Trayvon Martin and Mark Duggan: Two Murders, Two Verdicts, One Fight for Justice Bill Crane

, 17 January 2014 When I heard about the verdict of the inquest into the killin of !ark "u an, I had a terrible sinkin feelin that #as all too fa$iliar% It #as the confir$ed of a feelin that I&d had for the 'ast $onth as I #aited for ne#s of the verdict( that it #as le al in Britain to $urder black $en #ithout any necessary cause% I&d been both dreadin and antici'atin this #ith a kind of resi nation, because it #as only si) $onths a o I #ent throu h the sa$e thin % *i) $onths a o, ne#s finally arrived fro$ the +rayvon !artin case% ,is killer, -eor e .i$$er$an, #alked free in July and re$ains at liberty today% /o consequences for a $an #ho, t#o years a o, sa# a black boy #alkin alon one sunny day in *anford, 0lorida, #ho i$$ediately concluded because of the color of his skin that he #as a thu and a lo#life% /o consequences for a $an #ho 'roceeded to track hi$ do#n and shoot hi$ in cold blood% +#o #eeks a o, to $y horror but not sur'rise, a 'olice$an in 1ondon #alked free as #ell% 234, the 'olice officer #ho sa# !ark "u an ridin in a $inicab one day t#o and a half years a o in +ottenha$, 'ulled the cab over and shot hi$, #as told at an inquest that he had 5la#fully killed5 a $an #ho, it turned out, #as unar$ed #hen shot% 6s an 6$erican #ho $oved to Britain four $onths a o, I sa# si$ilarities bet#een the cases of +rayvon !artin and !ark "u an as soon as I be an readin about the latter after arrivin here% I read ho#, like +rayvon, !ark #as i$$ediately sus'ect 7 and 'ortrayed as a an ster and thu 7 because of the colour of his skin% I read ho# !ark "u an had been transfor$ed fro$ a lovin father and 'eacekee'er in his co$$unity to a $onster, a an 8ban er #ith dru convictions and robbery convictions by a $edia ea er to 9ustify his $urder% +he $edia in 6$erica had transfor$ed +rayvon !artin fro$ a talented and 'o'ular youn hi h8school student into a cri$inal and dru dealer to 9ustify ho# a $an #ho never kne# hi$ could stalk and kill hi$% +he narrative #as sickenin ly si$ilar% +he narrative( black $en&s lives are #orth nothin , #hether the city is in Britain or 6$erica% *o$eone #ho sus'ects the$ of havin ill intentions is #ithin their la#ful ri ht to kill #ith i$'unity% +he equivalence bet#een black skin and cri$inality in both countries is strikin ly de$onstrated by the !ark "u an verdict and in the t#o years the $edia have s'ent $isre'resentin hi$% What are the funda$ental roots of this narrative, #hich allo#s black $en like +rayvon and !ark to be killed #ith no real consequences: I a$ $ore fa$iliar #ith 6$erica, #here I&$ fro$, than Britain, but the details of these cases are so si$ilar that I sus'ect there are $any structural si$ilarities% In the ;nited *tates, black 'eo'le are about 10< of the 'o'ulation% 6fter the last $a9or u'sur e a$on blacks in 6$erica 8 the civil ri hts $ove$ent of the 1=>0s and 1=70s 8 for$al equality

