and many others. People came out onto their stoops and screamed, “Fuck the police!” Many connected this murder to the murder of Michael Brown. The crowd included the December 12th Movement; families of people killed by the police, including Nicholas Heyward Sr., father of Nicholas Heyward Jr; anti-police brutality activists; revolutionary communists; State Assemblyman Charles Barron; the Stop Mass Incarceration Network; and others. The revolutionary communists carried a banner about the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, that is set to come down any day now with a decision about whether to indict the cop who killed Mike Brown. It read, “IF THE KILLER COP WALKS AMERIKKKA HALTS!” The banner had been signed by many in Harlem. It was the center of much attention as many came over to take pictures of it. Carl Dix’s statement, "IF THE MURDERING PIG WALKS, AMERIKKKA MUST BE BROUGHT TO A HALT!" was distributed to the crowd and people on the street and in their cars along the way.

In his recent statement, Carl Dix said, “The grand jury investigating the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson will announce its decision any day now. All indications are that it will let the killer cop, Darren Wilson, walk free. This would amount to the system giving its stamp of approval, once more, to police wantonly murdering Black youth. This would be an outrage—one that we must refuse to accept.”

These are the connections that de Blasio doesn’t want people to make—and doesn’t want people to act on. But the people who face this day-in and day-out, from the Pink Houses in East New York, to the projects in Harlem, to inner cities all over the country, as well as all people of conscience, need to stand up and fight back right now! This system, with its enforcer cops, has no right to take the lives of our youth and to trample on the people’s rights! Enough is enough!

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