Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Issues Behind The Oakland Shootings


Issues behind the Oakland shootings

By Larry Hales
Published Apr 1, 2009 4:33 PM

On March 21, Lovelle Mixon, a young Black man, was pulled over by two motorcycle cops in Oakland, Calif. According to the Oakland Police Department, the stop was “routine” and was for a “traffic violation.” Other than that the details of the stop remain shady. But such routine stops involving racial profiling occur frequently in oppressed communities.

Mixon placed a call to his uncle from a cell phone. According to the uncle, Curtis Mixon, “He was saying that they were talking on the radio, that they were probably calling for backup, you know how they do. ... Then he said he had to go.” (New York Times)

After the phone call, Lovelle Mixon apparently shot the cops and fled on foot to an apartment complex. According to reports, Mixon hid out in a closet, and as SWAT police entered the apartment he was in and the room in which he was hiding, he then exchanged gunfire with the cops, hitting three, two fatally, and was himself shot dead.

Since then, the police have made numerous claims against Mixon, including that he was tied to a rape or several rapes, a homicide, and that he entered into the sex trade as a pimp, the latter charge supposedly confirmed by a cousin. Of Mixon’s choice to be a pimp, “That’s not something he wanted to stay in,” his cousin said, “but he couldn’t find anything else to pay the bills.” (New York Times)

This commentary is not an attempt to defend his choice to be a pimp, if it is true, or any sexual assault. It is a usual course of police departments to defend their actions and the actions of the state apparatus as a whole by further demonizing victims of police brutality or anyone who is alleged to have fought back against cops.

The final months of Lovelle Mixon’s life must be placed within the context not only of the specific conditions of Oakland, Calif., and the fact of national oppression but also of a deepening crisis of the capitalist system and its disproportionate effects on oppressed communities.

The Los Angeles Times published a timeline of the last months of Mixon’s life, following his release from the California Correctional Center in Susanville.

Mixon served five years in prison before being released in October of 2007 and securing a job as a janitor. He made his parole visits but was remanded back to prison for nine months. According to family, he was willing to go back, because once released he would get a different parole officer, as he felt the one he had was abusive and demeaning.

When he was released in November, he moved back home to live with family members and started seeing his new parole officer, submitting to visits and looking for a job.

A New York Times article reports that Mixon’s grandmother revealed his problems with his parole officer—that the officer would make him wait for hours, stand him up, belittle him and threaten to revoke his parole a second time.

Ultimately not able to find a job, Mixon felt forced to resort to other means. According to a 2003 report by the California Research Bureau, the unemployment rate of parolees recently released was 70-80 percent and many of the prisoners in California were remanded back to prison because of the strict zero-tolerance policy that governs parolees in the state.

Beyond that, though, beyond the politics regarding parolees and the prices they must pay for drug counseling and other classes that people released on parole are made to pay for as a condition of parole, stands institutionalized racism and the national question.

It is well documented that the U.S. has the world’s largest prison system. In fact, the total number of people in prison, jails, on parole or probation is 7.3 million, with 2.3 million in prison. Fifty percent or more of the prison population is Black. California, with 170,000 prisoners, has one of the largest prison populations in the world.

And in every city across the U.S. police brutality is rampant. Oakland, one of the poorest cities in California, with a rich history of struggle, has seen a number of police killings of people of color by police. The most recent killing was of Oscar Grant III, who was executed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit cop, Johannes Mehserle, while he lay face down on a subway platform.

In 2008 Casper Banjo, a 71-year-old Black artist, was shot by a cop at a shopping mall. The people of Oakland have suffered through intimidation, martial law, occupation and generally being terrorized by the police; therefore, Lovelle was justified in defending himself from occupying cops just as resistance fighters in Iraq are justified in defending themselves against an occupying army.

Also killed in 2008 were six others, including Jody Woodfox and 15-year-old José Luis Buenrostro. The year before, Gary King Jr. was brutally beaten, tased and shot in the back by Oakland Police Department cop Patrick Gonzales.

This was and is the atmosphere that led to the four cops being shot, and it could happen at anytime, as long as the racist conditions lead to blinding poverty, mass incarceration and oppression and repression for people of color at the hands of the police.

Lovelle Mixon was not a cold-blooded monster acting out of rage that was unwarranted, but another example of a young Black man with the weight of centuries of oppression bearing down upon him who had few chances to secure better opportunities for himself.

He is a victim and casualty of the racist U.S. capitalist system and the cops are merely armed protectors of that system who wage a constant war against the poor and oppressed every day.
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