Every 36 Hours [UPDATE]
Report on the Extrajudicial Killing of 120 Black People
This report was produced for the “No More Trayvon Martins Campaign”, demanding a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice. This is the 2nd Major report of the Campaign.
[UPDATED: Monday, July 16, 2012]
A human rights crisis confronts Black people in the United States. Since January 1, 2012, police and a much smaller number of security guards and self-appointed vigilantes have murdered at least 120 Black women and men. These killings are definitely not accidental or random acts of violence or the work of rogue cops. As we noted in our April 6th, 2012 “Trayvon Martin is All of US!” Report (see http://mxgm.org/trayvon-martin-is-all-of-us/), the use of deadly force against Black people is standard practice in the United States, and woven into to the very fabric of the society.
The corporate media have given very little attention to these extrajudicial killings. We call them “extrajudicial” because they happen without trial or any due process, against all international law and human rights conventions. Those few mainstream media outlets that mention the epidemic of killings have been are unwilling to acknowledge that the killings are systemic – meaning they are embedded in institutional racism and national oppression. On the contrary, nearly all of the mainstream media join in a chorus that sings the praises of the police and read from the same script that denounces the alleged “thuggery” of the deceased. Sadly, too many people believe the police version of events and the media’s “blame-the-victim” narratives that justify and support these extrajudicial killings.
However, we have studied each of the reports of these deaths — including false, implausible and inconsistent claims by police and witness reports that contradict police reports. From this study and many peoples’ experience, we must reject the corporate media’s rationalization for the horrible fact that in the first six months of this year, one Black person every 36 hours was executed. This wanton disregard for Black life resulted in the killing of 13 year-old children, fathers taking care of their kids, women driving the wrong cars, as well as people with mental health and drug problems.
This report documents how people of African descent remain “without sanctuary” throughout the United States. Nowhere is a Black woman or man safe from racial profiling, invasive policing, constant surveillance, and overriding suspicion. All Black people – regardless of education, class, occupation, behavior or dress – are subject to the whims of the police whose institutionalized racist policies and procedures require them to arbitrarily stop, frisk, arrest, brutalize and even execute Black people.
Invasive policing is only one aspect of the U.S. states comprehensive containment strategies to exploit Black people and to smother resistance. To contain the upsurge of the Black liberation movement of the 1960’s and 70’s and protect the system of white supremacy the institutional forces of racism have worked through governments at every level to destabilize the Black community via community divestment, massive employment discrimination, outsourcing, gentrification and other forms of economic dislocation. In addition, schools, housing, healthcare, other social services and transportation in Black communities have been denied equitable provision and distribution of public goods and resources.
The U.S. state maintains and reinforces these economic injustices with the militarized occupation of Black communities by the police and a web of racist legislation like the “war on drugs”, discriminatory polices like “three strikes” and “mandatory minimum” sentencing. The result is a social system that mandates the prison warehousing of millions of Black people and extrajudicial killings where the killers act with impunity and more often than not are rewarded and promoted for murder. The oppression and police occupation of Black communities parallels the brutalization, denial of human rights and killings being committed by the Israeli occupying forces in Palestine, and the persecution of Afrodescendants in Columbia and the Indigenous peoples of Brazil over the past several years.(1) Nothing short of the structural integrity and survival of the Black community is at stake when we consider the historic record.
For those who doubted the framing of the “Trayvon Martin is All of Us!” Report, this 6th month update proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the institutionalized violence of white supremacy is not only alive and well, but is, in fact, intensifying. To complete the picture, we must take into account the extrajudicial killings and other repressive policies directed at other targeted peoples and communities such as Indigenous peoples, Latinos, Arabs, Muslims, and immigrants. These, in conjunction with the oppression of Black people, demonstrate that the U.S. government remains committed to maintaining the system of white supremacy created by the aggressive and illegal European settler-colonies that first established the national-state project.
This crisis can only be stopped through decisive action. First, the Black community must organize its own self-defense. Second, we must build a broad, mass movement capable of forcing the government to enact transformative legislation based on our demands. The fundamental transformative demand must be for a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice to eliminate institutional racism and advance the struggle for self-determination. The Black community itself will determine the specific contents of The Plan, drawing from the foundation of CERD (the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Racial Discrimination) and the DDPA (Durban Declaration and Programme of Action).(2)
We call on everyone who believes that decisive action must be taken by Black and other oppressed peoples to confront and defeat national oppression and white supremacy to join us in developing an independent, mass movement for human rights that builds power in our communities and will have the capacity to force the Federal authorities to implement a comprehensive National Plan of Action for Racial Justice. You can join us immediately by helping us secure 1 million signatures to our petition (see http://mxgm.org/trayvon-martin-is-all-of-us/), organizing Copwatch and People’s Self-Defense campaigns, fighting for elected Police Control Boards, the demilitarization of our communities, and the reinvestment of the military and security budget into community reinvestment and social programs amongst other suggestions provided in our “Local Struggles” paper (see http://mxgm.org/no-more-trayvons-campaign/). We also encourage communities to organize their own grassroots crisis intervention, domestic violence prevention/control and mediation teams so families in crisis do not become so desperate for help that they compound their problems by calling 9-1-1 and inviting the police into their homes.
