S.P.D. gun-thugs in action again---
On the afternoon of Feb. 18 artist, poet and M. C. Shawn Maxwell was gunned down by the police near 51st N. E. Trapped next to a large freeway wall, 31 yr. -old Shawn (known as Raiko to his many friends) became the latest in a long line of African-Americans killed by the S. P. D. Although the politicians, police, newspapers, and other defenders of the capitalist establishment work overtime to deny it, this was racist murder. It calls for rejuvenation of mass anti-racist struggle. We call on all wanting to contribute to this process to attend and speak out in the following events, and to spread this flyer.
Saturday, Mar. 16, 4:00 p. m. University Baptist Church 12th Ave. N. E. and N. E. 47th St. in the University District (Seattle)
Saturday, Mar. 23rd, 4:00 p. m. 50th and University Way N. E. (Seattle)
Police say when they eventually pulled Shawn Maxwell over for a traffic infraction he ran away carrying a 19-inch blade. Reinforcements were called, and 5-6 cops caught up with Mr. Maxwell, whose escape route was blocked by the wall. They formed a semi-circle around him and one shot him with a taser. They say it failed to immobilize him because he was too far away (a taser's effective range is 21 feet). Next, they say, Maxwell raised the blade above his head and came at them, so they had no choice but to shoot him (at center-mass, etc. ) Once the man was on the ground dying, they just "had" to shoot him some more because he allegedly reached for the knife.
The cops' story is obviously full of holes. If their victim had raised the knife above his head (allegedly holding it with both hands, an ineffective way to attack to begin with) why couldn't they have stayed out of the way? They say they were out of taser range, and they could have used tasers again if Shawn got too close in the manner they allege. No, this was a gang murder, and pumping more lead into Shawn Maxwell as he lay dying was trigger-happy blood-lust. The arrogance involved in the police lies trying to justify the latter is beyond belief.
The truth of the matter---
The cops often commit their brutal acts in the dead of night, when there are no witnesses. But this time there are as many as seven eye-witnesses. According to those whom have talked to the press the lynch mob actually involved 10-12 officers. The gun-shots came almost immediately after the taser-shot. Mr. Maxwell remained 18-21 feet away from his murderers. He didn't raise the blade (one says he even had his back partially turned toward the officers). And after he was on the ground mortally wounded he didn't reach for the knife (which wouldn't have justified more shooting if he had).
This fascist outrage follows the well-known recent murders of Aaron Roberts and David Walker (as well as less-known shootings). It's part-and-parcel of the national police savagery toward African-Americans. More murders are to come. Locally, Chief Kerlikowske, and various captains and lieutenants, are actually inciting more murders by making absurd defenses of this one. The message to the force is clear: "anything goes, we'll back you up!". Nationally, President Bush has not only lionized the police in general as "heroes" in the days after Sept. 11, but the N.Y.P.D. was singled out as especially "heroic". (Until then the N.Y.P.D. was known for such things as stealing drugs from pushers, planting drugs on its victims, being on the take, and ceaselessly murdering blacks---just one example, shooting young Amadou Diallo 41 times when he reached for his wallet!) Again the message is clear, "no matter what you do, you're our `heroes'".
Furthermore, a domestic component of the bipartisan "war against terrorism" is further freeing of the police, FBI, CIA, etc. , to do most anything (represented by the "PATRIOT Act", a series of executive orders, etc. ). Before, the working class and poor had few meaningful rights, and African-Americans, other minorities, and immigrants even fewer. But first the "war on drugs", and now the "war against terrorism", represent more moves toward a police state. Presently thousands of Arabic, Somali, and other immigrants have been denied all rights as they've been detained, imprisoned or deported simply because of their race or religion. And after Sept. 11 racial profiling was touted as the latest "wisdom" in law enforcement by the powers that be. Yet once such police state measures and propaganda as these are accepted as necessary to fight "terrorism", they will then be ready for use against all the exploited and oppressed people. And the entire history of this country shows that black people will especially suffer as a result.