#ith #hite citi?ens #as achieved for the first ti$e% /o lon er could black 'eo'le be denied a 9ob, a 'lace at a state8funded university, or a seat at a table in a cafeteria, based on the Ji$ Cro#8 era 9ustification of 5se'arate but equal5 facilities% 0or the first ti$e, 'ublic housin , inte ration of 'ublic schools, and affir$ative action 'ro ra$s #ere launched by the overn$ent to address racial inequalities that at the ti$e #ould have only been seen in *outh 6frica% +he $ove$ent of the si)ties #as successful in 'rovidin a $odicu$ of equality of certain o''ortunities to black 'eo'le% It #as also successful in ettin so$e black faces into 'olitical offices and cor'orate boardroo$s that had 'reviously been #hite as sno#% But after black 'eo'le&s reatest leaders like !alcol$ @ and !artin 1uther Ain #ere $urdered, after the Black Banthers had fallen under the sava e assault of state re'ression, #hat re$ained #as a revolution half8finished88and #e kno# the end of that 'hrase% By the 1=C0s, e)ce't for the $ost back#ard quarters of 6$erican life, it #as no lon er acce'table to be overtly racist% +he acco$'lish$ent of Dea an, and of those #ho follo#ed hi$ in both $a9or 'arties, #as to $aintain and retrench syste$ic racis$ by chan in the rhetoric% /o# instead of sayin 5nEr5 'ublicly, 'oliticians could talk about cri$inals% +hey could talk about violence and dru s in inner8city co$$unities% +hey could talk, as Dea an did, about 5#elfare queens5 #ho drove in Cadillacs to collect their checks fro$ the state% 6nd they could do so #ithout ackno#led in , but #ith everyone else understandin , e)actly #hich kind of 'eo'le they #ere talkin about% We can see a si$ilar racist 'ro'a anda fest here in the ;AF #ith the recent eneration of fear about Do$anians and the ra'id rise of Isla$o'hobia and )eno'hobia in eneral% Beo'le can et a#ay #ith this rhetoric in the ;A as itGs not dee$ed racist( Isla$ is a reli ion and Do$ania is a country, not a skin colour, they say% +his 5colourblind5 rhetoric is funda$ental to #hat 6$erican le al scholar !ichelle 6le)ander calls 5the /e# Ji$ Cro#,5 in her 9ustly fa$ous book of the sa$e na$e% +he /e# Ji$ Cro# details ho# #hole enerations of black $en have lost their lives to the 'enal syste$% "ru 'rosecutions, #hich study after study sho# dis'ro'ortionately affect black 'eo'le, des'ite no 'roof that blacks deal or take dru s $ore than #hites, can be continue% It is al$ost i$'ossible to 'rove that the 'olice intended to arrest or the district attorneys intended to 'rosecute so$eone for the colour of his skin% In the ;*, bein arrested has a $assive i$'act on the life of a $an #ho is tar eted for the colour of his skin% 6 sin le arrest or conviction can deny this 'erson the ri ht to a 9ob or to the student loans #hich #ould have iven hi$ the 'ros'ect of a 9ob #ith so$e kind of security% !ost have no choice but to turn to cri$e, or to return to the streets #here their skin colour auto$atically $akes the$ a sus'ect% Jail ti$e has syste$atically #recked black fa$ily life in 6$erica% In the inner cities there is hardly a sin le black 'erson #ho does not have a father, a brother, a son or cousin #ho has been to 9ail% +his has a very 'articular effect on the lives of #orkin 8class black #o$en #ho ste' out of the traditional Western notion of fe$ininity and have to beco$e both carers and 'roviders%

Colourblind racis$ is $ainly enforced by the 'olice in 6$erica% +he fact that +rayvon !artin&s killer ha''ened not to have a bad e $ade no real difference% It&s 'ossible to na$e do?ens of 6$erican black $en #ho died by the hand of killers #ith bad es, #ho then #alked free( *ean Bell, 6$adou "iallo, Hscar -rant, Da$arley -raha$%%% In 6$erica, hundreds of black 'eo'le are killed #ithout cause every year by the 'olice on the streets% *cores $ore are convicted of a cri$e and e)ecuted for a cri$e a #hite 'erson #ould receive an e)tended 9ail sentence for, 9ust as blacks receive lon sentences for cri$es that #hite 'eo'le routinely et a#ay #ith% Dacist violence by the 'olice and by vi ilantes like .i$$er$an takes on a s'ecial $eanin in 6$erica% 6s the 6$erican sociolo ist !annin !arable noted 'erce'tively in ,o# Ca'italis$ ;nderdevelo'ed Black 6$erica, 5I)ecutions 'er se%%% do not in the$selves foster terror a$on Blacks% +error is not the 'roduct of violence alone, but is created only by the rando$, senseless, and even bestial use of coercion a ainst an entire 'o'ulation% +he coercion that takes 'lace #ithin a &nor$al& ca'italist society, the e)'loitation of Blacks in the #ork'lace, is insufficient to $odify and control their collective behaviour%%% +error beco$es real in one&s $ind only #hen a 'erson reco ni?es that, at any $o$ent and for any reason, heJshe can be brutally tortured or killed%%% It is the rando$, li$ited and s'ontaneous use of coercion that tends to afflict the $ind and s'irit of the o''ressed%5 In a black co$$unity in inner8city 6$erica, bein sto''ed and frisked by the 'olice, bein arrested for livin #hile black or bein killed in an encounter #ith 'atrol$en ai$s to send a $essa e to the black co$$unity( this is not your city, this is not your country, you are not #elco$e here% Kou $ay be harassed, arrested or killed at any ti$e% I see $a9or si$ilarities to racis$ in 6$erica #ith everythin I learn about racis$ in Britain% Wasn&t !ark "u an tar eted by H'eration +rident 'olice intendin to 'ut an end to 5violence in the black co$$unity5: "on&t the 'olice in 1ondon have a 5sto' and search5 'ro ra$: While this sounds so$e#hat friendlier, is not substantially different fro$ the 'ro ra$ kno#n as 5sto' and frisk5 in /e# Kork City and else#here% Wasn&t !ark "u an alon #ith countless other black $en in this country convicted of a dru offence, and #asn&t he sus'ected of carryin a un: In both Britain and 6$erica, to be black is to be cri$inal% 6nd the si$ilarities don&t end there% Where you have the B/B and the I"1, #e have the Alan, the !inute$en and the /a?is% +here are $any 'otential -eor e .i$$er$ans lurkin in the streets of any to#n in In land, 9ust as thousands of 234s 'atrol every 6$erican city% In a cli$ate in #hich the black co$$unities of both 6$erica and Britain have been brou ht to their knees by decades of 'olice violence, vi ilante attacks and econo$ic austerity, it #ill often take so$ethin 'articularly outra eous to s'ark a $ove$ent% In nor$al ti$es, $any 'eo'le #ill resi n the$selves the killin of another black $an by the 'olice% But every so often, thousands of 'eo'le #ill reco ni?e that enou h is enou h% 6nd here I et to the third $a9or si$ilarity bet#een the deaths of +rayvon !artin and !ark "u an%