We also call all organizations and individuals who agree with the demand and framework for a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice to help us build the National Alliance for Racial Justice and Human Rights (NARJHR) as a structure that will help us develop and implement a comprehensive national plan that centers oppressed peoples’ right to self-determination and the full realization of our human rights.
For more information about the Report or any of these action proposals, contact Kali Akuno at email@example.com.
Highlights from the Report
110 Black People Executed without Trial by Police, Security Guards and Self-Appointed Law Enforcers between January 1 – June 30, 2012
- These executions primarily destroy Black communities’ future and spirit by stealing the lives of our youth. Of the 110 lives taken:
- 13 or 12% were children under 18 years old.
- 20 or 18% were 18-21 years old, just entering adulthood.
- 45 or 41% were 22-31 years old.
- 17 or 15% were 32-41 years old.
- 9 or 8% were 42-51 years old.
- 4 or 4% were over 52 years.
- 2 or 2% were of undetermined age.
69 Per Cent of the Lives Lost Belonged to People from the Ages of 13 to 31.
- These executions happen nationwide: from north to south; east to west; in rural towns and large metropolitan areas. Like in the years of lynching, there is no geographic sanctuary. Yet some cities—especially in the South– execute Black people without trial in numbers disproportionate to the size of their Black populations. Here are the cities with 2 or more executions.
States where Black People were killed by Police (January through June 2012)
US Cities – Extrajudicial Killings of Black People
|U.S. City Name||Number Executed (Jan-June 2012)||Black Population (2010 Census)||Ratio of Deaths per Million Black People|
|New York City||9||2,228,145||4|
|Atlanta Metro (includes Clayton County)||9||399.505||23|
|Chicago Metro (includes Calumet City & Dolton)||7||915,436||8|
|Cleveland (includes Maple Heights)||3||227,451||13|
- A significant proportion of the 110 were killed because they suffered from mental health problems or were intoxicated and behaved in ways the police allegedly could not control.
- 24 people or 22% might be alive today if community members trained and committed to humane crisis intervention and mental health treatment had been called rather than the police.
- What is the relationship between “stop and frisk” policies and procedures and racial profiling and these deadly encounters?This report documents how these encounters were initiated. Encounters that began because the “suspect was engaged in suspicious behavior or looked suspicious or was driving suspiciously” show how often racial profiling leads to death.
- 43 (39%) of police accounts explicitly cite “suspicious behavior or appearance” or traffic violations (“driving while Black”) as the reason for their attempt to detain the person who they eventually killed.
- 20 (18%) deadly encounters began with calls to 9-1-1 to seek help in resolving “domestic disturbances”. These included family members seeing assistance in dealing with mentally troubled people.
- 11 (10%) people who had violated no law or had not been involved in any harmful behavior were killed.
- That leaves only 36 people or 33% killed in the course of police investigating activity they define as “criminal”.
- Most of the people executed were not armed.Here is the breakdown:
- 47 had no weapon at all at the time they were executed.
- 40 were alleged by police to have weapons (including a cane, toy gun and bb gun) but this allegation is disputed by witnesses or later investigation. Police are infamous for planting weapons or deciding that a cell phone, wallet or other harmless object is a gun.
- 21 were likely armed
- Police and other executioners typically justify their murders by reporting that the “suspect” ran away, pointed a gun or crashed into them with a car and therefore they had to use deadly force to defend themselves.
- In the first half of 2012, police alleged that 38 of the people they executed attempted to run away from them.
- 20 of the people who were murdered allegedly pointed guns at officers and/or attempted to crash into them. Reports often do not mention if the officers were wearing uniforms or if the “suspects had any way of knowing their assailants were not civilians.
- Regardless of how these encounters begin, whether they involve activity that violates the laws of the state or the laws of basic human decency, no one should be sentenced to death without a trial.In most countries, even with a trial, capital punishment is considered barbaric. So the use of deadly force is always “excessive” (and extrajudicial by international human rights standards) except in certain circumstances.
