from revcom.us | January 31, 2022
On the night of January 21, two police responded to a call to help in a mental health crisis in a Harlem apartment. By the time the night was over, one of the cops was dead, and the person in crisis and the second cop died days after from injuries received that day. Beyond that, nobody knows what happened.
But the response of the newly elected “ex”-pig mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, has been to intensify what was already shaping up as an ugly, vicious war on the people in the city with by far the biggest concentration of Black people in America, as well as Latinos and immigrants of all nationalities.
That night Adams brayed, “It is our city against the killers. This was not an attack on three brave officers. This was an attack on the city of New York...” And his words splashed across the headlines of the media.
Bullshit! The only attack on “the city” was the way Eric Adams moved to implement an extremely repressive program, a war on the people. And he, with the full cooperation of the media, both fascist and liberal, is working to swing the city behind him on this.
A Blueprint of Unleashed Piggery
On Monday, Adams unveiled his Blueprint to End Gun Violence, which reads more like a Blueprint of Unleashed Piggery. Here are four key aspects of Adams’ war on the people.
The Blueprint reads: “Putting More Officers on Patrol” and “Enhancing existing Public Safety Units with new Neighborhood Safety Teams.” This will begin within the next three weeks “with a special focus on the 30 precincts where 80% of violence occurs.”
Translation: In Adam’s own words, “We will have boots on the ground, on every block in the city.” He is literally using military terminology (!) in announcing that police will be descending on the communities of the oppressed as an occupying military force, jacking up youth of color, and feeling unfettered now to carry out their brutality. The Neighborhood Safety Teams are just the newly renamed Street Crimes Unit, infamous for the murder of Amadou Diallo in a hail of 41 bullets in 1999; they were also a key part of carrying out stop-and-frisk, in which hundreds of thousands (!) of people, mainly Black and other youth of color, were harassed, humiliated and often abused, with the vast majority then let go because the police had no valid reason for the stop in the first place.
The Blueprint reads: Under a section on Bail Reform, “We must approach pretrial detention through the lens of public safety, something that is not done now. The Adams Administration will propose a common-sense, targeted set of reforms to strengthen our bail laws to change the law as soon as possible.”
Translation: This means that a judge will have the right to decide, pretrial, when a person is supposed to be presumed innocent, whether this person is “dangerous” and therefore has no right to even get the option of bail while awaiting trial. This would be simply based on their criminal record or what they have been charged with, which has nothing to do with whether they actually committed a crime. This means innocent people can be held in jail until trial, which in many cases could be years. This practice was so heinous that in 1971 a law was passed to prevent it, which Adams now wants to repeal in what he claims is “a common sense” approach.
This “common sense logic” leaves legal loop holes big enough to drive whole fleets of paddy wagons filled with youth and others deemed “dangerous” through them, leading to jail and prison populations exploding and the horrors of Rikers Island jail (where people are held while awaiting trial) multiplying.
Even now, 85% of the 5,400 prisoners being held at Rikers Island jail have not been found guilty of anything—they are locked up in Rikers simply because they cannot afford bail.
The Blueprint reads: “Discovery—Removing overly burdensome disclosures. The voluminous requirements of the new discovery bill have jammed up too many cases.”
Translation: Adams’ proposal undercuts and effectively guts recent amendments in the law on discovery which strengthen a defendant’s rights to a speedy and fair trial. The point of the law is that the state cannot proceed with a trial if they don’t disclose the evidence they have to the defense attorney early in the process, but Adams wants a much more unfettered ability to hold masses for indefinite periods, forcing many into pleas.
Additionally, this Blueprint has a real focus on making people complicit in enforcing it—either through misplaced “self-interest” or intimidation by denying youth their constitutional right to remain silent, “funding” store owners to place at least one camera facing the public sphere, and rewards offered for “gun-related information that leads to an arrest.” This goes hand in hand with convincing the public that the enhanced technology and surveillance in public spaces, which is also part of the Blueprint, is “to keep them safe”—so forget about any privacy concerns or constitutional rights or any political activity that falls outside the approval of the state.
Adams Champions the Rikers Island Hellhole
Finally, although not in the Blueprint but still an essential part of his war on the people is what Adams has said and already done about Rikers Island, a notorious hellhole of a prison. Just last year, 16 people died in Rikers Island and other NYC jails, many from violence or COVID. Adams has called for the reinstatement of solitary confinement at Rikers and has made a big point of his enthusiastic and uncritical support of the highly corrupt, highly brutal Correction Officers’ “Benevolent” Association union at Rikers (whose former leader and Adams supporter Norman Seabrook now sits in jail on corruption charges). Recent exposures have shown how the union itself is practically dictating the policies of how Rikers is run, including the throwing out of 2,000 cases of guard abuse and the firing of the investigator of the cases. Unlike his predecessor, Adams is not even going to pretend to shut down Rikers—in fact, in concert with the rest of his Blueprint, including reversal of any bail reform, that hellhole and others like it will be flooded with youth.
