The Licensed Murderers of Kelly Thomas, Mark Duggan, Trayvon Martin, et al
By Dennis Loo (1/15/14)
When a harmless and innocent young homeless person like Kelly Thomas can be brutally murdered by licensed killers, their murderous actions all captured on tape, but these murderers’ actions are legitimated by innocent verdicts, then something is seriously wrong.
When a British jury can find that a biracial man, Mark Duggan, had no weapon on him but it’s a “legal killing” when he’s gunned down by the police because the police can always claim that they felt threatened – because after all, it’s a black man, don’t you see? – and the jury buys this, then something is seriously wrong.
When Trayvon Martin, a young black teen minding his own business, can be executed by a self-appointed neighborhood watch vigilante named George Zimmerman, and a jury, following a judge’s decision that “racial profiling” had nothing to do with the case, sets Zimmerman free, something’s seriously wrong.
When Oscar Grant can be be held down by a BART cop, co-operating fully and committing no offense, yet still be shot in the back and killed, and his murderer exonerated on his claim that he thought he was using his taser and not his gun, then something’s seriously wrong.
When unarmed 24-year-old Manuel Diaz is shot dead by Anaheim police, first in the buttocks and then in the head, and the very next day unarmed Joel Acevedo is similarly shot dead by Anaheim police, and their killers aren’t even charged, then something’s seriously wrong.
The list goes on and on. On the one hand, this is, unfortunately, nothing new. Police murders of innocents is par for the course. But, on the other hand, juries’ innocent verdicts in the face of explicit evidence that these are cold-blooded murders are a terrible and deeply worrisome trend.
The fact is, authorities have declared open season on anyone who by virtue of their looks or actions can be deemed a threat, justifying any and all measures against them, including preventive detention, 24-hour surveillance, torture, and assassination. That is what has been done and is being justified in the “war on terror.” Everyone everywhere is literally now a suspect and authorities have free rein to do whatever they please as long as they claim that they do so under the color of law.
The very fact that poor people, migrants, Muslims, drug dealers, and political protestors are all included in … list[s] of potential “terrorists”—justifying surveillance over them all and the rousing of nativist sentiments against them—reveals a momentous and explicit shift in how public officials and opinion-makers govern. In an economy in which some must be poor because capitalism and poverty are co-occurring and mutually reinforcing phenomena—capitalism requires that some be unemployed and therefore willing to work for less in order to survive— and where migrant labor fuels economic activity like arteries keep a person alive, the criminalization of these indispensible groups reflects a deeply troubling facet of our contemporary world. The marginalized groups are told, in effect, “We need you to exist as you do, for you make us rich and comfortable, but the very fact of your existence renders you a suspect, a criminal and a possible terrorist.” The poor and immigrants are therefore equally as indispensible as they are intolerable. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 148)
When more loosely hinged individuals like Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook killer of 26 people, including his mother and 20 children) and James Holmes (Aurora movie theatre murderer) don military garb and open fire on innocents, they are actually merely acting out what the President of the United States does every week, except when the POTUS does it, he uses others to do his bidding.
There are consequences to leaders acting in this lawless fashion. When the US government flouts international law and commits the supreme international war crime by invading a country that did not threaten and had not attacked the US, when the US government violates the Geneva Conventions by torturing and killing people in their gulags like Gitmo and Bagram, and when the POTUS orders every Tuesday more people assassinated by drones, remotely controlled death dealing from the skies, then what else can we expect from the police on the beats to do but emulate what those at the highest echelons are doing and justifying? And what can we expect cowed jurors to do who buy into the logic that these licensed killers can do whatever they want because they’re in uniforms and they're in charge?