- 15 cases in this report or less than 14%, if the facts reported are true, involve situations where the “suspect” shot and wounded and/or killed the police and/or others while the police were on the scene. Although it would have been preferable to stop them with non-lethal force, the use of lethal force in these circumstances can not be considered. But in the remaining 95 cases, killings were extrajudicial, that is, they used lethal force with no legitimate justification and violated peoples’ basic human rights.
Cases of Extrajudicial Killings of Black People (January through June 2012)
- On gender: In the first half of 2012, only 5 out of the 110 executed people were women. Two were accused “car thieves”, two were “innocent bystanders” and one was beaten and smothered by police because they could not calm her emotional agitation. Please note: the most glaring way that women’s oppression enters the picture is in the high number of deaths (18%) that result from mothers, wives, lovers or other family members who call the police because they are desperate for help with their troubled, often frightening, kids and partners. Grassroots community crisis intervention and mediation would lighten the burdens that single mothers and survivors of domestic violence carry and also build towards more community self-reliance. As one mother whose emotionally troubled son said, “calling the police to calm a mentally ill child is like calling an undertaker to deliver a baby.”
- The “justice system” gives impunity to murderers. The names of a few of the 110 people on this death roll have become nationally-known rallying cries for justice: like Trayvon Martin and Remarley Graham. Their murders have sparked massive mobilizations, media commentary, calls for government intervention, lawsuits and endless legal wrangling. However, after the initial announcements in local news media, the lives of most of those who were executed are forgotten. The standard procedure in most jurisdictions is for police involved in fatal shootings to be given paid “desk-duty” while the department conducts an investigation of itself. The press applauds their fine records while it screams about the criminal records of the deceased. Almost all killer cops are routinely exonerated and quickly return to the street. Grieving families who invariably ask the modest question, “why did he have to die?” are ignored. If there is some demonstrated community outrage the case may be further investigated. The legal system almost never charges these executioners and even if they do, the killing continues. A number of families seek legal redress through the civil courts and seek financial restitution. After years of litigation a tiny minority may gain some solace from a financial payment. And the executions continue.
- 37% of the Black people who were executed in the first half of 2012 seem to have been totally forgotten. A careful internet search could not find their names after an initial flurry of news about their killings.
- 6 security guards and self-appointed law enforcers (including Trayvon Martin’s killer and the Tulsa murderers) have been charged.
- 3 killer cops have been charged: one for vehicular homicide-DUI, two for manslaughter (Remarley Graham’s killer and Christopher Brown’s killer).
- That is, in 95 cases of extrajudicial killings, the legal system has only charged 9 people, less than 10%. The outcome of these charges is still pending.
- A note on the research process:
The data for this report was collected by meticulously combing the internet during the last ten days of June 2012. In addition to searching on “police-involved shootings”, “police killings of Black people”, etc., we also went to the websites of the local press, blogs and police departments in the 100 cities and towns with the largest Black populations and followed wherever the links led. In the course of these searches, we found the names of an additional 14 people killed before March 31, who we hadn’t found during the research for the first quarterly report. Those names appear here. There is, as far as we know, no national database that tracks these killings. Wikipedia has posted a very incomplete list and also detailed the other databases available. See Wikipedia’s List of Killings by law enforcement officers in the United States. This report covers the deaths of 110 Black people: 54 from January thru March and 56 from April thru June, 2012. In other words, despite the huge mobilizations after the Remarley Graham and Trayvon Martin murders, the killing continued at an even faster pace. We do not believe the 110 deaths listed here are all the Black people killed by police and security guards. There are no doubt more—especially in places that do not have an active internet media presence. We found the names of an additional 15 people killed by police whose race we could not confirm. There were countless others who were in critical condition from police shootings, but the press never reported on whether they survived. With time, we estimate another 30 to 40 cases might emerge. For more information on any given case, you can type “shooting of name, date, place” in your search engine. For more information on this Report or to contribute updated information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Report on Black People Executed without Trial by Police, Security Guards and Self-Appointed Law Enforcers January 1 – June 30, 2012”, was produced by Arlene Eisen and Kali Akuno for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). Special assistance was given by Ajamu Baraka.
1 The figures for the number of Palestinians killed in 2011 can be found at http://www.ochaopt.org/poc.aspx?id=1010002. Figures for Afro-Colombians can be found at http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/2322/, http://www.afrocolombians.com/pdfs/PCNonFTA-April12.pdf and http://news.afrocolombians.com/news/?sectionid=8. Figures on Indigenous peoples killed in Brazil can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/10/world/americas/in-brazil-violence-hits-tribes-in-scramble-for-land.html.
2 To read the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination see http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cerd.htm. To read the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action see http://www.un.org/durbanreview2009/ddpa.shtml.