The following statement was released by John Bachtell, chair of the Communist Party USA in the wake of the police shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Michael Brown and the subsequent police attacks on peaceful protesters and journalists.
The grief and heartbreak of Michael Brown’s parents and Ferguson’s largely African American community is unimaginable. We share that sorrow and grief.
We also join the universal demands to prosecute the officer who committed this horrendous killing.
Our nation should be deeply disturbed by this murder. Michael Brown’s story and those of Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Stephon Watts, John Crawford, Ezell Ford and countless other young African Americans murdered by racist police officers is all too familiar.
We should also be outraged and alarmed by the presence in Ferguson of police laden with weapons suited for a war zone confronting its citizens and denying the right to protest. It is a scene reminiscent of the U.S. occupation in Afghanistan or Iraq.
This is a moment for deep national reflection. It strikes at basic issues of humanity, equality and democracy. The cause of Michael’s death is not hard to see. It is the fruit of institutionalized racism and hate within the police department. Ferguson is 67 percent African American, yet only 3 of 50 officers are black.
In Ferguson and communities across the country, policing is routinely based on racial profiling and “stop and frisk” policies targeting young African American and Latino men.
Instead of guaranteeing public safety, police departments are occupying powers. Communities of color are dehumanized; residents are constantly under suspicion and viewed as animals. Police officers imbued with racism and hate, armed with guns and impunity to commit crimes against citizens makes for a deadly mix.
It is in the vital interests of all communities – black, brown and white – to have police departments that are not above the law, that serve and protect all residents, including African American, Latino and other people of color – not just white and wealthy residents.
The investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and FBI into Michael’s killing makes it possible to bring the light of day to Ferguson’s police department and attain justice.
But we must go much further and take steps to actually change police practice. It’s time to bring police departments under the authority of the communities they serve.
It’s time to establish civilian police accountability councils with public authority to investigate, subpoena and charge officers engaged in crimes and corruption.
It’s time to fully integrate police departments at every level, end the practices of racial profiling and stop and frisk, policies that emanated from the failed “war on drugs” and which have resulted in mass incarceration of mainly African American and Latino youth.
It’s time to repeal the section of the National Defense Authorization Act which arms local police departments with military style weapons, armored vehicles, helicopters and combat assault rifles.
Let us turn our grief into action. Let us honor the life of Michael Brown by changing that which led to his tragic death.
Photo: Names of known victims of police torture conducted by Chicago Police Department and Commander Jon Burge stretch the length of the many-feet- long banner at a rally against police crimes in Chicago, Aug. 28, 2013. There are still countless others unknown. (John Bachtell/PW)