Socialist ViewPoint and analysis for working people

November/December 2005 • Vol 5, No. 8 •

Videotaped State Terrorism

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

The sight of swinging, kicking cops swarming over the prone figure of a Black man should be too common to still surprise. Yet, there it was: half a dozen cops, punching, kicking, grabbing and twisting on a 64-year old man.

Predictably, the New Orleans cops have charged the man they whipped senseless, with public drunkenness, with resisting arrest, with intimidation of police, and a few other charges.

Why does it not surprise us that the NOPD, arguably the most corrupt police department in the country, slaps the old guy they beat into the concrete with what are called ‘cover charges’? There are two problems they will soon face; 1) the beating victim is a retired schoolteacher, and neither a drunk, nor a punk; and 2) it was captured on videotape. But, in America, as we’ve all learned, videos often aren’t enough.

Old heads amongst us recall the brutal beating and rifle-butting of MOVE member Delbert Africa, back during the first police assault on MOVE Headquarters, on Aug. 8th, 1978. Cops were videotaped slamming helmets into the jaw of Delbert, kicking him, and slamming rifle butts into his head. Slam dunk, right? One would think so. But, even after the jury was imported from western Pennsylvania, the trial judge threw the trial, dismissing all charges against the cops who beat Delbert, on videotape, basing his “decision” on Delbert’s frightening muscles.

I kid you not!

Younger folks will recall the name, Rodney King, whose videotaped beating has become almost legendary. Most also remember the acquittal of the brutes in blue who beat him into amnesia. Their defense? Well, let’s just call it “the big, black gorilla” defense, for those words best capture the tone.

But, both Delbert and Rodney were relatively young men, and both were in good shape (they had to be to survive their beatings, eh?). But, what would the cops do when it’s a 64-year old man; a gray-bearded elder, who was a retired schoolteacher?

If hasn’t been a week since the savage assault on Robert Davis, and already the lawyer for the three cops charged with “simple” (!) assault argued that Mr. Davis “wasn’t as frail as he looked—he lifted several cops off the ground!” So claims Frank DeSalvo, lawyer for the so-called police “union.” Clearly, it doesn’t matter if one is 16, 26 or 64, as long as one is a Black man. For, here, again, is the “big nigger” defense (or, in Los Angeles, “big, black gorilla” defense).

Videotapes don’t matter, as long as the “right” jury gets impaneled. It’s the same old game. Robert Davis was beaten for the high crime of WWB: “Walking While Black.” For decades, it was DWB: “Driving While Black.” Now, walking is an ass-whupping offense. That, is what constitutes progress in today’s backwards America.

That this blatant act happens just weeks after the state’s betrayal of tens of thousands of Black natives of New Orleans gives us precious evidence of what daily life must be in the Crescent City. Cops, many of whom have stolen whatever they could get their greasy paws on, many of whom have fled the city they swore to serve, who have stolen nearly a hundred cars from a New Orleans dealer, accost, assault and beat a 64-year-old man, because they claim he was drunk!

And then claim he was a kind of superman! I’m sure that tourism will really take off now, huh? Doesn’t this sound like a place you’d love to visit?

Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, October 12, 2005

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