Operation Ghetto Storm: 313 Extrajudicial Killings of Blacks in 2012
From the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, April 4, 2013:
For Immediate Release: New Annual Report reveals that 313 Black People were killed in 2012, averaging one every 28 hours.
Every 28 hours in 2012 someone employed or protected by the US government killed a Black man, woman, or child! This startling fact is revealed in Operation Ghetto Storm: 2012 Annual Report on the Extrajudicial Killings of 313 Black People by Police, Security Guards, and Vigilantes.
“When we started this investigation in early 2012, we knew a serious human rights crisis was confronting the Black community”, says Kali Akuno, an organizer with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). “However, we did not have a clear sense of its true depth until we compiled and examined the annual figures. We have uncovered outrageous rates of extrajudicial killings–rates, that when they are found in countries like Mexico or Brazil, are universally condemned. The same outrage inside the U.S. also demands immediate action.”
If those statements sound inflammatory, well…they’re intended to be. If they sound hyperbolic on the surface, the (pdf) report adds caveats and exceptions in some of the cases, and when there was evidence of implied or outright violence committed by the person killed ‘extra-judiciously’, the researchers called it: arguably justifiable. The report, authored by Arlene Eisen of the Malcolm X Solidarity Committee, is 130 pages long; 29 are text, photos, and graphics, Memorial pages. The remaining pages are charts identifying the dead with photos, locations, armed or not, mental health issues, self-medicating issues or not, police report claims and alleged circumstances, then additional comments pertaining to dissenting eye-witness claims, investigations yielding X effects or ongoing ones, etc. The author/s had a separate column for ‘Was excessive force used’; for each person there was either a Yes or a No given. This chart shows that by their reckoning, in 12% of the incidents, the answer was NO.
Like you, I was curious about their research and conclusions, and although it’s not clear who the researches were, I was glad to see Page 10’s ‘Frequently Asked Questions’:
~ Why do you call this Report “Operation Ghetto Storm”?
~ How does this Report relate to the one released in July 2012?
~ Does a Black person really get killed every 28 hours by the state?
~ How reliable are your numbers?
~ What about intra-communal violence of “Black-on-Black killing?
~ How do these numbers compare with the killing of white people?
~ How do extrajudicial killings relate to Black women?
~ What about resources for stopping these modern-day lynchings?
On page 13, under the heading ‘How reliable are your numbers? What are your sources?’, the authors say that only a small portion of local sheriff and police reports give many details online on ‘officer-involved shootings’, and the majority instead issue ‘sanitized, very sketchy, press releases which present the authorities’ initial view of the event—often without naming “the suspect” or providing any verifiable details’. Their take is that corporate media then run with the ‘scary black male’ (my term) deserved to die narratives that we know so well. The ‘police justifications for shootings’ chart illustrates what they found.
So the authors’ research was mainly multiple online sources:
‘To find the data presented in this Report, it was necessary to click on five to ten websites, sometimes many more, to complete the entry on one killing. This is especially unfortunate because most media echo police reports and police reports are notorious for “testilying.” One study found 76% of officers said they frequently bent the facts to establish “probable cause;” and 48% of police themselves said judges were correct in tossing police testimony as untrustworthy.
Frequently, when names are withheld, the corporate press never bothers to follow?up. And to ascertain whether someone died after police shot them, whether they were Black, whether they really posed a threat, often required multiple clicks to find obituaries, facebook entries, comments in community press and “images”. Some departments are especially opaque: Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago, among others, offer very incomplete reports on their killings.’
The authors say that all the data on the charts can be verified, and they ask us to contact them if we want the footnotes from multiple media sources on a case, but remind us that ‘hat the hegemonic narrative that accepts police versions of events should be questioned as skeptically as any other view’. Yes. And even if readers have quibbles on some particulars, what seems most important to me is the wider angle of the ‘2012 Ghetto Storm’, and some of the history that has led to this travesty, and the degree to which it remains unaddressed and hidden by not only the MSM, but by the first black President, the Progressive Black Caucus, and is blithely accepted by the wider society. This chart From the Report:
How did Operation Ghetto Storm develop and grow?
This war on Black people, waged by a long line of administrations, has deep roots.
Police Departments first created paramilitary units, often called SWAT teams, to repress Black rebellions like the ones that swept all major U.S cities in the 1960’s (Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago etc).
In 1971, Nixon declared the “war on drugs” which gave a moralistic cover to the permanent military occupation of Black communities.
1980’s and on:
In 1986, Reagan issued a national directive that declared “illicit drugs a threat to national security.” For the next 25 years, an “infusion of military hardware, training and tactics has indoctrinated police officers—particularly SWAT officers and drug enforcement police—in the win?at?all?costs mentality of a soldier.”
In 2012, according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 17,985 state and local law enforcement agencies, employing close to one million people. Since 9/11 the
Department of Homeland Security alone has doled out between $30 and $40 billion in direct grants to state and local law enforcement agencies. This is on top of their local budgets and assistance received from a long list of other federal agencies, estimated at $635 billion.’