!ark "u an&s death in su$$er 2011 led to the +ottenha$ riots, #hen the black youth rebelled en $asse a ainst the killin of another of their o#n% *uch an e)'losion of ra e a ainst the racist syste$ had not been seen for years% 6fter the riots, attention to his case continued% +housands took to the streets on $ulti'le occasions after#ards, and to de$and 9ustice #hen the inquest on his shootin finally be an% +here #ere around a thousand at the vi il for !ark on the *aturday after the inquest verdict% *i$ilarly, +rayvon&s $urder ca$e at a unique $o$ent in 6$erican 'olitics% +hree years into the first ter$ of 6$erica&s first black 'resident, black co$$unities re$ained under sie e in inner cities as the 'olice conducted a failed and de$onstrably racist #ar on dru s% +hey had been sub9ected to rounds and rounds of austerity that utted the 'ublic8sector 9obs these co$$unities had relied on% 6fter decades of such assault, #ith little in the #ay of national fi htback, the $urder of +rayvon !artin finally broke so$ethin in the 'ublic consciousness% +here #ere #eekly de$onstrations in every $a9or 6$erican city for a $onth durin early 2012, and a ain #hen -eor e .i$$er$an #alked free in $id82014% .i$$er$an&s acquittal turned #hat #as su''osed to be a slee'y co$$e$oration of the fiftieth anniversary of the !arch on Washin ton last 6u ust into an event that attracted so$e 100,000 'eo'le of all races to de$and 9ustice for +rayvon, and an end to 'olice brutality and killin s% It called ne# attention to the econo$ic devastation of the black co$$unity and for an end to racist su''ression of blacks& votin ri hts in $any states% 6t the !arch itself, ho#ever, any radical de$and on Hba$a or his overn$ent #as absent fro$ those #ho $ade s'eeches% 6l *har'ton, Jesse Jackson and other black leaders #ho s'oke fro$ the 'latfor$ failed to de$and a federal civil8ri hts 'rosecution a ainst .i$$er$an% *ybrina 0ulton, +rayvon !artin&s $other, ot one $inute to s'eak, #hile Iric ,older, the attorney eneral #ho has led Hba$a&s racist #ar on dru s, ot 'lenty of ti$e to $arvel about ho# his o#n achieve$ents as a black $an #ere due to the civil ri hts $ove$entL In the ;*, unfortunately, the national $ove$ent around 9ustice for +rayvon turned out to be another of those incredibly e)citin $ove$ents recently that have rose to the surface, shook the foundations of the syste$ briefly, and then disa''eared #ithout a trace% Considerin the verdict on !ark "u an&s killers, I naturally #onder about the future of the $ove$ent that seeks to ive hi$ and his fa$ily 9ustice% Will it have a si$ilar fate to the one I 'artici'ated in not si) $onths a o: I ho'e not% I think that the recent e)'losion of the $ove$ent a$on students in Britain for co's off ca$'us is very encoura in in this re ard% 6lready $any students #ho de$anded an end to 'olice brutality are reali?in that nothin #ill be solved if the co's leave our ca$'uses to return to the streets #here !ark "u an and do?ens of black 'eo'le like hi$ #ere $urdered% 1ast $onth I #as 'roud to $arch #ith student 'rotestors to the Doyal Courts of Justice in 1ondon #here the inquest #as bein held% I have a sense that the ra e of students #hich #as on dis'lay at !illibank three and a half years a o, united #ith the ra e of the black co$$unity a ainst racis$, can be a 'o#erful force that is in the 'rocess of bein built%

,ere #e $i ht face si$ilar 'roble$s in securin 9ustice for !ark "u an% We $ust be #ary of every 'olitician or bou ht8and8'aid8for co$$unity leader #ho #ants to use the stru le for 9ustice to advance their o#n interests and secure a rotten co$'ro$ise% We $ust not be satisfied until the unifor$ed killers of !ark "u an, *ean Di , Christo'her 6dler and the hundreds like the$ are brou ht to 9ustice% +he si$ilarities bet#een the $urders of +rayvon !artin and !ark "u an have convinced $e that the fi ht for 9ustice in both countries is funda$entally the sa$e% In both countries, the future lies in a broad anti8racist social $ove$ent of black 'eo'le, youth and students, and the #orkin class% Just as $uch in Britain as in 6$erica, the ulti$ate roots of racist violence are in the ca'italist syste$% +here is a role for a fresh and unco$'ro$ised socialist 'ers'ective here to hel' knit to ether the stru les a ainst austerity and econo$ic in9ustice #ith those a ainst racis$ and all other for$s of o''ression% Justice for Trayvon Martin, justice for Mark Duggan. Sa e strugg!e, sa e fight"

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