Revolution #210, August 29, 2010

Murderous NYPD Rampage in Harlem

Early Sunday morning, August 8, Harlem, New York City. People had been out barbecuing and listening to music at a block party all day Saturday and into the night.  It was a typical New York City thing on a beautiful summer day. 

All that changed when police converged on the street party.

A fight had broken out between two men, 22-year-old Luis Soto and 23-year-old Angel Alvarez.  New York City police officers responded by unleashing mayhem and death. At least 46 gunshots rang out through the streets of this uptown neighborhood. As police fired off a hail of gunfire, chaos erupted in the streets. The 500 people at the block party scrambled for cover. A man who lives in the neighborhood described the scene: "People were running everywhere, grabbing kids and tripping over each other."

When the shooting stopped, Luis Soto lay dead, killed by a police bullet. Angel Alvarez was shot at least 20 times by police and survived. Three other people from the community were wounded by gunfire. One said, "I was walking across the street when I heard some shots like, bwop, bwop, bwop." From his hospital bed he added, "Then I saw the detective in plainclothes, and he was yelling, 'Put your hands up, put your hands up.' And I was just trying to tell him that I was shot."

The police were shooting so wildly and recklessly, with so little regard for human life, even two of their own officers were hit by police bullets.

The details of what set all this off are unclear. Police and authorities themselves have given differing accounts of what happened. Mainstream news accounts seem to indicate that the district attorney claims Soto had a gun, Alvarez took it from him, and fired it during the fight. This story is contradicted by a report at which said that "witnesses have claimed that police were the only ones to fire guns that morning, and that Soto was handcuffed and unarmed when he was killed."

Whatever happened, the police rampage was followed up by massive disinformation and coverup. The next day, Monday August 9, the New York Times reported, "Police officials said the officers' use of force appeared to be justified."  The authorities and media tried to demonize the victims of the police rampage—they repeatedly identified both Soto and Alvarez as having criminal records, as if this justified the police delivering and carrying out a death sentence on the spot.  And the New York Times quoted an assistant DA describing Alvarez as a man with a "history of anger towards police," as if "anger towards police" is irrational, or a crime, or a justification for shooting someone 20 times.

The following facts seem at this point to be undisputed in all published accounts of the incident:

* * *

There are a lot of ways to defuse and handle a fight. But listen to what a witness to the shooting spree at the Harlem block party told the New York Times, "Never once did you hear, 'Freeze.'" And, he added, "Never once did you hear, 'Stop.' Never once did you hear, 'N.Y.P.D.'" Instead, the police just started firing. Interviewed after the shooting, one resident said of the police: "People feel like they have no concern for life."

If this system can't handle a situation like this differently than what went down in Harlem, then this system needs to get out of the way. Revolutionary state power could handle a situation like this in any number of ways with a much different—and better—outcome. And in a new socialist society, if we were faced with a situation like this, we would sooner have one of our own people's police killed than go off and wantonly start blasting away at a block party full of people. That's what you're supposed to do if you're actually serving the people. You go out there and put your own life on the line, rather than just murder someone and shoot up a crowd of 500 people.

The police say they're there to "serve and protect." Bullshit. They serve and protect the brutal reality of this capitalist system. If the system's police were really there to serve and protect the people, they would have found any way but the way they did it to handle this scene. They could have and would have found a solution that was much better than this. But the police in this society don't—and won't—act that way, because their mission is to enforce all the ugly relations of oppression and exploitation in this society, including the subjugation of Black, Latino, and other oppressed people.

A new socialist society would handle an incident like the one that happened in Harlem by valuing the lives of the masses of people—as opposed to this capitalist society and system, where one key role of the police is to terrorize the masses, especially Black and Latino youth, including shooting and killing people almost at random. This is because the more arbitrary the terror, the more broadly it sends a message, and keeps people under the boot of the system.

This is a system that is utterly unfit to run society. Even if the constant police terror, brutality, and murder in the inner cities of the United States was the only thing wrong with this system—which it is not—that would be reason enough for a revolution to bring a whole different kind of state power into being.

From The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have
A Message, And A Call, From The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA:

It is a system of capitalism-imperialism…a system in which U.S. imperialism is the most monstrous, most oppressive superpower…a system driven by a relentless chase after profit, which brings horror upon horror, a nightmare seemingly without end, for the vast majority of humanity: poverty and squalor…torture and rape…the wholesale domination and degradation of women everywhere…wars, invasions and occupations… assassinations and massacres…planes, missiles, tanks and troops of the USA bombarding people in faraway lands while they sleep in their homes or go about their daily lives, blasting their little children to pieces, cutting down men and women in the prime of life, or in old age, kicking down their doors and dragging them away in the middle of the night…while here in the USA itself the police harass, brutalize and murder youth in the streets of the inner cities—over and over again—and then they spit out their maddening insults, insisting that this is “justified,” as if these youth are not human beings, have no right to live, deserve no respect and no future.

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