The section on intra-community (pdf again)violence enumerates many of the direct and indirect causes, including state laws like ‘Stand Your Ground’, CIA complicity in de facto drug diplomacy and complicity/control with and/of narco-barons, trumped up ‘drug wars’ for profit and filling private prisons, big banks laundering billions in drug profits, interdependence of local law enforcement and ‘criminals’, crooked cops selling drugs with relative impunity, etc. I’d add the failures of many schools to address drop-out rates and worse, but that’s another major subject: the ‘school to prison pipeline’. Seema Samanandan writes here, for instance, that ‘Children of color bear a disproportionate burden of unconstitutional police encounters in the educational context.” Expulsion rates for similar behaviors are far higher for black students, and so on…
Ajamu Bakara, writing at Dissident Voice calls the reports findings ‘the New Face of US Fascism’:
In the introduction to the report Kali Akuno, National Coordinator of MXGM, offers an explanation as to why there has been an escalation of state sponsored violence in black communities and the relative acceptance of that violence by the broader society.
What Operation Ghetto Storm reveals is that the practice of executing Black people without pretense of a trial, jury, or judge is an integral part of the government’s current overall strategy of containing the Black community in a state of perpetual colonial subjugation and exploitation.
Akuno’s explanation is right on point. There is an edifice of control and domination that has been built in the U.S. which functions by criminalizing whole sectors of society it deems to be “dangerous” or “undesirable” — in particular our young people. But Kali raises an even more ominous point. He suggests that the targeting of Black people, as a vulnerable but potentially significant oppositional force to the prevailing U.S. political elite, is part of a broader strategy of repression that is slowly permeating all aspects of life in the U.S.
Margaret Kimberly at Black Agenda Report in her piece ‘Everyday Terror’ bitterly contrasts reactions and responses to the Boston bombings, the findings of the Operation Ghetto Storm and the terror many black people feel every day, and the relatively little attention the 14 people killed and the 200 wounded in the fertilizer plant explosion in (ironically, largely Chechen) West, Texas received, no matter how much more common industrial ‘accidents’ are. She doesn’t pull any punches in the black/white racial divide:
All Americans’ behavior is understandable if one acknowledges that we are constantly subjected to propaganda of various kinds. We have been propagandized to believe that some lives, white Americans’, are more valuable than others, namely anyone not white nor from the United States. There is no other way to explain why the government’s killing of thousands of people abroad is met with a shrug, if it is acknowledged at all. Americans are like spoiled children, whining over their suffering, while showing no empathy for anyone else’s. They feel that only their victimization is worthy of note, and in fact many of them support their government’s acts of violence carried out around the world.
That feeling of entitlement is a direct result of centuries of white supremacy which has never been examined or challenged. It has been fed as corporate power has grown and corrupted the media who now aren’t even very good at the basics of their profession. CNN, NPR, the Associated Press and other supposedly reputable news organizations reported wrongly on basic facts of the case such as the number of suspects, whether arrests had been made or not, or who was or wasn’t a person of interest. A “dark skinned man” was said to be under arrest but actually wasn’t. An Indian student missing since March was named as a suspect on social media and his family were threatened as a result.
After the wave of manufactured hysteria an easily frightened people were then convinced to accept tanks in their streets and heed government calls to “shelter in place.” The nonsensical overreaction was superseded only by the use of Orwellian jargon used to create an even more compliant public.
If you are black, Native American, Latino, or any another targeted or ‘suspect’ minority, you’re likely outraged by all of this unless you live within some protected status or environment. If you’re not black or among targeted groups, imagine what it would be like to found ‘suspect’ because of the color of your skin, or feel targeted by the abundant returned military veterans in police departments who have been trained to react to enemies, and know that they may consider you one of them.
In their abiding belief that oppression of blacks, Latinos, Muslims and other ‘Others’ will be increasing in the days to come, as well as globally, Kali Akuno advises:
‘Oppressed peoples and communities can and will only be secure in this country when they are organized to defend themselves against the aggressions of the government and the forces of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation. “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: A Handbook on Organizing New Afrikan and Oppressed Communities for Self-Defense”, is the latest contribution of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and the Every 36 Hours Campaign that seeks to strengthen organizing initiatives within Black or New Afrikan communities for self-defense, by presenting these initiatives with a comprehensive analytical framework and practical organizing tools to ground and unite them.’
I’d been working on this report for days, and got thrown for a loop yesterday when I found this interview of Kali Akuno being interviewed by Paul Jay at TRNN. What to leave in, what do not duplicate, plus the fact that Akuno writes much better than he interviews. Added to which, a few of Jay’s questions were…framed very poorly, or with bias. In any event, here it is.
Obviously the MXGM hopes that we’ll spread the Report and it’s findings far and wide, and that many will heed their advice on ways to fight back to forestall this sort of fascism, not just react to it after the fact. The handbook is downloadable in pdf form, and other organizational ideas are explained at length at their site.