Revolution #212, September 26, 2010
LAPD Murders Again — Basta Ya! No More!
Justice for Manuel Jaminez
It's one o'clock on a warm September 5 afternoon in the immigrant neighborhood of Pico Union. In this area's Westlake district, at the corner of 6th and Union streets, the sidewalks are bustling with vendors, shoppers and children playing in this very densely populated part of Los Angeles. Among them is Manuel Jaminez Xum (Manuel Jaminez), a 37-year-old day laborer from Guatemala. Today, his footing is a bit wobbly, his reaction time a bit slowed by a few beers earlier that morning. Afterwards, some said they had seen Manuel holding on to a fence to steady himself as three menacing LAPD bicycle cops approached him.
Just forty seconds later, he was dead. LAPD cop Frank Hernandez had shot Manuel twice in the head. It was at such close range that one witness recounted how his blood splashed all the way across the street to where she stood. The cops handcuff his lifeless corpse and threw a white sheet over it. And for four more hours, his blood-soaked body lay in the hot sun. Like a dead animal.
It was just too much of a provocation for the people of Pico Union to stomach, causing people to rebel in the streets for the next three days and nights.
After the shooting of Manuel, an outraged crowd pressed up against the yellow crime scene tape, some shouting "Asesinos!" "Murderers!" "We are not animals! We are human beings." "Justicia!" One newspaper reported someone yelling, "You guys don't have the right to come into our neighborhood and assassinate people."
From the morning into late night of Monday, September 6, people's anger against this outrage boiled over in the streets with shouts of "justice for Manuel Jaminez." Repeatedly, hundreds would gather at the spot of his murder; it became the site of an ongoing vigil. Men and women took turns speaking bitterly about how the cops treat the people of Pico Union, how routinely and constantly the cops terrorize residents, macing vendors in their face, confiscating and throwing their food products in the trash, issuing tickets they cannot pay. People repeatedly marched from the vigil site to the nearby Rampart police station and back. This whole scene lasted for two more days.
People took to the streets. Over the course of three days, the whole neighborhood was alive with defiance and resistance against this injustice. There were moments of exhilaration where people who yesterday had been fearful of simply being noticed by cops demanding documents now stood up proudly with dignity and humanity. They marched fearlessly up to the hated Rampart station and pressed signs and banners of "We are all Manuel Jaminez" onto the glass front doors. Local TV and newspapers reported that police were pelted with eggs, trash dumpsters rolled down the streets, and garbage was thrown from rooftops and upstairs windows onto streets below. By midweek, Google news showed about 600 news items of the uprising in Pico Union from the U.S. and around the world, from China to Mexico, Canada to Lebanon, from Kentucky to Minnesota, New York to Nevada.
Stunned by the intensity and sustained nature of this mass resistance, the authorities reacted with even more LAPD pouring into the streets and occupying Pico Union. Riot police massed in the hundreds and shot tear gas and rubber bullets as helicopters hovered, with their loudspeakers blaring "by police code, this is an illegal gathering and you are ordered to disperse." Someone yelled back in Spanish: "By what police code do you shoot down an innocent man?" One woman shouted at the cops, "Violadores! Rapists! Rapists! You rape undocumented women!" Another, holding a picture of Manuel. stuck it in each cop's face, demanding they look at whom they had murdered. "We are human beings!" Mothers laughed together with their adolescent daughters as people taunted the police.
Nearly 30 people were arrested, many charged with refusing to disperse, inciting to riot, or assaulting police. The L.A. Times wrote on September 14 that over a dozen may be charged as city officials review police reports, news video footage, and "witness accounts" to build cases against protesters. There are stories that some of the arrested had been turned over to ICE and face deportation.
A community meeting was called by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck four days after the police shot Jaminez. Over 400 people attended. As soon as Beck took the microphone, shouts of "Justice!" "Justicia!" and booing arose loudly in the room, drowning him out more than once. Hundreds marched again in the streets after the meeting.
People angrily demanded Beck explain why the police killed Jaminez. Some challenged the police story as "made up in Hollywood" with its exaggerated photos of a six-inch knife that Manuel supposedly had. A witness said she had immediately told police at the scene that Manuel had "nothing in his hands" when he was shot. Her account was ignored until days later when she gave a statement at a press conference called by political activists. Other witnesses have come forward to corroborate her story.
Mainstream press have all repeated the police story that Jaminez held a bloodied knife over his head and lunged at the three cops after he threatened a couple of women, including one who was pregnant. This has been confusing for many. But two weeks later, authorities have not found out whose blood was supposedly on the knife, nor have the two women been named.
But even if the police story were true, many have correctly noted the situation could have been dealt with differently, without killing Jaminez. With three beefy cops against one intoxicated man, it was possible to have disarmed him and diffused the situation. Many people on the street corner said they knew Manuel Jaminez and could have easily assisted.
Tell us your story about police abuse
Tell us your story if the police have...
Manuel Jaminez was brutally murdered by the LAPD on September 5, 2010. His murder has unleashed many to tell their stories of being harassed and brutalized by the police.
We want to hear your stories. We also invite lawyers, clergy, teachers and professors to share stories they know about police abuse.
Sponsored by the Readers of Revolution newspaper (revcom.us)
For more information: Call Revolution Books/Libros Revolución at 213 488-1303
The cops, city officials, and mainstream press say this police murder is justified, as the cops were afraid of getting hurt. But is it legitimate or right for firemen to let people die for fear of entering a burning building so as to save their own skin? If the role of the police is truly to protect and serve the people, wouldn't they have in fact risked their own safety instead of taking someone's life in less than one minute?
