Monday, July 7, 2014

Killing of Seattle youth by Sheriff sparks protest.

The police in the US can kill youth, especially youth of color with impunity. The murder and incarceration of youth of color in this country is at epidemic levels. We reprint this from the blog Dark Are The Days  for our reader's interest. Please spread the word about yet another youth murder by police.  We are interested in what Kshama Sawant has to say about this issue and will contact her office to find out.  It is important that socialists stand in the forefront of the attacks on youth.

Oscar Perez-Giron and the Fight for Justice

One week ago, on June 30th, 23 year-old Oscar Perez-Giron was shot in the stomach three times by King County Sheriff Deputy Malcolm Elliott, at Seattle’s SoDo Light Rail Station, responding to a call from transit security following transit non-payment. He died on the transit station shelter cement from the gunshot wounds. Oscar was accompanied by two friends who were handcuffed and taken to jail, one of whom was falsely charged with assaulting a police officer.

The official police narrative, as told via The Seattle Times, is excerpted below:
Around 4 p.m. Monday, fare-enforcement officers contacted three men — two 23-year-olds and a 26-year-old — on a southbound train near the Stadium Station, said Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray.
One of the men — the 23-year-old who was later shot — could not show proof that he had paid his fare and refused to show the unarmed security officers his ID, Gray said.
The fare-enforcement officers, following protocol, called for Sound Transit police officers to meet them at the next station, which was the Sodo Station, he said. Sound Transit police are sheriff’s deputies contracted to patrol the transit agency’s trains, buses, stations and platforms, Gray said.
At 4:18 p.m., Seattle police received a “help the officer” call from Sound Transit police near Fifth Avenue and South Lander Street, according to the probable-cause statement about Parra’s arrest.
Video shows three men — the 23-year-old who was fatally shot, Parra and the 26-year-old man — getting off train 144B with three fare-enforcement officers, the statement says. Each of the three men carried a backpack, it says.
The 23-year-old pulled a gun on the deputy, holding the gun in his right hand, the statement says. The deputy wrestled with him and grabbed the man’s right wrist while drawing his own gun with his right hand, it says. During the struggle, Parra grabbed the deputy’s right wrist and arm from behind, according to the statement.
The deputy shot the armed 23-year-old and managed to break free from Parra’s grasp, the statement says. Parra fell to the ground and put his hands up as the deputy turned and pointed his gun at him, the statement says.
This narrative, however, is problematic. An eyewitness account instead points towards a much more lopsided situation:
I saw the sheriff pull up.. he started asking some questions. One thing led to another, and a scuffle ensued inside the shelter of the light rail stop. I saw the sheriff reach around the security guard, who had the man up against the glass of the (transit) shelter and he pulled out his gun and shot the man point-blank range three times in the abdomen. There are three security guards and a King County Sheriff, there are plenty of other ways to subdue somebody… From what I saw, I saw the Sheriff reach for his gun, it didn’t take long for him to reach for it.
The response to this police killing has been an outpouring of grief and anger at the loss of a close friend to many. A protest occurred on July 6th, at the SoDo Light Rail Station, composed of a hundred community and family members and activists. A convergence event was also scheduled, as a separate group planned on riding the light rail from Downtown to SoDo. The leading chant was a roaring “We didn’t pay, you’re going to have to shoot us!”
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One of the three men pulled out of the light rail train was in attendance and spoke, although asked not to be filmed. His face covered in a Oscar Perez shirt, sunglasses, and hat, he responded to questions on what happened seven days prior. His account largely corroborated with that of the witness quoted above.
We got pulled out because Oscar’s ORCA card wouldn’t go through… After they got us off the light rail they (separated Oscar from the other two, and had him down), he tried to stand up and the security guards “hugged” him, and they proceeded to shoot him three times.
After they shot our friend they handcuffed and treated us like criminals… we never touched anybody.
I never saw Oscar pull a gun out.
“We never touched anybody.” In spite of that fact, the police have made up their story, and are sticking with it. And these three have paid for it, monetarily as well. $100,000 is the bail set for Oscar’s friend falsely charged with assaulting an officer, who is now preparing for a felony court case.
Other speakers talked on their experiences of Oscar. The respect and love he brought to all around him and his community. It was immensely painful for some to talk on him, so soon after this loss, and a loss without official recognition. The police have lied on his death. No video has been released. Oscar’s body is still held. The megaphone was too used to speak on the larger systemic issues in which this murder is unfortunately just one in a long line of police killings, the names of John T. Williams and Oscar Grant were mentioned more than once. Signs were also held facing passing light rail trains, and upon stopping at the station, leaflets were distributed to passengers.
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The murder of Oscar Giron-Perez is tied to the newly changing landscape of Seattle, as well as the old racism which newer urban developments reinforce. All along Seattle’s Sound Transit Light Rail station stops are new condominium developments meant for a wealthier and whiter demographic, the newest wave will soon be Rainer Valley where on June 30th Seattle City Council voted to raise building heights. “Transit-oriented development” is code for gentrification. A sleek, new, green metropolis is being built everyday in Seattle, where capitalism is moving on quite comfortably. Amazon has come to dominate the visionary landscape of the city, not just in South Lake Union, it’s creeping influence, and investor funds following behind, has driven Seattle’s gentrification- from the Ballard Blocks to The Station at the station in Columbia City. The increasing wealth within the city carries with it further poverty along its margins. As Downtown Seattle is further constructed into a gated community, police violence is to be expected. The Light Rail fare enforcers are center stage here. Along the Light Rail route from the airport, through the South End, to the Downtown grid, are some of the poorest and diverse neighborhoods of the city. Fare enforcement exists to separate that world from wealth, by means of strategically checking fares at the border stop of SoDo Station. The fight for free transit for all then is a fight tied against this state-backed violence.IMG_20140706_162620
Immigration and prison status also factors in. For the Latin American community in the era of over 2 million deportations under Obama, the police don’t “merely” threaten with beatings, but with the tearing of oneself away from home and family. Regardless of immigration status, that “papers please” environment has an impact. For those who are undocumented, a run-in with the police can be the end of a whole life which had been built up. Felons carry this fear as well, as even minor drug crimes can carry huge minimum sentencing.

