By MARTY GOODMAN
The African American community is reeling from the cop murder of Kimani “Kiki” Gray. The killing has sparked outrage resulting in street protests from New York City to San Francisco.
Kimani was shot dead on March 9 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, when two NYPD cops fired 11 shots at the 16 year old. Seven bullets found their mark, three from behind.
Kimani, a student at the Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction, was with a group of friends on the street while reportedly returning home from a baby shower. Suddenly, a little before midnight, according to witnesses, two plainclothes officers approached the grouping in an unmarked sedan. The cops yelled: “Don’t move!” and drew their guns.
Police say Kimani pointed a gun at the officers, and they have displayed a .38 revolver allegedly recovered at the scene—a gun that many suspect is a “throw down” or a plant. Most witnesses insist that Kimani was unarmed.
Even NYPD top cop Ray Kelly, when asked by the press if anyone saw Gray with a gun, answered “no.” Yet Kelly has maintained that there was “nothing to indicate that this shooting was outside the guidelines.” The two officers involved, Sgt. Mourad Mourad and Jovaniel Cordova, were both assigned to desk duty pending “investigations.” Both faced five federal lawsuits charging illegal stop-and-frisks to physical abuse, costing the city $215,000.
Multiple witnesses state that Kimani was heard to have said, “Please don’t let me die,” as he lay wounded. The New York Times reported that one witness who lives across the street from the shooting, described only as Vanessa, recalled that the officers barked at Gray, “Stay down, or we’ll shoot you again.” Witness Sharon Smith told The Village Voice that she saw the shooting and that her daughter was outside when it happened: “[She] heard him say ‘don’t kill me, don’t kill me.’ And they say ‘stay still’ or they going to shoot you again.”
One eyewitness, Tishana King, 39, who was interviewed by The Village Voice newspaper, said that she saw the incident from her third-floor apartment. King said she saw “about seven to eight” young people, who congregated for “maybe a minute or two” before cops arrived. “There was no suspicious behavior. The worst they were doing, laughing out loud and, you know, talking loud. That’s about it.” King said that the cop who did the most shooting, “just kept shooting while [Gray] was on the ground.” King explained that he was, “right over him.” King says she heard Gray scream, “‘Help me. Help me. My stomach is burning. Help me. They shot me.”
Kimani’s devastated mother, Carol Gray, has called for peaceful vigils in her son’s name. Kimani’s family and supporters have called for an independent investigation into the killing. Hundreds attended the March 23 funeral for Kimani at the St. Catherine of Genoa Catholic Church in Brooklyn.
The autopsy result, released March 13, sparked three days of protest and rebellion that police and the capitalist press branded a “riot.” What the press described as “a splinter group” went into a Rite-Aid pharmacy, and damaged goods and a cash register. Two altercations with individuals, one a store manager, were reported. No money was taken. Dozens were arrested and some brutalized. Later, Ray Kelly retracted the term “riot” to describe the protests. City Councilman Charles Barron called the neighborhood a “powder keg.”
In Brooklyn, a daily demonstration has been maintained at 55th St. and Church Ave. in the face of a massive police presence intent on intimidating protesters. Protesters chant, “NYPD KKK, how many kids did you kill today?” “No justice, no peace, no racist police!” “Justice for Kimani Gray!” On March 24, cops were stationed on each block on Church Ave. within a mile of a protest that ended at the notorious 67th police precinct. Cops were staked out on rooftops, motorcycles, on foot, and on horseback, their belts bulging with plastic handcuffs. Their presence resembled a military occupation of the community.
On March 21 in Oakland, Calif., protesters gathered in Oscar Grant Plaza in solidarity with Kimani Gray and his family, at a rally sponsored by the Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition. (Blueford was an 18-year-old Black man killed in May 2012 by an Oakland police officer who had a history of racist violence.)
New York’s Black and Hispanic communities historically have been shooting galleries for the NYPD’s racist thugs. On the route of daily protests, which often end at the notorious 67th Police Precinct, is the intersection where Shantel Davis was shot and killed by cops nine months ago.
The list of Black and Hispanic youth murdered by racist cops is a long one, sparking mass protest. An unarmed Ramarley Graham, 18, was shot dead by cops last year in his Bronx home in front of his younger brother and grandmother. Video revealed the cop version of events to be all lies. Cops fired 41 bullets at unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo in 1999, Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, was beaten and sodomized with a broomstick by NYPD thugs in 1997. Fifty shots mowed down an unarmed Sean Bell in 2006.
Mayor Bloomberg has backed the police version of Kimani Gray’s killing. Bloomberg also stands behind Kelly’s racist “stop and frisk” policy, widely condemned as racial profiling. Last June, several thousand protesters marched to Bloomberg’s home on the exclusive Upper East Side in Manhattan. Said NAACP President Ben Jealous, a march organizer, “Stop and frisk is the most massive local racial profiling program in the country.”
According to 2012 “stop and frisk” statistics released by the NY ACLU based on NYPD data, New Yorkers were stopped by cops 533,042 times. 89% were found totally innocent; 55% were Black, 32% were Hispanic and 10% white.
Despite widespread condemnation of his racist policies, Mayor Bloomberg hypocritically serves as a prominent spokesperson for gun registration and background checks, spending $12 million of his own money on national TV ads.
Recently, a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, revealed for the first time secret tapes of top cops ordering police to racially profile minority youth to fulfill stop and frisk quotas. As reported in the New York Daily News, March 27, a tape made by Officer Pedro Serrano caught Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack saying that officers should stop “male blacks 14 to 21.”
The tapes also revealed the direct cooperation of the Police Benevolent Association, the phony cop union, in maintaining racist arrest quotas. PBA complicity shows once again that cops are not workers, but the hired guns of the 1%.
Resistance to racist police brutality will depend on building a united, inclusive mass movement. The corporate press and a few activists have tried to divide the movement by redbaiting the participation of radical and socialist groups; this must be rejected.
Our massive numbers in the streets are the best way to make killer cops think twice about brutalizing and killing minority youth. We must build a movement to keep the pressure on the racist court system to win justice for Kimani.
Ultimately, police repression can only be eliminated by replacing the capitalist system, which relies on the police to keep oppressed people in line, and thrives on brutality both here and abroad. Justice for Kimani Gray! Stay in the streets!
Photo: Marty Goodman / Socialist Action