While we rejoice about the decision of Ramsey County prosecutor John Choi to indict St Anthony policeman Jeronimo Yanez for the unwarranted killing of Philando Castile we have to be clear about what it means and what it doesn’t. It is indeed a win. But just because the system has chosen to do the right thing this once while failing to in hundreds of other cases of police misconduct does not mean it works. The truth is this is an aberration an exception to the rule.
In fact an indictment usually comes as a result of the system having almost no choice, usually they were caught red handed on camera coupled with a community and sometimes national protest demanding prosecution. And of course then and only then will this sly system prosecute, while using terms that make it appear to be moral, principled, just and conscientious which of course it is not.
Without question if the governor’s “business as usual” not been disturbed by days of protest demanding prosecution; if the rich people who live on Summit Avenue in St Paul had not had their peace disturbed; if millions of people not been exposed to the heartless, callous and cruel actions of officer Yanez who even threatened to shoot Diamond Reynolds, while Philando sat bleeding to death; there would be no prosecution.
And let’s be clear an oppressive class system buttressed by White Supremacy may have found it easier to indict a cop of color. Yanez is Latin. And the same system that encourages this criminal behavior will be counted on to prosecute one of their own. Definitely hold the cheers.
The big business newspapers like the Star Tribune would have us believe that a lack of training caused Yanez to kill Philando, but quite the contrary. Yanez didn’t render aide to Philando as he sat bleeding to death because he was trained not to. He was trained to keep his gun fixed on Diamond Reynolds and her four year old because he was trained to see them as threats. He was trained to see Philando as the potential enemy in a class and race war in which he voluntarily signed up to defend the interests of the ruling class.
Make no mistake, the system supports and encourages this police behavior. Spilling the blood of those who are in any way resistant to the system says to the others, ‘this is what is in store for those who resist.’
This decision does not change or redefine the role of the police or why they exist in our society.
Every time a cop a hits someone with their stick or maces or shoots someone it is to remind them of their place in this society. This is what is in store for recalcitrant, impudent and rebellious workers/slaves. All the speech making and pontificating about community relationships is just cover for their real role.
In fact our joy has already been tempered by the fact that the prosecution and indictment of a cop for injuring a citizen, (which is so hard to come by) does not mean conviction.
In Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati policeman Ray Tensing killed motorist Samuel DuBose in July 2015 almost in cold blood. The video of the shooting was made available for all the world to see, Cincinnati gave in and prosecuted Tensing, that is they charged him with murder. The circumstances surrounding DuBose’s death were similar to Philando’s.
But a jury of Tensing’s “peers” couldn’t bring themselves to convict him of second degree murder.
Unfortunately too many people believe that the police exist to “serve and protect” “them. So they are susceptible to all the finer points of capitalist/bourgeoisie law which support the police ability to kill citizens as long as the cop can claim to feel his/her life was in danger.
Sensing an opportunity to propagandize, the Star Tribune in a recent editorial on the Castile decision tried to use the first indictment of a cop for killing a citizen in Minnesota in almost 50 years to say that this proves that “justice is not irrevocably one sided.”
But that is not true justice is still as one sided in this country today as it was yesterday.
The difference in this case was the set of circumstances and the political environment and the protest. This decision in no way signals a sea change, police violence which strives under both Republican and Democratic administrations is here to stay.
While it sounds right to talk about police accountability, in truth the police are not accountable to us, but to this social, political, economic system’s ruling class. Real accountability to the citizens will only come about when citizens rise up and restructure, reconstruct or remove the current system.
justice then peace