20. Jan 2007 - Dozens of angry Philadelphians chanted and gave speeches outside the 19th District Police Station. They carried signs mourning the fatal police-shooting victims from last year (2006), 20 in total, and urged for radical action: "These cops in here are murderers, they're killers."
Who was there to "protect and serve" Bryan Jones?
With fireworks still popping from new year's celebrations, the notorious Philadelphia police set off to do one of the things they do best: kill young black men. 20-year-old Bryan Jones was shot dead on the morning on January 1st, 2007. He was unarmed and reportedly running from the scene of gunfire. With three deaths in as many weeks into the new year, 2007 looks like it has potential to beat 2006's record for murders by the Philadelphia police. But not if concerned citizens and activists have anything to do with it.
Dozens of angry Philadelphians chanted and gave speeches outside the 19th District Police Station. They carried signs mourning the fatal police-shooting victims from last year, 20 in total, and urged for radical action: "These cops in here are murderers, they're killers." A cop peaked out the window and laughed at the speaker, a friend of Bryan Jones. He continued into the bullhorn, staring at the cop: "In the words of NWA: Fuck the police! They killed Bryan Jones - unarmed. This is their history, back since the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, 80s, 90s. This is what they represent." Lead by Kamau Becktemba, a member of the Uhuru Movement (the organization that called the protest), the crowd chanted, "Killer pigs got to go, we will fight them blow for blow!"
The second victim of the Philadelphia police this year is said to have been mentally ill, holding a knife, and was fatally shot while surrounded by police. The third, killed January 20, was just 16 years old. While police commissioner Sylvester Johnson is quick to point the finger for heightened police attacks at a "more violent street culture," he fails to comprehend what fuels the violence. And while thousands of young, poor people of color are conscripted into military service and ordered to carry out horrific violence on countless Iraqi civilians, while the police department carries out a terrorizing campaign on people of color in this city, the beginning and the end of the problem for prominent Philadelphia politicians is the street culture. The response from commissioner Johnson is not surprising given the role of the police: to protect the class of rulers from the class of oppressed workers, and to serve the rich by any means necessary to keep them in power.
With mayoral elections approaching, the politicians are sure to spin this in whatever direction they can to let the people know they will be the ones to fix the problem. But their phony solutions will not be reparations to the families of the shooting victims, the solutions will not be jobs and economic development in the black communities of Philadelphia. The solutions will not be improved and equal education for black children, or guaranteed, quality health care. The solution will not be decent housing. In short, the solutions will punish the victims, failing to address the root problem of poverty and oppression.
The only way to fix the root problem, the only way to fight police brutality and systematic racism, is through ordinary people organizing. The protest Saturday was a promising beginning. With the killing of unarmed Sean Bell by the NYPD, and the huge protests across New York city, the issue can easily be connected city to city and state to state.
The last time murders by cops reached these numbers in Philadelphia (in the 70s), the tension exploded into street riots which eventually forced the department to keep their trigger-happy officers in check. Today another riot might be imminent. At some point, we may have to go 'blow for blow' with the cops. For now, people who wake up to the fact that cops will never protect oppressed people from those in power should get organized into strong coalitions that can fight police brutality and aim to stop it.