To: Detroit/Seattle Workers' Voice mailing list
June 23, 2017
RE: Repeated vigils in Seattle for black mom murdered by the police
Since Monday, hundreds of people have taken to streets several times to protest the murder of Charleena Lyles, a black woman with some mental health issues who was shot by the police in her own apartment. A person who attended Tuesday's vigil wrote:
"After the rally tonight, I started walking down a long sidewalk to get to my car. ... As I walked along I noticed a woman heading the opposite direction and pushing a stroller. As she got closer I caught her eye and smiled, and stepped off the sidewalk to let her pass. But instead of passing, she stopped. She looked around her and said, 'I can't believe this!' I was sure she meant the traffic jam up, so I said I'm sorry, it must be annoying to have all these people descend on your neighborhood, but that everyone should be gone soon. But that's not what she was talking about.
"She explained that she was a friend of Charleena's. She goes on to tell me, in tears, how she never saw Charleena without her kids. She says that everyone knew what a loving and devoted mom she was. She starts crying harder, and asks what are her babies going to do without their mom?
"So I stood there and cried with her. We both agreed what happened was bullshit, a total tragedy, and a bunch of other things I can't remember now.
"At this point, her daughter started to fuss and she told me she should probably take her home. I told her I'm sorry for her loss, and all the hurt her community is feeling. She hugged me and started pushing her stroller home."
From the Seattle Workers' Voice #5, which was distributed at the protest march of Thursday, June 22, which was attended by about 600 people:
On June 18, 30-year-old Charleena Lyles called 911 about a burglary of her home and two cops were sent to investigate because the police already knew Charleena was having mental health issues. So on the audio released by the police they can be heard discussing whether there was a mental caution or an officer safety caution on Charleena as they approach her door. They indicate they know she has children. And based on a report of a June 5 police visit concerning domestic violence, one of them says Charleena had made "weird statements," "started talking all crazy" and had a "giant pair of scissors." Thus, the cops knew beforehand a delicate situation might develop.
Nevertheless, after Charleena invites them in the audio indicates the investigation is proceeding in a relaxed manner until very suddenly the cops are repeatedly shouting variations of "get back!" over a period of about 30 seconds. Interspersed in this Charleena at one point curses them, one cop radios: "We need help...a woman with two knives" and later commands the other to "tase her" (with the other replying, "I don't have a taser"). These interchanges then end with a burst of *five* gunshots.
Now the story the police have given the news media is that both officers "had to fire their service weapons." But this is a lie, they did not "*have to*," nor did they even have to take their weapons out at all. For example: If the cops couldn't retreat from the apartment because Charleena was blocking the door, picking something up to defend themselves with was an alternative. (And where were their batons, mace or tasers?) More, if that was not possible, one of the first things taught in hand-to-hand combat classes is how to deal with a knife-thrust and disarming an attacker -- in this case, if she was attacking, a person weighing less than 100 pounds facing two cops who could have surrounded her. (At worst, one of the cops might have suffered some cuts using this method.) Finally, given that the police were very close to Charleena, even in the extreme event that firing a gun was necessary, why not a single shot to the shoulder?
Well, following such civilized procedures are not in the police book. Instead, the cops are trained to pull out their guns when confronted by someone with a knife, and to aim and fire to kill if they feel threatened. The result is system-organized murder. And in this case it was a most vicious murder in which the cops repeatedly shot their victim while three of her children watched.
And there's a political background to this and the many other police shootings of people suffering from mental health problems, i.e., for generations the politicians of both parties have written them off as "disposable" by cutting the budgets for needed programs.
But since the first vigil for Charleena Lyles on Monday, many activists and many of Charleena's relatives and neighbors have rightly stood up to express anger and demand justice for what occurred. They've further said it was not just the two cops that killed her, but also the system behind them. They've set up a GoFundMe account. Demands for positive reforms of the police and social programs are also being made, but with broad realization these can only come through building a powerful mass movement. Public commitments to work to build precisely that kind of movement are being made. And on Tuesday there was a protest march all way from the Lyles' home near Sand Point to the Montlake Bridge.
All this needs to be done: we need to build a mass movement for justice. And this mass movement is strengthened by the revolutionary perspective that no matter how good the reforms or promises may be, the police will still remain oppressors of the masses of people. In particular, the police serve to maintain the oppression of African Americans, other national minorities and immigrants. It cannot be otherwise because first and foremost the police defend a system -- capitalism -- which by its very nature requires the exploitation of the labor power of the majority of the people. This means the capitalist system has oppression built into it, and the capitalists especially benefit from racial, sexual, and anti-immigrant discrimination and oppression. Two reasons for this are: 1) they make extra profits by super-exploiting the victims of special oppression; 2) they can blame the victims of this special oppression for unemployment and many other ills actually caused by the capitalist system itself, and use this to divide the working-class and weaken the inevitable resistance.
Charleena Lyles' life was most tragically ended, but she has already left a legacy to her children: the remembrances of her smile and everything she taught them. We too can leave them and all oppressed people a legacy -- the movement we build and its results. What we do in this regard is important. Therefore let's spread the word about who Charleena was and how she was murdered in our workplaces and neighborhoods and among our families and friends. Let's mobilize people to demonstrations and meetings, and unite with others to make original signs and think up chants to raise in them. And let's work to build the revolutionary trend in the movement further by exposing the capitalist roots of racial discrimination and racist police brutality and murders.
Black women matter. Charleena Lyles' life mattered. Black lives matter.
Seattle Communist Study Group, 6/22/2017
Back to main
how to order CV,
Posted on August 25,