We have seen the very harsh reality of the true hell hole of Rikers, particularly for youth, in the lives and deaths of Kalief Browder1 and Layleen Polanco2. In response, Adams speaks with the unvarnished ugliness and inhumanity of the lead defender and protector of a system in New York City built on the blood and bones, the exploitation and oppression of masses of people here and all over the world, that has no future for the Kaliefs and Layleens of this world.
A truth from Bob Avakian that needs to be confronted: “So what does this system do with youth that have no future and no prospects? It contains them.... contains them violently.” (From “Racial Oppression Can Be Ended—But Not Under This System.”)
A “Swaggering” Oppressor
Adams said, “When a mayor has swagger, the city has swagger. That’s what has been missing in the city.” Yeah, the swagger of a bloated defender of this system of exploitation and oppression. Adams responded to a new city council member’s plea to stop the solitary confinement of youth at Rikers—solitary confinement which has driven youth to suicide—with these words:
“I wore a bullet-proof vest for 22 years and protected the people of this city. And when you do that, you have the right to question me on safety and public safety matters.”
NO, motherfucker, Hell NO! Not only do we have the right but also the necessity for every decent person to resist this!
Wake Up and Break with All That Woke Shit—These Black Faces in High Places Are Deadly
A year and a half after the beautiful uprising, some people think that having the second Black mayor, first Black female police commissioner, first Black DA means that this is a new day for the masses of oppressed people. But the only ones having a “new day” are the capitalist-imperialists grouped in the Democratic Party who can use these puppets to deceive while they carry out deeper repression in the cities.
But Bob Avakian asks the right question in “Something Terrible, Or Something Truly Emancipating”:
Do they really think that having more “inclusion” of oppressed people in the dominant institutions and the structures of power of this system of capitalism-imperialism will actually change the fundamentally, and horrifically, oppressive nature of this system? (The First Black President... First female Vice-President... First Asian... First Latinx... First Gay... First Trans... First... SAME SYSTEM!)
Yes, there is more crime in this city and around the country, and it is not surprising with the ripping apart of society, economic dislocations with high unemployment, inflation, homelessness and rising rents, mass evictions, COVID insanity, crisis over healthcare and mental health more specifically, and with the increasingly dog-eat-dog competition that pits people against each other fighting over decreasing scraps. And this system has no solution for any of this.
This is the necessity that confronts those who rule over this system, including Adams, and his answer is a whole other order of repression aimed at confining, corralling, demonizing and terrorizing youth, and the already bitterly oppressed Black and Latino masses.
No decent person, no person with a conscience should be taken in and taken under the pig cloak of protection by rallying behind Adams’ Blueprint and plan, giving legitimacy and backing to this unleashed war on the people. Instead, everyone who wants a different future for the youth, including all those who want a world without these oppressive divisions needs to resist this and go to work urgently for a different future. And there must be a struggle waged with the youth caught up in the dog-eat-dog to break with that madness… and to get into revolution.
In light of this intense and high-pressure situation in New York, we close with this passage from Bob Avakian’s crucial and timely presentation, “Something Terrible, Or Something Truly Emancipating”:
The frustration and anger that so many feel, especially so many basic youth, because they can sense that life under this system has nothing good for them—that, from the time they are born, they are locked down and surrounded by forces that regard and treat them as alien objects of fear and hatred—and that those with power look at them as scum who deserve nothing more than a boot up the ass and a bullet in the brain—this frustration and anger needs to be redirected to fighting the system that treats them this way, and has robbed them, and so many like them throughout the world, of a decent life and a decent future, or any future at all.
Once more, there is plenty that calls, urgently, for great courage and boldness in doing what needs to be done: to be part of rising up against this system and getting ready to go all the way with revolution as soon as the time is right—and, as an important part of that, supporting, and defending, people who are constantly being subjected to unjust attacks on their rights and their very being.
1. Kalief Browder was 16 years old when arrested and charged as an adult for allegedly stealing a backpack. Unable to afford the $3,000 bail. Kalief spent over 1,000 days at Rikers, spending 400 of those days in solitary confinement. He was starved, beaten and abused by guards and inmates. Charges were dropped three years after his arrest. Two years later, at age 22, he committed suicide. [back]
2. Layleen Polanco was a 27-year-old Black transgender woman. Arrested on misdemeanor charges in April 2019, she was still held at Rikers--and in solitary confinement--on June 7, 2019, when she had an epileptic seizure. Though unresponsive, guards waited 90 minutes before calling for medical help. She died from the seizure. [back]