Diallo Verdict Gives Police a License for ‘Legal Lynchings’

On Feb. 25, four New York City police officers were acquitted of all charges in the death of Amadou Diallo, the immigrant from Guinea who was shot in a barrage of 41 bullets as he stood, unarmed, in the vestibule of his apartment building in the Bronx.

“I think there’s no justice,” Diallo’s father said bitterly after the verdict was read.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in New York City, shouting, “No justice, no peace!” They also chanted, “Forty-one, forty-one, it’s a wallet, not a gun,” referring to the cops’ testimony that they thought Diallo had a gun when he reached into his pocket to get his wallet and ID.

Seven of the jurors, speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, insisted that they had no choice but to acquit the cops, because of the law and evidence presented in court.

One juror, Lavette Freeman, said that she understood the anger expressed in the protests, but the prosecution had given her no basis on which to convict. “For me that hurts,” said Freeman, who is Black.

The chief prosecutor in the case, on the other hand, shifted blame for the acquittal to the judge. Many thought that the four-hour instructions Judge Teresi gave to the jury came down heavily on the side of the defense.

The New York Police Department announced that it would make its own investigation of the conduct of the four cops, but that this would take a year to complete. Police Chief Safir has said that the Street Crime Unit, while being maintained, will have various changes made in its operations.

These promised “reforms” are reminiscent of previous statements made by the NYPD. But there is an old saying that is relevant: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

This was made clear when a few days after the Diallo verdict, a young Black man, Malcolm Ferguson, was shot by a cop just two blocks from where Diallo had been killed.

Ferguson’s mother claimed that her son had been “executed,” since he had recently filed notice that he intended to sue the police for $5 million for an incident in which cops had broken his hand and then held him for two days before he could get medical attention.

The exoneration of the New York cops who murdered Diallo is the latest example of the “legal lynchings” carried out by police forces throughout this country. The police scandal in Los Angeles, for example-in which cops were found to have framed, beaten, and even shot innocent people-seems to be widening by the minute.

Already some 40 criminal convictions have been overturned there as a result of initial investigations. It was recently revealed that LAPD officers conspired with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to deport some 160 immigrants who had witnessed police brutality incidents or who the cops feared might contradict them in court.

Ever since Radical Reconstruction was overthrown in the decades following the Civil War, police violence has been a necessary institution of the ruling class to intimidate the Black minority and other oppressed minorities in this country.

Although, as a result of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Jim Crow segregation is no longer legal in this country, we are witnessing a new drive of the ruling rich to make de facto Jim Crow the rule of the land. As the capitalist class and their Black and white politicians are leading a war on those in poverty, they are turning prisons and the welfare system (workfare) into institutions of forced labor (de facto slavery).

It is notable that on Feb. 15, 2000, the prison population of the United States reached 2,000,000. The United States, with merely 5 percent of the world’s population, now has 25 percent of its prison population, consisting primarily of Blacks and other oppressed minorities.

At the same time, this country’s rulers are systematically destroying affirmative action and reinstitutionalizing unequal opportunity for the Black masses. Police violence is necessary to this process of resubjugation of the Black community.

In order to stop this process, it is necessary to drop support to the two capitalist parties and to return to the mass action strategy of the civil rights movement in opposition to the government. Such a strategy could lead to Black control of the Black community and the end of the police state in that community.