Thus it's clearly a time for serious organizing---something requiring an analysis of the origins of racism, and working among the social forces whose direct class interests demand fierce struggle against racist attacks in every form. As many people are rightly pointing out, the S.P.D. (like other P.D.s) has racism institutionalized within it. After 40 years of Democrat mayors, often very liberal ones, and including a black mayor, and after hiring many more black and other national minority officers, it remains racist. This is because the police are an armed detachment of a capitalist state, along with the National Guard, Army, etc. By its nature capitalist production exploits and oppresses labor, and it doubly exploits and oppresses black labor (along with that of Mexican and many other immigrant communities). This super-exploitation enforced by racial discrimination translates into $billions in profits yearly. Moreover, to justify this the capitalists systematically spread racist ideology to try to divide the workers of different races and nationalities and thereby to weaken the workers' movement, and keep down the entire working class. As front line defenders of capitalist "order" the police departments must therefore be racist, along with all other state institutions. To resist and ultimately overcome this framework of institutions we must therefore concentrate on rallying those whose material interests lie in the anti-racist struggle: fundamentally the working class of all races or nationalities, but also others who are exploited and oppressed by capital.
The mild reformists are dead against this. Represented by the NAACP, Urban League, and Co. their "fight consists of having press conferences to call for a federal investigation. Never mind that the Feds are presently on a rampage against Somali and other immigrants using racial profiling, or never mind that the F. B. I. itself has been sued by black and other minority agents for racial discrimination, never mind. . . . the Feds will allegedly do something. This is ludicrous. Others are calling for more police training, another joke. The cops are highly trained, and make good money. Meanwhile, the more radical-talking reformers in the African-American community have essentially gone into hiding. And the false revolutionaries (FSP/Radical Women and others) have dusted off their demands for a citizens' review board, one of the demands the mild reformers too have promoted in times of mass outrage (times unlike now) to channel the anti-racist movement into something "safe" for the establishment. Other cities have such boards, and have even co-opted activists onto them. But they have not stopped police brutality and murder (which only proves again the necessity for a profound struggle of the masses), and they cannot do so. At best they can only be a minor difficulty for the police departments and their lawyers.
We live in a class divided society, with the government and police at every level acting on behalf of those on top. The most basic role of the cops has always been to suppress protest, struggle and rebellion of the masses of people, and to fight against revolution. We saw glimpses of this at the Battle of Seattle, and N30 this year. We saw it in the police assassinations of revolutionaries Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, and many other heroes of the Black freedom struggle of the '60s and '70s. Today we see it in the increased militarization of the police departments. And by foully murdering Shawn Maxwell as they've murdered so many of our brothers before him, the S.P.D. has again shown us that a revolution to overthrow the capitalist system which the S.P.D. represents and defends is still the crying necessity of our times.
The movements and mass rebellions of the 60s and 70s did not go far enough. Every anti-racist and general democratic gain has either been gutted or is rapidly being reversed. In this situation we cannot afford to take this latest outrageous police murder lying down. It should be denounced everywhere, flyers like this one circulated, and people should come out to meetings and marches like those listed above. Clearly Shawn Maxwell's killers should be jailed, and tried for murder. But such events can only come as a by-product of a more conscious and organized struggle against the growing racism and fascism of the American state.
* * *
(On Feb. 23 we posted the original version of this leaflet to Seattle Indymedia. The next day the following poem appeared below it.)
disgust and anger
disgust and anger and memory
i knew Raiko (thats what Shawn went by) only briefly, since this last summer
this was a cold-blooded murder on the cops part
i know that, but i want to write about Raiko - the sweet guy i feel blessed to know
he was not deranged -
he was in no way a danger to society -
he worked his ass off for good things -
he was too good for this fucked up place we find ourselves living in
he liked music, Sheila Chandra was one of his favorites, portishead, bjork, autuchre
he liked cooking, spices, scents - the whole experience
and he would go on fasts - sometimes for weeks
he wrote poetry, he liked travel - he had a ticket to go to japan in just a few weeks and talked about going to Africa, he gave awesome advice - he had a way of showing up right when i needed someone to talk to, always giving me a lift - shedding light in a rare genuine way
one thing he said a few weeks ago that sticks with me and is helping me stay pro-active in the midst of so much pain and anger, was this
'every day, when you get up - empty out your glass from the day before'
each day new, fresh mind view
he had a great laugh and gentle touch
thats what i'll remember
peace Raiko - you're not forgotten
Updated on 03-15-02