The onus to correct a cycle of violence, a cycle of criminal recidivism, or a cycle of poverty, lies in the system. Capitalism, that is, a system which unconsciously prioritizes the needs of money (and perpetually making more of it), has failed to provide for the vast majority. Alongside the gleaming, glass structures constructed across the city, will be poverty and violence. Do we need new housing? Of course we do. Nobody should live in apartments covered in mold, houses dilapidated. Tech utopia for the few is not a solution. Free, quality, housing should  be constructed and be provided for all. Free speedy transit should be rapidly built to connect all corners of this city.

Housing, can be a right. Transit, can be a right. The city, and all its possibilities, can be a right. The right to a life, without oppression, without fear, can be a right. But only if we fight for it.
Donations to fund the funeral of Oscar Perez-Giron are being collected online, a car wash to raise money has also been occurring in Burien at 105 South 152nd Street.


Anonymous said...

So you call it murder when you have not seen the video. People should not rush to judge Oscar but they should not rush to say it was murder either. Why don't you wait for facts? Isn't that the fair thing to do?

Anonymous said...

As the article describes, both the eyewitness and one of the three arrested have stories which largely match up. These are facts. That the police are withholding the videos is itself cause for concern. This is not the first time police have murdered and then created stories or exaggerations to justify it after the incident. When native woodcarver John T. Williams was gunned down in the back by an SPD officer, the SPD focused on the fact that he was carrying a pocket knife- in spite of the fact that the knife was legal size, and was used to whittle wood. In the case of Trayvon Martin, the court disgustingly made much of the fact that the young man had previously smoked marijuana to denigrate his character. "Facts" are not impartial as they are presented, although certainly more information is always useful. However the narrative the police have thus far put forward does not fit with the facts thus far known. It is on the various investigating agencies to show that they are not lying at this point, which so far has not been done. Instead, local media have dropped references to the eyewitness account, and instead are repeating the police narrative. That is the greater danger here, that the corporate media is rushing to judge Oscar, and step in line with the police. Character assassination is happening every time the events of last Monday are told by the media and police. My blog post is intended exactly to tell the facts as they are, and to stand against the racist denigration of Oscar Perez.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious what your stance is now that the video has been released. It looks like he had a gun in his waist on the right side, and during the struggle you can see the gun in his hand, like the police said.