Frank Hernandez has shot two other people. In 2008, he shot 19-year-old Joseph Wolf, who had already turned his back and walked inside his own front door. Wolf was then arrested with a fabricated story of pointing a gun at the cops, "evidence" which turned out to be two plastic toy pistols taken from a dresser of his bedroom! Is this accident or design that such lying, brutal cops like Hernandez are turned loose on an impoverished neighborhood like Pico Union?
In a press interview, Beck casually admits the LAPD shoots dozens of people each year. He was surprised and baffled by the angry resistance this time. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has infuriated a lot of people in saying that he is "certain" that an investigation will prove the cops to be the heroes.
Think about it. The authorities expect to shoot people down in the neighborhoods of the oppressed and get away with it time after time. Does a system like this, with these kinds of representatives and enforcers, have the right, ability, moral authority and legitimacy to rule over society if they cannot handle such a situation better than wantonly killing people and expecting to get away with it, time after time?
Driven from Guatemala…Abused and Murdered in America
The RCP's Message and Call captures the reality for all those like Manuel:
Throughout the world, as a result of this system, a billion people or more go hungry ever day…with many facing the threat of starvation. Hundreds of millions of children are forced to work like slaves and to live in putrid slums, in the midst of garbage and human waste. Waves of immigrants, unable to live in their own homelands, travel the earth in search of work—and if they find it, they are worked until they can hardly stand and are forced into the shadows, with the constant fear that they will be deported and their families broken apart.
According to some of his relatives, Manuel left behind his children and wife in Guatemala in 2003 and could not travel to see them for the past five years. He felt trapped in Los Angeles, where he lacked work, money and documents to allow him to visit his loved ones. He left during a time when western Guatemala experienced famine conditions from a combination of factors—devastation of its economy due to imperialist globalization, deforestation and privatization of resources like water for irrigating land. A 2010 study released by Guatemala's education and health ministries report that over 45% of Guatemalan children suffer malnutrition and 52% of its 13 million people live in conditions of poverty or extreme poverty. The agriculture ministry reports 2 million Guatemalan peasants are threatened by famine this year.
There is a sense broadly that the shooting of Manuel Jaminez is part of the epidemic of police brutality and murder, aimed mostly at Black and Latino people all across this country, but especially in impoverished neighborhoods like Pico Union. For many, this is linked to and part of the attacks against immigrants, further unleashed by laws like Arizona's SB 1070. That is, it is part of a climate where immigrants, when they get to this country, are viciously exploited at every turn, demonized, denied basic human rights, dragged away and deported at any moment, brutalized by sadistic border patrol agents and the local police. It's no wonder that the police murder of Manuel Jaminez kindled broad and deep rage.
However, instead of laying the causes of this rebellion at the feet of the reality of enforced poverty and misery under this system—enforced by the wanton brutality of the police, Chief Charlie Beck and the L.A. police union claim the protests were "fueled by" "agitators" and "various community ‘activists.'" They specifically singled out the Revolutionary Communist Party.
It is telling that, in the face of the honest and justified outrage of the people, the powers-that-be proclaim the police heroes—and then try to divert people's anger against those forces who are resolutely standing with the masses.
The Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" was out all over the neighborhood, as was Revolution newspaper. Just as they should be! And, together with the many signs people made themselves, they were not only debated, but became ways the people expressed their sentiments.
Resistance…and a Search for Answers
The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world…when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness…those days must be GONE. And they CAN be. (RCP's Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have")
It mattered that people took to the streets in Pico Union. Not only have the people courageously stood up and refused to let this be just one more time when the police literally get away with murder, this resistance can be part of the process through which the political terrain, and the people's thinking, get transformed as they fight the power.
And when those at the base of society refuse to put up with things like the murder of Manuel Jaminez, this can have a positive impact throughout society, among people of all walks of life. Some of those sentiments were expressed in statements sent to a September 16 press conference at the site of the killing to call for justice for Manuel Jaminez, and to "Support the Protests Against the Police Killing." A statement from Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd expressed outrage "over the police execution of Manuel Jaminez and the thousands of other cases of murder, brutalization and criminalization of black and brown people in America." A message sent by James Lafferty, Executive Director, Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, called for "an honest, thorough, and transparent investigation into the shooting death of Mr. Jaminez" and "if the officers involved are found guilty of wrongdoing in the shooting they be prosecuted appropriately." And a statement from Tomás Olmos, attorney, past President of the Mexican American Bar Foundation & Dean Emeritus of People's College of Law (affiliation for identification only), condemned the "intensifying climate of pushing immigrants more into the shadows." Olmos added, "If supporting this just cause renders me an ‘outside agitator,' I will proudly wear that badge of honor." (See transcripts of these and other statements at the press conference below.)
The upsurge has provoked an openness and curiosity among many who took part and among those impacted by it to seek answers, big and small, about the world and how things work: Is it only about racism? Or is the whole system guilty in these police murders? Could revolution really happen in the U.S.—and what kind of revolution is both needed and possible? Who is the leader? What is the strategy?
It is important that the revolutionaries stood with the people, and as they did so, raised the people's political consciousness and worked to bring them to an understanding that there is no permanent necessity for the ways things are in this society. When revolutionaries enter into such outbreaks it is an important part of the process of bringing forward a revolutionary people through all the twists and turns of resistance to this and other crimes of this system as a part of all the work to "prepare minds and organize forces for revolution." Another world, a much better future, is possible—and it is worth fighting for!
Justice for Manuel Jaminez! Indict and jail the killer cops! Drop the charges on all protesters! No raids or deportations!
Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.
- September 17, 2010
Statements read at press conference at 6th & Union, Los Angeles:
Justice for Manuel Jaminez and Standing with the People of Pico/Union/Westlake in Protest of the Police Killing
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.